Image

Archive for May 2020

The Sign

The disciples had asked Christ for the sign of His coming again and of the end of the age (Matt. 24:3). Note that they wanted “the sign.” Christ answered, “When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place – whoever reads this, let him understand” (Matt. 24:15). The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet refers directly to Daniel 9:27. This passage reads, “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.” “One who makes desolate” refers to the very person that Christ called “the abomination of desolation.” Can’t miss this!

Now don’t let this next point throw you. This “abomination of desolation” was just one piece placed within a gigantic puzzle that our Lord called “the times of the Gentiles.”  Said another way, the “times of the Gentiles” forms the glue that holds the puzzle together. The “times of the Gentiles” is a period of indefinite length, lasting from the beginning of the Babylonian captivity (586 BC) to the end of the tribulation period (which is yet to come). It is that time during which Israel is out of their land, having no king and no temple. Israel is now back in their land, but they have no king and no control over their temple. They are still under the disciplining hand of God. This time will grow stronger until it reaches the greatest persecution that Israel – and the world –   has ever known, and I think it is close.

This persecution will be led by the one that our Lord called “the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet.” He is also called in the Bible the Antichrist, the Assyrian, the beast, the man of sin, the little horn, and alongside him will be his press agent called “the false prophet.” They will be the dynamic duo. In order to understand this complete puzzle one must begin with five pieces found in Dan. 2:31-45; Dan. 7:1-28; Rev. 13:1-10; Rev. 17:1-14 and Dan. 9:24-27.

Let’s begin to put this puzzle together. Throughout history, many Gentile leaders have desired to be king over all the earth. There was Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Cyrus the Persian, Darius the Mede, the Caesars of Rome, Alexander the Great, Constantine, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, among others. But no one has ever been king over all the earth. God’s unchanging Word says that One is coming who is to be that King: “And the Lord [the Lord Jesus Christ] shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—The Lord is one, and His name one” (Zech. 14:9).

The Hebrew language says that Yahweh shall be King. Yahweh, the great I Am in the Old Testament (Ex. 3:14), is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament (Jn. 8:58; 10:30). (See A Glimpse of the Christ). Let’s go back to the “abomination of desolation” mentioned by Christ. King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a great image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron, and feet and toes, part iron and clay. It ended with a stone cut out without hands destroying the image (Dan.2:31-45). The background is this (Dan. 2:1-30). The king had a dream that disturbed. He sought an explanation. He first went to his leaders. He demanded that they first tell him the dream and then the explanation. He realized that if he told them the dream, they would come up with their own explanation. Nebuchadnezzar was very wise. They obviously refused saying no one could do that.

Enter Daniel! Daniel told the Babylonian king that there is a God in heaven that could give him the answer (Dan. 2:28). Daniel was always careful to give God the glory. The king’s image is a picture of world history written in advance. Amazing! Daniel began. He told the king that his dream involved a giant image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron, and feet and toes of iron and clay. The metals represent nations that would control the world. The head was Babylon. The chest and arms of silver were the Medes and the Persians.  The belly and thighs of brass were the Greeks (Hellenists). The legs of iron speak of Rome. The feet and toes of iron and clay represents the spread of the Roman empire throughout the world. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream ended by the image being destroyed by a stone cut out without hands. This refers to the divine origin of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the stone became a great mountain that filled the entire earth – the mountain spoken of in our last post. Daniel will now begin to explain this image. Stay safe and stay tuned.

God’s Passion for Jerusalem

God is passionate for Zion (Jerusalem) with great passion. Christ’s throne will one day be located in Jerusalem. He will return to Jerusalem and dwell in its midst. Jerusalem will be called the city of truth, the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain (Zech. 8:1-3). Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem. There will come a time when ten men from every language of the nations will grab the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you [to Jerusalem]” (Zech. 8:22-23). How incredible is that?

The book of Isaiah, written 500 years before Christ, states that there is coming a time when peace will reign over this earth. Isaiah described a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace yet to come who will bear all the responsibility of governing this world.  This was simply not true during Jesus’s first coming. There was no peace on earth and goodwill toward men during His life – like that being spoken of here. There is coming a time when the King will sit upon the throne of David and rule over His kingdom. Every conflict will end in swift and fair judgment, and justice will prevail (Isa. 9:6–7).  

Micah wrote, “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains and exalted above the hills [the highest mountain on earth] and peoples shall flow into it. Many nations shall come and say let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Jerusalem the law shall go forth and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off” (Micah 4:1–3a). The time is coming when the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed. Why? Because Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before His elders, gloriously (Isa. 24:21–23). Notice how often “Jerusalem” is mentioned!

