Monday, March 31, 2008

Peter's Words on the Last Days

The Apostle Peter gave us a few verses intended to help believers recognize that Jesus would soon return and to prepare them for the type of opposition and/or persecution they could expect to encounter in light of that fact.

2Peter 3:3-6 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. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished….

Peter tells us that there will be those in the last days, the time before Jesus returns to earth, that will mock and ridicule those who are looking forward to His soon coming. Instead of heeding the call to repent of their sins and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior, these people will live to satisfy their lusts, the desires of their flesh.

Personally, I think that is a description of the defining characteristic of this day and age. Much of the developed world’s culture is saturated with “entertainment” of every type that is specifically intended to appeal to the desires of the flesh—be it print, music, television, movies, theater, video games, and even sports. Sometimes it is directed toward arousing sexual desire, sometimes toward bloodlust, and sometimes toward greed. Fashions are designed to reveal and tempt. Modesty and propriety are things of the past.

There are no moral restrictions on the methods employed in advertising; anything is justified that results in achieving the bottom line--accumulation of the almighty dollar. Marketing and advertising take every opportunity to appeal to the desires of the flesh since that is the most effective method of promoting sales.

When confronted with the truth of the soon coming of Jesus, many are quick to point out that life continues on as it always has. They reject the truth of God’s word. They discount the truth that God judged the ancient world through destruction by a worldwide flood. Peter is very clear in stating that they will choose to be ignorant of that truth. Why? Because to believe it would acknowledge that the God of the Bible is real. And—if God is real, that would require accountability to His word. And—accountability to God would interfere with their way of life and freedom to indulge in their fleshly lusts.

Peter also reminds believers that God’s reckoning of time is quite different than man’s reckoning of time. What we interpret to be a very long time is actually a very short period from God’s eternal perspective.

2Peter 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.

Yes, there have been many ancient cultures that have exhibited these same characteristics to varying degrees. The significant difference is that Peter is speaking of the time preceding the return of Christ Jesus. This would define the time being referenced to the “common era” after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The application is to the general population of the world. Never before in the history of mankind have all cultures been under the influence of debased and immoral media and marketing empires determined to profit from catering to the lust of the flesh and that have worldwide impact. From my perspective over just my lifetime, only a fool would deny that American society has become more and more immoral. That is a direct result of the choice to remove God from our schools and ignore His truth and authority in our courts and government. It even seems that more and more He is being removed from our churches. The focus in Christendom is turning more to good works and “feel good” or mystical experiences.

It seems as though the emphasis is once again turning to recognition of the Father while either ignoring or denying the Son. Wasn’t that the sin of the Pharisees that Jesus so strongly denounced!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

God Never Changes

Another truth we learn from scripture is that God never changes.

Mal. 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not;

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Heb. 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

There are examples from scripture that teach that God delivers those who have faith in Him from the judgment of His wrath. The first example that comes to mind is that of Noah. Satan had been so successful in polluting the seed of Adam and deceiving the world with his lies that Noah was the last man “perfect” in his generations and who walked with God. (Genesis 6:8-9) The Lord had promised to send a deliverer from the “seed” of the woman to destroy Satan. Just when Satan must have thought that he had won, God sent a flood to destroy all mankind except Noah and his family. They were preserved in the ark though the rest of humanity was destroyed. The human race was given a fresh start.

The next example that comes to mind is that of the deliverance of Lot and his family before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Most interesting to me regarding that event is the conversation that Abraham had with the Lord prior to that event as recorded in Genesis 18:23-26. Some pertinent observations from that conversation:
• Abraham expected God not to punish the righteous with the unrighteous.
• God did not refute the validity of that expectation.
• God physically removed the righteous from the place of judgment.
• Punishment is reserved for the unjust.
I remember being surprised to find out that Lot was a righteous man, but we know this to be true since Peter affirms this truth.

2Pet. 2:7-9 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished….

Another example is recorded by the prophet Ezekiel concerning the time he was shown that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed. The Lord was very specific to order that those who wept over the wickedness of the city [obviously those who honored God] were to be marked in the forehead for preservation. (Ezekiel 9:4-6)

I think there is one other truth that is significant in support of the believer’s deliverance from wrath. Paul taught that believers should “comfort” one another with this knowledge.

1Th. 5:9-11 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

There would certainly be no comfort in thinking one would experience God’s wrath.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jesus is "Coming" Twice

Paul wasn’t so detailed in his letter to the Corinthians, but he was quite clear in declaring that not all believers would die. ALL believers, however, would be changed in a moment to put on incorruption and immortality.

