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The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
From the week ending 04/13/03

The Most Important Sign for the Church. 
Luke 17:20

We have now noted the Satanic Game Plan, and are continuing our study of REV 12:1 and the Israeli-Arab conflict:"And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman [Israel] clothed with the sun [Jacob], and the moon under her feet [the wives of Jacob], and on her head a crown of twelve stars [the twelve patriarchs and twelve tribes of Israel]." These twelve tribes are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.

REV 12:2-5 And she [Israel] was with child [the virgin pregnancy]; and she cried out [the many Jewish Holocausts throughout human history], being in labor and in pain to give birth [longing for deliverance from this anti-Semitism]. And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon [Satan] having seven heads and ten horns, [the revived Roman empire of the Tribulation and the ecumenical religion, which is being formed today], and on his heads were seven diadems [crowns]. And his tail [Satan's power] swept away a third of the stars of heaven [the prehistoric revolution in Heaven, in which one third of the angels followed Satan in the prehistoric angelic conflict], and He [God]threw them to the earth [in the middle of the Tribulation]. And the dragon [Satan] stood before the woman [the virgin Mary] who was about to give birth [to prevent the virgin birth of Christ], so that when she gave birth he might devour [destroy] her child [the humanity of Christ]. And she gave birth to a son, a male child [our Lord Jesus Christ in hypostatic union], who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron [during the Millennium]; and her child [Jesus Christ] was caught up to God ["harapazo" refers to the ascension, the doctrine of Christology pertaining to the transfer of our Lord's true humanity from planet earth to the third heaven in a resurrection body, ACT 2:34.] and to His throne [the session, the doctrine of Christology pertaining to the glorification of our Lord's humanity at the right hand of the Father, EPH 2:6.] And the woman [true Israel, Jews saved during the Tribulation period] fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God [for refuge], so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days [the last half of the Tribulation and the time of Satan's desperation].

We can even see in current day events what Satan is trying to do to stop God from fulfilling His promises to the Jews. If we are to be successful in our spiritual warfare, we must evaluate where we stand in relationship to such passages as EPH 6:11, "Pick up and put on the full armor from God, that you may be able to hold your ground against the schemes [strategies] of the devil."

PHI 1:29 Because to you it has been graciously given with reference concerning Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on behalf of Him.

Again, we read in REV 12:1, "And a great sign appeared in heaven" The word "sign" here is a reference to the anti-Semitism seen in verses 3 and 4, and the first part of this sign deals with Satan himself. Satan is the author of all anti-Semitism, and any Christian who gets taken in by anti-Semitism is described in Phi 3 as an enemy of the Cross. We must remain spiritually oriented and remember EPH 6:12, "Because our struggle is not against blood [people's souls] and flesh [their old sin nature]." The issue in the spiritual life is not an evil, vicious coward in Iraq; the issue is understanding your true enemy.

The second sign in verse 3 begins with the sign of a dragon, REV 12:3, "And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon [Satan]." The Greek word "semeion," translated "sign," means a sign, wonder, miracle, or something that many people see and draw conclusions from. When we see a sign, we have to decide where the sign comes from, and whether it is on God's side or Satan's, because Satan has his own signs, REV 13:11-13.

God used signs throughout the Bible to speak to the Jews just as He uses the "signs of the times" or historical trends to speak to His people today. The Bible says in 1CO 1:22, "For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom." Signs were given to the Jews, historical trends are given to the church.

Circumcision is a sign to the Jews that they are a new race, Gen 17-10-11, ROM 4:11. The Passover was given as a sign of the Cross, EXO 12:7-13. The Sabbath was given as a sign of the rest God's people should have, EXO 31:13-17, EZE 20:12. The Word of God was given to the Jews as sign in DEU 6:4-8. Ultimately, we have the sign of His death, burial, and resurrection, MAT 12:39-41; MAT 16:4; Joh 2:19. During His lifetime, our Lord performed hundreds of signs, Joh 20:30, "Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book." The Jews have been given enough signs, MAT 12:38-40, "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.' But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet, for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'"

What our Lord said in Luke 17:20">LUK 17:20 has a direct application to us in the Church: "Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, "Look, here it is!" or "There it is!" For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.'"

