Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wisdom and Light vs. Folly and Darkness

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 2:9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.

The whole chapter to this point has focused on feeding the desires of the flesh, and in this verse we see a bit of boasting in the flesh. Solomon’s fame spread throughout the ancient world. The visit of the Queen of Sheba gave evidence to this truth.

1Kings 10:1, 6-7 “And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions…. And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.”

It seems that Solomon has totally lost sight of the fact that his wisdom, wealth and fame were a gift from God. At this point his focus is entirely on self. The pitfall of pride is a sin that every Christian needs to guard against. Scripture is clear in telling us that every thing we have worth having is ours only as a gift of God.

Psalms 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”

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.”

Eccl. 2:10-11 And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

These are the words of a man who could honestly say that he could get anything he desired. He possessed the authority and wealth to overcome any obstacle that might stand in the way.

In the end, he had to admit that the joy of attaining so much was short-lived; he had served only to feed the lust of his flesh. Once you’ve got it all, so to speak, what’s left to look forward to? In honest reflection, feeding the desires of the flesh provide no meaning to life. I think the very public lives of so many of those in the category of the “rich and famous” today give very vivid evidence of this truth.

Eccl. 2:12 And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

As Solomon assessed all his attempts at finding satisfaction through worldly pleasure, wine, material wealth and fleshly indulgence, he didn’t see how any one who followed him could experience more than he had. At best they could only hope to duplicate his experiences.

Eccl. 2:13-16 Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.

These verses give indication that Solomon did have a bit of spiritual insight. Based on personal experience, he recognized that wisdom and folly are as different as day and night. To act with wisdom and walk according to the light is far better than to act foolishly and try to walk in the darkness. The eyes in your head give obvious testimony to that truth.

Solomon then observes that both the wise man, including himself, and the foolish man are going to die. So in that regard, what is the benefit of exercising wisdom? As he saw it, both the wise man and fool would soon be forgotten after death. Very few from the pages of history are remembered by future generations.

I think it is important to remind ourselves all the way through this study that the Holy Spirit is preserving the record of Solomon’s thoughts to help us understand that apart from God there is no meaning to life.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Path of Self-Indulgence

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 2:1-2 I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?

Solomon decided at one point to direct his energies toward participating in the things that gave him pleasure and made him laugh. He concluded that laughter and pleasure gave one no lasting satisfaction. I found a quote by Robert Burns that expresses it well: “Pleasures are like poppies spread; You seize the stem, the bloom is shed!”

This is not to say that pleasure and laughter are bad things or that it is wrong to enjoy such. It’s just that the benefits are fleeting and add nothing to the search for purpose and meaning in life.

Eccl. 2:3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.

Next, he tried to find happiness through the intoxication of wine and the foolish actions that inevitably accompany that choice, yet still claiming to maintain control of his senses. He was claiming justification for his “folly” as necessary to his search to determine how best man should invest his time and energy during this lifetime.

Again, this is nothing new under the sun. Aren’t we always trying to justify foolish or sinful actions? I’ve come to the conclusion that every time the Christian engages in such justification, it usually reflects a lack of faith in God. It’s a declaration that we know better than God how to determine what is best in a given set of circumstances.

Eccl. 2:4-8 I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.

Solomon boldly declares that he also embarked on a mission to amass every type of material possession. He built houses and palaces; planted vineyards, gardens orchards of fruit trees; he built retaining pools to water the trees; he bought slaves that increased his investment by having children; he attained great herds of different kinds of cattle. He states that his possessions exceeded all that had preceded him in Israel (as represented by its capital city, Jerusalem). He also amassed great treasuries of silver and gold in the form of tribute from neighboring kingdoms to assure their standing of peace with Israel. Solomon evidently loved music because he seems to take special delight in being entertained by skilled musicians. Most of the translators equate “the delights of the sons of men” with a harem, and I have no reason to dispute this considering the record of scripture.

