Category Archives: Theology

What’s The Rush!

Typical “Las Posadas” Celebration

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. (Luke 2:6)

Many Christmas traditions come from a fundamental misunderstanding or outright ignorance of Scripture. Such is the case of Joseph and Mary finding nowhere to stay in Bethlehem.

One of my favorite recent movies this time of year is The Nativity Story because it portrays a very realistic account of the birth of Christ, but even it resorts to unfounded tradition in its representation of the account. One of the most flagrant is the final tableau depicting the nativity scene complete with shepherds and wise men together on the night of the birth. It makes a pretty scene, but it is scripturally inaccurate.

Another error I discovered just recently is the scene when the Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem. They arrive just when it starts to get dark. Suddenly, Mary starts having contractions and she pleads with Joseph to quickly find a place because the baby is coming. Frantically, Joseph runs from house to house banging on doors and pleading for someone to give them refuge in their desperate hour of need. No one has room to offer. Finally, one man offers a grotto where he shelters his animals. As the saying goes, “any port in a storm.” They take the offer and Mary gives birth to baby Jesus.

This tradition has been played out through the centuries. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, they observe Las Posadas (“the inns”) where a young girl and boy are selected to play the part of Mary and Joseph. They go from house to house in town followed by all the town’s people seeking refuge. Finally, they get to the last house where they are given posada, and the whole town enjoys a time of celebration.

Such traditions are neither good nor bad in themselves except that they have no basis in Scripture. Dr. Luke gives no indication that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem on the very night that Jesus was born. He does record that “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), but he gives a reasonable explanation for this.  Caesar Augustus had issued a census requiring everyone to go to his ancestral home of origin to be counted (Luke 2:1-3). Joseph and Mary both were descendants of King David whose birthplace was Bethlehem. Therefore, they were required to travel from Nazareth, their home, to Bethlehem in order to comply with Caesar’s decree. They arrived in Bethlehem. Visitors from all over Judea and Samaria overran the place so that every house in town was full. Joseph and Mary took the only place available – a shelter for animals.

They made the best of their accommodations. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6, emphasis mine). Luke gives no indication that they were in panic mode as tradition has taught. “Silent Night” makes more sense in a setting of peace rather than desperation. Yes, it was a stable, and yes, baby Jesus’ crib was a feeding trough for animals, but God, not desperation was in control.

After the crowd departed and returned to their homes, Joseph and Mary remained in Bethlehem for some time. With the excess population gone, they were able to find suitable lodging in a house. Matthew records that “wise men from the east” (Matthew 2:1) came in search of “he that is born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).  “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11, emphasis mine). By this time, Jesus was no longer a “babe” (Luke 2:12) but a “young child” under two years of age (Matthew 2:16).

We often attach too much sentimentality to this event that may obscure of the real wonder of God’s entrance into the world of His creation. God became man, to live as a man – from conception to death – so that He could redeem His fallen creation from the curse of death by His own death, burial, and resurrection. Remove all the fluff from Christmas traditions, and what remains is staggeringly awesome!

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Christmas, Holidays, Religion, Salvation, Theology

What A Thing!

Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

… Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (Philippians 2:5-7)

The Christmas season is upon us once again, and once more, I sense the dilemma of mixing the commercialization of the season by the world with the celebration of the First Advent. Any Christian well taught in Scripture recognizes that Jesus was not born on December 25, but thanks to the Catholics, we are stuck with that date. Regardless of how one feels about that, it is appropriate to set aside a special time to contemplate the magnitude of the miracle that is the Incarnation[1] – God becoming a man.

Consider our leading verse. No other religion[2] in the world makes the claim that their gods willingly depose themselves of all divine powers to assume the life of a human. Then, to top it off, offer themselves as a blood sacrifice in order to save the lowly human race. However, contemplate seriously the significance of these words of Scripture.

“Christ Jesus” – the anointed Savior (meaning of the name) – “who being in the form of God.” The Greek word translated “form” is morphē, and it means “shape” or “nature.” The Apostle John calls Jesus “the Word.” He wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: (John 1:1, emphasis mine). In the Greek, the phrase “the Word was God” literally reads, “God was the Word” — θεος ην ο λογος. What a thing!

Though He was in every way, in very nature, God, He “Thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” Verse 8 clarifies this phrase when it explains that Jesus “humbled Himself.” He did not regard it robbery to lay aside His Divine nature and assume human form in order to redeem fallen humanity. What a Thing!

