Category Archives: Evangelism

Clueless!

And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:26-27)

Things go on as always. Nothing seems to change. “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” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Kim Jong-un has placed a big chip on his shoulder and dares America to knock it off. Xi Jinping, who tacitly agreed with President Trump to put pressure on North Korea to back off its nuclear expansion, now warns the US not to take military action against North Korea. In the meantime, Iran continues its nuclear program undaunted by restrictions imposed by the Obama nuclear deal. Russia, Syria, and Iran continue to amass troops on Israel’s northern border, while the cry for Israel’s destruction by Islamic extremists grows in intensity and volume. All of Europe is overrun with Muslims where almost daily there are reports of riots in the streets. Acts of terrorism and the raping of European women by Muslims, who see it as their sacred duty to conduct themselves as barbarians, is as commonplace as the rising of the sun.

Meanwhile, back at home, Trump haters and “Never-Trumpers,” aided by the Trump-hating liberal media, can find nothing but fault with President Trump. Regardless of the chaos going on all around the world, their concerted effort to delegitimize his administration consumes the majority of airtime with complete disregard for national security. Thanks to the previous President, the division in our nation grows deeper and wider than ever, and there seems to be no salve that can heal our nation’s wounds. It seems that any perceived offense serves as a motive to riot in the streets. Left or right does not matter; both sides thirst for blood. Morality? What morality? It no longer exists in America. Some public schools teach our little ones that their gender is a matter of their choosing regardless of their biological equipment. Our nation slaughters the unborn by the thousands daily.

With all the goings on in our country and in the world, it seems (generally speaking) that our people stumble around in a fog oblivious to the social collapse around them. They bury their faces in electronic devices. They search for diversion on television screens – sports, “reality” shows, TV gossip shows, etc. – anything to escape the “real world.” Then, if that does not work, they numb themselves with drugs or alcohol. It is like a bad dream where you are falling through the air without a parachute, and the ground is racing up to meet you. There is nothing around to grab to stop you. You are going to die, so you may as well think about something else because considering the inevitable will not help this time. Clueless!

The feeling is understandable for those who have no hope in Christ, but increasingly, I see a similar kind of attitude among Christians, albeit perhaps not to the same degree. Sometimes I listen in on conversations of Christian brothers, and what I hear is not much different than the conversations of non-Christians. They deliberate about their favorite sports team evaluating the condition and performance of the star players. I hear them discuss with great animation about the latest movie thriller or their favorite TV series. They will talk about who is “Dancing With the Stars” or the next “American Idol” or who is in the lead of “America’s Got Talent.” Sometimes they confide about what is going on in their families. Sometimes the conversation shifts to current events, which usually ends with the sense that there is nothing we can do about it. Very rarely is the conversation about what is going on at their church or about the pastor’s sermon last Sunday. Never do I hear about what they learned from their personal Bible study or what the Lord is doing in their lives. Their exchange sounds no different from that of the lost world around them – except without the “colorful” language. Clueless!

Jesus will return very soon.[1] He stands at the gates of heaven awaiting His Father’s command to go get His Bride – the Church. Like never before, a convergence of end-time signs continue to increase. Prophecy teachers more knowledgeable than me proclaim the same message I have written about over the last couple of years.[2] The prophecy teachers of which I speak are not false prophets the likes of Harold Camping who erroneously predict specific dates for Christ’s return. While they speak of a strong “likelihood” of Christ’s return this very year, they are quick to follow up with the disclaimer that we cannot know with certainty. However, the “signs” seem to indicate that our Lord’s return is more imminent today than ever. This is no time for Christians to be “clueless.”  Christians should rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus is coming soon.  Rather than confabulating over meaningless scuttlebutt, we should warn others of what is coming and share with them the way of salvation. Our Lord does not want us to be clueless. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42).

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1).

“But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Luke 21:9-10).

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:2-5).

“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” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

“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” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Do not be clueless! The things of this world do not matter. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him … And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15, 17). “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10, emphasis mine). All things that consume your mind are temporal. In one blinding flash, they will all vanish. When that happens, what will you have left that is of any value?

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:11-13, emphasis mine).

Reader, if you are not looking forward to Christ’s return, do not continue being clueless. Find the way to heaven here: https://erniecarrasco.com/heaven/. Prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

Notes:


[1]  “Coming Soon!” https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/09/coming-soon/

[2] For a list of articles I have written on these final days, look over to the right-hand column of this blog and find the “Categories” list and select the categories “End Times,” and “Second Coming of Christ.”