We must not get so occupied with the signs of the times that we forget the sign that matters the most, the power of the Cross and our personal identification with the Lord's suffering, 1Co 1:22-29. As you continue in the plan of God,"the more you grow with your relationship in God, the smaller you will become." As our Lord said in MAT 11:28-29, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls."

Holiness is the product of grace, and God gives grace only to the humble. God has a plan to shatter our "strength of self," but it takes humility to accept that plan. What keeps most churches and believers from prospering spiritually is that they have not found God through His Word, 2TI 3:7, "Always learning and never able to come to the true knowledge of the truth." They are too wrapped up in the details of life, such as current events. They are distracted from the reality that the kingdom of God is in their midst, not in fame and wealth or in the events in the "Middle East," but in their midst-within. True experiential holiness, or dedication and devotion to God, comes from seeking the glory of God, JOH 5:44, "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?"

If we are concerned about displaying our spirituality to impress people, seeking honor and recognition from others, and still living to appear righteous or special or "spiritual" before people, can we honestly say we are walking with the Lord Jesus Christ, picking up our cross, and living the spiritual life? We know we are relating correctly to God when our hunger for His glory causes us to forsake the praise of men.

It is vital to understand that our Lord did not condemn sinners; He condemned hypocrites. A hypocrite is one who excuses his own sin while condemning the sins of another. He is not merely "twofaced"; we all fall into that at times. A hypocrite is one who refuses to admit he is at times "twofaced" thereby pretending a righteousness that he fails to live in; he does not discern his hypocrisy and cannot perceive flaws within himself. Therefore, since he seeks no mercy, he has no mercy to give; since he is always under God's judgment, judging is what comes through him. We cannot remain hypocrites and find holiness. The first step we truly take toward experiential sanctification is to admit we are not as holy as we would like to appear. Then "the kingdom of God is in your midst" begins to become a reality. This first step is called humility.

If we desire to know God, we must learn His attitude, which is found passages like PRO 3:33-34, "The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the dwelling of the righteous. Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted." He resists the proud, but His grace is drawn to the humble. Humility brings grace to our need, and grace alone can change our hearts. Humility, therefore, is the "substructure" of transformation; it is the basis of all virtues. At some phase in our lives, we will be confronted with the flaws in our hearts and the double-mindedness that resides there.

The Holy Spirit reveals our sinfulness, not to condemn us, but to establish humility and deepen the knowledge of our personal need for grace. It is at this crossroad that humble believers and hypocrites are revealed. Those who become dedicated and serious in their relationship with God see their need and appeal to the grace of God for deliverance. Hypocrites, in seeing their sin, weakness, and failure to fulfill the predesigned plan of God, excuse it and remain intact in their arrogance. Though all believers must eventually stand at this crossroads, very few accept the voice of truth; very few will walk in humility toward holiness and experience the kingdom of God in their midst.

Spiritual virtue begins with our determined refusal to hide from the condition of our hearts. If we are not enlightened to the depravity of our old sin nature, we become "Christian Pharisees" and hypocrites, full of contempt and self?righteousness. Every time we judge another Christian, we do so with an attitude of self?righteousness. Each time we criticize another believer or church, contempt is the motive behind our words. The irony in Christianity is that so many churches look upon each other with identical attitudes of superiority.

Even in times of spiritual success, we must delight in our weakness, knowing all strength is the product of God's grace, 2CO 12:9-10. Meekness must become our way of life. Like the Lord Jesus Christ, we must delight in becoming "lowly in heart."

Hypocrites love to judge; it makes them feel superior. Many zealous but proud Christians have failed to experience the kingdom of God because they presumed they were called to judge others. The Lord Jesus Christ did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Judging after the flesh is the product of a carnal mind, 2CO 5:16. On the other hand, it takes the loving faithfulness of our Lord to redeem and save. One act of His love revealed through us will do more to warm cold hearts than the sum of all our pompous criticisms.

