Strangers and Pilgrims
On The Earth Page 1
From the Main
Bread Upon The Waters Ministry
Why "Strangers and Pilgrims"?
This topic addressed in this set of pages is called "Strangers and Pilgrims On The Earth" because that is what the heroes of the Old Testament confessed themselves to be (Hebrews 11:13), and it is how St. Peter told us we should live (I Peter 2:11). The Old Testament heroes mentioned in the Book of Hebrews all took courageous stands for their faith. We may all have to do that during the Tribulation. Furthermore, the Book of Hebrews tells us that "...God is therefore not ashamed to be called their God, because He has prepared for them a city" (Hebrews 11:16). We should not want God to be ashamed of us, either. We should want to be sure of being part of that city. Therefore, what we have to do if we want to be ready for the Second Coming is start really being "strangers and pilgrims" now.
In this set of pages we will set forth two bodies of teaching about how to be ready. The first, called "Laodicea Revisited", is based on what Jesus told the Church of Laodicea to do in Revelation 3:18 - 20. If we are living, as many Christians believe, in the historical age of the Church of Laodicea, then what He told them to do about their problems is what we have to do to be ready. The first section presents a set of concepts called The Three Switches. They are basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life, such that a person who doesn't practice them diligently will not have a prayer - literally - of being ready. On the other hand, a Christian who does practice them diligently will be virtually guaranteed an effective, victorious Christian life. There is, unfortunately, concrete reason to believe that the majority of the Christians living today are not doing so.
The Mandates of Matthew 25
The second is based on the three Parables of Matthew 25, plus the one that precedes them at the end of chapter 24. These Parables, by their context, following the great prophetic discourse of Matthew 24, are clearly about being ready. These Parables are all well known among Christians, but there are major points in these Parables that have been overlooked or misunderstood. We will examine these points in detail, and define key terms in strict Biblical terms. What must be emphasized is that these Parables present issues of overt Christian obedience, such that a Christian may be diligent practicing the Three Switches, but still not be ready because he hasn't obeyed these, especially the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
Before we go to these pages, we must begin by defining exactly what we mean by the terms, "strangers" and "pilgrims".
A stranger is a person who does not live nor normally spend time in the place where he is. He is from somewhere else. He doesn't know the people there and they don't know him. His culture, customs and habits, and perhaps even his language are different. If he stays and blends in with the people there, he ceases to be a stranger. Christians are called to live lives that are so totally different from those of the unsaved people around them that they will seem like strangers. The worst thing (for the Christian) that an unsaved person can say as an honest criticism of a Christian is "I don't see anything different about you." It has been observed that one of the worst failures of modern Christians, especially in the western world, is that there is so little about them to distinguish them from non - Christians.
A pilgrim is a different kind of person. When a person in the United States thinks of the word "pilgrim", he usually thinks of the Puritans landing at Plymouth Rock. But that is a special meaning of the word. A pilgrim, by the normal definition, is a person who is taking a journey; a pilgrimage, to a sacred place to worship there. In a true pilgrimage, the trip itself may include extreme, and sometimes voluntary, hardship, and is itself an act of service to God. During the Middle Ages, there were pilgrims who traveled from Europe to Jerusalem on their knees. Although that was spiritually worthless, it is a good metaphor for the kind of commitment to Christ that Christians are called upon to make. If a Christian does not at least approach this degree of commitment in his Christian walk, he is not likely to be ready. We must, as St. Paul told us (Romans 12:1), yield our lives as living sacrifices.
Before we get into that, we must first look at some basic underlying principles:
You can take the Bible too literally, but you can't take it to seriously. No sane person, for example, would understand Jesus to mean that we should literally cut off our hands or pluck out our eyes (Matthew 5:29 & 30). But we can understand Him to mean that we must be ruthless in getting rid of anything in our lives that causes us to sin.
God is far more concerned about the failure of Christians to perform as He intended than He is about the overt sins they occasionally commit. Although salvation is by grace through faith alone, as in Ephesians 2:8 & 9, and cannot be earned, there is nevertheless a standard of performance that He expects Christians to live up to once they are Born Again. This idea is found in Ephesians 2:10;
"For we are His workmanship, created by Him in Christ Jesus, onto good works, which He has before ordained that we should walk in them."
