Expositors Collective Webinar w/ Ryan Huguley

Because of the ongoing Coronavirus situation we postponed the Expositors Collective in-person two-day training weekends in Seattle and Honolulu, but we continue to look for ways to continue our mission to equip, encourage, and mentor the next generation of expository Bible teachers and preachers.

Our next webinar will be on September 19, 2020 from 9:00-10:00 AM Pacific Time (10:00-11:00 AM Mountain Time), and the theme is: Preaching to the Heart of Our Hearers.

We will be joined by pastor and author Ryan Huguley. Ryan is the pastor of Ridgeline Church in Salt Lake City, Utah and is the the author of 8 Hours or Less: Preparing Faithful Sermons Faster.

Ryan has a heart to help teachers and preachers grow in their calling. He has been a guest on the Expositors Collective Podcast and we are excited to have him join us for this webinar which will include a short message followed by an opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics.

Here’s an audio clip from Ryan introducing the webinar:

This is a free event, but is limited to the first 100 who sign up, which you can do by clicking the button below.

What Does It Mean to Be “Ready” for the Return of Jesus?

COVID-19, social unrest, natural disasters… A lot of people have been asking what these current events mean in light of Bible prophecy.

Does the Bible speak about these events – and if so, what does it say?

Furthermore, if the return of Jesus is imminent, what does it mean for us to be “ready” for His return?

Some people believe that to be ready means to stockpile food and guns – you know, so you can shoot your neighbors when they get hungry and try to take your food, right?! I’m quite sure that’s not what Jesus wants us to do, and it’s not what it means to be ready for his return.

So, what does it mean for us to be “ready” for Jesus’ return? If we are living in the last days, what should we be doing?

Mike and I sat down to discuss these questions in our latest video. Check it out:

Reader Questions: Could the Mark of the Beast Be Transmitted Through a COVID-19 Vaccine?

A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll showed that 20% of Americans say that they would refuse a a COVID-19 vaccine, and that an additional 26% are not sure if they would take it.

Among those who are unsure, or decidedly against receiving the vaccine, some fear that the vaccine will have been rushed and not been properly tested, others say they are skeptical about the effectiveness of a vaccine, considering how viruses mutate, and given the relative ineffectiveness of annual flu vaccines.

However, there are also some who are concerned about possibly nefarious motives by governments and influential people, such as Bill Gates.

The suspicion of a sinister conspiracy behind the development of a coronavirus vaccine has been spurred on by comments from Bill Gates on March 18, in which he said that in the future “digital certificates” could trace who had recently been tested or who had received a vaccine. The idea is that those who will have received the vaccine will be allowed to do things which those who refused the vaccine would not be allowed to do, such as shopping, working, and enjoying entertainment or recreation in certain places. By the next day, a rumor had begun circulating that these “digital certificates” would be a microchip which would be hidden in the vaccine. [1]

For some people, this sounded similar to what the Bible says in Revelation 13 about the Mark of the Beast, without which people will not be able to buy or sell, leading to fears that by receiving this vaccine, you might inadvertently receive the Mark of the Beast, which would lead to the loss of your soul.

What is the Mark of the Beast?

The Book of Revelation is a vision that the Apostle John had while in exile on the island of Patmos. In this vision he was instructed to write down the things that he had seen, the things that are, and those that are to take place in the future. (Revelation 1:19)

Revelation is written in the apocalyptic genre, which its interpretation has been the source of much debate and speculation amongst Christians for the past 2000 years.

In Revelation chapter 13, John describes two beasts; one rises out of the sea (Rev. 13:1-10), the other rises out of the earth (Rev. 13:11-18). Here is what it says about the second beast:

Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Revelation 13:11-18

Throughout the years, Christians have tried to figure out what the Mark of the Beast is and what the number 666 means.

Adding fuel to the fears of a conspiracy is the fact that there is currently a bill before the House of Representatives numbered 6666, as well as a calculation of CORONA (6 letters in the word, and if you take the number of the order of the letters in the English alphabet, they add up to 66).

This isn’t the first time there have been rumors of the Mark of the Beast. Ronald Wilson Reagan (6 letters each = 6+6+6!) was accused of being the beast. Of course this is ridiculous for many reasons, not least of which is that it assumes that the Apostle John, who wrote in Greek, would give us a code which could only be deciphered in the English language (which did not even exist yet).

Many Bible scholars associate the number 666 with Caesar Nero, and there is good evidence for doing this. We know from Suetonius that many people were at the time toying with the numerical values of Nero’s name (Nero 39). This practice, known as gematria, took a letter of the alphabet and assigned it an equivalent number. So, for example, in the case of Greek, the first letter alpha would be given the number one. The second letter beta would be understood as two, and so on. When you take Nero’s name (Neron Kaisar) and transliterate it into Hebrew, the result is the number of the beast: 666. [2]

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the second beast in Revelation 13 was Nero; it could mean that it will be someone similar to or comparable to Nero.

