Tag Archives: Religion

Looking for Antichrist

Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (Revelation 13:18)

For longer than I have studied end-times prophecy (and I by no way count myself as an expert), prophecy watchers have sought to determine the identity of the end-times Antichrist. Our starting verse above suggests that someone with “wisdom” can know the name of the “the beast,” the Antichrist, by calculating the “number of his name” – 666. By assigning numerical values to the letters of the alphabet, some in the past (perhaps even now) have used this “clue” to determine the name of the Antichrist. However, these overlook the fact that the Revelation was written in Koine Greek, and they apply this method to the English alphabet. Hence, several candidates have come and gone: Napoleon, Hitler, and several U.S. Presidents among others.

Personally, I believe that the identity of the Antichrist should be of no concern for Christians for reasons I will discuss later. When the Antichrist arrives on the scene, how will the world recognize him?

The Antichrist appears first in the Book of Daniel where the prophet characterizes him as a “little horn”[1] that rises out of a ten-nation confederacy. Without going into a lengthy explanation, a “horn” symbolizes a “kingdom” or a “king.” That the horn is “little” suggests perhaps a political leader having little authority at first, but then rises to power. Adolf Hitler is a good example of how this can happen. In my opinion, the “little horn” is alive and politically active right not, but because of his “little” position, he does not occupy the limelight. However, according to Daniel, he will arise and assume great power.

The Antichrist next appears in the Book of Daniel where the prophet characterizes him as a “prince.”[2] The Hebrew word translated “prince” is nâgı̂yd, which means “commander” (civil, military, or religious). “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). The “one week” is a translation of the Hebrew “one seven;” in other words, a group of seven years. This is the final seven years of Daniel’s 70 “weeks” of years determined for Daniel’s people, the Jews[3] that we know as the Tribulation.

According to the prophet, the “prince” will “confirm the covenant” for seven years (one week). This suggests that a covenant (treaty or agreement) already exists that has not been ratified. He does not “make” the covenant, but he makes the covenant effective.

Unless you live under a rock, you should be aware of all the problems with Israel and its Arab neighbors. So persistent are the “wars and rumors of wars”[4] in Israel that the media does not even bother to report on it unless they can somehow vilify Israel. President Donald Trump with the help of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has devised the “deal of the century” to bring peace to the Middle East particularly as it involves Israel and the “Palestinians.” However, the plan finds strong resistance from the Palestinians and other Muslim nations.

Could this be the “covenant” that Antichrist will confirm? Who will rise to make the covenant effective? As noted above, the “little horn” will not be known until he comes to power and confirms the covenant with Israel for seven years. If you are around when that happens, you are in for a long, hard seven years, but even then there is hope.

Daniel foretells that Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel after 3½ years by desecrating the Temple. Right now, there is not a Temple in Jerusalem, but the Temple Faithful[5] have everything needed to rebuild the Temple. The original Ark of the Covenant is hidden for now, though they claim to know its location. In order for Antichrist to desecrate the Temple, a Temple must exist. Jesus said, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation [i.e. the Antichrist], spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16). Perhaps rebuilding the Temple is part of Trump’s Deal of the Century!

The Apostle Paul refers to Antichrist as “that man of sin” and “the son of perdition.”[6] This is the one “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4, emphasis mine). Antichrist is an atheist. He opposes everything pertaining to God and even exalts himself above God. Daniel also makes this point. “And the king [i.e. the “little horn”] shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done” (Daniel 11:36, emphasis mine). Worse than being an atheist, Antichrist will actually worship Satan. “But in his estate shall he honour the [g]od of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things” (Daniel 11:38). The “god of forces” is Satan, who controls the powers and principalities who are the demonic realm.

This “spirit of antichrist” prevails in our world today. Humans reject God, and in effect, make themselves gods. The Apostle John, author of the Book of Revelation makes this point: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). That applies to many today. “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:3, emphasis mine). “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18, emphasis mine). However, the Antichrist will top them all.

