Friday, February 29, 2008

Gog's Coalition - Ezekiel Part 3

One of the most interesting aspects of this attack is that, according to verse 4, this leader will be forced to take action that he doesn’t really want to take. As we take a look at those who make up this coalition, it makes a bit more sense. The first one listed is Persia, today’s Iran. The current leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is constantly calling for the destruction of Israel and has a hand-in-glove relationship with Russia. He actually believes that it is his purpose to set the stage for the coming of the Mahdi, the Islamic Messiah figure. According to an article at , they believe that “His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.” That belief combined with Ahmadinejad’s quest to become a nuclear power projects a scary scenario. Russia is currently supplying Iran with all the support needed to help them accomplish their objective.

In fact, Russia is hard at work in establishing connections between themselves and other Moslem nations. They are establishing naval bases in Syria in the ports of Tartus and Latakia. (See In January 2002 they signed an agreement with Sudan to develop untapped oil fields. (See In December Russia’s Foreign Minister met with his Libyan counterpart to “discuss closer bilateral cooperation, regional and international issues….and…were also coordinating projects in the electric power sector, pipeline transport, housing construction and railway infrastructure with Russia's participation, adding that Russia was ready to contribute to the implementation of Libya's right to civilian nuclear power.” (See In 2006 Mr. Putin visited Algeria and agreed to “write off the $4.74bn (£2.74bn) Soviet-era debt” in exchange for Algeria buying $7.5bn (£4.3bn) worth of Russian weapons and combat planes.” (See Russian President Vladimir Putin “signed six agreements covering defence, trade and finance during his visit to Ankara” in December 2004. (See

In summary, these are the nations mentioned as part of Gog’s coalition.
• Persia – today’s Iran.
• Ethiopia – corresponds to “Black Africa,” with specific reference to Sudan regarding biblical Ethiopia.
• Libya – According to whom you believe, this would reference Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco or Somalia.
• Gomer – Again, according to whom you believe, this would reference Germany or the southern tip of Russia or central Turkey.
• Togarmah of the north quarters – Possibly southern Russia or eastern Turkey.
• “and many people with thee” – This would probably account for forces from some of the other Moslem nations.

The overwhelming common denominator between most of these nations is the Moslem religion; so I tend to look at Gomer and Togarmah as referencing Turkey.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Who is Gog? - Ezekiel Part 2

I guess we need to back up and identify the attacking coalition and its leader. At the beginning of the prophecy, Ezekiel is told to prophesy against “Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” In the study on Daniel we learned that there are spiritual forces at war with each other concerning events occurring on planet earth. The implication was that there are specific demonic powers assigned to different nations. I believe that Gog is one of those spiritual forces; he shows up again at the end of Revelation as part of Satan’s forces that make one more attack against the Messiah and the land of Israel.

Rev. 20:7-9 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

We also know that Satan and his cohorts have the ability to “enter” people and use them toward their own purposes.

Luke 22:3-4 Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.

Whether this is the case or he just has great influence over the human leader of Magog I don’t know. As to the land of Magog, we know (according to verse 15) that is in the “north parts.” The majority of my research points to Russia, but there are valid arguments to be made for Turkey. As I continue to watch the news headlines, it would seem that Russia is positioning herself as the referenced nation.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Israel Reborn - Ezekiel Part 1

The next area of biblical prophecy I want to discuss comes from the prophet Ezekiel. As with previous postings, more detailed verse-by-verse commentary is provided on my website, Beginning with chapter 36, he recorded an amazing prophecy from God regarding the resurrection of the nation of Israel after a long period of non-existence as a nation. It actually tells of a time when the land of Israel will produce abundantly--a time when the people of Israel have been regathered to the land of Israel and are living in obedience to the LORD, the God of Israel. Important to note is that God clearly declares that He is not going to do this because they deserve it, but in honor of His holy name.

They are pictured as first coming together as a nation with no spiritual life whatsoever. The time is coming when many will recognize God’s miraculous hand at work on behalf of His people and will respond to the gospel message being preached by 144,000 Jewish missionaries and the two prophets of God that will be prophesying during the first half of the 70th week of Daniel, the last 7-year period that we know as the tribulation that precedes the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom. This believing remnant will enter the Messiah’s kingdom to enjoy the fulfillment of all the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Contrary to the teaching of many—God is not finished with the Jewish people.

