Tag Archives: Israel

Come, Harvest Time!

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1)

Today, May 20, 2018, celebrates 1988 years since the birth of the Church on Pentecost (provided the Church was born in 30 A.D.). Most modern Christians pay little attention to the day since it is mainly a Jewish observance, and it has never been incorporated into the Christian tradition. However, it might behoove us to give it closer attention. Some end-times prophecy watchers see this Pentecost as a “high watch” day for the Rapture of the Church. I thought the same thing last year and wrote about it, but I was obviously wrong.[1]

This year could be different, but before I continue, I must stress that neither I nor any of those whom I have resourced are setting a date for the Rapture of the Church. Jesus instructed us to “watch” and be ready, and He provided “signs” for which to look. It amazes me how many Christians I know seem to be indifferent about the imminent return of Christ – our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). Not me, every day I wake up I am hoping that this will be the day. Yet, while I anxiously await His return, my heart is burdened for those who are lost and will have to go through the horrible 7-year Tribulation that will follow the Rapture. If in that awful time of Tribulation they continue in their rejection of Christ, they will face an eternity in hell. My burden is a thousand times heavier because I have two sons and their wives and my grandchildren that are lost, and it is not as if they have not been taught these things; they simply refuse to believe. Still, I am looking for Jesus to come soon.

So, why this Pentecost? Pentecost is one of the seven Feasts of the Lord.[2] As I have written in the past (See Note 2 below), the Feasts of the Lord are divine appointments for God to keep, and they are prophetic. The first three feasts were fulfilled by Jesus’ first coming: Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. The last three will be fulfilled at His second coming: Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles. Both the spring and the fall feasts are closely tied together. Pentecost seems to be set apart from the rest. It comes 50 days (almost two months) after the Feast of First Fruits followed by a long space of almost four months before the fall feasts.

Pentecost celebrates the barley harvest (not wheat) which is representative of the Gentile nations. At Pentecost, the priest offers two loaves of leavened bread – again, leaven representing the Gentile nations. This Feast had a partial fulfillment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in the upper room giving birth to the church. At that time, the Shekinah Glory of God came upon the disciples in the form of “cloven tongues like as of fire” (Acts 2:3) signifying that God’s presence now resided within His people rather than in the Temple. We are now “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

However, as with most prophecies, Pentecost may still have a second fulfillment yet to come. Just as Pentecost is set apart from the other feast days, so is the church set apart from the feasts that directly relate to the Jews. Furthermore, just as there is a long period between Pentecost and the Feast of Trumpets, so there has been a long period between the birth of the Church and the long-awaited “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:6-10).

The signs indicating our Lord’s soon return are many.[3] Israel just celebrated the 70th anniversary of their rebirth as a nation fulfilling the “dry bones” prophecy of Ezekiel 37.  This is also the 70th Year of Jubilee since the Law was given to Moses. Furthermore, if you can believe biblical chronology, it is the 120th Jubilee from the time of creation (Genesis 6:3) – 120 x 50 = 6000. Put that together with the Revelation 12 sign[4] that appeared on September 23, 2017, the alignment of nations against Israel in preparation for the Ezekiel 38-39 war, the increased violence all over the world, seismic and catastrophic weather activity, and an increase in demonic activity; it becomes very apparent that something big is about to happen.

Could this Sunday, Pentecost be the day that Jesus comes for His Bride? I do not know, nor does anyone else, but the signs make for a good possibility! I am ready! How about you? If the prospect scares you, then perhaps it’s time that you make things right with your Creator. See my page on “Heaven” for help with that.

Here are some good YouTube videos to learn more about the possible Pentecost Rapture:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxMj20tU_HQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVhOm9E1bjw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig7LXnYOLhc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CJJYIXAVwA

Notes:


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

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

[3]  “Now’s A Good Time!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/17/nows-a-good-time/

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

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Anytime Now!

