Sunday, August 28, 2016

Return of the Medes

“The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw. “Lift up a banner on the high mountain, Raise your voice to them; Wave your hand, that they may enter the gates of the nobles. I have commanded My sanctified ones; I have also called My mighty ones for My anger— Those who rejoice in My exaltation.” The noise of a multitude in the mountains, Like that of many people! A tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together! The LORD of hosts musters The army for battle. They come from a far country, From the end of heaven— The LORD and His weapons of indignation, To destroy the whole land. Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, Every man’s heart will melt, And they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; They will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; They will be amazed at one another; Their faces will be like flames. Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine. “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. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, In the wrath of the LORD of hosts And in the day of His fierce anger. It shall be as the hunted gazelle, And as a sheep that no man takes up; Every man will turn to his own people, And everyone will flee to his own land. Everyone who is found will be thrust through, And everyone who is captured will fall by the sword. Their children also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; Their houses will be plundered And their wives ravished. “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, Who will not regard silver; And as for gold, they will not delight in it. Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, And they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; Their eye will not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, Nor will it be settled from generation to generation; Nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, Nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, And their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches will dwell there, And wild goats will caper there. The hyenas will howl in their citadels, And jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, And her days will not be prolonged.”  Isaiah 13  NKJV

Many of you will recognize this passage from Isaiah as the prophesied destruction of Babylon which we are told about in the Book of Revelation.  Other references to it can be found in Isaiah 14, and Jeremiah 50 and 51.  When speaking on the end times, and speculating on how close we may be to the events in Revelation, a popular quote we often hear is this; “when you see the Christmas decorations going up, you know that Thanksgiving is near”.  So too, we can recognize the signs of the nearness of the rapture by the preparations going on all around us for the events we are told will occur during the tribulation.

Over time I have found that there are many things taking place that at first glance are so small that they somehow escape notice.  One of those might well be found in this passage from Isaiah, and we could do well to consider it in regards to current events.  I am speaking of the mention towards the end of the passage of the group of people called the Medes which are described as having “no pity” as God uses them to implement His judgment on Babylon.  So how can it be that Isaiah tells us that they are present during the tribulation when they no longer exist today?  Or do they?

In the region of the Middle East where the countries of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey co-join, there is a relatively small group of people known as the Kurds.  These people number approximately ten million or so, and at present find themselves in much the same position as Israel was before 1948 in that they have no country of their own and desperately desire one.  Also, much like the Jews, they have been persecuted in every country in which they have tried to live.  Yet unlike the Jews, the vast majority of Kurds are Muslim, which begs the question; why are they being persecuted in the Muslim part of the world?

In fact, it appears that the Kurds are descended from the ancient Medes, who at one time partnered with the Persians to form the Medo-Persian Empire, which was revealed by Daniel to be the second of the four great empires which were to rule that part of the world.  Cyrus the Great, whom we meet during Daniels’ time, was part Mede and part Persian.  He captured the city of Ecbatana (the modern day city of Hamadan in Iran) which was the capital of Media, and created the greatest empire to rule in the sixth century before Christ.

Eventually Alexander the Great arrived on the scene and defeated them as part of his campaign to conquer the known world at that time, and slowly the Medes disappear from the annals of history.  Yet many of today’s Kurds believe they are descended from the ancient Medes, and although there is some disagreement among scholars as to the validity of this claim, the important point is that God tells us they will exist at the time of Revelation.  The obvious conclusion then is that they are alive and well today, and considering the venom of their revenge on Babylon, they must believe they have a serious ax to grind.

As I have studied this prophecy, that is essentially the conclusion I eventually arrived at; it is revenge which motivates these people to destroy Babylon in the way that they do.  The Kurds of today wish desperately for a homeland they can call their own, but neither Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia nor Turkey will allow that to happen.  You see, in order to do so the land would have to come from one or all of these countries and none of them is willing to allow that to happen.  So the situation as it exists today is that there are ten million ethnic people descended from the ancient Medes who desperately wish to have a land they can call their own.  However, not only is that dream being denied, they are under the threat of extinction because of the hatred of the countries surrounding them, especially Turkey.