This is reinforced by the words of James 2:20;
"Do you want to know, o man,
that faith without works is dead?"
We find further support for this idea in two of the teachings of Jesus;
"...if the salt loses its flavor...
it is then good for nothing but to be thrown out..."
"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit
He takes away...." (John 15:2)
The bottom line is that, contrary to what is often taught in Churches today, if we don't perform as the Lord intended we are in big trouble. Performance does matter! Works won't get you saved, but the absence of works could cost you your salvation. Christian leaders who teach differently are putting a terrible snare in front of the feet of their followers. See James 3:1. The idea that you can be ready without works is "cheap grace". It is a lie of the devil.
We must define what we mean by "works". Many Christians see an apparent contradiction between the words of Ephesians 2:8-9 and James 2:17, 20 & 27. The former verses say we are saved by grace, not works, but the latter verses all say that faith without works is dead. The contradiction is resolved by realizing that there are two meanings given to the word "works" as used in the New Testament. The former meaning would be more completely expressed with the term "works of the Law", as in Galatians 2:16. Such works are acts of obedience to the ceremonial laws of Judaism. The latter meaning would be more fully expressed as "good works" as in Ephesians 2:10. "Good works" can also be described as "works of faith", "works of love" and "works of service". "Works of the Law" are worse than useless. "Good works" are mandatory.
The Kingdom of Heaven Club
Here is a little illustration which describes how this works out: (This writer doesn't really like using this, but it is the only earthly situation he knows that fits.) You may go to a nightclub in New York City where you have to pay a cover charge to get in. That cover charge get you in the door, give you a table in the club, and maybe the first one or two drinks. But if you want anything more; extra drinks, food, etc., you have to pay extra for it. And your table may be way back in a corner. If you want one near the stage or dance floor, whatever, you will probably have to give the maitre d' a big tip. Furthermore, if you don't buy anything more, you will receive some subtle (maybe not so subtle) persuasion to leave.
Well, salvation by grace through faith can be seen as the cover charge for getting into the "Kingdom of Heaven Club." It is basic salvation. If you want anything more, i.e. blessings and rewards, beyond that, you have to pay extra for them, with good works. If you want to be close to God, you have to give the maitre d' - the Holy Spirit - a "big tip" by really renouncing all sin. And if you don't do the "paying extra" and "give a big tip", you won't just be persuaded to leave - you will be "bounced".
The Cover Charge
Understand this, though, that the "cover charge" at the door to the "Kingdom of Heaven Club" is very expensive, and the "extra drinks" and "tips" are very inexpensive. There is a measure of this in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:23-30. He was forgiven a debt of 10,000 talents. He refused to forgive a debt of 100 denarii. The lord forgave him a debt of about 100 million US dollars in modern money. The unmerciful servant refused to forgive a debt of about $5000.00. (Note: this is measuring the amount in terms of purchasing power.) This is a measure of how the "door charge" compares to the cost of the "extra drinks" in the "Kingdom of Heaven Club" - over 20,000 to 1 - as if the "cover charge" is $20,000.00, but Jesus paid our way in. The "extra drinks" are $1.00 each. But we still have to "buy" them with good works! We will not get away without doing them. And the "big tip"? That's giving up things we should want to give up anyway.
If you want to be ready, you must accept this truth and act on it. You might find this disturbing, but if you do, it means you have been deceived by the "cheap grace" doctrine that is commonly preached in most evangelical churches today. Repent!
The Overt Sins You Commit
Of course, you won't get away with any overt, willful sins you commit. God is tougher with Christians, as far as serious sin is concerned, than he is with the unsaved. See Hebrews 10:26 & 27 and 12:4-11. If you willfully do something that brings disgrace to the name of Jesus, or that constitutes a capital offence by the Old Testament Law, God's wrath may fall on you quickly. (The Branch Davidians were an extreme example.) You will suffer in the here and now for any willful disobedience (Proverbs 11:31). This is actually God's mercy, His "tough love"; chastising you now so you won't have to face His wrath later. But for the everyday slip - ups we all make, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9). You must realize, of course, that real repentance is required, and the sooner the better. But as long as your intent is to be obedient, God's mercy will be with you.
