Tag Archives: Israel

How Long, O Lord?

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? (Revelation 6:9-10)

I still have my head on my shoulders. I have not lost it or even had the threat of losing it over my faith in Christ. The verse above describes the Tribulation saints martyred for their faith. However, it makes me wonder about the many of our brethren that have died for their faith in other parts of the world. Are they asking the same question? “How long, O Lord do you not judge and avenge our blood?”

I have nothing about which to complain. I see persecution of Christians increasing in our nation, but it has not reached the level of imprisonments or beheadings – yet. Still, I wonder, “How long, O Lord?” How long must we wait for Jesus to come and call us home? How long until He returns to earth with His saints to set up His early kingdom for a thousand years? How long before we can experience true peace on earth? How long, O Lord?

The stage is set. Israel dwells in relative peace in her land of “unwalled villages” (Ezekiel 38:11). She has been there for 70 years. Because of her presence, the desert rejoices and blossoms as a rose” (Isaiah 35:1). Seventy Jubilees have passed since Moses received the commandment on Mt Sinai (Leviticus 25:10). Russia, Turkey, and Iran position themselves for the war described in Ezekiel 38-39. There have been “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 reality, not much else needs to be fulfilled. How long, O Lord?

Last week, the Feast of Trumpets came and went uneventfully. I really hoped to hear the Lord shout, “Come up hither” (Revelation 4:1), but nothing. Nothing says the Lord must come at the Feast of Trumpets or any other “special” time, for that matter. However, as I have written before, there is a good reason to consider these “high watch” days. This week brings the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32) which is immediately followed by the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-44). These are “Feasts of the Lord.” They are His divine appointments; therefore, it is not unreasonable to consider these days more likely than any others. However, we need to keep in mind Jesus’ words, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Some debate about what that really means. The fact remains that we do not know. So, we wait. The time is near, but how long, O Lord?

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Still Listening Again

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).

Every year for at least the last decade – ever since I learned about the Feasts of the Lord[1] – around this time of year, I start getting a little anxious with excitement wondering if this will be the year that Jesus will call His bride home.[2], [3], [4], [5], [6] This Monday, September 10, the Feast of Trumpets comes around again. For those of us who look forward to the Rapture of the Church, this is a “high watch” day. The reason for this, as I have explained in the past, is because this is the next Feast not fulfilled by Jesus’ First Advent. Therefore, it stands to reason that Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets) would be a good time for Jesus to summon His Bride, the Church, home. Every year as I have waited, the day has come and gone, and we are still here. You might think that eventually I would experience “Rapture Fatigue” and give up on the whole idea. However, I still have oil in my lamp and even some extra! (Matthew 25:4)

Some will criticize and remind us that Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). The Rapture is imminent. It could happen at any time, and we ought always to be ready. Nothing prophetically remains unfulfilled for this event to take place. Israel celebrated her 70th rebirthday this past May. We live in the generation that witnessed the “fig tree” bud (Matthew 24:32-33). This year wraps up the 70th Year of Jubilee since Moses gave the ordinance 3500 years ago. Israel is the focal point of end-times prophecy, so our attention must focus on current events in the Middle East. The stage is being set for what “prophecy watchers” call the “Ezekiel 38-39 War.” At the time of this writing, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are meeting concerning their involvement in Syria. Damascus almost resembles the ruinous heap described in Isaiah 17:1.

Will these things happen before or after the Rapture? We cannot tell. No man knows the day or the hour, but we sense that the time is near. Will the Rapture take place at the Feast of Trumpets? Perhaps. The Feast of Trumpets is celebrated over two days because it is based on the verified appearance of the new moon. Since the exact time of the appearance cannot be accurately predicted, the Feast of Trumpets is known as the feast of which “no man knows the day or the hour.” This year the watch is set for Monday and Tuesday, September 10 & 11 beginning at sundown on Sunday, September 9 (the date of this posting).

Will Jesus call for His Bride in the coming weeks? I do not know, but I hope so, and I am ready! How about you? If you are unsure, read my pages on “Securing Eternal Life” and on “Heaven.”