The Mark of the Lamb?

What many people seem to forget when discussing the Mark of the Beast is that in the verses which immediately follow, the Mark of the Beast is juxtaposed with the Mark of the Lamb.

Perhaps some of you reading this have never even heard of the Mark of the Lamb. However, if we really desire to understand what the Mark of the Beast is, we have to understand it in light of the Mark of the Lamb.

Here’s what it says:

Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

Revelation 14:1-5

This is referenced earlier in the book as well:

Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

Revelation 7:2-3

So, any interpretation of what the Mark of the Beast is needs to consider that it must be something equal to and opposite of the Mark of the Lamb.

What are These Marks, and How Will You Know If You Have Them?

Considering how the Mark of the Beast is juxtaposed with the Mark of the Lamb, it seems clear that these two signs are identifiers, which identify your allegiance: either as person of the Dragon or as a person of the Lamb. It isn’t that you become a person of the Beast or the Lamb by receiving a mark, rather: the mark identifies you as what you already are. We see this in Revelation 7 & 14, where the mark given to God’s people is to identify them for who they already are, because they are already united to the Lamb.

In other words, these two marks are two opposite signs marking out two different types of people: the wicked and the righteous.

The Mark of the Beast is an identifier of loyalty and worship, and therefore is not something you could accidentally accept.

In the early 1980s, multiple books came out claiming that Uniform Product Codes (UPCs or “barcodes”) were the Mark of the Beast, since they were tied to buying and selling, with titles like: When Your Money Fails: The “666 System” is Here (1981) and The New Money System 666 (1982). In the late 80s and early 90s there were rumors that it could be something related to credit card companies. These ideas were predicated on the idea that the Mark of the Beast was something that could sneak up on you, and something you could accidentally use.

However, since the Mark of the Beast and the Mark of the Lamb are marks of loyalty and worship, a person will have full cognitive awareness of what they are doing (otherwise it is not worship). In other words, in order to take the Mark of the Beast, you would have to curse Christ and pledge devotion to his enemy – and it’s not something you could do on accident, or without realizing what you were doing.

In many countries, including the United States, it is almost impossible to function (think: buy or sell) without government-issued identification numbers, such as a Social Security Number or a Driver’s License Number. Almost everyone carries a mobile phone which contains a SIM card which can be tracked in different ways. Certain vaccines are required in order for children to attend public school. Whether these things are good or safe or whether the government has your best interest in mind may be valid points of discussion and consideration, but these things are not what the Mark of the Beast is about: it is about identification regarding allegiance and worship, and is therefore not something you can possibly receive against your will, desires, and full awareness of what you are doing.

Don’t Forget the Point of Revelation

It is important to remember that the revelation being given in the Book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus (Rev. 1:1), not the revelation of the Beast!

The point and purpose of the book is not to make us scared about what the Beast is going to do, but to fill us with confidence because no matter what happens, Jesus is going to win!

Any interpretation of Revelation that results in “the beast” becoming the central focus (and dreaded fear) of your eschatology most definitely suggests that you’ve completely misunderstood the book entirely.

Matthew L. Halstead, Ph.D.

Neither the Dragon nor the Beast are the “star of the show” in Revelation, but Jesus, who comes to defeat them and redeem His people.

Let us remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who told us this:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:27-30

Whether you decide to receive a future vaccine or not is a decision for you to weigh and consider, but based on the clear teaching of the Bible, there is no need to fear that you will accidentally be taking the Mark of the Beast by doing so.

May we instead receive the mark and seal of the Lamb through heart-felt allegiance to Jesus, embracing the gospel whole-heartedly, with hope in the redemption He promises us, no matter what this life or any enemies may bring our way. This is the way of true security and confidence.

A Word for Christians in a Politically Divided Culture

The COVID-19 crisis has been a major disruption worldwide, affecting the lives of nearly every person on the planet. Movement has been restricted, jobs have been furloughed or ended, businesses have suffered, not to mention the emotional stress it has put on the population. Almost universally, church gatherings have been limited in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable.

As the crisis has continued and stay-at-home orders have been extended, the situation has become increasingly divisive, and since the responses in different areas are determined by local authorities, it has also become political.

The discourse has also shifted from simply questioning the actions of authorities, business owners, and other civilians, to questioning their motives and accusing them of everything from indifference to malice.

