Sunday, January 29, 2017

When Will These Things Be?

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”  Matthew 24:3  NKJV

When a believer understands that Jesus commanded us all to watch for the signs of His return and they begin to apply themselves by studying what we are taught to look for, most often the question of the possibility of knowing “when will these things be” begins to appear in their hearts and minds.  As Jesus’ disciples show us here, there is nothing wrong with being curious about this and in fact, it is a natural reaction to being told that there will be an end to all things.  While I am convinced that the Bible does not reveal exactly when the events we have been discussing will occur, I believe strongly that there are clues we can use that will help us construct a possible timeline which will help us to be on the alert just as Jesus commanded us to be.

We are currently in the Jewish year of 5777, a year that many are now calling the year of convergence.  Interestingly enough, there was a seminar held yesterday at Maranantha Church in Southern California which carried that exact title and discussed this very subject. The sheer number of events which many believe are signs of the end that are set to occur this year is amazing, and so much so that it would appear even skeptics are asking questions.  Again, without setting any dates for specific prophetic events to occur, I thought I would revisit a post from 2014 in which I discuss the subject of what the Bible tells us will happen, and the order in which I believe they will happen.

My personal belief for the order of events the Bible reveals will occur during the end times is this; the Rapture, the Destruction of Damascus found in Isaiah 17, the Gog Magog conflict of Ezekiel 38-39, the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week, the Abomination of Desolation three and one half years later, Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ another three and one half years later, and finally the Millennial Reign of Christ to follow. Once I arrived at this conclusion, it was a natural step to examine the scriptures to see if there were any clues as to when these events would occur.  I was fascinated to discover that it is entirely possible that each of them, in one way or another, are referred to in light of what time or season of the year they might take place.  While maybe not definitive, when you take all of them together and lay them out in order, a timeline appears that is certainly feasible in light of what is revealed in scripture.  So here then is my conclusion as to not only the order, but possible timeline for these things to be.

A Summer Rapture

Woe is me!  For I am like those who gather summer fruits, Like those who glean vintage grapes; There is no cluster to eat Of the first-ripe fruit which my soul desires. The faithful man has perished from the earth, And there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; Every man hunts his brother with a net.           Micah 7:1-2  NKJV

I should make it clear here that I am a firm believer in the doctrine of immanency, and I believe the Bible makes it clear that the rapture of the Church could happen at any time.  That does not mean, however, that there might not be a clue in the Word as to the season in which it might occur.  The question is often asked about just what this world would look like when the restrainer, the Holy Spirit, is removed from the earth at the rapture.  Most of us are familiar with the observation of the philosopher Edmund Burke when he said “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.  Well, what happens when, according to this passage, there are no faithful men?  Every man is against his own brother, and evil is rampant on the earth.  If you want to talk about all that is necessary to create the “perfect storm” of evil, God simply removes His Church along with the Holy Spirit and there is nothing left to fight against Satan and his forces.

Since history has shown that Satan’s priority is the destruction of Israel, what do you think he tries to do first?  Does this passage from Micah refer to the rapture of the Church?  I think it entirely possible considering the description it gives as to what the world looks like with the absence of the faithful.  I also believe it is reasonable to consider a summer rapture when we examine closely the Feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot which we will do next week.  That scenario would also precede the most likely day for an attack of this nature on Israel, their national day of mourning on the ninth of Av.

A Day of Mourning; the Destruction of Damascus

“Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me?  Zechariah 7:5  NKJV

This scripture refers to the fast of the fifth month, which is observed on the ninth of Av on the Jewish calendar and it usually coincides with either late July or August on our western calendar.   Many believers are familiar with this day as it is the one day in the year where so many tragedies have occurred to the Jewish people throughout their history beginning with the report of the twelve spies in the book of Numbers and many, many others continuing to this day.  If you were to consider the question of when the nation of Israel would come under attack by weapons of mass destruction, it would be hard to ignore the possibility of something of that magnitude occurring on the very day in Israel’s history when so many other national tragedies have taken place.  Isaiah 17 also makes it clear that although justified in their response, the rest of the world takes a dim view of what Israel does.  This of course leads them to think about, and plan a response which many if not most believe is the attempted invasion of Gog.  I believe it only takes the relatively short time of three to four months to come up with their “evil plan.”

