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Dispensational Truth: Part IV
Witnessing Tools
Monday, December 23, 2013
Pete Garcia

Since Christ’s resurrection and ascension, we have effectively been living in what the apostles called, ‘the last days’.  We are currently inhabiting the time between the 69th and 70th of week of Daniel for the better part of 2,000 years.  Some skeptics of Dispensationalism and a Pre-Millennial view liken this to God’s ''Plan B'' as if He had to come up with some hasty solution to offset Israel’s rejection, but this is far from the truth. 

God does not inhabit time like we do, and He has seen the end from the beginning as the Prophet Isaiah notes (Is 46:9-10), so nothing is a surprise to Him. King David, and the prophets Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah had already foretold Israel’s rejection of their coming Messiah. Rather, this ‘pause’ if you will, was planned before the beginning of the world.

The Bema Seat Judgment

"For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

Immediately after the Rapture, all believers who make up the Body of Christ will stand before Jesus Christ to receive or not receive rewards for work done in the body of Christ throughout our lives. As the world prepares to enter the final week known as the 70th week of Daniel, the Church is entering first into its’ own judgment (1 Peter 4:17).  We are not judged for sin and salvation, but for our works as Christians.

History records that during Paul’s day, the Greek Bema Seat was not a place to impute punishment towards a crime, but rather to bestow honor for performance during a race or athletic event. Our sin was traded for Christ’s righteousness when we first believed on Him for our salvation (2 Cor. 5:21), so our eternal salvation is not what’s at stake here. It is here that the believer can earn one of five Crowns that Scriptures promise a believer.

Some believers balk at the idea that we should strive towards earning crowns, and that we should just be good and Christ-like for the sake of loving Christ. While that is true to an extent, the intent of our earning crowns is so that we may cast them before our Savior’s feet to bestow honor back on Him. Imagine the Christian on That Day when he or she has nothing to present back to Christ.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." 2 Corinthians 5:10

Works vs. Works

Those who dismiss the idea of salvation by grace through faith alone apart from works, usually point towards the mention of works found in the seven letters of Revelation 2-3 as justification for that belief. I believe that when these works are viewed against the Bema Judgment, the works in question here then make sense in that our salvation is by grace through faith alone, but our works will also be judged for reward (or not). There are four levels of application in which Rev. 2-3 can be viewed through and since Jack Kelley has already written so succinctly on this topic, I will simply echo what he has already stated.

From Grace Thru Faith;

They can actually be read with four levels of application. The first level is historical. These seven churches really existed and each was experiencing the particular problem to which the Lord referred as He dictated the letters to John. Second, since all the churches were to read all the letters, the letters were also admonitory to all. Third, since both the challenge and promise with which each letter ends are personal rather than corporate, the letters were for individuals as well as congregations. And fourth, read in the order in which they appear they outline church history and so are prophetic. They chronicle the gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy. (Daniel 9:24-27)

The seven letters to the seven churches contains personal challenges and promises which means that Jesus was also speaking to individuals in these churches.  From here we should be able to see what constitutes the gold, silver, and precious stones and what are wood, hay, and straw.  I’ve added in with brackets what is being addressed, and what the name translates in the Greek:

Ephesus (desirable or apostolic): [Discernment – Love = Legalism]

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."

Smyrna (myrrh- is crushed to release fragrance):  [Suffering for Christ sake = No Condemnation]

I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer.  Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Pergamos (married or mixed marriage):  [Compromising Christianity] Deeds become Doctrine

I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth."

Thyatira (sacrifice or continual sacrifice):  [Tolerating false doctrine]

I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.  And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.  I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works."

Sardis: (escaping):  [The spiritually dead church]

I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you."

Philadelphia: (brotherly love): [the faithful church]

I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.  Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.  Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown."

Laodicea:  (people ruling): [the lukewarm church]

I know your works that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent."

Of note, there are only two churches mentioned as being promised crowns (Smyrna and Philadelphia). The rest are promised to the individual believer if they can overcome, they will be rewarded in various manners.

Assessment:

There is a popular misconception that God is uninterested in our lives and with mankind in general. If anything, these letters from Jesus Christ Himself should dispel that notion as absolutely false.

Over and over again, Jesus reiterates one key theme, in that He knows our works. He sees our struggles. He sees our successes and our failures. God is not distant and uninterested; He is very much interested in the lives of His people.

So although the Bema Judgment will bring all the works of the believers to light, you can see that in these churches, it is only individuals that come out of these church, especially those that Christ has nothing positive to commend them on. The promise is still to those who will come to believe in saving grace, and that each church/era/epoch of Christian history will bring forth those who held fast to Christ.

Everyone will stand before Jesus Christ one day; some will stand as family receiving their just eternal rewards for a life of service, sacrifice, and persecution. Others will stand as strangers before God at the Great White Throne Judgment. These will stand before an all-righteous, all perfect, and all holy Creator who will then give them the chance to show their own righteousness based on their own works.

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."  Revelation 20:11-15

About Pete Garcia

Last week: Dispensational Truth: Part III



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