Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Millenium and Beyond

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.    Revelation 20:4-6  NKJV

Who has ever read about the Garden of Eden and not thought a bit about just what it would be like to live in a situation like that?  While not exactly the same, there is coming a period of time which the Bible tells us will last one thousand years where this world will be a very different place than it is now.  It is most often referred to as the Millenium, which comes from the Latin words Mille and Annum (1000/year).  This word, however, is never used in the Bible but rather the word “Kingdom” which Jesus referred to when He instructed us to pray “Thy Kingdom come”.  

It is at this point in time that Jesus receives the promise given to Him by the Father which is to receive the world as His inheritance.

“Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.    Psalm 2:6-8  NKJV

The prophet Daniel also saw this time in a vision and he describes it this way;

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.  Daniel 7:14  NKJV

How different will this earth be during the Kingdom Age?  As I read how the Bible describes it I can’t help but think back to the way things were in the Garden and what it was like when all of creation lived in harmony.  In fact, many scholars believe one of the purposes of the Kingdom is to demonstrate what life would have been like if man had not chosen to sin in the Garden of Eden.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying. “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; They shall not plant and another eat; For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, And their offspring with them. “It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” Says the LORD.    Isaiah 65:17-25  NKJV

What the Bible describes here is almost beyond belief, yet it is also a perfect way for God to demonstrate His power by establishing an environment so completely different than any this world has ever seen.  One thousand years of peace and harmony combined with perfect justice as Jesus rules from His throne in Jerusalem along with His saints.  Yet as hard as it seems to believe, in spite of living in the presence of all this,  there is still in man a sin nature which Satan can exploit if allowed to do so.  This is, unfortunately, exactly what will happen at the end of the Kingdom Age when God releases Satan in order to weed out the last of the unfaithful living on the earth.

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.    Revelation 20:7-10  NKJV

Even though the world has seen one thousand years of Christ’s perfect rule, and experienced how good life can be when God is in charge, there are still going to be so many who rebel that they are described “as the sand of the sea”.  There is, however, one bright spot in all of this and that is the fact that we have finally arrived at eternity.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.            Revelation 20:11-15  NKJV

Now that all have been judged and sin is no more, creation is ready to be what God has intended from the very beginning.  John is the first to see the very thing we are all hoping and praying and waiting for.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”            Revelation 21:1-5  NKJV

Just how close are we to seeing all that we have talked about these past six weeks?  I think it’s safe to say, especially if you have been keeping up with the events in the Middle East the past few weeks, it would appear that we are a lot closer than many people think.  In fact, although just my opinion, I would have to say to you that I hope your bags are packed.  Next week; “When Will These Things Be?”

Keep watching.

If you are interested in a little update on the current  situation in the Middle East, feel free to go to this website and read a few of their recent posts.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

It Ends at Armageddon

And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”     Revelation 16:16-17  NKJV
I think it’s fair to say that the events of Daniel's Seventieth Week, and especially the last half which the Bible refers to as the Great Tribulation, grow in frequency and intensity until the world arrives at the point in time where God decides to put an end to it in a rather forceful, if not spectacular way.  He does this by gathering together all of the worlds’ armies at a place called Armageddon where He will exercise His power and glory by sending His Son, Jesus Christ  to not only soundly defeat, but also judge the nations and banish the antichrist and his false prophet into the lake of fire.

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, “that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.     Revelation 19:11-21  NKJV

I can’t help but notice the fate of these who chose not only to follow the antichrist, but to fight against God at this place of His judgment.  Did you notice we are told that after the beast and his false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire “the rest were killed with the sword”?  This is what we could accurately call a “one sided” fight because no one opposing God will survive.  One thing I have never been able to understand after so many years of studying this passage is just what is going through the minds of these men that they can look at Jesus Christ Himself coming down from Heaven and actually believe they can make war against Him?

Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.    Psalm 2:1-8  NKJV

Is it any wonder that God laughs?  His created beings actually believe they can throw off their “bonds” and free themselves from God’s authority.  You can call it arrogance or just plain stupidity, but whatever it is the result is foreordained.  Rebellion against God has only one result and that is the expectation of His righteous judgment.

I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.    Joel 3:2  NKJV

The event most often called the Battle of Armageddon is in truth no battle at all, but more accurately called a campaign because while all the armies gather and prepare for a fight, in the end they are simply all killed where they stand.  The name Armageddon comes from the name of a mountain which overlooks the valley of Jezreel, and it is here where many scholars believe these events will take place.  Although the location of the Valley of Jehoshaphat is uncertain due to a lack of historical references, because of the description of what will take place there, most scholars believe it refers to the Jezreel valley.  Yet before Jesus deals with the antichrist and his armies at Armageddon, He first needs to save the remnant of Israel which have been pursued to their refuge in Jordan.

