Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is This It?

I'm sure by now most of you have become aware of the conflict that has begun in the Middle East between Israel and the militant government Hamas located in the Gaza Strip. It also should come as no surprise that, because of the nature of what I teach, I have begun to get questions asking if this is the beginning of the conflict that gives rise to the Antichrist and ushers in the period of time we know as the tribulation? So I will devote this blog to try to explain what is happening now, and what I think may happen in the future, in order to make some sense about what is going on in that part of the world.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations passed General Assembly Resolution 181 which in effect, created the nation of Israel with defined borders in the area then known as Palestine. This resolution was accepted by the Jews, but rejected out of hand by the Arab states, and the Arabs living in Palestine. When negotiations appeared doomed to failure, on May 14, 1948, the members of the leadership representing the new nation passed a declaration of independence citing the boundaries given in the UN resolution and in essence created the nation of Israel. It should come as no surprise that on May 15, 1948, Israel was invaded by the armies of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in what has become known as the War of Independence. Israel won that war, but has been subjected to many conflicts with it's Arab neighbors ever since, with only temporary ceasefires or peace agreements that never seem to last very long.

The conflict in the Middle East right now is between Israel and the ruling government in the Gaza strip called Hamas. In August of 2005 Israel, which had up to that time been occupying Gaza in an effort to keep the peace, decided to remove all it's troops and give the authority to self-rule to the Palestinians who lived there. Hamas is the political party which rules in Gaza, and is considered by most of the world's governments to be a terrorist organization. Until last week they had a ceasefire agreement with Israel which had for the most part resulted in a relative peace between both parties. That agreement expired, and instead of renewing it, Hamas began to fire rockets into Israel cities. After enduring almost a week of rocket fire, Israel decided to respond and began to bomb Hamas government buildings, police stations, and known warehouses which stored arms for use against the Jewish state.

As of this morning, close to 300 people have died, and it would appear that Israel is moving troops to the border in what many believe will result in a ground incursion to attempt to remove or seriously cripple the capability to launch rockets into Israel's cities. The problem as I see it is not what Israel can expect from Hamas, because I believe Israel is well aware of the military capabilities they possess, but rather the response from other Arab states which support the Hamas cause. Most troubling to Israel should be the question of whether or not Hizbullah, another radical group which occupies Lebanon to the north, decides to join in and attack from the north.

In 2006 Israel and Hizbullah fought a war that lasted a little more than a month and resulted in losses for both sides in what many believe was a war with no winner.
The conflict ended with the acceptance by both sides of UN Resolution 1701, which called for the retreat of both sides, and the disarmament of Hizbullah. Unfortunately for Israel, almost immediately Hizbullah began stockpiling new weapons with an even greater capability and range than they previously possessed. These weapons have come from Iran by way of Syria, two countries who have made no secret of their hatred of the nation of Israel, as well as their stated desire that Israel cease to exist.

The question before us is twofold; will Hizbullah join in this conflict and attack from the north, and if so, will Israel decide not only to respond to Hizballah, but to respond by attacking the two countries which support and arm them? If you are familiar with my book, and the prophecy of Isaiah 17, you can see where this question may in fact have apocalyptic implications. Remember, I believe the progression of events leading up to the tribulation and the emergence of the so called Antichrist is this; Isaiah 17 where Israel uses a nuclear device on Syria, Ezekiel 38 where the world responds with an futile invasion of Israel where God directly intervenes on Israels' behalf, and Daniel 9 where an individual we know as the Antichrist brokers/enforces an agreement between Israel and it's enemies for a period of 7 years.

So where are we? I believe we need to watch closely what Hizbullah, Syria and Iran do about this conflict Israel is having with Hamas in Gaza. Early this morning, (Sunday 12/28), reports from Lebanon are that Hassan Nazrallah, leader of Hizbullah, appeared in public (which he has hardly ever done since the Lebanon War) and stated that "Northern Israel will burn as Gaza is burning". Also Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on all Muslims to oppose Israel's actions and any Muslim killed as a result would be considered a "martyr". Are these signs of what is to come? Keep watching.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Origin of Christmas

If Jesus wasn't born on December 25, why do we celebrate it at that particular time? There are no records of the early church even celebrating Jesus' birth, so a logical question would be why and when did the world begin to do so?

The first mention of December 25 was in the Calendar of Philocalus in 354 A.D. In it Jesus' birthday was assumed to be December 25, 1 A.D. This calendar was compiled sometime after Emperor Constantine's "Edict of Milan" in A.D. 313. This edict in essence ended the persecution of Christians which had previously been the hallmark of the previous governments in Rome, and allowed Christians to practice their faith publicly without fear of persecution. But why choose the date of December 25th to celebrate Christ's birth when there was sufficient evidence to support a September birth?

The answer to that question may be found in an understanding of the times in which the edict of Constantine was made. Up until this time, the world, with the exception of believers of Christianity, could best be described as pagan. As such, it should not be a surprise to find that the pagan world had it's celebrations and holidays as well. When the emperor Constantine published his edict, the church was faced with the problem of a calendar which would include holidays from both Christianity and paganism. It would appear then that their answer in resolving that dilemma was to substitute the Christian holiday for the pagan celebration. If that answer seems strange to you let's take a moment to look at the origins of what we celebrate during this season of the year.

The date of December 25 was officially set by the church in 440 A.D. in an apparent attempt to replace the existing Roman holiday called Saturnalia. Most pagan religions throughout history have worshipped the sun in one form or another as the provider of warmth and light. The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, occurs at this time of the year in the northern hemisphere. It was at this time in the month of December that pagan celebrations were created in an attempt to please the sun gods so the days would again become long and the sun would begin to stay in the sky longer.

Genesis 10:8-10 introduces us to Nimrod, founder of Babylon, a city which has become synonymous with rebellion against God. Isaiah 47 clearly tells us that the occultic traditions and practices we know about had their origins in Babylon. Nimrod and his queen Semiramis had a son called Tammuz who was thought to have died during the winter solstice. The tradition arose that his death would be memorialized by burning a log in the fire. The Chaldean word for infant is Yule, and this seems to be the origin of the tradition of burning the "Yule Log". The next day, after the yule log had burned, it was replaced by a decorated tree. Is this story starting to sound familiar?