“He made Himself of no reputation.” This entire phrase is summed up in one Greek word, εκενωσεν (hekenoōsen), which means, “He emptied Himself” without any sense of deprivation. In exchange, “He took upon Himself the morphē (see above) of a servant” – doulos – a “slave.” He “was made in the likeness of men.” The Greek word translated “likeness” is homoiōma meaning “resemblance.” So, not only did He take on the “nature” of man, He “looked” like any other man. There was no halo around Him to distinguish Him from any other man. Of Him Isaiah the prophet said, “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “comeliness” is hâdâr meaning “magnificence,” and “beauty” is the Hebrew word mar-eh’ meaning a “handsome appearance.” So much for those soft-faced images of Jesus, we are so used to seeing! It was not enough that He condescended from His Divine nature to assume the nature of an ordinary, common-looking man, but He took the form of the lowliest kind of man – a slave. Not only did He come as a slave, but He chose a peasant girl for a mother and a stable for His birthplace.[3] What a THING!

The passage goes on to say, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8, emphasis mine). “Fashion” is the Greek word, schēma and it means the “mode, circumstance, or external condition.” The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Man must die eternally to pay the penalty for sin. Unless some sinless one can be found to serve as a suitable sacrifice for all of mankind, every one of us must pay “the wages of sin.”[4] Who could qualify as a suitable sacrifice? “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). Therefore, God clad Himself in human flesh and took the penalty for universal sin upon Himself. However, His death was not enough. He conquered death when He rose from the grave on the third day. He paid the sin debt that we owe and broke the curse of death[5] with His resurrection. WHAT A THING!

This Christmas, regardless of the commercialization of the season and regardless of the fact that Jesus was not born on December 25, God’s gift of salvation freely offered to all who will accept it, is worthy of commemoration and celebration. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15, emphasis mine). WHAT A THING!!

Merry Christmas!

Notes:


[1] “Miracle of the Incarnation” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2012/12/24/miracle-of-the-incarnation/

[2]  “False Religion” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/27/false-religion/

[3]  “Extreme Measures” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/12/11/extreme-measures/

[4]  “Eternal Sacrifice” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2012/09/30/eternal-sacrifice/

[5]  “Why Jesus?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/12/13/why-jesus/

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Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Christmas, Evangelism, Gospel, Holidays, Religion, Theology

Creation Ex Nihilo

A Picture of Nothing

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

It seems strange to me when people readily accept the origin of the universe from a Big Bang, yet balk at the suggestion that God created the universe out of nothing – ex nihilo – simply by speaking it into existence. Even Christians who claim to believe that every word of the Bible as inerrant and infallible fall prey to the notion that God somehow initiated and used the Big Bang to create over billions of years of time.

Recently the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) published an article,[1] which raised questions in one reader’s mind. He wrote:

Since God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, doesn’t it make more sense to think that either…

  • God first created nothingness?
  • He created time at the same time as nothingness?
  • As He was everything, from within Himself He created everything?

Another question I have regards the space/time/matter continuum. While our human minds at present can’t conceive of the three dimensions going on into infinity in both directions, doesn’t it stand to reason to think that the universe and its three dimensions is endless in both directions?

I am not sure what he meant by his last question. He affirms (at least by our understanding) a three-dimensional universe, but then he questions the three-dimensional universe being infinite (endless) in “both directions.” That suggests only two dimensions. He seems confused, as often happens when we “over think” things that are beyond our understanding.

Our problem in a question like this is that we tend to think of God from our limited human perspective. As theologians like to describe God, He is totally “other,” i.e., He is nothing like us, and we have nothing outside of His Word with which to compare Him. This is why His second commandment prohibits that we make an image of Him (Exodus 20:4). It would be impossible for any image to accurately depict God in His fullness.

When we say God is eternal,[2] we sometimes view “eternity”[3] with some kind of cosmic clock[4] in mind, but that would confine God to time. God is timeless. He has no past, present or future; He simply “is.” That is why when Moses asked His name, He responded, “I AM” (Exodus 3:11). He is the All-Existent One. His omnipresence means more than He is everywhere at all times; it means that He exists IN all times, i.e., He is in our past, present and future all at once. This explains why He knows the future before it happens. This is also why our sin bears eternal consequences. Our sin is an infinite offense to God.

