Jerusalem: "A Burdensome Stone"
"And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it."
How ironic that the "City of Peace" is the center of bitter world controversy! Not only is East Jerusalem contended between Israel and the Arab world, but world political and religious leaders also join in the fray. Christian leaders continue to ignore this warning of the Lord by the Prophet. What should be the "Christian attitude" now toward Jerusalem?
In March President Bush-an avowed born-again Christian-berated Israel for building Jewish "settlements" in East Jerusalem because, he claimed, the status of East Jerusalem is negotiable in Israeli-Arab peace talks. This statement was a startling change of U.S. policy-which many felt was the real reason for the collapse of Israelís coalition government. Jerusalemís Mayor Teddy Kollek, a solid moderate, observed that Bushís comment resulted in an increase of violence in East Jerusalem.
In April when a group of Jewish families moved into the so-called Christian Quarter of Jerusalem, some Jewish leaders questioned the wisdom of the timing. But the media and church leaders whipped up world opinion into a hysteria. THE NEW YORK TIMES called the building sublet by these Jewish families an "occupied Greek Orthodox Church." The WASHINGTON POST spoke of it as "the Greek Orthodox Church complex." But the following quote from a letter President Chaim Herzog of Israel wrote to the U.S. Greek Orthodox Primate (JERUSALEM POST, May 26, 1990) clarifies the issues:
"I do not propose to go into the rights or wrongs of the action taken by those claiming a right to residence in the building, following the payment of a considerable amount of money. .. I am, however, very disturbed by the behavior of the Greek Orthodox Church on this issue. It is extremely alarming. .. to note the manner in which the neglected, abandoned, misused hospice, suddenly becomes a Holy Site.
"I must say that the sight of a priest in clerical garments standing on a ladder, ripping down a Star of David from a Jewish residence, cheered by an enraged mob, is a horrible reminder of what our people lived through in history. ...
"... the building was described as being a few meters away from the [Church of the] Holy Sepulchre. Any visitor to the site, with its enclosed streets, will confirm that this assertion is false." In an interview with Jordan television, Patriarch Disdoros, head of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in Jerusalem, described Jerusalem as being "under conquest." During a visit to Greece he charged that this incident was part of an attempt by Israel to take over the Christian Quarter of Old Jerusalem.
Of course, the Vatican entered the controversy. THE NEW YORK TIMES reported that Pope John Paul II, in an audience which included senior officials from Arab countries and a representative of the PLO, "expressed Ďprofound concern.í" Cardinal OíConnor, however, reflected the hysteria of the Roman Catholic church over the Jerusalem issue. In an article appearing in the CATHOLIC NEW YORK, he called the move "obscene" and the Israeli governmentís role in the incident as "reprehensible." He characterized the move of 25 parents and 100 children and infants into the hospice as an invasion by armed men-part of "a conspiracy to grab land all over Israel currently occupied by Christians. ..[ and] a design to make it virtually impossible for Christians to function anywhere in the land."
To put this controversial incident in balanced perspective, it must be noted that Jews formerly lived in this area until they were violently expelled by Arab attack in 1936. In fact, it was during the same period of the British Mandate that the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem was drastically reduced. (Later the reduced segment of the Jewish Quarter-including its many Synagogues-was destroyed during the Jordanian occupation of 1948-1967.) Where was the Christian outcry then? Why is there Christian silence when Jews are abused? While the hospice is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church, the building was never used for religious purposes. Furthermore, the building was leased to an Arab and the ground floor was occupied by Moslem stores. Because the Christian Quarter is actually two-thirds Moslem, a Mosque nearby serves this active Moslem population. ...
As Christian and Moslem leaders gathered in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchís offices, masked intifada youths began waving PLO flags chanting anti-Jewish slogans. The PLO flag was then placed at the top of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Who then actually desecrated a Christian holy site?)
Why are Catholics opposed to Jews living in the Christian Quarter yet are gladly living together with Arabs? Why is the Vatican so opposed to Israel possessing Old Jerusalem while insisting on Jerusalemís internationalization?
When the world community was finally ready to grant Israel statehood in 1947, the specter of the Vatican loomed over the United Nations. Since Israelís rebirth the Vatican has never recognized it as a nation. New Yorkís Cardinal Spellman, used all the powers of his office to keep Jerusalem out of Israeli control. Telegraphing the Papal nuncios (ambassadors) in South American countries, he demanded that they urge those governments to take an uncompromising stand at the U.N. for Jerusalemís internationalization.
The Vaticanís apparent reason is that all three faiths will have free access to their holy places. However, from 1948 to 1967, Jordan desecrated Jewish holy places and destroyed synagogues while completely denying Jewish access to East Jerusalem. In all those years the Vatican never raised a cry for internationalization. Since acquiring Old Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has guaranteed and preserved for all (Christians and Moslems as well) free access to their respective holy places. Yet the Vatican is presently insisting on internationalization to provide a right that these three religions already enjoy. Obviously, a more fundamental reason for Vatican opposition to Israelís possession of Old Jerusalem prevails.
The Roman Catholic Church maintains Israelís right to be the Kingdom of God ended forever with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Roman Legion in 70 C.E. Growing to world prominence, the Roman Catholic Church claimed to be the rightful heir of the Kingdom of God with Rome as the "New Jerusalem." But this claim of Rome to be the "eternal city," was deflated when in 1967 Jerusalem, "the eternal city," became Israelís capital.
Why does the Vatican act like a major world power-exchanging ambassadors with other nations, etc.? No other Christian church claims this prestige.
The only excuse the Vatican has to act as a world power is the claim that it is both the spiritual and temporal Kingdom of God, the "New Jerusalem." Israelís repossession of the capital of its ancient kingdom is a galling challenge to Rome-a challenge which Rome seems compelled to remove. When Jerusalem is "internationalized," the Vatican plans to dominate its supervision and thereby cement its claim to be the Kingdom of God on earth. The Vatican will not rest until Jerusalem is wrested from Israel.
Other world powers, including the United States, insist that Jerusalem is "negotiable" in any Israeli-Arab peace talks. Jerusalem is not negotiable. Remember Zechariahís prophecy-all who contend in the Jerusalem issue will be sorely hurt. National and religious leaders had better heed this warning.
Christian leaders who misrepresent Israel or Jews in issues such as this hospice rental incident may be betraying latent anti-Semitic attitudes ingrained in their organization. In any case, such leaders are certainly sowing seeds of bitter feelings of anti-Semitism. Christians should not be trapped by media hysteria, but should rationally consider the Scriptural and historical perspective
Jerusalem, indeed, will be internationalized! But it will belong to the Jew forever. People from all over the world will come to Jerusalem to worship, but it will be to enquire about the God of the Jews and to praise His holy Name.
"Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you." Zec 8:22, 23 (See also Isa 2:2,3; 60:10-12; 66:18-22)
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lordís house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Isa 2:2,3
"Proclaim this among the Gentiles, Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up"
The Iraqi conquest of Kuwait touched off worldwide troubles. The current crisis in the Middle East and its international implications provide the alert Christian with fertile ground for thought. Thank God that we can turn to His unerring word to guide us in the dark times. Truly "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience (perseverance) and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Rom 15:4 We are confident in our Heavenly Fatherís "sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." 2Pet 1:19
The "dark place" the Apostle Peter speaks of is this present world. Under the leadership of the prince of darkness (2Co 4:4) humanity finds itself shipwrecked on the reefs of tragedy. The Christian can rejoice regardless of this worldís tragedies because of "the hope that is within us." We have a hope of glory. We have a hope in Christís kingdom. We have a hope in the eventual blessing of all mankind. Our hope, as Brothers Paul and Peter testified, is taught by the Old Testament prophets. In them we find that our great God was fully aware of what the conditions would be in our troubled times. In them we see that our Heavenly Father is in complete control of world events-shaping them to their grand culmination in the peaceable kingdom on earth.
How is the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait a fulfillment of Bible prophecy? Consider Joel the third chapter concerning The Day of the LORD:
"Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up:
"Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
"Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye nations, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
"Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the nations round about.
"Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.
"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision." (Joel 3:9-14)
The conditions of Joelís prophecy are our headlines today. War preparations are supported with hundreds of billions of dollars that the community of nations devote to them. Especially interesting is the nature of war preparation. Joel 3:10 turns a very familiar text around and, in so doing, gives us greater insight regarding the Lordís word. "They shall beat their swords into plowshares", but in Joel plowshares are made into swords and pruning hooks into spears.
The lesson is that sinful man will take the very tools that could make for peace and turn them into devices of destruction. Ample testimony of this fact is given in the use of nearly every "high-tech" development for military purposes. Nuclear energy provides for power to run cities and medical treatment to heal diseases. It is also fashioned into bombs that can vaporize a city and its inhabitants in one efficient flash of light.
Chemists bring forth from their test tubes miracle drugs that save lives, nutrients that induce fabulous agricultural production and, as well, poison gases that kill without conscience. Truly, our modern times are witnessing a profound fulfillment of Joel 3:10.
Why do men prepare so furiously for war? Why learn war at all? Invariably wars may be traced to one underlying cause. One group of people realize that another has more than they do and hence decide to "get their fair-share" by force. Whether that "fair-share" is money, food, oil, land or commerce, the problem comes down to one word-greed. Lust for wealth in some form or other has seduced many nations into war. Saddam Hussein lusted after Kuwaiti money and oil and therefore took it. Thatís why heís there now. President Bush saw the need to "protect the American life style." That is why American troops are awaiting war in the Middle East. Many other nations are represented there-each for self-interest.
The gathering together of the nations in the Persian Gulf is representative of a greater gathering on a much grander scale. That greater gathering together is spoken of in Joel 3:11,12,14. The nations of our time are being gathered together economically. No longer do economic leaders think in terms of national economy or even international economy. The current terminology is global economy.
Nations are scrambling for advantageous position in a global economy. Formerly communistic countries are shifting gears and converting to market economies. Why? To survive in global commerce. This drawing together of all nations has brought about a further fulfillment of Joelís prophecy. In Joel 3:10 the weak say "I am strong." Nations which in time past were mere nobodies on the international scene are now able to affect even superpowers. Iraqís military exploits have resulted in severe economic tensions of a worldwide scope. Western nations slide into recession and stock markets plunge as a result of a weak one, Iraq, saying "I am strong." We, as Christians, feel much sympathy for the whole world and the problems that mankind faces. However, we rejoice that the process of establishing Godís Kingdom on earth goes grandly and surely onward. As a result of all nations being gathered together, the fulfillment of Godís word is occurring in our lifetime.
Besides allowing the weak to be strong, the LORD is accomplishing another purpose in the gathering together of the nations. Zeph 3 reveals that purpose to Bible students. "My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD to serve him with one consent." (Zeph 3: 8,9) After the fire of Godís jealousy has done its work of destroying all the sinful and enslaving institutions of man, the people will learn a pure language. That language of love will enable all those who had not known or served the LORD to do so-after the fire is over.
Re 16 parallels Zeph 3 and explains further what the fire of Godís jealousy is. As does Zephaniah, so also Revelation shows us that God is gathering the nations (Re 16:14,16) to a great battle. God pours out "all my fierce anger" in Zephaniah and in Revelation he pours out the seven last plagues "for in them is the wrath of God completed" (Re 15:1) The seventh plague results in the battle of the great day of God Almighty-the great earthquake of Re 16:18.
In scripture, an earthquake symbolizes revolution. On the basis of the earthquake which toppled a tenth part of the city (Re 11:13), students of scripture predicted the French Revolution (and many of its effects) 150 years before it occurred. The lessons of prophecy fulfilled give us a firm basis for interpreting prophecy yet to come. The great revolution of Re 16 will open the door to the establishment of Godís Kingdom on earth.
"Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven." (Heb 12:26,27) Once more will God shake the earth (society) and heaven (ecclesiastical rulers) and no more after that because it will not be necessary. "And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come." Hag 2:7 The true desire of all nations is peace, health, prosperity. That desire surely shall come because God has promised it.
In Satanís kingdom men have beaten plowshares into swords and pruning hooks into spears (Joel 3:10), but the kingdom that the Lord Jesus Christ will reign over is quite different. Micah, the fourth chapter, describes the good Kingís reign. In it all nations will walk in his paths and learn of his ways. Then shall they beat their weapons into the instruments of peace.
Peace will be possible then. Greed and the necessity for it will be abolished. We have an insight as to the economic nature of Godís kingdom in Mic 4:4. "They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid." Apparently, each person in that kingdom will be economically independent. Never again will they need to fear for their next meal, their wages or land. None shall make them afraid and for this reason "neither shall they learn war any more." Mic 4:3
That time will be beautiful. Godís kingdom will be a blessing to all. In the meantime while we groan and travail with war and its suffering, there is a paradoxical blessing in it. Of Godís kingdom, the Psalmist says "He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Ps 46:9,10 God will cause wars to cease unto the ends of the earth. Therefore we, as Christians, can rejoice. We rejoice because as long as there is war in this world, that is a testimony to us that this world, AS IT NOW IS, is not Godís kingdom. His reign of peace and righteousness and beauty and justice is coming soon. Then shall the world be still and know that he is God.
Bible prophecy is vital to us. It provides us a sure sense of direction. It gives us great hope. It gives us great comfort. The 656 page book "The Battle of Armageddon" presents 14 topical studies. These incisively examine the scriptures relating to that great battle which will both destroy Satanís kingdom and establish Christís Kingdom. If you already have a copy of "The Battle of Armageddon", look up the preceding scriptures in the index and read the studied commentary on them. May the Lord bless you and comfort you as he is also doing with us.
Ghosts: Friends or Demons?
Are the dead really dead?
What possesses a skeptical, educated Western society to hanker after ghosts and spirits?
The same kids who grew up on "Casper the Friendly Ghost" now identify with "Sam" (Patrick Swayze), the hero yuppie ghost. A celebrity like Shirley MacLaine has elevated the pursuit of connecting with the spirits of the dead from side-door parlors to a very sophisticated level. The going rate for any respectable "channeler" runs in the thousands of dollars.