Notes:


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

[2]  “Still Waiting!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/24/still-waiting/

[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/

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

[6]  “Still Listening” https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/09/20/still-listening/

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End-Times 102

But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:37)

In last week’s article, “End-Times 101,” I attempted to present a “high level” perspective of end-times prophecy because, for many Christians, end-times prophecy mystifies and confuses them. Much of this confusion comes from conflating the events of the seven-year Tribulation culminating in Jesus’ physical return to earth and the Rapture of the Church, which takes place before the Tribulation. As I pointed out in “End-Times 101,” end-times prophecy can be divided into four basic parts: (1) the Rapture of the Church, (2) the seven-year Tribulation, (3) the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth, and (4) the New Heavens and New Earth for eternity. However, most of the confusion centers around the events leading to and including the seven-year Tribulation before Jesus returns to earth to reign.

The time of Tribulation is a complex subject drawing information from several Old Testament prophets, none of which were given a complete picture of this time in future history. Furthermore, none of them, with perhaps the exception of Daniel, was given a complete sequence of events. Modern prophecy scholars must rely on “the whole counsel” of God’s Word to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, so it is unwise to take one teacher’s perspective and call it “Gospel.” We need to remember that we all “see in a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We are flawed human beings and prone to error. No one has it ALL right; however, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, we can have a good idea of what will take place during the Tribulation and the events that will lead to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).

All end-times prophecy centers on Israel. The prophet Daniel was told. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24, emphasis mine). “Seventy weeks” literally means “seventy sevens (of years),” or 490 years. This time was to begin at the time that Cyrus the Great gave the command that the Jews could return from Babylonian captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (Daniel 9:25). Notice that the prophecy applies to Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). The specificity of this prophecy applies to all end-times prophecy. The purpose of God’s plan is to “make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity [i.e., make things right], and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy [i.e., conclude history as we know it], and to anoint the most Holy [i.e., establish Jesus’ reign on earth]. There is nothing here about “the Church.” To the Old Testament prophets, the Church was a “mystery” (Ephesians 5:32).

Daniel’s seventy weeks is divided into seven weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years) and one week (seven years). Opinions differ on the significance of first 49 years (seven weeks), and I do not want to add to the confusion. However, the seven weeks and 62 weeks add up to 69 weeks (one short of 70) or 483 years. At the end of this time, Daniel predicts the coming of Messiah (Daniel 9:26) at which time Messiah will be “cut off,” i.e., killed. Scholars have calculated and determined that from the time Cyrus decreed that the Jews were to return to their land (c. 445 BC[1]) unto the day Jesus made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. In that same week, Jesus was “cut off.”

Daniel’s prophecy then predicts a “prince” that will destroy the city and the temple and bring an end to the sacrifices. He will come with an army (“a flood”) and at the end of war bring “desolation” (Daniel 9:26). This prophecy has been fulfilled twice: the first time by Antiochus IV Epiphanes around 164 BC, and the second time by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD. It was this second destruction that left Jerusalem (and all of Palestine) desolate for almost 2000 years. However, the prophecy reveals a third “prince” that will come. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Daniel 9:27, emphasis mine). That “week” is the last of the 70 weeks of years determined for Israel. The difference between this “prince” and those that come before is that he “confirms” (not “makes”) a covenant (or “treaty”) with “many” for seven years (one week).

This seven-year period is the Tribulation, and it is not intended for the Church. Remember, it is a time determined for Daniel’s people and Daniel’s holy city (Daniel 9:24). The “prince,” aka, Antichrist, will be revealed when he enforces (“confirms”) a peace treaty with “many.” In context, this would be Israel and all her “many” enemies that would see her destroyed. For years, many tried to predict who Antichrist might be, but in reality, this is wasted effort for the church, since the church will not be on the scene when the Antichrist arrives. In speaking of the appearance of this “man of sin,” the Apostle Paul says, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [or “restrains”] will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7, emphasis mine). “He who now restrains” is the Holy Spirit who works in the lives of believers. When that Restrainer is “taken out of the way,” then “then shall that Wicked [one] be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and the Tribulation begins.

