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O Beautiful!

Mayflower Compact, Signed November 11, 1620

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (Psalm 33:12)

President Obama insulted American Christians when he proclaimed to the world that America was not a Christian nation. He went on to announce that America was just as much of a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or any other religion of your choice nation. Christians rightly protested (without violence or destruction of public and private property) that America was indeed a Christian nation as enshrined in our founding documents.

Before setting foot on their “promised land” on November 11, 1620, the Pilgrims covenanted together “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith” to “combine” themselves “together into a civil body politic.” The Mayflower Compact later influenced the freedom pact declaring our nation’s independence on July 4, 1776, assuming “among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The declaration went on to assert, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” After a long list of grievances, they made their appeal “to the Supreme Judge of the World” declaring their “firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence,” i.e., God.

The reliance on Divine Providence prompted the founders to include in the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, the First Amendment protecting freedom of religion. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The amendment also guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of the press and “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This First Amendment (and the Second that secures it) is under assault on many fronts. A plain reading of the text makes it clear that the government cannot impose one religion over another. At the same time, the government cannot prohibit the free practice of a citizen’s religion. Conspicuously, no restrictions exist on the exercise of religious practice – no restriction for the free practice in public, public schools, public buildings, public events, or any other such restrictions. However, put up a Nativity Scene in the public square, or the Ten Commandments at the county courthouse or on the wall of a public school, or offer a prayer at the start of a high school sports activity, and the ACLU will be out in full force looking for someone to sue. On what grounds? The ACLU will argue that such religious activity violates the “separation of church and state,” a phrase found nowhere in the Constitution. With the aid of unscrupulous judges, the ACLU intimidates victims without the resources to fight the litigation so that they give up without a fight. Slowly, the ACLU has eroded away the concept of religious liberty.

Now, legislation in various states, California in particular, slowly chips away at what remains of the First Amendment by declaring that any denunciation of sodomites is “hate speech” and therefore illegal. That destroys free speech. It destroys freedom of the press, which might even make the Bible illegal because it has much to say about deviant sex acts. It could follow that the freedom to peaceably assemble in a church that teaches against sodomy will be declared illegal, and forget about petitioning the government over such a grievance. There goes the First Amendment. Without the Second Amendment, which is systematically being picked apart, how can the First Amendment be defended?

Barack Obama was right. Whatever America used to be, it is no longer a Christian nation. I hear many Christians express optimism that we can turn around this nation. Many hope for national revival (2 Chronicles 7:14 – taken way out of context). I must admit, I do not share that optimism. That ship has sailed. America is no longer a Christian nation, and it will never again be a Christian nation. Christians – genuine, born-again, Bible-believing, evangelical Christians – in America are rapidly becoming the “remnant.” We can voice our complaints until our tonsils bleed, and nothing will change, except perhaps for the worst.

I do not mean to be a Gloomy Gus, nor do I want to be a Pollyanna. I want to be realistic, and I want to be biblical. While the Bible teaches that we are to submit to our governing authorities (Romans 13:1-8) and that we should pray our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4), we must recognize that our primary citizenship is not of this world, but the kingdom of Jesus Christ. “For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). In His high priestly prayer, Jesus affirmed, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). While America is not “the beautiful,” innocent virgin she once was, we who have placed our trust in Christ, are children of the King, (John 1:12) and citizens of His realm. While we remain and while He delays His return, we must turn our focus and our efforts to His Kingdom. The things of this earth, including America the Beautiful, are passing away (1 John 2:17), but His Kingdom will last forever (Luke 1:33). “When ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors” (Mark 13:29).