Christians have not been exempt from this. Differing views on the motives of everyone from government authorities to church leaders have led some Christians to view each other with suspicion or even contempt. In a highly politicized and media-heavy world it is very easy for Christians to get caught up in social and political divisions to the point where their views on these issues become their primary source of identity, and they begin to view those with whom they disagree with enmity.

The Apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesians are particularly important for Christians to hear and take to heart in these times:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3 NASB

Paul later warns the Ephesians not to “give the devil any opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27 NASB). As David Guzik explains,

The devil’s work is to accuse and divide the family of God, and to sow discord among them. When we harbor anger in our heart, we do the devil’s work for him.

Enduring Word commentary, Ephesians 4

As Christians our identity is found not in our opinions about politics or current events, but in Christ who gave his life for us to make us new people individually and “the people of God” collectively. A powerful example of this can be seen in the example of the people Jesus called to become his closest disciples.

Disciples from Opposite Ends of the Political Spectrum

In Matthew 10:1-4 we have a list of the 12 disciples. Two names in the list are particularly interesting: Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot.

Tax collectors were Jewish people who worked with and for the occupying Roman government to collect taxes from their fellow countrymen, which not only took money away from individuals, but was used to support the Roman occupation and its military. For this reason, tax collectors were seen as sell-outs and traitors by more nationalistically minded Jews, who despised them.

The Zealots were a political action group of far-right nationalists who were willing to use violence in resistance to the Roman occupying forces. Zealots reportedly carried hooked knives under their cloaks with which they would seek to wound or assassinate Roman officials and their collaborators as they walked in public places.

Political divisions are nothing new; they existed in Jesus’ time as well. Simon the Zealot was someone who would have killed someone like Matthew the tax collector because of their differing political and social views.

However, Jesus called both these men, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, to follow him and become his disciples. He gave their lives a new direction and a new purpose. In Jesus, they received a new identity and a new community.

Apart from Jesus these men would have been enemies, but because of Jesus they became brothers, and they set aside their differences for a higher calling and a greater allegiance: not Rome, not Israel, but the Kingdom of God.

As Christians today in this politically divided climate, may we be those who are “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” “showing tolerance for one another in love,” as we have been called together in one body and given a new identity and purpose in Christ.

Ministry in the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond

This past week I was honored to be interviewed by David Snead on his podcast. David is a missionary in Lviv, Ukraine – and he is one of the most organized people I know.

We had a great discussion about my background in ministry, ministering in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, Calvary Chapel, and expository preaching. Check it out:

An Easter Like No Other

A Time For Celebration?

For Christians, Easter is our biggest celebration of the year. And yet, how do you celebrate in the midst of a crisis in which thousands of people are sick and dying, and millions are out of work and hurting financially?

Some churches have suggested that celebrations of Easter should be delayed until this crisis gets better. I disagree. In fact, I would say that there is no more appropriate time for us to celebrate Easter than in the face of sickness, instability, and death, because these things are the very reasons why Easter is good news worth celebrating!

In fact, this may be the one moment in all of our lives when we understand the weight of what Easter means, and the hope that it brings, more than ever.

The meaning of Easter is that the Lord of Life died in order to destroy death, and make it possible for us to be reconciled to Him and resurrected to “a better life” (Hebrews 11:35, 40).

See also: Does Easter Come from Ishtar? & Was Jesus in the Grave Three Days and Three Nights? Here’s How It Adds Up

How We’re Doing Church This Weekend

This year we will be having our church’s first ever Good Friday service, but since we cannot gather physically we put out pre-packaged communion supplies for people to pick up outside of the church.

We have been pre-recording our services in order to create a worshipful experience for those who watch at home.

See also: Pastoring in the Midst of Crisis

Join Us for Good Friday and Easter Online

I invite you to join us online for our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services online on White Fields’ YouTube channel and Facebook page.

  • Good Friday: 6:00 PM Mountain Time
  • Easter Sunday: 10:00 AM Mountain Time

Pastoring in the Midst of Crisis

098_PastoringInCrisis_cover.jpg
The Expositors Collective steering committee: Mike Neglia, David Guzik, Pete Nelson, Nick Cady

This latest episode of the Expositors Collective podcast is one you should definitely check out: in it Mike Neglia, Pete Nelson, and I have a conversation about strategies and methods we are employing in order to pastor, shepherd, lead, and preach during this global pandemic which has caused so much upheaval in lives and in our churches.

Pete Nelson, by the way, was the founding pastor of the church I now lead in Longmont: White Fields Community Church. Pete now pastors in Thousand Oaks, California at One Love Church. Mike Neglia pastors a vibrant, thriving church in Cork, Ireland called Calvary Cork.

From preaching through YouTube and Facebook Live, to how to use the “premiere” features on those services instead of going live, to how to do fellowship through Zoom – as well as questions about doing communion remotely and what we miss about gathered corporate worship – it is an enriching conversation.