Only Being Ready Spiritually Will Help
The overwhelming weight of the relevant Scriptures is that only being ready spiritually will help during the Tribulation. This writer has a book written some years ago by a Christian who believed in Post-Tribulation Rapture. His book is supposed to help Christians to be ready. But his idea of being ready is a bunch of survival tips that sound like they came straight from the "Whole Earth Catalogue". If knowing these things is really his idea of being ready, he is in big trouble. In Luke 17:33, part of a passage about the Tribulation, Jesus told us...
"Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." (NIV)
Making material preparations is trying to save your life! Don't! Material preparations are going to be anywhere from of little value to worse than worthless. The Tribulation will last at least 4 1/2 years, and probably longer. As shown in "The Three Great Woes" pages, it will be far worse than most Christians expect. No individual can be well enough prepared materially for it to help much long - term.
But being prepared spiritually absolutely will help. This is prophesied way back in Psalm 91:1;
"He who dwells in the secret place of (read: "stays close to") the Most High shall abide (read: "survive") in the shadow (read: "protection) of the Almighty".
Staying close to the Lord is what is required. But understand this, you can't stay close to the Lord just by "keeping the faith", which is to say, just by being "spiritual" or "religious". This may offend some readers, but the Bible indicates that there will be Christians who think they are ready because they are "Spirit - filled" and they frequently manifest "sign gifts", like "speaking in tongues" and giving "prophecies", yet who will prove to be anything but ready. See Matthew 7:21 - 23.
Works Are Required
As stated, we must be living sacrifices, and works are required if you want to be ready. If you look at such passages as I Corinthians 3:12-15 and Revelation 20:11-15, you will observe that no one is being judged in those passages on the basis of his faith. The judgment is on the basis of works. Yes, Christians will be judged by their works. The Bible repeatedly says so.
Again, we must be careful to define exactly what we mean by works. We do not mean going through a lot of religious rituals that were instituted by man instead of by divine commandment. Most Christians are not aware of this, but there are two kinds of works discussed in the New Testament. One is "works of the Law", as in Galatians 2:16. The other is "good works", as in Ephesians 2:10. You cannot be saved by the works of the Law, but if you are saved, good works are required.
We are not talking about "receiving sacraments" (Biblically, there is no such thing as a "sacrament".) either, or about meaningless acts of "penance". The good works that we are talking about are doing things that constitute overt, Biblical obedience to God. We are talking about things that are Biblically identifiable as basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian Faith (Revelation 3:18; II Chronicles 7:14), and things that are Biblically identifiable as real ministry. The latter are usually things that involve the exercise of spiritual service gifts, as in Romans 12:6-21, I Corinthians 12:7-11 & 28, and Ephesians 4:11 & 12. We are talking about deliberate behavior that constitutes Christian love in action, as in I Corinthians 13 and I John 3:10-18 & 4:7-21. And above all, we are talking about things that usually constitute service to our fellow Christians, or outreach to the unsaved. Any so-called Christian who is not committed to fulfilling these criteria is absolutely not ready.
It is the purpose of this section of this Web site to present in detail, with extensive Biblical support, just exactly what the good works are that are required of us. Again, "Laodicea Revisited" is about basic spiritual disciplines. "The Mandates of Matthew 25" is mainly about ministry.
Going Through The Fire
A special section is added at the end called "Going Through The Fire". It is advice for Christians who find themselves in the Great Tribulation and realize that they weren't ready. There are even some tips for those who receive the "seal of the living God". It is understood that most Christians won't be ready. And that, unfortunately, may include people who have actually read and studied these pages. In fact, although he is writing and teaching this material, this writer would not presume to say with certainty that he is ready. NEITHER SHOULD YOU.
Assuming you aren't ready, you will need to know what to do if the Tribulation begins and your survive the beginning of it. Those pages are to give you that knowledge. Some of what is said in those pages wouldn't be relevant now, and even what is would not be likely to be widely applied, such is the spiritual state of the Church. But it is, again, the position of this ministry that most Christians will not be ready. This writer expects that this ministry will not have its full fruition until the Tribulation begins. Then those Christians who have heard the Message will understand what has happened and why, and they will know what to do about it. For some, though, it will be too late.
For now, we will introduce the first part of this section in the following page;
The Three Switches
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Contact Author, William D. Brehm