In the Book of Revelation, John describes the Antichrist as a “beast” rising “up out of the sea.”[7] Symbolically, the “sea” refers to the masses of humanity. He receives his power from “the dragon,”[8] i.e., Satan. Apparently, sometime in the first half of the Tribulation[9] he receives a deadly head wound from which he revives.[10] This “miracle” imitates Christ’s resurrection from the dead so that the people of the world “worshipped the dragon that gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast” (Revelation 13:4). After this, he gains power for the remaining 3½ years of the Tribulation. This seems to be the time when he desecrates the Temple. Perhaps after “rising from the dead,” he convinces himself that he is god. “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven” (Revelation 13:6, emphasis mine). “Tabernacle” and “Temple” are synonymous. Further along in the chapter, a “second beast” is described. Prophecy students understand this beast to be the “false prophet” imitating the Holy Spirit. He erects an image of Antichrist and forces all people of the world to worship the image. Some think that the false prophet erects the image in the Temple, which is actually what desecrates the Temple. Note the counterfeit trinity: Satan in the place of God, the Beast in the place of Christ, and the False Prophet (the second beast) in the place of the Holy Spirit.

In brief, this is how Antichrist will be recognized. I do not believe that Christians will be around when Antichrist makes the scene. Paul assures us that the Rapture of the Church will take place before the Antichrist is revealed. He says, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3, emphasis mine). That “falling away” is apostasia in the Greek, which refers to a defection or turning away from “the faith.” We see that happing all around us, as churches and denominations reject the teachings of the Bible and substitute entertainment for true worship. I wonder if churches closing out of fear of the Wuhan bug demonstrates a lack of faith for God’s protection and His admonition to “Not forsak[e] the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, emphasis mine).

The “falling away” continues. Paul goes on to say that Antichrist will not show up until the “restrainer” is taken out of the way. “And now ye know what withholdeth that he [the Antichrist] might be revealed in his time” (2 Thessalonians 2:6, emphasis mine). “Withhold” is the Greek word katechō, which means to “hold down fast.” Paul admits that iniquity exists even now, but its full power is restrained until “he who now [katechō] will [restrain], until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8). That “Restrainer” is the Holy Spirit who resides within every true believer that makes up the Church, the Bride of Christ. When the Holy Spirit departs, the Church departs because Jesus promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). He said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter [i.e., the Holy Spirit], that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16).

So, don’t waste a lot of time and effort trying to figure out who the Antichrist is. Rather, study the signs of the last days given in the Bible. Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you. Especially, look at what is going on in Israel. The time is very near. And if you are unsure of your position with God, Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Daniel 7:8

[2]  Daniel 9:26

[3]  Daniel 9:24

[4]  Matthew 24:6

[5]  The Temple Faithful – http://templemountfaithful.org/

[6]  2 Thessalonians 2:3

[7]  Revelation 13:1

[8]  Revelation 13:2

[9]  The Tribulation is detailed in Revelation 6-19

[10]  Revelation 13:3

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How Soon They Forget!

Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: (Deuteronomy 8:11)

Forgetfulness gets us in trouble many times, like when you forget some special someone’s birthday or anniversary. Forgetfulness can be annoying, like when you walk into a room and wonder why you entered. Someone once said that “The only thing faster than the speed of thought is the speed of forgetfulness. Good thing we have other people to help us remember.”[1] Some kinds of forgetfulness are worse than others. When you forget a special day, you can always make it up and get forgiveness. When you walk into a room and forget why you entered, you can always walk back out and remember when you get busy doing something else. However, forgetting God and the blessings He has bestowed on us, well, that just makes us ingrates, but worse, it raises up a barrier to our relationship with Him.

Reading through the biblical history of Israel, the characteristic that stands out above all others is forgetfulness, which often manifests in the spirit of ingratitude. When God led them out of Egypt, they soon forgot the hardship of their bondage and started complaining about the manna God provided for them in the desert. After God audibly spoke to them at Mount Sinai and gave them His Ten Commandments, they soon forgot the first one and built a golden calf to worship.

