Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ready for the Wedding?

As I study each week it's my habit to visit many different sites across the internet to read and learn from others who share what God is telling them. If you have followed this blog for any length of time you know that occasionally I will post something I find somewhere else when it appears to me to be something I think God really wants us all to take notice of. Today is such a day as I would like to share an article I found on which is one of the best I've read in quite some time on the subject of the similarities between the traditional Jewish wedding and the rapture of the Church.

Considering how close we are to this event, I think we all could benefit from the teaching here and the call to prepare for what many believe is about to happen.

Rise Up Church. Prepare Your Wedding Garment. For Your Groom Is Coming Soon.

By Tom Stephens

Marriage is the highest form of union between two people on earth, and spiritual union between the believer and Christ is the highest union known to Almighty God. Jesus is the head and foundation of the New Testament Church, He is the Bridegroom, the Savior of the body — and claims our hearts. We are His, members of His body: ―For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph. 5:21-30). Christ hath betrothed us to Himself forever! He will never divorce us: ". . . I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord" (Hos. 2:19, 20). I see no tribulation period here.

Because HE lives, we live also. This is divine truth in the power of His resurrection — not merely because He LIVED, not merely because of his holy, perfect life, and not merely because He DIED; but because He was RAISED, we are enabled to walk in newness of life, testifying that we are more than conquerors through HIM.

The Marriage Supper Of The Lamb
Insert To A Unique Series On The Rapture As Taught In Revelation

Both the Old and the New Testaments describe how God through Christ, the Bridegroom, is in the process of marrying His bride, the believers in Him, who will soon live and dwell with Him forever.

God ordained and established marriage and its divine sanctity in Genesis, when He brought Adam and Eve together to become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24) Adam is a type of Christ here. (Rom 5:14) God had a deep sleep fall upon Adam. Sleep is synonymous with death. (Eph 5:14)

The deep sleep that God caused to fall upon Adam is a picture of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. God brought a deep sleep upon Adam so He could take a rib from the side of his flesh.

This required the shedding of blood. This is a picture of Christ who was pierced in the side of His flesh, shedding His own blood when He hung on the tree. From the rib of Adam, God made Eve. By the death of Jesus and our faith in Him we become wedded to Him, and thus the Bride of Christ. By accepting, trusting, and believing in Jesus, we become one with Him.

[Eph 5:31] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

[Eph 5:32] This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

[2 Cor 11:2] For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, which I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

The ancient Jewish wedding ceremony God gave to the Jewish people was to teach us also about the wedding of the Messiah. This ceremony consisted of 12 steps.

