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Racism and the Fire of “Critical Race Theory”

from THE CHURCH UNDER FIRE sermon series . . .

We’ve studied 5 of 6 attacks on Christ’s Church in our Church Under Fire Series.  With each topic, we saw that worldly thinking slips into the Church and redefines the words and beliefs the Bible teaches.  For example, regeneration is turned into pragmatism and grace is turned into inequality.  These are mostly about the problem of racism.  But here again, the definition of racism has been redefined.  Let’s begin by defining what racism actually is, and then we’ll see how it has been redefined according to the social justice movement.

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Church: The Bride and Body of Christ (Eph. 5:22-33)

from The Church under Fire sermon series . . .

As we discussed in the previous article, the Church of God is always in Satan’s cross-hairs to one degree or another.  And the first step in combating the fiery trials of Satan’s deceptions and lies that he launches against the Church is to understand who and what the Church actually is.  Last week in 2 Thessalonians, we learned the origins of our common salvation and our holy position in Jesus Christ.  The Church is the assembly of God’s elect that believes the gospel and lives according to the gospel.  And this life that we live together according to the gospel is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

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Church: The Assembly of God’s Elect (2 Thess.2:13-15

from The Church under Fire sermon series . . .

The current state of the Southern Baptist Convention was not created in a vacuum. The spiritual and theological downgrade we are witnessing has evolved over many decades. To help our members at Grace Life Baptist Church of Lebanon, TN, to understand better the issues at hand, we recently began “The Church under Fire” sermon series. I thought it would be helpful to post blog versions of my sermon notes throughout the course of this series for our membership, and others out there as well.

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Gone Too Far: The Pervasive Problems within the Southern Baptist Convention

I have been a part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) my entire life.  Much good has come from this relationship; but in the last decade, I have seen an increasingly, troubling degree of compromise and biblical errors that has led me to write this article.  I am writing in part for myself because I want to organize and solidify my own thinking.  I am writing for the local church I have the honor of pastoring, Grace Life Baptist Church of Lebanon, TN, to help our members understand the issues at stake.  And I am writing for other pastors and their congregants in case they are seeking to organize and solidify their own thinking too.  The result is five pervasive problems I see with continued participation in the SBC.

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Cheating to Show Yourself Approved

I was doing my student teaching in John’s Epistles as part of my doctoral studies in the early 2000s.  Toward the end of the term, the students’ research papers were due.  As I began to read through them, I noticed something strange about two papers.  The grammar and vocabulary kept changing dramatically as if a different writer was at the helm throughout sections of the paper.  Scattered within or at the very end of these sections a footnote cited the source that influenced the students’ thoughts.  I decided to take their papers to the library where I found the books they had cited.  To my surprise, both students had copied from their sources verbatim.

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The Mark of the Beast (short version)

I recently wrote an article on Revelation’s mark of the beast.  I received a lot of good feedback.  Part of the feedback reminded me of how difficult it is to digest this complicated and often mysterious subject.  So, I thought it would be helpful if there were a shorter version of the article—something like a summary or overview.

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“Amen” Has Nothing to Do with Your Gender. . . Or Does It?

The English word “amen” comes from the ancient Hebrew word ןמֵֽאָ. The word means truly or certainty. The word was used in the Old Testament to affirm God’s Word as true. In the New Testament, the Greek transliterates it as ἀμήν. Both the Hebrew and Greek words are transliterated into the English language as amen. Transliterated means English speakers tried to replicate the original sound of the Hebrew and Greek as closely as possible.

All this to say, the word “men” in the word amen has nothing to do with gender issues. Then again, perhaps it has everything to do with them because amen is an interjection declaring that whatever God has said is true and certain. One thing God has made clear in His Word is that He has created all human beings as male or female, man or woman, he or she, him or her.

Genesis 1:27–So created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Matthew 19:4–He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.”

I pray that those twisting God’s Word to conform to their sinful “opinions” about gender will repent and put their trust in Jesus Christ so that they might begin to say “AMEN” to what God has said in His Word.

Christ Is All,

The Mark of the Beast

What a joyful topic!  But it’s a biblical topic and therefore a necessary one to address.  I believe this is especially true right now.  As a pastor, I’ve already had people asking about the mark of the beast in relation to the strange times we are experiencing.  I’ve seen articles posted (some sub-biblical at best).   I’ve personally been asked if the COVID-19 vaccine is the taking of the mark of the beast.  My short answer is, “No.”  My medium answer is, “No, it’s much more ‘invasive’ than any such thing as a vaccine.  My long answer is more detailed. . . .