That pattern followed them throughout their history until God finally had enough and sent the Assyrians first to punish Israel (the northern kingdom) then, 100 years later, He sent the Babylonians to punish Judah. The northern kingdom, Israel, was deported to the region that we know today as northeastern Iraq,[2] and they assimilated with the Assyrian culture gaining the moniker of the “Ten Lost Tribes.” Nebuchadnezzar carried off the Jews[3] in three waves, 597 BC, 586 BC, and finally 581 BC, but the Judah Jews retained their identity throughout their captivity (as they have to this day).

The Babylonian captivity for the Jews lasted only 70 years as God had determined for them.[4] Daniel records the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC[5] by Cyrus as predicted by Isaiah the prophet.[6] After conquering Babylon, Cyrus issued a decree[7] that allowed the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem and their Temple. It took the Jews about 23 years to rebuild the Temple razed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. “And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king” (Ezra 6:15).[8]

Fifty-six years (by my calculations) after the completion of the Temple, Ezra, priest and scribe,[9] left Babylon to assess the Temple situation. This was during the seventh year of Artaxerxes I’s (465-425 BC) reign; this would have been around 458 BC. In the interim, between the completion of the Temple and Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem, the enemies of the Jerusalem Jews had been carrying on a letter-writing campaign with the Persian kings to stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem.[10] Therefore, all building (except for the Temple which was completed) had ceased.

At about this same time, (20th year of Artaxerxes I, 445 BC) Nehemiah heard about the battered condition of Jerusalem and how the city walls were broken down. This caused him great grief and from his position as the “king’s cupbearer,” he requested permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Ezra was already in Jerusalem. So Nehemiah took charge, and against much opposition, rebuilt the walls in just 52 days.[11]

I have a reason for providing all that detail. I began by reciting Israel’s forgetfulness and unfaithfulness to the LORD their God. Finally, after 70 years of captivity, God worked through pagan kings to allow them to return to their homeland. With the blessing of the Persian kings, beginning with Cyrus, God provided the way and the resources for them to rebuild their Temple and the walls of the city in record time. All of this was God’s doing, and God’s hand can be clearly seen over all of it. One would think that after all of that, they would remember their God.

They did, briefly. Once the walls were completed and Ezra had the priests and Levites all organized, they had a dedication for the Temple and the City walls. The scene recorded in Nehemiah 8 and 9 harkens back to a similar gathering when King Josiah read the Book of the Law that had been found in Solomon’s Temple.[12] On this occasion, Ezra stood on a “pulpit” and read Scripture from morning until noon. And the people stood and listened, and the Levites “taught the people” and they “read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8, emphasis mine). The clarity given to God’s word was necessary because the people had been speaking Aramaic in their captivity and probably lost a lot of their use and understanding of Hebrew – the language of the Scripture.

As a result, there was a great “revival” among the people. They discovered that it displeased God for them to intermarry with pagans, so all those who married pagan wives divorced them. They committed to follow God completely. So, for the twelve years that Nehemiah governed,[13] they were faithful to their commitment. However, Nehemiah had to return to his post at the side of Artaxerxes[14] and was there for “certain days.” In his brief absence, things (spiritually) fell into disarray once again. Eliashib, the priest, arranged an apartment inside the Temple for Tobia the Ammonite, the mortal enemy of Nehemiah, violating the Law of God.[15] Nehemiah observed many Jews violating the Sabbath and foreign merchants peddling their goods inside the city gates on the Sabbath. All these things from which they “repented” were taking place as normal. They also started marrying pagan wives again. How soon they forget!

It is no wonder that God stopped speaking to them after this for the next 400 years. Then Jesus came, and they failed to recognize Him because they forgot what Scripture foretold about Him. We should not be too critical, though. We have the complete canon of God’s Word, and we still forget.

I have stated before, when I read the history of Israel, I see a striking parallel with our nation, the U.S.A. We have forgotten God too, and if God stopped dealing with His “chosen people” what makes us think that we should get preferential treatment? I think we have gone too far in our forgetfulness.

There is hope for the U.S.A., for Israel, and for the whole world. Soon, and very soon, Jesus will return and set up His kingdom on Earth, and all things will be made right. Are you prepared to meet Him? See my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration, (Norilana Books, http://www.norilana.com/, 2010).