Beginning with chapter 38 the prophet foretells of a coalition of nations that will come against the resurrected nation of Israel to plunder it. Verse 8 specifies that this will happen in “the latter years,” or “the end times” according to the Hebrew. It also specifies that Israel will emerge from a land that has been a wasteland and will be populated by a people who have come from out of the nations. Following verses indicate that the nation will be flourishing since the expected plunder includes “silver and gold…cattle and goods…a great spoil.” The prophet also declares that the people of Israel will be living “safely,” which in the Hebrew references a feeling of security and without care. Verse 11 even goes on to say that this will be a time in which Israel feels no need for the use of defensive walls or gates. In my mind this would indicate the period of time after the signing of the covenant brokered by Antichrist that we learned about in our study of Daniel.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Daniel - Part 6

The messenger clarifies to Daniel that he has come to explain to him what is in store for the people of Israel during “the latter days,” a direct reference to “end times” from the Hebrew. I believe Daniel would have made a direct connection in his mind to the 70 weeks that Gabriel told him about previously.

Since the Persians were in control at the time of this vision, the messenger first affirms that the Greeks will be the next to take control (v20). I’m going to skip over all the past historical events that were foretold to Daniel and jump ahead to the events yet future. (More detailed information is available in my journal on Daniel on my website.) I don’t discount, however, that there may be some parallels between future events and those already past.

Beginning with chapter 11 and verse 31 the distinction between the reference to Antiochus Epiphanes and the coming Antichrist begins to blur. Antiochus stopped the sacrifices in Jerusalem and desecrated the temple as will the coming Antichrist. Both men were/will be intent on eliminating those who are followers of the true God. Beginning with verse 36 I believe the reference is solely to the coming Antichrist. This man will position himself “above every god” and will blaspheme the true God. In spite of how it may appear, God is still in control and His plan is being fulfilled.

In verse 39 we learn that Antichrist will “divide the land for gain,” [the land being a reference to Israel] an action condemned by God and one He will judge according to the prophet Joel (chapter 3). Although Antichrist will control the world economy, there will still exist those that oppose him. One of the opposing rulers is the “king of the south”; Antichrist is identified as the “king of the north.” The king of the south will try to come against Antichrist but will be defeated. The messenger then notes that Edom, Moab and “the chief of the children of Ammon” will remain outside the Antichrist’s control; these people occupied what is today known as Jordan. Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia, however, will not be so lucky.

Verse 44 then identifies another opposition force that comes from the east and north. This is probably a reference to “the kings of the east” that we encountered in our study of Revelation 16. Antichrist will then establish his stronghold in Jerusalem and eventually meet his doom.

At that time, Daniel is told, Michael will stand in defense of the people of Israel and “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” Finally, some words of encouragement—Those found written in “the book” will be delivered. The question then becomes—What book? I did a study on the “books” mentioned in the scripture when researching the “Book of Life” in my study of Revelation. That study can be found in the Topical Studies section of my website. I believe this reference is to the Book of Life that identifies everyone of faith that is qualified to live in Messiah’s Kingdom.

Daniel attempted to get further information regarding the “end of these things” (v8). He is told that this is not for him to know; this is information that will be understood by those who are living during those perilous times.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Daniel - Part 5

The start of the 70 weeks is identified as “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” Gabriel explains that after 69 weeks, Messiah will be killed. Point is made that His death will not be justified. Sir Robert Anderson, in his book The Coming Prince, is credited with first identifying that Jesus rode into Jerusalem presenting Himself as the Messiah exactly 483 years (using the 360-day year) after the decree from Artaxerxes. Others have disputed the specific dates he used, but confirm the timing between the two events.

After (without specific time reference) Messiah’s public declaration, He would be killed and Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed by the people of the prince that is to come, which history identifies as the Romans since Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Titus and his legions in 70 AD.

Gabriel’s message then focuses his message on the “prince that shall come,” a reference to the Antichrist and a time yet future to us. He tells Daniel that this prince will strengthen an existing covenant between Israel and the nations he represents for a seven-year period. This is obviously a reference to the last of the 70 weeks being explained by Gabriel. The covenant evidently establishes terms of peace that allow temple sacrifices to once again be practiced in Israel, because he breaks that covenant after 3.5 years and stops the sacrifices and desecrates the temple (v27). This means that there will be a functioning temple in Israel in the future.