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One-Verse Theology

The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. (Psalm 5:5)

Sometimes people will take one verse out of the Bible and try to build an entire belief system from one verse without regard to what the rest of Scripture has to say about it. For example, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Non-Christians and even many Christians use this verse to humiliate Christians into not making any judgments whatsoever. However, when read in context (Matthew 7:1-6) it becomes clear that what appears in isolation is not what is meant as a whole. Other examples could be cited, but this should do for the purpose of this writing.

Recently someone complained that the overused cliché – “hate the sin, but love the sinner” – is not biblical, and they used Psalm 5:5 (above) as their proof text. While the phrase itself is not found in the Bible, the concept is nevertheless both biblical and practical. Note that the cliché is not attributed to God, but rather it is intended for Christians.

The plaintiff claimed that the adage, “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” is not biblical because Psalm 5:5 says that God hates both the sin and the sinner. However, the challenger took one verse, Psalm 5:5, in isolation, and overlooked what the rest of the Bible teaches about God’s love – indeed, His love toward the sinner. Who of us can honestly say that we harbor no sin? If we are all sinners, even if saved by Grace, then by this assessment, God hates us. If we say we are not sinners, we have a surprise in store. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us … If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, 10, emphasis mine). John was writing to Christians! Personally, I am grateful that God loves this sinner even though He still hates my sin. (By the way, the closer I get to Him, the more I hate my own sin.)

 So, let us examine the challenger’s one-verse defense in its entire context. Psalm 5 is an imprecatory psalm, i.e. a psalm that calls upon God to judge His or our enemies. It is written from a human perspective. Because of David’s understanding of God’s holy nature and His hatred for sin, he concludes that God hates the sinner equally. “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee” (Psalm 5:4). God cannot and will not abide sin. David continues: “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:5, emphasis mine). As Hebrew poetry, the psalms are written in a parallel style, so that the thought in the first part of the verse repeats in a different way in the second. Strictly translated, the first part reads, “Not do stand the foolish before Thy sight,” or, better, “The foolish do not stand before Thy sight.” Comparatively speaking then, someone who “works iniquity” cannot stand in the presence of God, so that it appears that God hates the sinner. The Hebrew word translated “hate” is śânê’, and it means “to be in opposition to” or “to be an enemy or foe;” however, to be in opposition to someone does not necessarily require feelings of hatred.  Is it the sinner that God hates, or is it the sinner’s works of iniquity that God opposes? The Bible teaches the latter. The KJV includes the future “shall” (not found in the original Hebrew) indicating that the sinner will never be able to stand before the Lord. The unrepentant sinner does not now, nor shall ever stand in the presence of God. Their sin has separated them from God eternally. Does that mean that God hates them?

 “Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing [falsehood]: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:6, emphasis mine). The judgement is reserved for a future time. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15). Does that mean that God did not love these sinners?

 The Bible teaches that God loves mankind. It teaches that from the very beginning. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17, emphasis mine). “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6, emphasis mine). “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; [He] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:14-15)

 Did God demonstrate hate for the sinner here, or did He show His love? By all rights, He should have killed them for their disobedience; after all, that is what He said He would do. Instead, God spared them, and He promised a Savior. Is that hate or love? One might rightly say, “Well, God was showing mercy.” Yes, that is true, but does mercy spring from hate or from love?

 David, a sinner himself, pleads with God to “Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee” (Psalm 5:10). God will do that in due time, but because of His mercy and His love (yes, love for sinners), He gives them time to repent. “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass [surround] him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11-12, emphasis mine).

 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, emphasis mine), “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, emphasis mine). “For God so loved the world [i.e. sinners], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). If God hates sinners, then why did He go through all trouble of making a way of salvation? “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11, emphasis mine).

 “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” It might be trite and overused, but it is biblical! It is also practical as it instructs us to love those who have offended us.

Reader, if you have not trusted in Jesus as your Savior, God does not hate you; He loves you, but He does hate your sin. You will never be able to stand before Him until that matter is settled. God loves you, and He sent Jesus to stand in your place and pay the price for your sins on the cross. Now He invites you to accept His free gift of salvation and eternal life. Acknowledge and confess your sinful condition to Him. Believe/trust that Jesus died for your sins. Ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and invite Him to be the Master of your life. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). His gift of salvation is yours for the asking. Do it today!

