Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

The Triumphal Entry

And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26)

The Sunday before Resurrection Day (I dislike the term “Easter”[1]) is traditionally known as Palm Sunday. This is the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem presenting Himself as the long-awaited Messiah. Daniel predicted this presentation[2] to the exact day, and on the following Wednesday evening[3] (not Friday), Messiah was “cut off.”

The Prophet Zechariah foretold of the presentation like this: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). All four Gospels record this event (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19).[4] Many Bibles insert the title “The Triumphal Entry” before the passage. As one ponders the events that followed that week ending in His crucifixion, one wonders, “Where is the triumph?” In those days, conquering kings entered the conquered cities on a white steed amidst a grand procession of his conquered armies followed by his conquering troops. Jesus entered His city on a young donkey colt cheered on by humble peasants and followed by His bewildered disciples. Just a few days later the same crowd jeered at Him as He hung dying on a Roman cross while all His disciples, save one, were nowhere to be found.

We count His resurrection three days later as a triumph over death, from which we rest assured that our eternal life with Him is secure. But His entry into Jerusalem that fateful week was no triumph. Jesus Himself wept over the event. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37)

It is a misnomer to call His presentation on that Sunday a “triumphal entry.” That day yet awaits His return![5]

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)

When Jesus returns to reign on earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that will be His Triumphal Entry. On that day, He will enter on a white steed followed by a great host of His followers who will not retreat. “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7). That day is coming soon. Are you prepared to meet the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? If not read my page “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Easter’s Wrong” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/03/20/easters-wrong/

[2]  “Daniel 9:26 Commentary” by Precept Austin – https://www.preceptaustin.org/daniel_926

[3]  “Three Days, Three Nights” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/13/three-days-three-nights/

[4]  “Jesus’ Last Days” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/03/25/jesus-last-days/

[5]  “The King Is Coming!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/09/the-king-is-coming/

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Easter, End Times, Holidays, Religion, Resurrection, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

April Fools’ Day

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 14:1)

We recognize the first day of April as April Fools’ Day. It “is an annual (primarily) Western celebration commemorated on April 1 by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. The jokes and their victims are called April fools. People playing April Fool jokes often expose their prank by shouting ‘April fool(s)’ at the unfortunate victim(s). Some newspapers, magazines and other published media report fake stories, which are usually explained the next day or below the news section in smaller letters. Although popular since the 19th century, the day is not a public holiday in every country. Little is known about the origins of this tradition.”[1]

Victims of harmless pranks can hardly be called “fools.” Anyone is susceptible to deception at the hands of someone they trust. If that is a fool, then we all qualify.

The Bible has a much harsher view of a fool. The epithet is so severe that Jesus said, “whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22, emphasis mine). The word “Raca” is of Chaldean origin and it means, “empty or worthless one.” A fool, on the other hand, is one who is “impious[2] or “godless.” Strong’s defines such a one as “dull, stupid or heedless.” The Greek word is mōros, from which we get our word “moron.” It is interesting that Jesus should offer such a severe condemnation as “hell fire” for the offense of calling someone a fool.

Jesus’ prohibition of the application of that word against another person comes at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount. In the same sermon, He later said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2). This verse gets misquoted and misunderstood often as meaning that we are never to exercise rational discernment about someone’s actions. However, that is not at all what Jesus was saying as subsequent verses reveal. The Greek words translated as “judge” and “judgment” are krinō and krima respectively. Both have to do with making a judgment that results in condemnation and punishment. We get our English words “crime” and “criminal” from these Greek words. The kind of judgment Jesus is describing is reserved for God alone. Therefore, if judging someone as “fool” condemns the one judging to “hell fire,” then the punishment for being a “fool” must also be “hell fire.” We deduce this from Jesus’ words, “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” In other words, because the punishment for being a fool is “hell fire,” then the one judging the fool will receive the same judgment because only God can make that judgment.

The English word “fool” appears often in the Bible translating other Greek or Hebrew words, but the strong word Jesus used, mōros, appears only a few times and always in the context of strong condemnation. For example, in Matthew 7:26 Jesus uses it to describe the “foolish man” who built his house on a foundation of sand. Jesus likens those hear His Word and ignore it to the fool who builds his house on sand. In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins and He calls the five unprepared virgins “foolish” because they were not ready to meet the bridegroom. The condemnation is they are not allowed into the wedding. Paul warns his young protégés, Timothy and Titus to avoid “foolish” (moronic) questions because they are unprofitable and vain and they only lead to strife.[3]

Our lead verse appears again in Psalm 53:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.” The Hebrew word translated “fool” is nâbâl, and like mōros, it means stupid, wicked, (especially impious). Someone who does not believe in God, or rejects God is a fool. God condemns such a person to “hell fire,” which is why Jesus admonishes us not to make that judgment.