Now we move forward to Daniel’s last vision (beginning in chapter 10), a vision that really troubled him. I think it is important to note the struggle that is depicted as being waged between spiritual forces regarding events that were occurring on earth. The messenger that is sent to speak with Daniel was held up by a 21-day struggle with the “prince of the kingdom of Persia,” and had to have help from Michael, “one of the chief princes,” before he could get to Daniel. This is an obvious reference to spiritual beings that are part of opposing groups. Michael is identified later in Daniel as “the great prince that stands for the children of thy people” [Israel] (12:1). Jude identifies him as an archangel.

Jude 9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

I wanted to emphasize the reference to these spiritual entities since they will again come into play in reference to events that will be discussed from the writings of Ezekiel in future posts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Daniel - Part 4

Now we will proceed to chapter nine for the next revelation Daniel received as he was praying to God on behalf of his people, asking for forgiveness and asking Him to deliver His people once again. He knew from the writings of Jeremiah that the captivity was only to last seventy years, and that time was coming to an end. During his prayer he is again visited by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel’s message is so detailed about many events that are past history that many have tried to discredit Daniel’s writing.

The first thing he tells Daniel is that 70 weeks have been decreed for the Jewish nation and Jerusalem to accomplish some specific things.

1. To finish transgression – In other words, to bring an end to their rebellion against God’s authority.

2. To make an end of sins – I believe this is a reference to the establishment of the new covenant God will make with the people of Israel as they enter the Messiah’s Kingdom. This covenant declares that He will put His law in their hearts and they will accept Him as LORD. The prophet Ezekiel states it this way:
Ezek. 36:25-28 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

I believe this is the time that Paul was speaking of when he spoke of the time that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

3. To make reconciliation for iniquity – This is referencing the atoning death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.

4. To bring in everlasting righteousness – I believe this goes hand-in-hand with #2 but embraces all those who will be joined with Israel as part of Messiah’s eternal kingdom.

5. To seal up vision and prophecy – This simply means to put an end to it. It will no longer be needed since Jesus will be on the throne.

6. To anoint the most holy – This would seem to allow for both the anointing/consecrating of Jesus as King and the anointing of the new temple, Ezekiel’s temple.

These weeks are a reference in Hebrew to weeks of years; in other words, each week equals seven years. Gabriel then breaks the 70 weeks up into three sections:
• 7 weeks or 49 years
• 62 weeks or 434 years
• 1 week or 7 years
I’m sure there is a significance as to why the first 7 weeks are singled out, but I’ve yet to get a clue as to why.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Daniel - Part 3

It’s interesting that Daniel was intently focused on the identity of the fourth beast, which stood out as very distinct from the other three and would embrace “the whole earth.” Point is made that the fourth kingdom will be a coalition of ten kings. Another king would arise whose ruling authority would displace three of the previous ten. Daniel’s dream foretells that this last king will be condemned by God to have his body destroyed by fire. I believe scripture identifies this last king as the man we know as Antichrist.

It’s interesting to note that the rest of the beasts, those from the kingdoms preceding the Antichrist’s kingdom, are allowed to live a bit longer. None who identify themselves with the kingdom of the Antichrist will be allowed to enter Messiah’s Kingdom, and they will be easily identified by his mark in their hand or forehead (as we learned in Revelation). There will be those in the other kingdoms who qualify to enter the Messiah’s Kingdom and will continue to have children, some of whom will join Satan in one last rebellion when he is released for a short time at the end of the millennium. There will only be one recognized authority on earth during that 1000 years, The Lord Jesus Christ; and point is made that His Kingdom will endure forever.

As previously noted, I think we have to recognize the following connections from the various dreams in Daniel:
• The head of gold = the lion with eagle’s wings = Babylon
• The arms and chest of silver = the ram with two horns = the bear = Medo-Persia
• The belly and thighs of brass = the he goat = the leopard with four wings and four heads = Greece
• The legs of iron with feet and toes of iron and clay mixed together = the fourth beast with iron teeth and ten horns = the Kingdom of Antichrist

This fourth kingdom of the Antichrist is connected to the Roman Empire since he is identified later in Daniel as coming from the same people that destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

Dan. 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Daniel - Part 2

In comparing the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel concerning the same subject, the end times, it becomes obvious that the reference is to the kingdoms succeeding Babylon. The kingdom of Medo-Persia is depicted by both the ram with two horns and the breast and two arms of silver of the image. The kingdom of Greece is depicted by both the goat and the belly and thighs of brass.