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Not Expecting to Die

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)

Everyone dies eventually, but that is not my expectation. No, I have not discovered the fountain of youth, nor do I possess some secret, life-extending formula. Neither am I in denial about the certainty of death as it applies to me, nor do I fear the inevitability of death – although the process of dying is not too appealing. I fully accept the possibility that God could take my life at any moment. My life (and yours) belongs to Him, and He can recall it at His will. As the psalmist prayed, “LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Psalm 39:4).

That said, I expect not to die. Although our leading verse emphasizes that “it is appointed unto men once to die,” there is biblical precedence for it not being true for all men.

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him (Genesis 5:24).

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both [Elijah and Elisha] asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11).

Two men recorded in the Bible escaped natural death, Enoch and Elijah. Some believe that the two unnamed witnesses described in Revelation 11:3 are Enoch and Elijah brought back to fulfill their unfinished prophetic mission. “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them” (Revelation 11:7, emphasis mine). Those who hold this view use this passage as confirmation of the truth of Hebrews 9:27 above, i.e., Enoch and Elijah did not die while they were on earth, so they must complete their earthly task and die as appointed to all men.

However, Hebrews 9:27 does not say παντες [all] οι ανθρωποι [men] – transliterated, pantes hoi anthropoi. While some may say that I am arguing from silence, I believe I have a valid point. The truth of this verse begins in Genesis when God commanded Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17, emphasis mine). Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the curse of death fell upon mankind.  “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19, emphasis mine). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12, emphasis mine). Adam’s sin brought the curse of death “upon” all men. The Greek word translated “upon” is the preposition eis, which can also be translated “toward” or “among,” meaning that all men are under the curse of death, but that does not necessarily mean that all men will die physically, although that is generally true for all men. All of us are susceptible to physical death – for the most part. However, the spirit lives on forever.

Death is more than physical death. Indeed, the worst death of all is that of the spirit separated from its Creator. Every person is born under this curse. Without Christ, everyone is dead in sin – eternally, but not irrevocably, separated from God. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened [made alive] us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:5, emphasis mine). Those who continue in that condition will suffer the second death. “And death and hell [the grave] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14, emphasis mine). The second death is eternal separation from God for eternity in hell. What a chilling thought!

Everyone is born under the curse of death and is spiritually separated (dead) from God; but God has provided the way to be made spiritually alive by placing one’s faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ. However, along with that remains the fact that physical death is part of the curse. It is appointed to humans to die once, i.e., physical death, but those without Christ can also expect the second death – eternal spiritual separation from God.

However, Hebrews 9:27 implies that not all die physically. Indeed, there is coming a time when many millions of Christians from all over the earth will escape the bonds of this world without experiencing physical death.[1] “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], 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” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, emphasis mine). “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “caught up” is harpazō, and it means “to seize,” “to catch away,” or “to pluck or take by force.” In Latin, it is the word rapturo, from which we get our English word “rapture.” That time is very near.[2]

While the possibility remains that God may take me at any moment – all of us live with that possibility – I rather anticipate that I will not experience physical death. I expect to be caught up in the Rapture. That too can happen at any moment, but I fully expect that it will happen before I die, and I fully expect it to happen very soon[3] – perhaps this very year.

When the Rapture takes place, millions from all around the globe will vanish in an instant. I will be one of them. The Rapture will cause havoc around the world, but especially in the United States. Many in our government, including President Trump (from what I hear), are “born-again” believers in Christ – genuine Christians. At the Rapture, they will all vanish. Think of the chaos that will ensue when that happens! The US Government and economy is on the verge of collapse right now. Think of what will happen when many of our leaders disappear!

Reader, how about you? Will you go to meet Jesus in the air with me, or be left behind to face the seven terrible years that will follow. If you do not know, I would invite you to place your trust in Jesus for your salvation. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

If you want to know more about the “Rapture” and the “Second Coming” of Christ, just type the phrase into the search box on this page or under the “Categories” column, select “Second Coming of Christ.”

Notes:


[1]  “Coming Soon!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/09/coming-soon/

[2]  “Pentecost” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/05/28/pentecost/

[3]  “Rosh HaShannah” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/10/03/rosh-hashanah/

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Occupy

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, (2 Peter 3:11)

You might conclude from some of my writings that I expect Jesus to return for His Church at any moment, and you would be correct. I look forward to changing “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). Then, along with millions of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I “shall be caught [Greek: harpazō — i.e. “raptured”] up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). I cannot help it; I just get excited about that!

 In my last article[1], I suggested that the “signs” make September 23, 2017, an excellent candidate for the Rapture event. Truthfully, the Rapture could take place at any time. Christ’s return is imminent, and it has been so since the beginning of Church history. The early church fathers (I mean the real ones, not the ones that came 300 years after the Resurrection) all expected Christ to return at any time. Paul reminded the Church of Thessaloniki, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2, emphasis mine).