The Romans also worshipped the god Saturn. His celebration occured on December 17, at which time the people would decorate their homes with evergreen boughs and give presents to one another. The roman emperor Aurelian, 270-275 A.D., combined the solstice celebrations of the pagan gods Apollo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, and Thseus into one celebration called the "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" on December 25 as well.

So is it hard to understand why the church fathers would choose to proclaim December 25 as the official date of Jesus' birth? By doing so, they tried to replace the pagan celebrations with what they considered to be one of the most important reasons the world has to celebrate, the birth of our Savior and Lord.
As such, the obvious question that comes to mind is what can we do as believers to see that Christmas remains a celebration of the birth of Christ, and not the commercial event it has become?

Possibly one way would be to truly study the story of Jesus' birth to find the things that make it unique, and obviously divine in nature. One of my favorites is found in the presents brought to the child Jesus by the wise men. I'm sure most, if not all of you can tell me the names of those three gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But my question to you is what is the significance of those particular gifts? You see, at that time the gift of gold would signify His deity; it was a gift given to a king. The frankincense would by symbolic of His purity; in Jesus' case obviously His sinlessness. However, what was the meaning of the gift of myrrh? The truth is, myrrh was a spice used in embalming bodies after death, so what sort of gift is that to give to a child? Well in hindsight, we can argue these gifts were prophetic in that they celebrated not only Jesus' deity and purity, but His coming death as a sacrifice for all men. How so? Look at Isaiah 60:6 where we are told of the gifts brought to Jesus after He comes again the second time. Notice they bring gold and frankincense, but no myrrh? The reason for that is that He only had to die once, and that has already been accomplished for us as the greatest gift we could ever receive.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I hope we can all remember that we as believers need, especially at this time of year, to remind those around us that we are not wishing Happy Holidays but Merry Christmas, remembering the greatest gift of all.

Remember, as believers we need to keep Christ in Christmas, because if we don't, who will?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas in September?

As we find ourselves approaching Christmas, I thought I would share with you a question I have been asked many times, especially at this time of year, and that is, "was Jesus really born on December 25"? Well, to answer that we need only to look closely at the story of His birth told to us in the gospel of Luke and carefully consider what is said there.

First we should look at the description given as to what the shepherds were doing when Jesus was born. In Luke 2:8 we find that the shepherds were in the fields tending their flock at night. Not an uncommon occurrence when in season, but certainly not around December 25 when it's winter in Israel and the lows at night are in the 30-40 degree range. Shepherds in Israel would usually stop taking their flocks out in mid-October and not resume until the spring, so that could be our first clue that a December date is inaccurate.

The second thing we can look at is related to the winter as well. In Luke 2:1-3 we see that a decree was given by Caesar that the whole world should be taxed. As a result, everyone was to return to their "own city" for the purpose of registering their payment. How logical would it be for Rome to ask everyone they wanted to tax to travel, (understanding the main mode of transportation was walking), in the winter when not only was it cold, but snow was possible at any time? Somehow it just doesn't seem likely this would happen. After all, remember Rome was after money, so why make it hard to collect?

The best indication, however, of just when Jesus was born can be found in the first chapter of Luke when we are told of the conception and birth of Jesus' cousin John the Baptist. When we are introduced to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, we are told in verse 5 of chapter 1 that he was a priest "of the course of Abia", or Abijah. It says also that he was beginning his service in the temple when he was told by the angel Gabriel that he was about to become a father. We know from
1 Chronicles 24:10 that the course of Abijah was the eighth course to serve in the temple. This would mean his service would have ended around the month of July. Assuming a normal term of pregnancy, John would have likely been born around April of the next year.

Why is this important to our question of when Jesus was born? If we look at Luke 1:36 we see that when Gabriel visited Mary to tell her about what was about to happen to her, he also said that Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist and Marys' cousin, was in her 6th month of pregnancy. This means that Jesus was to be born approximately 6 months after John the Baptist. Look at John being born around April, and you end up with Jesus being born around September. Is it possible that Jesus was actually born in September rather than in December as we celebrate it?

I think if we accept what the Bible tells us as being accurate, it would be hard for us not to. But if we assume this to be correct, I want to throw out one more thing to consider. By now most should realize the importance of events in Israels' history occuring on their Holy Feast days. If you have heard me teach at all I know you are familiar with this subject. After the Israelites were delivered out of the bondage in Egypt, while in the desert, God told Moses that there were to be seven feasts celebrated throughout the year. Three occur in the spring, one in the summer, and three more in the fall. If we assume a normal 280 day pregnancy, and then place Johns' birth in April and Jesus' birth in September we find it is not only possible, but probable that John was born on the Feast of Passover, and Jesus was born on the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot. I'm sure this is just coincidence right? You might want to also think about this. Why was Bethlehem so crowded that Joseph and Mary could not find any room? How about the fact it was The Feast of Tabernacles, one of the three feast days that all Jewish men were required to attend in Jerusalem, and everyone who could possibly make the trip was there to celebrate?

Am I trying to ruin your Christmas here? Of course not. I think Jesus appreciates His children celebrating His birth even if we got the day wrong. However I do think the very best gift we can give Him is to not only remember the reason for the season, but to celebrate it exactly as He would want. Let's all be sure to remember God's gift to us in the person of Jesus, and to give to others before we think of ourselves and what we might want.

God gave us the ultimate gift. What are we giving, and to whom?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Doing It Right

Approval, positive reinforcement, praise, all words that describe what most of us are looking for from parents, friends, and even the world. Generally speaking humans have a need to feel as if they are "doing it right", whatever that may be. It seems to be ingrained in us from the start when our parents would either praise us or correct us when we made our choices as a means to direct our behavior. In my own family, my father was the "administrator" of "corrective discipline", and there are a few incidents in my past where the expectations of my parents were made painfully clear. To be truthful, I never really can remember a time when I wasn't aware of just what my parents expected from me. Our Father in heaven has a few expectations as well, and I thought after discussing what He thought of the Church in Laodicea we might look at the church that got a "good" report card as a way to see just what God expects from us.

In Revelation 3:7-13 we find what Jesus has to say about the church at Philadelphia. Now the name itself has a commendation in that the meaning of the word Philadelphia is "Brotherly Love", and Jesus himself commanded in John 13:34 that we should "love one another; as I have loved you". So the first indication of why Jesus is pleased in this church is that it is apparently following His commandment. Another point that should be noted when looking at these seven letters is found in the words Jesus uses to describe Himself at the beginning of each letter. These descriptions relate not only to what Jesus expects from them, but what they are doing or not doing as well. Jesus uses the same word to describe Himself in both the letter to Philadelphia and the following letter to Laodicea, which is our clue as to what Philadelphia is doing right and what Laodicea is doing wrong.