Beginning in verse 9 we are told of another horn that emerges from one of these four horns. At this point a transition begins to take place regarding events at the end of the Greek empire and the events of “end times” preceding God’s establishment of His eternal kingdom. There appears to be direct reference to a king that emerges from Syria known in history as Antiochus Epiphanes. He oppresses the people of Israel and desecrates the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. His kingdom was eventually conquered by the Romans.

I agree with many teachers that Antiochus Epiphanes is a type of the Antichrist to come. They both begin their rise to power by peaceful means. They both end up trying to destroy Israel and desecrating the temple. They both blaspheme God.

The rest of this dream goes on to describe the Antichrist as a man who will be mighty and even perform miracles through the empowerment of another.

Now I want to go back to another dream that Daniel had two years prior to the one of the ram and goat. I referenced the second dream first since it named the kingdoms that would succeed Babylon as depicted in the image.

In this dream Daniel sees the four winds causing great disturbance in the “great sea.” This is probably a reference to the Mediterranean since these kingdoms all bordered it, and it would have been most important to commerce in these kingdoms. He then sees four great beasts come out of the sea that are quite different from one another. The first beast is compared to a lion with eagle’s wings, the second beast is compared to a bear, and the third to a leopard with four wings and four heads. The fourth beast has no known comparison; it is described as having iron teeth and ten horns. Daniel then sees another horn come up in the place of three of those horns. The next thing Daniel sees is similar to a courtroom setting presided over by “the Ancient of days.” Judgment is passed upon this last horn to emerge, and his body is destroyed by fire. The rest of the beasts are allowed to live a bit longer although without ruling authority. Next, Daniel sees one “like the Son of man” come before the judge (the Ancient of days) and He is given authority over an everlasting kingdom. This vision was very troubling to Daniel, and he asked for an explanation of the dream.

I assume it is an angel that gives the explanation to Daniel. He is told that the four beasts represent four kings that will arise from the earth, but that their kingdom will eventually be taken over by the saints of the most High (God) when He establishes His eternal kingdom. The number of kingdoms in these dreams has consistently made reference to four. I believe these correspond to the four main Gentile kingdoms that have ruled and will rule over the recognized nation of Israel. Though other Gentile dynasties have ruled in the land, it was during the time of the diaspora when there was no recognized nation of Israel. Babylon would be the lion with eagle’s wings, Medo-Persia the bear, and Greece the leopard with four wings and four heads. Each of these kingdoms basically replaced the preceding one while expanding the territory it embraced.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Daniel's End Times Prophecies

I think the next prophecies we should consider are those of the prophet Daniel since they too tie in so directly with the book of Revelation. Again, I want to remind you that I’m giving a summary of my understanding of these passages. A more detailed verse-by-verse breakdown can be found at my website. I’m also going to limit my focus in Daniel to those sections that in my mind have direct connection to future events. This will necessarily include reference to fulfilled prophecy in history that is foundational to future events.

Daniel was taken to Babylon as a captive after Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem. According to Daniel 1:3, he was probably of royal blood. Daniel was committed to serving YHWH, the God of Israel, and was blessed by God to find favor and become established as the leading wise man in Babylon. Daniel’s faith and commitment remained strong throughout his life, even to facing death in the lion’s den for continuing to worship God in disregard of the king’s decree. God miraculously delivered him from death at that time.

In chapter 2 of Daniel we find a story about one of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and how God revealed the dream and its interpretation to the prophet. Daniel was careful to let Nebuchadnezzar know that it was “God in heaven” who revealed the dream and its interpretation to him. He told the king that God was revealing to him what would happen in “the latter days,” which in the Hebrew is a reference to “end times.” The dream was of a great image with a head of fine gold, a breast and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron with feet and toes made of a mixture of iron and clay. Daniel then goes on to tell the king that he and his kingdom (Babylon) are depicted by the head of gold. After his time three more kingdoms would emerge before God destroys them and establishes His eternal kingdom on earth.