1. The selection of the bride.
The bride was usually chosen by the father of the bridegroom. The father would send his trusted servant, known as the agent of the father, to search out the bride. Read Gen 24. In this chapter, Abraham (a type of God the Father) wishes to secure a bride for Isaac (a type of Messiah) and sends his servant Eliezer (a type of the Holy Spirit) to do this task. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and lead them to God (John 16:7-8). Just as the bride was usually chosen by the father of the bridegroom, so the believers in the Messiah are chosen by God. (John 15:16) The bridegroom chose the bride and lavished his love upon her and she returned his love. [Eph 5:25]. Rebekah consented to marry Isaac even before she met him. Now, the bride of the Messiah agree to become the bride of Christ even though we have never seen Him. (1 Pet 1:8)
2. A bride price was established.
A price would have to be paid for the bride. Jesus, being our bridegroom paid a very high price for His bride, the body of believers. The price He paid was His life (1 Cor. 6:20).
3. The bride and groom are betrothed to each other.
Betrothal is the first of two steps in the marriage process. Betrothal legally binds the bride and the groom together in a marriage contract, except they do not physically live together. Whenever you accept the Lord into your heart and life, you become betrothed to Him while living on earth.
4. A written document is drawn up.
This contract states the bride price, the promises of the groom, and the rights of the bride. The groom promises to work for her, to honor, support, and maintain her in truth, to provide food, clothing, and necessities, and to live together with her as husband and wife. This contract was the unalienable right of the bride, to be executed and signed before the ceremony. The Bible is the believer’s contract.
5. The bride must give her consent.
The personal application to those who desire the Lord to come into their hearts and lives is to accept his invitation to do so by faith. As His bride, we are saying ―I do".
6. Gifts were given.
Gifts were given to the bride and a cup called the cup of the covenant was shared between the bride and the groom. The rite of the betrothal is completed when the groom gives something of value to the bride and she accepts it. Today, the gift that is given is usually a ring. When the groom places the ring on the bride's finger, the rite of betrothal is completed. This completed rite is known in Hebrew as kiddushin, which means "sanctification." The gifts to the bride are symbols of love, commitment, and loyalty. The gift God gives to those who accept Jesus is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave us gifts, including righteousness, eternal life, grace, faith, and other spiritual gifts. In addition, at this time the cup of the covenant was shared and sealed between the bride and the groom with the drinking of wine. In doing so, the couple drinks from a common cup. The cup is first given to the groom to sip, and then is given to the bride. This cup, known as the cup of the covenant, is spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-33, and in Luke 20, 22.
7. The bride had a water immersion, which is a ritual of cleansing.
This indicates a separation from a former way to a new way of life. In the case of marriage, it indicates leaving an old life for a new life with your spouse. Jesus said, in John 3:1-7, that we must be born anew to enter into the Kingdom of God. Believers are to be immersed in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the immerser of God. (Luke 3: 16, Acts 1:5, 11:15-16)
8. The bridegroom departed
The bridegroom departed, going back to his father's house to prepare the bridal chamber. [John 14:2] 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. At this point, the bridegroom leaves for his father's house to prepare the bridal chamber for his bride. It was understood to be the man's duty to go away to be with his father, build a house, and prepare for the eventual wedding. Before he goes, though, he will make a statement to the bride, "I go to prepare a place for you; if I go, I will return again unto you."
9. The bride was consecrated
The bride was consecrated and set apart for a period of time while the bridegroom was away building the house. [Rev 21:2] And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Before the bridegroom could go and get the bride, the groom's father had to be satisfied that the son had made every preparation. [Mat 24:36] But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Only then could he give permission to the son to go get the bride. Thus, while the bridegroom was working on the bridal chamber, it was the father who "okayed" the final bridal chamber.
10. The bridegroom did not know
The bridegroom did not know when his father would declare the bridal chamber fit and send him to go get his bride. Note the parallels: 

[Mark 13:32] "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

[Mark 13:33] Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come.

[Mark 13:34] It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.

[Mark 13:35] Watch therefore – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning

[Mark 13:36]. lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.

[Mark 13:37] ―And what I say to you I say to all: Watch."