When we understand that, we can look at Genesis 1:1 and see that “In the beginning (time) God created (bara – only used in reference to God creating) the heavens (space) and the earth (matter/energy),” ergo, the universe. God created time. There would be no universe without time – i.e., the space-time continuum to which the writer referred. The universe, like God, is a trinity; time, space and matter/energy must all exist simultaneously for the universe to exist. Remove any one of the three components, and the universe ceases. God created time “in the beginning.”

The Bible does not specifically say that God created out of nothing (“ex nihilo” is the theological term we use to describe God’s creation), but the implication that there was nothing before verse 1 of Genesis is certainly there. When God confronts Job’s questions, He responds, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding” (Job 38:4). What are “the foundations of the earth,” if not the basic elements of the universe? Obviously, we have no way of knowing precisely “how” God did it. The Bible encourages us to rest in the fact that God brought it all about “In the beginning.” “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

On the final question, the universe is not infinite for the very reason that it was created. Nothing that is created can be infinite. Only God is infinite; everything else is finite.

When we think on that, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:4). Yes, as immeasurably great as God is, He took on human form and condescended to us, His creation, to dwell among us, take on the eternal offense of our sin, and pay for it with His death on the cross so that we might share eternity with Him. After all He has done for us, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3)? Thank God for His infinite love!

Notes:


[1]  “The Universe Out of Nothing” – https://www.icr.org/article/10286

[2]  “The Eternality of God” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/06/04/the-eternality-of-god/

[3]  “Time Confusion” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/07/31/time-confusion/

[4]  “No Time Like the Present” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/01/18/no-time-like-the-present/

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Jerusalem

Modern Jerusalem viewed from the Mount of Olives

And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. (1 Kings 11:36)

Emerging from the tunnel cut through the mountain from Jericho, I caught my first glimpse of the “Eternal City,” Jerusalem. I was completely unprepared for the overwhelming emotional “rush” I would get upon my first view of the city – God’s city. Although Jerusalem is in every way a modern city – nothing like it was in Jesus’ day – building codes imposed on new construction maintain the “old” appearance of the city. That probably contributed to my emotional response.

There are cities in the Middle East more ancient than Jerusalem. Damascus, Syria, for example, is first mentioned in Genesis 14:15.  In this account, a confederation of four kings from the area around Damascus came against the kings of the south, in the area around the Dead Sea. One of those cities was Sodom where Abram’s nephew Lot was living. The invading kings sacked the five cities including Sodom and carried off captives of which Lot was one. Abram mustered up a small army of his own servants, pursued the four kings, rescued Lot, and the other captives, and took back the booty taken by the marauding kings. On his return, he encountered Melchizedek, king of Salem (Genesis 14:17-20). Some have supposed that Salem was the same as Jerusalem, but I disagree for several reasons.[1]

Jerusalem[2] is built on the mountains in the land of Moriah. It was “upon one of the mountains” (Genesis 22:2) there that God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. It is noteworthy that God did not instruct Abraham to go to Salem, Jerusalem, or Jebus (Judges 19:10-11; 1 Chronicles 11:4-5). Jebus was the “city of the Jebusites” and the Jebusites were in the land when Abram first arrived (Genesis 15:21), and it seems it would have been an excellent landmark if it existed at the time of Abraham. Instead, God instructed Abraham to go the “land of Moriah” and sacrifice Isaac on one of the mountains there. A normal reading of the text leads one to see this place as isolated and uninhabited. However, this would later become the site of Jerusalem, and the particular mountain on which Isaac was offered would become the site of the Temple “in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.” (2 Chronicles 3:1). Eventually, God would sacrifice His own Son, on the mountains of Moriah.

This alone makes Jerusalem a special place. Geographically, Jerusalem is located near the center of earth’s total landmass.[3] More than this, God stamped His name on Jerusalem.[4] Jews associate the Hebrew letter “Shin” (ש) with the name of God. They derive this from the “Shama” (meaning “hear”) in Deuteronomy 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” Jerusalem – the “Old City” is situated on the mountains of Moriah, which are flanked by two valleys – the Kidron, and Tyropean – with a third, the Hinnom (Gehenna), that runs down the center to join the other two. The topography forms the letter “Shin” the symbol of God’s name. The land of Israel has a similar stamp where the three headwaters of the Jordon River join together to form the letter “Shin.”