The word Jesus uses is translated into English as "true", but has a much deeper meaning in the Greek. In Greek, it is pronounced "al-ay-thee-nos'", and actually means "real, true and genuine in every respect, opposite to what is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated or pretended". Ouch! It would appear what Jesus is trying to show us here is a contrast between the Philadelphia church which is genuine and true, and the church at Laodicea which is counterfeit and simply pretending to be true. Although both may appear on the outside to be the same, Jesus says He can tell the difference by simply doing one thing, and that is examining their "works".

What are the works that Jesus has observed that earn this church a good report card? Two things jump out at me in this passage. One, in verse 8 Jesus tells them that He has seen them exhibit a "little strength", keep His "word", and they haven't "denied" His name. Now keeping His Word can be accomplished by obedience to His commandments, something I think we can all figure out for ourselves. But denying His name? Again, looking at the Greek, the word for deny is "contradict", so it appears Jesus is saying that the believers at Philadelphia are being careful that their "works" do not contradict the standards laid out in scripture. Unfortunately for all of us, Jesus also says that it only takes a "little strength" to accomplish this. Personally, that hurts because it's not like I have never thought something along the lines of how hard it is to live life according to God's standards. Jesus, however, also mentions a second way in which this church is "doing it right".

In verse 10 Jesus makes a curious statement in which He commends the believers at Philadelphia for keeping "the word of my patience". This seems to be a strange phrase unless you look again at the Greek meaning of the words, and examine them in the context of what Jesus is saying here. I apologize if this is starting to look like a lesson in Greek, but there really is no better way to understand what Jesus is saying here than to dig a little deeper. The word for "kept" is "tay-reh'-o" which means to "attend carefully; keep in the state in which to observe", and the word for "patience" is "hoop-om-on-ay'" or "perseverance, enduring, not swayed by trials". So the believers in this church are making sure they are in a continual state of watching for something Jesus calls His patience. But what is Jesus being patient for?

If we step back and look at the context I believe we can see exactly what He means here. Remember these letters are addressed to the church as a whole, and what is the church? Of course, it is the bride of Christ; and what is the current status of the bride and groom? Obviously they are betrothed, but waiting for the wedding day when God will tell Jesus "go get her" in something we know as the rapture. So I believe the picture here is of Jesus watching His bride, the Church, for close to 2000 years. Now that is being patient, especially if you consider what these seven letters describe as the state of His bride to be! So what the believers in Philadelphia were being commended for was being faithful to watch for the day of Jesus' return, being steadfast even though they were being tried and tempted. The best part of all of this is spelled out clearly in the latter part of verse 10 when Jesus tells them that because of their faithfulness they would be delivered from the "hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world,to try them that dwell upon the earth." This is a direct promise to His church that they will be removed from this earth in what we call the rapture before the tribulation period begins.

We know what Jesus wants from us by reading this letter to Philadelphia. He wants us to strive to keep an attitude of watchfulness for His return, and live in such a way that the world will see our works and know we are obeying God's Word. We might steal a phrase from a popular movie you might recognize here; "It's what we do that defines us". Jesus knows our works; are we doing it right?

Friday, November 21, 2008

This Little Light of Mine...

How many of you know how to finish that phrase? The rest is; "I'm gonna let it shine", and I'm sure it probably dates me but it's from a song I learned in Sunday School when I was little and I'm not sure if it's even taught anymore. I hope it is because there is more good theology in this song than in many sermons taught from the pulpit today. Now if that statement somehow offends you let me point out that it is not just my opinion, but unfortunately also the opinion of Jesus when He describes the state of the Church just before His return.

Now most of us can relate to the anxiety of receiving our report cards at the end of the quarter, and trying to formulate some sort of a believable excuse for poor performance. Like me, I'm sure your excuses fell on deaf ears as well because the evaluation of our performance was up to our teachers, not us. What many believers are unaware of though is that the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible is exactly that; a report card from Jesus on the performance of His church. When you study what Jesus has to say it becomes apparent that, like my report cards, it's not a very pretty picture.

When you do an in-depth study of the letters to the churches, you find first of all that there appears to be at least 4 levels of meaning behind what is said. First of all these letters were sent to actual churches of the day, so the messages were in response to actual needs within the specific church. Second, as there are only seven churches mentioned, and we know the number seven in the Bible stands for "perfectly complete", we must assume that the messages are a complete picture of the Church as a whole. Every church today fits into one of these profiles, because if you note, the message to each individual church contains the admonition "Hear what the Spirit says to the churches", plural! Third, it further appears that these letters refer to us as individuals within the church because each letter contains the phrase, "He that hath an ear let him hear". So each of us as believers fits the profile of one of these seven churches. Fourth, and most amazing of all, these letters have been discovered to be prophetic because they accurately describe the evolution of the Church through history from birth to the present time. That of course means that we can look at the last church described to see what Jesus has to say about our church today.

The last church mentioned is the church of Laodicia, and what Jesus has to say to them does, in many peoples opinion, accurately describe the state of the church today. Jesus paints the picture of a large, seemingly rich church that appears on the outside to have it all. But when He describes the inside He says that although the members think they are doing everything right, have it all, and need nothing, they are in fact "lukewarm", have an inaccurate opinion of themselves, and are in fact "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked". He goes on to say in verse 20 that the reality is that He himself, Jesus, is outside of His own church! Jesus is not even inside, but outside knocking on the door trying to get in! How can this be, that a church full of professing believers can actually be so poor that Jesus says in verse 16 that He intends to spit them out of His mouth?