It is true that believers today are saved by God’s magnificence grace, apart from the works of the law (Gal. 2:21; 3:21). We live our Christian lives by grace and not by the works of the law (Col. 2:6; Titus 2:11–12). But God has never abrogated or done away with His Law given at Mount Sinai some three thousand years ago (Ex. 19–20). Also, God’s laws instituted at creation—laws concerning marriage, one man for one woman for life (Gen. 2:24), and the killing of another human being (Gen. 9:6), and honoring the Sabbath (Gen. 2:1–3)—have been imposed by Him from the beginning and have never changed. These laws have everything to do with the coming of a child and His reign upon an earthly kingdom.

Speaking of this child we turn to history written some 500 years before Christ. God had sent Isaiah to Ahaz, the king of Judah, to tell him that Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, had plotted against him – to tear a hole in the wall protecting Jerusalem and set up a king for themselves. Isaiah told Ahaz that the plot against him would not stand. He told Ahaz to ask for a sign from God that the plan would fail. Ahaz refused! Isaiah’s response is often used (at Christmas) but seldom explained. He told this king that God Himself would give him a sign. He said that a virgin would conceive and bear a Son and call His name Immanuel (Isa. 7:14).

God predicted that an evil king would come against Jerusalem to destroy it. This one is called, “the Assyrian.” Note as you read the following passages, the definite article “the,” as in “the Assyrian.” It is speaking of a special person (Isa. 10:24; Isa. 14:25; Isa. 19:23; Isa. 52:4; Hos. 11:5; Micah 5:5-6). Isaiah told Ahaz that victory will lie in the hands of a virgin born child. Amazing! “The Assyrian” speaks of the Antichrist who will come against Jerusalem.

With that in mind, fast forward and hear the words of the Messiah. He was going away to prepare a place for his disciples and return (Jn. 14:1-3). They knew that He had promised to come back. Now visualize a magnificent gold-plated temple that took Herod some 70 years to complete. It was beautiful beyond description. The morning sun reflecting off it was so bright one would have to shield their eyes. The disciples called our Lord’s attention to it.

Jesus jarred them by telling them that the temple was going to be completely destroyed (Matt. 24:2; Mk. 13:2) What?  This provoked many questions but one that was special. What shall be the sign (notice again the definite article) of your coming (the one overwhelming can’t miss sign). Jesus’ answer is so very important! He said “When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place. Whoever reads let him understand” (Matt. 24:15). Ponder this! The Assyrian mentioned above, and this abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, are one and the same person. In fact, this person goes by many names as we will see. The sign here must take us back to words spoken by Daniel – and it will.  Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

Grafted In

Romans eleven holds the key to understanding the big picture concerning Israel. In Romans 11:11 we find the reason for Israel’s future glory. Israel stumbled and fell, but because of their fall and rejection of their Messiah, salvation came to the Gentiles. The Jews stumbled at the point of a crucified Messiah – unconscionable to them. They expected a warrior king but received a suffering servant

The factoring in of the Gentiles is designed by God to make the Jews jealous. This jealousy, plus the pressure put on them by God’s divine adversaries, will one day move the Jews to repent (change their minds) and receive their Messiah.  Gentiles gained the righteousness that Jews sought because they exercised faith. The Jews, however, sought righteousness by attempting to keep the law and being circumcised. They were arrogant and proud because they thought that they had kept it. They tripped over a crucified King.

If the Gentiles have been richly blessed because the Jews failed, how much more of a blessing will the fulfillment of the Jews be?  “Fulfilment” (Rom. 11:12) is pleroma, meaning to be made complete. If the Jews’ failure produced riches for the world, how much more will their full inclusion bless the world?

The Jews made God jealous by worshipping idols. God turned the tables. He will (future tense) provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation. He will (future tense) move them to anger by a foolish nation (Deut. 32:21). This time is now! He is in the process of provoking the Jews to jealousy by including the Gentiles in His plan (Rom. 11:13–14). But there is coming a time when the Jewish people will be once again factored into God’s plan.

Paul used some can’t miss illustrations. If the Jews being cast away leads to the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead (Rom. 11:15). If one takes a small piece of dough from a big lump, and that small piece of dough is set apart to God, what about the large lump? That is certainly set apart to God. The small lump represents the Gentiles having been extended grace. The large lump would refer to God’s chosen people – the Jews (Rom. 11:16).  