O, Beautiful! I lament your demise, but I rejoice knowing that the Lord will soon return, and He will truly make America great again – better than ever! Not only America, but His reign on earth will make the whole earth better than before. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

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End-Times 102

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of the Tribulation, Jesus said “ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). Critics might be quick to point out that “wars and rumors of wars” have existed since time began. However, scoffers too are a sign of the end-times. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4, emphasis mine). These scoffers forget that end-times prophecy centers on Israel and Jerusalem and not the world in general even though these events will affect the whole world. From 70 AD to 1948, Israel vanished from the earth as a nation. The Jews were scattered to the four corners of the globe (yes, I know a globe does not have corners!). Therefore, all those other wars are irrelevant to end-times prophecy. For these events to fulfill Bible prophecy, Israel must be a nation, Jerusalem must be the capital, and the Temple must be rebuilt. Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948. Despite being scattered all over the world, the Jewish people retained their “Jewishness.” Even the Hebrew language, once thought to be a dead language, is restored and in use as the official language of Israel. On May 14, 2018, 70 years after Israel’s rebirth, President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Temple is not built, but all the implements of the Temple are ready. The priests are in training to carry out the ministry of the temple. The plans and the materials for the Temple are ready for the building. The only thing that remains is for the order to be given to build. Scoffers may scoff, but the stage is being set.

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

Notes:


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

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

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

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End-Times 101

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)

I am constantly amazed at how many Evangelical Christians, much less the rest of the world, have no interest in current events as related to end-times prophecy. One reason may be related to Jesus’ prediction of attitudes at the end times. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37-39). In context, Jesus was speaking to Jews, not Gentiles, and His prevision referred to His physical return to earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom. More on that later.

Many things took place prior to the flood which the Bible does not detail (Genesis 6:1-4). There are some who believe that some of that is taking place again, but that is a can of worms I choose not to open at this time. Jesus probably had those activities in mind, but the main point is that they carried on life as normal “until the flood came, and took them all away.” They were clueless just like the world today.

Even with all the signs God is clearly providing, the world (including many Christians) carries on with business as usual. Part of the problem is “the cares of this world” that “choke the word” of God so that “it becometh unfruitful” in the life of the individual (Mark 4:19). Perhaps another part of the problem is the glut of information out about end-times prophecy that confuses the casual student. Many opinions and contradictions may discourage the pursuit of this truth. Rather than getting excited about the Lord’s soon return, many take the attitude of “que será, será.”

However, the prospect of Jesus’ soon return (and I mean REALLY SOON), should be, for the believer, a source of excitement and anticipation. What greater hope can we have than to be in the presence of our Savior forever! Of course, for the non-believer, this information can be a source of dread, but there is a remedy. So I want to make this as simple as possible, by omitting “the weeds” where people often get lost.

First, Jesus promised He would return for His followers. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). This event is known as the Rapture of the Church. Jesus’ second coming is in two phases. First, Jesus comes to receive the Church (the body of believers) to be with Him forever. He does not come to earth at this time, and the rest of the world does not see Him. Only believers will be involved, but the “disappearances” will certainly create havoc around the world.

The Apostle Paul describes the Rapture in our leading verse. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [i.e., die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, emphasis mine). To the church in Thessalonica, he wrote: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [i.e., “go before”] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “caught up” is harpazō, which means “to seize, carry off by force” or “to snatch out or away.” That word is further translated into Latin as rapturo from which we get our word “rapture.”

Second, after the Church (also known as “the Bride”) is taken out of the world, there is a period of seven years that is known as “the Tribulation.” The prophet Daniel predicts this time (Daniel 9:27; 12:1-3). Jesus spoke of this time also, (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-28). Almost the entire book of Revelation offers explicit details of what will take place at this time (Revelation 4-19). The Tribulation will be an awful time for the inhabitants of the earth. So terrible will be those days that Jesus said, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Those believers belonging to the Bride of Christ need not be concerned about going through the Tribulation. Our present concern should be for those who are lost and will go through the Tribulation. We who are “saved” will have to give an accounting of neglected opportunities to witness for Christ.

