Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Coming Storm

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, “Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you. ‘For behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says the LORD. ‘And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.’ ”Now these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah. “For thus says the LORD: ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, Of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, Whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins Like a woman in labor, And all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, But he shall be saved out of it. ‘For it shall come to pass in that day,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘That I will break his yoke from your neck, And will burst your bonds; Foreigners shall no more enslave them. But they shall serve the LORD their God, And David their king, Whom I will raise up for them. ‘Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,’ says the LORD, ‘Nor be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar, And your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, And no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to save you; Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, Yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, And will not let you go altogether unpunished.’             Jeremiah 30:1-11  NKJV

Many of us, most likely of an older generation, recognize and understand the meaning of the old expression “taken to the woodshed”.  It refers of course to the location where discipline was meted out in “the good old days” when the majority adhered to another, older admonition called “spare the rod, spoil the child”.  I never quite understood why the woodshed was the location of discipline but always suspected it might be because of the proximity of a lot of wood suitable for finding the perfect “rod”, and of course moving the location of some rather loud expressions of pain away from the house.  In essence, a trip to the woodshed meant judgment was coming, and in truth, I believe this world is walking that path right now.

At some point in time, all believers face the task of reading the book of Revelation and answering the many questions which arise from being made aware of the future God has in store for the world in general and Israel in particular.  I have often found myself explaining what is found there not only to believers, but many nonbelievers as well who are aware of the fact that the Bible makes it clear this world ends rather uncomfortably.  This should come as no surprise considering the number of shows on television, or movies at the box office in just the past few years which seem obsessed with the apocalypse.

Of course, a predictable result of Hollywood’s interest in the events we find in the book of Revelation is that many have no idea what the real reasons behind God’s plan for this world are.  As I have read and studied this book over the years, it can easily be said that the overall, basic purpose of the tribulation is that it will be a time of judgment.  After Jesus returns in the clouds to snatch away (rapture) all believers, what is left is a world of those who did not make the choice to accept the sacrifice He made for our sins and those in turn are going to be subject to His judgment.

This passage from Jeremiah tells us that God has a two part plan for the world during this seven year period called the tribulation, and it is summed up in verse eleven.  Here we see that first of all God intends to destroy all of the different nations where the Jews have been scattered over the years.  The reason for this is for two-fold; first of all it is a punishment for the world’s sins against God, much like the judgment in the time of Noah.  In Isaiah we are told;

“I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.                   Isaiah 13:11  NKJV

The second reason is to punish the world for the way it has treated the Jews over the course of history.  This can be found in a passage from the book of Deuteronomy;

“Also the LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.    Deuteronomy 30:7  NKJV

Yet even through this time of judgment, Jesus told us one of the results would be an unprecedented evangelical outreach to every corner of the world.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.    Matthew 24:14  NKJV

While the Word of God makes it abundantly clear that the first reason for the tribulation is to judge the unbelieving world, it seems just as clear that the second part of the plan He has ordained for this period is to discipline Israel for its unbelief. Again, look at the last part of verse eleven in the passage from Jeremiah 30; “But I will correct you in justice, And will not let you go altogether unpunished.’“ The tribulation period will be a time where God deals with His people, the nation of Israel, by revealing Himself to them in ways they cannot ignore.  What will be made abundantly clear is that not only does God exist, but He is their God and they must make a choice once and for all to accept Him as their Lord and God.  The harsh reality is that during this period of seven years, two-thirds of the Jews left on this earth will die.

And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Says the LORD, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ”          Zechariah 13:8-9  NKJV

It is these remaining Jews, those who have accepted God as their Lord and Savior, who will see Jesus return at the end of these seven years in order to save them from their enemies.

“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. “In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.  Zechariah 12:10-11  NKJV

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”                          Romans 11:26-27  NKJV

While we see the Bible predict the entire world turning against Israel, we also see that God will defend them against all their enemies so that He, and He alone, can deal with them in such a way as that the result is the salvation of the entire nation of Israel.  Fortunately for the believing Church, we will already have been taken home to be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, thanks to His promise that those who believe are not destined for the wrath to come.

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.    1 Thessalonians 5:9-10  NKJV

I truly believe the coming storm is closer than many think.  If you have never taken the step of asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to come into your heart and save you from eternity without Him and the wrath that is coming, I encourage you to do that right now.  Simply tell Him you are sorry for your sin, ask Him to forgive you, and accept the sacrifice He made to die for your sins, and He has promised not only to forgive you but to make you one of His own and come into your life and provide all the help you need to begin to live for Him. 

Keep watching.