Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tu B' Av

Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who remain, since the women of Benjamin have been destroyed?” And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe may not be destroyed from Israel. “However, we cannot give them wives from our daughters, for the children of Israel have sworn an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the one who gives a wife to Benjamin.’ ”Then they said, “In fact, there is a yearly feast of the LORD in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” Therefore they instructed the children of Benjamin, saying, “Go, lie in wait in the vineyards, “and watch; and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin. “Then it shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to us to complain, that we will say to them, ‘Be kind to them for our sakes, because we did not take a wife for any of them in the war; for it is not as though you have given the women to them at this time, making yourselves guilty of your oath.’ ”And the children of Benjamin did so; they took enough wives for their number from those who danced, whom they caught. Then they went and returned to their inheritance, and they rebuilt the cities and dwelt in them.      Judges 21:16-23  NKJV

I think most believers would agree that our hope, the event for which we are all watching and waiting is the rapture of the Church. I'm sure most of us too, are familiar with the Church being referred to as the “bride” of Christ. Many of you are also probably aware of how the events surrounding the rapture follow precisely the pattern of a Jewish wedding. Since Jesus is Jewish, it is expected that His wedding to His bride, the Church, will follow the pattern and traditions associated with Jewish weddings. But there is one question I personally have always had with this idea and it is this; does it matter at all to this picture that we the Church are not, strictly speaking, Jewish?

I don’t recall exactly when I first began studying the Jewish feast days, but I do know it was quite some time ago.  Yet it wasn’t until 2010 that I first became aware of the holiday in Israel called Tu B’ Av, and wrote my first article about it. Quite often it is referred to as an unknown holiday because most have never even heard of it; much less understand the traditional beliefs associated with it.  It isn't even listed on my Jewish calendar along with all of their other holidays, which makes me wonder why it is so "forgotten"? If you look it up on the internet, you will find that most sites call it a "minor" holiday in Jewish culture, but for reasons I want to share with you, I think it's entirely possible this might be the most important holiday for the Church that you've never heard of.

First of all, Tu B'Av was declared a celebration by the first generation after the forty year wilderness wandering from Egypt during the Exodus. If you recall, God commanded that an entire generation must die because of their sin before a new generation could enter the Promised Land. After forty years, seeing the full moon told the new generation that the appointed time had passed, and they were able to enter the land that God had led them to. Remember the Jewish calendar is lunar, so the months are calculated by observing the phases of the moon, and the full moon always occurs on the night of the 14th (don't forget the new day starts at sunset). So this new generation declared this day a new day of celebration.

Secondly, the Jewish Talmud, which is a collection of ancient Rabbinic writings, teaches that on this day, Tu B' Av, the tribes of Israel were allowed to intermarry. The rest of the year, it was required that you marry only within your tribe, but on this one day every year, women were free to marry whomever they wished from any tribe. For this reason, and because it also marks the end of the wheat harvest in Israel, many believe this is the day that Ruth married Boaz. If you recall the story, Ruth was not a Jew, but a Gentile. Yet as a distant relation, she and Boaz, who was Jewish, were allowed to marry. Their marriage occurred at the end of the harvest, and since on this day, marriages to others were allowed, it follows that this must have been the day of their wedding.

Third, as a result of a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel, only 600 males survived the conflict. The leaders of Israel decided they would allow these men to take wives from "the daughters from Shiloh". It seems there was a celebration at the beginning of the grape harvest at Shiloh where the daughters would go into the vineyards and dance. The surviving men were told they were to hide in the vineyards and catch themselves a wife from the girls who came out to dance. In later years this day became known as a traditional day of love and courtship, where girls would exchange white clothing so that prospective husbands would not know who was rich or who was poor.

Fourthly, Tu B' Av is the last holiday of the year in Israel. Since the New Year begins on Rosh Ha Shanah, which is just a month and a half away, this is the last holiday, as well as the last harvest of their calendar year. Being the last of the holidays, it is a time of celebration both in looking back, and looking forward to the new year that is approaching. This day is also considered to be the time where planting of crops or trees was to end for the year. During the time of the Second Temple, Tu B' Av was proclaimed as the beginning of the grape harvest which continues until Yom Kippur.