“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.             Matthew 24:15-16  NKJV

When the remnant of Israel flees the persecution of the antichrist and his armies, many scholars believe they find refuge to the southeast in the country of Jordan, specifically the ancient city of Petra which was part of the ancient nation of Edom.  It is located in a large basin within Mount Seir and is surrounded by large cliffs and sheer walls of rock.  It is only accessible by navigating a narrow passageway which is about a mile long and is only wide enough for horses to walk in single file.  In biblical times, a sheepfold always had a narrow opening so the shepherd could protect his flock, and in Hebrew, the word for sheepfold is bozrah.  Micah tells us that the remnant of Israel will be gathered and protected in a sheepfold.

“I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, Like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many people. The one who breaks open will come up before them; They will break out, Pass through the gate, And go out by it; Their king will pass before them, With the LORD at their head.”     Micah 2:12-13  NKJV

With the nation of Israel saved, Jesus now turns His attention to the armies gathered at the Valley of Jezreel for the final conflict most often referred to as Armageddon.

Who is this who comes from Edom, With dyed garments from Bozrah, This One who is glorious in His apparel, Traveling in the greatness of His strength?— “I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, And from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, And trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, And I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, And the year of My redeemed has come.                      Isaiah 63:1-4  NKJV

With the remnant of Israel saved, the armies of the antichrist defeated and judged, there is only one more thing left for God to do, and it is something the world has looked forward to since the Garden of Eden.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.       Revelation 20:1-3  NKJV

For the next one thousand years there will be peace on earth during a time we know as the Millennium.  Next week we will look closer at these one thousand years and just what we might be doing during that time.

Keep watching.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Going From Bad to Worse

The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.”    Daniel 9:27  NLT

I imagine most of us are familiar with the old expression, “no deal is better than a bad deal”, and I for one think that the situation Israel is soon to find herself in will be a perfect example of that saying.  Last week we saw that although Israel will soon acknowledge the supernatural intervention of God to defend them, and rebuild the Temple in order to return to the Levitical system of worship, they accept the man of sin as their messiah which sets the stage for all that is to come.  You see, the antichrist does not allow Israel to rebuild the temple solely for themselves, but also because he needs it for an event he has planned for the future.

“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. “Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. “And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! “And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.                                      Matthew 24:15-21  NKJV

How many of you have seen the classic old western movie “High Noon” starring Gary Cooper?  The entire movie revolves around the climax, which is a confrontation between the town marshal and the outlaw and his gang who will arrive on the train at high noon.  When the nation of Israel signs a treaty with the antichrist the clock begins on the seventieth week of Daniel.  This is a period of time which the Bible teaches is seven years of three hundred and sixty days each for a total of two thousand five hundred and twenty days.  Unfortunately for Israel, their “High Noon” will occur at the midpoint, or three and one half years into this period of time.

What we are told will happen at that time reveals exactly who the antichrist is, and what his plan has been all along while allowing Israel to rebuild their Temple.  The phrase “abomination of desolation” is found several times in the scriptures and is spoken of  specifically by both Daniel and Jesus.  What it refers to is an event which has occurred once before, and will happen once again at the midpoint of Daniel’s seventieth week.  In 168 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes, who was a Greek king that had conquered Israel, erected an altar to Jupiter Olympus in the Temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar.

Most all scholars agree that what Jesus is telling us in this passage from Matthew is that at the midpoint of Daniel’s seventieth week, this scenario will be repeated when the antichrist stands in the “holy place” and proclaims himself to be god.  We also find in the book of Revelation that he erects a statue there and commands all to worship it.

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.                                         Revelation 13:11-15  NKJV

This is the “sacrilegious object” Daniel refers to in the passage above, and it is at this point, after just three and a half years, that in Jesus’ own words a time of “great tribulation” begins, all because what the antichrist has been after all along is to be accepted and worshipped in place of the true God.

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.                                                2 Thessalonians 2:3-4  NKJV

Obviously the “Great Tribulation” begins because there are those on the earth who see the antichrist for who he really is, and refuse to worship him.  He will then begin a persecution the likes of which this world has never seen. 

He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.       Revelation 13:16-17  NKJV

What we are told about this time is very clear, either you take the mark and worship the beast or you will be hunted down and killed.  

Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.  Revelation 13:6-10  NKJV

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.     Revelation 20:4  NKJV

Do you notice how black and white this time of Great Tribulation will be?  There are only two sides to this conflict; those who choose to worship the beast, and those who reject his claims and chose to have their names written in the Book of Life by accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.  How terrible will this time of persecution be?  Consider what Jesus had to say about that question.

“And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.    Matthew 24:22  NKJV

Unless God chose to intervene, eventually all would be killed.  So in His infinite wisdom, God chose to limit the length of the Great Tribulation to only three and one half years.  Then what will occur is something the entire world has been waiting for since Jesus ascended to Heaven forty days after His resurrection.  So far the order of events as I see it are the Rapture, The destruction of Damascus, the Gog/Magog conflict, the confirmation of a peace between Israel and its enemies which begins the Seventieth Week of Daniel, and the Abomination of Desolation after twelve hundred and sixty days.  Next week; Jesus returns.

Keep watching.