[2]  2 Kings 17:6

[3]  Name derived from “Judah”

[4]  Jeremiah 25:11-12

[5]  Daniel 5:30

[6]  Isaiah 44:28; 45:1

[7]  Ezra 5:13

[8]  Darius reigned between 522-486 BC

[9]  Ezra 7:6

[10] Ezra 4:8-22 (is a “sample” letter that is out of sequence with the narrative)

[11] Nehemiah 6:15

[12]  “Too Good, Too Late” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/05/17/too-good-too-late/

[13]  Nehemiah 5:14-15

[14]  Nehemiah 13:6

[15]  Deuteronomy 23:3

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Too Good, Too Late

For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. (Isaiah 57:16)

Of all of God’s attributes, one is that of patience or longsuffering. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s patience is infinite, as He is infinite. However, God sets a limit on His patience as our starting verse makes clear; He will not “contend” with us forever. The Hebrew word translated “contend” is rı̂yb and it means “to toss, that is, grapple; to wrangle, that is, hold a controversy; to debate.

The earliest example we find in the Bible appears in the account of the Global Flood.[1] For almost 1600 years following Creation, men grew progressively perverse even though God’s witnesses existed in abundance. Their original father, Adam, lived for more than half of that time.[2] The letter to the Hebrews records that “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5, emphasis mine). Jesus’ half-brother, Jude, noted, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 1:14-15). Yet, with all these witnesses over the many years, the wickedness of humans only increased. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). God’s patience reached its limit, and He sent the Flood.

However, God’s plan for the redemption of man never deviated. God’s salvation would come through Abraham and through his “seed.”[3] Abraham’s seed went through his son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob/Israel. Israel, that is the descendants of Jacob, soon put God’s patience to the test shortly after He rescued them from Egyptian bondage.

Not long after their exit from Egypt, they fell into idolatry by worshipping the golden calf[4] even though God earlier gave them His Ten Commandments. Then, one generation after entering the Promised Land, they fell right back into their old idolatrous ways. God would punish them, they would repent, God forgave and they would do it over again. This remained true throughout their history.

After King Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam failed to keep the nation united and the northern ten tribes seceded and formed their own nation, Israel. The southern kingdom survived with two tribes, Benjamin and Judah and went by the name of the larger tribe, Judah.

Israel immediately fell into idolatry and all her kings “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.” God’s patience with Israel reached its limit after 200 years, and the Assyrians under the King Shalmaneser[5] invaded and expatriated the entire population of Israel and deported them to “Halah and in Harbor by the river of Gozan, and the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 17:6), which is somewhere in present-day northeastern Iraq.

Judah fared somewhat better. Most of her kings “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD;” however, they tolerated idolatry in the land even though they themselves may not have practiced idolatry. It all began with Solomon who actually built temples to the gods of his many wives and even joined them in the practice while maintaining the worship of God. After Solomon, the kingdom of Judah survived for 333 years, about 100 years longer than Israel. Judah had many “good” kings, but the ones that were bad were very bad.

Manasseh probably ranked as the worst of Judah’s bad kings. Not only did he follow “after the abominations of the heathen” but “he reared up altars for Baal,” “worshipped the host of heaven, and served them,” “built altars in the house of the LORD … in the two courts of the house of the LORD,” “he made his son pass through the fire,” and “he set a graven image … that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David … I will put my name forever”[6] Manasseh “seduced [Judah] to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Kings 21:9).

Judah encountered the limit of God’s patience with Manasseh. “Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations … Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. … I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day” (2 Kings 21:11-15, emphasis mine).

Manasseh’s son, Amon, followed in his father’s footsteps, but his reign lasted only two years. However, his grandson, Josiah, was arguably Judah’s best king ever. He was only eight years old when he took the throne, but he did what his predecessors failed to do. He destroyed all the places of idol worship throughout the land and executed the pagan priests. He renovated and rededicated Solomon’s Temple that had fallen into disrepair and had been desecrated by Manasseh, Ahaz[7], and others. In the process of cleaning up the Temple, Hilkiah, the high priest, discovered “the book of the law in the house of the LORD.”[8] “And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes” (2 Kings 22:11). Of Josiah, Scripture records, “And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (2 Kings 23:25).