I think the answer to this lies in a few other passages that describe what believers are like as we approach the end of this age. Now we have already mentioned Jesus referring to the days of Noah, and what men were like at that time. If we look also at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 we see a description of not just people in general, but as verse 5 makes clear, these are people who claim to be Christians but in fact are hypocrites. They go to church and go through the motions but in reality they are only interested in their own pleasures to such a degree that according to verse 4 they love them more than they love God! The most important things in their lives can be seen in how they live their lives; "covetous, proud, boasters, disobedient, blasphemous(bad language), unholy, lovers of pleasures(whatever makes me feel good-drinking, sex, etc.) are all what we would call demonstrative behavior. You can see these people do these things, it's not as if they try to hide it. Jesus also describes these end times believers in Luke 21:34-36 with words like "surfeiting" (partying to excess) and "drunkenness" (no explanation needed). So the picture here is of people who profess to be Christians acting exactly as non-christians do in regards to their personal lives, and failing in the one thing that Jesus says is most important to Him.

In the book of Matthew, Chapter 5, verse 13-16 Jesus spells out what our responsibility is to Him, and in reality also to the Body of Christ, the Church. In these verses Jesus says that we as believers are to live in such a way that our "light" shines "before men" (the world) and brings glory to God. Jesus also refers to believers as the "salt" of the earth. Everyone knows that a little salt can go a long way, and it doesn't take much to affect an entire meal. But if you were to use salt on your dinner and find that it wasn't salty, you would throw it away and get some fresh. Do you get what Jesus is telling us here? In this verse people that claim to be Christians but don't have any effectiveness are "cast out" and "trodden under foot". In Revelation the "lukewarm" Christian gets spit out of Jesus' mouth. So you tell me, how important is it to Jesus that we as believers live our lives as a shining light in this world of darkness? We do that by being different from the rest of the world, not the same. Maybe we would all do well to ask ourselves just how far do we think Jesus can spit? I for one don't want to find out.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. How's that for some solid theology?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Three Messiahs

As most of us know, the fundamental belief of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, sent to the earth to save mankind from their sin. Many people are surprised though to find that other religions have their messiah figures as well. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all share a belief in a messiah type individual as part of their eschatology, or beliefs of the end of the world. It also goes without saying, that one thing in common with each of these three religions is that each is watching and waiting for the appearance of this messiah in the very near future.

There is, however, a very large difference in what Christianity believes about it's messiah, and what Judaism and Islam believe about theirs. You see, we as Christians believe in the deity of Jesus; He was the Son of God. Judaism and Islam share the same idea that their coming leader will simply be a man. In Judaism, they believe their coming messiah is simply a human descended from the line of King David, and he will be annointed King of Israel to rule much the same as the ancient kings of Israel did. He will be a righteous king, be a strong political and military leader, and he will cause the temple to be rebuilt. But most of all he will be human, not a divine or god-like individual.

In Islam, many of the faithful are looking for the appearance of a person they call the Mahdi, or Guided One. Depending on their interpretation of prophecy, he will appear on earth for a period of 7 years before the advent of what they call the Day of Resurrection. There is a lot of disagreement within Islam concerning the particulars surrounding this individual, but it is safe to say they believe he is going to appear on the scene very soon. The president of Iran has been very vocal in his belief that he feels it is his duty to prepare the way for the appearing of the Mahdi, and there are other leaders in that part of the world who share that belief. So the situation we have here is this; Christians are looking for the return of their Messiah to take them to Heaven in an event called the rapture, and two other world religions are looking for a powerful charismatic leader who will solve the world's problems, bring peace and stability, and be universally accepted as someone worthy to follow.

Isn't it interesting to see how accurately the Bible has predicted the situation that would exist on this world during the period of time called the tribulation? A question many have asked over the years is how could one man, referring to the antichrist, broker or enforce a peace between Israel and it's enemies? This would somehow indicate that he would have to be either very strong militarily, or extremely persuasive politically. There is, however, an alternate scenario here that could also be considered. What if both Israel and Islam believed this person to be the fulfillment of their religious eschatology? What if this individual is smart enough to figure out a way to present himself as exactly that, and be acceptable to both religions?

The answer to that question might be partially answered by the New York Times which reported recently that reaction in the Middle East to the election of Barack Obama was, in their words, euphoric. If that is truly the case, it demonstrates that it is entirely possible for one person to generate support across a very diverse population in a part of the world that is known mostly for it's disagreements. Now am I trying to identify the antichrist here? No, but I think it's very curious to see that the situation that the Bible describes as existing at the time of the end can be seen in the events taking place in the world today. As I've said before, we as believers are commanded to watch, and given a list of things to watch for. What we need to make sure of is that we don't become so focused on individual events that we lose perspective on the "times".

God in His infinite wisdom has given us a very detailed picture of what the situation on this earth will be as we approach the time of the end. Let's not forget the big picture as we watch for the signs. Remember that in Matthew 16:3 Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for not recognizing "signs of the times". If we look, it would appear the world is even now looking for that one individual who will not only solve the problems that exist, but will somehow be acceptable and followed by all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mystery of the Temple

I bet I have your attention now, don't I? Do you know how I know? It's as simple as using the word mystery. It's been said that everyone loves a good mystery, and to look at how many best sellers, how many movies from Hollywood, or just programs on television that are mysteries would seem to justify that claim. There is something about trying to figure out the plot twists, the suspects, and the possible outcomes that simply draws our attention and keeps it until the end is revealed.

Unfortunately for many, the fact that there are hidden mysteries contained in the Bible seems to have been missed. In fact, it's my personal opinion that nobody loves a good mystery better than God does. How else do you explain the existence of so many contained in the Bible, not the least of which is prophecy telling us how the history of the world has and will unfold? Now you may wonder why God chose to include so many hidden things in the Bible, but as far as myself, I believe His intent was obvious. How better to make study fun than to include so many surprises in His Word just waiting for the serious student to find?

In the book of Hebrews, Paul tells us in chapter 11, verse 6, that God is a "rewarder" of those who "diligently" seek Him. Now what exactly do you think He might have meant by that? In John 1:1 we are told that "the Word was with God, and the Word was God". We are also told in 2 Timothy 2:15 to "study to show thyself approved unto God". Put these three together and the picture is that anyone who desires to know God needs to study His word diligently, and by doing so not only get closer to God, but will also receive His approval and a reward. Paul explains this to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 2:7-16 by saying that the wisdom of God is in fact a mystery to unbelievers, but this hidden wisdom is ours for the taking because God prepared it for those who love Him.

One of the signs of the coming tribulation period is the rebuilding of the temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. As many subjects I have had the opportunity to study over the years, by far the most intriguing is the Temple Mount and it's importance not only to Israel, but to God Himself. God ordained that this exact piece of real estate to be the most important to be found in the entire world. How important is that? You may be surprised to find there are many unique features of the Temple Mount that seem not only to verify it's importance to God, but to also be used as an example of the mysteries of which we have already mentioned. Let me give you just a couple of examples.