1Kings 11:1&3 “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites….And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”

Solomon’s approach to life in this section certainly reflects the attitude of today’s world.
• “Eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow we die.”
• “If it feels good, do it.”
• “You only live once, so take every single opportunity that comes by.”
• “Anything that feels good couldn’t possibly be bad.”

Friday, April 24, 2009

No Satisfaction

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 1:13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge with skill and discernment to the best purpose. I think Solomon is saying that he didn’t just try to amass knowledge; he tried to utilize what he learned for good. Specifically, I think he was trying to understand the actions of men both in satisfying self and in relationship to others.

I like the way the CJB worded the last part of this verse: What a bothersome task God has given humanity to keep us occupied!

Eccl. 1:14-15 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

From his viewpoint, which he believes is all-encompassing, Solomon sees no purpose in life. In context, the reference is to the works of men. The thought seems to be that no matter how much we accomplish, it is never enough. It’s like—The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. The more you do, the more you see there is to do.

Eccl. 1:16-18 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

As noted earlier, Solomon was very wise and very wealthy. He was basically quoting God’s words to him in declaring himself to be the wisest of all who had preceded him in Jerusalem. He is at a point in life where he is looking back and making assessment. It seems to me that he is saying that he made an effort to experience both wisdom and self-indulgence and could find no satisfaction in either. He concludes that wisdom produces grief and more knowledge produces sorrow; in other words, neither provides true satisfaction because both result in showing you how much more there is to know and understand.

I think it is important to note that Solomon is relating his endeavors to achieve earthly wisdom and knowledge, and therein is the problem. Earthly wisdom and knowledge leave one empty and unfulfilled without application to spiritual benefit for eternity. This brings to mind the words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew.

Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Scheme of Life

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 1:3-7 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

As Solomon observed life around him, he couldn’t help but think: How does one really benefit from all the energy and hard work he invests in life? Man lives, works and dies; his son lives, works and dies; etc. The earth, sun and all the forces of nature continue the same for every generation. What is the purpose or meaning to life in the whole scheme of things?

Eccl. 1:8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

In this verse Solomon seems to be saying that we never feel like we have enough; we always want more. In application to today’s world, one might say that no matter how many new technology gadgets, clothes, cars, etc., that we get, we are always wanting newer and better and more.

Eccl. 1:9-11 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

Yes, this is the source of that common saying: “There is nothing new under the sun.” I think the focus of Solomon’s thoughts is centered on the actions of men; he is talking about things men do. Though men may invent new ways of doing things, there isn’t much new with regard to what men want to achieve in life. Men have always had to work to provide for their families. Men have always sought to better their way of life. Men have always sought to increase their understanding of science and nature. Men have always sought to attain power and influence over one another. Men have always expressed their creativity in music, art, and writing. Though technological achievements have greatly increased the productivity and/or ability to achieve in these endeavors, the basic goals of men have not changed. In the end, what has been accomplished?

Solomon also observed that we tend to function in the “now.” Evidently, he felt his generation had learned very little from the past experiences of their forefathers and didn’t expect it would be any different with the generations that would follow him. What a pertinent observation regarding today’s world. Though we have many more resources available than ever before to enlighten us regarding mistakes that have been made by those who have gone before us, whether nations or individuals, we seem to think that we can utilize the same weak morals and poor principles and achieve a different result. We never seem to learn from our predecessors.

It is more in line with that last train of thought that this verse seems to have specific prophetic implication. History tends to repeat itself and in the process provides types or examples of things yet to come. This is another amazing example to me of the omniscience of God. I can express this truth in words, but I can’t really understand how it is possible. He established a plan to accomplish His purposes that took into account the choices and actions of billions of men throughout history without violating their freedom to make those choices and act accordingly.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Search for Meaning in Life

This blog was created to share my understanding of biblical prophecy as it applies to events that will impact planet earth in the not too distant future (in my opinion). At this point in time I have shared from all the verse-by-verse studies in scripture that I have completed to this point. There are many existing blogs that carry articles commenting on how events in the daily news apply to prophecy; in fact, many of them post the same articles. Rather than become just another fish in that ocean, I wanted to focus on another area that would increase our understanding of how to navigate through the increasingly dangerous waters ahead of us.

I continue to believe that intimacy with the scripture should be one of the main priorities in the life of the believer. Though the focus of this blog has been on prophecy, the content has reflected the truth of scripture as I understand it. As I considered what direction to take next, it occurred to me that we are in great need of biblical wisdom as we confront the challenges of day to day living as we await the Lord’s return.

Though I will continue to give updates in the area of prophecy as I gain new understanding through continued study, I’ve decided to devote the next section of blogs to a study of the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s always intrigued me that a man of such great wisdom as Solomon would allow his life to become filled with such “vanity” as he would put it. There is much we can learn from Solomon’s attempts to find satisfaction or purpose in this world apart from God. As we consider Solomon’s observations and conclusions, I believe that we will find many comparisons to man’s ongoing attempt today to find meaning in life.

Eccl. 1:1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Eccl. 1:12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

These two verses seem to establish pretty clearly that Solomon, the son of David who inherited the throne of Israel from his father, is the author of this book. When God gave him the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted, he asked for wisdom. That pleased God so much that he not only gave him wisdom but riches and honors as well.

1Kings 3:11-13 “And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.”

Because he was blessed with so much, the next verses make you really sit up and take notice. This King who wanted for nothing according to the world’s standards was not a happy person.

Eccl. 1:2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

It was interesting to notice that the root word for “vanity” included “vain in expectation.” Doesn’t that really get to the heart of the matter? Our culture functions on the premise that money, possessions and self-indulgence translate to happiness and fulfillment. That is a false expectation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Studying Scripture

I am still seeking guidance as to what to address next in this blog. I have basically exhausted my current understanding of prophecy as based on my personal verse by verse study of the Bible to this point. It occurred to me that based on the last comments from my previous blog entry, it might be useful to some to hear how I go about my personal study of the Word. Sometimes we just need a bit of encouragement or a jumpstart from someone else to get started on our own. My study method has evolved over a period of time, and my resources have grown along the way.

I am blessed to have the use of Accordance Bible Software. This allows me to set up a tabbed workspace on my computer screen that eliminates the clutter of books and makes it easy to quickly bring up one of many reference tools. I chose at the outset to make the KJV my source text. It’s the one I have memorized throughout the years; and it makes me feel like I am working with an old friend. The tabs on my workspace are as follows:
• Main translation tab = KJV, NIV, NLT and CJB (Complete Jewish Bible)
• Backup translation tab = 5 or 6 other translations to consult on the harder verses
• 2 tabs for Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew & Greek
• 2 tabs for searching scripture—one for word/phrase searches, one for specific scriptures
• Webster’s Dictionary tab
• Bible dictionaries, Topical Bible tab
• Tabs for chosen commentaries

Accordance allows you to save each work session so that you can pick right up where you left off without having to set the tabs every study session.

I also often set up a browser window tabbed at,, and a tab for internet research. These sights offer free access to many of the same tools I use in Accordance.

I usually start a chapter by reading through the four translations on the main study tab. I copy and paste the KJV onto a word document and space between verses or groups of verses as I read through that translation. Then I begin at the first comment section and look up the words in Strong’s and begin trying to put into my own words what I think is being said while continually praying for insight and application.

Though that has evolved into the basic set up, there are many more authors and teachers that have contributed to my biblical training over the last 57 years. Currently I attend Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and have been blessed to enjoy the teaching of Pastor Bob Coy; the thing I love most about him is his bold, uncompromising stance for the truth of ALL of God’s word—even if it is not politically correct. My husband blessed me with an IPOD before I ever even knew what it was. It is now loaded with the whole of J. Vernon McGee’s “Thru the Bible” series, the whole of Jon Courson’s commentaries, downloads/podcasts of William Lane Craig, Bob DeWaay, Jimmy DeYoung, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, David Guzik, David Legge, John MacArthur, James Merritt, Chuck Missler, Adrian Rogers, Ray Stedman, Paul Van Noy, Ravi Zacharias, and the whole audio bible. These are all resources that can be accessed for free over the internet. We are not a wealthy family, and free resources have allowed me a much broader range of input than I could ever have hoped for otherwise. It is my privilege to make a small contribution to those free resources that might serve to encourage others in their study of the Word.