Judah made a great turn-around because of good King Josiah. It was almost too good, but it was too late. “Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (2 Kings 23:26-27, emphasis mine). About eleven years later, Nebuchadnezzar came and subdued Judah and took her children off to Babylonian captivity. Josiah was too good, too late. God’s plan would not change.

When I read the history of Israel in the Bible I cannot help but draw a parallel between that nation and the United States of America. There are many comparisons that can be drawn. However, there is one major difference that we often overlook. Israel was chosen by God for a specific purpose that is yet to be fulfilled. The United States was not. As we see the “end of days” on the horizon, Israel is very much in the picture; the U.S. is not.

However, there are some similarities, especially in the spiritual sense. Both nations had a strong foundation on the Word of God, and both nations lost their moorings from that foundation. The founding of the U.S. started long before 1776 or the signing of the Constitution in 1787. It began with the arrival of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock in November 1620 “for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.”[9] If the U.S. is chosen by God, it is chosen only because of His people who maintain and uphold the Christian Faith, but those numbers are diminishing. Israel was chosen by God with a non-conditional promise made to Abraham, and regardless of Israel’s lack of loyalty or devotion to God, God will not renege on His promise. The U.S. does not enjoy that kind of commitment from God. We are nothing special.

Truly God has blessed this nation because of His people that inhabit this land and because our nation has, for the most part, obeyed God’s word and maintained that “In God We Trust.” However, over the years, that loyalty to God has waned, and we have allowed pagan gods to influence and even to dominate our government and our society.

After World War II the moral state of our nation took a downward turn. We banned prayer and the Bible from public schools. Then we sanctioned abortions on demand. At first, abortions were limited to the first trimester, but now many states accept infanticide as “a woman’s right.” Homosexuality was once a shameful practice kept “in the closet,” but now every kind of sexual perversion is not only tolerated but encouraged.

The Obama Administration saw the morality of the nation cascade like going over Niagara Falls. The sins of the nation brought with it a sharp decline in the prosperity of the nation. Things looked grim. Then came Donald Trump. Perhaps not the perfect picture of a Christian, but he has done more to promote the Christian Faith than any president before him. He declared Jerusalem the rightful capital of Israel and moved our embassy there. He blessed Israel and God says, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Genesis 12:3). President Trump has done more to turn this country around than any previous president.

Then the Wuhan Bug hit. Many economists believe that our country may never recover. This downturn in the economy affects the whole world, not just the U.S. Many of our leaders and leaders of other nations are calling for a one-world government to fix the mess in which we find ourselves. The Bible warned that such would be the end of days. So, for all the good President Trump has done, it may be too good, too late.

Christians everywhere claim 2 Chronicles 7:14 hoping for a turn-around. However, that verse was specifically for Israel. The U.S. is NOT Israel, and we, the Church, are not Israel. When God’s patience reached its limit and Nebuchadnezzar surrounded Jerusalem, Jeremiah prayed fervently for deliverance. God answered, “Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence” (Jeremiah 14:11-12, emphasis mine). If that was God’s attitude toward His “chosen people,” why should we expect better? Instead, “I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 24:14).

Since the “lockdown” went into effect, I hear that many are “seeking the Lord.” Online Bibles are being downloaded and read. Churches are seeing a rise in “virtual” attendees. I have seen this before – Y2K, 9-11. As soon as the crisis subsides, things go back to “normal” and society continues on its moral decline. I doubt this will be any different. Don’t get me wrong. I rejoice that some are truly turning to the Lord, but Jesus’ Word will not fail. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14, emphasis mine). For all the good President Trump, like Josiah, has done, it may be too good, too late.

Reader, Jesus is coming very soon. Everything that is going on in the world today tells us that His coming is very near. Are you prepared to meet Him? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life” and settle it once and for all.