The Rapture of the Church comes “as a thief in the night,” but it will precede the Tribulation. We cannot predict with certainty the time of the Rapture, but the events during the Tribulation are predictable according to Scripture. Knowing the events that will take place during the Tribulation helps us to forecast the proximity of the Rapture.

Daniel characterized the end as a time when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4). By land, we can traverse the US from coast to coast in a matter of three or four days. By air, the journey takes a matter of hours. A little more than a century ago, the same trip took about a year and four months.[2] According to “industry tap,” knowledge currently doubles every 12 months, and they predict it will soon double every 12 hours.[3]

The prophet Ezekiel tells of a coming invasion of Israel by a confederacy of nations from the north (Ezekiel 38-39). The prophet identifies these nations as Magog (Russia), Meshech (Georgia) and Tubal (Turkey). God says to Gog, the leader of Magog (V. Putin), “I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army” (Ezekiel 38:4, emphasis mine). Along with this, the prophet also names Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, and Libya. With the exception of Ethiopia, these nations are majority Muslim, and their hatred for Israel is well known. Today we see the amassing of Russian and Iranian troops near Syria’s southern border with Israel. Russia (Magog) has aligned itself with Turkey, Syria, and Iran. While Russia is not openly hostile toward Israel, it does have interest in Israel’s newfound gas and oil reserves. Israel’s newfound treasure threatens Russia’s energy market with Europe as Israel builds a gas pipeline to deliver cheaper gas to Europe. This competition has the potential to incite Russia to attack Israel. When this takes place, Israel’s allies will be unable to help other than to protest the invasion. “Sheba, and Dedan [Saudi Arabia], and the merchants of Tarshish [Spain/Europe], with all the young lions thereof [some think this refers to Britain and the US], shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13). Israel’s allies will be helpless to do anything more than complain. Considering the Christian population of the US and, to a less extent, Britain and Europe, the Rapture will deal such a blow to these nations that their governments, military, and their economies will be in such shambles that they will be unable to help. Israel will be completely on her own except for God. “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face” (Ezekiel 38:18). This is yet a future event, but we can see the stage being set for the unfolding of this drama.

Of the Tribulation, Jesus said “ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). Critics might be quick to point out that “wars and rumors of wars” have existed since time began. However, scoffers too are a sign of the end-times. “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). These scoffers forget that end-times prophecy centers on Israel and Jerusalem and not the world in general even though these events will affect the whole world. From 70 AD to 1948, Israel vanished from the earth as a nation. The Jews were scattered to the four corners of the globe (yes, I know a globe does not have corners!). Therefore, all those other wars are irrelevant to end-times prophecy. For these events to fulfill Bible prophecy, Israel must be a nation, Jerusalem must be the capital, and the Temple must be rebuilt. Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948. Despite being scattered all over the world, the Jewish people retained their “Jewishness.” Even the Hebrew language, once thought to be a dead language, is restored and in use as the official language of Israel. On May 14, 2018, 70 years after Israel’s rebirth, President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Temple is not built, but all the implements of the Temple are ready. The priests are in training to carry out the ministry of the temple. The plans and the materials for the Temple are ready for the building. The only thing that remains is for the order to be given to build. Scoffers may scoff, but the stage is being set.

Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 17, 21 record Jesus’ words about the end times – the time of Tribulation. Revelation 4-19 goes into great detail about the events that will take place during that terrible seven-year period. Those who belong to the Church, the Bride, of Christ, need not worry about going through that awful time. However, we must be alert and watch. Jesus said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28, emphasis mine). We see these things “beginning” to come to pass. We see the stage being set. The time is near. Look up! Lift up your heads! Your redemption is drawing near!

Notes:


[1]  The time is calculated based on a biblical year of 360 days.

[2]  http://www.answers.com/Q/How_long_did_it_take_to_cross_the_US_in_covered_wagon

[3]  http://www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soon-to-be-every-12-hours/3950

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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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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Evangelism, Geology, Gospel, Hell, Religion, Theology

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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Filed under Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Holidays, New Year's Day, Politics, Religion, Second Coming of Christ