Friday, October 24, 2014

Watching for Changes

“For I know this, that after my departures savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone day and night with tears.” Acts 20:29-31 NKJV

I am away visiting my daughter and new grandson this week so I thought I would share a timely article by Lea Sylvester of the Omega Letter, one of the websites I frequent, and highly recommend for news and articles concerning the times in which we live.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oil and Water

“And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. “And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. “As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.                                  Daniel 2:40-44  NKJV
As much as I might not wish to admit it, much of who I am is a result of the times in which I was raised.  What I often hesitate to admit is just how long ago that was.  Does anyone else remember sitting in Sunday School and being taught Bible stories with a flannel board and illustrated figures?  Do they even make Bibles anymore with pictures in them?  I grew up loving illustrations simply because they made it so much easier to remember, and I can still recall hearing those stories and looking through my parents’ Bible at all of the pictures when I was a child.

In this story from Daniel it appears that God too, is a believer in illustrations as a way to help man remember something important.  In this case we find the course of human history from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the Second Coming of Christ illustrated by a simple statue made up of different materials.  As we said last week, there is a progression shown to us which illustrates that while the strength of nations appears to increase over time, their relative value decreases until we reach a point where there are only two elements present, iron and clay, which according to God will not “adhere” to one another.

The word translated “adhere” is the Aramaic word “debaq” which literally means to cling to, or also from its root word, stick closely to or be joined together.  When we couple this with the illustration of ten toes which represent ten different kingdoms the picture we are shown by God is pretty clear.  At the end of this age, just before Christ returns to earth and when God will establish His Kingdom, the world is described as one kingdom with one ruler, divided into ten different territories with ten different kings who obviously choose to work together, but according to God, never really “adhere” to one another.

Now many of us are familiar with this scenario, which has been the subject of many books and movies about the coming tribulation, and the troubles which will come to this world at the end of this present age.  Many are looking for, and speculating on, the emergence of these ten “nations” or territories as a sign of our arrival at the time of judgment.  Yet there is something about this illustration which I feel is often overlooked in all of the discussion about the ten nations and that is simply this; what about the fact that the entire world is divided into only two categories; iron or clay?

You see, in all the study I have done, no one really spends any time trying to identify exactly what the iron and clay represent other than acknowledging that there is a difference present.  Now since it is the entire world being represented here it follows we are not talking about the difference between Republicans and Democrats, but on the other hand that really isn’t such a bad illustration.  The world will arrive at a point where there is a division among its population which appears to defy agreement and have no solution.  So we are left to decide just what it might be that divides people so strongly.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week. But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”        Daniel 9:27  NKJV

We are told by Daniel in this passage that the coming man of sin, or antichrist, will enforce a treaty which produces a type of peace which the entire world, willingly or reluctantly, agrees to.  However, at the midpoint of this seven year agreement the antichrist does something which obviously divides the world.  Although often perceived as an offense to Israel because of the decision to end worship in the temple in Jerusalem, I would like to suggest that there is another, sometimes overlooked, aspect to his decision to do this which may serve as the dividing point of the entire world.

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

Paul tells us here that the antichrist intends to sit in the temple itself and proclaim to the world that he is God.  Now is it just me, or do you agree this might well be a statement which could divide the entire world into two distinct groups?  As I said before, there are other interpretations of the meaning of the iron and clay illustration, but to me, this seems to be a simple, if not logical answer to the question.  Another fact that not many are aware of is that along with being the fastest growing religion in the world, Islam has its own eschatology about the end of the world and this scenario may well come into play.

According to Islam, at the end of this age there will be three great signs which will announce the arrival of the time of judgment and these three signs are all in the form of people.  The first is the Mahdi, who will arrive to set up a Islamic world order, and force the world to accept Islam as the only religion.  The second is Jesus Christ, who they believe to be only a man who almost died but was saved by Allah and will return after the Mahdi in order to help him.  The third person is Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, known simply as the Dajjal, who is the Islamic version of the Christian antichrist.  Among other things, he will claim to be God and attempt to kill the Mahdi and Jesus, however the Islamic Jesus will kill him instead.