Here’s the link to listen: Episode 98 – Pastoring in the Midst of Crisis

As Mike always says: “May this episode, and everything we do at Expositors Collective help you in your private study and your public proclamation of God’s Word!”

Colorado Stay at Home Order: What it Means for Churches

Governor Polis issued a stay at home order yesterday that went into effect this morning at 6:00 AM Mountain Time and is scheduled to last until Saturday, April 11. Here is a link to the FAQ sheet from the State of Colorado outlining what this stay at home order means.

What does this order mean for churches? Here’s a brief synopsis of what we know:

Gatherings

This is not specifically addressed, but it seems to be implied that in-person worship gatherings as well as home group gatherings, even of 10 people or less, are discouraged and people should rather connect online if possible.

Recording and Live-streaming Worship Services

This is an area that many churches wanted clarity on, since it is not directly addressed. A petition even went around last night asking for clarity on this issue. Colorado pastors networks reached out to the governor’s office as well, to which this response came back:

The Governor’s office is aware that there is some confusion on this and we are working to clarify clergy exemptions on the “stay at home order.” I do know for sure that pastors & staff have the green light to go to their facilities and record content so it can be used online. They would ask that you practice social distancing with the others on your team while doing it. More details to come on other possible exemptions for faith leaders.

We look forward to an official statement, but this response brings needed clarity.

Considering that we are in a large, empty church building, I think this is fair and safe. It is worth mentioning that we would never require anyone to come help with recording who is even the least bit uncomfortable with doing so.

UPDATE – March 26 – 11:55 AM

The State of Colorado just released an updated Public Health order which can be found here. Here is what it states about churches:

Houses of worship may remain open, however, these institutions are encouraged to implement electronic platforms to conduct services whenever possible or to conduct smaller (10 or fewer congregants), more frequent services to allow strict compliance with Social Distancing Requirements.

Pastoral Care

The order states that in-person pastoral services for individuals who are in crisis or in need of end-of-life services are allowed, provided social distancing is observed to the greatest extent possible.

Benevolence Ministries & Food Pantries

Food banks are specifically mentioned in the order, as well as any services which help provide relief for those in need. Additionally, delivering supplies to other people is also allowed.

Our food pantry ministry is planning to continue providing services, and will continue to follow the protocol of sanitizing items as they are received. See: Longmont Food Pantry Opening

Closing Thoughts

My hope and prayer is that as a result of this crisis, our churches will end up more connected than before, and more focused on ministering to and praying for one another, and serving our communities.

To those in our communities who serve in the medical field, have sick loved ones, have lost jobs, are having babies, or have loved ones who have passed away: I know this is a particularly hard time for you. May God strengthen you, protect you, comfort you, and provide for you at this time.

I pray that God will use this situation in a myriad of good ways, and as our society is faced with the reality of mortality, may God use this to turn many hearts to Him and receive the gift of His grace through Jesus Christ.

Join Me Online for a Week of Global Prayer

Starting tomorrow, March 26-April 2, 2020, I will be one of several Calvary Global Network pastors hosting a live hour of prayer on the the Calvary Chapel Facebook page.

Pastors across the world will be going live at times in their respective time zones to lead prayer for our countries and communities, particularly related to COVID-19 and everyone affected by it, and to receive and pray for the prayer requests of those who tune in live.

I will be hosting the 12:00 PM Mountain Time slot. I’d love to have you join me online for that, and send me your prayer requests!

Once again: March 26-April 2 (Thursday-Thursday) at 12:00 PM Mountain Time.

First Service in New Building… Kind Of

This past Sunday (March 22, 2020) was supposed to have been our last service in the Saint Vrain Memorial Building, where White Fields Church has met since its inception, years before I became pastor.

However, because of concerns about the Coronavirus outbreak, not only are we not gathering physically out of concern about spreading the virus, but the Memorial Building is closed.

This past week, some members of our congregation were able to get in to move our things out of storage at the Memorial Building to move them to the new facility. The group also moved us out of the offices our church has been in for the last 2.5 years.

Looking at the pictures, it was a bit surreal realizing that it is the end of a season during which a lot of good ministry took place, and when I last left those places I had no idea that I wouldn’t be able to return!

This coming Sunday (March 29, 2020) was scheduled to be our first Sunday in the new building, and we were planning to kick off doing two services on Easter. Right now, it is looking unlikely that churches will even be able to gather on Easter at all.

However, I was able to go into the empty church building last Saturday and pre-record my sermon by preaching to an empty room, making this the first service in our new building… kind of.

I can’t wait for the time when we will get to gather physically again, and have a proper grand opening!

Here’s the video of the service: