So Many Churches, How Do I Choose One?

We have churches everywhere today. We have churches on every corner. Big churches. Little churches. Urban churches. Rural churches. Some churches clap their hands. Some churches don’t. Some churches say, “Amen.” Some churches don’t. Some churches have musical bands. Some churches don’t. Some churches have long services. Some churches don’t. We have churches everywhere.

Every church preaches love. Every church preaches forgiveness. Every church preaches salvation. We have churches everywhere preaching everything.

Now let me be clear that there are good people in all churches. There are good Christians in all denominations. But, when I consider a church, it’s not about who has the nicest building. It’s not about how many members you have. It’s not whether you have a television ministry or not. It’s not about how many choirs or praise teams you have. While all of these things may be good, I’ve learned in my life that that’s not why you should become a member of a church. Rather, you should become a member of a church where God’s unadulterated Word is being preached.

You must be where the people, though they may be imperfect, are pursuing a perfect message. There are too many churches where anything goes. In these types of churches, you can do anything you want. If it feels good, do it. But Jesus is coming back soon for a church “without spot or wrinkle;” one that is “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

The signs pointing to the imminence of Christ’s return are increasing every day. Jesus foretold us in Matthew 24 that there would be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and so much more just before His second coming. We can clearly see that the Coronavirus, the current modern-day pestilence, has ravaged our world, and people are still dying.

Sadly, the world is not going to get better, but it’s going to get worse. We don’t have time to play around with the idea of a church! We shouldn’t attend a church simply because of its popularity. But we’ve got to be where God’s truth is being preached and taught.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23, NIV:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Today, I’m happy to say that I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian! It is not the name, or the denomination that is as important as the indicators, or the signs of a truth-telling and truth-seeking body of believers. So, in seeking a church, make a decision based on Bible-based reasons. Here are factors that I believe rightfully inform a decision to join a church:

1. Its teachings are in harmony with the Word of God. Isaiah 8:20 speaks about our responsibility to live according to the principles as taught in God’s Word. Hence, it should be our desire to belong to a church that advocates biblical teaching and fosters a biblical lifestyle.

2. It keeps all Ten Commandments of God including the Fourth Commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Revelation 12:17 says that those who follow God and keep His commandments are God’s remnant people.

3. It has the Testimony of Jesus. Revelation 12:17 also states that having the “testimony of Jesus” is a characteristic of God’s remnant. Revelation 19:10 defines “the testimony of Jesus” as “the Spirit of Prophecy,” which demonstrates the abiding witness of God’s saving power through a human vessel.

4. It preaches the everlasting gospel in all the world. Revelation 14:6 reminds us that God’s church will spread the good news of the gospel all around the world, not just locally.

5. It preaches the final three point message of Revelation 14:6-12. These three messages remind us to “fear God,” flee the fallen, rebellious system of Babylon, and to reject the Mark of the Beast.

6. It believes that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 and John 3:16 are abiding reminders that Jesus came to save sinners, and there’s no other way to be saved but through Him.

Perhaps you’re looking for a church. Maybe you’ve become interested in attending church. In your decision process, be sure to consider the list above. And remember, God does care which church I choose, because He’s coming back, not for just any woman, but for His special bride.

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

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2020 July August cover
This article is part of our 2020 July / August  Issue
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Don’t Miss the Miracle

It was Bryan Stevenson who said, “There is power in proximity. We have to get close to people and the communities who are at risk—and stay close.” When I reflect upon this statement and consider the current challenges our society faces, I surmise that our inability to solve problems is not because we don’t have good ideas, but rather because we don’t get close enough to them to engage in a way that makes a meaningful and lasting impact.

The Bible records in Matthew 14 that Jesus had just received the terrible news of the untimely death of his cousin and forerunner, John the Baptist. Our Savior wanted to spend some time alone to contemplate and grieve the loss of his fellow minister of the Gospel. He boarded a boat, likely on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, and sailed away from the shore. Because the people heard that He was leaving, they tracked His course, and by the time He reached the other side of the lake, they had already assembled en masse to have Him speak to them, care for them and heal their sick loved ones.

Jesus wasted no time and busied Himself in the work of healing and nurturing the people. And sure enough, Jesus, the Great Physician, spoke with each one and healed them all.

By the time Jesus had finished caring for all of the people, no one wanted to leave. After all, it was a perfect day already and there was no other place they’d rather be. Moreover, the time had simply drifted away, and no one had thought about food. They were either waiting or working in Jesus’ one-day “pop-up” clinic. The disciples came to Him and urged Him to send the people away so they could purchase meals in the neighboring towns. Yet, Jesus would hear none of it, and responded with a simple challenge, “No, give them something to eat,” (See Matthew 14:16).

This challenge was incredibly impractical and totally implausible, given their location, the size of the crowd, and the resources on hand. “We only have five loaves of bread and two fish,” they replied. Jesus must have thought to Himself, “Well then, that will have to do.”

He petitioned His Heavenly Father, likely with a prayer of supplication for provision and exponential favor, and no sooner than He prayed, His request was answered and granted. The disciples watched in amazement as Jesus seemed to be breaking bread over and over again in His Hands. As He began to divide the fish and the loaves, His hands were becoming more and more full until they were overflowing.

The disciples stood in astonishment, but there was no time for spectating. They needed to shift from being caregivers, grab some aprons, and become servers. They scurried quickly to gather baskets to catch the food that fell from the Master’s overflowing hands. Requiring the people to sit down in groups of fifty, the disciples delivered this miraculous makeshift meal to the grateful throng. When the disciples finished serving, everyone had eaten until they were satisfied, but there were still twelve extra baskets of food left!

After the disciples had finished serving, they tallied the number of individuals served, and to their surprise, they counted “about 5,000 men, plus women and children,” Matthew 14:21. But that’s not the greatest miracle here!

The greatest miracle was that in the mind-blowing moment, the disciples are once again being transformed into a faith-filled mission task-force! They go from expecting that they would bear no responsibility in the feeding of the multitude to engaging and participating in the act of the miracle themselves! When God works a miracle through you, you will never be the same again!

God wants to work a miracle through us today. He’s not expecting that someone else will take on the impossible mission. He has said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26. Nothing is impossible with God. He wants to use you to do the impossible. He wants to use you to carry out His mission. He wants to use you to be His hands and feet. He wants to use you to change the world. Don’t miss the miracle! He’s going to perform it through you!

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

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This article is part of our 2020 May / June  Issue
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When the Planet Groans

While there is increased conversation about the many aspects of justice, the one related area that seems to lag behind is environmental justice.

Our federal government recently announced plans to scale back the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, which, among other things, mandates environmental reviews for federal projects. These revised policies suggest that it will be easier for corporations to drill, mine, pipe, etc., despite the potential threats these processes have on our environment.

Remember the well-publicized standoff at the Standing Rock Reservation? The Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172-mile-long (1,886 km) underground oil pipeline beginning in North Dakota and ending in Illinois, was completed in April, 2017 and its first oil was delivered on May 14, 2017. Yet, the pipeline was the center of a national debate just months before when pipeline construction crews attempted to stretch pipe across indigenous territory threatening to disrupt multiple water sources and cultural sites.

To date, the Keystone XL Pipeline has leaked over 500,000 gallons of oil. Opponents of these pipelines point to this oil leakage as proof that the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines pose an imminent threat to the environment.

The government’s unfavorable response to the cries of indigenous victims, betrays its unwillingness to provide the vulnerable while beneath the banner of “liberty and justice for all.” Rather, it signals a willingness to sacrifice the health of the environment for economic benefits.

The history of our country, yea the entire planet, is replete with horrific accounts of devastating abuse to the environment for economic gain. Worse yet, these environmental atrocities consistently impact marginalized and impoverished people groups and communities. The Environmental Justice Atlas collects data on every environmental conflict that is ongoing, and as of 2018, it estimated that there are nearly 2,500 ongoing environmental conflicts or ecological distribution conflicts. Whether it is “land grabbing,” excessive fishing, mega-mining, or nuclear power proliferation, these issues represent bloody and lucrative conflicts all around the globe with no apparent end in sight.

Whenever I review these disturbing conflicts, I am forced to reflect on multiple biblical principles that I believe are at work. Please allow me to illustrate them using a few Bible texts.

  • Psalm 24:1-2 “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.”
  • Genesis 2:15 “ The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
  • Romans 8:22 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
  • Revelation 11:18 “The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

The aforementioned texts highlight for us two very important principles. First, the earth belongs to God and we are commissioned to care for, protect, and preserve it. Secondly, the incessant environmental conflicts underscore the failings of humanity to preserve the earth, and God has promised to punish those who abuse and destroy the planet.

The indigenous tribes of the Standing Rock Reservation are still fighting for their land. And while it might pose a geographical challenge to go protest in North Dakota, with 2,500 present-day conflicts worldwide, you don’t have to go far to find an issue that is close to home. Drinkable water is still an issue in my state, Alabama, as well as in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania. Maybe you’re aware of the need to protect the coastline and wetlands as is the case in Florida, Georgia, and Virginia. Or maybe you’ve seen the toxic impact of coal ash as they have in Indiana and North Carolina. No matter where you live, environmental issues are impacting you. Maybe it’s time that you start making an impact. Our planet is groaning. Let’s console its cries.

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

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This article is part of our 2020 MArch / April  Issue
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Finally Free

From the moment that the deceptive scheme began to form in his mind, Satan has sought to defraud and enslave all of God’s creation. Since the fall of our fore parents, Adam and Eve, Satan has laid claim to Earth as the base of his kingdom.

When talking to God in the book of Job, Satan spoke as though it was his prerogative to roam the Earth as he pleased (Job 2:1, 2). Even Jesus referred to Satan as the “prince of this world”; but in the same breath, Jesus pronounced that Satan had no power over Him (John 14:30). Just think, Satan must really have a stranglehold on planet Earth if even God in the flesh acknowledged Satan’s authority. And although Revelation 12 teaches that his authority could never eclipse that of the Son of God, the fact is, Satan gained dominion over the earth when Adam and Eve fell under his lies.

After Adam and Eve sinned, each subsequent generation has borne the burden of a sinful nature and a mortal soul. Disobedience to God made the human race susceptible to Satan’s schemes, sickness, disease, and ultimately death. No matter how hard we fight, we have the limiting force and denigrating influence of thousands of years of sin and death. Death and sin is the way of all mankind. We need to be made free.

Enter Jesus, our Freedom Fighter. He would be raised from the earth to die on the cross. And, He would be raised in the resurrection from the dead. So not only would humanity be attracted to His matchless love, but also His matchless power. In His resurrection, He wields the keys to hell and the grave. Jesus, is our Freedom Fighter.

In every generation, humanity has sought to defy aging, cheat death, and lengthen their days on earth. The good news is that Christ’s resurrection was evidence that death and the grave are no match for His limitless power! But that’s not all.

Christ would be raised up from the earth on Calvary’s cross. This signaled His matchless love for humanity. He would then be raised from the dead, and this would signal His matchless power over death and the grave. Then He would be raised and ascend to heaven to intercede for us in the heavenly sanctuary and to reign with His Father in heaven. (See Hebrews 8:1-2, 6 and Revelation 5:5-8.) With this, the death and subsequent resurrection of Christ is the catalyst to liberate us from the clutches of Satan.

Death and sin is the way of all mankind. We need to be made free.

John spoke assuredly saying, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God,” (John 1:12). Now, in a cursory glance we risk missing the deeper meaning of this verse. John promises that God gives power to all who believe to become children of God. And although the word power could refer to ability or strength, Satan wants to use this definition as a trap. Specifically, Satan wants us to believe that by our own strength we can live according to the mandates of God. Satan well knows this will only result in our frustration and failure. Power, here, actually suggests legal authority. This means God gives us strength, and He also gives us rights. These rights are a legal claim that will hold up in the heavenly court of law.

You can rest assured that if you stand in the courtroom of the Almighty God, with the proper legal documentation—signed by the precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—you have your freedom!

Friend, you don’t simply want physical or even spiritual strength. You also want legal rights that provide evidence that you belong to God. In Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection, God gave us heavenly freedom papers! That’s what you call freedom! And one day soon, God will say, “Enter into the joy of thy Lord!”

On that great and wonderful day, we will enter into the limitless joy of eternity!

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful,” (Revelation 21:3-5).

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

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1 John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1746 – 1763.


This article is part of our 2019 November / December Issue
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When the Tables Are Turned

Revelations of Payback

You may have heard—or used–these clichés ultimately bear the same meaning:

  • “What goes around, comes around.”
  • “You do dirt, you get dirt.”
  • “Live by the gun, die by the gun.”

These and other similar formulations are meant to represent what many people call “karma.” Now while karma is not a biblical term, many might be surprised that at its core, its concept is actually biblical. It was the apostle Paul who said, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Even Jesus said, “they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Herein is a principle that our Creator has interwoven into the fabric of the universe. It is akin to the law of gravity, the second law of thermodynamics, the law of relativity, and the like. I refer to it as “the law of sowing and reaping.” No farmer has ever reported a harvest of apples from his orange tree or figs from a grapevine. Yet, whatever you plant, in considerable time much more will come back to you.

Revelations and Real Reaping

The book of Revelation is, in many ways, harvest time. This concept is expressed on several different occasions through a myriad of ways within the book. As a matter of fact, Revelation ends with an example of the idea. In Revelation 22:12, Jesus announces, “Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me to give to every man according as his work shall be.” I could write an entire book about the rewards outlined in Revelation. Nevertheless, I’d like to focus on a couple of the significant examples of the law of sowing and reaping.

These examples appear to transpire in successive progression as the further you progress throughout the book, the plagues and punishments get worse. In Revelation 16 the wicked receive the seven last plagues. In this chapter, they tell of seven angels who are handed seven bowls. The bowls are described as golden bowls that contain “the wrath of God” which are reserved to be delivered to the earth; particularly upon those who rebel against God.

Then, just as the seven plagues are being completed, the harvest of destruction continues. One of the angels, who helps to deliver the seven plagues escorts John the Revelator to a far away place to witness the destruction of an evil woman (Revelation 17:1). This woman represents the wicked confederation of rebellion against God in the form of deceptive religious leadership. Supporting her are an array of global, political, economic, and commercial institutions that help her maintain power, control, and terror over the innocent people of the earth (Revelation 17:2, 18; 18:3,9). Nevertheless, God ensures that her just reward will be meted out.

“For her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done”(Revelations 18:5,6). “The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (Revelation 17:16).

Thousand-Year Earthbound Sentence

In Revelation 20, another angel appears to deliver punishment to the arch-enemy of all humanity. This angel descends from heaven with the tools of confinement.

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for thousand years. The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while” (Revelations 20:1-3, NLT).

There is no firing squad, no electric chair, no lethal injection, but a prison of loneliness, in the strictest of solitary confinement. Since he was cast from heaven, Satan’s existence has focused on deception and destruction of earth’s inhabitants. Now in Revelation 20, everything has already been destroyed and there is no one left to be deceived. The enemies of God have been vanquished and God has rescued His saints, (See Revelation 19). Suddenly, Satan is not the oppressor, but the oppressed. In this moment, the great “slavedriver” of sin and sorrow shall suffer under the weight of the finality of his deceptive work.

End of The Line for Satan And His Followers

After the 1,000 years are finished, Satan makes one last attempt to marshal the forces of evil and take the Kingdom of God by force (Revelation 20:7, 8). It’s not clear how he does this. Perhaps he musters all of his dark and evil magic for one last great push. Who knows? What we do know, however, is that according to the scriptures, this last effort is allowed only for a very short moment. In conclusion, fire comes down from heaven to consume the evil insurrectionists (Revelation 20:9). This is the very end of the line for Satan and his agents. After fire falls from heaven this time, there will be no remaining mark of Satan’s rebellion.

Yes, in the here and now, the powerful seem to find new kinds of oppression with which to victimize powerless people. One day, however, the tables will be turned. The evil forces will soon become the recipients of the very same devastation they dished out upon planet Earth. The divine principle of sowing and reaping will finally need to be settled. We have waited, and God has promised, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them” (Deuteronomy 32:25, NLT).

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

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Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT), copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


This article is part of our 2019 September / October Issue
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Carrying Someone Else’s Curse?

Exploring the Hebrew Israelite Interpretation of Deuteronomy 28

If you live in a major city such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, then you’ve likely brushed shoulders with a member of any number of Hebrew Israelite groups. In recent years, this religious group has demonstrated tremendous and rapid growth. In one sense, this is positive evidence of the religious freedom that we enjoy in the United States.

Today, the Hebrew Israelites are as diverse in practice and beliefs as any Christian denomination. The spectrum begins with the more mainstream, established, Church of God and Saints of Christ, to the more informal and counter-cultural group, the House of Israel.

Although there appears to be little doctrinal orthodoxy between the various groups, there are a few tenets that are consistent among all of them. Some of these distinct teachings are as follows:

  • Certain African descendants in America represent the lost tribe of Israel, God’s chosen people.
  • Caucasians are descendants of Esau and the Edomites.
  • Caucasians will be enslaved as a just reward for colonization and enslavement of black people on the day of judgment.

Blessings and Curses

One of the most significant beliefs of the Hebrew Israelites relates specifically to the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy functions as a sort of last will and testament to the children of Israel from Moses. They’re like his parting words before he dies, and the transfer of power is passed from him to Joshua. One of the key themes in the book of Deuteronomy is that of blessings and curses. This theme is manifested in several ways throughout the book (see Deuteronomy 11:26, 27:11-26, 30:1). These blessings and curses are representative of the covenant relationship that God was establishing with His chosen people.

Hebrew Israelites consider the blessings and curses (particularly the ones in chapter 28) to be directed toward them. Possessing strong references to slavery, many within the Hebrew Israelite community believe such scriptures are a prophetic foretelling of American chattel slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

There’s Nothing New under the Sun

While the references to slavery in Deuteronomy 28 should not be taken as a direct reference to chattel slavery in the Americas, there is a deep message that we can gather from the allusion. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Hence, it’s possible that the old adage, “history repeats itself,” stems (at least in part) from this text, which is one reason why when we read Deuteronomy 28, we see significance and meaning for our time.

Additionally, the text speaks about a kind of suffering that members of the African diaspora (especially those in America) can certainly sympathize with. The text describes a kind of disenfranchisement that almost perfectly describes the African American experience.

“You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity…The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower” (Deuteronomy 28:41-43 selected).

These verses are just a snapshot of the issues and concepts mentioned in the text that are especially relevant to the black experience. Yet, there are several considerations that should prompt us to look closer for the contextual meaning of the text.

Prophecy and Fulfilment

Hebrew Israelites assert that Deuteronomy 28 applies directly to certain groups of African-descended people. The challenge is, if we accept this assertion, we would be setting aside a historical record that is universally accepted as a direct application and fulfilment to the prophecy.

Especially significant to the Hebrew Israelite perspective of this chapter is the interpretation of the very last verse in the chapter:

“The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you” (Deuteronomy 28:68 NIV).

The intimation that the Israelites would be returned to slavery on ships is one part of this that is identified as significant and characteristic of the African American experience. Nevertheless, a few elements in this verse should cause us to question such an interpretation.

First, the reference to Egypt is significant. This would suggest that black people will ultimately be enslaved by black people. Are we to surmise that Egyptians here represent Caucasians rather than Edomites as has been previously asserted? Moreover, the closing phrase, “but no one will buy you” suggests a level of depravity and degradation worse than the initial slave experience. Hebrew Israelites, however, generally believe that vindication of black people comes at the judgment. If this is the case, what ways could a second slave experience be manifested, and when or why, given the expected vindication?

Bible scholars generally agree that this second slave experience, wherein Israelites were transported on ships, is believed to have been fulfilled during several sieges of Jerusalem by emperors like Vespasian, Titus, and Hadrian. According to John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, “this prophecy was literally and exactly fulfilled, and one which is owned by the Jews themselves” in the devastation and ultimate total humiliation of the Jews during this period.1

Real Solace in Suffering

Given the reality that the black experience in America is fraught with hardship, struggle, oppression, and degradation, the parallels of struggle between African Americans and Jews are striking. Nevertheless, this aforementioned realization also makes us aware of the pain of all people. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated. For this reason, we embrace God’s invitation that all people be welcomed into the diverse, multiracial and multiethnic family of God. And we celebrate that powerful pronouncement that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NIV).

Humanity all over the Earth is joined with Christ in His suffering. Whether in the chattel slavery of the American South or the Jewish Holocaust of Europe, humanity can take solace in the fact that its suffering is known and felt by God. Our greatest hope is that our God in whose suffering we are joined, who experienced torture at the hands of institutions, will come again and we who were joined with Him in suffering will be joined with Him in the glory of Heaven.

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

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1 John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1746 – 1763.


This article is part of our 2019 July / August Issue
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Zoom in to Discover How Our Story Ends

The book of Revelation in the Bible tells the story of salvation and the history of God’s people from multiple, different perspectives. It’s very similar to using the “zoom” feature on a camera. You “zoom in” to see things close up, and you “zoom out” to see the bigger picture. Revelation zooms in and zooms out several times as it focuses on various parts of the salvation narrative. At the very beginning of the book, Revelation zooms out to survey the history of the church. Then in Revelation 12, it zooms all the way out enabling readers to see the full celestial picture of the history of God’s people and the plan of salvation.

Often when people refer to Revelation 12, they assert that it’s the chapter which highlights the continued struggle between Christ and Satan. Because this conflict spans many ages and veritably all of the history of our world, it’s called the “Great Controversy” as it’s displayed in countless small spiritual battles and encapsulates every manifestation of spiritual warfare. Ultimately, Satan desires to have dominion over our souls and the entire universe, and he will stop at nothing to realize this nefarious ambition. Through the Great Controversy, we have insight into his attempt at a celestial coup d’état.

The Woman

This cosmic clash begins with a vision of a woman, “clothed with the sun…and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”1 She is pregnant and cries out in pain as she is about to give birth.2 Then enters the villain, an “enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.”3 But it’s the next line that is very significant. It says, “His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.”4

It’s important to know that scholars believe that the woman represents God’s people who are often referred to in the Bible as a beautiful bride.5 Additionally, we know that the child symbolizes Jesus Christ because verse five says that the child “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”6

Pause, Rewind

We need to pause here to point out that the story utilizes an ancient Hebrew storytelling device that scholars like to call recapitulation. You’ve probably heard a friend unwittingly doing the same thing. Your friend told you what happened, but then said, “Let me backup a little bit.” Your friend then regressed in order to give you important details for understanding how things turned out. Well, that’s exactly what’s happening in Revelation 12.

At the beginning of chapter twelve, the woman is standing there in her most vulnerable moment and that’s when the dragon appears. The Bible then says in verse four that the dragon has come to devour the woman’s newborn baby.7 God, however, whisks the woman away in a sort of spiritual witness protection program and the child is spared. Yet, the dragon never gives up, and at the end of the chapter, he “goes to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” This is a major moment because this means that this Great Controversy is about to meet its apex.

Rescue of God’s People

Revelation 13 begins with the culmination of Satan’s attempts to destroy God’s people and usurp God’s throne. Nevertheless, shortly thereafter in subsequent chapters of Revelation, we see the judgments of God poured out, followed by the implementation of the ultimate final judgment and eternal peace that ensues with the execution of the evil one.

The Scriptures state, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”8

Victorious Family

It’s this message that should give us all courage and hope! At the end of this celestial power struggle, God wins! And not only does God win, but He establishes victory for all those who put their trust in Him! Praise God! God has adopted us into His family and has called us by His own name! “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”9

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

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All scriptural texts are taken from the New International Version unless otherwise indicated.

1 Revelation 12:1

2 Revelation 12:2

3 Revelation 12:3

4 Revelation 12:4

5 Revelation 19:7, 21:2

6 Revelation 12:5

7 Revelation 12:4

8 Revelation 21:3-4

9 Revelation 8:37


This article is part of our 2019 May / JuneIssue
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Tyrants, Terrorism, and the End of Time

There are many signs from Bible prophecy that suggest we’re nearing the end of time. One of these is the increase in earthly, tyrannical leadership. This type of leadership is rooted and founded in the behavior of Satan, as he is what I term, “chief tyrant.” Consider the following three characteristics of Satan’s tyrannical behavior.

Profile of The Original Tyrant

1. “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”1

2. “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.’”2

3. “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”3

Telltale Signs of Evil Influences

Based on the Biblical passages above, Satan is: (1) the deceiver of the world who deals in the pervasiveness of lies and falsehoods; (2) the accuser of the brethren who loves to play the blame game; and (3) having great wrath, throws temper tantrums, and fits of rage. These characteristics have led him to become a terrorist. He is a warmonger who seeks to harm and destroy innocent people. And when these tyrannical and terroristic traits manifest themselves in world leaders, we must remember that given the vast numbers of innocent individuals who are under their authority and control, these leaders, too, are capable of doing great harm.

From the moment Satan was forced out of the heavenly kingdom, he has sought to establish his own kingdom to overthrow God’s government. The father of lies,4 Satan is the main rumor mill that pits nation against nation, breaks treaties, and declares war on the hearts and minds of humanity. He is at the very root of all terrorism and every terrorist attack. His anger against God’s people has seethed for thousands of years, and he is determined to have dominion over the universe.

End Notes

The good news, however, is that God has the last word! Satan’s defeat in the courts of the kingdom of heaven prefigures his final defeat on the day of judgment! Satan is a tyrant, and when you see his tyrannical fingerprint in the lives of world leaders, be assured of two things: you know where it comes from and you know where it’s going.

“And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”5

Tyrants and terrorism may be on the rise, but in the end, Jesus will win! “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”6

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

1  Revelation 12:7-9, NASB.

2  Revelation 12:10, NASB.

3  Revelation 12:12, NASB.

4  John 8:44, KJV.

5  Revelation 20:10, NASB.

6  Revelation 22:20, KJV.


This article is part of our 2019 March / April Issue
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Do the Right Thing!

The title of this article is derived from a movie written, directed, and produced by filmmaker Spike Lee in 1989. The film, “Do the Right Thing,” examined violence and its harmful effects, challenging viewers to engage in honorable behavior reminding them in its final clip that “the time is always right to do the right thing.”

To “do the right thing” is rooted in the fact that each and every day we’re faced with decisions whose outcomes should reflect sound judgment, positive character, moral decency, and equitable justice. Hence, our treatment of others, management of the environment, responses to social issues, and daily life choices ranging from “Who should I vote for?” to “How should I relate to others” should always reflect “doing the right thing.”

The Biblical admonition to “do the right thing” can be found in the words of Micah 6:8, “Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” Let’s examine these three directives.

1) Do Justly.

Put simply, to do justly is to do things right, and do the right things. God cares about fairness. God cares about equity. God cares about women being treated with the same dignity and respect as men. God cares about people being judged by the content of their character as opposed to the color of their skin. God cares about those who have no medical insurance and can’t afford to get medical care. God cares about the economically disadvantaged. God cares about domestic abuse and violence. God cares about the disabled and the disenfranchised. God cares about all the people who are adversely affected in our broken world. God cares about social justice. God cares about black lives, white lives, red lives, yellow lives, blue lives, and all lives.

So in harmony with God’s will and way, act with fairness, integrity, and honesty. Love and treat everyone right. Do justly.

2) Love mercy.

Micah 6:8 doesn’t say, “have mercy,” but rather it says “love mercy.” There’s a difference between having mercy and loving mercy. And one way of describing this difference is that we shouldn’t perform acts of kindness from a sense of compulsion, which is having mercy. But, we should do them out of love, which means you love mercy.

Loving mercy is seen in the actions of the Good Samaritan.1 Loving mercy is seen in the parable of the Prodigal Son.2 Loving mercy is seen in the women caught in the very act of adultery.3 Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”4

Mercy is favor, kindness, and compassion. When we love mercy, we love kindness. When we love mercy, we love compassion.

God expects us to love and get along with one another. He expects us to “do the right thing” and love mercy by demonstrating it towards others.

3) Walk humbly with God.

The first two directives in Micah 6:8, “do justly and love mercy,” deal primarily with how we treat one another, but the third directive, “walk humbly with God,” reveals our relationship with God. And the right relationship with God always begins with humility not arrogance.

God expects us to walk humbly with Him. Now that may sound easy, but it’s hard because we’re arrogant, prideful, legends in our own minds, and have big egos. Too often, we think it is God’s role to make us happy, do our bidding, and answer our prayers in the way we want. But we are to serve and glorify God.5 The apostle Paul says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”6

Whenever you walk with someone, three things must be true. Number one, you must be going in the same direction. You can’t walk with someone and be going in the opposite direction. And you will never learn to walk with God until you know which way God’s going and then you change your course to match His.