The Bible tells us that the coming man of sin will somehow establish some sort of peace which the entire world will buy into for a time.  Yet when he decides to sit in the temple and proclaim himself to be God and demand to be worshipped, the entire world is forced to choose sides.  Oil and water do not mix.  You can put it in the same container, but although forced to coexist each retains its own character and is never really changed.  It might seem to be a stretch to think half of the world would accept someone like the antichrist as truly being God, yet recent history shows how easily people will buy into someone’s claim that they have all the answers and choose to blindly follow.  

I think it is perfectly obvious that the world is being prepared for this very event.  The problems we see occurring every day and the number of troubles we find the world being faced with are rapidly multiplying and it would appear the stage is being set for someone to arrive on the scene and proclaim to the world that he has all the answers.  Fortunately for those who choose to believe in the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is one event which must occur first.  The rapture of all true believers will be the event which opens the door for the final manifestation of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, the feet of iron and clay, and it could happen at any time.

If you have never made the choice to accept the gift of eternal life which Jesus has provided by choosing to die on the cross for our sins, I urge you to do it today.  Simply pray to our Father and confess that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness and ask Him to come into your life and make you new, and from this day on live as He directs.  He promises to not only forgive, but to give the gift of the Holy Spirit which will live inside our hearts to teach us and help us to live in this world the way He wants us to.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Days of Future Past

Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God.  I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. I will call a swift bird of prey from the east— a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding. I have said what I would do, and I will do it. “Listen to me, you stubborn people who are so far from doing right. For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now! I am ready to save Jerusalem and show my glory to Israel.    Isaiah 46:9-13  NLT

When is the last time you looked at the news and wondered, “What in the world is going on”?  Many people are wondering the same thing and I am sure it has a lot to do with the number of events occurring around the world which many are terming “potentially apocalyptic”.  You can take your pick today from wars, epidemics, natural disasters, predictions of worldwide economic collapse, bizarre weather, famine, and just about anything else to worry about if you are so inclined.  Yet as many struggle to make sense of current events, isn’t it reassuring to know that as believers, we already know exactly what is going on because the God who knows the beginning from the end has already told us?

When people ask me why I study prophecy, of the many reasons I can give I usually always begin by stating what I believe to be the most obvious and that is the fact of prophecy already fulfilled.  You see, my belief that God is in control and has prophesied the future is based on the fact of prophecy already foretold which has accurately come to pass.  In the passage from Isaiah, God states plainly that He is the only one who can accurately predict the future because He is the one who created the plan, and He is the only one who has the power to execute that plan.  He also has chosen to reveal that plan, and we are not the only ones to look around and wonder what in the world is going on.

In the book of Daniel, we are told that God reveals His entire plan for this world to King Nebuchadnezzar, which predictably made no sense to him at all.  Thankfully God in His wisdom provided someone to explain it all to the king, (and to us as well) and this is the person we know as Daniel.  In chapter two of Daniel we find that God revealed His plan to the king by way of a dream, and then sent Daniel to interpret the dream so that he, as well as us, can know exactly what God has planned for this world.

Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.          Daniel 2:20-21  NKJV

As might be expected, as ruler of the known world at that time, we will find in the book of Daniel that King Nebuchadnezzar had a rather inflated opinion of himself and his power.  The first thing God lets him know is that as powerful as he may be, his own circumstances were orchestrated by God alone, and it is by His permission that he is king.  God also decided to help prove that point by giving a dream to the king where the future of world history is laid out which would prove not only that God knows the future, but also knew the very thoughts that the king had been contemplating while lying in his bed.

“As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. “But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart. “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. “This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, “its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. “You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.        Daniel 2:29-34  NKJV

While over the years man has tried to explain the history of the world with untold numbers of books, theories, explanations, entire libraries devoted to the subject, our God manages to do so with a simple illustration of a statue made of four distinct parts, each composed of elements designed to reveal the strength and character of the kingdoms they represent.  Only God could show us the plan He has made for the course of world history from the rule of Nebuchadnezzar to the establishment of His Kingdom on earth with such a simple illustration.