What victim of a home invasion is prepared when the thief brakes into his home in the middle of the night? Jesus said, “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matthew 24:43, emphasis mine). We cannot predict the inevitable, but we can certainly prepare for it.

Paul charged young Timothy, “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:14, emphasis mine). Apparently, Paul expected Christ to return in Timothy’s lifetime and his own. To Titus he wrote, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men [i.e. Jesus], Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13, emphasis mine). “This present world” was the world in which Paul and Titus lived, and they were to look for His appearing at that time. Again Paul, whom I believe wrote the letter to the Hebrews, reminded them, “For yet a little while, and he that shall come [i.e., Jesus] will come, and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37, emphasis mine). Well, it has been almost 2000 years, and we are still waiting!

James wrote, “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:8-9, emphasis mine). Peter said, “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7, emphasis mine). Clearly, the Apostles expected Jesus’ return at any moment, yet 2000 years later, we continue to wait. Yet Peter cautioned, “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” (2 Peter 3:3-4, emphasis mine). Yet, we wait.

As we wait, what must we do? If I truly believe that Jesus will return on September 23, 2017, should I divest myself of all my worldly possessions, move to Israel and go wait it out on one of the mountains around Jerusalem? No!

Jesus related a parable depicting the kingdom of God (Luke 19:12-27).  In the parable, a “nobleman” was leaving for “a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” (v. 12). To His ten servants, he left equal amounts of money (a mina) with instructions to “Occupy till I come” (v. 13). Jesus is the “nobleman” who has gone to heaven to receive His kingdom, and soon He will return. We are the servants He has left behind with the instructions to “Occupy till I come.” He charged us all with the same task, “Ye shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20). The verb “Go” in the Greek is a present, passive participle, which could be better translated, “As you are going.” “Teach all nations” could be better translated “make disciples” of all nations. That means that day by day as we go about our daily routines, we are His witnesses and our task is to share Christ with others wherever we are, whatever we are doing. That is our job. That is the task He left for us.

In the parable, Jesus says that the “citizens” the nobleman was to rule (v. 14) hated him. The “citizens” are the people of the world that reject Christ. With just a casual look around, we can see how the world hates Christ and everything for which He stands. Jesus left His servants on earth to gain a profit for His investment, and He will demand an accounting when He returns.

In the parable, one of the servants did nothing with the mina that was given him, and he returned the full amount to the nobleman (vv. 20-25). It is comforting to note that even though the servant was unprofitable, he did not lose his position as a servant; he did, however, lose his position of responsibility in the new kingdom.

The parable applies to Jesus’ servants, all Christians, as we await His imminent return for us at the Rapture. We do not know when that will take place exactly, but we know the time is very close. September 23, 2017, makes sense for all the reasons I pointed out in my last article[2] (and more), but it could happen today, tomorrow, or perhaps next year. It does not matter. We have our orders. “Occupy till I come.”

Notes:


[1]  “Coming Soon!” https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/09/coming-soon/

[2]  Ibid.

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Coming Soon!

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.  (1 Peter 4:7)

I have been looking for the return of Christ from the time I read Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth back in 1971. Since that time, and through further studies into the “Feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23),[1] I have concluded that Jesus will probably return at the Feast of Trumpets, in early fall, around late September or early October. For the last 20 years or so, I have looked forward with anticipation to the coming of Rosh Hashanah in hopes that Jesus will appear to take us home. Obviously, I am disappointed every year, but my hope remains strong. I know Jesus will return as He said, “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” (John 14:3).

It surprises me (although it shouldn’t) that many, including “Christians,” do not share the same hope, or at least do not seem as enthusiastic about it as I am. Many Christians that I know, although they say they wish Jesus would return soon, conduct their lives as if that hope is just a fanciful dream that lies ahead in some nebulous future. Consequently, their conversations center around the things that currently most occupy their minds – the status of their favorite sports team, the latest movie, what goes on in government or in the news, the antics of their children, grandchildren or their dogs, etc. Rarely do I find a brother who wants to have a conversation about what is going on in the world and how that fits into End-Times prophecy. The Apostle Peter said that such times would come: “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.” (2 Peter 3:3-4, emphasis mine).

To be fair, my Christian brothers (those that I know) are not “scoffers,” per se. Scoffers are typically not Christians, but among the “Evangelical” ranks there is a growing number of scoffers that have stopped “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13, emphasis mine).