Fifth, prophetically speaking, Tu B' Av pictures the future marriage of Christ with His church.

"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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.               John 14:2-3 NKJV

In the Jewish culture, after the engagement the groom goes to prepare the home in which he and his wife will reside, and it is up to his father to decide when the home is ready and the son is allowed to return for his bride.

So in review, we find there is a holiday in Israel that many are unfamiliar with which is a traditional day celebrating love. It is a day many choose as their wedding day, and historically is the only day that Jews were allowed to marry outside their own tribes. It comes at the conclusion of the wheat harvest at the end of summer, and along with being the last celebration of the year, because of the allowance to intermarry it also perfectly pictures the future marriage of Christ with His Church.

Many look at this day as a perfect time for the rapture of the Church to occur, and in all honesty, I would have to agree. But as we all know, God has His own timetable and as far as we know, He hasn't made it crystal clear. Yet with all the clues we do have, and all that has been happening lately in the world, many are convinced that this truly could be the day. Who knows, but since Tu B' Av starts the evening of the fourteenth of Av at sunset, which this year occurs on Sunday, August 6, I would be lying if I said I wasn't going to be watching the skies more than usual. The day is approaching when we will be taken to be with our Lord forever. I'm praying it will be soon.

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I urge you to do it right now. Simply admit to God that you need His forgiveness because you are a sinner,  be willing to turn away from your sins, believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and invite Him to come in and control  your life through the Holy Spirit by praying a simple prayer like this;

 Father, I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin, and I ask you now to forgive me of my sins. I want to receive your gift of salvation so please come into my heart and help me to live and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen.

 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:   John 1:12 NKJV

If you have prayed this prayer you are part of the body of Christ, a member of His Church, and like the rest of us are now waiting for the call to join Him in Heaven for the wedding soon to come.

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dog Days

"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near--at the doors.          Mark 13:28-29 NKJV

I first wrote this column several years ago but it seems that almost every year I repost it because it simply seems to be so very applicable to the times and seasons we find ourselves in.  The world in general and believers in particular, all seem to believe the world is at a tipping point in its history and we are simply waiting for the match to light the fires of conflict.  It’s with this in mind that I would once again post this article and include some new developments for your consideration.

I find it surprising when so many ask me why I choose to study and teach on prophecy when there are so many portions of scripture like this one from Mark that make it clear what Jesus expects from us. I try to explain to those who question that this is not merely a suggestion from God, but a command repeated over and over again. As such, I try to get the point across that if God commands us to watch, it is because He intends to show us signs that we will recognize as harbingers of the end of this age. One of the points I have often contemplated concerning this passage is if it is possible God is giving us a clue as to when the rapture might occur, as well as many of the other coming signs, when He chooses to use the season of summer in this passage.

As I considered that, I also was reminded of something I realized back in the day when I was a history major in college. Do you know the vast majority of conflicts and wars this world has seen have started during the summer months? What is my point? I just wonder if the conflict that God reveals in His Word concerning the future of Israel and the world, taken along with His command to watch with a reference to the season of summer, should be a major clue to those of us who choose to obey His command to watch?  Could it be that Jesus is suggesting to us through this passage in Mark that we should be especially watchful during the summer?

The term “dog days of summer” is probably familiar to most, yet many are probably not aware of what it means or of its origin. Actually, the answer to that question is hazy and debatable, while some believe it may date back as far as the Roman Empire. As to what it might mean, let me make a suggestion based solely on my own observations and experiences. One, like most people I have a dog. I also live in a part of the country which experiences summers which tend to occasionally receive triple digit heat late in the season. I have had occasion to notice dogs get a little testy during these days of excessive heat, exhibiting a marked lack of patience and a tendency to growl and lash out when disturbed. A funny thing though, I have also noticed here and there that people tend to do the same thing as well.