The mountains of Moriah are made up of three mountain heads: Ophel, Moriah, and Zion. “Ophel” means “My Fortress” and represents God the Father. “Moriah” means “to see God” or “to be seen of God” and represents God the Son. “Zion” means “the Mark” and represents God the Holy Spirit who is the “seal” or the “mark” of all believers. One mountain range with three heads representing one God in three persons.

Jerusalem, as stated earlier, is the “Eternal City.” When Jesus returns to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He will come to Jerusalem. “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4, emphasis mine). Jesus will physically reign from His Temple in Jerusalem. A river will flow from his throne here and will run to the east and into the Dead Sea, which will be healed (Ezekiel 47:8-9).

At the end of the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth, God will create a “new heaven and a new earth,” and a “New Jerusalem” will descend from heaven to a recreated earth (Revelation 21:1-2) where those of us who are His children will reign forever with Him. As beautiful as Jerusalem is today, it will not compare to the New Jerusalem where not just God’s name will dwell, but God Himself will dwell with us!

Reader, if you are unsure where you will spend eternity, read my page on Heaven.

Notes:


[1]  “Is Salem Jerusalem?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/08/16/is-salem-jerusalem/

[2]  “Hebrew Word Study – Jerusalem – Part I” – http://livingwordin3d.com/discovery/2016/12/18/hebrew-word-study-jerusalem-part-i/

[3]  “The Center of the Earth” – http://www.icr.org/article/50

[4]  “Jerusalem – I Will Put My Name There – Amazing Revelations” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZO_eRmR2ho

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Filed under Bible, Christianity, End Times, Gospel, Heaven, Religion, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

Pressed Three Times

First-century olive press in Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. (Matthew 26:36)

We recently returned from our first “pilgrimage” to the Holy Land. If I never check off another item on my “bucket list,” this is enough. To walk in the land where God stamped His name defies description, so I will not even try. God assumed human form and traversed this land from Jerusalem to the Galilee; we also set foot on many of the same places.

On one of those stops, we visited the ruins of the city of Capernaum. Jesus made this city His “headquarters” as He ministered around the Sea of Galilee. Peter made his home here as did Andrew, his brother, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Here He called Levi (Matthew) away from the customs table to follow Him (Mark 2:1, 14). Capernaum was the site of many of Jesus’ miracles, yet the people did not believe (John 6:26-29); therefore Jesus cursed the city (Matthew 11:23-24). The city came to ruin from an earthquake the leveled it in 749 A.D.

In 1838, American explorer Edward Robinson discovered the ruins of ancient Capernaum,[1] and excavations at the site continue to the present. One of the more interesting finds uncovered at the site is an ancient olive press dating back to the first century. This olive press would have been used in Capernaum when Jesus lived there.

Olives growing on an olive tree on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel

Olives, besides being good to eat, produce oil useful for many purposes. Extracting the oil from the olives required three pressings.[2] The first pressing extracted the purest “virgin” olive oil used for lighting the menorah and other lamps in the Temple. It was also for ceremonial anointing of special servants of God such as priests (Exodus 28:41; 29:4-7), kings (1 Samuel 15:1; 16:12-13), and also for the implements used in the Temple (Exodus 40:9). After extracting the virgin olive oil, the crushed olives were placed into burlap sacks, which were placed in the mortar table for a second pressing. A heavy weight was then added to the pestle wheel. The second pressing produced less pure oil suitable for common use such as cooking, medicine, and fuel for lamps. More weight was then added to the wheel for the third and final pressing, which extracted lye for making soap. At this point, the olives had nothing left to give.

In Jerusalem to the east of the Temple, across the Kidron Valley, rises a hill that has large olive groves aptly named the Mount of Olives or Olivet.

The Dome of the Rock stands where the Temple used to be in Jesus’ day. Across the Kidron Valley is the Mount of Olives where the Garden of Gethsemane was located.