Recent research has revealed an extraordinary correlation between events in Israels' history and the distance from the Temple Mount to geographical locations related to these events. Most students of the Old Testament are familiar with the Babylonian Captivity where Israel was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylon as slaves. We are also told by the prophet Daniel that Babylon in turn fell to Darius the king of the Medes in the story of the handwriting on the wall that is found in chapter 5 of the Book of Daniel. We know from history that this happened in 539 BC. We also know from history that Israel was reborn as a nation on May 14, 1948 in a fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel 37 referred by many as the prophecy of the dry bones. This rebirth was facilitated by the country of Great Britain which had controlled the geographical area of Israel after the end of World War One. But what you may not know is that if you draw a straight line from the Temple Mount to Babylon, it measures 539 miles! Do the same between the Temple Mount and London, England and you get 1948 miles! These are just two examples of many I could give you, but the point I want to make here is this. The location of the Temple Mount and the rebuilding of the temple is very important to God and will occur as He said it will, apparently just after the 7 year tribulation begins. The question I want to ask here is this; why do they rebuild it?

In recent years there have been numerous steps taken and preparations made for the rebuilding of the temple. The instruments for sacrifice and worship have been constructed, the garments for the priests to wear have been made, and those who have been identified as being descendants from the tribe of Levi are even now being trained to serve as priests. The one drawback here though is this. Only a small minority of Jews are interested in rebuilding the temple on the Temple Mount. There is no way that Israel would attempt to start rebuilding the temple at this point in time especially considering the situation that exists with the Muslim Authority which controls the Temple Mount. It is only if a situation exists where the vast majority of the Jews want to rebuild, and the government is unafraid of retaliation that this rebuilding could occur. So what could happen to produce this feeling in Israel today?

I believe the answer can be found in the events of Ezekiel 38,39 where we are told of the conflict referred to as the Gog Magog War. I think the most telling part of this prophecy is to be found in the revelation that it is God Himself that intervenes to protect and save Israel from the invading armies of Gog. When Israel sees that they have been saved by Divine intervention, I believe they will want to rebuild the temple to give thanks to God. Of course, this is also the time where the Antichrist will enforce an agreement which will allow that rebuilding to take place. The stage is set for the next war to begin and the only question before us is "when"? There are serious concerns in Israel right now that with the election of a new president in the United States who they believe will not support them if they decide to move against Iran, forces them to act now before he takes office.

Keep watching.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Answer Man

Now that the election is over and America has voted for change, a natural question arises as to how much just one man can change the world in which we live? I'm sure that most people would come to the conclusion that one man can't, given the complexity of the world's governments, financial institutions, and even religions that exist today. Unfortunately though, the Bible makes it clear that there will be a man who not only can and will accomplish great change, but will also change the course of history by sending the earth as we know it on a path to certain destruction; the man the Bible calls the Antichrist.

A question I often hear is if this man is going to be so evil, how in the world does he manage to rise to such a position of power? I think the answer to that is becoming more and more obvious as we take a close look at what is happening in the world today. In reality, can anyone look at the world today and find someplace where there isn't some sort of problem that needs fixing? Of course, if you were to ask anyone on the street today what the biggest problem facing the world today is, I'm sure they would respond "the economy", but as we all know, that isn't the only one. The unrest in the Middle East is certainly foremost in the minds of many people not only there, but here as well considering the United States has so many troops in that part of the world. There is another problem, not widely recognized, that is a direct result of the worsening financial situation we see in the world today and that is famine. Always a problem in some parts of the world, there are now signs that entire Third World countries are in danger because entire populations are becoming unable to afford even the subsistence level of their daily food requirements. So with all these problems and more besides, is it possible that one man could come along and rise to such a position of power that the Bible describes? Absolutely! How? Simple; he has all the answers!

A fact that most students of this period of time realize is that for the first three and one half years of the Tribulation, people and governments willingly give authority to this man. Why? Simply because he seems to have the answers to the problems facing the world today. The Bible tells us that the very first problem that he appears to solve is the conflict between Israel and all the surrounding nations that seek to destroy it. How many nations, how many administrations, how many politicians, and how many years have so many tried to solve this problem with no success whatever? Yet this man does what no man has been able to do; bring peace to that part of the world. That in itself will make this person a household name all over the world, but in effect, it will only serve to bring him to the attention of the entire world in order for him to begin to consolidate his power.

Speculation about who this man may be is the source of all too many strange if not curious conclusions. I have often been asked if I have any "favorites" as far as candidates for this position, and many have shared their picks with me. My favorite by far is Barney the Dinosaur, but please don't ask me to explain how they come up with that one. The fact remains that among believers today, many are interested in trying to identify potential candidates as a sign of the end. Although the Bible gives us 43 names of this man, as well as a complete physical description, I believe we also need to understand that the Bible suggests it is fruitless for us to try and identify who he may be.

There are several points the Bible makes clear about the identity of this coming world leader that we as believers need to be aware of. Of these, the one that is the most important to our discussion here is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8. It is here that Paul tells us that there is a prerequisite for the revealing of this man to the world and that is the removal of someone or something called "he who now letteth" or "he who now restrains" depending on the translation you use. Who or what is this "restrainer"? Some feel this is a reference to world governments that exist at the time, but the most common interpretation is that this is referring to the Holy Spirit which at this time is present in all believers, the body of Christ, also known as His Church. So if Paul tells us that in order for this man to be revealed the Church must be removed, it seems obvious he is talking about the rapture. The obvious conclusion then is that we won't be here when the Antichrist is revealed and begins his rule.

Does this mean that we are wasting our time studying about him? On the contrary, if that was God's intent I'm reasonably certain He wouldn't have told us so much about him in the first place. Rather I believe God wants us to know about him in order to help us recognize how it is that the world embraces someone who claims to be able to solve the worlds' problems. What a shame that the world will choose to believe this "man of sin" rather than believe in the One who really can save the world! If our recent election showed anything, it showed how easily someone can convince so many not only in this country, but around the world that one man can bring change.