Occurrences of the “Mark” in Revelation
The phrase, “mark of the beast,” itself is only used two times in Scripture (Rev.16:2; 19:20).  But the word mark or marked occurs another 5 times (Rev.13:16, 17; 14:9, 11; 20:4).  The idea of the mark in these texts is related to barring people from buying or selling “unless he has the mark” (Rev.13:17a).  The mark itself is said to be “the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Rev.13:17b).  And then we read that the beast’s name “is the number of a man, and his number 666” (Rev.13:18b).

Marked as Satan Worshipers
Is the mark a literal or a spiritual mark or both?  I believe the Bible is clear that it’s not simply a literal mark in a person’s flesh or some other literal fulfillment such as an identification card, bar code, QR code, computer chip, the contents of a vaccine, or any such thing.  While I believe the mark will be applied in very literal ways related to identification methods, the main meaning of the mark is spiritual.  I conclude this from all the Revelation texts that connect the mark to WORSHIP.  Look at the basic train of thought in Revelation 12-13.

(1)  Great Dragon—The Dragon rules as the dark “lord” of this world who wants nothing less than to be worshiped (Rev.12:1-17; 13:4)

(2)  First Beast/Sea Beast—The ten-horned, seven-headed beast serves the Dragon by deceiving people into worshiping him, which is actually worship of the Dragon (Rev.13:1-10)

(3)  Second Beast/Earth Beast—The two-horned, lamb beast serves the Dragon by deceiving people into worshiping the Earth Beast, which is actually worship of the Dragon (Rev.13:11-18).

But how do we go about interpreting these terrifying creatures exactly?

The Anti-Trinity
Most of us are familiar with the name and concept of the Anti-Christ.  The word “antichrist” (ἀντίχριστος) is used four times in the New Testament, each time by the Apostle John (1 Jn.2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 Jn. 7).  The Greek preposition “anti-“ (ἀντί) on the front end of “Christ” (χριστος) has the primary meaning, instead of or in place of.  The final last days Anti-Christ will set himself to be worshiped by all peoples (2 Thess.2:1-12).  In the meantime, John says in this “last hour” in which we are living “that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come” (1 Jn.2:18; emphasis added).  John goes on to say that the antichrists/Anti-Christ are the ones who deny “Jesus is the Christ?” (1 Jn.2:22) and  do “not confess Jesus” as come in the flesh (1 Jn.4:2-3; 2 Jn. 7).

Put all this together, and the idea of the Anti-Christ coming instead of or in place of Jesus Christ, defines the Anti-Christ as the wicked opposite of Christ who attempts to replace Christ as if he’s the “equivalent” of Christ.

But did you know Revelation alludes to a full-blown Anti-TrinityAnti-Father, Anti-Christ, and Anti-Spirit.  The Great Dragon, Sea Beast, and Earth Beast make up this wicked Anti-Trinity.  Look at the basic breakdown below:

Great Dragon  =  Satan  =  Anti-Father
We know the Great Dragon is symbolic of Satan because the text clearly tells us so (Rev.12:9; 20:2).  And we know the perennial desire of Satan is to be God (Isa.14:14; Eze.28:2; cf. Gen.3:4-5; 2 Thess.2:4)

Sea Beast  =  Godless Governments  =  Anti-Christ
Godless Governments is an umbrella phrase for the nations (both individual nations and alliances between nations), economic institutions, educational institutions, scientific institutions, etc.  I believe the Sea Beast is symbolic of Godless Governments and the Anti-Christ for several reasons:

(1)  The Sea Beast is seen “rising out of the sea” (Rev.13:1).  The “sea” is used frequently in the Bible to represent the nations of the world and/or the peoples that make up the nations (cf. Eze.26:3; Dan.7:2-3).  This imagery is reaffirmed by Daniel in particular (Dan.7:2-3).

(2)  The Sea Beast has a “mortal wound” that seems to be “healed” (Rev.13:3-4, 14).  This recalls Christ who received a mortal wound at the cross but was resurrected on the third day.

(3)  The Sea Beast is given the Dragon’s authority, especially the authority to wage war against God’s people (Rev.13:5-8).  This is the same power the pagan nations exercised against God’s people as recorded in Daniel’s prophecy (Dan.7-8). 