Third, at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, Jesus will return with His saints, His Bride, to set up His kingdom on Earth (Revelation 19:11-14). Many Old Testament prophecies speak of Messiah’s reign on earth. This is the reason the Jews missed Jesus’ first coming. They expected a king to rule over all the earth. They were not expecting a suffering Savior to come meekly and humbly only to die on a Roman cross. His earthly kingdom will last for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Eden-like conditions during Jesus’ reign (Isaiah 11).

Finally, at the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released from his prison for a very short time. He incites a rebellion against the King, which is short-lived for Satan and those who were foolish enough to follow him. Those that rebel are sent to “the lake of fire” for eternity (Revelation 20:7-15). After that, history ends, and God creates a “new heaven and a new earth” where His children will live with Him forever. Who knows what that will be like, but it has to be multiple millions of times better than what we know here on earth. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).

That is it! Time is short. There are many detailed “signs” taking place right now indicating Jesus’ soon return is very close at hand. Jesus said, “So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33, emphasis mine). We are seeing “these things.” Do what you need to do to get ready. If you know Jesus, tell others. If you don’t know Jesus, get to know Him; read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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Come, Harvest Time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:


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

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

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

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

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Anytime Now!

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow, Monday, May 14, 2018, Israel celebrates 70 years of the rebirth of the nation. The “dry bones” of Ezekiel 37 came alive and “and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:10). No record in history exists where a people dispersed among the nations of the earth retained their language, their religion, their traditions, and  their national identity. In 70 A.D., Israel was disseminated, Jerusalem was razed, and the land became a desolate wasteland. Then, 1878 years later, the “dry bones” miraculously came to life once more. Do you need evidence to believe in God? Look at Israel! “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8, emphasis mine).

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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Not Here

At the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:6)

Mohammad’s bones lay at rest in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the “Mosque of the Prophet”) in the city of Medina, Saudi Arabia. They cremated Buddha’s body and divided his ashes among several Buddhist temples in Asia. The remains of Confucius reside in a grave in his hometown of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. The remains of these and others are enshrined by the followers of the religions they founded, and the location of their tombs are known. Followers of these various religions can point to the tombs and say, “Here lies so-and-so, founder of religion ‘you-name-it.’”

However, Christians cannot make such claims. Two main sites in Jerusalem vie for the claim of Jesus’ burial place: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb. The former glitters with gold and looks nothing like a burial place. The latter is located in a quiet garden and is virtually unadorned. It is in a place a short walk from a hillside whose face features two prominent grottos that remarkably resemble two eye sockets of a human skull. Of the two sites, the Garden Tomb seems more likely to be the place where Jesus was laid according to Scripture. “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand” (John 19:41-42, emphasis mine). The Garden Tomb is very “nigh” to the place of the skull, so it seems more likely the right place.

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

Regardless of one’s preference for one site over the other, the fact remains that both tombs are empty. Those who refuse to believe, continue to fabricate all kinds of conspiracy theories as to what became of Jesus’ body. This has gone on since the empty tomb was first discovered. “Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch [the Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb] came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:11-15, emphasis mine). All of these conspiracy theories about Jesus’ missing body have been thoroughly debunked.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
(Matthew 28:6)

The truth remains, Jesus’ tomb is empty because He rose from the dead on the third day just as He said, and according to the Scriptures. Furthermore, He is coming again very soon. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine).

 

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Evil Servant

Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; (Matthew 24:48)

Matthew 24 begins what is known as Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse.” Jesus spoke these words on the Mount of Olives just two days before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:2). Jesus had just issued a series of eight “woes” against the Jewish religious leaders—the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-33). Here as in other places in the Gospels, Jesus asserts His authority as God when He predicts, “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36, emphasis mine). Jesus then laments over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39).

As the disciples stood around hearing these words, their curiosity piqued. “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).