Before identifying the other kingdoms, we need to be informed about a later dream of Daniel’s that is recorded in chapter 8. Daniel gets a vision of a ram with two horns; the second horn grows to be higher than the first. This ram pushed west, north and south and no one was able to stop him. Then Daniel sees a he-goat with a great horn coming swiftly from the west to attack the ram. He destroyed the ram and broke his two horns; no one was able to rescue the ram. The he-goat became very strong, but his horn was soon broken and replaced by four other strong horns. Out of one of these horns emerged a little horn that became very great especially toward the south and east and included Israel. He caused the sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem to stop. Daniel then hears two saints talking about how this man’s rule will be temporary and the sanctuary would again be cleansed.

The angel Gabriel is sent to explain the dream to Daniel. He immediately tells Daniel that it is describing “the time of the end.” This makes a direct connection to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Gabriel explains that the ram with two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia. The goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn is its first king, Alexander the Great. After Alexander dies, four kingdoms will emerge from the vast kingdom of Greece. History affirms that Medo-Persia conquered Babylon and were in turn conquered by Greece; it also affirms the fact that Alexander’s kingdom was divided among four of his generals.
1. Seleucus – Syria, Israel, Babylonia, and Media
2. Cassander – Macedonia and Greece
3. Ptolemy – Egypt, Cyprus, and parts of Asia Minor
4. Lysimachus – Thrace, Lydia, Cappadocia and the northern parts of Asia Minor

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stay Prepared for the Return of the Master

At this point Mark adds another illustration the Lord gave of this teaching. He compares Himself to a man taking a journey far from home and leaves His servants with specific work assignments. The porter, the one that controls entry to His property is instructed to stand watch; I believe this is a reference to those who are in positions of spiritual oversight. The application is one of being diligent in your work and ready to greet the Master at any time. Again, I think this teaching is encouraging to believers both before the rapture and before the second coming. Both groups should want to please the Lord with how they have served Him and should keep their focus on the truth that He is coming to deliver them from the evil of this world to experience the joy of His kingdom.

Matthew then adds an illustration as to how the master of the house could effectively protect it if he knew when the thieves were coming. It think this statement ties in directly to His words to the church at Sardis, Revelation 3:3 “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” It is a warning to persevere in spite of how bad things get and not compromise your faith so as to be ashamed when He comes as He warns later in Revelation 16:15. “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

The Lord goes on to share words of praise and encouragement to the faithful and wise servants who diligently persevere in their work. He assures them they will be well rewarded; they will be given authority over all He possesses. He then gives words of warning to “evil servants.” They are obviously not serving the Master. They are serving self and are not at all concerned about the Lord’s return. Though they may be masquerading as “His servants,” they will be exposed as hypocrites, actors under an assumed name, and judged accordingly. This again takes us back to those verses in Matthew 7 referenced previously.

I’m not going into Matthew 25 at this time, since it is further instruction on being prepared for the kingdom and emphasizes the truth already discussed that only those who are prepared and qualified will get to enter Messiah’s kingdom. These parables are not found in Mark and Luke.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Life's Uncertainty

As often happens in the early morning hours, my mind became active, and I began a train of thought sparked by an old movie I had watched the previous evening. It was a movie about the great earthquake in San Francisco in “nineteen aught eight” as my Granny would have said it. It gave a vivid illustration of how suddenly catastrophe can strike and how it immediately causes one to focus on the true priorities in life. I couldn’t help but think of how many had come face to face with that reality in recent days as tornadoes wreaked havoc in several states destroying homes, killing dozens and injuring many others. Other news included reports of blinding snow storms, floods and forest fires in others; and unexpected multiple killings in yet others.

Scripture is clear in declaring that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.

Prov. 27:1 ¶ Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Clark Gable played the charming reprobate who was living life “my way” and had no room for the Lord in his life. In the end, however, he recognized God’s hand at work in the aftermath of the disaster. I realized that this too mirrored reality. Sadly we often have to be brought to a position where we have nowhere to look but to God before we are willing to respond to Him in faith.

When confronted with the uncertainty of life, it causes one to get a clearer focus of what he values, his priorities and to think about life after death. I am convinced that time is short and that the Lord is trying to get the attention of as many people as possible and draw them into the family of faith before unleashing His wrath on planet earth. Every disaster and tragic event we hear about is an opportunity for believers to show God’s love to others, to share this gospel message, to example the peace that only He can give, and to flood the gates of heaven with prayer that people will come to know Jesus as Savior as a result.