(180429) — DAMASCUS, April 29, 2018 (Xinhua) — Photo taken on April 29, 2018 shows destruction in the parts that have recently been captured from the Islamic State militants in the al-Qadam neighbourhood, south of Damascus, Syria. The Syrian army captured the IS-controlled areas in al-Qadam on Saturday, according to the state news agency SANA. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani) (lrz)

The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1)

Much to the chagrin of the Iranian leadership, President Donald Trump announced on May 8, 2018, that he is pulling the US out of the controversial Iranian nuclear deal. In their indignation, Iran lashed out at Israel in a midnight attack sending 20 rockets aimed at Israeli military targets in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018.[1] Israel’s Iron Dome air defense intercepted four of the 20 rockets into Israeli territory. The remaining rockets fell harmlessly in Syrian territory displaying the “iron dome” of God.

In keeping with their warning of retaliation against Iran for any attacks on Israel from Syria, the IDF responded immediately with a counter-attack on 50 Iranian military installations in Syria.[2] The attack destroyed most of Iran’s military infrastructure preventing retaliation in the very near future. However, Iran will not be deterred from her obsession to obliterate Israel from the Middle East. That obsession brings Iran into direct conflict with “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). Israel’s security remains tenuous. They rest secure in their military capabilities knowing they can respond to any threat. However, for the most part, their trust remains in their capabilities and those of their allies. “To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 13:16).

I enjoy the ministry of Amir Tsarfati, Behold Israel,[3] and watch his YouTube updates of current events in Israel. With all that is going on in and around Israel, Amir frequently points out that Israelis dwell in “peace and security;” that is the perception of those living in Israel which does not necessarily reflect reality. The time of the end approaches rapidly, and Amir knows this very well. We need to be ready.

Tomorrow, Monday, May 14, 2018, Israel celebrates 70 years of the rebirth of the nation. The “dry bones” of Ezekiel 37 came alive and “and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:10). No record in history exists where a people dispersed among the nations of the earth retained their language, their religion, their traditions, and  their national identity. In 70 A.D., Israel was disseminated, Jerusalem was razed, and the land became a desolate wasteland. Then, 1878 years later, the “dry bones” miraculously came to life once more. Do you need evidence to believe in God? Look at Israel! “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).

Among many other signs, concerning Israel and the nations for the end times is the destruction of Damascus. Damascus is undoubtedly the oldest consistently inhabited city in history. We first read of it in Genesis 14:15 when four marauding kings from the area that we now know as Syria attacked the kings around Sodom and Gomorrah. They spoiled the cities and took away captives including Abram’s nephew, Lot. You can read the complete account in Genesis 14, but the point being is that Damascus was a well-established city at the time.

Just as God promised that the dry bones of Israel would be reconstituted, He also promised that Damascus would be a “ruinous heap” (Isaiah 17:1, our starting verse). “And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us” (Isaiah 17:14). Iran has amassed a cache of war implements around Damascus as targets for Israeli warplanes. At the same time, rebels against the Assad regime have pummeled Damascus with their own arsenal of mortars, rockets, and explosives. Damascus is quickly becoming a “ruinous heap.”

The convergence of many happenings indicates that Christ’s return is very near. He is the Peace of Jerusalem for which we pray (Psalm 122:6). Indeed, He is the only hope for peace in this world. Before He returns to set things right, He will take away His Bride, the Church, from the wrath to come. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). So, as we witness prophecy fulfilled before our eyes – and this is only apparent if you are paying attention – we anxiously anticipate His call to “Come up hither” (Revelation 4:1) at any moment.

I don’t know about you, but I long with an aching in my heart to see my Savior face to face. How about you? Are you ready and waiting to meet Jesus?