Before continuing, I must add a point of clarification here. Those asking the question, the disciples, were Jews. They based their question on their understanding of Old Testament prophecies concerning the reign of Messiah, whom they understood to be Jesus (Matthew 16:16). All prophecy—both in the Old and New Testaments—centers around Israel and Messiah’s reign in and from Jerusalem. The Old Testament alludes to the Church, but as Paul points out, it was a “mystery” to Old Testament writers (Ephesians 5:32). Furthermore, at the point of this dissertation, the Church did not exist. The Church was not established until after Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Jesus, therefore, focused His response on “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), a.k.a. “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 2:22; 7:14). This prophecy was for the Jews and Israel, not for the Church.

Jesus goes into great detail about what will take place during the Tribulation. Even though this prophecy is not directed at the Church, He does provide signs for the Church to discern. “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:32-34, emphasis mine).

The “fig tree” symbolizes the nation of Israel. Jesus had already predicted the demise of Israel (Judah at this time). “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate [i.e., barren; laid waste; devestated]” (Matthew 23:38, emphasis mine). The fulfillment of this prophecy took place in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus razed Jerusalem to the ground. The budding of the fig tree indicates the rebirth of Israel. This took place almost 70 years ago on May 14, 1948. Jesus said this generation, which witnesses the rebirth of Israel, “shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). We are that generation! Then Jesus guaranteed His prophecy, not with “Thus saith the Lord” (Jesus is Lord), but with “Verily, I say.” Then He affirmed, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35, emphasis mine).

Jesus goes on to encourage watchfulness “for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42). For those of us who yearn for the Rapture of the Church and also for those who will live through the Tribulation, that means that we cannot predict that event with precision. However, Jesus provided enough information that we can determine the proximity, so we encouraged to “watch.”

Jesus then asks, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Matthew 24:45, emphasis mine). These are the pastors and teachers whom God has placed over His churches. Jesus instructs these servants to “give them—the churches, i.e., the “flock”—meat in due season.” “Meat” means nourishment, and since Jesus speaks of His “household,” He means “spiritual” nourishment. He made this point clear to Peter at Peter’s restoration when three times Jesus asked him, “Lovest thou Me?” To Peter’s weak responses, Jesus commanded three times, “feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17). In the context of this end-times discourse, the “meat” nourishes the “flock” in preparation for that which is sure to come.

Jesus then contrasts the “faithful and wise servant” with the “evil servant” who “shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants” (Matthew 24:48-49, emphasis mine).  This one does not take the Lord’s return seriously. The Greek word translated “smite” is tuptō and it means to beat with a whip or stick. The Thayer’s Greek Definitions adds that metaphorically the word implies “to wound, disquiet one’s conscience.” This indicates that the abuse is of a spiritual nature, where the pastor or teacher neglects the proper care and feeding of the flock. The flock is spiritually malnourished and completely unequipped for the Lord’s return.

Sadly, we have too many “evil servants” that neglect to prepare the flock for the Lord’s return. They offer many excuses. The worst of the lot simply do not believe in the imminent return of Christ. They do not regard end-times prophecy literally and attribute it to allegory to be spiritualized.  Others think the teaching is too controversial. They fear confusing or offending their congregation. Still, others have church growth as a top priority. “Doom’s Day” teaching might scare off seekers and stunt church growth. They believe church must be a fun and “safe” place. They would not risk making anyone uncomfortable. Some, while saying they believe that Jesus will return soon, feel they must give greater priority practical teaching to equip the flock for dealing with the daily issues of life. In some ways, this last group is the most dangerous. While it is true that pastors/teachers must equip their congregations to face the day-to-day challenges of life; they are still obligated to teach the “whole counsel” of God’s Word (Acts 20:27). That includes encouraging the flock “and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, emphasis mine). That does not mean that every sermon must be an end-times message, but every exhortation should be peppered with the expectation that the Lord may come at any moment.

Any pastor/teacher who fails to teach the imminency of Christ’s return is, according to these words of Jesus, an “evil servant.” For the evil servant who thus abuses his flock, Jesus says, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6, emphasis mine). Jesus concludes this portion of the discourse with this severe warning: “The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:50-51).

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