The Parable of the Vine-Growers

We are continuing our meditation on the last week before Christ’s crucifixion. After Jesus had gone into the temple courts and thrown out the sellers of animals and upturned the tables of the money changers, the religious leaders plotted to kill Jesus because of His challenge to their authority and their using religion to make money. In front of many hundreds of people in attendance in the courts of the temple, He spoke this parable:

9And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. 10“At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11“And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. 12“And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. 13“The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14“But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ 15“So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16“He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” 17But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE’? 18“Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” 19The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them (Luke 20:9-19).

The man who planted the Vineyard represents God the Father. The farmers who have had the land leased to them are the spiritual leaders of Israel, the very leaders that were standing against Jesus and challenging His authority. They were not owners, although they thought of themselves as such. They were tenant farmers. The land had only been leased to them for a time. They were under responsibility to choose their own methods to sow the land, protect the vines from savage animals, pull up the weeds, and maximize their harvest by their efforts. The Lord had spoken in the third book of Moses as to whose land it was:

“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants” (Leviticus 25:23).

The parable is a prophetic story of how God will call leaders to account for their rebellion and rejection of the Father’s authority over His land and people (see also Ezekiel 34). All the Earth belongs to the Lord (Psalm 24:1), but there is one small area of land and people that God has specifically set apart for His own purposes, i.e. the land that He has given as a stewardship to the children of Israel. The Vineyard was a picture of the nation of Israel, the representative of God’s covenant love and care.

There were and are evil spiritual forces at work that sought then and continue to seek in our own time to divide up God’s land, destroy the Jewish nation, and take the land for their own purposes (Ezekiel 36:5; Psalm 83:1-12). This battle over the land of Israel will continue until the Lord steps in to execute judgment on those who divide up God’s land. Governmental leaders are not owners, but tenants. They will be held to account:

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land (Joel 3:2).

The spiritual leaders of Israel were those shepherds who had been allowed to cultivate the land and bring forth a harvest for the owner, God. Men motivated by greed and lust for power had managed to get into positions of leadership in the nation. Their motivation was to keep hold onto power by their rejection of God’s authority over the land and people of Israel. The leaders wanted profit, power, and control over the land, i.e. the very authority that Jesus was challenging. All were under God’s authority, but they were in rebellion to the thought that all authority is derived from above.

Sending servant after servant, the owner speaks of the patience, love, and desire of God to bestow mercy on those who would come to Him in repentance. God had sent prophet after prophet over several hundred years, but they had been stoned and killed. The Lord then sent John the Baptist to call the nation and the elders to repentance, but the ruling leaders would have none of it. God tried every option to reach the wayward shepherds of His flock, but now things had come to a head with the Owner of the vineyard sending His Son.

As with all of Jesus’ parables, the story pulled the people to the point where they became part of the story.  Then, Jesus got to the part where He stated the owner’s dilemma: “The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do’?” At that point, it’s very likely that the Lord stopped speaking and looked in silence around the crowd to let the question settle into their hearts. I wonder if people in the crowd interrupted with shouts saying, “Get rid of those evil tenants.” His yearning for the leaders to repent and have a broken spirit seems to spill from this parable. Peter the Apostle wrote, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The mercy of God amazes me!

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas

We Will Not Serve Your gods or Worship the Image

There is coming a huge parting of the ways between the two kingdoms that are at war with one another on a cosmic scale on planet Earth. The Bible makes it plain that you are either in the kingdom of Satan, or you are in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other. You may think you are serving a different God, but it is a deception of Satan. Here’s what Jesus said:

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30)

If you are not walking with the Lord Jesus Christ, you are walking with the enemy, Satan, the arch deceiver, the one whom the apostle Paul called:

…The ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:2).

God does not want you to keep walking in disobedience to the good news of Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of sin and rebellion against Him. This world is on a downward curve to immorality, violence, greed, murder, etc. Worse still, many of God’s people are compromising their faith and are being led by the ways of this world system onto a similar path away from true holiness, purity and simplicity of godliness in Christ. There is a weak insipid thing that is presented to us as the church; but this is not the true church. This false church walks the way of the world system. The true church is composed of those whom have received new life from Christ and will not compromise their faith, no matter what the cost. They are like the three young Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who would not bow down to the spirit of the age, the false idols that are set up before us.

16Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

There is coming a time where an event will happen where there is a parting of the ways between the weak insipid thing that is presented as the church of Christ, and the true Church of the Living God. Paul the Apostle calls this event the “Rebellion,” or some translations render it, the “falling away,” or the “apostasy.” He wrote, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).  It is hard to say what will cause this. It will be an event in history, not just a gradual falling away from the faith of Christ, because in the Greek language the phrase has the definite article that speaks of an event. What will cause many “so called” Christians to fall away? I think it will be the forcing upon the world’s population of a “mark” on their foreheads or right hand. All those who will not take this “mark” will not be able to buy or sell. The world is heading toward a one-world-currency set up by our slave-owners that will be digital money—no cash will be allowed. All true Christians will not receive this mark, and will go in the opposite direction away from this world kingdom that is being set up at the moment (Revelation 14:9-12). The passage below gives us more detail for this event that will bring a parting of the ways between the “so called” church and the true church of Christ:

16It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name (Revelation 13:16-17).

We are living in the times before this event that has been foretold by the Holy Scriptures. My concern is for those of you who have already taken the curve towards the world system. This is a time to be to walking away from the spirit of the age we live in towards Christ. My dear friend, your eternity is at stake, give yourself wholeheartedly to Christ and the Holy Spirit will strengthen you for the days, months or years ahead, however long we have left before the coming of the Lord.

Taken from the series The Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column. Click on the study: The Antichrist: How Will We Recognize Him? Keith Thomas

Who Are the Believers Who Go Through the Great Tribulation?

9After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, 
who sits on the throne, 
and to the Lamb.” 11All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying: “Amen! 
Praise and glory 
and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength 
be to our God for ever and ever. 
Amen!” 13Then one of the elders asked me, These in white robeswho are they, and where did they come from?” 14I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-14 Emphasis mine).

There are those who tell us that the rapture (the snatching up of the saints from this earth) will happen before the tribulation starts. Well, how can that be? The passage above tells us that a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language will stand in white robes before the elders (v.11), before the living creatures (v.11), before the angels and before God, after going through a great tribulation. This is obviously the rapture. How do I know? We are specifically told that this great multitude that are seen are those who came out of the Great Tribulation (v.14).

Some say that these are believers who were left behind after a pre-tribulation rapture. They got saved during the tribulation, they inform us. But is that confirmed in any scripture? No, in fact the very opposite. We are told twice that the door is shut at the rapture—there is no second chance after a pre-tribulation rapture (if there was such a thing). The door was shut when the bridegroom came for His bride (Matthew 25:10, Luke 13:25). If there was a rapture before all the trouble (tribulation) starts, then why do we not see the pre-tribulation saints welcoming this great multitude and rejoicing upon their coming to heaven? We see the angels, the living creatures, the elders and God Himself welcoming this great multitude, but no pre-tribulation saints! Why not? Because there is no pre-tribulation rapture! The Church must wake up and prepare to endure hardship and persecution at the hands of Antichrist. We are told that we will be delivered by a catching up (rapture) at some point (no man knows the day nor the hour) during the tribulation/persecution. It’s time to wake up from sleep and prepare to endure hardship for Jesus Christ—it’s time to get close to Christ.

Prayer: Father, help us to be the Church in these dark days. The world is crying out for truth and to see the light of Christ in true believers.

Taken from the series The Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column. Click on the study, The Rapture and Day of the Lord. Keith Thomas

 

Could the Rapture Come at any Moment?

Is the Doctrine of Immanence biblical? Those that teach this doctrine say that at any moment Jesus could come. The urgency to be ready for the return of Christ is pressed upon those who are without Christ. I wholeheartedly agree that the Church should preach that those without Christ should repent (turn from sin toward obedience to Christ) and get their lives right with God, but it is not biblical to tell people that Jesus Christ could come today. Jesus Himself said that He would send forth His angels and snatch away His Church, the people of God, only after the Abomination of Desolation had taken place, and during a time of great tribulation or persecution of Antichrist. The Greek Word that is translated as Tribulation is Thlipsis, and contrary to what some teach, it is not the wrath of God. Twice in Matthew 24, Christ tells us that His people will endure persecution:

9“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted (Thlipsis) and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me (Matthew 24:9).

21For then there will be great tribulation (Thlipsis), unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again (Matthew 24:21).