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 6-9

[2]  Genesis 5:5

[3]  Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:16

[4]  Exodus 32

[5]  2 Kings 17:3

[6]  2 Kings 21:1-7

[7]  “Trading Old For New” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/05/10/trading-old-for-new/

[8]  2 Kings 22:8

[9]  Mayflower Compact, November 21, 1620

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Trading Old For New

Replica of the Arch to the entrance to the temple of Baal erected in Washington DC

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)

Things get old and lose the attraction we once held for them. Certainly, this is obvious with material things like cars, houses, stuff that goes in houses, jewelry, gadgets, etc. There are few things more exciting than getting a new car – the new-car smell, the sparkling paint, the way that it handles on the road. After a few years, though, the interior smells of stale hamburgers, wet dog or baby vomit. The shine fades and obscures the dings, dents, and scratches from parking too close to the entrance at Walmart. Driving then becomes just a thing you do to get from here to there. That car we fell in love with is just a thing now, and we take it pretty much for granted.

We do the same with traditions and relationships. It is bad enough when we take human traditions and relationships for granted, but it is worse when we treat God and the things of God the same way. We find a good example of this in the account of Ahaz, king of Judah.

No doubt Ahaz was brought up in the traditions and ways of God. He came from good stock, beginning with King David. His father Jotham, his grandfather, Azariah (a.k.a. Uzziah), great-grandfather Amaziah, and great-great-grandfather Jehoash (a.k.a. Joash) were all “good” kings and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD.”[1] However, even though these kings faithfully obeyed God for themselves, they failed to lead the nation in that regard by not removing “the high places” where the people followed pagan practices. By allowing idolatry to continue, rather than stoning idolaters to death,[2] God’s commandments were largely ignored or followed only by rote. The recommended capital punishment for idolatry may seem extreme to our liberal ears, but God’s reasoning is impeccable. “And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you” (Deuteronomy 13:11).

So, even though Ahaz had good, Godly fathers, what he observed around him caused him to regard the things of God of little value. Perhaps the pagan practices he observed looked like a lot more fun. He could enjoy all the sex he wanted, and if his promiscuous acts produced offspring, he could sacrifice those to Molech[3] – all the fun and none of the responsibility! (Sound familiar?)

During his short reign of 16 years,[4] the Assyrian Empire was rising up. At that time, Pekah, king of Israel, and Rezin, king of Syria joined forces to come against Jerusalem,[5] but they could not overcome the fortified city. Ahaz needed help, so rather than turning to God, he sought help from Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria. In order to buy the help, Ahaz robbed the treasures of the Temple of God (which had been robbed in the past beginning with Rehoboam.[6]). When one reads the spare-no-expense details of the building of Solomon’s Temple, it is sad to think of what had become of the once “wonder of the world.” Now, it was just a rundown building useful only for buying alliances. It was of little value to Ahaz, and the LORD God was not better than any other god in Ahaz’s eyes.

After Tiglath-pileser defeated Rezin, king of Syria, and carried off all the Syrians, Ahaz paid a visit to Damascus, the capital of Syria. There he saw the temple of Baalshamin (Baal), and he was deeply impressed by the altar to Baal. Not having a cell phone with a camera, he sketched a drawing of the altar along with the exact dimensions and sent them to the Urijah the high priest with orders to build a replica in the Temple in Jerusalem.

When Ahaz returned from Damascus, he instructed Urijal to move the original brazen altar built by Solomon to the north side of the Temple. In its place on the east side before the entrance to the Temple, Ahaz erected the Baal altar and offered sacrifices to God on a pagan altar.[7] The brazen “sea” (it was a mikvah for the priests) that rested on the backs of twelve brass oxen was removed.[8] Ahaz was trading the old for the new. More than that, Ahaz erected other altars to pagan gods around the Temple. In his estimation, this new way of worship exceeded the way that had been around for hundreds of years.

Many churches these days follow Ahaz’s example. Oh, they don’t build altars to pagan gods. However, perhaps in some ways they do. Some “worship services” seem more like rock concerts. The house lights are dimmed while the “altar” is ablaze with stage lighting, spotlights, and strobe lights. As the “worship team” rocks out their worship tunes, the congregation stands with arms waving in the air swaying as if in a trance. This is new! The old way of singing hymns out hymn books accompanied by piano and organ is too old-school. We need something new and “vibrant” so that young people can “experience” worship. Too many sermons from such pulpits are designed to make the congregants “feel” encouraged. No need to talk about sin and hell, much less warn about Christ’s soon return. Talk like that might turn people off, and they might not come back, or worse, they may stop contributing to the church. Such churches sacrifice the Gospel (old) for the audience (new). The Laodicean Church[9] flourishes in our day.