“This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. “You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; “and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. “But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. “And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. “And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. “As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.               Daniel 2:36-43  NKJV

As I said at the beginning, one of the reasons I choose to study prophecy is the amazing fact of already fulfilled prophecy.  At the time of his dream, Nebuchadnezzar was described by God Himself as a “king of kings”, given “power, strength, and glory”.  Yet God also makes it clear that the entire scope of world history will only entail four kingdoms, as illustrated by the statue Nebuchadnezzar sees in his dream.  History has shown this to be a true and accurate description as Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was conquered and replaced by a coalition of the Medes and Persians (the chest and arms of silver), which in turn was conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great (the stomach and thighs of bronze), which in turn was conquered by the Roman Empire (the legs of iron).  Yet the Roman Empire was never conquered, but rather dissolved into pieces which, territorially, still exist today

Now what I find to be most interesting about this prophecy given by God is that today, at this point in time, the world has arrived at the last part of the statue where God chooses to describe a kingdom in terms that many find confusing if not difficult to interpret.  Much has been written about the ten toes of iron mixed with clay, and as you can imagine, there are many different interpretations to choose from.  I want to examine this last piece of the dream in greater detail next week, but I will leave you with this to think about.  

Two very obvious facts present themselves as we look at this picture of world history given to us by Our Father in Heaven.  Of the four kingdoms He describes for us, the most valuable was Nebuchadnezzar’s head of gold.  From then on the value of the metals decreases until we arrive at a point in time where the foundation of the statue is worth basically nothing (iron and clay).  Conversely, if you look at the relative strength of the metals you will see that the statue gets stronger as time goes by.  So the obvious conclusion we can all agree with is that God is telling us that at the time of the end, which is where most believers feel we are, His description of the world could be interpreted as strong yet worthless.  Accurate?

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Struggle Inside

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.                                       Ephesians 6:12  NKJV

At the risk of offending many people out there, I must confess that I have never been a fan of wrestling.  Maybe it started back in high school walking past the wrestling room and hearing all of the grunting and smelling the odors which somehow made it into the hall, but for whatever reason, I simply couldn’t ever embrace watching two people roll around the floor trying to overpower each other.  If you spend any time at all, however, reading and studying the writings of Paul the Apostle you will find he spends a lot of time describing the Christian walk as a lifelong struggle between two opposing forces.

One of the most encouraging things to me about Paul is that although many might look at him as an example of a believer who had it all together, so to speak, he none the less makes clear that he himself struggled just as we do.  He explains that situation and the reasons for it in the book of Romans where he describes for us his own personal struggle, and tells us that he is guilty of sinning much the same as we are regardless of the fact that we are believers.  While many might believe that as long as we still sin, there is no difference between the saved and unsaved, the truth is that the struggle itself proves you are a believer.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.        Romans 7:14-16  NKJV

Paul wants to make the point that while the law of the old covenant was good to show man his need for salvation, it couldn’t save us.  What it could do was to show us our need for salvation, and the grace given to us by a loving God.  Therein lies the difference between the law of the old covenant and the grace of the new covenant.  It is impossible to keep the law, but the law shows man the need for grace. Yet Paul still wonders,  if he is a believer saved by grace, why can’t he stop sinning? 

But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.        Romans 7:17-19  NKJV

While believing that the sacrifice made for us by God’s Son, Jesus Christ will result in our eternal salvation, Paul also makes the point that we are still stuck with our fleshly bodies which also carry the baggage we call our sin nature.  While grace can provide for our eternal salvation, it can’t remove the sin nature inside of this body.  This is the reason Paul gives us to explain why he himself, and we too struggle to do what is right but often fail.    I think an important point he makes in this passage is found where he tells us that he cannot find the answer of how to do good when he looks for strength to do good inside of himself.

Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.                                         Romans 7:20-23  NKJV

Only born again believers experience this fight.  The struggle inside is between our minds which are committed to Christ and desire to do right, and our sinful flesh with its sin nature which desires to do wrong.  I have an old truck that I have been slowly restoring, and the best part about it is the new motor I put in.  I never have any problems with the motor because it is new, but it is the rest of the truck that gives me problems because it is old and trying to fall apart on me.  As believers, we have a new mind which is, unfortunately, stuck in an old body with its sin nature.  How long will this struggle continue?  Until we get our new bodies, delivered to us at the rapture of the Church.

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.                                       Romans 7:24-25  NKJV

The Greek word for wretched literally means exhaustion as a result of toils and troubles.  Paul wants us to know that he himself, as well as each of us, will struggle with our sinful nature as long as we inhabit this fleshly body.  The law only showed man the need, but  grace gives us the means to succeed. Don’t look inside for the strength to win this battle, look up.  Because of grace, thanks be to God, we will not held accountable for the sins of the flesh.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.         Romans 8:1  NKJV

Keep watching.