Notes:

[1]  “Iran Attacks Israel. Israel Shoots Down all the Iranian Rockets” – https://israelunwired.com/iran-attacks-israel-israel-shoots-down-all-the-iranian-rockets/

[2]  “Israel Unleashes Stunning Strike Capabilities On Iranian Forces In Syria” – http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=2253

[3]  Behold Israel Ministry YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/beholdisrael/featured

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The Gates of Hell

The Gates of Hell, Caesarea Philippi

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)

Most of Jesus’ earthly ministry centered around the Sea of Galilee, aka the Sea of Tiberius, with His ministry headquarters at Capernaum. The furthest north He traveled, as recorded in the Gospels, was Caesarea Philippi, an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Formerly, it carried the name of Paneas in association with the Greek god Pan. Herod the Great erected a white marble (pagan) temple there in honor of Caesar Augustus in 19 BC. Philip II (the Tetrarch) founded the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus in 14 AD.[1]

Ruins of Temple of Augustus, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

Mount Hermon bears the ignominy of being the frequent site of pagan worship.[2] “In the Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Watcher class of fallen angels descended to Earth. They swear upon the mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and take mutual imprecation for their sin (Enoch 6).”[3] From a grotto at the foot of Mount Hermon used to issue a spring that has since stopped due to seismic activity.

Nahal Senir Spring formerly “Panias” for the Greek god Pan. This spring, one of three headwaters of the Jordan River, used to flow directly from the cave.

“The pagans of Jesus’ day commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves. To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld—the gates of hell. In order to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats.”[4]

The Gates of Hell, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

It was to this place that Jesus brought His disciples and asked, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13).  The disciples recited the popular rumors: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then, “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Without hesitation, “Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-18, emphasis mine).

Jesus then disclosed details of His coming crucifixion.  “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matthew 16:22). Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter in the harshest of terms. “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23, emphasis mine). Then to all Jesus counted the cost of discipleship. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25, emphasis mine). He closed the discussion with these words. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28, emphasis mine).

“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (Matthew 17:1, emphasis mine). The summit of Mount Hermon is 9,232 ft. (almost two miles) above sea level. From the “gates of hell” to the portal of the Watchers, Jesus ascended with His closest disciples; “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him” (Matthew 17:2-3.) The disciples were flabbergasted. They did not know how to respond or react to what they were witnessing. “Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (Matthew 17:4, emphasis mine). Perhaps because the mountain was littered with all kinds of shrines to pagan gods,

Niches to pagan gods at the Gates of Hell

Peter thought it would be appropriate to build something similar for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. A voice from heaven quickly put the kibosh on that idea.

A niche for a pagan god

“While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).

Gates are defensive barriers designed to keep out the enemy. The gates of hell are no different. Satan is at war against the Kingdom of God, and he erects all kinds of barriers to keep the Kingdom of God from the hearts of those who are perishing. Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Upon that confession – that “rock” – Jesus declared, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  All that they had witnessed would not be clear until after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  Peter later recalled, “… [we] were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. (2 Peter 1:16-18, emphasis mine).

On the mountain, Jesus received His marching orders, and it was time to storm the gates of hell. Luke records “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, emphasis mine). Jesus tore down the gates with His death, but more so with His resurrection. The gates of hell cannot stop His Church, and we have our orders: “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).  “And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid” (Matthew 17:7, emphasis mine).

Notes:


[1]  Caesarea Philippi – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarea_Philippi

[2]  Temples of Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_of_Mount_Hermon

[3]  Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Hermon

[4]  Ray Vander Laan, That the World May Know, “The Gates of Hell” – https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/gates-of-hell-article

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All Things New

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5)

For me, 2017[1] ends with mixed reviews. Beginning in January, the uncertainty of a Trump presidency offered a sense of cautious optimism. By this time, however, my opinion of President Donald Trump has swung to a strong positive. I still wish he would learn to control what comes out of his mouth. Then again, he is not a “politician,” so he pretty much tells it like it is. I can appreciate that about him. Of course, his lack of political correctness makes his opponents in government and the media dig in their heels even deeper, but with “his pen and his phone,” he managed to undo much of the harm created by the last administration. One has to admire his tenacity! Here are just some of our President’s accomplishments in his first year:

  1. Passing the tax-cut bill (promise kept)
  2. Neil Gorsuch confirmation to the Supreme Court (promise kept)
  3. Roll-back of [many] regulations (promise kept)
  4. Travel Ban [from terrorist spawning countries] (promise kept)
  5. Declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel (promise kept)
  6. Withdrawal from the Paris climate deal (promise kept)
  7. Pulling out of NAFTA (promise kept)
  8. Roll-back of “some” of Obama’s Cuba policies (promise kept)
  9. Moving to repeal Obama’s net neutrality rules
  10. Fighting and further degrading ISIS (promise kept)[2]

In many ways, our nation improved in 2017. Economically, things are looking up. Companies are beginning to employ more workers due to the reduction in regulations and the prospect of corporate tax cuts. AT&T and others gave substantial year-end bonuses to their employees for the first time in many years. America has regained her status as the leader of the free world and earned back the respect lost by the last administration. However, that has also escalated the tensions with hostile nations like Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia. North Korea has grown more volatile since the days of the last administration. We wonder where that will lead in 2018. Even though America has seen many improvements in 2017, the world remains in a state of unrest as wars and rumors of wars continue to escalate.

Twenty-seventeen brought some disappointments for me. Supposedly, 2017 was the 70th Year of Jubilee[3] since God gave the observance to Moses 3500 years ago. The Jewish year was 5777. The number 10 in the Bible represents completeness, as does the number seven. The number three represents completeness also, but it is usually associated with the triune nature of God. Working together, all these numbers made 2017 significant apocalyptically. The 70th Jubilee is 7 x 10, and the Jewish year included three sevens in a row. Along with that, the U.S. experienced a significant total eclipse[4] all across the continent – a sign for Gentile nations. That was followed by “The Revelation 12 Sign,”[5] which took place on September 23.  Twenty-seventeen was also the 70th anniversary of the United Nations recognizing Israel as a sovereign nation and the 50th anniversary of Israel regaining control of their capital city, Jerusalem, in the 1967 Six-day War. All these things together along with our Lord’s words, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34), made 2017 an excellent time for our Lord’s return.

I do and have for many years held the opinion that Jesus will come for His Bride, the Church, on or around the Feast of Trumpets, which in 2017 took place on September 23/24. However, those days came and went, and we are all still here. One adamant YouTube advocate for the Revelation 12 Sign was often unfairly accused of being a “date setter” by more conservative end-times prophecy “experts” for suggesting that the Rapture “might” take place on the 23rd. Sadly, when the event did not take place, the young man stopped producing YouTube messages. I sympathize with his disappointment, but I have no doubt that Jesus will return for His Church at the appropriate time. When He does come, I want Him to find me occupied in my Father’s business.

We still look for Christ’s return with great anticipation. Some suggest that 2018 could be the year that Jesus comes for His Church. These revised predictions find their basis on the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring its independence on May 14, 1948.  That is as good as any other prediction considering the fact that Jesus never gave us a definite time.

The key factor in all end-times prophecy is the Nation of Israel. All end-times prophecy centers around Israel. Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews in 70 AD, the Nation of Israel ceased to exist, and for 2000 years, the land remained a barren ruin – a Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37). Then at the turn of the 20th Century, with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the prophet’s vision was realized. The bones started coming together and then the sinew, the flesh, and the skin until in 1948 the dry bones stood up – a mighty army. Never in world history has a people been utterly disseminated among other nations and managed to maintain their identity and customs – and this for over 2000 years. Even the Hebrew, once considered a dead language, has revived as the national language of Israel. The Nation of Israel is nothing less than a miracle.

The fig tree symbolizes the Nation of Israel. Jesus alluded to the fig tree in His prophetic discourse.  He said that when you see the fig tree (Israel) put forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. “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 24:33-34, emphasis mine). The fig tree has not only budded, but it is now in full-bloom and producing fruit! Jesus guaranteed the truth of His statement. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Seventy years – threescore and ten (Psalm 90:10) – qualifies as a generation. The time is near!

Frivolous distractions by the “fake news” and the “selective news” media blind us to the “rumors of wars” stirring in the Middle East. The Prophet Ezekiel spoke of the armies of Magog (Russia), Tubal (Turkey), Persia (Iran), and a few others gathering against Israel in the “last days” (Ezekiel 38-39). We see that happening now, but few are paying attention. God is preparing the scene for the coming of our Lord. Perhaps 2018 will be the year. I hope so. Regardless, our Lord is faithful, and Jesus will come soon. Therefore, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). We can look forward to the New Year knowing that God has all things well under control. I am excited about whatever He has in store for us!