Why are people so anxious to communicate with the spirit world of the dead? First of all, one would naturally long to communicate with a deceased loved one for many reasons... In the ad lines of the recent movie, "Always," now available in video cassette, "They couldnít hear him. They couldnít see him. But he was there when they needed him. Even after he was gone." But is a human longing a basis for a legitimate hope for reaching the dead? Another reason for expecting to communicate would be because most people have only a vague understanding of what death really means.
Only truth really satisfies-and comforts. The origin of death traces back to the Garden of Eden... the first man... and sin. God linked Adamís continuance of life on earth on simple obedience. However, "In the day that thou eatest of the tree, thou shalt surely die." Satan, using the serpent, contradicted this stipulation, saying, "Thou shalt not surely die." When Adam did sin and did die, Satan-being the "father of lies" that he is-perpetuated his lie in every generation and to every people: "You donít really die. You only seem to die. You are more alive than ever when you die!" The Egyptians believed it. Socrates and Plato taught it. And, unfortunately, many Christians adopted it.
Just how dead are the dead? And is there any precious hope for any life after death? When God created Adam, "Man became a living soul." Ge 2:7 After God had infused the "breath of life" in the body He prepared, Adam himself was "made a living soul." But sinning plunged the soul itself into death. Eze 18:4 The breath of life is not the soul. The breath of life is the life energy from God which causes a body to live. Take away this life spirit and the soul dies. True, Adam "died spiritually" in that his fellowship was cut off immediately in that first 24-hour day. But Adam also immediately began physically to die ("Dying thou shalt die"). And he did die literally within Godís 1,000-year day. 1Pe 3:8
But even as God pronounced the grim death sentence on Adam, a ray of hope pierced this judgment. "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpentís head..." A fatal blow would fall on the great tempter, Satan. Later this "seed" was identified as the "seed of Abraham." Ge 22:17 Christians are heirs to this promise as part of the seed which will bless all families of the earth. Gal 3:29 They are with Christ, the "firstfruits of them that have slept." 1Co 15:20 Then, during Christís presence ("parousia," Greek), his 1,000-year reign with the church, all the families of the earth will be the "afterfruits" in the resurrection of the dead.
So the legitimate hope for reaching the dead will be in the resurrection in the "last day." Joh 11:24† If man possessed an immortal soul, he would not need a resurrection. To say mortal man is inherently immortal in some way is to disregard our need for Jesus Christ who is our life and resurrection!
Communications with the Dead?
If then, it is impossible for the dead to communicate, what accounts for the apparent communication with the dead? Aside from frauds, too many convincing experiences suggesting extra-human contact have occurred.
The Bible verifies the existence of positive spirit beings called angels. But they have their counterpart. The Mosaic Law soundly rejects any meddling with spiritism. De 18:10,11 The four Gospel accounts of Jesusí life have no less than forty-two references to negative spirit beings, fallen angels, called "demons." Where did these demons come from?
The account of Genesis 6 reveals that certain angels violated Godís law of keeping their own spirit nature separate from manís human nature. These angels who "left their own habitation," (Jude 6, 1Pet 3:20) took wives of the women of earth. Although not destroyed in the flood, they were constrained in a condition where they could not return to heaven, nor could they materialize any more on earth. This state, called "tartaroo" (Greek, see Footnote), was to be endured until the Judgment Day.
In the meantime, these fallen angels or demons have been limited to working through willing human channels. They have operated through the bodies of these, instead of bodies of their own. Such "mediums," or human channels were in the past known as "fetishes," "shaman," "wizards," "witches," "necromancers," "medicine men." In dark seances they endeavored to gain control of peopleís minds and bodies. Not able to materialize in bodies of their own making, they tried to possess the bodies and minds of others. When this happens a fate as terrible as drug addiction occurs. The individual enters a slavery to demons. They have misrepresented God. They have misrepresented Godís plan. They have misrepresented the dead. By claiming to be the dead speaking, they have promulgated Satanís lie in Eden,
"Thou shalt not surely die."
The record shows that the restraints that have been placed upon the fallen angels have a time limit-"unto the judgment of the great day." As we now see about us the evidences of the climactic events of the "Day of the Lord," it should not surprise any that the chains of restraint on those evil spirits are gradually being loosened. The upsurge of activity of the fallen angels in the form of newly acceptable channeling sessions, devil worship, and spiritist inspired movies and music is part of the result of the relaxing of the "chains" of restraint. There is no question that Satan and his legions are more energetic than ever to do all the mischief they can.
Despite the clear warnings of Scripture regarding the occult, many Christians subject themselves and their families to be entertained by demon inspired themes. Much seems so harmless. Kindergarten children are taught, as part of a rigorous school curriculum, the friendly side of ghosts and witches. A proper understanding of the seriousness of the negative spirit world demands a healthy distance.
While speaking of the Lordís return, the Apostle Paul (2Thess 2:8-12) says that although the Lord will consume Satan with the "brightness of his presence" (epiphania of his parousia), Satan will very energetically work deceptions "with all power and signs and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness." So strong a delusion will it be that if it were possible it would deceive even the true saints of God-those who would "believe a lie," because they receive not the "love of the truth."
Demons are by no means our friends. But yes, we will see our friends and loved ones again-in the resurrection. Then too, know ye not that the saints "shall judge the angels?" Perhaps some of the fallen angels will have learned their lesson and conformed to Godís will. But those who used their greater liberty to wreck havoc on man will be destroyed in the second death. Re 20:10
Fotenote: Tartaroo-The Word tartaroo, used by Peter, very closely resembles tartarus, a word used in Grecian mythology as the name for a dark abyss or prison. But tartaroo seems to refer more to an act than to a place. The fall of the angles who sinned was from honor and dignity, into dishonor and condemnation, and the thought seems to be-"God spared not the angels who sinned, but degraded them, and delivered them into chains of darkness."
The Christian is admonished to especially put on the "whole armour of God" in the "evil day" that we live in today. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Eph 6:11-13
Is the U.N. Anti-Israel?
Dear Christian Friend,
Once again Israel made headlines, even temporarily pushing the Iraqi crisis from front stage at the U.N. As Christians, we are deeply grieved by all the suffering and shedding of blood in the Middle East. No doubt there have been wrongs on all sides (Jer 3:11). Permanent peace will only come to the Middle East when the principles of Christ, the Prince of Peace, motivate all human actions and transactions (Isa 2:2-4).
The new State of Israel has been a miracle of history in fulfillment of Bible prophecy (Jer 30:3,9,10,18). It is the work of the Lord, but an unfortunate pattern has developed. The Arab nations, the United Nations and now the United States are all opposing Israel. Jer 31:16 has a warning for all such: - "... and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey."
Rocks large enough to kill rained down on 3000 Jewish worshipers and Israel was condemned for defending its most sacred place of worship, the Western Wall. Was excessive force used?