Paul describes how one sinks to that condition:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18-22, emphasis mine).

By examining this passage more closely, we see that “the wrath of God” – His anger, i.e., “hell fire” – is revealed “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” i.e., “foolishness.” It is doubtful that “true” atheists exist because here we see that God reveals Himself through His creation. The “invisible things,” like viruses, bacteria, atoms, quarks, etc., clearly testify to the greatness of God. Every human being on earth can see the magnificence of God’s creation so that no one has an excuse for not acknowledging God. Everyone, even the atheist, knows that God exists, but they reject Him and refuse to glorify Him choosing rather to follow their own unintelligent (i.e., foolish) imaginations. As a result, their heart is darkened. This progressive condition results in a “reprobate mind,”[4] i.e., a mind that has lost its ability to properly reason. They think they are wise when in fact they have become fools.

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). And “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15). “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2). We are all fools at some time in our lives. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11, emphasis mine). We may all start out as fools, but we do not need to remain in that condition. If you do not know the Lord, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.” Don’t be an April Fool!

Notes:


[1] Wikipedia, “April Fool’s Day” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools%27_Day

[2]  “not pious or religious; lacking reverence for God, religious practices, etc.; irreligious; ungodly” Dictionary.Com definition – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/impious?s=t

[3]  2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9

[4]  Romans 1:28

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Creation, Current Events, Evangelism, Gospel, Hell, Theology

God’s War

Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 39:4-5)

After Ezekiel saw the valley of the dry bones[1] signifying the regathering of the nation of Israel from among all the nations of the earth, and the two sticks[2] signifying the reunification of the divided kingdom,[3] God gave Ezekiel another preview into the future.[4]

The Gog-Magog War, as it has come to be known, is a hot topic in prophecy circles especially due to current events taking place in the Middle East (more on that later). However, to call it the Gog-Magog War is a bit of a misnomer. The vision described by Ezekiel is an invasion of (modern) Israel by a confederation of nations, not just one.

In order to understand the vision, we must go back to Genesis 10 to identify the nations listed in Ezekiel 38-39 and see how they comport with the current world map.

Map 1: Dispersion of Nations After the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)

 The first nation mentioned in the vision is Magog. “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, (Ezekiel 38:2, emphasis mine). “Gog” is a person, not a nation. He is called the “chief prince” making him the leader in command of this invasion. Looking at the map above, we see that Magog, following the dispersion at the Tower of Babel, settled north of the Caspian Sea. Another nation listed by Ezekiel is Gomer[5] which settled north of the Black Sea. By looking at a modern map (below), we see that the people groups or “nations” listed as Magog and Gomer are part of modern-day Russia. Arguably, Meshech, modern-day Georgia, could be included as part of Russia.

Map 2: Modern Map of the Middle East

The next nation listed is Tubal. Looking at Map 1, we note that Tubal occupies the northeast are on the southern coast of the Black Sea in what is now modern Turkey. Along with Tubal, is Togarmah.[6] Both Tubal and Togarmah reside near the northwest border of modern-day Iran. Again we see that Gomer also settled in what is now central Turkey. When we think of Gomer, we can think of both Russia and Turkey, since Gomer settled in both places.

Persia is modern Iran. Ethiopia, a.k.a. Cush[7] (see Map 1), is modern-day Sudan, not the Ethiopia we recognize today (see Map 2). Libya remains Libya today.[8] This confederation of nations consisting of Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, and Libya will unite and come against Israel sometime after Israel becomes a nation.

Mentioned in opposition to the invasion are Sheba, Dedan, and “the merchants of Tarshish with all the young lions thereof.”[9] Comparing Map 1 with Map 2, we see that Sheba and Dedan are in the modern nation of Saudi Arabia. Tarshish (not shown on Map 2) is in Spain. The “merchants of Tarshish” would be nations that trade with Spain and may refer to the European Union. Since the United States and Great Britain are not specifically mentioned in prophecy, some prophecy teachers suggest that the “young lions thereof” refers to Great Britain and the United States, since the lion is the symbol of the U.K., which gave birth to the United States. Although that is speculative, it nonetheless makes good sense. These protest the invasion of Israel, but apparently, are helpless to do anything about it. “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).

I titled this article “God’s War” because, throughout the chapters that encompass this vision, God is clearly in control including the instigation of the war.

Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of [Russia], the chief prince of [Russia] and [Turkey], and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of [Russia] and [Turkey]: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army: … [Iran], [Sudan], and Libya with them; … [Russia/Turkey], and all his bands; the house of [Turkey] of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee. Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. (Ezekiel 38:2-9, emphasis mine).[10]

We see in this passage that God orchestrates these events so that they take place “in the latter years.” Israel, at that time, will have been “brought back from the sword” and “gathered out of many people. They will reside in “the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste.” Historically, we know that before Israel was reborn on May 14, 1948, the land of Israel was a barren wasteland. The image of God putting “hooks into [the] jaws” of Gog, the “chief prince” leading the coalition, implies that God forces the issue; He is in complete control.

Gog sees Israel as “easy pickings,” which serves as the lure to “turn [him] back.”

Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land. (Ezekiel 38:10-12, emphasis mine)

Some prophecy teachers delay the timing of this event because they point out that Israel does indeed have extensive border walls, and they are not “at rest” nor “dwell[ing] safely, all of them dwelling without walls.” To them, this event is not yet imminent. However, to prophecy teachers currently residing in Israel, like Amir Tsarfati,[11] residents of Israel are by and large “at rest” and dwelling in relative safety. As for the walls, these are erected on the national borders, not around individual villages or cities. In modern times, such walls would be useless against aerial attack by enemy aircraft or missiles. Residents of Israel place their confidence in the military capabilities of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), not necessarily on God. Therefore, Amir Tsarfati sees this coming invasion as imminent, but more on that later.

Russia and its coalition of Turkey, Iran, Sudan, and Libya will come against Israel, and Saudi Arabia, the European Union, Great Britain, and the United States will protest the invasion but will do no more than protest for whatever reason. Israel will be left to face the invaders all alone.

Why will God allow this to come upon Israel after all through which He has brought them? This passage often repeats phrases like: “that the heathen (Hebrew: gôyim, meaning “nations” or “people”) may know me” (38:16), “I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD” (38:23), “they shall know that I am the LORD” (39:6, 28), “So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God” (39:22), “the heathen shall know” (39:24). God will be known. Atheism will cease. All excuses will stop.

How will God make Himself known to Israel and all the nations of the earth? Israel will be alone and defenseless when the Russian coalition invades. They will fully expect to win the war against Israel and take the spoil. What spoil? Israelis recently discovered oil and gas reserves in the land enabling them to be energy self-sufficient and an exporter to the E.U. That prospect cuts into Russia’s market so it is easy to see how that could become an incentive to get “spoil.” Besides, Israelis have made great technological advances in many areas including agriculture. Israel has made the desert bloom. With this “hook” in the jaw of Gog, God will draw Russia and its friends into Israel, and there God, not the IDF, will make short work of the invading armies.

And I [the LORD] will turn thee [Gog] back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel: And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD. And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell [confidently] in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 39:2-6, emphasis mine)

God will destroy the 5/6 of the armies of Gog on “the mountains of Israel.” This is probably referring to the Golan Heights that border northern Israel with Syria. The reference to the bow and arrows means that God will disarm Gog or otherwise render his weapons useless. The carnage will be so great that scavenger birds will feast on the flesh of the dead. The armaments that they bring will serve Israel for fuel for seven years.[12] God will even punish Russia, the land of Gog, and the islands that lend naval support. Gog himself will end up dead along with his troops, and the stench of the dead “shall stop the noses of the passengers,”[13] i.e., anyone passing by. The cleanup of the dead bodies will take seven months.[14]

Russia and its allies will be completely destroyed by God, not by the IDF. This is God’s War. “So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward. And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword” (Ezekiel 39:22-23, emphasis mine). No one on earth will doubt that the hand of God delivered the devastating blow. However, recognizing the existence of God and His power does not equate to recognizing His authority and the need to submit to Him. Three times in the Book of the Apocalypse we are told of men blaspheming God rather than repenting even though they recognize that God is the One sending the plagues.[15] Notwithstanding, “The Lord is … not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

When will all of this take place? There is no way we can pinpoint a date, but we can be sure that the time is not too distant. Consider Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones and the uniting of the two sticks. That prophecy was fulfilled when Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948. Jesus said of that time, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree [i.e., Israel]; 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). It has been 70 years, almost 71, since Israel became a nation once more. We are living in “this generation.”