As I have watched and waited for the return of our Lord I have noticed that we as believers are not immune to the same feelings of impatience and irritability that are a common occurrence in this life. A large part of my watching revolves around research which necessitates visiting a large number of websites and reading commentaries, blogs, and letters by other believers who have answered the call to watch. In the past few years as seasons, watch days, prospective rapture dates, etc. come and go I would have to say it appears that the collective mood of the body displays an increasingly impatient, sometimes argumentative and discouraged appearance.

Now the upside to this is that it is obviously a sign that the body is anxiously awaiting the rapture and the longer we wait the greater the relief when it occurs, but we also need to guard our hearts from allowing the disappointment that we are still here from manifesting itself in actions which hurt our witness to others, as well as dividing the body according to positions we might hold because of our individual opinions on doctrinal issues. I think this is exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote the following verse.

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,      Romans 15:5 NKJV

In this letter to the church at Rome, Paul gives instructions concerning how believers should relate to one another in chapters fourteen and fifteen. I think it's very instructive that when talking about this subject, of all the attributes Paul could choose to describe our Father he chooses “patience and comfort” to show us exactly what we need to imitate in order to achieve harmony with each other. Especially helpful to me is the definition of “like-minded” that we find mentioned here. It is the Greek word phroneĊ, which basically means that although we might have an opinion, it is more important to strive for harmony rather than arguing to the point of causing division.

For many the disappointment of still being here can lead to discouragement which is an open door to the feelings we have talked about, yet we do have a reason to be encouraged about the situation we find ourselves in. In this passage from his letter to the Corinthian church Paul gives us some instructions we can use to combat the “dog days” we seem to be experiencing.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward [man] is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen [are] temporary, but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.                           2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV

Paul says we need not be discouraged because every day we are being “renewed” whether or not we realize it. The word for renewed means we are given new strength and the best way I can see to receive that is to keep looking ahead towards what we know is the promise of things to come. We are also told we are being prepared by enduring what is described as a “light affliction”. Now I'm sure many of us might not see it that way but notice also that Paul tells us that the affliction is for a “moment” and is not going to last forever. The end will eventually come and when it does, we will finally see that the eternal was worth what we endured while here. The best way I know to avoid discouragement is to focus on the finish, and not the race, or we will stumble and lose heart.

As believers we are not immune to the emotions living in this world can produce, especially when someone turns up the heat. Impatience and discouragement are tools Satan uses to cause us to stumble, but by focusing on the promises from God which we have concerning what lies ahead we can overcome the emotions that come when we feel the heat.  I believe we can also expect to see a sharp increase in the signs we are told to watch for in the coming weeks and months as the time for our release from this world draws near.

With that in mind, am I the only one who has noticed a sharp increase in the “war talk” that has emerged in the news lately?  While like many right now, I take anything and everything I hear on the news with a large grain of salt, it is becoming increasingly obvious that North Korea has become very belligerent and confrontational with the United States.  Rumors of how and when the US might decide to act are becoming more and more frequent in the news, and many are of the opinion it will be sooner rather than later.  One can only speculate what the fallout from a confrontation with North Korea would be, but I am sure all would agree that any action we might take would be criticized by many.

I have included a few links on this subject for you to read which have just appeared this past week in the news.  The expectations many have voiced about the year 2017, the eclipse which is soon to occur, the coming Revelation 12 sign, wars and rumors of wars, all feed the expectation that this may finally be the time of our deliverance.  Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Coming Destruction of America

For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to save you; Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, Yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, And will not let you go altogether unpunished.’ Jeremiah 30:11  NKJV

If you are a student of biblical prophecy, I’m sure you have either heard or read that the most asked question concerning the end times is “Where is America?”  The truth is, if you are looking for a passage which unequivocally refers to the United States, you are apt to be disappointed.  Yet I would suggest that while we may not find a specific reference to the US, we could certainly make a sound argument that the passage above from the prophet Jeremiah tells us exactly what is in store for this country if you consider that next to the state of Israel, more Jews live in the United States than anywhere else on earth. That said, it would seem logical to assume that the US is one of the nations Jeremiah says will be completely destroyed.