In 1987 Saudi Arabia slaughtered over 400 Iranian Pilgrims at the Moslemís most holy site in Mecca. Of course, then it was open hunting season on Iranians; just as it was open season on Jews during WWII. Allied powers then knew of the holocaust but refused to bomb out the railroad tracks leading to the death camps. And boatloads of Jews, like the St. Louis, were denied entry to the U.S. and sent back to their doom in Europe. Unfortunately, 1989 and 1990 continue to be open season on Jews. Anti-Semitic acts are on the rise to an alarming degree throughout the world. Israel bashing by news media and world powers is a popular pastime.
A Double Standard
Where violence is concerned, neither Israel or any other nation is above scrutiny; but the persistency of the outcry against Israel by the international community is suspect.
When the Arab Legion defied the U.N. and seized East Jerusalem in 1948, Jordan desecrated Jewish holy sites and banned Jews from the city. The world powers remained silent. In 1970 Jordan massacred 20,000 refugees when it expelled the P.L.O. out of its borders. In 1982 Syria destroyed the Moslem Brotherhood stronghold in the city of Hama. Nearly 19,000 were slaughtered. There was no cry of outrage by the international community about either carnage.
In 1985-86 the Amal Arab forces waged total war against the P.L.O. camps in Lebanon. The world viewed the limited television reports with indifference but now cry with outrage at Israelís handling of the Intifada. In the past year of the Intifada, about 50% of Palestinians killed were killed by fellow Palestinians. Intifada terror squads enforce Palestinian cooperation with the Intifada; a fact you donít hear about in the news media. A month ago, the Syrians killed 200 Christian Arab prisoners in Lebanon (US News & World Report, November 12, 1990). Where was the outcry?
The United States helped Iraq defeat Iran, then courted the friendship of Saddam Hussein while he slaughtered thousands of Kurds. But when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the U.S. turned on Hussein. Why? The source of U.S. oil was at stake. Unfortunately, it is often oil power and not moral power that motivates the U.N. Since most world powers are dependent on Arab oil, the 21 Arab nations exert a dominant influence on U.N. policies.
Facts Of History
At the breaking up of the Turkish Empire by the Allies at the end of WWI, both Arabs and Jews requested independent states. The world powers were generous in the extreme to the Arabs by granting them 21 independent Arab states, covering over 5,250,000 square miles. The Jews asked for only 3 percent of this vast territory and finally received less than half of 1 percent.
In 1922 the League of Nations recognized the legal, moral and historic right of the Jewish people to a national home in Palestine, including Jerusalem. Since then, vast oil reserves were discovered in Arab lands. If the Jews had a right to Jerusalem in 1922, that right is valid today. But the nations are compromising Israelís rights for their own oil interests. Consequently, the U.S. administration and the U.N. define East Jerusalem as "occupied territory." This is why Israel refuses to cooperate with the U.N. Resolution. No part of Jerusalem is "occupied territory." Jerusalem-indivisible-belongs to Israel.
The nations of the world would do well to heed the Biblical warning of Zec 12:3 -"In that day I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut to pieces."
During the height of the Arab Empireís rule over the land of Israel, the Arab geographer Muqaddasi wrote in 985 A.D. about Jerusalem: "Everywhere the Christians and the Jews have the upper hand, and the mosque is void of either congregation or assembly of learned men." (KNOWLEDGE OF CLIMES, page 167) The first recorded population census of Jerusalem was made in 1845 A.D. by Dr. Schultze, the Prussian Consul. He recorded a Jewish majority of 7,120 compared to an Arab minority of 5,000. From that year onward, the Jewish majority in Jerusalem increased.
Although there was a separate Jewish quarter in Jerusalem during the 1800s and early 1900s, the Jews, Arabs and Christians lived throughout the Old City until the Arab persecutions of 1929 and 1936. Then the Jews fled to the Jewish quarter or outside the wall. In fact, a large section of what is now referred to as the Moslem Quarter and Christian Quarter was called Hebron Square because so many Jews were situated there. In both the Moslem and Christian Quarters, there are many homes that evince a mezzuzah was removed from the front door post. Plaques written in Hebrew with dates going back to the 1800s have been found inside buildings, thus establishing their Jewish identity.
During the final phase of the "time of trouble" prophesied by Jesus (Mt 24:21), all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem (Zec 14:2; Eze 38-39). Then God will fight for Israel as he did in the days of old (Zec 14:3). Christ will reveal himself to Israel and there will be great repentance and mourning throughout the land of Israel (Zec 12:9-14). Those that have the faith at that time will share in Jerusalem becoming the capital of Christís Kingdom (Zec 8:22,23; Isa 60:10-12; 66:18-22).
Send for your free copy of the essay RESTORATION OF ISRAEL. Written in 1890, it gives remarkable insights about Israel today.
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORDís house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." Isa 2:2,3
Countdown to ArmageddonýThen What?
"And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them, to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Re 16:16, 14
The Communist Bloc collapsedýand the cold war has seemingly ended. But the euphoria of peace was soon eclipsed by the Iraqi War. The greatest array of armed forces since World War IIýrepresenting a coalition of 28 nationsýgathered together in the Middle East. What did this gathering portend?
Megiddo was the great battleground of Palestine, on which were fought many of the famous battles of Old Testament history. John in his symbolic book of Revelation represents the final battle between right and wrong, truth and error, as the Battle of Armageddon. Is this a symbolic battle? What significance is there in the literal gathering of the nations in such close proximity to the Mound of Megiddo?
Many expected a ground war scenario of chemical and nuclear warfare in which Iraq would "scud" Israel with chemical warheads. Israel would retaliate with nuclear bombs. The Arab nations would unite against Israel. Israel would soundly defeat her Arab foes and acquire more land. With Israel then dwelling in the peace posture suggested by Eze 38:8, the stage would be set for the battle of battlesýthe invasion of Israel by "Gog of Magog [Russia]" and the allied armies of Eze 38-39.
Russia Bears Watching
Whatever follows the Iraqi War, the Russian "bear" is up to its old tricks. Indications are that the makings for "Cold War" have broken out on another front. The alliance between the Communist Party conservatives and the army is thriving and gaining power as the bloody suppression of the Baltic Republics testified. Censorship is tightening. Domestic opponents of the regime are accused of treason in language all too reminiscent of the "bad old days." Red Army troops patrolling the streets of major cities are tightening control. Political liberals and advocates of economic reform are being dismissed. These ominous events appear to be the echoes of Shevardnadzesí warning of "a coming dictator."
In foreign affairs, Russia is hedging on its troop withdrawal from Poland and East Germany. On the "Hot War" front, Russian military advisors are still in Iraq. A Soviet ship was caught with weapon parts destined for Iraq.
These alarming developments have been countered by the withholding of promised aid by the Western powers. The peace and arms control summit meeting was postponed.
The break in the Communist Bloc between Russia and her former satellites was a necessary prophetic shift. Poland, East Germany, Hungary, etc., will become a part of the "European Community" while Papacy attempts to revive the old "Holy Roman Empire" (Re 17:13-14; 13:14-17). [See NEW YORK TIMES, April 22, 1990, observations on this subject.]