Is Gog alive today? Many prophecy teachers suggest that it may be Vladamir Putin. He is certainly a good candidate for the job. Already he is positioning his armies in Syria, north of Israel. He has made alliances with Turkey, Iran, and Sudan. I am not certain about Libya’s current relationship with Russia, but they have been “friends” in the past. The potential for an invasion of Israel is there. The United States presence in Syria is the only obstacle, but that will soon change when the U.S. withdraws troops from Syria as President Trump intends to do, much to the chagrin of Israel. Once the U.S. is out, all bets are off!

Some prophecy teachers suggest this invasion cannot take place until a prior invasion by Israel’s Arab neighbors as described in Psalm 83. However, according to Amir Tsarfati, this prophecy was fulfilled in 1967 in the Six-Day War. It was “Fought between Israel and Arab neighbors Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The nations of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, and others also contributed troops and arms to the Arab forces.”[16] I tend to agree with Tsarfati. Not only does he have first-hand knowledge, but some of those nations, specifically Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt are “allies” of Israel. Besides that, they have great respect for the IDF.

The puzzle pieces are in place for God’s War. Will we see it? Perhaps, but I personally do not think so. I believe the Rapture[17] of the Church will take place first. The greatest number of Christians in the world reside in the United States; many hold high offices in government. Some have suggested that Donald Trump has become a born-again believer. I hope that is true. Our Vice-president, Mike Pence, is a strong Christian as are many on President Trump’s staff. It may be difficult to believe, but there are many in Congress that are strong Christians, and many of high rank in our military. Imagine the chaos when all of these suddenly disappear! Perhaps this is why all the U.S. can do is protest Gog’s invasion of Israel.

That may set the stage for Antichrist to “confirm” (not make) a seven-year covenant or treaty with Israel ensuring their “peace and safety.”[18] This covenant may already be in the works as Jared Kushner hammers out President Trump’s deal of the century. President Trump will have the deal in place, but it will be Antichrist that enforces it.

All of these things are falling into place right now. The seven years following the Rapture will be the most horrible the world has ever experienced. I rejoice that I will not be around to witness it. How about you? Are you ready? If you are not sure, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Dry Bones” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2019/02/24/dry-bones/

[2]  “Two Sticks” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2019/03/03/two-sticks/

[3]  Ezekiel 37

[4]  Ezekiel 38-39

[5]  Ezekiel 38:6

[6]  Ibid.

[7]  Isaiah 11:11

[8]  Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are listed in Ezekiel 38:5

[9]  Ezekiel 38:13

[10] The appropriate modern names have been substituted within brackets ([ ]) for the biblical names in the passage. Also, details about the implements of war have been removed to avoid distraction.

[11]  Behold Israel Ministry – https://beholdisrael.org/

[12]  Ezekiel 39:9-10

[13]  Ezekiel 39:11

[14]  Ezekiel 39:12, 14

[15]  Revelation 16:9, 11, 21

[16]  “List of wars involving Israel” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_Israel

[17]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

[18]  Daniel 9:27

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

Dry Bones

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. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:32-35)

With the cross looming just days away, Jesus’ naïve apostles wondered about Jesus’ coming kingdom and what part they would play. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3, emphasis mine) The question inaugurated Jesus’ end-times sermon known as the Olivet Discourse. The sermon, addressed to Jesus’ Jewish disciples, delineated the events that would take place in the Great Tribulation spoken of by the Prophet Daniel[1] and detailed by John the Apostle.[2] Now, in order to pinpoint the proximity of these events, Jesus offered the Parable of the Fig Tree (our passage above).

Israel is compared to a fig tree in the Old Testament,[3] and Jesus uses this imagery to signal the last days. Just as the budding of a fig tree singals the proximity of summer, so the “budding” of Israel singals the nearness of the Lord’s return. The generation that witnesses Israel bud, Jesus said, “shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34).

Ezekiel was one of the Jewish priests taken to Babylon in the first group of captives.[4] He was contemporary with the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel, and he ministered to the captives in Babylon. God gave the Prophet Ezekiel a preview of Israel’s rebirth. Ezekiel describes his experience as “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones” (Ezekiel 37:1). “The spirit of the LORD” refers to the Holy Spirit who appears often in the Old Testament. Often we think of the Holy Spirit showing up at Pentcost[5] in the New Testament, and indeed He operates differently today than in Old Testament times, but He was no less active in those days. Today, the Holy Spirit indwells every true believer. In Old Testament time, He “came upon” individuals for specific purposes.

The Holy Spirit carried Ezekiel in a “vision” to a valley full of dry bones. We learn later that these dry bones represent the nation of Israel. “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts” (Ezekiel 37:11, emphasis mine). Dry bones indicate that these bodies died many years before, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years. We know by experience that when a body dies and is left unattended, it will decay. Scavengers will eat away at the flesh until nothing is left but the bones. The bones maintain their “boniness” for a long time, but eventually, the sun will bake them dry and they become brittle and eventually turn to dust.