You could make the point that the total destruction of Babylon during the tribulation period is one of the most significant events to occur in those seven years.  That city will be Satan’s capitol on earth and the center of the anti-Christ’s power.  Although its destruction is at the hands of many nations, only the Medes are mentioned by name.  I believe that this is God’s way of telling us that this is personal for them.  It is a logical assumption that revenge is a very good motivation for the total lack of compassion and extent of destruction which this passage describes as not being seen on this earth since God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Kurdish army goes by the name Peshmerga, a term you will often find in the news today.  They are excellent, determined fighters as opposed to many other so called armies in that region and would fight to the death for their country.  They have a history of fighting as professional soldiers and mercenaries, and a reputation as the fiercest fighting force in that part of the world.  Are the seeds of their desire for revenge being sown right before our eyes?  Will the persecution they are receiving from the surrounding countries provoke their desire to strike out at the center of the anti-Christ’s power during the tribulation?  According to Isaiah it will, and if God said it, I believe it.

Keep watching.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Judging America

"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 30:11  NKJV

A question on the minds of many people today is when and how will god judge America for its sins.  You will, of course, notice that I did not say “if” as part of the question.  The one thing I believe most all true believers could agree on today is the fact that this nation is not only ripe for judgment, it’s well deserving of it.  The actions taken in the past few years have made it clear that the Word of God is not the standard by which decisions have, and are, being made by our leaders.  God’s laws are being totally ignored and His words to us are being thrown out as irrelevant, ignorant, and outdated.  If ever a nation deserved God’s judgment, I believe most of us would not argue America today should be found at the top of the list.

Should anyone question the possibility of God’s judgment falling on America, I would simply point out this verse from Jeremiah as an example of what to expect.  The very first sentence tells us that God intends to make a “full end” of all of the nations where the scattered Jews have lived since the diaspora began in 70 AD.  The phrase full end is the Hebrew word “kalah” and means literally “completion, termination, full end, complete destruction, consumption, annihilation”.  Now that definition sounds a lot to me, and many others, like the sort of judgment this country deserves after some of the decisions we have seen made in the past few years, and with America being home to one of the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, we certainly qualify. 

“And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the LORD."  Ezekiel 39:6  NJKV

If we accept that premise then we are left with our original question concerning the “when and how” of the judgment we are to receive.  Let us first look at the “how” part of God’s judgment and see how relevant it might be for our situation today.  The phrase “send fire” in the Hebrew is shalach- 'esh”, which is an expression used for judgment, not only here in Ezekiel but in Amos and Hosea as well.  The word for fire is also translated as a “supernatural” fire of divine origin such as the fire which consumed the sacrifices made on an altar to God.  This makes it clear that this is a judgment from God sent upon people and nations that He obviously is displeased with.

The second word we find is the Hebrew word “'iy”, which translates as a “coast, island, shore, or region”.  Many commentators believe this is the word you would use to refer to any habitable region at the farthest reaches of the known world at that time.  As such, especially because this prophecy deals with a still future conflict, it could easily be referring to the United States.  Take into account as well, God tells us in this verse that the purpose of the entire exchange is so that all the nations will know that He is the Lord. Combine this with Jeremiah’s prophecy and it soon becomes clear that when God decides to send a message to this world, it will entail the entire world and no one or no country will escape.

How will God judge America?  A reasonable conclusion based on His Word would be by fire.  Could it be a result of a nuclear exchange of some sort?  At this particular stage of the world’s development it would seem to be a likely scenario, but I will simply say that whatever type of fire God chooses to judge with, He will do as He has said.  So that leaves us with our next question concerning the “when” part of the equation. If we use this verse from Ezekiel as a guide, it seems clear that it is part of God’s decision to reveal to the world that He and He alone defends His nation, Israel, from its enemies.  

"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

So when does this conflict occur?  That is a question many have debated for a very long time.  Although there are still disagreements, most of the scholars and commentators I have read believe that this conflict revealed in Ezekiel is the conflict which allows the coming world leader, or antichrist to begin his reign on earth by confirming the covenant with Israel and bringing what will prove to be a temporary peace to the Middle East.  If one adopts that position, then the “judgment” of America many believe is in the near future will occur just before the seven year tribulation begins, and also I might add, just after another event of earth shattering proportions.

"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."  1 Corinthians 15:51-52  NKJV

"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17  NKJV

Considering my background in History and Geopolitics, I have always been intrigued by how the rapture of the Church will play out in the aftermath, and the moves nations will be tempted to make in the confusion which follows.  That said, it makes perfect sense to me that this conflict in Ezekiel, and the possible rain of fire on America, is in part a result of the rapture of all believers we know as the body of Christ.  Of course, considering the violence which will follow the taking away of the Church, it also bears mentioning what else disappears at the time of the rapture and the effect it has on an unbelieving world as well.