The Battle of Armageddon will climax when the masses rise up and overthrow the soon-to-be-attempted church-state folly of Europe (Re 16:13-19).
Meanwhile, in the continuing "confederacy" of Psalms 83, Russia apparently will be a force among the Arab nations. Eze 38:4-8 indicates that Russiaís specific intention will then "turn" south to "Persia" (Iran), "Togarmah" (Turkey) and to "Libya" and "Ethiopia" (or Cush, parts of Africa) for an invasion "against the mountains of Israel."
The Mustering for Battle on the Home Fronts
Concurrent with the gathering of armies, an unprecedented "time of trouble" (Da 12:1) is mustering in the United States and around the whole world. Up to 15 million people die of starvation annually. There are 30 million refugees and 100 million homeless. Each day 40,000 babies die of starvation in Third world countries while Americans spend over $900 million yearly feeding dogs and cats.
Pollution: Solid wastes, radio active and toxic chemical wastes are contaminating our rivers, lakes and oceans. Air pollutants from car exhaust and industry are killers. Deaths from respiratory diseases doubles every five years. Skin cancer caused by the depleted ozone layer is rapidly increasing. Acid rain is destroying our forests, which in turn is producing "global warming." This "greenhouse effect" could melt polar ice caps causing oceans to rise and wipe out hundreds of thousands of miles of densely populated coastal lands (affecting 2 billion people). Also, it would dramatically increase temperature variations. This would trigger life-threatening droughts and heat waves turning "breadbasket farmland" (like our Midwest) into barren desert. Severe food shortages would result.
Economic Chaos: The U.S. entered the 1990ís with a staggering debt of $663.7 billion and a perilous foreign trade imbalance. The S&L Associations waver on the verge of complete collapse. Even the commercial banks are in serious trouble. Insurance companies are failing while 1,300 companies claim bankruptcy per week. Accentuating all of these problems, add a recession, which is affecting not only businesses, but families.
One out of five Americans (44 million people) are living below the poverty line of $9,435 yearly income. A third of Americans are "shelter poor." After paying for housing, they have nothing left for other necessities. Three million homeless wander the streets. Poverty drives people to desperation.
AIDS: Ten million people throughout the world are infected with AIDS. By AD 2000, the total number will reach 20 million. More than 3,000 new cases of AIDS are reported in the U.S. every month. An estimated one million Americans are infected. AIDS FAX (Vol. III, No. 1) claims ten million. Its death toll in the U.S. has been 83,000. By 1992 the cost of AIDS medical bills is likely to be $7.5 billion. It is estimated that 20% of the hospitals in this country will financially fault and close by 2000 AD when the medical needs of AIDS patients will peak. Hospital beds will be filled with AIDS patients while people with regular medical needs stand in line to wait for a bed.
Armageddon: a Natural Consequence
Humankind has sown the seeds of sin and reaped "the time of trouble" which will finally knock them flat on their backs so that the only way man can look is up to God. Manís extremity will become Godís opportunity.
Godís side in the coming Battle of Armageddon is the side of the people. The frustrated, disillusioned massesýconscious of their weakness as compared with the establishmentýwill rise up in desperation. Normally the majority of the poor and middle class have no sympathy with anarchy but seek change by legislation or other peaceful methods.
On the other hand, wobbly governments will cling to some sort of stability offered by Christian churches and try to maintain the "status quo." The unlikely coalition between church and state in this very secular time will be a last-resort effort to preserve this old order of selfishness and greed. With this Battle erupts an "earthquake"ýa shaking and rising up from beneath the crust of established society (Re 16:18).
The Final Battle
The final battle between Right and Wrong, Truth and Error, will occur in the Middle East. What is left of the weakened governments of earth will focus their fury against Israel, "when Gog shall come against the land of Israel" (Eze 38:16). The result of this Battle is stated clearly: "Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord" (Eze 38:23).
After Armageddon: Godís Kingdom
Because Jesus died as "a ransom for all," all will have an opportunity to learn of Godís love in His Kingdom. Godís Kingdom will satisfy all the legitimate longings of humankind. Think of the parched drought belt of Africa where millions have starved to death. The climatic conditions of the Kingdom will cause all the earth to bring forth in abundance. (Isa 35:1,7)
There will be no unemployment, fear of automation, inflation, depression or other economic problem. The Kingdom will assure equality and justice to all. The Psalmist said, "He [God] will defend the cause of the poor, deliver the needy and crush the oppressor." (Ps 72:4; Isa 9:7)
Our history is one of bloody war, but in Godís Kingdom, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isa 2:4) Neither will there be any more crime and violence. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain [kingdom], for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Isa 11:9)
There will be no pollution or sickness, no crippling diseases. The blind will see; the deaf hear, and the crippled walk. Even the dead will be restored to life. (Isa 33:4; 35:5; Hos 13:14)
Yes, the nations are mustering internally and internationally for Armageddon, but true Christians need not despair. They know by faith in the "sure word of prophecy" that Armageddonís chastening is the gateway into the Kingdom of God on earth.
Seed of Worldly Church!
"An enemy hath done this."
In few words Jesus painted a broad panorama of Christian history. The parable of the wheat and tares, found in Matthew 13, describes the course of Christianity from the beginning, to its culmination in a harvest. The householder of the parable sowed good seed in his field. The anticipated fruitage was corrupted by the householderís enemy. The enemy over sowed the wheat field with tare seed (false wheat) while the householderís menservants slept. When the blade was spring up and brought forth fruit, the act of vandalization was manifest. The true wheat was choked in the midst of the imitation wheat.
The menservants asked if they should weed out the tares. The householder said, "Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them into bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." Mt 13:24-30
The Parable Explained
This lesson greatly interested the disciples and so they asked Jesus to explain it. What a great benefit to us that he did! The householder represented Jesus. The fieldýthe Christian world with its fruitages. The good fruit represented Christís true followers, his faithful disciples. Tares, which outwardly look like wheat, were imitations planted by the enemyýSatan.
The tares were not to be weeded out until the harvest. The harvest would take place in the end of this world or age (Greek-aion). Jesusí work at the end of the Christian Age is as Chief Reaper. He will order his angels (messengers in the Greek), his disciples, to harvest the wheat in his second advent just as he did in the first. Lk 10:1-3; Joh 4:35,36
The two fruitages are the result of two different kinds of seed. Wheat, the true Christian, springs forth from the Word of God. This is taught in the parable of the sower. "The seed is the word of God...they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it and bring forth fruit with patience." Lk 8:11,15 The apostles carried forth the ministry of Christ, preaching the word of life, sowing seeds of the kingdom. The Father "begat us with the word of truth". Jas 1:18 "In Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the gospel," said the Apostle Paul. 1Co 4:15
A sinister turn in church history occurred when the apostles fell asleep in death (compare Mt 13:25). In their absence Satan sought to corrupt the church. His weapon was error. Just as truth produces a true Christian, so error produces an imitation. Satanís work of corrupting Godís truth in Christ began even during the apostlesí time. "Every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and thus is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now is already in the world." 1Joh 4:3
That anti-christian spirit spread throughout the Christian world sowing tares. Satan hoped to choke the spiritual life out of Godís wheat by surrounding them with tares. One of Satanís principal instruments to sow bad seed were the Neo-Platonist Christians. These were philosopher Christians who sought to apply scientific methods in understanding scripture. Their methods were derived from Plato, a great manýalso a pagan.