The bones Ezekiel saw were disarticulated and scattered throughout the valley. The vision foretold of a time when Israel would be broken and scattered all over the world with no sign of life and no hope for revival. “And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:3). Ezekiel saw no hope of life for these bones, but he trusted that with the Lord, nothing is impossible.[6]

God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones. In his vision, Ezekiel witnessed the bones come together and tendons grow to hold the frame together. Then muscle and finally skin, but the bodies remained dead.[7] Then God told him to prophesy to the wind so that it would breathe life into the lifeless bodies. Ezekiel prophesied as instructed and the bodies came alive and stood to their feet and became a mighty army.[8]

After rejecting their Messiah, God punished Israel by destroying the nation and scattering the Jews all over the earth. This took place in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and razed the Temple to the ground. The nation of Israel died that day, and its bones were scattered among the Gentile nations. Everywhere they went, they were persecuted, often having to flee from one nation to another with no place they could call their own. Remarkably, they never lost their national identity, traditions, customs, and language, and at every Passover celebration they recited the incessant prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

For nearly 2000 years, the land lay fallow. By all human reconning, the land became a barren desert wasteland. Jews throughout the world could only dream of returning once again to their beloved homeland. Then at the turn of the 20th Century, God started working on Israel’s behalf again. The dry bones started coming together, Then on May 14, 1948, the dry bones stood up “a mighty army.” Immediately, they faced a fight for their lives, but God intervened and the newborn nation survived. Then in 1967, another invasion by their hostile, more powerful neighbors ended in only six days by God’s help, and Israel regained control of their beloved Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Today, more than 70 years later, tiny Israel is considered the eighth most powerful country in the world.[9] And we are that generation of which Jesus spoke that has witnessed the fig tree bud and the dry bones rise. This is the generation that will see the Lord’s return. Are you ready? If not, read my page, “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Daniel 9:24-27; 11:36-45

[2]  Revelation 6-19

[3]  Joel 1:7, 12

[4]  2 Kings 24:11-16; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8

[5]  Acts 2:1-4

[6]  Jeremiah 32:27

[7]  Ezekiel 37:7-8

[8]  Ezekiel 37:9-10

[9]  “Top 10 Most Powerful Countries in the World 2019

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Weeds

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13:30)

Many, many years ago, when I was between the ages of 10 and 16, my family used to “chop cotton”[1] in the Texas Panhandle. At that time, herbicides were unheard of, and the only way for farmers to rid their fields of invading weeds was to employ temporary workers to walk the long rows of cotton (or sorghum) with hoes to chop the weeds. Several farmers hired “bazeros” that came from Mexico on temporary work visas. A Quonset hut barracks next to our home in Cotton Center, Texas housed around 200 bazeros from planting season to harvest. Some of the farmers could afford to hire large crews of brazeros that could clean their fields in a day or two. Others had to rely on smaller crews, like us, to walk the fields. It took us a little longer, and by the time we had cleaned out a large field, it was time to start all over.

Weed control is important to the health of the cotton plant, especially in its younger stages. Weeds grow rapidly and they rob the young cotton plants of needed nutrition. Additionally, weeds can overshadow the young plants and block the sunlight that they need for photosynthesis. As the cotton plant matures, they are better able to hold their own against the weeds, and in fact, beat the weeds at their own game.

Chopping cotton was not fun work! We started at sunrise in the cool of the morning when the temperature was only 95° or so, and we worked a good 12-hour day. At $1.25 an hour, we were making a killing! By noon, the temperature approached 100°, and by midafternoon, it was well beyond that. I remember trudging through the long cotton rows – some of them a mile long – and the hot soil would fill our shoes. We stopped often to dump a load of dirt back onto the field where it belonged. Plenty of water and Mom’s refried bean tacos kept us going all day! Perhaps today, such work for a 10-year old boy might be considered a form of child abuse, but back then, we worked together as a family for a common goal. We were united. Yes, it was miserable work, but the family bonds drew us closer together. At the end of the season, the money we earned on the last job went to buy school clothes for the next year. I remember rolling up the cuffs of my jeans at the beginning of the school year, and by the start of the spring semester, they were an inch above my ankles.