Earth Beast  =  Wicked Religious Leaders  =  Anti-Spirit

Wicked Religious Leaders is an umbrella phrase for the religions, religious institutions, and religious leaders of the world.  I believe the Second Beast is symbolic of wicked religious leaders and the Anti-Spirit for several reasons:

(1)  The Earth Beast is seen “rising out of the earth”, which is the domain of men and the material out of which men have been created.

(2)  The Earth Beast causes all unbelievers to be “marked on the right hand or the forehead” (Rev.13:16); and the mark “is the number of man” (Rev.13:18).

(3)  The Earth Beast is called the “false prophet” later in Revelation (Rev.16:13; 19:20; 20:10).

(4)  The Earth Beast leads/commands unbelievers to worship the Sea Beast and the Dragon (Rev.13:12-14), which is the wicked imitation of the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of Christ’s Church.

The Dragon, Sea Beast, and Earth Beast is Satan’s attempt at forming a tri-unity.  Each “person” in this unholy trinity forms an indivisible, intertwined relationship similar to the Holy Trinity.  Praise be to God, Satan’s efforts have failed, are failing, and will fail to accomplish this fully.

Multiple-Fulfillments of the Mark
It is reasonable to conclude that the Roman Empire of the first century (and then again throughout many centuries) fulfills the symbolism of the Sea and Earth Beasts.

It is also reasonable to conclude that the Sea and Earth Beasts continue to find fulfillment everywhere in the world where politics and religion mix.  When I say “religion”, don’t just think of Christianity or other world religions.  Think also of schools, universities, scientific and economic institutions, etc. (many of which have either informally or even formally declared, “God is dead,” meaning education/science is superior to genuine theology).  The influence of the Sea and Earth Beasts is undeniable in governments throughout the world, including the United States of America.

Again, it’s reasonable to conclude that a final, future fulfillment of the Sea and Earth Beasts is yet to come.  The only way we will ever know if current persons/nations are the final, future fulfillment prior to Christ’s Second Coming is when we see Jesus Christ actually return.  In other words, until Jesus comes back, we can’t say what’s going on is the VERY END of it all because “no man knows the day or the hour (Matt.24:36; 25:13; Mk.13:32; 1 Thess.5:1-2) of Christ’s Return.

False Beliefs that Lead to False Worship
The “mark of the beast” is summed up as an issue of false beliefs/thinking invented by the nations, preached by false prophets to the people, leading the world into false beliefs and false worship.  Unbelievers look to the godless nations and false religions/churches to “save” them, not realizing they’re actually worshiping Satan “instead of” (ἀντί) God.

Therefore, taking the mark of the beast is not something a person can do accidentally or out of ignorance.  Yet, even unbelievers will be ignorant of the fact they’re being deceived.  It will be such a strong delusion that “if possible, even the elect” would be led astray (Matt.24:24).  But taking the mark of the beast is an intentional decision.  The bottom line is denying Christ, which means denying God’s Word by listening to godless governments and wicked religious leaders.  In our world today, it seems it come to us mostly in the form of 24-hour news media.  It also comes through the internet, especially social media.  The point is that we must beware of loving this life—this world’s government, culture, religion, traditions, money, comfort, and pleasures—more than Jesus Christ.

Is the Covid vaccine the mark of the beast?  No, not in and of itself.  But because it is promoted by godless governments and wicked religious/ scientific leaders, we must question anything and everything they promote.  For example, they are preaching that it’s “SAFE”.  But safe for whom?  What they leave out of their preaching is that the initial version of the vaccine has been manufactured using tissue harvested from murdered human babies (as several other vaccinations have for years now).

All this to say, I won’t be receiving the vaccine.  I don’t believe it’s advisable for other Christians to receive it either.  Develop a vaccine without tissue from murdered humans in it, and I will reconsider the situation.  But even then, I would be hesitant for two reasons: 1) The “rush” to develop the drug is problematic; and 2) The less than 1% morbidity rate seems to make a “rushed” drug at best an overreaction.

In any case, fellow Christ-followers, let’s be vigilant against all godless government and wicked religious leaders that would have us doubt, disbelieve, and deny Jesus Christ–even those (especially those) that have the audacity to say they are His followers too.

Christ is All,

Christmas Light in Our Darkness

Some of our scariest experiences often have something to do with darkness.  As a young boy, I was afraid of walking down the darkened hall to my darkened room at bedtime.  This fear wasn’t helped by stormy nights.  Across the road from our house was a field; and in that field was a dead tree with gnarly branches.  When the lightning flashed, I could see the silhouette of that creepy tree backlit with a blaze of blue.