But what price will the world pay for that change?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Days of Noah

I have often said that Jesus would not have told us to watch if He didn't intend to show us something. The Bible is full of stories and examples of how God has, over time, demonstrated His omniscience by foretelling the future. Not only has He told us of what would come, but in many instances He has gone further and told us exactly when they would occur. Just a few of these examples would be telling Israel exactly when they would be released from their captivity in Babylon, exactly when their Messiah would arrive, and of course, when they would again be a nation in their ancient homeland of Israel. Since so many examples of events in Israels' history exist, a logical question would be "does the Bible tell us when these future conflicts with other countries will occur"?

To answer that question, I think I'll refer to something Jesus has told us in the Mark account of the Olivet Discourse we have been talking about. When Jesus is talking to His disciples about the end of the world He says in chapter 13, verse 23 that He has "foretold you all things". So in that case, it would appear all we have to do is search the scripture until we find an answer to our question.

As often as I have read and studied this passage, it wasn't until just a few years ago that I realized I might have been overlooking an important clue as to when these things might occur. Notice in verse 37 that Jesus says "just as in the Days of Noah" right after He says no man knows the day or the hour. It took a few times studying this passage before I asked myself the question, "why the reference to Noah"? So I began to look for something the two events might have in common, in order to try and answer that question. In this passage, Jesus is talking about the rapture, and the worldwide tribulation that follows. Now the Bible tells us many times that the tribulation is a time of judgement on an unbelieving world, and obviously that is exactly what the purpose of the flood was as well. It goes without saying that it took Noah a very long time to build that Ark, and it isn't as if the people that came by to look weren't informed by Noah as to the reason he was building it. Even though they chose not to believe, when they saw the animals being loaded and Noah and his family getting on board, they had to understand Noah was finished building and was prepared to sail.

Do we find ourselves in a similar situation today? As believers, don't we see the signs that the next judgement is near? Considering the fact that even non-believers are asking questions about what is going on in the world, shouldn't those of us who study the Bible understand that the time is near? I think there is no question that God made it perfectly obvious to those in Noah's day that something big was coming, and I believe He is doing the exact same thing today. But I also want to take this a step further, and consider if possibly Jesus is giving us an exact time to watch for the things of which He had been speaking.

If our timeline of events that precede the tribulation are correct, we are looking for an attack by Israel on Damascus, followed by the reaction by the rest of the world described in Ezekiel 38,39 as the "Gog Magog War". If you compare the descriptions of the response to Israels' attack in Isaiah 17 with the attack by the nations in Ezekiel 38 you find they are almost identical. This leads me to believe that these two events are not only related, but occur one right after the other with probably not a lot of time between them. After all, since no country has dared to use a nuclear weapon since the end of World War 2, the next use will most certainly provoke an immediate response. If that is the case, we may have found another clue as to when this all might take place.I have already suggested we compare the accounts in both Isaiah and Ezekiel to notice their similarities. If we do that, and then go to another Old Testament prophet and read his account of a future conflict that also occurs in the time of the end, we find not only a description of what occurs, but an exact day as well.

In the book of Haggai, chapter 2 verses 20-22 we find an account of what is in store for a coalition of nations that presume to attack Israel. In it, God tells us that the armies in essence destroy themselves by attacking each other. Compare that to the account in Ezekiel 38, verse 21 where the exact thing happens. There seems to be little doubt that we are seeing two different accounts of the same conflict, but in Haggai we are given something else; the exact day that it might happen. Twice in the Haggai account God refers to the 24th day of the eighth month. On the Jewish calendar, this is Kislev 24, or as it is better known, Hanukkah. If in fact, God is telling us here that the attack and defeat of the armies of Gog will occur on Hanukkah, and we believe that the events of Isaiah 17 occur shortly before, are there also clues to when that conflict might occur?

Recall if you will, that when Jesus was asked when these things would occur, he referred to that time as like the days of Noah. If we go to the book of Genesis and read the account of the flood given there, we find again not only an account of what happened, but exactly when it happened as well. In Genesis 6, verse 11 we find the flood began "in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month," or on the Jewish calendar, the 17th day of Cheshvan. Now in order to avoid some confusion, at the time of the Exodus God told Moses to change the calendar so the first month of the year would be celebrated then in the spring, rather than where it had been celebrated in the fall. That is why there are two calendars at work in Israel today; the religious calendar and the civil one. The religious calendar begins in the spring as God instructed, but the civil calendar starts in the fall as it did before God changed it. The point here though, is this. Although the second month for the flood, and the eighth month for Hanukkah seem far apart, it's only because the date of the flood is listed on the civil calendar, while the date for Hanukkah is on the religious one. Put them both on the same civil calendar and the 17th of Cheshvan occurs just 37 days, or one month and one week before the 24th of Kislev. That means the anniversary of the flood is just 2 weeks from today, or Sunday, November 15th. Is it possible the events of Isaiah 17 and Ezekiel 38 occur a little more than a month apart, and in fact occur in the months of November and December?

I'm not sure we can can say with certainty that is the case, but in my mind at least, I feel it is a very strong possibility that God is telling us exactly that. I can't help but remember that in Matthew 24 Jesus has just come from the temple where He condemned the religious leaders of that day for not recognizing the signs of His appearing. Why did Jesus tell His disciples the events He was speaking of would be just like the days of Noah? Was He just referring to their attitude, or was He giving us a clue as to when these things will occur? How about both? Let's keep watching together shall we?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rumors of Wars

When Jesus tells His followers to watch for His return, He makes it a point to be clear about what we are to watch for. If we want to consider the possibility that He lists what to watch for in order of it's importance, we might do well to notice the second thing He describes for us is contained in the phrase "wars and rumors of wars". The word rumors is only found in the Bible twice, and only in this passage and in the Mark account where Jesus is talking about the signs of the end. That fact caught my eye immediately, and probably is very important in order to understand what Jesus is trying to tell us. The Greek word for rumor found here comes from a root word which means to "report". So the thought here seems to be that Jesus is saying we need to watch for reports about the possibility of a coming war. Since we have already decided that our watching is not to be random but specific, and the next major event in Israels' history will be the destruction of Damascus, it follows we should be watching the news for reports of a possible conflict that could fulfill this specific prophecy.

