Come; for Everything is Now Ready

16But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’…(Luke 14:16-18)

I was separated from my wife and two children for nearly three months in the year 2000 when I left them in England to start work as one of the pastors in a large mega church in Cincinnati, Ohio (I was born in England).  You bet I was counting the days for our reunion! How lonely I was without the ones I loved. It brought me to tears a number of times.  As the time grew closer for their coming and our reunion, I began to prepare everything for us to be close again.  I checked the flight times again and again, I planned where we would eat on the way from the airport, I cleaned the house meticulously where we would be staying, but most of all, I prepared myself. My time was spent in the days before their coming in much preparation.  What joy I had when they arrived, we hugged and kissed repeatedly.  I was so excited to show them around Cincinnati, the city where we would now be living.  My girlfriend (my wife of 37 years) and my two children were coming home to their own country after 18 or so years of serving God in England.  You cannot understand the joy I felt to bring them back to their family and country.

If you are a Christian this world is not your home.  Like me longing for my family, our Lord is longing for our reunion.  He has spent nearly 2000 years preparing a place for us so that where He is we shall be also (John 14:1-3).  What joy will flood His heart upon our reunion, how He longs to show us where we will be living together. It must be disappointing to Him that some would not even be watching for their reunion day–their hearts are not beating with the same passion that is in His.  There are some who are just not aware of the days in which we are living; they are asleep and are not lovingly watching for His return. These are days of preparation. Before Passover and deliverance from Egypt the Jewish people went through days of preparation (they still do) as the Passover lamb was brought into the house for four days before it was slaughtered (Exodus 12:3-6). The houses of the Israelites were swept completely clean before Passover because it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and every crumb of yeast or leaven was swept up and gotten rid of. Yeast or leaven speaks of sin. In the preparation time before our deliverance we are to get ourselves ready to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). We are to be ready and watching for His return. This is no time for sleeping spiritually. Turn off the TV! Forget the sports! People are dying without knowing the Savior! We must do what we can to reach them with the truth! Prepare yourself for eternity!

Prayer: Father, keep me awake in the midst of a world that wants to drug me to sleep.  I really want to be wide-awake and sensitive to you so that I may walk in eager anticipation for that great reunion day. Amen!

Keith Thomas

Who Are Those Who Have Been Bought by God?

The Book of Revelation is a book in the Bible devoted to future things that God gave the apostle John. John is taken outside of regular time to a time yet future to us. He sees things that “must soon take place” on earth (Revelation 1:1). He sees the Lord Jesus Christ as a Lamb, “looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne” (Revelation 5:6). He is the only one that is worthy to open a scroll sealed with seven seals. Scripture doesn’t tell us what the scroll represents but theologians and scholars believe that the scroll is the title deed to planet earth. When the Lord Jesus comes forward and takes the scroll from God the Father, seated on the throne of heaven, a song of praise to the Lord Jesus is sung by those that are there:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10 Emphasis mine).

We are told of two things. 1) The Lord Jesus Christ, represented as a Lamb, has purchased people with His blood. 2) These people are from every tribe, language, people and nation. Let’s look at the first thought. The Bible says,

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay” (Psalm 49:7-9).

No man can buy another out from under the curse of sin that pervades the earth. The Lord Jesus Christ was the only one who could pay the ransom price to deliver us from Satan’s slave market. Eternal justice has placed a penalty on anyone who sins—the penalty is death (Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 6:23). Not just physical death, but separation from God for eternity. The whole of mankind, because of our sin, is seen to be in Satan’s slave market of sin. There is only one way out—God Himself would take the guilty person’s fate upon Himself. God came in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, to pay the price of death as the just payment for our sin. With His blood He has purchased a people to Himself.

Let’s now look at our second thought, who are the people whom He has purchased? Are they only from the West? No! They are from every nation, tribe and language on Earth! You that are reading this in India, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and China—you, along with all nations, are the ones that He has purchased to Himself. Do you have a God like that? One that will come and take the worst that Satan and fallen humanity can throw at Him and still love us enough to cry from the cross with His last breath—“It is finished” (John 19:30). This English phrase in the original Greek language of the New Testament is the word tetelestai. It literally means, “paid in full.” Do you realize that full payment for the deeds of your sin was fully paid nearly two thousand years ago? The God of heaven loves you so much that He came and paid the ransom price for you. Do you believe this? Believing requires you to turn from everything displeasing the One who has paid the price of buying you out from Satan’s dominion (Colossians 1:13). Repent (turn from your sin to following Christ) and believe the Good news of your being purchased from Satan. I look forward to seeing you when our Lord Jesus comes for His purchased possession! Keith Thomas

What Does the Word Passover Mean?

On Passover night, God told Moses that He would protect the Israelites if they would slay a lamb as a substitute and put the blood of the lamb upon the lintel and sides of the doorframes of their houses. It had to be a life for a life.

12“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13).

God was requiring faith in the blood of the Passover lamb. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The Israelites were to take a bunch of hyssop plant and dip the hyssop in a bowl of some of the blood from the sacrificed lamb. The word that is translated into English as bowl is the word sap. It is a word rooted in the Egyptian language meaning the threshold or ditch that was dug in front of the doorways of houses in Egypt to avoid flooding. The blood was shed from the lamb on that night and collected in the sap, the gulley or bowl at the foot of the door. The hyssop plant was dipped in the blood and used to strike the lintel and each side of the doorframe. God wanted to leave the Israelites with an image of a cross over the door. Can you imagine listening to the screams from neighboring houses that had just lost their first-born? “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). There is more to this than first meets the eye. For a number of years, I thought that it was God who was passing by the household of those who had faith in the shed blood of an innocent sacrificial lamb, but this is not the case. The Lord describes what is actually happening in Isaiah 31:5:

5Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it” (Isaiah 31:5).