The phrase “a full end” in the verse above is translated from the Hebrew word “kalah”, which, when used in the Bible, means; completion, termination, full end, complete destruction, consumption, annihilation.  I would therefore suggest that there is no question of what is in store for the US according to Jeremiah’s prophecy, even though it is not mentioned by name.  Of course, it is also important to note that this complete destruction of the US takes place during the seventieth week of Daniel, otherwise known as the tribulation, or the seven year period of God’s judgment of this world.

“And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.    Ezekiel 39:6  NKJV

Since the future of the US is revealed to us in this passage, the next question most would have is just how is something like that possible considering the power this country possesses, and it’s stature in the world at the present time?  Many have taught that one explanation might be found in the passage from Ezekiel which describes what some believe could be a future nuclear attack.  It occurs during the attempted invasion of Israel by Gog and Magog described by the prophet Ezekiel.  The following is an excerpt from an article by Chuck Missler of Koinonia House.

“The ultimate invasion of the Middle East by "Gog and Magog" is well known to most Biblically informed observers  The invading forces of Magog - recognized as referring to Russia by most authorities - are wiped out by "hailstones of fire" from the heavens, which also cause an earthquake felt around the world. A disturbing aspect of this encounter is that similar "hailstones of fire" also appear to fall on those "who dwell securely in the isles" or coastlands. Some suspect that this could be a hint of an intercontinental nuclear exchange as part of the confrontation with Magog and its allies.”

The most important idea in this observation, as well as what is described in the passage from Ezekiel, is the fact that what we are told occurs is quite possibly an “exchange” of nuclear missiles.  Ezekiel makes it clear that the “fire” falls on both Magog and the coastlands.  The word used here translated “coastlands” is the Hebrew word “iy”, which is translated to mean, coast, island, shore, region.  Many Bible scholars have voiced the opinion that this is most likely the word that one would use at the time the book of Ezekiel was written to describe an unknown land far away.

If we accept that premise then one must ask the question, what nation would fit that description which also possesses nuclear weapons?  The simple answer is only one.  While we can discuss at length all of the reasons and provocations which might result in a nuclear exchange between Russia and the United States, the one point which should never be ignored or forgotten is that this passage tells us that it is God Himself who brings this all to pass.  Notice that we are told that “I will send fire”.  While there may be reasons why the decision is made by earthly leaders to push the button, it is God’s decision to bring it to pass, and as we have seen in previous studies, the use of “fire” is a strong indication of God’s judgment upon both Magog and the “coastlands”.

Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it. “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, Who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.                                Isaiah 46:9-13  NKJV

While this judgment by fire falls on two different nations, it is important to remember that Magog receives this judgment as they attempt to invade Israel through the Golan Heights.  If you follow the news from the Middle East, you are certainly aware of the tensions currently in place between Israel, Syria, and Russia in this particular part of the Middle East.  Yet although this event occurs in such close proximity to the nation of Israel, God protects them from any harm or “fallout” from His judgment.  The reason for this miracle is made clear as we are told that this is the time where God will reveal Himself to not only Israel, but the entire world in such a way as that there is no mistake as to who is in charge.

“So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.  Ezekiel 39:7  NKJV

If all of this sounds just a little farfetched to some, I would simply point out that while the possibility that this passage describes the use of nuclear missiles is purely conjecture, the fact remains that there will be a battle that affects both Magog and another land, and it is at this time that God will make it clear to the entire world that He not only exists, but has His protective hand upon the nation of Israel. 

“Surely it is coming, and it shall be done,” says the Lord GOD. “This is the day of which I have spoken.                    Ezekiel 39:8  NKJV

The complete destruction of all the nations in which Israel has been scattered will happen exactly as foretold in the Bible.   Considering what we read in the news today, if current events are any indication, it is going to happen very soon. If you have never accepted the free gift of God’s grace, and the forgiveness of your sin, you can do it right now.  Just pray a simple prayer like this and believe that He will do as He has said He will.  Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Can the Church at least be cautious?

Keep watching.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Move Out, Draw Fire

I will be away for the next few weeks, so instead of sharing my thoughts with you as I usually do; I thought I would let you read what some others are thinking about the times in which we find ourselves today.  Keep watching.