Four times in the Apocalypses our Lord affirms, “I come quickly” (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). He repeats phrase three times at the closing of the prophecy with the added affirmation, “Surely” on His final reprise. Jesus is coming soon – very soon!

This year, 2017, looks like a very good candidate for this event. I realize that a variety of views exist concerning the Second Coming of Christ. I have written on this topic on numerous occasions,[2] so I will not spend time reviewing all the different views here. I will present this argument from a pre-millennial, pre-Tribulation Rapture perspective. Basically, that means that I believe in the literal reign of Christ on earth for 1000 years after His return (Revelation 20). I understand Christ’s return to be in two phases: (1) He comes for His Bride (the Church) before the beginning of the Tribulation, and (2) He returns with His Bride at the end of the 7-year Tribulation to reign on earth for 1000 years.

In discussing End-Times prophecy, the nation of Israel is the key. All end-times prophecy focuses on Israel. When the scoffers say, “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” (2 Peter 3:4), their assessment is valid except for the “Israel factor.” Before 1948, End-Times prophecy made no sense, because things indeed continued, “as they were from the beginning.” When one studies End-Times prophecy in the Old Testament, Israel plays a prominent role; therefore, without Israel, those prophecies cannot be fulfilled. That all changed on May 14, 1948, when Israel once again became a sovereign nation. Those of us with “eyes to see” current cosmic and world conditions observe End-Times prophecy taking place before our very eyes. Obviously, those with no “eyes to see” miss it, and they carry on “as in the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37-39).

So, what makes me think 2017 is the year? Well, this is a complicated study, but I will try to keep it simple. First, and most importantly, the Jews are back in their Promised Land, and Israel. This fulfills Ezekiel’s prophecy of the “dry bones” (Ezekiel 37).

Second, God established a system of Jubilee years where every 50 years, all property reverted to the original owner, and all debts were canceled (Leviticus 25). This law was given around 1433 B.C. and 2017 will complete the 70th Jubilee since the law was given. Seven and 70 are significant numbers in the Bible that denote completion. God completed His creation in six days and rested on the seventh (Genesis 2:1-3). Israel failed in keeping the Sabbath Years (allowing the land to lay fallow and rest from production) for 490 years; therefore God sent them captive to Babylon for 70 years (2 Chronicles 36:21; Jeremiah 29:10; Daniel 9:2) – one year for every Sabbath Year they failed to keep (7 x 70 = 490).

Third, in 1917, the Belfour Declaration (the 68th Jubilee) returned the Promised Land to the Jews. On May 14, 1948, the United States and the United Nations recognized Israel as a sovereign nation. Not long after that, Israel ceded control of Jerusalem and the West Bank to Jordan “for peace.”  Then in 1967 (the 69th Jubilee – 1917+50 = 1967), the Arab nations (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq) surrounded and attacked Israel. In what can only be called “Divine intervention,” Israel repelled all her enemies, conquered the Sinai Peninsula, and regained Jerusalem and the West Bank. They gave back the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt “for peace.” Even though Israel regained control of Jerusalem (their “eternal” capital), they gave control of the Temple Mount to the Palestinians “for peace.” (Lesson: Land for peace is a failed policy.) Considering God’s faithfulness, it is possible that this year, 2017 (the 70th Jubilee), control of the Temple Mount could return to Israel where they will rebuild their Temple. The plans are in the works. The Temple implements and furnishings are ready. The priests have been identified and the high priest has been selected. They have the right kind of sheep for the sacrifices, and they even have red heifers for the Temple dedication. Rumor has it that President Donald Trump has someone in mind to negotiate “permanent peace” with Israel and her Arab neighbors. Could this be the peace that will allow Israel to build her Temple? Could this peacemaker be the “prince” (aka, the Antichrist) spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Daniel 9:26-27)?  The year 2017 is prime for such an event.

Fourth, Revelation 12:1-6 speaks of a “sign” – “a great wonder” – in heaven. Genesis 1:14 says that God created the “lights in the firmament” to “be for signs, and for seasons.” The Hebrew word translated as “signs” is ‘ôth, and it means “a signal, flag, beacon, or omen.” In the “Unveiling,” John describes “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (v. 1). The woman is pregnant and gives birth to “a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (v. 5). When the child is born, he is “caught up” to heaven to save him from the “dragon” that is waiting to “devour” him (v. 4).