Ahaz’s reign only lasted 16 years. His son Hezekiah, a “good” king, restored the Temple[10] and the Temple sacrifice. However, the Scripture does not record whether the altar Ahaz built was dismantled or not. We can assume that it was. We can be sure that sacrifices offered on a pagan altar would be unacceptable to God. Scripture notes that following the first Passover celebration in the restored Temple that “Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to [God’s] holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chronicles 30:27). That tells me the sacrifices were done properly and on the proper altar, the old fashioned way. Hezekiah did the opposite of his father; he traded the new for the old, and that pleased God.

I can only hope that we could learn that lesson before God “smites” our nation. Perhaps the smiting has begun. When governors boast that “we” have beaten this pandemic and chide that God had nothing to do with it, we may be beyond help. I hope not, but either way, my hope is in Christ. How about you?

Notes:


[1]  2 Kings 12:2; 14:3; 15:3,34

[2]  Deuteronomy 13:6-11

[3]  2 Kings 16:3

[4]  2 Kings 16:2

[5]  2 Kings 16:5

[6]  1 Kings 14:25-27

[7]  2 Kings 16:14-15

[8]  2 Kings 16:17

[9]  Revelation 3:14-22

[10]  2 Chronicles 29

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Suffering

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

The Sunday school lesson I taught this morning, based in 2 Corinthians 4, asked, “How can I honor God in my suffering?” Who likes to suffer? Who wants to suffer? The title of the lesson congers up all kinds of images of suffering. We might suffer due to a loss of work. We could suffer from loss of health. We can suffer from the loss of a loved one or the breakup of a marriage. We suffer when our children go astray.

Life necessarily includes a certain amount of suffering, and while the manner in which we handle our suffering can produce a testimony that honors God, that is not exactly what Paul had in mind when he penned this passage to the church in Corinth. Paul sets himself as an example of suffering, but not in the way we might think. Let’s examine the passage more closely.

(2 Corinthians 4:7)  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

What treasure to which Paul refers? It is a mystery veiled in the Old Testament to which the Jews were and still are blinded (2 Corinthians 3:14-18). At the beginning of Chapter 4, Paul explains that he has the task of unveiling the mystery (2 Corinthians 4:1) to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The “lost” cannot understand the Gospel because it is “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Of this treasure, Paul says,  “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). He is compelled to preach, “For God, … hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face [πρόσωπον – prosopon — in the presence] of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

This treasure is kept in “earthen vessels.” By this Paul is referring to his physical body. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The problem with “earthen vessels” – clay pots – is that they are fragile and easily broken. Consider the Fall. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:6-7). Man sinned resulting in physical and spiritual death and a curse upon God’s perfect creation.

Why place such a great treasure in such weak containers? When submitted to God, these fragile clay pots make is so “that the excellency of the power may be of God.” In that way, God receives the glory “and not of us.” Having this treasure hidden within comes at a cost. Paul, referring to himself as “we,” explains.

(2 Corinthians 4:8-9)  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

These two verses demonstrate that Paul suffered for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A close examination of some key words makes this clear. The word translated “troubled” (θλίβω — thlibo) means to be “pressed, squeezed” – as a grape in a wine press. Yet, Paul is not “distressed” (στενοχωρέω — stenochoreo) meaning “crushed.” He is “perplexed” (ἀπορέω — aporeo) seeming “to have no way out;” “to be at a loss;” “to be without resources,” but not in “despair” (ἐξαπορέομαι — exaporeomai), that is, “to be utterly at a loss; or utterly destitute.” As long as God grants us breath, we can take comfort knowing that God will never abandon us. The psalmist says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

Paul states that he has been “persecuted” (διώκω – dioko), that is. “made to run or flee,” but not “forsaken” (ἐγκαταλείπω — egkataleipo), which means “to leave behind, abandon, desert.” He has been “cast down” (καταβάλλω — kataballo) – “to throw to the ground, prostate.” The implication is to be put down hard with violence, but he’s not been “destroyed” (ἀπόλλυμι — apollumi), that is, “to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; to render useless; to kill.”