A Hannukah Gift; God Defeats Gog

‘Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid—consider it:     Haggai 2:18  NKJV

And again the word of the LORD came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: ‘I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots And those who ride in them; The horses and their riders shall come down, Every one by the sword of his brother.                Haggai 2:20-22  NKJV

In his book Armageddon, Appointment with Destiny, author Grant Jeffrey does a masterful job of examining and explaining all of the feasts and fasts of the nation of Israel.  In his book he devotes an entire chapter called “Russia’s Day of Destruction in Israel” to the Gog Magog conflict where he not only answers virtually every question someone might have about the identity of the invading force, he also speculates as to the timing of the conflict.  By comparing the language describing what occurs, and especially God’s response to the invading force, he comes to the conclusion that this passage from the prophet Haggai most likely is referring to the Ezekiel 38,39 prophecy.  It is also his conclusion that by referring specifically to the twenty fourth day of the ninth month, God is telling us exactly when these events will occur.  This day, the twenty fourth of Chisleu on the Jewish calendar, is the day before Hanukkah, which normally occurs in late November or December on our calendar.  I think it is entirely possible that the space of time between the Ninth of Av and the day before Hanukkah is more than sufficient for the planning and assembling of the forces of Magog by Gog.  How special would this Hanukkah be for all of Israel to awaken to find the entire invading force has been slain, not by their own might, but by the power of God the Father?

Peace on Rosh Hashanah?

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;  Daniel 9:27a

How long has the world waited for peace between Israel and its enemies?  At times many would believe that peace is an impossibility given the lack of success in coming to any type of an agreement.  It is with this in mind that it doesn’t bother me a bit to think that it takes nine months before the antichrist confirms a covenant.  I also believe it is telling to notice the word God chooses to use in this prophecy.  The word translated confirm, in the Hebrew is gabar; which means “to enforce or prevail”.  Now I ask you; does that sound like a mutually agreed peace?  It would seem to me that Israel’s enemies are somehow forced to abide by this agreement by the antichrist without really wanting to.  I chose Rosh Hashanah as the day this peace begins for two reasons.  The first reason is that many if not most scholars believe the last three feasts of Israel in the fall are prophetic as to the second coming of Christ.  Since the seventieth week of Daniel is exactly seven years in length, it logically begins and ends about the same time.  I also am intrigued by the use of the trumpet on Rosh Hashanah.  The last sounding of the trumpet on this feast day is called the Tekia shofar.  Throughout Israel’s history, it has been described as a long blast signaling victory or good news.  What better news would Israel want to celebrate than knowing peace with their enemies has finally been accomplished? 

Abomination in the Spring?

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 9:2

Obviously it follows that if we place the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week in the fall, the middle of the week which is three and one half years later will occur in the spring.  In fact, not only will it occur in the spring, it will arrive during the spring feasts of Israel.  If you recall, it was during this time that Jesus entered Jerusalem and told the religious leaders of the day that He was the Son of God.  When it comes to prophecy in the Bible, I make it a point to never believe in coincidence.  It seems to make perfect sense that the antichrist will choose the exact same time to stand in the temple and proclaim himself to be God.  History will repeat itself as his claim will be rejected by many resulting in the antichrist reacting in anger towards those who reject him. It is now that the final three and one half years of Daniel’s seventieth week begin, and by declaring war on the nation of Israel the antichrist plunges the world into the period of time which Jesus called the Great Tribulation, and God called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.  The antichrist’s attempt to destroy the nation of Israel will only lead him to destruction, but in the process involve the entire world in a war that is not only unwinnable, but leads directly to where God has arranged the final outcome to occur.

Armageddon and the Second Coming in the Fall?

Declare in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say: “Blow the trumpet in the land; Cry, ‘Gather together,’ And say, ‘Assemble yourselves, And let us go into the fortified cities.’ Set up the standard toward Zion. Take refuge! Do not delay! For I will bring disaster from the north, And great destruction.”                                   Jeremiah 4:5-6  NKJV

Here we are, seven years after the covenant of peace between Israel and its enemies right back where we started and notice again the reference to blowing a trumpet.  Is Jeremiah telling us that Armageddon and Jesus return to Jerusalem occurs on Rosh Hashanah?  I believe that he is, but only time will tell if this is the correct interpretation.  Yet considering the fact that God has told us specifically that the seventieth week of Daniel would be two thousand five hundred and twenty days in length, broken up into two halves with each being twelve hundred and sixty days, and that there are just coincidently twelve hundred and sixty days between Passover and Rosh Hashanah, I think it’s a safe assumption God wanted us to know this was when these things would occur.  Of course, as I said, I could be wrong, however we should also consider that there are two more appointed feasts that closely follow during this month, and the prophetic implications they provide give support to our conjectured timeline.  Ten days after Rosh Hashanah comes Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  This day is considered to be the holiest day on the Jewish calendar for it is on this day that they were commanded to mourn for their sins.  It was also on this day, the only day of the year, when the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of sacrifice before the Mercy Seat of God.  It certainly seems appropriate that now that the Great Tribulation is over Israel will stand before their God and mourn for their sin.