The unfortunate result of bending scripture to fit human philosophy was the creation of bad seed and its fruitýnominal Christians. Human science did no favor to the church of God. How sad that the apostolic admonition was not heeded, "Avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some (believers) professing have erred concerning the faith." 1Ti 6:20,21
A False Seed Close up
One such false seed was the Grecian philosophy of eternal torment for the wicked. Neo-Platonic concepts of the afterlife corrupted the simple truth of the Bible Hell. The New Testament Hades and the Old Testament Sheol no longer were perceived as the death state. They were instead transformed into a place of eternal conscious torment. (Space does not here permit an adequately thorough discussion of death and hell. We encourage you to order the booklet "Where Are The Dead?" offered at the end of this letter. The scriptures on these subjects are fully discussed in the booklet.)
The threat of such enormous and eternal suffering was (and still is) held over the heads of unbelievers. They converted to Christ under pressure. Thus many people, who would not otherwise bother being burdened with Christís name, have made a profession of faith.
Godís Purpose in Christianity
Conversion through coercion is not Godís purpose in Christianity. "True worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Joh 4:23,24 In other words, God wants our hearts to yield in willing love to Him and His truth. Many unwilling converts, motivated by fear, have feigned obedience to Him. That is how a tare is created.
The purpose of Christianity is to call out a people for Godís name. Those called out are Godís elect. The elected ones, found faithful in this life, will serve in the office of priests and kings. Their ministry will be to the remainder of humanityýthose not called and willingly converted during the Christian Era. See Ac 15:14-17 and Re 5:10.
The confusion brought about by doctrines of fear have clouded over many important Christian doctrines. The doctrine of election, that God now calls a few to belief, is made horrible by trying to fit it in with Satanís doctrine of eternal conscious torment. The great twists of mind, heart and conscience needed to grasp Satanís teachings on hell bear an empty fruit at best. At worst, those twists bear a fruitage of hate, injustice and selfishness.
Hell in National News
"The Rekindling of Hell" was the featured cover article of U.S. News and World Report for March 25, 1991. "Record numbers of Americans now believe in a nether world and in a wide variety of after death punishments," it claimed. According to a Gallop survey done in November 1990, three out of five Americans now believe in hell. However, views of what constitute hell sharply differ.
Some try to understand hell philosophically and, through human wisdom, invent the hell of their choice. Others fall back on creeds of human invention and hold forth the hell of tradition. Some are returning to the Scriptures to study them anew. The Scriptures are shedding light on hell. "Such highly regarded theologians as Clark H. Pinnock, theology professor at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario; John R.W. Stott, president of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and Philip E. Hughes, a noted Anglican clergyman and author, contend that rather than suffering endlessly, those who ultimately reject God will simply be put out of existence in the Ďconsuming fireí of hell."
"Those who subscribe to this viewýcalled Ďannihilationismíýpoint to New Testament passages that speak of Ďeternal destructioní and Ďthe second deathí for those who know not God and to the Old Testament prophet Ezekielís declaration that Ďthe soul that sins shall die.í"( U.S. News and World Report, March 25, 1991, p. 63).
These men are to be commended for looking back to scriptures to understand what the Biblical hell is. Hughes interestingly observes "that the traditional belief in unending punishment is linked to the erroneous belief in the Ďinnate immortalityí of the soulýa belief, he says, that is based more on Plato than on the Bible."
On the other hand, traditionalists "argue that annihilationism takes some of the punch out of Gospel preaching. ĎTo tell the unrepentant that the worst fate that could befall them is extinction,í says Harold O.J. Brown, a theology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Ďmakes continuing in sin seem less risky.í" And that is the very point of the parable of the wheat and tares. Wheat, the true Christian, rejoice to leave sin behind. They love righteousness and hate iniquity. They are not coerced by terror, but by love and the beauty of Godís Word.
Tares may look back longingly at "the good old days" of sin or may yet practice their old sins after coming to Christ. A popular phrase on T-shirts and bumper stickers today is "How much can I get away with and still get to heaven?" That is not the spirit that a true follower of Christ will have. "Love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." 1Co 13:6
Forewarned is Forearmed
Our hope for all Godís people is that they will be led on to full Christian fruitage by Godís Word. We pray that His people will stand firmly for the truth even against the majority public opinion or entrenched human creeds. Remember that the tares in the parable are the overwhelming majority. Let us all, by the grace of God, receive the Word of God into good and honest hearts, bringing forth good fruit with patience.
"The Only Begotten God"
What does John mean? Who is God? Of all the varieties of Christian beliefs, one centuriesí old belief claims to stand beyond the reach of logic.
It also claims to be separate from Scriptural interpretation. It also maintains it should not be judged because of the decisions and reverses of councils in church history. That doctrine is the belief that Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God, and these three are mysteriously one, co-equal, co-eternal.
Although the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, Joh 1:1 is called upon to establish the trinity, "The Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word was God." But the common translation contains a contradiction, for how can the Word both be God and with God at the same time? Aside from logic, this contradiction is not supported by the Greek text: "the Word was with God, and a god was the Word." (EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT, INTERLINEAR)
Contrary to some popular beliefs of his day, Apostle John was expressing the thought that Jesus had a pre-human existence as "a mighty one" ("a god"). The Everlasting God Himself had no beginning. "He is from everlasting to everlasting." But "in the beginning,"ýthe Wordís beginningýthe Logos was with God as the "only begotten God." (Vs. 18) The common version hides the correct translation by rendering "only begotten Son." But the Greek shows "only begotten theos" ("God"). Jesus in his pre-human existence, indeed, was "a mighty one" who received life (was "begotten") from the Father. Tertulian writing in the second century said, "There was a time when the Son did not exist." THE EARLY CHRISTIAN FATHERS. P.21
Jesus, A Son
Johnís account of the Gospel is full of allusions to Jesusí relationship to God as really a Son. Jesus acknowledged his Father as greater and whose will Jesus continually sought to do. Jesus was not God himself, but the obedient "only begotten Son," sent of God (1Joh 4:9):
"I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I" "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (Joh 14:28; 5:30)
Direct scriptural statements like these show us God is greater than Jesus and that Jesus was not God, but obedient to God who sent him. John also compares the Christianís relationship to God as being the same as Jesusí relationship to God:
"Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou has given me, that they may be one as we are" "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you" "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (Joh 17:11, 22; 20:21,17)
Just think! We are called to be part of this intimate oneness of God and His Son. Certainly, we are not part of a trinity too.