We do not know the day or the hour of His return. On the 2d coming, we can compute the day from the signing of the safety pact between Israel and many (Daniel 9:27). Meanwhile, the bride was to wait eagerly for the return of the bridegroom. In the mind of the bride, the bridegroom could come at any time, even in the middle of the night or at midnight. So, she had to be ready at all times. Jesus referred to this in the same verses in Mark above, and in Matthew 25:1-13.
11. The bridegroom would return with a shout
The bridegroom would return with a shout, "Behold, the bridegroom comes" and the sound of the ram's horn would be blown. The return of the bridegroom was usually at midnight. When the bridegroom did come, he came with a shout (Mat 25:6) and with the blowing of a trumpet (1 Thes. 4:16-17; Rev. 4:1).
The marriage between the bride and the groom would take place under a wedding canopy. Since Heaven is a type of canopy, we can see that when Jesus gives a shout for His bride, accompanied by the blowing of a trumpet, the marriage between Christ and his bride will take place in Heaven. The marriage ceremony will have a sacred procession. For this reason, the bridegroom (Jesus) will be led to the canopy first.
When the bridegroom approaches the canopy, the cantor chants, "Blessed is he who comes." This expression means "welcome." Jesus said that He would not return for His bride until these words were said. The groom is greeted like a king under the canopy. During this time Jesus, the bride-groom, will be crowned King under the canopy, which is Heaven.
The bride and groom will go to the wedding chamber, where the marriage will be consummated. They will stay in that wedding chamber for seven days, or a week. At the end of the seven days, the bride and groom will come out from the wedding chamber. (See Joel 2:16). The word week in Hebrew is shavuah. It means a "seven". It can mean seven days or seven years. An example of the Hebrew word shavuah for week meaning seven years can be found in Dan 9:24,27.
From this we can see that the believers (bride) in the Messiah (bridegroom) will be with the Messiah in Heaven for His wedding while the earth will be experiencing the seven-year tribulation period. Also in the biblical wedding service that God gave, after you are married, you have a honeymoon. The honeymoon lasts a week, having the same meaning as the above..7-days or 7-years. So this also can refer to Heaven where the previously raptured believers have been enjoying a 7-year honeymoon with the Lord while earth experiences first a false peace and then great tribulation.
12. The Marriage Supper
Finally, there would be a marriage supper for all the guests invited by the father of the bride.
The bride and the groom would be in the wedding chamber for seven days. When the bride and the groom initially went into the wedding chamber, the friend of the bridegroom stood outside the door. All the assembled guests of the wedding gathered outside, waiting for the friend of the bridegroom to announce the consummation of the marriage, which was relayed to him by the groom. John referred to this in John 3:29. –At this signal, great rejoicing broke forth.
The marriage was consummated on the first night. The bloodstained linen from this night was preserved. It was proof of the bride's virginity. (Deut 22:13-21) On the wedding day, the bride-groom is seen as a king and the bride as a queen. During the consummation of the marriage, the bridegroom (Jesus) will be crowned King over all the earth and the bride (believers in Christ) will live with Him and rule with Him forever.
Jesus will be returning with His bride and we will rule and reign with Him physically during the Millennium (Rev 20:4).
The promises that God provided for the believers in Christ are legally ours (2 Corinthians 1:20).[1]

Tom Stephens

[1] Author is unknown.

Of course, as long as we are on the subject of weddings, you might be interested to learn there is a holiday in Israel this week which many choose to use as their wedding day. It's called Tu B' Av, and you can read about it in the following post from last year at this time. Who knows? Only the Father!

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Cause For Fear?

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds"
Romans 2:5-6 NKJV

Does the idea of “judgment” frighten you? I think most of us feel some sort of trepidation when we think about being held accountable for something and probably wish there was a way to avoid it somehow. It probably began when we were children and learned what we could expect when our parents called us using “that voice”, and continues as adults whenever we see a policeman and quickly look at our speedometer to make sure we aren't speeding. Knowing that we will be held accountable for our actions is one of the best ways I can think of to help us make the right choices about how we choose to live our lives.

Many believers, myself included, are convinced we are on the verge of witnessing the period of time where God will judge this world for their “hardness” of heart. The book of Revelation is nothing if not an extremely revealing account of how God plans to do exactly that. Unfortunately many look at what is to come and ask the question how could a loving God do something as terrible as what we see will occur during the tribulation? However the most important point to make about the judgment of God is that in His loving kindness towards us He has provided a way of escape if we but choose to accept it.

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

As believers, the fact that we see the signs that this time of judgment is fast approaching should motivate us even more to share the good news of God's provision with an unbelieving world. Yet sharing that message is not without risk for there will always be those who reject the notion of a loving God judging us for our sin. The thought occurs to me that the Old Testament prophets probably heard "you're judging me" a whole lot as they tried to warn of God's coming judgment. Of course, that did not stop them from doing what they were told by God to do, and neither should we.

Anyone who thinks that choosing to obey God's laws has a “downside” should pay close attention to the following passage from Psalms.

The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, [And] in keeping them [there is] great reward.
Psalms 19:7-11 NKJV

I liked this Psalm so much that not only did I memorize the whole chapter, I try to quote it every day. One of the first things I noticed about this Psalm is how much David is saying he loves God's laws. Now just like anyone else, I would rather people not tell me what to do, so I wanted to discover why David was so desiring of knowing God's laws. What came to mind as I read this Psalm is that David concentrates on the positive results of following God's laws rather than the judgment that comes from disobeying. Not to say we are not warned of what could happen if we don't, but as we would say in this day and age, he concentrates on the "upside".