One cotton field I will never forget brought dread to our souls as we drove up on it. As we stared at the sight, we urged Dad to take us back home. By the looks of it, it appeared that the farmer had planted weeds rather cotton. At the time, I was a little above five-foot tall, and the rows of weeds towered at least a foot above me. The trunks of the “quelite”[2] (“keli weeds”) were two to three inches in diameter at the base requiring four or five good chops with a sharp hoe to take them down. The rows on this field were one mile long with a solid wall of quelite from one end to the other. The cotton sprouts struggled to survive in this forest of weeds, and we had to be careful not to damage the cotton seedlings while felling the giant quelite.

Less than three hours into our day we stopped to sharpen our hoes. Experience taught us to carry a file in our back pocket for these occasions. As we had walked our rows, our focus remained on the ground taking careful aim at the weeds while avoiding the tender cotton plants. Now as we took a strategic respite and looked behind us, we could see that our advance was minimal. The end of the row ahead still stretched a mile away. By lunchtime, we were almost halfway down our rows. We ate our warm bean tacos on the ground in the shade of the tall keli weeds. By the end of the day, we finished one row. The farmer came and paid us our wages and told us not to bother coming back. The field was too far-gone to save and he decided it would be better to plow it under and start over.

As I reminisce about that weed-infested cotton field, I recall Jesus’ Parable of the Tares.[3] In the parable, Jesus tells of a farmer who planted good (wheat) seed in his field and an enemy came in by night and planted tares, i.e. weeds that resemble wheat. The point of Jesus’ parable explains an aspect of “the Kingdom” often applied to the Church. God seeds the church with “good seed,” i.e. genuine, born-again Christians, and later Satan infiltrates and introduces bad seed into the field, i.e. the Church. Both good and bad seed look pretty much alike, so the owner of the field (the Church), allows both to grow together to be separated at the end of time.

My recollection of the quelite field reminds me of the state of our nation. The weeds are gaining strength. They are spreading out and overshadowing the light to the point that many churches are losing any influence they once had. Worse, many churches are being influenced by the weeds and are beginning to look and sound much like the weeds.

Christians that are paying attention and see the decline of our nation (and the world) encourage other Christians to be bolder in their witness and work harder to turn our nation back to its Christian roots and to do whatever we can to get rid of the weeds. However, that is not happening, much to the chagrin of many well-intentioned Christians. Like that farmer with the weed-infested field, it may be time to plow everything under and start all over. Farmer Jesus may be getting ready to do just that! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Notes:


[1]  The misnomer, “chop cotton,” referred to ridding the cotton fields of undesirable weeds by chopping them out with a hoe. The intent was to chop the weeds and leave the cotton standing.

[2]  “Quelite” [keh-lee-teh] is the Spanish name of the plant. Locals “Englishized” the word and called them “keli weeds.” The leaves of the plant are edible and cooked up like turnip greens. As boys, we loved eating them as much as spinach!

[3]  Matthew 13:24-43

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Harbinger Of Demise

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)

That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them. (Ezekiel 23:37)

Ezekiel prophesied to the Jewish captives in Babylon. These were the first carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar.[1] Nebuchadnezzar appointed Jehoiakim’s brother, Mattaniah (a.k.a. Zedekiah), as “king,” i.e., figurehead, over the remnants of Judah. [2] It is to these that the words of our verse above were addressed.

God compared Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom, and Jerusalem, capital of Judah, to a couple of adulterous sisters, Aholah and Aholibah.[3] The text does not say whether these were two actual women; however, the name Aholah means “her tent” as in a place of worship. Aholibah (Jerusalem) means “my tent is in her.”

The Northern Kingdom had long abandoned the worship of Yahweh for pagan gods like Baal and Molech, and established their place of worship as Mount Gerizim. Jesus encountered this when He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain [Mount Gerizim]; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20). So, Mount Gerizim was where Aholah (Samaria) had pitched “her tent,” but God had placed “His tent,” i.e., the Temple, in Jerusalem.

God places Himself in the position of a jilted husband whose wives persistently commit adultery against Him. This adultery comes in the form of idolatry with pagan gods. The idolatry included the live sacrifice of their babies – they had “caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them” (Ezekiel 23:37). For this, God “put away,” i.e. “divorced,” His wives. Both Israel and Judah went into captivity, and even though Judah returned to the land after 70 years, they never again enjoyed the same relationship they previously had with God.[4]

If God did that with His “chosen” people, what makes us think that the United States of America will fare better in her idolatry? America may not worship the grotesque idols of the ancients, but we do have our idols. Our greatest idol is egocentrism. We worship self. We offer up to self our time, our efforts, our money, and yes, even our babies. Babies are a major inconvenience to our own desires. They can cramp our style, so mothers can “choose” at any time to sacrifice their babies to the god of self. Just as the ancients placed their live babies onto the firey hands of Molech, modern mothers can place their live babies into the murderous and greedy hands of Planned Parenthood abortionists.