In Jesus’ day, amongst the olive trees, there was a garden that had an olive press. The name of the garden was Gethsemane, which means oil press. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus went there to pray with His disciples. He left eight of His disciples further down the hill, but His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, He took up to the place of pressing. “Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38, emphasis mine). He knew way lay ahead for Him. The physical pain and agony He knew awaited Him would make any man seek to escape, but that was not what pressed on Him. He was God in the flesh. He was sinless. Soon, the sin of all mankind would fall on Him. Soon that sin would sever His relationship with the Father. “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, emphasis mine). He returned to His closest disciples only to find them sleeping (Matthew 26:40-41). The first press was done. “He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42, emphasis mine.). “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43). “And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy” (Matthew 26:43). The second press was complete. “And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matthew 26:44, emphasis mine). “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44, emphasis mine). “Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). He gave all He had to give. With the final press completed, He said, “Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:46, emphasis mine). He did not wait for His accusers to find Him. He went out to meet them!

There in the Garden of the Olive Press, He was pressed three times, and He gave His all. He gave up His anointing as King. He gave up His human body – the only suitable sacrifice for sin. He gave the last dregs of His being to cleanse us from our sins, and open the way to eternal life with Him, if we will only accept His sacrifice.

Reader, if you do not know Jesus who gave His all for you, do not delay any longer. Soon He will return, or you may otherwise meet your end. Either way, it will be too late. “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, …” (Hebrews 3:7-8). Read my page on Heaven.

Notes:


[1]  “Capernaum” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capernaum

[2]  “Oil Presses in the Holy Land” – http://www.biblewalks.com/Info/OilPresses.html

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Now’s A Good Time!

Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. (Luke 12:40)

This may be my final post (I hope[1]), if the “stargazers” are correct about the Revelation 12 sign.[2], [3], [4] The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShannah[5]) begins this week on September 20, 2017. However, since “ye know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13) for the new moon to appear over Jerusalem, the first blast of the trumpet could take place anytime between 6:00 PM September 20 to 6:00 PM September 22.

Every year around this time for the past 20 years or so, I start looking toward the eastern sky listening for that voice “as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither” (Revelation 4:1). God gave to the children of Israel (and indirectly to us) seven “feasts,”[6] or more precisely, “appointments,” they were to keep without fail. God told Moses. “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts” (Leviticus 23:2, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “feast” is mô‛êd (mô‛êdim – plural), and it means “an appointment,” or “a season.” We see this word first used in Genesis 1:14 when God created the celestial bodies and proclaimed that they were to be “for signs, and for seasons.” The Hebrew word for “signs” is ‘ôth and it means “a signal” or “an omen.” So, the stars were precisely placed in the heavens to “signal” God’s divine “appointments.”

At the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He fulfilled four of the seven appointments: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost. Three yet remain, The Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and The Feast of Tabernacles. It seems reasonable to conclude that He will fulfill the final three with His second coming. The next one in line is the Feast of Trumpets. It also seems reasonable to conclude that the Feast of Trumpets will be fulfilled by the Rapture of the Church. The Apostle Paul tells us, “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” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, emphasis mine). “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16, emphasis mine). The Apostle John heard a voice that sounded like a trumpet, and he said, “And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:2, emphasis mine). Considering that the blowing of the trumpets at the Feast of Trumpets was a “signal” for the gathering of the people to Jerusalem, it seems reasonable that the Feast of Trumpets is a good time for the gathering of God’s people to Himself.

However, the Feast of Trumpets comes around every year, and for the last 20 years or more, I have waited for the trumpet call only be disappointed once again – disappointed, but not disheartened. So, how is this year different, and why is this a good time? Well, let us see.

Israel is a nation once more and the Jews are in their own land. All end-times prophecy centers on the nation of Israel. That Israel is in her land is a miracle of God. In A.D. 70, Rome razed Jerusalem and the Temple to the ground and scattered the Jewish people all over the world as prophesied in Scripture. God said, “Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 11:17, emphasis mine). For 2000 years, the Jews have fled from country to country. In all that time, they managed to maintain their ethnic identity, their traditions, and even their language. Then on May 14, 1948, they came home and established their nation in the land that God gave them. “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8, emphasis mine).

Israel is often likened to a fig tree. “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved” (Hosea 9:10, emphasis mine). The prophet Zechariah in describing the Millennial Kingdom ruled by the BRANCH said, “In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree” (Zechariah 3:10, emphasis mine). I believe this is speaking figuratively of Israel. Jesus said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:32-34, emphasis mine). The fig tree put forth its leaves almost 70 years ago – a biblical number for completion. “That generation” that saw it come to pass is almost gone. Now’s a good time!

Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9-10). Some will quickly point out that the world has seen wars and rumors of wars for millennia. True, but not with Israel back in her homeland.