In the past, scholars understood this passage as either the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus or Jesus coming forth from Israel. The latter makes more sense from an End-Times prophecy perspective, and I have always understood it this way. However, recently some amateur astronomers made an amazing discovery in the heavens. On September 23/24, 2017, the constellation Virgo will appear[3] “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” The constellation Leo, which precedes Virgo in the Zodiac, will be at Virgo’s head with a conjunction of three planets (Mercury, Venus, and Mars) next to it. Leo has nine stars in its constellation and the three planets will make a crown of “twelve stars.” According to these astronomers, this unique phenomenon, which can only be observed from the area around Israel, only occurs once in 7000 years.[4] Furthermore (again this is as viewed from Israel), Jupiter, the King Planet, entered the Virgo’s “womb” around mid-December 2016 and has remained there in retrograde motion all this time. It will exit from between Virgo’s feet (as in childbirth) on September 23, 2017, 40 weeks after it entered, the normal time for human gestation. Some suggest that the “birth” of the King planet represents the Rapture of the Church, not the birth of Christ. Since the Church is the “body” (and Bride) of Christ, and since the male child is “caught up” (v. 5) to heaven (Greek: harpazō, i.e. “raptured”), they conclude that the Rapture of the Church is represented here. Prophecy often carries more than one application; therefore, this idea has merit.  I find that fascinating!

Let me respond to the obvious objections. First of all, God forbids the practice of astrology – the practice of foretelling the future and guiding our lives by the Zodiac. Furthermore, the ancients worshiped the stars; they saw their gods in the stars, i.e., in the Zodiac. However, God placing an alert sign in the heaven is consistent with what God has done in the past. Remember, God placed a special star in the heavens that alerted the Magi to the birth of the Savior (Matthew 2:1-2). Some have studied the Zodiac and determined that God placed the entire Gospel message in the stars.[5], [6] This is not such a farfetched idea when we consider that everything God does, Satan attempts to pervert. With that in mind, it is certainly plausible that God arranged this “Revelation 12 Sign” to mark the time for the beginning of the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ.

Another objection comes from Jesus’ own words.  “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). However, what many do not know is that the Feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah, is the feast that “no man knows the day or the hour.”  Two days are reserved for Rosh Hashanah because the sighting of the New Moon marks the beginning of the feast. They know “about” when the New Moon will appear, but they do not know the exact day or hour. When the New Moon is sighted and verified, the feast can begin. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42).  Without being dogmatic or setting a date, September 23, 2017, seems like a good candidate for the Rapture event. If it does not take place, I will be disappointed, but not disheartened.

Other recent “signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars” (Luke 21:25) include the Tetrad of Blood Moons that fell on feast days in the spring and fall of 2015 and 2016. Those have been seen as ominous harbingers of things to come. Additionally, the United States will experience the first total solar eclipse in 26 years on August 21, 2017. While lunar eclipses are harbingers for Israel, solar eclipses are considered harbingers for the Gentile nations. That this eclipse transits the continental United States from coast to coast (along with other factors) has many seeing dark days ahead for America.

Finally, the world is in a mess. The tinderbox of the Middle East could erupt at any moment, and the enemies that surround Israel are poised for any excuse to wipe her off the map. The nations of the world clamor for a one-world order. Even in the United States, many would willingly relinquish our sovereignty to the UN. Economies worldwide are failing. Some prophets of doom predict that the US economy will collapse this summer. If that happens, the effect will impact the entire world. Violence in Europe, the Middle East, Venezuela, and our own nation continues to escalate. For those who place their hope in the things of this world, the prospect is terrifying, but for me and others who place their hope in Christ, the future could not look any brighter.

Reader, if you fear the future, I invite you to turn to Jesus and place your trust and hope in Him. He is coming soon!

For more information on End-Times Prophecy, here are a few sites that I recommend:

Olive Tree Ministries: http://www.olivetreeviews.org/

Discovery Missions: https://garyfrazier.com/

Prophecy Watchers: https://prophecywatchers.com/

Terry James Prophecy Line: https://terryjamesprophecyline.com/

Rapture Ready: http://www.raptureready.com/

Prophecy in the News: https://prophecyinthenews.com/

Notes:


[1]  I discuss the seven Feasts of the Lord in my article “Rosh HaShanah” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/10/03/rosh-hashanah/

[2]  My writings on the Second Coming: https://erniecarrasco.com/category/second-coming-of-christ/

[3]  “Appear” is a relative term because this particular conjunction of stars and planets will be obscured because Virgo will be “clothed” with the sun.

[4]  For a young-earth/universe creationist and biblical dispensationalist, this means that this event has never happened before making its appearance so much more significant.