Since I am an avid reader, I couldn’t begin to list all the good books that have contributed to my knowledge base. Again, I’ve especially enjoyed the writings of many authors available for free on the internet that I am sure I would never even have heard of otherwise.

The hardest thing to come to grips with is the fact that even the most prominent and respected bible scholars do not agree with one another on the “truth” as declared in God’s word. “Truth” is a very narrow, exacting term; so you would think that the differences in interpretation would not be so great. So, I think I will close this blog entry with the same thought with which I closed the last. God is going to hold each one of us accountable as to how we respond to His truth. It is important that we use all diligence in pursuit of that truth. The more dependent we are upon others, the more likely we are to fall into deception. The most dependable teacher of all is the Holy Spirit.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to begin your own verse by verse journey through God’s Word. Many blessings await you, and it will benefit you for eternity.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Looking for the Return of Jesus

Continuing with thoughts on the resurrection and its significance to me….

Frankly, I think that no matter how much evidence is presented as to truth of the biblical account, multitudes will choose to ignore it or deny it. The same is true regarding the obvious evidence that our existence is the result of the miraculous work of a Creator. How one thinks about the most important issues in life basically boils down to a matter of choosing to believe God in faith or not.

As for me—I choose to place my faith in God through Jesus Christ His Son as presented in scripture. As I celebrate the resurrection of my Savior, I can’t help but look forward to my own resurrection to eternal life. Frankly, I’m not expecting to die; in light of a normal lifespan I am expecting to be changed as foretold by the Apostle Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and Thessalonians.

1Corinthians 15:51-57 “Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1Thessalonians 4:15-18 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

I believe that this change is going to happen at least 7 years prior to Jesus returning to earth as King of kings to establish His kingdom on earth. As many of the articles on this blog evidence, I believe that we are living at the time in history in which the “signs of the times” as prophesied in scripture are too obvious to ignore. I also believe that the Lord expects us to recognize these signs, just as He expected the Pharisees to recognize Him as the Messiah.

John 5:39-40 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

Matthew 16:1-3 “Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, “It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening. ’Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.”

At one point in the time preceding His arrest some of the disciples of Jesus came to ask Him concerning the signs that would herald His second coming. The fact that He chose to answer them in significant detail testifies to how important He felt it was for them (and us) to understand the answer to that question.

Matthew 24:3-4 “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you….” (And His answer continues on through chapter 25.)

Many will argue that there is no reason to think we are any different than any other generation in history that was looking for His coming. But that attitude was also prophesied by Peter to be a sign of the times.

2Peter 3:1-4 “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to 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 creation.’”

Peter even goes on to tell us why God has waited so long (from our perspective).

2Peter 3:8-9 “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

This whole blog was started as an attempt to share my understanding of future things as foretold in scripture. It was meant to encourage other “regular” people like me to explore the scripture on their own. I think so often we get dependent upon others to tell us what to believe partly because we feel so inadequate to dig into the scripture on our own with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are certainly blessed with many wonderful study aids available to us today (many for free on the internet) to reference as we seek the truth. These resources are very useful as a reference in trying to clarify our own understanding; but that is all they should be—reference points. I’ve found I sometimes have ideas that differ quite a bit from these scholars, and that is OK; other times I find their research useful and gain better understanding in considering their thoughts on a specific area of scripture as I come to my own conclusion through the leading of the Spirit. The key is that God is going to hold each one of us accountable as to how we respond to His truth. The more dependent we are upon others, the more likely we are to fall into deception.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Christ Arose!

As we come into this Easter season, our thoughts are directed toward the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As is often the case, the words of an old hymn came to mind as I started thinking about this blog. This time it was the words of the refrain to “Christ Arose” by Robert Lowry.