The Lord said in MAT 7:5, "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." We will never become spiritual by criticizing others, nor is anyone brought nearer to God through finding fault! If we are honestly pursuing our sanctification, we will soon discover we have no time for judging others. Indeed, being in need of mercy, we will look eagerly for opportunities to be merciful to others. Scripture tells us that Jesus judged men in certain situations, but His motive was always to save. His love was perfectly committed to the one He judged. If you still insist on finding fault, beware-our Lord's standard of judgment is high, JOH 8:7, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone." Remember, Jesus Christ did not condemn sinners, He condemned hypocrites. This is the humility we are seeking.

Now that we have seen what our most important sign is, and the results of pursuing that sign, REV 12:3 should have more meaning for us: "And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems." The Greek phrase reads: "drakon [dragon] puros [red] megas[great]." The word "drakon" is used exclusively in the book of Revelation, 13 times, to depict the devil. It is a synonym of the word "ophis," translated "snake" or "serpent." In the book of Revelation it always refers to Satan, and it has a fascinating origin. It should be noted that "drakon" was used in attic Greek for religious service because snake worship was practiced at Delphi and other places. The priestess who actually handled the snakes was called in the Greek, "Puthon," the origin of the English word "python," the name of one of the great "constrictors" (snakes that crush their prey).

In REV 12:3, the drakon referred to a snake who can see clearly, and the snake who clearly saw the issue was the snake who became the woman's pet in the Garden. He persuaded the woman by appealing to her source of vanity and arrogance. The dragon (serpent) saw the issue clearly. He saw that he could not attack the man directly, so he got to the man through the woman.

We do not actually know our enemy's real name; in the angelic conflict he is called by the titles "Satan" or "the devil." His title in the Hebrew is "ha Satan," which means an adversary, or an attorney who slanders and gets away with it through a legal loophole. In the Greek, his title is diabolos (translated "devil"), which means essentially the same thing-an adversary, an attorney in opposition in law, or a slanderer. Satan constantly brings accusations against believers into the Supreme Court of Heaven, according to ZEC 3:1; Rev 12:10; JOB 1:11; JOB 2:5. Apparently Satan does not realize the extent of the unlimited atonement and all that the Father accomplished on the Cross through His Son.

Satan even accuses believers today before the throne of God. We read in Rev 12:10b, in the middle of the Tribulation period, "The accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night." While the devil persecutes believers on earth, he prosecutes believers in heaven. As long as believers are making positive decisions toward doctrine, the god of this world, Satan, will put pressure on us here on earth, and he will also go to heaven and prosecute us. When Satan makes accusations against us, our Lord Jesus Christ acts as our Defense Attorney and bases His defense on the doctrine of propitiation, which refers to the satisfaction of God the Father with the work of Christ on the Cross. The Apostle John said in 1JO 2:1, "My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [a Defense Attorney] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

The moment you accepted Christ as Savior, you retained the services of the greatest barrister and defender of all time, our Lord Jesus Christ, and He represents you personally in the court of heaven. He is your Defense Attorney. The basis for our defense is found in 1JO 2:2, "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

Propitiation means that God is satisfied with the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross for your past, present, and future. All the sins of the world, past, present, and future, were never imputed to us for judgment, but to our Lord on the Cross. This is why we read in JOH 19:30, "When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit." After being judged for our sins, the Lord said, "Tetelestai!" After bearing our sins, Jesus Christ was still very much alive, as we can see when He makes this fantastic declaration, "Tetelestai!" It literally means, "finished in the past with the result that it stands finished forever."

The only condition for eternal life is non-meritorious personal faith in Jesus Christ, whose substitutionary spiritual death on the Cross provided all the efficacious work for salvation. There is nothing we can add to it, now or ever. Eternal salvation is a free gift, compatible with God's policy of grace and attained by faith alone in Christ alone. By adding anything to faith as a means of salvation, man is in competition with God, and that is blasphemous. If we add any of our own works or merit, we can not be saved; we can only be saved by grace through faith.

For a more detailed study, order last week's tapes, IA11-256 to IA11-258.

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