[5]  “Is There a Gospel in the Stars?” http://www.setterfield.org/stargospel.html

[6]  Joseph A. Seiss, The Gospel in the Stars, available at most book outlets.

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Father

Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee? (Deuteronomy 32:6)

On Father’s Day, we set aside a special time to honor the one who gave us life. For better or worse, without our fathers, we could not celebrate anything, especially our birthdays. Mothers get all the glory because they carried us in their bodies for nine months, but it did not stop there. Our arrival and entry into the world caused Mama unspeakable anguish and pain. After that came all the late night feedings, nursing us through illness, and nurturing us through all the bumps and bruises of life. Of course, Dad got in on some of that, but not like Mama, but let’s face it, without Dad, Mama would have missed out on all those cherished experiences.

The verse above reminds us not to minimize the importance of a father. It is obvious that the verse is speaking about the LORD as Father, but the connection is clear that God identifies Himself with human fathers. The verb “requite” is not heard in normal, everyday speech today, but it means to make a “repayment.” The Hebrew word translated “requite” is gâmal, and it means “to treat a person (well or ill).” So, the question can be stated: “Is this how you treat or repay the LORD?” In context, God gave life to the nation of Israel. Remember? He called Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans and promised him the land of Canaan. God gave life to Isaac, and He chose Jacob (Israel). God brought the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and established them in the land. Likewise, our earthly fathers gave us the spark of life and brought us into this world. Even if they were not the fathers that stayed around and provided for us in our childhood, they gave us the life we now enjoy. We should “requite” them with our honor and respect.

God is the model Father from which we can all learn. Granted, in our fallen condition, we cannot meet His standard, but we have a pattern to follow. We can thank our earthly fathers for “the seed” from which we sprang, but ultimately, God is Father to us all. “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?” (Malachi 2:10, emphasis mine) “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8, emphasis mine).

King David expressed his wonder for the Father this way: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:14-16, emphasis mine). Our Father concerns Himself with every detail of our being. Jesus said, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30, emphasis mine). Hairs! Someone “follically challenged” like myself might see this as insignificant, but in truth, God even counts those hairs I have lost. As earthly fathers, we may not know the hair count on our children’s heads, but we should be encouraged to pay close attention to every detail of their lives.

Knowing every detail of our children’s lives makes us aware of their needs. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13). The Hebrew verb translated “pity” here is râcham, and it means “to love” or “have compassion on.” Jesus said, “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8, emphasis mine). Further on He says, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:31-32).  “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” (James 1:17, emphasis mine). Fathers provide for the needs of their children.

The Father disciplines His children. “Discipline” in essence means “to teach.” “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).  Sometimes, this might include corporal punishment. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes [in good time]” (Proverbs 13:24). “Beatings” are never appropriate, but the “board of education” properly and lovingly applied with wisdom to the “seat of understanding” is sometimes necessary. God the Father and God the Son provided the example. “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel” (John 5:19-20, emphasis mine).

Jesus, the Son, was subjected to and endured capital punishment for our sins. “For he [the Father] hath made him [the Son] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). At first sight, it seems abhorrent for a father to put his own son to death for the offenses of another, but this is a unique case. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, emphasis mine).  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3, emphasis mine). The Father, punished His own Flesh, i.e. Jesus, for His children’s sins. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1).

Even so, we do not escape the Father’s discipline when we need it. “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction” (Proverbs 3:11). “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:6-7, emphasis mine) “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). Our Father’s discipline serves to sanctify us, that is, to make us holy, i.e., set us apart from the world. If we live in sin like the world, and God does not punish us for it, that only means that we do not belong to Him, because “whom the Lord loves, He chastens.”

The Father gives good gifts to His children. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). Fathers want to leave an inheritance for their children. Some leave great wealth; others can only leave a good name. However, the Lord gives His children the ultimate inheritance. Jesus said, “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” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine). “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7, emphasis mine). “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:17).

Reader, if you are a child of God, regardless of your earthly father, whether good or bad, your heavenly Father cares for you and deserves your gratitude, devotion and obedience. If you are not a child of God, put yourself up for adoption; the Father will not turn you away. “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” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). If you are a father, let God the Father be your example.

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As You Go

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Our pastor had us read The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken (pseudonym) as a church, and this Sunday (the day of this posting), we will come together as a church and view the movie by the same title.