Millenial Reign Begins on Tabernacles

And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be— “The LORD is one,” And His name one.  Zechariah 14:9  NKJV

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.                  Zechariah 14:16  NKJV

The next, and last Feast day on the Jewish calendar arrives just five days later when Israel celebrates the Feast of Tabernacles.  This was the day in Israel’s history when Solomon’s Temple was dedicated and the Ark of the Covenant finally had a permanent resting place.  Many also believe that this day was in fact the day of Jesus’ birth, and there are several good reasons to believe that.  One is that in the book of John we are told that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.  Just coincidently, the Greek word for “dwelt” is “tabernacle”.  It certainly seems fitting that Jesus assumes His throne in the New Jerusalem on the same day He first arrived.

My purpose in sharing all of these things with you is to hopefully stimulate you to watch with the intensity I believe God wants from all of us when He commanded us to watch for all of these things.  It has always troubled me that if you were to ask one hundred believers if they felt it was important to follow all of God’s commandments one hundred would say yes of course.  Yet ask those same one hundred if they are watching for Christ’s return and I suggest the number who would reply yes would appall you.  As I said before, I am not trying to predict the future here, but all that we have talked about has already been told to us by the Father through His prophets in His Holy Word.  It is, and has always been, up to us to diligently search the scriptures to “find out whether these things were so”.

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, 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 sin, 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.  I am convinced His return is much closer than we may think.

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dry Bones

The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”   Ezekiel 37:1-3  NKJV

Considering the times we as believers are living in, many would state unequivocally that the regathering of the Jews to their land, Israel, is the single most important sign of where the world is on God’s calendar.  As such, many have taught, and most of you are familiar with the prophecy by Ezekiel called the “dry bones” where he is shown by God the future of the nation of Israel.  

Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. “I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.” ’ ”   Ezekiel 37:4-6  NKJV

Before1948 Israel was, as a nation, as dead as this imagery illustrates.  The Jews were scattered throughout all the nations of the world, millions had died by the hands of the Nazis during WW2, and there was no homeland for them to return to.  Yet against all odds, the move to establish the nation of Israel in the land that had historically been theirs began and in May of 1948 Israel once again was a nation with a homeland to which all Jews around the world could return to and call their own.  Just as Ezekiel had been shown by God, the bones of Israel lived again.

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” ’ ”So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.   Ezekiel 37:7-10  NKJV

“An exceedingly great army” was exactly what was needed because as history tells us, Israel was immediately attacked by those nations who wished for their destruction.  Yet “miraculously”, as some have described it, Israel defended itself and defeated its enemies.  Not just once, however, but over and over again during the sixty-nine years which have passed since that day in 1948.  That this is, to some a miracle, should not be overlooked because Ezekiel tells us that there certainly is a divine reason for Israel’s continuing existence, and it is clear in this next portion of this passage.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. “Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.’ ”   Ezekiel 37:11-14  NKJV

If anyone wonders at the reason for Israel’s regathering in the land that God gave them, this portion of scripture makes it clear.  It is a miracle performed by God for the sole purpose of turning the nation of Israel back to Him, and acknowledging the Lord as their one true God.  God has a plan to turn Israel back to worshipping Him and it all starts with bringing them back into His land as one nation, and demonstrating to them in no uncertain terms that it is He who controls their destiny, and their safekeeping. 

Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ “Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand. “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’—“say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.” ’ “And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. “Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; “and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. “They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God.   Ezekiel 37:15-23  NKJV

If you know your history, you are aware that Israel had split into two kingdoms in Old Testament times over the problem of idolatry, the result being the northern kingdom, Ephraim, and the southern kingdom, Judah.  So the first step could be called the regathering into the land, and by this portion of scripture we see the second step was healing the rift between the two kingdoms.  God tells us here through Ezekiel that when He brings Israel back, it will be as one nation and not two kingdoms, and it will stay that way forever.

“David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. “Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. “My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” ’ ”   Ezekiel 37:24-28  NKJV

This last portion of the chapter is still in Israel’s future, as Ezekiel points out in the next two chapters the troubles which Israel will have to endure before this time of peace arrives.  Yet without a doubt the sight of Israel back in its own land as this prophecy describes is the one sure sign of where we are on God’s calendar.  God is prepared to move ahead with His plans for the nation of Israel, but there is one precondition that affects all in the body of Christ who have chosen to believe in the gift given to us by His Son Jesus Christ.