When Jesus claimed he was the Son, "The Jews sought the more to kill him, because he said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God" (Joh 5:18, 19). Jesus, first of all, never claimed to be God, but Godís Son and that was enough to infuriate the Jewish leaders of his day. They never assumed he was claiming to be God, but "similar" (Strongís Concordance 2470 for "equal") to God as His Son. The Pharisees never said Jesus was "equal" to God. The translators did! In fact, Jesus disclaimed his own authority and rank saying, "The Son can do nothing of himselfŗ"
The Scribes and Pharisees could not appreciate Jesusí prehuman existence when Jesus proclaimed he existed before Abraham. They took up stones to cast at him when he said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (Joh 8:57-59). Jesus was saying "I am" as the subject and verb of an ordinary sentence meaning simply that from before Abrahamís time until the present he had had a continuous existence. To make "I am" a title in this sentenceýas appears in Exodus 3:14 referring to God as the "I Am"ýis not possible. In any case, the word "Jehovah" does not really mean "I am" but "He Who Becometh," as J. B. Rotherham (a recognized Protestant authority) explains in his translation of the Bible. The popular rulers of the day could not tolerate Jesusí claim that he existed before and was sent by God his Father in Heaven.
The Holy Spirit was also sent of God. The Holy Spirit was not God Himself. The "Spirit of God," the "Spirit of Liberty," the "Spirit of Understanding" and the "Spirit of Love" are a few of the scriptural terms used to describe the one mind, the disposition or influence of God. These are not titles of one or more Gods, any more than the opposite termsýthe "Spirit of Bondage," the "Spirit of Fear" and the "Spirit of Antichrist"ýare names of one or more devils.
The Holy Spirit is the power that energizes the true Christian in the service of the Lord (Ro 8:11). Although Jesus had the Holy Spirit "not by measure" (Joh 3:34), we have impediments to the full working of the Holy Spirit in ourselves. So we are encouraged to be "filled with the Holy Spirit"ýnot a person, but the influence of Godís mind working in us instead of the "spirit of the world." "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." (1Co 2:11-16).
The Holy Spirit of God is vastly powerful, but its work in our hearts is a delicate operation, subject to our willingness to be led by it. Therefore, we are exhorted by Paul that we "quench not the Spirit," the influence of God in our hearts. (1Th. 5:19) It is not God that we are not to quench. Could God Himself be quenched? Rather, the influence or new mind of the one true God in our hearts should not be killed, but allowed to dwell in us richly.
Those who hold the trinity dear concede that the doctrine is out of the realm of logic to explain how a person could be sent of God and be God Himself. .. how Jesus could pray to God and be praying to Himself at the same time. .. and have Jesus say his Father is greater and yet be equal, etc. The scripture, they say, that says God and Jesus are oneýin the same way as Christians are to be oneýdoes not simply mean that at all. This is called the "mystery" of the trinity.
But what does the New Testament say about "mysteries" and Christian understanding? Nowhere is the term "mystery" attached to the unexplainable doctrine of the trinity. Rather, what is a mystery to outsiders, the Christian knows: "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given" (Mt 13:11). Paul asked prayers for help in preaching "that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel" (Eph. 6:19). What a profound privilege to be given the responsibility of understanding the mysteries of God: "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began" (Ro 16:25).
Our faith is reasonable and we accept scriptural language, unless symbolic, at face value. When questioned on our faith, we should be able "to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1Pe 3:15).
If the trinity is not reasonable, logical nor taught in the Bible, where did it begin? Then what is the source of this doctrine? After the twelve apostles died, a gradual falling away from the original faith occurred. Great numbers of Pagans entered the Church, bringing with them Pagan ideas. The trinity is one of many Pagan concepts which corrupted Christian doctrine during the early centuries of the Christian Era. [Originating in Babylon, the "trinity concept" spread throughout the ancient world and became a prominent feature of the Egyptian, Persian, Grecian, Roman, Japanese and Indian mythologies.]
During the early years of the fourth century, a heated controversy raged between the Arians and the Trinitarians, led by Athanasius. The Arians maintained that Jesus is a created being, pre-existent, though having a beginning in time, a son in the normal sense of the word and subordinate to the Father. The Athanasian party argued that the Son is fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.
Fearing that religious dissension might disrupt the political unity of the Empire, the Emperor Constantine summoned a general council of bishops to settle the dispute. The Council of Nicea in 325 AD chose the teachings of Athanasius and formulated the Nicene Creed. Arius was excommunicated and banished with the other bishops who resisted the decision of the majority. The decision was reversed ten years later in 335 AD But the basic trinitarian position was finally forged at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD The question, rather than settled by the Scriptures and sound reasoning by spiritual men, was settled by those who had more political power and the means to physically enforce a decision by use of arms.
Therefore, the tradition of the doctrine of the trinity is not validated by church history that would give one confidence to believe a doctrine, which is not reasonable or scriptural. Jesus was a mighty God, begotten, created of Jehovah, truly the Son of God.
Why are you a Christian?
2Co 5:14, 15
Some become a Christian just to escape eternal judgment. But God saves us and forgives our sins "for His nameís Sake"(ps 25:11; 106:8). Then there are those who become Christians in order to gain health and prosperity, believing that faith in a "secret kingdom" and its power will grant their reward. How sad! The height of Christian concern should not be "what can God do for me" but rather "what can I do to glorify God." Remember the words of Psa 31:3ý"for thy nameís sake lead me and guide me."
Self-centered vs. Christ-centered Christians
Evidently the church at Corinth included many self-centered Christians. Paul had to chide them in 1Co 4:8-14.
"You are already filled, you have already become rich, you reign as kings without us; and I would that you indeed had become kings so that we also might reign with you... We are fools for Christís sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak but you are strong, you are distinguished, but we are despised. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even unto now. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children." (NAS)
The Apostle Paul expressed the essence of the Christ-centered life in 2Ti 2:11,12, "It is a faithful saying: if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him." The Apostle Peter said, "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you" (1Pe 4:12). In Mt 10, Jesus enumerates the trials, hardships and persecutions that his faithful followers would suffer; then he says, "But he that endureth to the end shall be saved."
The Secret Kingdom???
The time in which the Kingdom of God shall "rule from the rivers to the ends of the earth" is, of course, future. Yet, at Jesusí first advent it was declared, "The Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:15). Some use Lk 17:21, "The Kingdom of God is within you" as proof of the secret kingdom concept. However, the Greek text literally means, "The King is in your midst." Since the faithful followers of Jesus are to reign with him (Re 20:4,6), Jesus also called them the "Kingdom of heaven" (Mt 13). Mt 11:12 shows that "the Kingdom of heaven suffereth violence." Jesus and his church are to be the kings (Re 20:6) in Godís future Kingdom. The sufferings of the Christian walk are the training grounds for reigning in this future Kingdom (He 5:8,9; 2Ti 2:11,12).
Unknown to the world, Christ-centered Christians are now being trained for their future work of reigning with Christ in his Kingdom. They are not using prayer selfishly for physical and material prosperity. Like the Apostles, they pray for strength to endure privation knowing "that the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried in the fire" (1Pe 1:7). By bitter experiences they are developing Christ-like love. "Love your enemies, bless them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you." Mt 5:44
The Purpose of the Kingdom
Most Christians have overlooked the main purpose of the Kingdom. Jehovahís Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, born-again Christians, Mormons, etc., believe that all who do not accept Christ and/or the Gospel before "The Great Tribulation" is over are lost eternally.