Happy New Year!

Notes:


[1]  “A New Thing” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/01/01/a-new-thing/

[2]  From The Hill, “Trump’s Top 10 accomplishments of 2017” – http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/366429-trumps-top-10-accomplishments-of-2017

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

[4]  “Now’s A Good Time” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/17/nows-a-good-time/

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

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

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

Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (1)

john3_1_jesusandnicodemus

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.(John 3:3)

                   This passage, recorded in John 3:1-21, is the first of seven discourses spoken by Jesus and recorded by John. Certainly Jesus preached many more sermons than the seven recorded by John, but these seven, as least for John, uniquely demonstrated the deity of Jesus. Indeed, John records, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31, emphasis mine).

                   The passage opens with the introduction to the audience – one man, Nicodemus, “a man of the Pharisees … a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). His name means “conqueror of the people”[1] or “victorious among his people.”[2] Given the strength of his name, it seems strange that “The same came to Jesus by night” (John 3:2). At a glance, it seems as though Nicodemus came by stealth to avoid detection by those more adamantly opposed to Jesus, but that is not the case. “The Pharisee may have chosen this time in order to be sure of an uninterrupted and leisurely interview. During the day, Jesus would be busy and there would be crowds (crowds of common people!). Not so at night. Then there could be a long, private discussion.”[3]

                   At this point in his Gospel, John had not detailed many of Jesus’ miracles or any of His teachings. Certainly, turning water into wine (John 2:1-12) rates highly as the first of His seven signs. From there, Jesus celebrated the first Passover of His ministry by turning over the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple (John 2:13-22). His action drew fire from the “Jews” who challenged Him: “What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (John 2:18). Apparently, Jesus made Himself known during this time, although John provides little detail. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did” (John 2:23).

                   So, it seems that Nicodemus had at least heard of Jesus. Perhaps he witnessed the miracles of Jesus, and heard Him teach. Now he comes to Jesus by night for a private meeting. “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). Nicodemus addresses Jesus with the sincere title of respect. “Rabbi” acknowledged Jesus as “Master,” that is to say, “Master Teacher.” What little he knew of Jesus instructed him that He was more than an ordinary man. Jesus, he concluded, came “from God” because “no man can do these miracles … except God be with him.”

                   Nicodemus assessed correctly, but Jesus was not interested confirming what He knew to be fact. Nicodemus was not unlike the other “Jews” in many respects. “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25, emphasis mine). Instead, He went right to the heart of the matter. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, emphasis mine). “Again” is a poor translation of the Greek anōthen, which means “from above.” Being “born from above” is in keeping with what John penned in the prologue to his Gospel. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13, emphasis mine). Nicodemus clearly understood the term “born,” genneithei, in the normal sense of procreation (John 3:4), but he missed the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ message.

                   To clear up the confusion, Jesus affirms John’s statement in the opening chapter. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Jesus prefaces His statement with “verily, verily,” i.e. “truly, truly.” Coming from God incarnate, this makes the statement immutable – it is unchangeable. Rebirth is not a matter of external changes, but rather it is a transformation from within, and accomplished “from above” through the saturation of the Holy Spirit. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). We are all born of flesh. That is by design. The spirit of man died at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and thus we are excluded from “the kingdom of God.” Only the rebirth of our spirit can fit us for heaven.

                   The “teacher of Israel” failed to grasp the lesson the Master taught. This called for further instruction. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:11-12, emphasis mine). Jesus addresses Nicodemus (thee). “We speak that we do know.” Some commentators suggest that Jesus refers to Himself and His disciples. However, at this point in His ministry, His disciples were novices; there was little that they “did know.” Indeed, His disciples did not receive “full knowledge” until after His resurrection, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Therefore, I believe the “we” Jesus refers to is the Trinity. I conclude that from His statement in the next verse: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). He, the Son of Man, has direct knowledge “from heaven,” from the Creator Himself (John 1:1-3). When Jesus said, “ye receive not our witness,” the “ye” in the KJV indicates that the Greek, second person personal pronoun is plural. Jesus did not single out Nicodemus; He referred to all the “Jews,” i.e., the religious establishment to whom Jesus later referred to as “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16, 24).