(2 Corinthians 4:10-11)  Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Paul bears the Gospel (the treasure) in his body – his “earthen vessel.” It is the Gospel is the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The end to which he bears the Gospel is “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our [his] body.” The word “manifest” (φανερόω) means “to render apparent;” “to make actual and visible, i.e., realized;” also “to make visible or known what has been hidden or unknown” That “mystery” hidden from the Jews – God’s salvation through Jesus Christ – reveals itself in Paul’s life as it should in the life of every true believer.

The words “live” and “life” are related. The Greek word translated “live” (ζάω – zaō , verb) means “to have true life and worthy of the name;” the “essence” of living. Like was the Greek word translated “life” (ζωή – zōē, noun) means “the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God.” Jesus said, “… I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

There is another Greek word translated “life” that expresses life to a lesser degree. The Greek word βίος means “the present state of existence,” biological life. This is just mere existence. Jesus spoke of this kind of life in His “Parable of the Sower” also known as the “Parable of the Soils” (more appropriately). Comparing the soil to people, Jesus explained,  “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). These people did not have ζωή (zōē), but Paul did.

Still, he says that he is “alway delivered unto death.” The “death” to which he speaks is not the cessation of physical existence. He referred to death to self (Romans 6:4-5; 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3), death to sin (Romans 6:1-2; 8:10; 1 Peter 2:24), and death to the law (Galatians 2:19). Paul summed up his attitude toward his “suffering” like this, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Paul dies “for Jesus’ sake.”

Verses 10 and 11 repeat the same ending phrase: “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body/mortal flesh” We “suffer” so that the “life of Jesus” in us may be apparent to the lost world around us.

(2 Corinthians 4:12-13)  So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak (quoting Psalm 116:10).

By putting his life to “death,” Paul helps others to find “life.” One commentary put it like this: “The “death” of Christ manifested in the continual “perishing of our outward man” (2Co_4:16), works peculiarly in us, and is the means of working spiritual “life” in you. The life whereof we witness in our bodily dying, extends beyond ourselves, and is brought by our very dying to you.” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary)

(2 Corinthians 4:14)  Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

The One who raised up Jesus will do the same for us. Death is not the end. We have a hope beyond. We are joined to the “living” Christ. Paul is dead to the things of this world because he is joined to Christ. We should follow his example!

(2 Corinthians 4:15)  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

Paul’s suffering is for the sake of the church; it is for their benefit – “for your sakes.” The Greek word translated “abundant” (πλεονάζω – pleonazō) means “to do, make or be more, that is, increase.” The word “grace” (χάρις – charis) is “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech.” The result of this “abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many “redound” (περισσεύω – perisseuō), that is, “to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous” “to the glory of God.”

(2 Corinthians 4:16)  For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Through his “suffering,” Paul presses on – “we faint not.” Paul expresses this sentiment when he writes to the church in Philippi. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Not dissuaded by his circumstances, Paul notes that “though the outward man, [i.e., the physical body] perish, the inward man [i.e., the spirit] is renewed” (through the power of Jesus Christ in us).

(2 Corinthians 4:17)  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

Our suffering is small compared to our eternal reward. Our time on earth is but a nanosecond in the light of eternity. The “suffering” our Lord asks us to bear is but a “light affliction.” Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

(2 Corinthians 4:18)  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Everything in this life is temporal. What lies beyond in the unseen future is eternal. The writer to the Hebrews reminds is that following the Lord requires faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Paul’s example of “suffering” had more to do with self-denial for the furtherance of the Gospel. Indeed, Paul suffered physical and mental anguish and material deprivation. His list of sufferings was long.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, emphasis mine).

After all of this, he concludes,

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

The answer to the question, “How can I honor God in my suffering?” is to die to self, live for God in all that we do, and trust Him to supply all your needs – especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel so that others may live. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

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