Up from the grave He arose,

With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,

He arose a Victor from the dark domain,

And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.

He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

What a glorious expression of the hope of every Christian. I love to study the word of God, and I especially enjoy the study of prophecy. Those studies would be totally meaningless, however, had Jesus never risen from the grave. I am reminded of the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.

1Corinthians 15:13-19 “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

The glorious truth is that Jesus did conquer the grave. There are many historical documents that testify to the resurrection, and the production of written material in the first and second century did not lend itself to mass publication of rumors and lies such as are found disseminated with such ease in the printed material of today. If you spend any time in research at all, you will find that the documentary evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is better than any evidence pertaining to Plato or Homer or other significant people in history. A little internet research provided the following information from Josh McDowell’s book, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Plato wrote his Philosophy about 400 BC. Only seven ancient copies exist today. The time span between Plato and the earliest existing copy is about 1,300 years.

Homer wrote the Iliad about 800 BC. There are 642 ancient copies still in existence. The time span between Homer and the earliest existing copy is about 400 years.

Julius Caesar wrote his account of the Gallic Wars between 100 BC and 44 BC. Ten ancient copies still exist. The earliest of those copies was written 1,000 years after Caesar wrote original manuscript.

Tacitus wrote his Annals around AD 100. Twenty ancient copies exist, the earliest of which dates about 1,000 years after Tacitus.

In this list thus far, Homer gets the high score. He has the highest number of ancient manuscripts in the shortest time span. The others offer very few copies, with time spans of 1,000 years or more. Yet, historians have regarded the documents as accurate.

How do the Bible's New Testament manuscripts compare? There exists today 5,366 ancient copies of portions of the New Testament. The time span between the original composition of the New Testament documents and existing copies is about 50 years for copy fragments, 100 years for whole books of the New Testament, 150 years for nearly complete New Testaments, and 225 years for complete New Testaments.
(end of quoted material)

Logic alone argues for the truth of the resurrection. The death of Jesus was a very public event. You would think that the disciples and followers of Jesus would have gone home in despair after witnessing His death. Instead, their faith was invigorated and their testimony more powerful after witnessing the risen Savior to the point that they were willing to die for their faith. That speaks more loudly to me than any of the other available evidence.

(Thoughts to be continued in the next posting….)

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Message of Malachi

I will close out the series of blogs with the message of the prophet Malachi since I am still not ready to tackle the book of Hosea. God used this prophet to confront the people of Israel with their sin and again warn of coming judgment. As is His custom, the LORD tempers the message of judgment with hope for the future.

Malachi 1:11 “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.”

This is the first verse that jumps out to me with prophetic implications. The Lord is declaring through yet another prophet that the day is coming when all the nations on planet earth will honor Him as Lord. I believe that this is in reference to the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus will reign as King from Jerusalem for 1000 years before the great final judgment, the white throne judgment that will usher in eternity.

The next prophecy that references the future appears in chapter 3.

Malachi 3:2-4 “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.”

In the first verse of this chapter the message predicts the coming of John the Baptist to announce the coming of the Messiah. Then the message jumps far into the future with regard to His second coming. The judgment of the nation that precedes His second coming will serve as a refining fire to purify His people and restore them to a position of fellowship, obedience and service. Specific address is made to the sons of Levi who had been chosen to provide spiritual leadership to the people and who had instead led them into wickedness. He compares these refining fires of judgment to the process used in producing fine gold and silver. When gold is purged/purified, the metal is scraped and the residue treated with acid to see if it disappears; if it does, it is not gold. The application is pretty clear. When silver is purified, the refiner waits to see his image reflected in the silver as the dross is burned off. Again, the application is pretty clear.

When this time comes, Israel will be blessed by all the nations on earth—a concept that seems impossible from current perspective.

Malachi 3:12 “And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Also at that time, the people of Israel will exercise spiritual discernment regarding what is right and wrong, between those who teach the truth from those who teach what is false.