Number two, when you walk with someone you’ve got to be going at the same pace. In order to walk humbly with God, you must match God’s pace, God’s speed, and God’s tempo. Stop getting ahead of God and stop falling behind God. Walk with God.

Number three, whenever you walk with someone, you always have to be headed to the same destination, which means, if you want true fellowship with God, make sure you’re going where He’s going. Make sure you reach the ultimate destination where He will be, and that’s eternal life with Him.

May our lives, both now and in the future, always reflect these three directives, and may we always “do the right thing!”

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.

1  Luke 10:25-37.

2  Luke 15:11-32.

3  John 8:1-11

4  Matthew 5:7

5  1 Samuel 12:24, Psalm 86:12, and Revelation 14:7.

6  Ephesians 2:8-9



This article is part of our 2019 January / February Issue
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There Is No Limbo Or Purgatory!

Limbo” or “purgatory” have long been advocated in some Christian circles as future intermediate states where souls exist after their earthly death. There, according to some, these souls await entrance into heaven or hell. Some believe loved ones who are already in heaven can pray for these souls. Or, they believe that these souls go through a purification process in order to gain entrance into heaven.1

This stunning revelation means our decisions now count most.

Neither limbo or purgatory, however, are advocated, condoned, or even mentioned in the Bible. Instead, the Bible is clear that at one’s earthly death, the deceased body returns to dust, the spirit returns to God, and hence, the soul ceases to exist.2

Moreover, prior to death, one will make a decision to follow Christ. And, if one is living at the time of Christ’s Second Coming, one would have needed to make a decision to follow Christ prior to His advent.

Jesus Calls It

But after death, there is no limbo or purgatory to impact one’s eternity. Jesus says, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”3

Christ’s Second Coming will reveal the decisions that humanity has made to follow Him. When He returns, the righteous dead will rise first. Then the righteous living will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.4 Each resurrected and caught up righteous person will then reside in heaven with Jesus. Contrarily, the wicked living will die at the brightness of Christ’s Second Coming. The wicked dead will remain dead for 1,000 years.5

This period is known to many as the millennium, derived from the Latin words mille (“thousand”) and annus (“years”).6 During the millennium, the righteous will reign in heaven with Christ, while the wicked will be dead here on this earth, and as such, there will be no opportunity for limbo or purgatory. While reigning with Christ, the righteous will not plead and pray their loved ones into heaven. However, they will participate in the millennial judgment.7 This judgment affords them the opportunity to review humanity’s decisions, and God’s every effort to save and restore His people.8

So Much Time, So Little to Do

Satan, during this 1,000 year period, will be unable to engage in his primary works of deception or temptation. After all, the righteous reside in heaven then, and the wicked are all dead on earth.

If Satan has resurrection power, Satan has 1,000 years to prove it. The reality is he doesn’t have this life-giving power. Only God has the power to give life. Jesus made it clear, “I am the resurrection and the life.”9

At the end of the millennium, the wicked will be resurrected.10 Jesus Christ, accompanied by the righteous, will begin descent from heaven to this earth.11 Satan will deceive the wicked one last time into the belief that they can defeat our God by surrounding the Holy City as it descends from heaven to earth. But, God will rain down fire destroying Satan and sin forever!12

Decision Point

No, there is no limbo, and no purgatory! We are all now being given the opportunity to make a decision for or against Christ. The Bible makes it plain, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”13

Your future is in your hands. Your eternity is decided by you. Christ loves you, died to save you, and is coming back to get you! Be sure of your future and choose Christ today! 

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.

1  www.urbandictionary.com  and www.wikipedia.com

2  Ecclesiastes 12:7 and Job 27:3

3  Revelation 22:11-12

4  1 Thessalonians 4:16

5  2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 and Revelation 20:5-6

6  www.en.wiktionary.org/wiki/millennium

7  Revelation 20:12-13

8  2 Peter 3:9

9  1 John 11:25

10  Revelation 20:5-6

11  Revelation 21:2-4

12  Revelation 20:7-10

13  2 Corinthians 6:2



This article is part of our 2018 November/Decemer Issue
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