2Pet. 3:3 ¶ Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
2Pet. 3:4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

2Pet. 3:8 ¶ But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
2Pet. 3:9 ¶ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

As It Was in the Days of Noah

The Lord then tells the disciples that the last days before He comes again will be like it was during the days before the flood in Noah’s time. Life continued as normal until the day the Noah entered the ark and the rains and flooding began. This reminds me of the teaching of Peter.

2Peter 3:3-4 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

Many teachers emphasize the corrupt morals and violence that filled the earth in the days of Noah. I believe that application to be valid as well, but it seems to me that apathy and unbelief of judgment to come are the primary reference.

The next thing Jesus describes in Matthew’s account regarding His coming is a picture of two people working in a field; one is taken away and the other left. Or two women are grind at a mill; one is taken away and the other left. He then follows that with a statement to watch or be vigilant because the hour of His coming is unknown. This is one of the most confusing sections of this teaching to me. I have often heard it used in teaching about the rapture, but I don’t really think that is the context. Since it flows in context with the comparison to the days of Noah, I tend to think this is a picture of those who are taken away in judgment while others are left to enter and enjoy the kingdom.

The admonition to watch and be prepared is valid to believers both preceding the rapture and preceding the second coming. Whichever way you view it, the message is one of encouragement to believers and of warning to unbelievers. The believer has nothing to fear and everything to gain both at the rapture and the second coming. The unbeliever needs to realize that once Jesus returns, his/her eternal judgment is certain—just as it was with the people that perished in the flood.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

When These Things Begin to Come to Pass

Jesus knew that the teaching had been very heavy, so He encourages the disciples by telling them that when they see these things “begin” to come to pass, they should look up and expect their soon deliverance. Then He gives a parable. When you see the fig tree putting forth leaves, then you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things starting to happen, you know that your deliverance is near and the establishment of the Kingdom will be soon. Luke records that He included reference to the leaves budding on all the trees. I know that many prophecy scholars equate the fig tree budding with the rebirth of Israel, but I personally don’t see this as the primary point being made here. The main reference is to the signs He has described as signaling His soon return.

Every account declares that the generation that sees these signs (including the abomination of desolation) will not pass until everything has been fulfilled. The context of Jesus’ teaching is His coming to establish His earthly kingdom. I think every teacher that tries to tie “this generation” to the birth of Israel because of the reference to the fig tree is making a mistake.

Jesus then tells the disciples that no man, or angel or even the Son (adds Mark) knows the day or hour that God has purposed for Jesus to return as King of kings. This was confusing to me until I realized that Jesus was referencing Himself at the time of His teaching. Scripture is clear that Christ came as a man—that he “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7). The Greek for “reputation” emphasizes the truth that He emptied Himself; He lived in the flesh as a man. He lived in dependence upon the Spirit—just as we are supposed to. He didn’t cease being God; He just chose to live with the limitations of a man, albeit a sinless man indwelt by the Spirit—just as Adam was created and intended to live.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Looking Forward to the Kingdom

As I was in a time of prayer early this morning, I came to a time of expressing my desire for the coming of His Kingdom. I found myself thanking the Lord for the many things that I believe will characterize that Kingdom. Scripture tells us that the Lord will rule with a rod of iron and that Satan will be bound during that time. The creation will be greatly restored and long life will once again be common.

I thought about how wonderful it will be to be able to turn on the television and not be bombarded with hour after hour of reporting on senseless murders and the lives of narcissistic celebrities. To live in a world that is free of the threat of natural disasters. To know that everyone will receive righteous judgment in the courts without regard to their financial resources, social standing, or ethnicity. To see the sanctity of life honored from the womb to the aged. To know that “entertainment” that feeds the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life will not be tolerated. To experience a governing authority that is not worried about making politically correct decisions or promoting the agendas of special interest groups. To know that the truth of God will be taught and that false teachers will not be given such public forums.

I know that those born in the kingdom will still possess a sin nature, and that people will still sin. The significant difference will be that sin will not be allowed to become so rampant that it usurps righteous governance and judgment. Only at the end of His 1000-year reign will the Lord loose Satan to gather forces for one last rebellion against His authority. Most amazing to me is that he will be able to recruit a great army to join him. After experiencing the reign of the God of truth and righteousness, man will once again prove that he is sinful to the core and totally deserving of the judgment to come.