I look at this as a clue as to how we should approach fulfilling our obligation to speak out about what we see around us today. Accentuate the positive aspects of obeying God's laws, without minimizing the judgment that God says will certainly come. I have said before that when I encounter something unusual or out of the ordinary when studying scripture, it is Gods' way of making a point. Consider the following as an example. There occurs an unusual verse in the book of Zephaniah I want you to read. Why unusual? It is the only time in the entire Bible where every letter of the Hebrew alphabet is contained in just one verse. Guess what the subject of that verse is? That's right; Gods' coming judgment of this world.

"Therefore wait for Me," says the LORD, "Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination [is] to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy.
Zephaniah 3:8 NKJV

Do you think it's possible God is trying to make a point here? Is it possible this verse is His way of emphasizing that a decision to reject Him and His laws has only one result? We know that the time where all the nations of the world will be gathered is during the Tribulation. The Bible also makes it abundantly clear what the scope of that coming judgment is.

That day [is] a day of wrath, A day of trouble and distress, A day of devastation and desolation, A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of trumpet and alarm Against the fortified cities And against the high towers "I will bring distress upon men, And they shall walk like blind men, Because they have sinned against the LORD; Their blood shall be poured out like dust, And their flesh like refuse." Neither their silver nor their gold Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the LORD's wrath; But the whole land shall be devoured By the fire of His jealousy, For He will make speedy riddance Of all those who dwell in the land.
Zephaniah 1:14-18 NKJV

We see the signs of that coming time all around us today, and as the Bible tells us, when you see the signs you know He is near. Standing up as believers and speaking out about what we see, and using that as an opportunity to affirm Gods' laws and expectations of His people will most certainly occasion a response accusing us of judging others. But we are not the judges because we only speak out about what we see. The responsibility to judge and pass sentence is Gods' alone and He has promised He will certainly fulfill that duty.

The good news is that God is a forgiving God, and has promised to deliver anyone from that coming judgment by simply accepting His free gift of salvation and striving to follow His laws. May we be bold to share that good news with others in a spirit of love and forgiveness as we see the day approaching.

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Counting Down the Days

"Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'The fast of the fourth [month], The fast of the fifth, The fast of the seventh, And the fast of the tenth, Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts For the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.' Zecharaiah 8:19 NKJV

Many are familiar with the seven feast days appointed by God for the children of Israel to observe, but not all are aware that He also created four days of fasting to commemorate tragedies that occurred during Israels' history. Zechariah goes on to say that when the Messiah comes, these fast days will become days of celebration and feasting, but for now they are still days of mourning. We looked a couple of weeks ago at the subject of the the three weeks of national mourning which began July 7 and will end July 27 at sunset in Israel when the fast of Tisha b' Av begins. Just in case you are not familiar with this fast day in Israel, I thought I would talk a little about it today.

Called Tisha b' Av, this day of mourning and fasting reminds Israel of the day that the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Jews taken back to Babylon in captivity. This day has become, however, one of the most significant days in Israel's history due to the astonishing "coincidence" of numerous national disasters occurring on this exact day since it's inception. These are:

...1312 BC... Spies return from 40 days in Israel with evil reports of the Land of
Israel. Jewish people cry in despair, give up hope of entering the Land of
...587 BC... Destruction of First Temple by the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezar. About
100000 Jews killed during invasion. Exile of remaining tribes in southern
kingdom to Babylon and Persia.
...70AD... Destruction of Second Temple by Romans, under Titus. Over 2,500,000 Jews die as a
result of war, famine and disease. Over 1,000,000 Jews exiled to all parts
of the Roman Empire. Over 100,000 Jews sold as slaves by Romans.
Jews killed and tortured in gladiatorial "games" and pagan celebrations.
...71AD... Turnus Rufus plows site of Temple. Romans build pagan city of Aelia Capitolina
on site of Jerusalem.
...135AD... Bar Kochba revolt crushed. Betar destroyed - over 100,00 killed.
...1095AD... First Crusade declared by Pope Urban II. 10,000 Jews killed in first month of
Crusade. Crusades bring death and destruction to thousands of Jews, totally
obliterate many communities in Rhineland and France.
...1290AD... Expulsion of Jews from England, accompanied by pogroms and confiscation of books
and property.
...1492AD... Inquisition in Spain and Portugal culminates in the expulsion of the Jews from
the Iberian Peninsula. King Ferdinand of Spain issued the expulsion decree,
setting Tisha B'Av as the final date by which not a single Jew would be allowed
to walk on Spanish soil. Families separated, many die by drowning, massive loss
of property. With funds provided by Ferdinand, Christopher Columbus, a Messianic
Jew, sets sail to locate the land which will become a Jewish refuge.
...1914AD... Britain and Russia declare war on Germany. First World War begins. First World
War issues unresolved, ultimately causing Second World War and Holocaust. 75% of
all Jews in war zones. Jews in armies of all sides - 120,000 Jewish casualties
in armies. Over 400 pogroms immediately following war in Hungary, Ukraine,
Poland and Russia.
...1942AD... Deportations from Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp begin.
...1989AD... Iraq walks out of talks with Kuwait.
...1990AD... The First Gulf War begins in and as a result Saddam Hussein launches missiles
into Israel
...1994AD... The deadly bombing the building of the AMIA (the Jewish community center in
Buenos Aires, Argentina) which killed 86 people and wounded some 300 others.