1Cor. 15:51-53 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Jesus actually taught in support of Paul’s revelation as recorded in the gospel of John.

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

He is telling His disciples that He is going to His Father’s house [heaven] to prepare a place for them. He would then return to take them to be with Him in the place that He prepared [in heaven].

I think many people get confused because of the reference to the “coming” of Jesus. They refuse to recognize a reference to two comings—one that is invisible and one that is visible, one in which believers meet the Lord in the air to go to the Father’s house and one in which He comes to earth to sit on the throne of David.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Delivered from Wrath - Part 2

Obviously, the reference to being saved from wrath is a promise to all believers, but will be an especially significant truth to those who are living at the time just preceding the beginning of that time of judgment. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were written specifically to address this issue. They thought that the “day of the Lord” had come and that they had been left to endure it. They were expecting Jesus to come take them to be with Him, and they were concerned that their loved ones who had already died had missed out on this “blessed hope” as well.

Wrong expectation is a source of confusion and misunderstanding in the life of a believer. It is true that God has allowed believers throughout history to suffer at the hands of evil men and/or the attack of Satan (as exampled by Job). These times have been allowed as opportunities of glorifying God and growing in spiritual maturity and accumulating treasure in heaven. When God determines to expend His wrath in vengeance on the wicked and all those who choose to yield their allegiance to Satan, there will be no comparison to the worldwide misery and suffering that will ensue. It will not be a time for spiritual refinement in the life of the child of God. It will be a time that offers one last opportunity for those of that generation to accept Christ as Lord and Savior—one last opportunity to call out for salvation in the face of great destruction and misery.

Paul was the first to explain the mystery of the gathering together of the body of believers at the coming of Jesus. At the time of his letters to the Thessalonians, his tone was one of encouragement to remember what they had been taught and stand firm in their faith. They weren’t to allow circumstances to shake their faith. Paul reminds this body of believers that the fact that Jesus died and rose again was a guarantee that all those who believe in Him would be gathered together to Him whether dead or alive at the time of His coming. We are all going to receive our resurrected, glorified bodies at the same time.

In 1Thessalonians 4:16-17 Paul actually details the order of events.
1. The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout.
2. The dead in Christ will rise first.
3. Those who are alive will be caught up with them in the clouds.
4. We will all meet the Lord in the air.
5. From that moment on we will be with the Lord.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Delivered from Wrath

It is clear from the teaching of the Lord as recorded by Matthew (chapter 24) that this time is a specific period yet future. He makes reference to a functioning temple in Jerusalem and the “abomination, spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place.” (Daniel 9:27) This would seem to be referencing an idol or false god (i.e. Antichrist) desecrating the temple for sure, and most probably the holy of holies. Jesus also described the period following that event as the worst time ever experienced in the world—past or future. This would not be an accurate description of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD. Jesus was speaking of a time of worldwide impact. He went on to state that except for the fact that God intervenes, no flesh would survive (verse 22). And this time is only referencing the last half of the period of God's wrath that begins with the opening of the Sixth Seal of Revelation.

After determining that the wrath of God is for a specific time yet future, the obvious question becomes, “Is there no way of escape?” Frankly, I don’t believe any real student of scripture can deny that it boldly declares that those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior will be saved or delivered from this experience. You can’t get a much clearer statement than that made by the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians.

1Th. 5:9-10 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

The Apostle John also recorded in the Lord’s letter to the church of Philadelphia that those who keep His word will be kept from “the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world.” “Those who keep His word” would obviously reference those who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Paul also told the believers in Rome that those who are “justified by His blood will be saved from wrath through Him [Jesus].”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day of the Lord - Part 2

There are many scriptures that describe the time of God’s wrath as a time of darkness, cruelty, anger, destruction, fury and vengeance.

Is. 13:6 Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
Is. 13:11 And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
Is. 13:13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.

Nah. 1:2 ¶ God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

Zeph. 1:15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,
Zeph. 3:8 Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

1Th. 5:2-3 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

Rev. 6:16-17 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

Rev. 16:1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

I don’t think it is possible for us to differentiate between events that are to serve as the refining fire of judgment that produces the believing remnant in Israel and the events that evidence the wrath of God directed toward the wicked. One can use the same fire to boil water to destroy the impurities that may be in it as one does to burn a useless piece of trash. The flame that results in the purity of one destroys the other.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Day of the Lord - Part 1

At this point I think I will change to a series of end times topics. One of the major related topics is the subject of the “day of the Lord” or the pouring out of God’s wrath on planet earth. Until recently these terms have been synonymous in my thinking to the 70th week of Daniel, the 7-year period more popularly known as the tribulation. Continued study and research have convinced me that though these designated times run pretty much concurrent with one another, they are actually specific to different groups of people for different reasons.