Even so, Come Lord Jesus.

The Visible Return of King Jesus

These days will also be accompanied by many signs in the heavens—the sun and moon will go dark, stars/meteors will fall from heaven and the powers/forces that are in the heavens will be shaken. Many of the seal, trumpet and vial judgments described in Revelation are accompanied by these types of events. Luke adds that men will be anxious and fearful because of the roaring waves of the sea. The tsunami of December 2004 was a vivid example of the destruction that can be caused by the seas.

The Lord is very clear that His coming will be visible from one end of the world to the other. It won’t be as He came the first time, as a man working miracles. He will appear in the heavens in all His glory as the King of kings. Anyone who presents himself as the Messiah as a man with miraculous abilities will be a pretender, a false Christ.

When Jesus returns, He is going to gather together His elect from all over the planet. Matthew 25:31-46 explains how He is going to separate the sheep (believers) and goats (unbelievers) in determining who will get to enter the kingdom. Only believers will get to enter the kingdom. This section of scripture makes me think of the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 7.

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

This is a very sobering thought. There will be “many” that will claim to have been serving God and presenting the fact that they cast out demons and worked miracles (from the Greek) as proof of their position. These people have been deceived by Satan to believe in their works. Works do not save a person; only faith in the crucified and resurrected Son of God as your Savior qualifies one for His Kingdom. Jesus will declare that He never knew (as part of the family of faith) these workers of iniquity.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Future Temple and the End of Days

The next sign given regarding the soon coming of Jesus to earth as King of kings is the “abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet.” Jesus is referencing a specific prophecy recorded by the prophet Daniel,

Daniel 12:11 And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.

This prophecy requires that there be a functioning temple in Jerusalem at which sacrifices are made. It also requires this event to be future to the time Jesus is teaching His disciples. In context there is reference to a specific timeframe between the abomination and “the end of days,” the end of Satan’s rule and the beginning of Messiah’s Kingdom. That refutes the notion that many have of this prophecy referring to the destruction of the temple by Titus and his armies. This event is yet future and corresponds to events in Revelation 13 that describe the beast gaining complete control on earth for 42 months after Satan is thrown out of heaven (Revelation 12) and an image is erected that men will be forced to worship. This image will probably sit in the temple in fulfillment of this prophecy. If my understanding is correct, there will be a temple built in Jerusalem in the not too distant future and the priesthood and sacrificial system will once again become functional.

Jesus makes the point that this future desecration of the temple will usher in a time of great tribulation on planet earth that is far worse than any time previous in the history of the world. Neither will there be a time like it ever again in the future. Point is also made that this is the time of God’s vengeance that will fulfill the message of the prophets of old. God is very clear throughout His word that every word of scripture will be completely fulfilled. This time references the 42 months that Satan will rule planet earth in the person of the Antichrist, the last 3.5 years before Jesus establishes Himself on the throne of David to rule for 1000 years before defeating Satan and rebellious humanity one final time. This last 3.5 years will complete the times of the Gentiles. During the Messiah’s Kingdom, the Jews in Israel will be the most honored among the nations. Jesus declared that had the Lord not intervened to cut this time short, all flesh on earth would be destroyed.

Frankly, that last statement is one of the main reasons I believe we are so close to this time. The ability for man to destroy himself is fast becoming more of a probability than a possibility. Add that to the rebirth of Israel as a nation, continual wars and rumors of wars, the increase in earthquake frequency and intensity, and the alignment of the nations as predicted in Ezekiel 38-39 (which will be addressed in future posts), it’s hard to understand how everyone doesn’t see the handwriting on the wall.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Comparing Olivet and Revelation's First 5 Seals

The first thing Jesus tells the disciples is that “many” will come on the scene claiming to be the Messiah, and they will deceive many. The question becomes, “How will they be so convincing?” The answer is found in Matthew 24:24, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” We are a people that tend to embrace the adage “seeing is believing.” The truth is that you can’t believe everything you see. What you see can be deceiving, and the time is coming when these false Messiahs and false prophets will become more and more convincing. They will do great miracles, but these miracles will be of Satanic origin.

Next the Lord tells the disciples that they will hear of “wars and rumors of wars.” The Lord then states that this should not terrify them because these things are necessary to the fulfillment of God’s overall plan. Jesus goes on to state that these conflicts will involve nation vs. nation and kingdom vs. kingdom. According to Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Jewish Christian biblical scholar, this is a Jewish idiom referencing world war—an event unique to the 20th century.