Natural and man-made catastrophes are on the increase. Jesus said, “And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” (Luke 21:11, emphasis mine). The United States Geological Survey (USGS) downplays the increase in earthquakes, but independent researchers have found a significant increase in intensity and number of earthquakes all over the world measuring 6.5 and above on the Richter Scale. Famine and pestilence result from war-torn nations in Africa and the Middle East. At the same time, America has some “fearful sights” of her own with uncontrollable fires burning in California, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. America is not alone; there are other places around the world experiencing similar catastrophes.[7]

We see signs in the heavens. Jesus said, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring” (Luke 21:25).  In 2014 and 2015, we witnessed a rare tetrad of blood moons falling on the Feasts of the Lord. This year we experienced the Great American Solar Eclipse, which was soon followed by “the sea and the waves roaring” caused by Hurricane Harvey and shortly thereafter, Hurricane Irma. Meanwhile, Hurricane José is building up steam in the Atlantic. Some suggest that solar eclipses are signs for the gentile nations.[8] Some have correlated US actions to pressure Israel to give up “land for peace” with natural disasters here in America.[9] Coincidently, Jared Kushner met with PLA President Mahmoud Abbas the same day that Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast.[10]

Are the Years of Jubilee ending (Leviticus 25:8-17)? About 3500 years have elapsed since God codified the system of Jubilee Years in the Mosaic Law. The children of Israel were to observe a system of Sabbath years where they allowed the land to rest every seventh year (a “week of years”). After seven Sabbath years (49 years) they were to set aside (sanctify) the 50th year as a Year of Jubilee at which time all debts would be canceled, and all land would revert to the original owner. Some have calculated and concluded that 2017 (it is the Jewish year 5777) completes the 70th Year of Jubilee. Seventy is a biblical number for completion. Some see significance in the triple sevens of the Jewish year 5777, seven and three both being a number for completion. Three also represents the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In Genesis 6:3, God declares that man’s “days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” Some believe that this refers to the years God allotted for Noah to build the Ark before bringing the Flood. However, Noah was 500 years old when his three sons were born (Genesis 5:32); we are not given his age at the time God gave him the command. Noah was 600 years old when he completed the Ark and was instructed to get onboard (Genesis 7:6). Therefore, from the time Noah’s sons were born until the time the Flood came was only 100 years, not 120. The number 120 in the Bible represents “a divinely appointed time of waiting;”[11] however, the time allotted Noah to build the Ark was less than 120, so there must be another meaning. The word translated “year” in Genesis 6:3, shâneh can also mean “whole age” and not necessarily a year. One prophecy teacher suggests that the 120 refers to 120 Jubilees.[12] Taking into consideration a young, 6000-year old, earth, 120 x 50 = 6000 years. That means man’s time on earth is up! Now’s a good time!

Other interesting facts about the Jubilee years are the years 1917, 1967, and 2017. In 1917, the Belfour Declaration was signed setting aside the Promised Land as a Jewish homeland. Nineteen Seventeen was a Jubilee year. On May 14, 1948, The U.N. declared Israel a sovereign nation and Israel was reborn. Then in 1967 – 50 years after the Balfour Declaration, another Year of Jubilee – Israel took possession of their ancient capital of Jerusalem and the “West Bank” in the Six-Day War. More land returned to Israel according to the Law of Jubilee. However, although Israel possesses Jerusalem, it does not “control” the Temple Mount. There are rumblings among the Jews that they want to reclaim this holy site to rebuild their Temple. This year, 50 years since 1967, is another Jubilee Year. Perhaps this year the Temple Mount will revert to Israeli control. Now’s a good time!

The Revelation 12 Sign[13] will appear over the skies of Jerusalem on September 23, 2017. In a once-in-7000-year event, the constellations Virgo and Leo will align with three “wandering stars,” Mercury, Venus, and Mars, in conjunction with Leo making a “crown of twelve stars” over Virgo’s head. Additionally, Jupiter, the King Planet, which entered Virgo on August 27, 2016, will exit (be “born”) after 400 (40 x 10) days in the “womb.”[14] A solid interpretation of the Revelation 12 sign (Revelation 12:1-5) says that the “woman” is Israel (some also say she represents the Virgin Mary) – crowned with 12 stars, i.e. the twelve tribes of Israel – and the “child” is the Messiah. The “dragon” we understand to be Satan, who some see as Herod the Great. That is fine; prophecies often have more than one “valid” interpretation. The “stargazers” suggest the sign is more than an analogy of Israel and the Messiah. They argue that because the Messiah was “taken up” in A.D. 33, and because Revelation speaks of future events, not past, this cannot be speaking of the Messiah. Rather, they contend, the “child” represents the “body” of Christ, which is the Church. They agree that the woman, Virgo, represents Israel and the Jewish people who give birth to the Church. So then, it is the Church being taken up into heaven, and the sign represents the Rapture of the Church. It makes sense to me! Now’s a good time!