Now it is probably almost impossible to find anyone who is not familiar with the problem of Iran attempting to obtain a nuclear weapon. Their pursuit of a nuclear capability has been reported in the news for several years now, as well as the statements by Israel that they will never allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. Obviously, although the nations of the world have attempted to slow or stop Iran's progress, the fact remains that they have moved ever closer to their goal. Conversely, if history has taught us anything about Israel it's that they will do anything they feel is necessary to protect the survival of their nation and people. If they say they are going to do something, you would be foolish to ignore their warning. Yet despite these warnings, Iran seems intent to do just that. It makes me wonder if in fact, Iran for some reason is intent upon provoking an attack. Now you might wonder if a conflict with Iran is what is being "rumored", what has that to do with the prophecy of Damascus we are watching for? The answer to that may be found in what else Iran has also been quietly doing for the past several years.

Many may have forgotten the Lebanon War of 2006, in which the radical terrorist organization Hezbollah launched approximately 4000 rockets into Israel from Lebanon. Fortunately for Israel, the damage from these attacks was not as bad as it could have been for the rockets available to Hezbollah were small, unreliable, and for the most part unguided. Since then, however, it has been reported that they have rearmed with more than 30,000 rockets of a much more sophisticated capability, a much larger payload, and an increased range that puts most of Israel at risk. Where have these rockets come from you ask? Not surprisingly, they are coming from Iran, and what's more, Iran is not selling them to Hezbollah, they are giving. Even better, Iran doesn't send them all the way to Lebanon, but rather they fly them to Damascus where Hezbollah picks them up for transport back to Lebanon. Why would Iran be investing so much in this particular way? The simple answer is that they lack the ability to attack Israel from their own territory. To try and respond militarily to any attack by Israel from their own country would be futile. The distance is too great for any rocket response, and a ground offensive couldn't proceed through Iraq because our forces are in the way. They could, however, tell Syria and Hezbollah to launch every rocket they have into Israel in the hope the destruction would be so massive that Israel would be unable or unwilling to respond. If this scenario were to occur, I believe the Bible has already told us what Israels' response would be; and I for one, wouldn't want to be living in Damascus.

On October 19Th, at a speech in Seattle, vice presidential candidate Biden stated that as President, Barack Obama would be tested by the world just as John Kennedy was. What's more, he said it would be within 6 months. Why? Maybe because it has also been reported that both presidential candidates had recently been provided with information from the current administration that Iran would be able to construct a nuclear bomb by February 2009, just 3 months from now. That of course, only leaves Israel 3 months to do something about it. What will happen when they do, and does the Bible give us any clues as to when this will happen? I believe it does, and that fact along with the events occurring in the political arena both here in the United States as well as in Israel, are rapidly combining to produce what could easily be described as the "perfect storm".

Note: Some of you have had the opportunity to read my book about this coming conflict, and have asked if more copies are available. The good news is that I have had it converted to a PDF file so it can be downloaded and read with Adobe Acrobat Reader. The bad news is I have no idea how to get it on this page for downloading, so if you want a copy please just e-mail me and ask for a copy and I will e-mail it to you. Check my profile for the e-mail address. Thanks, Allan

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are We There Yet?

Who hasn't heard those words while travelling with small children? I remember trying unsuccessfully to teach my daughters how to recognize and read road signs when they were young so I wouldn't have to answer that question so often. There did come a day, though, when they learned not only how to read, but how to look for the signs in order to know how close we were to our destination. As often as I have had the opportunity to teach on the subject of what the Bible has to say about the end of this age, I often find myself in much the same predicament.

Many believers today simply have little or no knowledge about what the Bible teaches about the period of time immediately preceding the Second Coming. This might at first seem startling, unless you consider how rare it is to hear any sort of teaching of prophecy from the pulpits in our churches today. Last year I had the opportunity to watch a program on a national network where a well known columnist interviewed several pastors of some of the largest churches in America today. When the subject of the return of Christ came up I was dumbfounded to hear one of these pastors state emphatically that the church had no business teaching on that subject, and people should simply concentrate on how they are living their lives right now! Fortunately for equal time, another of those pastors spoke up quickly to say that it is the only thing we should be teaching! My thought is that if the Second Coming was the subject Jesus taught the most, it probably means it's important and we should be doing the same. After all, if we look at the context of Matthew 24 and 25 where Jesus talks about the signs of His return and the penalties for not watching, we would do well to remember in Matthew 23 Jesus totally ripped the religious leaders of that day for not recognizing the "time of their visitation"! He then goes on to tell us what to watch for, and what the signs would be of His return.

Of course, it's been my experience that one can't talk about the Second Coming for more than 30 seconds before someone quotes Matthew 24:36 where Jesus says that "no man knows the day or the hour" to justify their indifference, but allow me to point something out. Most scholars will agree that in this verse Jesus is referring to the rapture of the Church, and saying that it will take many by surprise. I am in total agreement with this position, but let me suggest that there is a common mistake many make, and that is the rapture should not be confused with the Second Coming of Christ. At the time of the rapture, the Bible teaches that when Jesus returns for His bride we will meet him in the clouds. It is at the end of the seven year tribulation that we see Jesus finally return to the earth. So although we may not know the day or the hour of the rapture, the second coming of Christ will be obvious to anyone who is willing to look for the signs that the Bible tells us will occur just before His return.

If we hold to the belief that the rapture of the church occurs before the beginning of the tribulation we can begin to answer the question "are we there yet" by simply looking at the prophecies concerning Israel to see how close they are to what the Bible calls the seventieth week of Daniel. Most believers recognize the names Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah as the names of books in the Old Testament, but unfortunately many are unclear as to who these men were and the role they played in the history of Israel. The short answer is all were men chosen by God to prophesy to Israel about their future, and Ezekiel and Daniel were both captives in Babylon at the same time. Probably the most significant thing about the three is that when we combine their individual accounts, we are left with a complete picture of what the future holds for the nation of Israel as well as a timeline for all of it to be accomplished. From the Babylonian Captivity to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, from the rejection of the Messiah to the diaspora, and from the regathering of the nation to the Second Coming of Jesus, their entire history is laid out in detail.

So where are we if we look at these prophecies, and how close are we to the advent of the tribulation period? I think we can have a pretty good idea if we but look for the road signs God has told us to watch for through the prophecies of these three men. First Ezekiel told us that Israel would one day be regathered into the land they had been dispersed from. We saw that occur in May of 1948 when Israel became a nation once again, and completed in the eyes of many in the summer of 1967 when Jerusalem became the undivided capitol. Second, Isaiah tells us that the next major event would be the destruction of Damascus, capitol city of Syria, by Israel. Since Damascus is still alive and well, and no such destruction has ever taken place in history, this must be in the near future. Why near? Remember, Jesus said that when we saw the fig tree put forth it's leaves, that generation would not pass away until "all these things" happen, so it must occur soon.