                   The rebirth is simple; Jesus explained. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Jesus referred to Jewish history recorded in Scripture, the Torah to be precise. Numbers 21:4-9 records the time when the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness complained against God and Moses for the free food God provided daily. “And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died” (Numbers 21:6). The Hebrew word translated as “fiery” is śârâph, which means, “burning.” The same Hebrew word (seraphim) is applied to the angelic creatures witnessed by Isaiah in his vision of God on His throne (Isaiah 6:2, 6). In the case of the Hebrew Children, it referred to the burning bite inflicted by the venomous snakes. It may also imply the copper color of the serpents. We derive this from the instructions given to Moses. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated as “brass” is nechôsheth, which means “copper.”

                   The act of looking upon the bronze snake on the pole when bitten included recognition of the sin that brought about the snake bite, and the faith to believe that simply looking upon the likeness of the serpent on the pole would result in healing and preservation of life. In the same way, Jesus compared the simplicity of the rebirth. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15, emphasis mine). Once again, this reaffirms John’s assertion, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine).

                   If one has a red-letter edition Bible, verses 16-21 are attributed to Jesus. However, man, not God, inspires red letters. While many Bible scholars agree that Jesus spoke these words, to me this seems that John added his commentary to expand on what Jesus said. It seems redundant that Jesus would say, “That whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life (v. 15), and then repeat “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (v. 16) in the next sentence. Regardless, the Holy Spirit, inspired these words through John’s pen, so they remain God’s Word whether they were spoken directly by Jesus, or whether John, through the Holy Spirit, expounded on Jesus’ words.

                   The teaching is clear. “That old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan” (Revelation 12:9) inflicted a deadly bite on mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) from which there is no cure.  “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Death is antithetical to God who is life (John 1:4; 14:6). Simultaneously, God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Yet, He loves His creation too much to allow it to “perish,” i.e., die, with no hope for reconciliation.  So, “He gave.” His gift stemmed not from man’s merit, but from His love. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis mine). “He gave His only begotten Son.” The burden of sin was too great for any man to bear, so God Himself took on the insurmountable debt of man’s sin. “And the Word [who was God] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God became man so “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Greek word translated “perish” is apótai meaning “to destroy fully.”  The verb is in the aorist tense indicating that it occurred in the past and its effects continue into the present. It is in the middle voice indicating that the subject is acting on itself, and it is in the subjunctive mood meaning that the action is contingent, probable and eventual. That all means that man in the past brought eventual death and destruction upon himself contingent on what he does with the gift God offers.

                   As in the beginning, it comes down to two choices: the tree of life or the tree of death, aka the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For the children of Israel in the wilderness it was to look upon the bronze serpent and live, or doubt and die. We all have the curse of death upon us. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We also have a choice. “Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The other choice is unbelief. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18, emphasis mine). We are “condemned already” because, to begin with, we are all born of the flesh, but not of the Spirit. Then, we are “condemned already” when we reject the gift of salvation God freely offers.

                   “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).  The condemnation was accomplished at the Fall. God’s solution was to take on human flesh to pay the “wages of sin.”  He paid the debt with His own innocent blood. “For if the blood of bulls and of goats … sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13-14, emphasis mine). He did all the work. The choice to believe  or not believe is ours.

                   Nicodemus took Jesus’ words to heart. In the end, he came to His defense. At the Feast of Tabernacles when the Jews wanted to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus spoke up for him. “Nicodemus saith unto them, … Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:50-51). After they crucified Him, Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathaea in the burial of Jesus, without regard to his Pharisaical reputation (John 19:38-40). He made the choice to believe. We have the same choice.

Notes:


[1]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenbert, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Tel Aviv, Israel, Jewish Studies for Christians, 2015), 32-33.

[2]  Definition from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.

[3]  Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Grand Rapids, MI, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 187.

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