That is not all the ancients did. The worship of their gods included ritual sex with temple prostitutes – male and female prostitutes. These were not only for heterosexual sex; the practice included homosexual sex. God considers such acts as abominable.[5] Today, our god of self allows for this practice even to the point of assigning your preferred gender to yourself. This perversion is not only acceptable; it is encouraged. As the decline of social mores rapidly accelerates in decay, the words of Paul to the Romans ring ever truer.

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools … Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves … For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:22, 24, 26-32, emphasis mine).

That is the true state of our union. I was proud of our President Trump in his State of the Union address. His message was positive, encouraging and hopeful. However, in the gallery sat those who applauded only when their selfish interests were addressed. When the President spoke for the sanctity of life, for religious freedom, and against socialism, those same white-clad egotists sat grimacing on their hands. Sadly, these are the ones in power who will thwart every well-intentioned effort by our President.

The light shines brightest when it’s darkest I’ve been told. However, if the dark is a black hole, no light will ever penetrate. If God turned His back on His chosen people, for, arguably, less than our national sin, why should we expect to fare any better? Our only hope is for Jesus to return to reign on earth. From the “signs of the times,” that event can happen any time.

I hope, as you read this, that you are ready for that moment. If you are not sure, please read my page on Securing Eternal Life.

Notes:


[1]  2 Kings 24:11-16; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8

[2]  2 Kings 24:17-19; 2 Chronicles 36:10-12

[3]  Ezekiel 23:4

[4]  The final prophet to speak for God after Judah’s return to the land was Malachi. For 400 years after that, the voice of a prophet was not heard in Israel until “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23) John the Baptist. He announced the coming of Messiah whom the Jews rejected. That rejection resulted in the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Diaspora that lasted almost 2000 years until the rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948.

[5]  Leviticus 18:22; 20:13

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Cause For Tears

As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us. They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come. (Lamentations 4:17-18)

I have tried to maintain a habit of reading the Bible through every year. I like getting a different translation of The One Year Bible because it presents a systematic method of reading a portion from the Old Testament, portion from the New Testament, and a reading out of the “Wisdom Books”[1] every day. The year before last, I tried reading through the Chronological Study Bible (NKJV), because I thought it would be interesting to read Scripture in the sequence of the historical events.

The trouble, for me, in following a prescribed reading plan of any kind is the pressure that comes from knowing you have so much reading to get done today because if you don’t, you will get behind. And if you fall more than one day behind in your reading, it easy to become discouraged and stop. I got behind on my reading several times, but I never became discouraged enough to quit. I am not bragging; I am confessing. When I felt pressure like that, I felt I had to get my reading done, so in my rush to get through it, I missed a lot.

I do not like to read the Bible like that. I like to take my time and really soak it in. I read slowly anyway, but I like to read for detail, and I enjoy “interacting” with what I read. I have developed a system of color coding[2] passages of Scripture with color pencils so that when I leaf through my Bible, I can tell about what the passage refers by the color that highlights it.

Last year I started reading my new King James Bible without the words of Jesus in red. (Red interferes with color coding.) I have not made it all the way through yet, but I am enjoying the “study” much better. I started with the New Testament, then the Minor Prophets, then the books of Wisdom, and now I am in the Major Prophets. I finished Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations, and I just started on Ezekiel.

That brings me to the subject of my title. The study of Scripture is not a “cause for tears.” Quite the contrary, it brings me a lot of joy. However, as I mentioned, I just finished my study of Jeremiah and Lamentations. The Prophet Jeremiah authored both books. Jeremiah is known as the “Weeping Prophet,” and he had great cause for tears.

He lived at the time of Judah’s demise. He ministered during the time of Judah’s last three kings: Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.[3] He witnessed the first invasion by the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar that took the first round of captives to Babylon. The Prophet Daniel was in this first group. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiakim captive and replaced him with his brother, Zedekiah. After nine years, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to pay tribute, so Nebuchadnezzar mounted a second invasion of Jerusalem. This time he razed Jerusalem to the ground. Nebuchadnezzar took Zedekiah captive, but not before making him watch the slaughter of his sons before having his eyes gouged out.[4] Jeremiah witnessed all of this.