The context of this passage is one of protection to the city of Jerusalem. He describes Himself as hovering over the city and shielding them from harm. Ceil and Moishe Rosen, in their book Christ in the Passover, has this to say about the word that is translated “pass over:”

The verb “pass over” has a deeper meaning here than the idea of stepping or leaping over something to avoid contact. It is not the common Hebrew verb, a-bhar, or ga-bhar, which is frequently used in that sense. The word used here is pasah, from which comes the noun pasha, which is translated Passover. These words have no connection with any other Hebrew word, but they do resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means “to spread wings over” in order to protect.

The picture we are to hold on to is that of the Lord protecting us from harm. It brings new light to the passage where Jesus was grieving over the city of Jerusalem when He said: “O Jerusalem! Jerusalem…How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). The God we have come to know and love wants to bring us close to His heart and to wrap His arms around us as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings and protect them.

23When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down (Exodus 12:23).

God Himself is our protection and help. As a separate destroying angel goes through the land, God was hovering over the household—those who had faith in the innocent blood of the substitute lamb over the door. There had to be an element of obedience to God in what He had told them. He comes close, wrapping His arms around His people to protect them and bind them to Himself, not permitting the destroyer to enter their houses. This is what the Passover celebration meal is all about. It is to remind the Israelites of their deliverance from bondage and slavery. What happened in the book of Exodus was just a picture of what God wanted to do through Jesus becoming our Passover Lamb, the substitute that we are to place our faith in. Pharaoh is a picture of Satan, who has had us under cruel slavery to our sins. Egypt is a picture of the world in which we live. Christ is our sacrificial Lamb who has lain down His life to deliver us, if we will place faith in His shed blood applied to the door of our hearts. God wants to presence Himself over the homes of our hearts and to live with us for eternity. Keith Thomas

Who Will Pay Your Debt of Sin?

During a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another. This is what God has done for all of us who will receive the full payment of our debt of sin by the sacrifice of Christ

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

In the above scripture, Jesus compares our sins to debts. When we sin we violate the moral law of God and expose ourselves to the penalty of exclusion from God for eternity because of the sin debt that we bring upon ourselves. As debtors of God, in His love for us, He has made a way for us to be forgiven our debt of sin before Him. The only way was for someone to pay the debt. This was what Jesus did at the cross. He died in our place to pay our sin debt and to justify us before God. Here’s how Paul the apostle described what happened at the cross of Christ:

…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Romans:3:24-25).

Simply put, we are justified by God’s goodness to us, just as if we had not sinned. Debt is not a problem confined to the present day; it was a problem in the ancient world as well. If someone had serious debts, their only way out was to sell themselves to pay their debts, either that or the law courts forced slavery upon them. Suppose a friend happened into the market just as he was being sold and asked the price. Suppose that friend then paid his debt and let him go free. He would be redeeming him. In a similar way Jesus paid the “redemption fee” to buy us out of Satan’s slave market of sin.

Paul uses the words “justified freely.” Justification is a legal term. If you went to court and were acquitted, you were justified. Two people went through school and university together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they both went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one ended up a criminal. One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend, and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn’t let the man off. On the other hand, he didn’t want to punish the man, because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offence. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and wrote a check for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.

This is an illustration of what God has done for us. In His justice, He judges us because we are guilty, but then, in His love, He came down in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, and paid the penalty for us. In this way He is both ‘just’ (in that He does not allow the guilty to go unpunished), and the one who justifies—Romans 3:26 (in that by taking the penalty Himself, in the person of His Son, He enables us to go free). Isn’t it time you received for yourself the payment of your sin by another—the Lord Jesus? Keith Thomas

The Main Thing Must be the Main Thing

I have spent a lot of time at sea being a commercial fisherman in my younger years. When you are out there in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, the Dover straits of England, you get to see all kinds of boats and ships designed for all kinds of jobs. But for us as fishermen, our purpose was to catch fish. It could have been easy to waste time doing all kinds of things out at sea that we were not designed for. Now that God has called me to work on His net, I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I invested myself doing things that wasted a lot of time, energy and money. The main thing must be the main thing! What is the main thing the church of Jesus Christ is called to spend herself on? Paul says that it is the gospel: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). The gospel of Jesus Christ, when it is presented correctly and believed, brings about a radical change in the very core being of the believer. Paul, in the passage above, called it the power of God. Without this encounter with Christ, there is no change within:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Every effort of the Church is to preach the gospel to bring about this change in the hearts of people all over this world. Some people believe that if they work hard at reforming their lives and live like a Christian, that is being a Christian. Let me tell you something important: You cannot become a Christian by living the Christian life. To live the Christian life, you have to have the Spirit of Christ living in you. He is the only One that can live the Christian life. Here is how Merrill Tenney put it,

“Christianity is not a system of philosophy, nor a ritual, nor a code of laws; it is the impartation of a divine vitality. Without the way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing, without the life there is no living.”[1]

You must have Christ in you, living and seated on the throne room of the temple of your life. God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

We can help feed people, we can teach them to have better marriages, we can bring them into community with others, but if we do not help them to see that they need the main thing—to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20), all our efforts are for nothing. The main thing is to help each person we can to be born-again of the Spirit and living the life of Christ. This is not the job of the professionals or the gifted leaders; it is the job of all that name the name of Christ. I am convinced that if we can help each Christian to learn how to share the gospel, a revival will break out that will be world wide.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15).

As Christians, we should be ready and prepared at any time to share the essence of what the gospel is, and how the person interested can know peace with God through what Christ has done for them.

Keith Thomas

[1] Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1948) Pages 215-216.