Being alone or lost intensifies our fears of the darkness.  But did you know there’s something scarier— being in the dark and not knowing it?  This is the world’s spiritual condition.  They live lives as lost and lonely souls—ignorant of their own spiritual blindness.  Scariest of all are those that profess to be followers of God but aren’t.  Many of the people of Israel are prime examples of this, especially after their civil war and the resulting broken Kingdom into North and South. But God has a Word for His people in Isaiah 9.

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.  In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali” (Isa.9:1a).  Zebulun and Naphtali were two tribes on the northern border.  They will be the first to feel the fury of the invading Assyrian war machine.

As a result, Israel will experience gloom and anguish.  The word “gloom” can also be translated darkness.  Notice it’s God who will thrust them into this gloom (v.1a) and with good reason.  According to chapter 8, they had become willing participants in pagan worship, consulting mediums and necromancers—paying money to witch doctors to speak to the dead when they could’ve simply consulted the Word of the Living God and His prophets free of charge.

This is not unlike some professing Christians today who pay the salaries of modern-day mediums—charlatan preachers that preach a form of dead secular psychology and sociology.  All the while, simple gospel-preachers of God’s Living Word are available, many willing to work other jobs if necessary so that the sheep are fed.

The good news is that God is too good to let us continue in our sin.  So, He ordains gloom and anguish to humble us and then holds out a promise of deliverance for those who listen.  “But in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (Isa.9:1b).  The sea mentioned here has gone by many names, but you’ll remember it best as the Sea of Galilee that plays such a big part of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Isaiah is declaring that the Assyrian oppression will come to an end one day.  But verse 2 declares deliverance from a darker power.  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (v.2).  The darkness is figurative of Israel’s spiritual condition.  Sin has devastating effects, but God dispels the darkness by shining His light into the hearts of His people.

This promise of salvation isn’t limited to believing Jews. Here’s a great opportunity to learn how to interpret prophecy.  Most prophecies have both a near and a far fulfillment.  The near fulfillment for Zebulon and Naphtali is that the oppression from the Assyrians will come to an end. But the language of verse 1 should also spark memories of a far fulfillment, the ultimate fulfillment.  Do you remember the angel’s announcement to Mary?

Luke 1:26-27—In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

Jesus Christ is the light of salvation. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Nazareth.  And after returning from exile in Egypt, Joseph settled his little family in Nazareth (Matt.2:19-23).  Nazareth was a little town within the borders of Zebulun.  And for much of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He lived in the town of Capernaum located in the borders of Naphtali. In fact, after telling us that Jesus moved to Capernaum (Matt.4:12-16), Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 and declares that the prophecy is fulfilled.  And the first thing we hear Jesus preach after this quotation is a command for people to turn from the darkness to God’s gospel light!

Matthew 4:17—From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus did most of this preaching in “Galilee of the nations,” not mighty Jerusalem, because He came to save, unite, and rule over the entire Kingdom, the full number of Israel made up of all “who are called, both Jews and Gentiles” (1 Cor.1:24a).

Jesus Christ is God in human flesh.  There is no more basic doctrine than the deity of Christ, yet there’s no more offensive doctrine to many.  But there’s no other sensible way to interpret verses like Isaiah 9:6. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isa.9:6a).  This reaffirms that the far fulfillment of the prophecy is found in none other than Jesus.  Isaiah goes further and gives us detailed names of this coming Son that demonstrate He’s more than a man.  “And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa.9:6b).

Jesus Christ is the only rightful Savior and King.  “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forever-more.” (Isa.9:7a).  Like the tiny mustard seed, Christ’s Kingdom has been inaugurated, beginning small but progressing in growth for two thousand years now.  It’s not yet fully grown because His Kingdom is yet to be consummated at His Second Coming.

But Jesus is already governing the cosmos despite appearances to the contrary.  He’s ruling in the hearts of His people now.  His government and peace increase with every soul saved.  He is seated on David’s throne as King of His people, the Church.  He is establishing and upholding us with His justice and righteousness.  And it’s “the zeal of the Lord of hosts” that “will do this” (Isa.9:7b).

God is good to give us the same message He gave Israel and Judah—judgment is coming but salvation is available for those who repent and believe God’s Word.  Therefore, this world’s greatest threat is not politics and politicians, stock market crashes, shortages of goods, or viruses [and the list could go on and on].  The greatest threat is God’s judgment.  I beg you, turn to Christ your God and Creator.  He is the Light in our darkness.

Blessings in the Lord,
Jeremy Vanatta