We have to leave.

The rapture of the Church to be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all eternity will occur before God begins the time of tribulation spelled out for the regathered nation of Israel.  Only those who have accepted His gift of eternal life will be spared.  Have you made that choice and accepted His free gift?  If not I urge you to do it right now.  The signs of the end are all around us and the Church could disappear at any time.  Simply pray this prayer or put it in your own words but tell God you believe He sent His Son to pay the price for your sin, and that you will turn control of your life to Him.

"Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen."

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Word is Our Roadmap

Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”         Luke 24:13-17  NKJV

Have you ever taken a road trip with small children and heard those famous words, “are we there yet”? I remember well taking our first vacation with my children driving over a thousand miles to visit my parents and hearing that phrase for most of the trip. So I used that opportunity to teach my daughters how to watch for the road signs to help answer that question, and it didn't take long for them to concentrate on watching for the signs rather than asking me how much farther we had to go.  Of course, considering that they couldn’t yet read, every time there was a sign they asked me if it was the one we were looking for, so I am not sure I helped myself with that bit of advice.

As a believer who is committed to follow Jesus’ commandment to watch, I can assure you we are living in what many consider to be the “times of the signs”.  It is obvious that so much of what the Bible tells us will happen as we approach the end is coming to pass in our lifetimes.  The excitement over our imminent departure for our heavenly home is rampant in the body and justifiably so, yet this excitement  can also lead to disappointment when something is declared to be a major event yet passes with a whimper and not a shout.  As I thought about this, and as some of you have shared your disappointments with me, my thoughts went to this passage and the obvious distress these two disciples were experiencing.  So much so that Jesus Himself decided to walk with them and provide the answers they were looking for.  What Jesus did for them, He can do for us as well.

“What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”   Have you told God why you are sad?  Jesus knew exactly what they were experiencing but He asked the question anyway.  Verbalizing our disappointment is the first step to discovering what answers God has for us in His Word, and how we can cope with what we are feeling.  Although He already knows our hearts, talk to Him and share your feelings and questions with Him and let the Spirit lead you to the answers you seek.                    
Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, “and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. “Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. “When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. “And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”          Luke 24:18-24  NKJV

“But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.”  They had seen the signs, observed the miracles, heard the teaching, and most of all believed the prophecy of the coming Messiah, but were disappointed when nothing happened.  Or did it?  Was their problem a lack of knowledge, an inability to observe, or was it simply a misunderstanding of what it all meant?  It would appear that Jesus understood exactly what their problem was and He goes straight to the heart of the matter with His response.

Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.           Luke 24:25-27  NKJV

The word for foolish is the Greek word anóētos which is translated to mean; unintelligent; by implication, sensual:—fool(-ish), unwise.  At first glance it might seem a rather harsh response by our Lord to call these disciples foolish, but as I read what not only Jesus said, but what He did it began to make sense to me.  “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”   How I would have loved to hear this entire conversation.  Can you imagine listening to a Bible study given by Jesus on all the prophecies of the Old Testament which probably lasted at least half of a day?  Yet the point I see here is that Jesus immediately explained what was happening in the present by returning to the prophecies of old.

The disciples were so excited by the appearance of Jesus that they focused on certain prophecies of a coming King while forgetting others which predicted His death and resurrection.  It certainly seems to me that what has been happening in the past few years is simply people trying to interpret or place importance on signs without consideration of the old prophecies which tell us exactly what to watch for and what they mean.  I think it could best be said that instead of looking so much for the new, we should rather be studying the old.  That is what Jesus did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and I believe it would benefit us as a body to do the same.  What Jesus did for the disciples could easily be described as giving them a new application of the old revelation.  He explained to them how their interpretation of the old was in error, and showed them how He had fulfilled those prophecies.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.                                         2 Timothy 4:3-4  NKJV

The Greek word for itching is knēthō, which means simply; desirous of hearing something pleasant. When it comes to the rapture of the Church and the end of all things, I am no different than anyone else when it comes to wanting to hear encouraging words about how close it might be.  Yet whatever importance some might place on current signs and wonders, they must, as Jesus showed us, be examined in light of the prophecies of old.  The closer we get to where we are going, the more there will be to see.  Watch for the signs, but examine everything by the light of prophecies already given in order not to take a wrong turn and be disappointed as these disciples were.

Keep watching.