The result of this destruction by Israel is the gathering of an immense coalition of forces from many nations that is described by Ezekiel in the 38th chapter of his book. The attempted invasion by these forces is called the "Gog/Magog" war, and it is the point in time where God directly intervenes in order to show the world that Israel is in fact still under His divine protection. It is a result of this defeat that many believe an agreement is mediated between Israel and it's enemies by the man Daniel refers to as the "prince who is to come", otherwise known as "The Man of Sin" or "The Anti-Christ". The acceptance of this agreement begins the period of time known as the tribulation, so we are left with a series of three events, or roadsigns, that must occur in a very short time. The next, obviously, is the Destruction of Damascus referred to in Isaiah 17, so we need to ask ourselves if we can see anything going on in the world today that might lead us to believe that this conflict is imminent? It is the answer to that question that will give us the answer to our original question; "Are we there yet"?

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Are we living in the end times?
Does the Bible talk about what is happening in the world today?
Are we seeing the signs Jesus told us to watch for?
Is the rapture of the Church going to occur soon?

These are just some of the questions I have been asked in just the past few months, and in all honesty, with much greater frequency in just the past few weeks. So much so, that I have decided to start this blog in an effort to try to not only answer those questions and others, but to try to help explain just what is occurring in the world right now.

For those of you who know me or have heard me teach, it should come as no surprise that the subject of these pages will be the imminent return of Christ for His people, and an affirmation that we are fast approaching the end of the world as we know it. That has been the preeminent subject of my teaching for years. What you may not understand, however, is why I have chosen to focus on Gods prophecies concerning the end of the world to such an extent. So allow me to share briefly the reasoning behind what some have described as my "obsession" with the second coming of Christ.

Let's look first at what Jesus taught in the book of Mark, chapter 13, verses 28-37. Here we find Jesus explaining to His disciples that just before His return there would be numerous signs given as a warning that the end was near. He concludes by commanding four times that His followers should "watch" for these signs so as not to be surprised. Now I doubt that many of you would disagree with me in concluding that a command from God is not something to be taken lightly, and that to disobey or ignore a command would be sin. So obviously the first reason I teach what I teach is that I want to obey Gods command to watch. The second reason can be found in the Old Testament where God is instructing His prophet Ezekiel. In chapter 33 of the book of Ezekiel, God appoints Ezekiel to be a "watchman" for the nation of Israel. What we might want to focus on though is what God says to him in verse 6 where God makes it very clear that if a watchman fails in his duty to warn the people, their blood will be on his hands. So the picture painted here for us as believers is one of responsibility to not only watch for the signs of Jesus' return, but to warn others of what we see. That is the primary reason I have chosen to study prophecy, and to teach about the signs of Jesus return.

There are, though, other reasons that motivate me to choose to do what I do, and I would like to share just a few of those with you also. I have observed over the years that one thing most all believers have in common is the fact that at one time or another we all struggle in our walk in the Lord. The Bible makes it pretty clear that the world will not appreciate our decision to follow God, and we can expect to be attacked at most any time. Yet in the book of Titus, Paul tells us in chapter 2, verses 11-13 that one way we can get the help we need is to look "for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ". If our focus is above, it's pretty hard to get bogged down with the problems we face down here. So the advice we seem to get from Paul is to watch for signs of Jesus' return as inspiration to keep walking the way we should, and to receive the strength we so desperately need.

Another reason to study prophecy might be the thought that most of us have experienced the gratification that comes from being rewarded for doing something. Rewards are nice to receive, and can serve as a motivation to do even more. God is perfectly aware of this, so it should not come as a surprise that He is willing to reward us for doing His will. Yet I am amazed sometimes that most Christians seem to be unaware that in the book of Revelation, which comes directly from Jesus through John the Apostle, offers a reward to those who study it! In chapter 1, verse 3, Jesus says that those who read and study the prophecies of Revelation will be "blessed"! So how is that for motivation? The book of Revelation is the only book which actually promises the reader will be blessed if he reads, hears, and keeps the things that are written in it. Maybe that explains why some people can't get enough of that book!

Now let me give you what I consider to be the best reason of all for studying prophecy. Although receiving help in our walk, and being blessed on earth sound pretty good, it's just the beginning. I have had the priviledge over the years to hear wonderful teaching from a great many pastors and teachers. One of my favorite quotes comes from Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California who said, "you can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead". He goes on to explain that we need to be making deposits in the bank of Heaven, so we can enjoy our rewards for eternity. Paul obviously had this idea in mind when he says in 2 Timothy 4:8 that he would receive a crown of righteousness in heaven because he spent his time down here looking forward to Jesus' return. He goes on to say that not only will he receive that crown, but anyone else who looks forward to and "loves" Jesus' appearing. What does it mean to love Jesus' return? Let's put it this way, I was blessed with three daughters and seem to recall that when a boy was coming over to visit, or to pick them up, they seemed to spend a LOT of time looking out the window and watching for them to show up. Do you as a believer want Jesus to return so much that you spend a lot of time looking and watching for Him? By doing so, Paul tells us we will receive a crown of righteousness in heaven.

So what are my reasons for being "obsessed" with watching for signs of Jesus' return? Well, God has commanded us to watch, warned us what will happen if we don't, and promised us a reward for doing so, not only on this earth but in Heaven as well. In the weeks ahead I plan to try and show and explain how the events occuring in the world right now are in fact the signs that Jesus told us would preceed the rapture of the Church, and the Second Coming at the end of this age. How close is it? Well, another of my favorite quotes comes from Chuck Smith, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. When he was asked how close we are to the rapture he said this, "when you see the Christmas decorations going up, you know that Thanksgiving is near". People, what we are seeing right now is the world being decorated for the period of time the Bible calls the Tribulation. All of what we see happening is simply preparation for what is to come, something we could describe as the time of "one". One world monetary system, one world religion, one world government, and of course, the one man who will presume to govern the entire world. If we see the decorations going up right before our eyes, you tell me, how close do YOU think the rapture of the church is?