In the book, Nik Ripken tells of how he and his family served as missionaries in war-torn Somalia during the time of that country’s civil war from which it has yet to recover. Nik and his wife spent about twenty years serving in that place, and due to the oppressive Muslim influence, and the death of their 16-year-old son, they returned to the United States defeated with nothing to show for the effort they poured into that place. Sharing Christ openly invited the death penalty, and the Muslims would immediately kill anyone who converted to Christianity. The small minority of Christians that managed to survive fled the country because remaining there meant sure death.

One wonders why anyone would risk his life and the wellbeing of his family to serve in a God-forsaken place like Somalia. In that place, those that assume power are unconcerned about the welfare of their own people. They have no regard for the sanctity of life. They have no compassion for their own people. When help comes from outside their borders, they view the relief workers with suspicion, often taking the help meant for suffering people for themselves. Why would anyone put himself or herself in that position knowing that they cannot share their faith with the people and knowing that the “help” they provide might only extend someone’s life for maybe just another week or so? It seems a hopeless and pointless enterprise.

Nik took Matthew 28:19 as a personal calling from God to “Go!” “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19, emphasis mine). This verse known as the “Great Commission,” was given by the Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples—not just the twelve apostles, but to ALL of His disciples. It applies equally to every individual that names the Name of Christ. Albert Barns in his commentary on this verse says:

“Because” all power is mine [referring to v. 18], go! I [Jesus] can defend you. The world is placed under my control. It is redeemed. It is given me in promise by my Father, as the purchase of my death. Though you are weak, yet I am strong! Though you will encounter many troubles and dangers, yet I can defend you! Though you die, yet I live, and the work shall be accomplished!”

Nik and his wife took this commission to heart, and gave up all their worldly goods to go minister to people who showed little appreciation for their sacrifice and would just as soon kill them except for the fact that they were meeting real needs. I deeply admire their courage and their willingness to obey what I believe, at least for them, was a real call of God. However, in reading their story, one might mistakenly conclude that Jesus’ Great Commission means that we are all to pull up stakes and “go” to all nations. In other words, we are all obligated to be foreign missionaries. That is not at all what Jesus said.

The imperative in Jesus’ command is to “make disciples” not to “go.” Poreuthétes (go) is an aorist, passive, participle, masculine, plural, nominative verb. (I apologize for the Greek parsing, but this is important.) The fact that it is an aorist verb is not too special; it only means that it is a definite action. However, the fact that the verb is in the passive voice indicates that it is a consequence of something else. That it is participle indicates a continuing action (“going”). The verb is a plural nominative meaning that Jesus addressed all disciples, not just certain individuals. If Jesus spoke Texan, He might have said, “all y’all.” Therefore, the intended meaning here is, “As you (plural) are going, make disciples…” The command, i.e. the imperative, is to “make disciples,” and it applies to all followers of Jesus, not just missionaries.

The Ripkens felt God’s call to “go” to Somalia based on this verse, but the verse is not a call to all Christians to “go” somewhere to make disciples. All Christians are called to make disciples “as you are going”—at school, at work, at the supermarket, in your neighborhood. In your everyday walk of life, you are to “make disciples.”

If you claim Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have no choice in the matter, unless you choose to rebel against Christ. Before He ascending unto heaven, Jesus said, “…ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8, emphasis mine). That is a declarative statement; it is not a matter of choice. If we say we are followers of Jesus, we are witnesses, for better or worse. Our lives testify to Christ. Do our actions match our words? Perhaps we withhold our words because we know our actions betray them.

No doubt, one of the tactics Satan uses to silence us is to make us feel unworthy. Let’s face it, no one of us has lived or lives a perfectly sinless life, although, that is certainly a worthy goal for which to strive (and it can be achieved by relying daily on the Holy Spirit). The point is that we are witnesses for Christ. Satan is a conquered adversary, and besides, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, emphasis mine). Satan has no power over us, unless we let him.

In the last half of The Insanity of God, Nik Ripken interviews hundreds of persecuted Christians in Russia, Ukraine, China and the Middle East. These Christians suffer horrific persecution—beatings, imprisonment, economic deprivation, etc. Through it all, they only ask of us that we pray for them, not that they should be kept from persecution, but that they remain faithful witnesses in persecution. What persecution do we, here in America, suffer because of our faith? Is being laughed at too horrible? Would losing a relationship be too much to take? What about being fired for sharing your faith with a coworker? Is that too great a risk? Nik noted that perhaps the reason we do not see persecution here in America is that Satan does not need to silence us. We do a good job of that on our own.

“As you are going, make disciples.” We are witnesses for Christ. We are either good witnesses, or we are poor witnesses; but we are witnesses nonetheless. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis mine).

 

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