Along with these world conflicts, humanity will also experience famines, pestilences, earthquakes, troubles, and fearful sights and great signs from heaven. Matthew and Mark record that these signs are identified as the “beginnings of sorrows,” a term that in the Greek is a reference to the pains of childbirth. This indicates that they will increase in frequency and intensity as the time for fulfillment draws near.

The disciples are then told that they will experience persecution, some to the point of death, because of their testimony and commitment to the Lord Jesus. The sad truth is that many will be betrayed by their parents, their brothers and sisters, and their children. Why will family turn on family? I think one of the keys is found in Matthews 24:12, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Iniquity is transgression of the law, and in context the reference would be to God’s law. When God’s law is ignored, then wickedness and unrighteousness become more prevalent. That in turn moves one further and further from the source of love. Another key is the impact of the teaching of false prophets. Religious impostors are always going to lead one away from the truth of God’s word. The further we get from God and His word, iniquity becomes more prevalent, and the more love vanishes from our way of life and the value of human life lessens. The apostle John summarized this truth in 1John 4:8, “He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.”

It’s at this point that I can’t help but make a connection to the first five seals that are opened in Revelation 6. The birth and rise to power of the Antichrist will introduce the final false messiah and his false prophet and is represented by the first seal. History records the 20th century as the bloodiest century ever, and it began with the first “world” war. Wars and rumors of wars have steadily increased since that time. This readily corresponds to the rider on the red horse that is released with the opening of the second seal. According to Wikipedia, approximately 70 million people died from famine in the 20th century. As of December 29, 2007, the world’s population has exploded to over 6.5 billion people. A shortage of food for such a huge world population along with continuing inflation of world currency coincide directly with the release of the rider on the black horse at the opening of the third seal. Pestilence is a reference to plague and disease. An internet search will quickly reveal that diseases are on the increase worldwide and that new diseases are emerging as a result of man’s impact on the world’s ecology and environment. The opening of the fourth seal releases a rider on a pale horse that represents the deaths of one-fourth of mankind due to wars, hunger (resulting from famine and a large poor population), and diseases. The opening of the fifth seal is a picture of the martyred believers throughout the church age. The connection between these “signs” and the first five seals are too strong for coincidence in my opinion. I believe the first seal was opened when the future Antichrist, whom I believe is already on the world stage, was born or when he first became a player in national or international politics. I don’t think the exact timing can be known except in retrospect. When that timing is known, the obvious parallel between these signs identified by Jesus and their increase in frequency and intensity will fit the prophetic outline to the smallest detail.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Olivet Discourse

The next section of prophecy in scripture I want to write about is popularly known as “The Olivet Discourse.” It is found in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. This is the last major teaching that Jesus shared with His disciples before His crucifixion. I think it is important because in it, the Lord tells believers how to recognize the signs that indicate that His second coming is near. Many people in the church seem to think that it isn’t necessary for Christians to be knowledgeable in this area. I am convinced they are wrong. Jesus was very clear in His first coming that the religious leaders in particular should have recognized Him from the teaching of the prophets.

Matthew 16:1-4 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

We need to be able to recognize that time is short and share the message of salvation with as many as possible as soon as possible.

Again, I am going to summarize my understanding of these sections of scripture using Matthew as the base text. A more detailed parallel verse-by-verse study can be found at my website.

I think it is important to note that Jesus is talking to His disciples about His second coming to earth to establish His earthly kingdom—not the rapture. The teaching of the “rapture” was introduced by the Apostle Paul. “Rapture” is the term applied to the time when Jesus will come to take the church, His bride, home to the Father’s house (as described in John 14) before expending His wrath on the inhabitants of planet earth. Although there are no signs given that are associated with the rapture, common sense dictates that if we are seeing the signs of the second coming, the rapture is to be expected prior to that. Though the rapture could occur at any time, I believe it will not occur until just prior to the last seven years before Jesus establishes His earthly kingdom. God never leaves mankind without a witness to His message of salvation. The true church is God’s witness at this time. Once it is removed, He will send the two witnesses we learned about in Revelation 11 and will raise up the 144,000 Jewish witnesses we learned about in Revelation 7.