As I stated at the beginning, this may be my final post. Too many signs are converging that I could not cover them all in this already-too-long article. Now’s a good time for the Lord to return for His Church. After that comes seven horrible years of Tribulation. Then He returns to reign on earth for 1000 years. Then comes eternity (Revelation 21-22). Reader, if you are not ready for what will come, take time to read my page on Heaven.

If the Lord does not return this week, you will find me still occupied (Luke 19:13) until He comes, and a follow-up article will be posted. Nevertheless, if not, you will know what happened. 🙂

Notes:


[1]  “Not Expecting to Die” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/30/not-expecting-to-die/

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

[3]  “Prophecy Snobs” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/10/prophecy-snobs/

[4]  “The Millennial Kingdom” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/03/the-millennial-kingdom/

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

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  Amir Tsarfati’s newsletter for September 13, 2017 – http://mailchi.mp/beholdisrael/prophecy-news-weekly-roundup-april-19-1004785?e=88847949f6

[8]  “Solar Eclipses Omens of Significant Historic Events” – https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/the-flaming-herald/66864-solar-eclipses-omens-of-significant-historical-events

[9]  “12 SHOCKING PROOFS THAT DISASTER STRIKES AMERICA WHEN IT MISTREATS ISRAEL” – http://www.nowtheendbegins.com/11-shocking-proofs-disaster-strikes-america-mistreats-israel/

[10]  “US Calls Kushner-Abbas Meeting ‘Fruitful’ But Doesn’t Specify ‘Fruits’” – http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/us-calls-kushner-abbas-meeting-fruitful-but-doesnt-specify-fruits/2017/08/25/

[11]  “Meaning of Numbers in the Bible” – http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/120.html

[12]  Dan Goodwin, “Prophecy Unsealed” available at http://www.godsfinaljubilee.com/

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

[14]  “The Great Sign of Revelation 12 Occurs in 2017” – http://www.watchfortheday.org/1260tetrad.html

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Prophecy Snobs

 

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)

I admit it! I am expecting and am excited about the possibility of my Lord’s return in the very near future. I have written, on and off, about this in the past, but more often here lately.[1] Let me be clear; I DO NOT KNOW when Christ is coming back, and neither does anyone else. Anyone who even suggests that he or she knows the date of Christ’s return, should be viewed with a good measure of skepticism, but perhaps not altogether rejected. I believe that if it “sounds” plausible, according to Scripture, then I will watch and see if it pans out.

God gave the test for a true prophet. “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22, emphasis mine). God did not say to reject the message, but rather to watch and see if it happens. If it does not happen, then discount that one as a false prophet.

The popularity of end-times prophecy has increased over the last few years. I have been a “student” of end-times prophecy since the first time I read The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey in the early 1970’s.  Hal Lindsey offered some “suggestions” about future events that did not come to pass, and he later had to make “adjustments” to his theories. However, Lindsey never made any dogmatic, “Thus saith the Lord” statements or set specific dates for Christ’s return. Rather, he offered his “opinions” based on his understanding of Scripture, and his perspective on world events. That does not make him a false prophet. He, like many of us, is obeying the Lord’s command to “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42, emphasis mine). Hal Lindsey, like many others, takes notice of the “signs of the times,” compares them to the prophecies recorded in Scripture, and attempts to discern the proximity of the Lord’s return. Jesus told us to do that! Sometimes he gets it right; sometimes he misses. There is nothing wrong with that. The prophet Daniel wanted to know more detail about the end-times, but he was told, “… thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4, emphasis mine). That tells me that the nearer we get to that time, the clearer the signs will become. No one knows the time with absolute certainty, but I believe we can get a pretty good clue.