Then there is the olive tree and the wild olive branches. If a root that produced the cultivated olive tree is set apart to God, the branches that come from the root are also (Rom. 11:17–18). What if some wild olive branches are grafted in, do they become a part of the tree (Gentiles)? Some branches being broken off refers to those Jews who have been blinded. In Hosea and Jeremiah, Israel is likened to an olive tree. The wild olive branch being grafted into a cultivated tree is against the laws of nature. It is not natural for this to happen, but God is making it happen.

Gentiles became the recipients of the richness of the Abrahamic Covenant by grace (Gen. 12:3). Speaking of the Galatians (Gentiles), Paul wrote that if we belong to Christ, we are Abraham’s descendants according to promise (Gal. 3:29). Christ is the link that brings us together. The natural branches have been broken off (Jews) and the wild branches grafted in (Gentiles). The Gentiles had best not be cocky or arrogant toward the failure of God’s chosen nation. They had better not become like the Jews had been (Rom. 11:19–21). If God is righteous in temporarily putting aside Israel as a whole for unbelief (motivated by their arrogance and pride), He certainly could put aside the Gentiles for boasting and haughtiness. Why is all this true? It is true because of God’s ability. God is able to remove Israel from their own olive tree and to graft many Gentiles in.

God is also able to once again graft Israel back in. This He will do if the Jews do not continue in unbelief (Rom. 11:23). Israel is today scattered to the four corners of the earth, but the prophets tell us that a remnant will be grafted back into their own olive tree.  “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 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” (Rom. 11:25–26).

God will once again extend grace to the Jews. Notice the pattern: God shut out one to extend mercy to another (Rom. 11:32). Jesus Christ is one day to return, and Israel as a nation will be crying out for His return and will know Him when they see Him. They will look on the One whom they pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son and grieve for Him (Zech. 12:10; Jn 19:27). All Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26). God will begin His kingdom reign over the earth (Zech. 14:9).

Paul ended this section by attempting to plumb the depths of God’s mind. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:33–36) Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

 

Five Cycles of Judgment

A missionary friend to the Jews in Miami reminded me often that if I ever lost my way in charting the future to watch Israel. These words still reverberate in my mind today. They have not gone away – nor have the Jews.  God promised blessings on an obedient Jewish nation. He said that if they walked in His statutes and kept His commands, He would give rain for their crops and their land, and trees would produce in abundance. They would have plenty of food. He also promised that they would live in peace with their enemies. No animals would harm them, and their enemies would run from them. Further, God said that He would set His tabernacle in their midst and that He would be their God and they would be His people (Lev. 26:1–13).

Then, as we often see in God’s word, a contrast is marked out by the little word “but.” God used this word to warn the Jews that if they turned their backs on Him again, He would judge accordingly. God would put in play five cycles of discipline, each worse than the previous one (Lev. 26:14–33). First Cycle: loss of health, pain, inability to raise crops, lost battles, lost freedom (vs.15–17). Second Cycle: He would bring on them seven times the punishment of the first cycle plus there would be no rain, therefore no crops (vs.18–20). Third Cycle: seven times the punishment of the first two cycles, plus the invasion of wild beasts taking the lives of children and livestock (vs. 21–22). Fourth Cycle: seven times the punishment of the previous cycles, plus being delivered into enemy hands and famine (vs. 23–26). Fifth Cycle: seven times the punishment of the above, as well as cannibalism, high places and altars destroyed, cities laid waste, land becoming desolate, and Jews scattered throughout the world (vs. 27–33). 

Once again, the Jews broke God’s covenant. Rather than casting them away, God put them through the five cycles of discipline. In 70 A.D., they entered the fifth cycle when the Roman emperor Titus Vaspacius laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, starved them out, and burned their temple. Thousands of Jews died, many from hunger, and others cannibalized their own children. Horrible! Incredibly, God had predicted this very event (Lev. 26:29).

God told them that He would scatter them among the nations. They would always live in panic mode. No group of people have been more hated than the Jews (remember the Holocaust). He said that they would be so stressed at times that the sound of a shaking leaf would scare them (Lev. 26:36). These familiar words from their Messiah must ring in our ears.  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matt. 23:38).

As He left  the temple, His disciples reminded Him of the beauty of the temple. The King shocked them when He told them that the temple was going to be destroyed – burned (happened in 70 A.D.). Not one stone would be left on the other (Luke 21:6). The Romans searched for the melted gold that had flowed down through the stones. They pulled apart every stone looking for it. Amazing!