"For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming."   2 Thessalonians 2:7-8  NKJV 

Is God going to judge America? Without a doubt He will, along with every other nation in the world which so richly deserves it.  With the removal of the Church and the restrainer, the Holy Spirit, He will be free to judge the world for its unbelief.  How soon?  If we are honest with ourselves about what we see happening all over the world today, especially here in America, it could happen at any time.  If we believe that, then I suggest that our deliverance is even closer, and as believers we should be looking up and living our lives as God has told us to by laying up our treasures in Heaven.  Of course, God has also told us that while this deliverance is available to all, only those who believe and choose to accept it will be delivered from the coming judgment on the entire world.

If you are reading this today and have never made that decision, you can do it right now wherever you might be by simply praying a prayer like this; Jesus I know that I am a sinner, and have sinned against you.  I believe you loved me enough to send your Son Jesus to die for my sins, and that He rose from the dead so that I can live.  Forgive me of my sins and come into my life and help me to live for you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Keep watching.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

What About Us? (U.S.)

“And it will come to pass at the same time, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,” says the Lord GOD, “that My fury will show in My face. “For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: ‘Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, ‘so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.’ “I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains,” says the Lord GOD. “Every man’s sword will be against his brother. “And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. “Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.” ’  Ezekiel 38:18-23  NKJV

Is the United States mentioned in Bible prophecy?  If you ask anyone who teaches Biblical prophecy they will almost certainly tell you that this is the one question most often asked by those to whom they are speaking.  Personally, I understand completely why people would be interested in the answer to that question because of the prominent role the United States has played in world affairs for so many years.  It seems inconceivable that in any scenario regarding a conflict occurring at the end of this age that the Bible describes would not somehow involve the United States of America.

Except it doesn’t.

Now I, like many of you, have read opinions from some who believe that it is possible we are mentioned but in a rather obscure way.  Now although I would be willing to admit the possibility, when I look at some of the opinions put forward by these individuals it appears to me that it is necessary to adopt what I could best describe as “interpretive gymnastics” to hold to their views.  Since I believe that, over the years I have come to the personal conclusion that we are not mentioned simply because we are not involved.  If this is in fact, what occurs, then we are faced with the question as to why?  What I want to share with you today are some of the possible reasons why I believe that might be the case.

It’s not about us (U.S.)

The passage above from the book of Ezekiel describes the attempted invasion by Gog of Israel which many believe immediately precedes the Tribulation, and is in fact the conflict which allows the antichrist to present himself as the peacemaker of the world. If you read closely, it becomes clear that God desires to make the point that the nation of Israel is His personal possession.  The land, the people, and everything else is His and His alone.  It is all about God and His chosen people standing alone against the rest of the world.  For the U.S. to involve itself would simply “muddy the waters” so to speak, and not only take away from God the opportunity to show His power and might, it would also take the focus off of Israel and God’s personal relationship with it.

 God doesn’t need us (U.S.)

Have you ever really asked yourself this question?  I tend to get a little nervous laughter when I mention this simply because many never really consider it.  One obvious reason we don’t get involved is simply because God doesn’t need our help to defend the nation of Israel.  If you take the time to count, God uses the words My, Myself, and I, fifteen times in six verses.  I don’t know about you, but that makes me believe this event is rather personal to God, and He desires to use it to make clear to the entire world exactly who He is, and who they are truly fighting against.  Not to mention the fact that a close reading of this passage and particularly what God chooses to do to show His power in this case makes any support we might want to send rather unnecessary don’t you think?

Many of us (U.S.) are gone.

This of course, is my personal favorite.  As a believer holding to the position of a pre-tribulation rapture of the Church, an obvious contributing factor to the non-involvement of the U.S. would be the fact that many of us have already gone home.  This leads me to conclude that since the U.S. is not mentioned; those left behind are not all that interested in getting involved in helping Israel defend itself against the rest of the world.  In fact, I personally have no problem believing that those left behind are rather more than willing to join with the rest of those left behind who wish to persecute Israel and seek its destruction.  Consider if you will, a world after the rapture of the Church in which there is no one left willing to defend God’s chosen people and you can understand why the last seven years are called the time of Jacob’s trouble.

“And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.”  Ezekiel 39:6  NKJV

If you are at all familiar with the subject we have discussed today, I am sure you are familiar with this verse from Ezekiel as well.  It has been cited often as possibly the biggest reason the United States is not mentioned, and a clue as to the future of this country.  Those conclusions, however, are contingent upon the translation of two words found in this verse, those being “fire” and “coastlands”.  Considering the state of our country at this particular time in history, and the decisions being made at the highest levels of our government, many believe what is described here can accurately be called a well-deserved judgment from God.  My thoughts on that next week.

Keep watching.