We learned in Daniel that the purpose of the 70th week is to purge Israel and produce a believing remnant through whom God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be completely fulfilled. It will also usher in the kingdom that will fulfill God’s covenant with David to establish his throne forever.

Gen. 17:7-8 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

2Sam. 7:16-17 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.

The “day of the Lord,” also called the “day of His wrath,” (or other similar phrasing) is directed toward:
• The ungodly and unrighteous
Rom. 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness…
• The children of disobedience
Eph. 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
• Those that worship the beast and his image and receive his mark
Rev. 14:9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
Rev. 14:10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and
in the presence of the Lamb:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Connecting Isaiah 17 to Psalm 83

The chapter ends with what seems to be a statement of outrage among the nations, but states that God will intervene to protect Israel from any possible repercussions.

Another scripture that is possibly connected to this prophecy is found in Psalm 83. In this section of scripture the psalmist references a coalition of nations with the common goal of destroying the nation of Israel. Though we know that Israel was threatened by these nations at times, there is no historical record of such a recognized coalition. This group of nations includes the areas that are today part of Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Syria. (See my journal on Psalm 83 for further details.) This coalition is especially interesting in that the nations forming it are conspicuously missing from Gog’s coalition. It’s conspicuous because the common denominator between all the nations of both coalitions today—excepting Russia—is the religion of Islam. The second common denominator that is more obvious regarding the Psalm 83 coalition is the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Because these nations are missing from Gog’s coalition, I tend to think that the destruction of Damascus is a result of war that erupts with Israel over the Palestinian issue probably through the provocation of Hizbollah and/or Hamas. It would also seem to indicate that this event happens before the attack by Gog’s coalition.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Destruction of Damascus - Part 2

At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy the Northern Kingdom of Israel, also known as Ephraim, was in league with Syria against Judah, the Southern Kingdom. The prophet predicted that these enemies would be conquered and no longer pose a threat to Judah.

Another interesting aspect of prophecy is that it often has more than one application. The prime illustration regarding this truth concerns the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet. History records that this was fulfilled by the Syrian leader Antiochus Epiphanes when he offered a sow upon the altar in Israel. (See my journal on Daniel 11 for a more detailed discussion.) Yet, when Jesus taught His disciples on Olivet before His death, He referenced this abomination as yet future.

Matt. 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

In light of that truth there are some interesting possibilities that emerge from the continued study of Isaiah 17. When I looked up Ephraim in my study of Isaiah 17, I found that it included Samaria and most of what is known today as the West Bank, the land currently inhabited by “the Palestinians.” It’s interesting to note that the Palestinians of today are in league with the Syrians as represented by Hizbollah regarding their desire to destroy Israel. It gets even more interesting when you take into consideration the prophecies of Zechariah concerning this same event.

Zech. 9:1-6 The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD. And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise. And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire. Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.

This prophecy connects the destruction of Damascus to Tyre and Zidon, cities that were located in current-day Lebanon, the stronghold of Hizbollah. This event is also described as bringing sorrow to Ashkelon, Gaza, and Ekron, the Philistine cities that are connected to the area of the Palestinian stronghold that we call the Gaza strip. Also interesting to note is that future application would indicate that this will destroy all hope of a Palestinian state—there will be no ruler in Gaza and the pride of the Philistines/Palestinians will be destroyed.

As I read through some of the other translations for Isaiah 17:9, I got the impression that this destruction comes at the hand of Israel.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Destruction of Damascus - Part 1

The next event in prophecy that has my attention concerns a message from the prophet Isaiah. It stands out in light of the previous study from Ezekiel. Noticeably missing from the coalition of Gog are several neighboring nations that are hostile to Israel, and one can’t help but wonder why. This prophecy might hold the answer to that question.

In chapter 17 of Isaiah the prophet foretells a coming destruction of the city of Damascus. Damascus is the capital of Syria and proudly claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. The prophet pictures the result of its destruction to a pile of garbage. History records Damascus being conquered and its people carried away captive, but never its complete destruction. This prophecy is yet future.

One thing that makes the study of prophecy such a challenge is realizing that the prophets didn’t always understand that their message often referenced events from different time periods. One of the best examples of this truth is illustrated when Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah as recorded in Luke 4.