Recently a fellow blogger, whom I admire and respect, blogged about some who seem to be setting a date for the Rapture saying that their “presumption” is rooted in “pride.” These “stargazers” (I shall call them for lack of a better term) have made a “big deal” of an astral phenomenon that will take place over the skies of Jerusalem on September 23, 2017.  (I have written about this already so I will not go into detail here.)[2] On that date, according to the stargazers, there will be a conjunction of stars and planets that will form what appears to be the vision that John saw in Revelation 12:1-5. They use a software program called “Stellarium”[3] Because Stellarium allows the user to move backward and forward in time, they have verified (so they say) that this is a once-in-7000-year event. However, the accuracy of their claim is not without its detractors.[4] I have listened to several YouTube presentations[5] by these stargazers[6] and the common refrain I hear is, “I am not a date-setter;” however they do strongly suggest that September 23, 2017, is a good possibility for the Rapture. What I do not hear them say is that the Rapture will take place on September 23, 2017. That said, those who hear the message will hear what they want to hear. However, based on current world events and the convergence of other “signs of the times,” they make plausible arguments. I take the position of one who will watch and see. If nothing happens on that date, I will not be one to accuse these men of being false prophets because I have not heard them affirm, “Thus saith the Lord.” Like Hal Lindsey and others in the past, they only suggest the possibility.

To my friend the blogger I would say that I do not regard their “prediction” as “prideful” because they all understand very well that they could be wrong. Moreover, if they are right, and the Rapture does occur on that date, to whom will they boast? – “See! I told you!” There will be no boasting when they see Jesus. All I see in these men is that they are anxiously hopeful that Jesus will soon return, and I share that excitement.

By this time, you may be wondering about the title of this article. As I pointed out earlier, there is much talk these days about the Rapture and end-time prophecy. Sadly, I see pride on display with many end-time prophecy ministries. If I named them, you who follow such would recognize many of them. They all take positions that their view is the right one and others are “less informed” (as if they know). There is a camp that believes the Church will go through part or all of the Tribulation. (I used to think that was a possibility.) I will call them “Arapturists” for “no Rapture” These Arapturists reprimand those who hold to the pre-Tribulation Rapture for giving the Church the false hope of escapism rather than preparing the Church for facing the coming Tribulation. If they are right (and I do not believe they are), their concern is understandable. However, the “Pre-Tribers” complain that the Arapturists have become vicious in their attacks on them. Yet the Pre-Tribers attack the stargazers as false prophets (who are Pre-Tribers themselves). This they do without fully investigating the claims of the stargazers. To their credit, I have yet to hear a stargazer criticize the other camps. They merely present their arguments according to their understanding of Scripture knowing that there are other reasonable views. That is as it should be.

There is no place for prophecy snobs when it comes to end-times prophecy.  NOBODY KNOWS FOR SURE! As Christians, we all look forward to Christ’s return and His coming kingdom, but none of us has all the answers. I believe we all have a partial knowledge as Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, emphasis mine). That does not mean we should stop looking or become a scoffer (2 Peter 3:3-4).  Jesus said that we can “discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3), and He provided many clues. Then He exhorted us to “watch” (Matthew 24:42). Surely, He would not have given that command, without giving us something for which to watch! There are lazy Christians that do not want to exert the effort to “watch.” Their source verse to support their laziness is, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36, emphasis mine). I would remind them that Jesus said that in His earthly body that He purposefully limited (Philippians 2:7). He is now ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father (Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians  3:1;  Hebrews 1:3; 10:12; 12;2, et al.). Given that, can we still believe that Jesus, being fully God, still does not know the time of His return! Nonsense! When John saw Jesus in the Revelation, he received “updated” information that he passed on to us. Our task is to study those things, consider all the possibilities, and WATCH!

Notes:


[1] Look to the column on the right under the heading “Categories” and select the topics, “End Times,” “Second Coming of Christ,” or, in the “Search” box at the top of the column, type in the word “Rapture” or “Tribulation.”

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

[3]  Free software available at http://www.stellarium.org/

[4]  Danny Faulkner, Astrophysicist at Answers in Genesis opines in this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=share&v=DtMxiwCUBVY&app=desktop

[5]  The reader can go to http://YouTube.com and search for “Revelation 12 Sign”

[6]  On YouTube, look for videos by Robert Breaker, Steve Cioccolanti, Scott Clarke. These seem to be very sound in their teaching.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Religion, Second Coming of Christ, Theology