Unbelief

Jesus identified unbelief as the major cause of unanswered prayer. When he was asked why they couldn’t cure a demon possessed boy, Jesus told his disciples, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20, NKJV). The Apostle Paul admitted his own short coming in this matter when he told his spiritual son Timothy, “although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13, NKJV). Paul’s comment seems to suggest that unbelief doesn’t keep us from being saved, but it can keep us from doing God’s will.

The writer of the book of Hebrews compared the unbelief of the Jews who rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Israelites who had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. He stated:

“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me,
And saw My works forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” (Hebrews 3:7-11, NKJV)

According to this statement, the source of unbelief is a hard heart. The author of Hebrews went on to say, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13). The progression from sin to unbelief might take place instantaneously or it could happen slowly over a number of years. What is clear from the standpoint of unanswered prayer is that unbelief indicates there is definitely a lack of connection with God. A person who is acting in unbelief does not have the power of the Holy Spirit working in his life.

According to the author of the book of Hebrews, the remedy for unbelief is the word of God. He said, “For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 3:12). Basically, what he was saying was that the word of God has the ability to convict us of our sins and to bring us to the point of repentance, even when our sins are hidden deep within our hearts. The Apostle Paul is a prime example of this because he was defiantly opposing the spread of Christianity until Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and asked him the question, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4, NKJV). After Jesus identified himself as God, Paul immediately responded, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6, NKJV).

Antichrist

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians was primarily a follow-up to the one he had previously sent them. The topic of Christ’s return remained the central focus of Paul’s communication. Apparently, the Thessalonians were convinced that Jesus was going to return at any moment. Paul told them, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that the rapture was only one of a series of events that would take place during the end times. He explained, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Antichrist’s appearance on the religious scene will be evident by his impersonation of God. This will only be possible because God will remove his Holy Spirit from Earth and allow Satan to be in full control of the world during the Great Tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Paul told the Thessalonians, “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish: because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10). Paul indicated that Antichrist would be successful in establishing his kingdom on Earth because of a deliberate rejection of God’s word. Because unbelief will become the norm, Paul told the Thessalonians, “for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

Paul’s introduction of the man of sin, whom he also referred to as the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3), emphasized the uselessness of Satan’s attempt to overthrow God’s kingdom. Paul referred to Jesus’ second coming when he said that the Lord would consume Antichrist with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The Apostle John described the scene of Antichrist’s defeat in Revelation 19:11-16. Afterward, John said, “The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:20-21).

Unbelief

 

At the close of Jesus’ ministry, the Apostle John summarized his accomplishments by saying, “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him” (John 12:37). The primary cause of the Jews unbelief appeared to be their concern for other things that they thought were more important. John said, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). Jesus’ parable of the sower revealed a deeper problem that was evident during his ministry. Using the analogy of seeds being sown on different types of soil, Jesus showed that the words he spoke about God’s eternal kingdom were not received because “the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22, ESV).

Jesus identified some extenuating circumstances that may have been preventing the Jews from recognizing him as their Messiah. He said, “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15). The primary issue that Jesus was pointing out was that the Jews were content with their situation. They didn’t want their lives to be disrupted by his radical teaching.

The central point of Jesus’ ministry was his death and resurrection. Just before he raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus told his sister Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” and then he asked her, “Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). Martha’s response showed that she had a limited understanding of what Jesus was talking about. She said to him, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:27). Martha’s acknowledgement of Jesus’ identity, but avoidance of the topic of his resurrection probably meant that she wasn’t convinced at that point that life after death was possible.

Jesus warned his twelve apostles repeatedly that he was going to be put to death, and yet, after he was crucified, they didn’t expect him to come back to life as he had promised. Mark reported that after Jesus “appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:12-14). In other words, in spite of eye witness accounts, Jesus’ apostles actually refused to believe that he was alive until they saw him themselves.

Jesus said of himself, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). The Greek phrase Jesus used that is translated “abide in darkness” meno en skotia could mean to live in obscurity (G3306/G1722/G4653). What Jesus may have been trying to say was that belief in him would bring meaning or purpose to life, an understanding of what life was really all about. With that in mind, it seems likely that the reason the majority of the Jews’ were trapped in a state of unbelief was because they had already established a relationship with God and already knew about his plan for the world. In their case it wasn’t a matter of knowing too little, but of knowing too much.