Jeremiah had cause for tears. For 40 years he pleaded with Judah to repent of her idolatries. He warned of impending doom for their obstinance and refusal to abandon their pagan gods and return to “the God of Israel.” For this, he was persecuted, mistreated and imprisoned, yet he refused to stop proclaiming, “Thus saith the LORD.” To the first round of captives taken, he wrote letters encouraging them to build houses, plant gardens, take wives and raise families, seek the welfare of the city in which they lived, and not to listen to the false prophets that said the captivity would not be for long.[5] This oft-quoted out-of-context passage followed God’s admonition. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). Although we can take comfort knowing that God only desires the best for His people, we must also keep in mind to whom this was addressed and the circumstances that precipitated it.

What follows clearly shows that this message was for them, not necessarily for us. “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:12-14). They treated Jeremiah as a traitor for this message of hope.

God gave many promises to Jeremiah concerning Israel’s bright future. “And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:3-4). “Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jeremiah 30:10-11). “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jeremiah 32:37-40).

We see these promises being fulfilled before our eyes. Israel has returned to her land. From all over the world, Jews are returning to their Promised Land, and the desert is blooming.[6] Yet, in spite of the promise of a bright future, Jeremiah watched his beloved Jerusalem crumble to dust and all her people either killed by the sword or taken away captive. It was cause for tears.

As I read Jeremiah’s record, it is a cause for tears because I see what Jeremiah saw but in my beloved nation. Our nation is steeped in idolatry. It is not so much in the form of pagan deities, although there is some of that in the growing number of occult practices – Wicca, witchcraft, satanism, etc. – but mostly in the worship of all forms of entertainment and materialism. Anything that takes a higher priority than God is idolatry.

Our country has fallen prey to the practice of infanticide in the form of abortion even up to the time of birth. There may not be a blazing bronze statue of Baal on which to burn the babies, but abortion is an offering to Baal nonetheless.

Pornography is often a secret sin harbored by many Christians, even Christian leaders. Prostitution has become passé so much that even President Trump’s indiscretion with a porn star is only a slight embarrassment because of its exposure.

The “gay” agenda continues to force its presence into the mainstream so that public schools are indoctrinating children as young as kindergarten into the “normalcy” of this perverse behavior. Children are being taught that they can reject the biological sex with which they were born and be whatever sex they choose to be. Recently, the media celebrated an eleven-year-old “drag princess” for his “talent” in dancing for dollars at a gay bar.[7] Another ten-year-old “drag princess” was photographed posing with a naked adult drag queen,[8] and our society seems to think nothing of it. How is this not considered a form of child abuse?

Then there are child prostitution rings where grown men go to engage in sexual intercourse with little girls and boys. There is an island in the Caribbean where many of our politicians go to engage in sex with children.[9] Imagine the power the ring operators hold over politicians for keeping their secrets.

All of this and more is cause for tears. It took Israel less than 1000 years to arrive at such a depraved condition where God had to banish them from the land. Our nation, from the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620, is only 399 years old, and look at how far we have fallen! Arguably, this moral decline has taken place within the last generation – 70 years – and has rapidly accelerated within the last 20 years.

Another popular verse of Scripture quoted out of context is 2 Chronicles 7:14. God made this promise to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple. He said, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” His people did not humble themselves, pray, seek His face, nor turn from their wickedness, and the Temple to which they were to turn was completely destroyed. Surely there was a remanent of faithful ones among the wicked. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among those,[10] but that did not stop God from punishing the nation.

We do not have a Temple toward which to pray except for the one “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Still, God throughout the ages instructed us to pray for our nation and our leaders;[11] but that offers little security if God deems the nation unredeemable. Perhaps part of God’s punishment will include taking out the faithful before the final destruction. However, like Jeremiah knowing the future promise of restoration yet living in the midst of national decline, we have cause for tears. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Notes:


[1]  The “books of Wisdom” or the “Wisdom Books” include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

[2]  My system of color coding: Yellow = Noteworthy; Orange = Attributes of God; Green = Attributes of Jesus; Light Blue = Attributes of Holy Spirit; Purple = Word of God; Red = Blood/Salvation; and Brown = End-Times Prophecy

[3]  Jeremiah 1:2-3

[4]  Jeremiah 39:6-7

[5]  Jeremiah 29:4-9

[6]  Isaiah 35:1

[7]  “Nolte: 11-Year-Old ‘Drag Queen’ Dances for Dollar Bills in Gay Bar

[8]  “10yo Drag Queen Posing with Naked Adult Man is “Beautiful” and “Not Sexualized

[9]  “Sex Tourism And Trafficking In The Dutch Caribbean

[10]  Daniel 1:6

[11]  1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Peter 2:13-15,17

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