Now I would think that any reasonable person who looked at this list would conclude that this is much more than just coincidence. It is obviously a day throughout history where God in His infinite wisdom has chosen to send a message to the nation of Israel. I also believe it is fair to say that considering the prophecies in the Bible concerning Israel's future we could conclude that there is more in store for Israel on this particular day at some point in time. My question to you today though is does it appear that the potential for another national tragedy seems to be increasing as we speak?

If you are familiar with my teaching in the past you already know I firmly believe the prophecy concerning the destruction of Damascus by Israel found in Isaiah 17 is going to be the next major prophetic fulfillment to occur in Israel's history. What scenario causes Israel to destroy Damascus, with what would appear to be a nuclear device considering the description given in Isaiah, is unknown and open to debate. I would suggest, however, that the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction against Israel would certainly qualify as sufficient provocation for Israel to respond with a WMD of it's own.

Many have watched the unrest in Syria progress the past year and wonder how desperate the situation would have to become in order for the leadership in Damascus to consider the use of their chemical weapons. The answer to that question may have begun to be answered this past week as it appears that the government has started to move it's chemical weapons to different locations within the country. The purpose of these moves is unclear but it is certainly a cause for alarm to many of the surrounding countries, not the least of which is Israel. With only two weeks left until Tisha b' Av, you have to wonder about the timing and speculate if we are about to witness the fulfillment of the Isaiah 17 prophecy.

I'm not in the prediction business, but I am in the “watching” business. God has revealed to us through the Bible what the future of Israel is, and we as His followers should be watching for the signs He has told us to look for. As I have said before, why would God tell us to watch and then not show us anything? I believe the next two weeks is going to be a very interesting time in the Middle East, and I for one will be watching closely to see what events transpire there.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you.
Psalms 122:6 NKJV

Keep watching.

Syria takes WMD out of storage: US: Situation incredibly dangerous 

Israel advised to brace for Syrian missile attack – conventional or chemical

Yatom: Israel could go to war over Syria's chemical weapons

Syria Military Moves Chemical Weapons to Homs

Assad Receives Last Warning To Stop Moving His WMD:Top Generals Defect

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Feeling the Heat?

"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 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 would occur 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 in the history of the world have started during the summer months? 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? Something else to consider is what we discussed last week concerning Israel and their three weeks of national mourning which began yesterday and culminate with the fast on the ninth of Av. Could it be that Jesus is suggesting to us through the 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 it's 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 my dog gets just 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.

When the time came for me to make the transition to running distance races instead of sprints I received some of the best practical advice from my coach that is extremely relevant to this passage. He told me before my very first race that I should concentrate on running my race and to ignore everybody else. The reason became clear at the start when everybody else disappeared in a cloud of dust and I was left alone running at the pace I had trained for. I could easily have become discouraged but I kept running my race and thinking about the finish. Imagine my surprise when at about the three mile point I came around a corner and saw all those runners I thought were long gone just in front of me.

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.