Malachi 3:18 “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”

This gift of discernment is greatly needed in the “church” of today. Many who claim to be righteous through faith in Christ seem to want to mix with the world in the name of tolerance and political correctness. In doing so they are like the lukewarm water that the Lord declares such distaste for in His letter to the church at Laodicea (see Revelation 3). Scripture is clear in stating that we are to be separate and distinct from the world.

2Corinthians 6:14 & 17 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you….”

Chapter 4 begins with a more vivid picture of this refining fire of judgment.

Malachi 4:1 “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”

Words of encouragement again accompany these frightening words of warning.

Malachi 4:2-3 “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Jesus, the Sun of righteousness, will bring both the fire of judgment to the wicked and rays of healing and comfort to His people of faith. His people will be given a new start in life in a new world.

In verse 5 of this chapter the LORD declares that He will send Elijah the prophet before that great day of judgment.

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:”

Scripture records that Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire hundreds of years before this prophecy. So it seems that Elijah has yet one more time to serve as God’s prophet on planet earth. This seems to identify him as one of the two witnesses God will send to declare His message for the first 3.5 years of that final 7-year period known as Daniel’s 70th week that precedes the return of Jesus as King.

Revelation 11:3 “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”

Friday, April 3, 2009

Joel’s Message and Today’s News

Verses 4-6 were also very interesting in consideration of news from the recent past.

Joel 3:4-6 “Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head; Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things: The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border.”

Again, I will borrow from my journal--I could not find specific evidence of correlation with these verses to the times of Joel’s ministry, but there is intriguing connection to the news of recent years. Tyre, Zidon and the coasts of Palestine (the land of the Philistines) would be referencing modern Lebanon (Hizbollah) and the Gaza strip (Hamas/PLO). Israel has often responded to the terrorists’ attacks of these enemies with swift and devastating payback. I personally believe that the Lord is already using Israel (though still in rebellion) in accordance with His purposes for these times just as He often used the enemies of Israel to act against them in accordance with His purposes of past times. These enemies of Israel have abused their material blessings from God by using them to support their false religion, often at the expense of Israel. They have been very vocal in their goal to destroy the nation of Israel. Their public slogan declares their desire to push Israel into the sea; in other words, they want to “remove them [the Jews] far from their border.”

Verses 9-12 again seem to be in reference to the final battle of Armageddon.

Joel 3:9-12 “Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.”

Continuing from my journal-- It’s always confusing yet comforting to me how God is in sovereign control of even the actions of the wicked. In my study of Revelation the call to war is accomplished through demonic spirits sent out from the Antichrist, yet scripture is everywhere clear that this is in accordance with God’s plan.

Revelation 16:12-14 “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”

Note that these events are in connection with the 6th vial/bowl judgment coming from the throne of God. Other prophets declared this same truth.

Ezekiel 28:25-26 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God.”

Ezekiel 36:5-7 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey. Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame.”

Obadiah 1:15 “For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.”

Zechariah 2:8-9 “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them [the nations], and they shall be a spoil to their servants [the Jews]: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me.”
[brackets mine]

In verse 13 this battle is compared to cutting down a crop ripe for harvest. In context, the sickle is a reference to a sharp instrument used to reap the harvest of God’s judgment among the heathen nations. Verse 13 is very similar to words recorded by the Apostle John in Revelation.

Joel 3:13 “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.”

Revelation 14:18-19 “And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”

Verses 16-17 declare that God will emerge on the scene in power and complete authority in deliverance of Israel.

Joel 3:16-17 “The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.”

I really liked the way Chuck Smith expressed it in his commentary at “As a lion that has conquered its prey stands over the fallen prey and lets out this blood-curdling roar, it's a roar of absolute mastery and victory. So when Jesus comes again, there's going to be an earth-rending roar as the lion of the tribe of Judah proclaims His absolute mastery and victory to reign over the earth.”

Verse 18 again gives emphasis to the bountiful blessings that Israel will experience in the Messiah’s Kingdom; while verse 20 emphasizes that this time of blessing will be for time without end.

Joel 3:18 “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.”

Joel 3:20 “But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.”