The disciples asked, “When will these things happen?” (Matt. 24:3). Our Lord had already said that the things of which He spoke would come upon this generation (Matt. 23:36; Mark 13:30; Lk. 21:32). By using this expression many times, Christ did not necessarily mean the generation he was speaking to – but the generation that would be alive when these things happen. Just a casual reading will tell you this.

As with many prophesies, there is a short-range and a long-range fulfillment. Jesus was reading from the book of Isaiah. In the middle of Isaiah 61:2, He separated “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” and the “day of vengeance of our God”. The reason? There would be many years between the two events (Luke 4:19; Isa. 61:2). The first fulfillment was during Jesus’ first coming. He will fulfill the last part when He comes again (2 Thess. 1:6-10). The long-range fulfillment is marked by our Lord’s words,  “For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matt. 23:36–39)  This future event will happen when the King rides into Jerusalem, not on a donkey, but on a white horse and not to wear a crown of thorns but a royal crown of the King (Rev. 1:7; Rev. 19:11-16; Zech. 14:1-11). The Jews remain under the fifth cycle of discipline. It will end with a very intense seven years of tribulation (Matt. 24: 9-14; Rev. 5-19; Dan. 9:24-27). God will cause the Jews to pass through the fires of judgment in order to purge them of their rebellion and purify them, thus preparing them for the coming of their Messiah (Mal. 3:1–3; Zech. 13:9). Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

 

God Never Breaks a Promise

God is a God of grace. He understands our failures and makes allowances for them (1 Jn. 1:8-9).  Our High Priest, who was tempted in all points as we are – yet without sin, always makes intercession for us before the Father (Heb. 4:14-16). Our salvation is secure. We are God’s purchased possession forever sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise until we are taken to be with Him (Eph. 1:13-14). We should know that “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19).

Well, what about Israel? Could the Jews ever do anything, anything, that would cause God to break His promise to them? I am speaking of national Israel. I do not mean the bride of Christ, the church. I do not mean spiritual Israel. I mean literal Israel, those who are members of the twelve tribes of Jacob. Is there any real hope for Israel as a nation today? Is there any chance that God’s promise to Abraham – sealed in blood – concerning the land that stretches from the Nile River all the way to the Euphrates, will ever happen (Gen. 15:18-21)?  

As mentioned earlier, Israel has never possessed this land in its totality – never.  But I digress! It is always good to check the fine print of any important document. It is in the fine print that important truths are often found. That is especially true when it is the fine print of God’s Word. Many jewels of truth are encased deep inside the large, seemingly complicated text of Old Testament scripture. It is within the deep waters of many words that beautiful gems often surface. Every word matters.

This is especially true when delving into what some have called the Palestinian Covenant. The beginning of this covenant was clearly stated by Moses in his writing of the second law, Deuteronomy. “These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb” (Deut. 29:1). Notice the words “covenant” and “besides the covenant.” These words are not written in red or highlighted in any way in my Bible, but they are extremely important.

Moses was clearly saying that this covenant was a different covenant. It was not the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). It was a covenant made in addition to the original covenant God made with Israel at Sinai (Ex. 20). Horeb is just another word for Sinai. This covenant teaches us clearly that God is truly a God of the second chance. Through this agreement, God was giving the Jews another chance to do the right thing with His law and with the land.  

The Jews actually broke the covenant made with the nation (the Ten Commandments) even before God had finished giving it to Moses on the mountain (Ex. 32:6). For this reason, God made them wander in the desert for forty years. He later restored them to the land and gave them this new agreement. Moses asked Israel to remember their past, how they were enslaved by the pharaohs in Egypt for 400 years. He reminded them of their sin and all the trials and wonders that their eyes had seen. He asked them to recall the forty years in the desert. Their clothes and shoes did not wear out. A miracle!  They did not eat bread or have strong drink, but they survived. When faced with powerful enemies, they came out victorious (Deut. 29:2–8).

Moses said that once again, they were all standing before God: the leaders, the elders, the children, the wives, and all the servants. Why were they all standing there? Because they were once again entering into a covenant with God: “That you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deut. 29:9).

God had not gone back on His word, but Israel had. God’s desire was to make them a people for Himself, just as He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The mention of their names reveals that this covenant was permanently tied to the original promise that was given to the fathers. It is one thing for a human to swear to tell the truth; it is another for God to swear to tell the truth. God swore an oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He will never go back on His word. God carefully reminded those standing before Him that day that this covenant was not being made just with them but with all those who would come after them. The Jews even to this day that are scattered throughout the world are those who would come after them. It never ends until God ends it (Deut. 29:9–15). Stay safe and stay tuned.