Luke 4:16-20 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

When compared to the actual section of Isaiah from which He read, we can see that He stopped in the middle of a sentence.

Is. 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

Jesus stopped where He did because the rest of the prophecy is yet future and addresses the Day of the Lord in which He will pour out His wrath on His enemies in preparation to establishing His earthly kingdom.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Aftermath - Ezekiel Part 5

Beginning in verse 9 Ezekiel describes the cleanup of the aftermath of this battle in the land of Israel. These verses are very interesting in light of today’s technology and weaponry. I have heard interesting commentary from Hal Lindsey regarding the use of Lignostone and found the following information at www.spreadinglight.com/prophecy/gog.html.

In the time that Ezekiel wrote this, burning weapons made perfect sense because they were made of wood. What of today’s weapons however? How do you burn warplanes and other metals? Amazingly, Russia has been using Lignostone in the production of its weapons. Lignostone “is a special kind of wood used for ‘coke breakers.’ It is stronger than steel, is very elastic… and it burns better than coal.” (90 LaHaye Are We Living in the End Times?) You can read more about Lignostone on its website at www.lignostone.com.

Another interesting fact in these verses is that these weapons are going to supply fuel for Israel for seven years. One can’t help but try to make a connection with the 7 years being mentioned and the 7 years of Daniel’s 70th week known as the tribulation. I’ve always reasoned that this would put this war before or near the beginning of that tribulation period, but there is no clarification in this prophecy in that regard. People living on planet earth are still going to need fuel during the millennium, so I don’t think one can be dogmatic. Another reason I tend to place it at the beginning of the tribulation period is because I don’t see Israel living in a time of security (true or false) and rest until the 7-year covenant brokered by the Antichrist.

Point is also made that the Jewish people will gain from the spoil taken from Gog’s armies. This is another example of reaping what you have sown. Gog and his armies had intended to spoil and rob the Jewish people; instead they would provide spoil to the people of Israel.

The prophet goes on to declare that it will take seven months for Israel to bury all the dead that are in the land. The process described is specific and is very interesting in consideration of today’s nuclear capabilities. Jack Kelly at www.gracethrufaith.com had this to say about this section of scripture.

"It will require the combined efforts of all Israeli citizens for 7 months to bury the enemy dead. After that they'll hire professionals, some to decontaminate the land and some to search for any bodies the people may have missed. They won't touch any bones they find, but will set up markers and call the professionals to come take them away. This approach fits modern Nuclear Biological Chemical Warfare decontamination procedures to a tee."

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Judgment of Gog's Armies - Ezekiel Part 4

One can’t help but wonder at response from other nations around the world toward this attack. The only insight provided in that regard is that “Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions” make verbal protest, but do nothing to intervene. Sheba and Dedan are associated with Arabia, including Yemen. The identity of Tarshish is speculative—from India to Spain to the British Isles. The British connection is often used to identify “the young lions” as including a reference to the United States as one of the British colonies.

Verse 14 indicates that Gog will recognize the time as opportune and attack with his massive coalition of forces. They are pictured as a cloud that covers the land of Israel. “When” that happens, not “if,” YHWH will be provoked to great fury. The demonic forces have no clue that they are playing directly into God’s hand. It is truly amazing how God works through man’s choices in response to the desires of his flesh and the influence and deception of the enemy to bring about His sovereign plan and that He can foretell these events thousands of years in advance. What a mighty God we serve!

God is going to intervene with a “great shaking” in Israel which I assume to be a great earthquake. It will be so intense that there will be worldwide repercussions and men will know it is from the hand of God and will be afraid. The mountains of Israel will be thrown down and every wall will fall to the ground. Gog’s coalition will turn on each other. God will then strike them with the plague, great loss of life, and a torrential rain that includes hail, fire, and burning sulphur. I’m not sure how the Lord chooses to bring all this about, but it will be such that He is magnified and sanctified and “will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.”

At the beginning of chapter 39 there is a statement regarding the impact on Gog’s army. The natural reading of verse 2 tells me that only 1/6 of Gog’s army will survive, but none of the other translations I read even include that information. Whether no survivors or but few, the destruction of his army is complete.

In verse 6 God declares that He will also send “fire” upon the land of Magog and those that dwell carelessly in other countries. The question then becomes---What kind of fire? Of supernatural origin, the forces of nature, the results of war, etc. Whatever the “source,” it will be coming from the hand of God. It’s at this point that many in Israel will recognize that God is defending the honor of His name. In fact, in verse 22 God says, “the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward.”