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Reason To Mourn

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to [those who are] bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,
Isaiah 61:1-2 NKJV

While many are familiar with the seven Feasts of Israel, which were celebrations appointed by God and revealed to Moses during the Exodus, not as many are familiar with the Fasts of Mourning which are days which commemorate a tragic event or events that have occurred in Israel's history. While these days of remembrance were not instituted by God, He does mention them when He reveals to the prophet Zechariah that the time will come when they will be turned into days of celebration after the tribulation ends and the Messiah begins His reign on the earth.

"Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'The fast of the fourth [month], The fast of the fifth, The fast of the seventh, And the fast of the tenth, Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts For the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.'
Zechariah 8:19 NKJV

This coming Saturday is the seventeenth of Tammuz, which is the first fast day, or the fast of the fourth month referred to by Zechariah in the passage above. This day begins a period of three weeks of national mourning in Israel that lead up to Tisha B' Av, or the ninth of Av which is the fast of the fifth month. When discussing this first fast day in his book “Armageddon: Appointment With Destiny”, the late Grant Jeffrey says that the events which have occurred on the seventeenth of Tammuz serve to show the nation of Israel that God's favor had been withdrawn from them because of their sin as a nation. It also served as a sign that God's judgment was soon to follow, which throughout history has certainly occurred on the ninth of Av.

The first passage we looked at this morning comes from the book of Isaiah, and is noteworthy because it was also quoted by Jesus during His ministry here on earth. If you look in the fourth chapter of Luke you find this account;

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
Luke 4:16-17 NKJV

Jesus then reads the passage from Isaiah 61 but does an interesting thing; He stops reading in the middle of verse two where it begins to talk about the day of vengeance. Then Jesus explains to the people;

And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Luke 4:21 NKJV

Almost every commentator I have read agrees that this is because the day of vengeance that Jesus does not talk about is the future tribulation period that will come upon Israel because of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. It is during this time of tribulation that the rest of verse two comes into play because it describes that period of time as a time of mourning in Israel. If you are at all familiar with the events described in the book of Revelation concerning this coming time of judgment you might think that there will be plenty of reasons to mourn, yet the Bible makes it clear that God intends for the world and the nation of Israel to know the real reason to mourn;

"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Matthew 24:30 NKJV

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for [his] only [son], and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
Zechariah 12:10 NKJV

As I thought about the subject of mourning this week, and the fact that we are approaching the period of time in Israel's history where they have historically been given reason to mourn, I couldn't help but wonder what future event might occur which would remind Israel that there is a reason to mourn. It was as I was thinking these things when articles began to appear in the news recalling the prediction of Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, the chief rabbi of Israel who passed away in 2006. Just before his death he revealed that he had experienced a dream where he had met the Messiah and had been told when He would return. When asked who the Messiah was he replied “Yeshua”, which is Jesus, and that He would return in the month of Av in 5772, which is this year.

Now you would think that this would be a cause for celebration in the month of Av, and not a time to mourn, yet the thought that immediately crossed my mind when I read this was one which applies to everyone and not just Israel. You see, the next time Jesus returns will be the rapture when He comes in the clouds to take His bride, the Church made up of all who believe in Him, back to Heaven. That being the case, while it will be a time of celebration for those who go, don't you think it will be a reason to mourn for those who don't? Of all the events which have occurred throughout history during the three weeks of mourning in Israel, they would all pale in comparison to being left behind when the rapture happens.

Is it possible that God would allow Jesus to take His bride on the seventeenth of Tammuz as a sign that His judgment is coming?  Certainly. Am I making a prediction here? No, but would I be surprised if the rapture occurs in the next few weeks? Seriously? Consider all the things that are happening in the world right now. We have the signs of war in the Middle East beginning at any time, floods in parts of the world while half of the United States is experiencing record heat. Earthquakes occurring and volcanoes erupting, not to mention the tragedy of wildfires burning in several states. With all these things in mind I think it seems more important than ever for all of us to consider our eternal destiny and make sure we know we will accompany our Lord when He returns for His bride.

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. All you need to do is pray a simple prayer like this;

Jesus 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 for you from now on. 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 that prayer, or one just like it, you can rejoice that you will spend eternity with God. If not, I'm sorry to say that very soon you might just have a reason to mourn.

Keep watching.