Paul the apostle writes, “Tribulation [thlipsis] works patience” (Romans 5:3 KJV). The NIV translates thlipsis as suffering, and that it produces perseverance. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering [thlipsis] produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3 NIV). We don’t get out of tribulation; we become changed through our right responses in the middle of character-transforming difficulties. The Lord said that His people should anticipate times of distress or tribulation. In the Parable of the Sower, for instance, those who had no root, when tribulation [thlipsis] or persecution came, many fall away. Jesus said that we will not know the day or the hour of His coming (Matthew 24:36), but those who are born-again and spiritually renewed or regenerated by the Spirit of God, will know the season of time as it approaches—and it is approaching! If it could come at any moment, then why would Jesus tell us to watch?

42Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:42-44).

The Lord shared a lesson from the fig tree, that when it’s leaves come out and its twigs get tender you’ll know that summer (the return of Christ) is near. He explained that there would be certain signs that will indicate the season, “When you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33). The question is asked, “What signs are we to look for?” How are we to take this? The signs are those that He had mentioned earlier in the chapter—the rise of the Antichrist, the peace covenant in the Middle East (Daniel 9:27), the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15), and the persecution of the saints (vs. 9, 21). Paul the Apostle talked about three things that must happen before the gathering together of the saints by the Lord, a great falling away by many Christians that are not really walking with Christ, the rise of the Antichrist, and the seating of Antichrist in the temple (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

It is only after the signs of the times that we can expect the snatching up (rapture) of the saints. We will know the season because of the signs happening, but we will not know which day it will happen, or what hour. The time that we are in at the moment is a time for the Church to spiritually prepare for the difficult time ahead—it is time to get close to the Lord, learn to hear His voice, and if you are not yet right with God, it’s time to cry out to Him for His full and complete salvation to come to you. It is not earned, but a gift of God when you are ready to turn your life over into His hands:

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Taken from the series The Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column. Click on the study, The Rapture and Day of the Lord. Keith Thomas

The War Between Brothers: Jew and Arab

palestine122There is a recent study that proves genetically that Jews and Arabs are brothers one of another, and descendants of Abraham. Esau, Jacob or Israel’s brother, intermarried with Ishmael (Genesis 28:8-9) and became the Arabic people, that God said would be a great nation of countries (Genesis 17:20-21). There is a great love by the Most High Creator God for the Jewish and Arabic peoples. God tells of a time that is still future when there will be a highway all the way from Syria across Israel to Egypt. It will be a time when Arabs and Jews will worship the Lord together. Even though we cannot see it right now, the Most High God will bring it about. Egyptians, Syrians and Israeli’s will have a true peace and experience the blessing of the Messiah. This is what the Lord says:

23In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance” (Isaiah 19:23-25).

We cannot see it now because of a great war that is going on over the Middle East. This war is being fought on a spiritual plane, but has consequences on Earth. Paul the Apostle wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). What was Paul saying? He was saying that behind the things that are going on in the political world are invisible spiritual forces of evil that are competing for control over people’s minds and hearts. These invisible spiritual forces of evil plant thoughts and influence the minds of political leaders for a worldwide agenda to be brought about—a One World Government under a dictator the Bible calls the Antichrist. The hatred that has been pushed by the media between Jews and Arabs is of unseen demonic origin. It is just being used as a ploy for gaining control of Jerusalem, and at a time in the future, a world leader, the Antichrist, will sit in a newly rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and proclaim himself as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4), seeking for all the world to worship him. The prophet Zechariah spoke 2500 years ago of the time that we are in right now:

2“I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. 3On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves (Zechariah 12:2-3).

It is important to understand that the name “Jerusalem” never appears in the Koran. The claim to Jerusalem came years after Mohammad’s death. Writer Hal Lindsey, in his book The Everlasting Hatred, The Roots of Jihad, says, “The justification for this comes from a verse which says Mohammad travelled to the “uttermost mosque,” (which is the meaning of Al Quds in Arabic) shortly before his death.” There is no evidence that this was Jerusalem—the legend of a visit to Jerusalem first appeared in the days of Khaliph Omar, the Muslim who originally conquered Jerusalem in April of AD 637, more than 560 years after the Jews were banished from Jerusalem by the Romans. There will come a time when the Arabic people will see that they have been manipulated by dark invisible forces and turn to the Lord for the free gift of His salvation that Christ won on the cross for all those that will come to Him. They will see that He has a great love for them just as He has for the Jewish people. He will have mercy on all who call on Him—for He will forgive them of their sins when they cry out to Him. What a difference on Earth that will make! Oh God, bring it about soon!

Keith Thomas