How sad that Christians try to give Godís love a narrowness that He will not own. God has not been trying to convert the world. In Mk 4:11,12, Jesus showed that he purposely hid the Gospel from many "lest at any time they should be converted and their sins should be forgiven." Joh 1:9 speaks of Jesus as the "Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Yet millions died before the time of Christ never hearing the only "name (Jesus Christ) under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Ac 4:12). Despite all the missionary efforts since the time of Christ, other millions died not hearing the message of salvation. God is not trying to convert the world during the Christian Age. He is only selecting a little flock (Lk 12:32).
Ac 15:14-17 shows that "God for the first time did visit the Gentiles to take out of (not convert) them a people for his name (Christ-centered Christians, His Church)... After this I will return (second advent) and build again the tabernacle of David (Christís Kingdom)... that the remainder of men might seek after the Lord." Jesus said in Joh 5:28,29, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life (to reign with Christýre 20:6); and they that have done evil (the vast majority of mankind), unto the resurrection of krisis" (Greek for judgment or trial). Christ and his church will enlighten the "remainder of men" in the Kingdomýtheir crisis or probation, "for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isa 11:9).
This is the great "restitution" (restoration) project foretold by all the Old Testament prophets (Ac 3:19-21). This restoration of the willing of "the remainder of men" (Ac 15:17; Re 22:17) to mental, moral and physical perfection of life that was lost in Eden will not be completed until the end of the 1000-year Kingdom of Christ. For this reason Re 20:5 states, "The rest of the dead* ("the remainder of men" of Ac 15:17) lived not again until the 1000 years were finished." All not mentally, morally and physically perfect are dead in Godís sight. Thus Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their dead" (Mt 8:22). It will require the balance of the 1000 years to bring the willing up the highway of holiness (Isa 35:8) to perfect human life.
*Some ancient manuscripts do not contain the words "the rest of the dead."
The School of Christ
How do Christians develop the love, justice, sympathy, understanding, etc., to qualify for a share with Christ as kings, priests (blessers), judges (Re 20:6; 1Co 6:2) in His Kingdom? Christ-centered Christians learn Christ-like love through their sufferings and privations (1Pe 1:7; 2Pe 1:5,6; 1Co 13:5,6). In that way, they will know just how to help "the remainder of men" in their trial time for eternal life. If you are a Christ-centered Christian, you might be interested in the following ad:
WANTED: PECULIAR PEOPLE for Unusual Position
Not necessarily wise or noble, successful or socially accepted. Physical infirmities and heavy personal burdens can be an asset. The training for this position requires a commitment of all your time, all your effort for the rest of your life. Your instructor will insist upon absolute obedience while causing you to lose friends, reputation and personal fortune. These will be replaced by friends not of your choosing, reputation not esteemed by society and personal fortune not negotiable.
Your success or failure will be measured by how carefully you follow the instruction manualýa book which the greatest minds in the world cannot understand and have dismissed as "foolishness." Your course will inspire many hatreds, for which you will be obliged to offer a sacrificing love in return; and the more of this love you master, the more of its servant you will become. Wages offered during the training period consist of a few promisesýconsidered by most as highly doubtful of fulfillment.
Anyone who faithfully completes this course is guaranteed a position as an administrator in the Kingdom of Christ which by Divine intervention will shortly bless all the families of the earth. For further details, send for this free bookletýWHY ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?
Russia! The Nations! What Next?
The eyes of the world are on the Soviet Union. Unquestionably, the events occurring there in the past few weeks are immensely significant. World leaders and the media are watching these events hoping to decipher their impact on mankind. We are blessed, as Godís children, to have His word of truth. The Scriptures have opened our eyes to the real significance and impact of current events.
The Scriptural Context of Todayís Events
The prophetic time context of todayís events is that of The Day of the LORD. "The day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come." "It is the day of the LORDís vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion." Isa 63:4; 34:8 Thus the prophet Isaiah refers to that period which Da 12:1 describes as "a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation"; of which Mal 4:1 says, "Behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble."
This is the day of the LORD wherein Jas 5:1-6 says the rich men shall weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon them; the day which Joel 2:2 describes as a day of clouds and thick darkness; of which Amos 5:20 says is "darkness and not light, even very dark and no brightness in it."
Our Lord Jesus refers to this day in Mt 24:21,22 as a time of "great tribulation" so ruinous in its character that, if it were not cut short, no flesh would survive its ravages. But he will cut it short and flesh will be saved after the tribulation. Then he will turn to them and teach them a pure language that they may call on the LORD. Zeph 3:9
Nations JudgedýNot Individuals
"Therefore wait ye upon me saith the LORD, until the day that I rose up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth (social order) shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy." Zeph 3:8
That the dark and gloomy day thus described by the prophets is a day of judgment upon mankind socially and nationallyýa day of national recompensesýis clear from many scriptures. But, while noting these, we must bear in mind the difference between national judgment and individual judgment. While the nations are composed of individuals (who are largely responsible for the course their nation takes and who do suffer greatly in the consequences of that course) the judgment of the world as individuals is distinct from its judgment as nations.
The Apostle Peter says that Jesus Christ will be raised up as a prophet to the world after his second coming. Then during the times of restitution, when the Millenial Kingdom will bring earthís restoration, those individuals who "will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people." Ac 3:20-23
Chief Cause of National Judgment
The day of vengeance stands naturally related to the benevolent object of its divine permission. That objective is the overthrow of the entire present order of things in preparation for the permanent establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, under Christ, the Prince of Peace.
The prophet Isa 63:1-6 viewing the present time saw a mighty conqueror clothed with authority and power riding forth victoriously over his enemies, with whose blood his garment is stained. "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?"
Edom is the name given Esau after he sold his birthright to Jacob. Edom is an appropriate symbol of a group in this age who similarly sold their birthright; and that too for a reward as meager as the mess of pottage which influenced Esau. That reward has been respect of men, comfort and earthly power in the present time to the compromise of future rewards from God.
Edom is frequently used by the prophets in reference to the present so called Christian world or Christendom. By allying herself with the kings of earth, to prematurely establish Christís Kingdom, the Church unfortunately played the harlot. The result of this illicit union was the "Holy" Roman Empire. The ensuing centuries of her reign were filled with ignorance, corruption and bloodshed on a massive scale. Far from being the light that lightens the Gentiles Isa 42:6,7) we refer to that period of history as The Dark Ages.
The prophet Daniel gives a vision of five universal empires. Four are of this present evil world. The fifth is Godís Kingdom in Christ. These empires rule earth uninterruptedly. Each succeeding kingdom is present before it overthrows its predecessor. In the seventh chapter of Daniel we see the rise of the "Man of Sin." 2Thess 2:3, 8, 20 This man, the "little horn" of verses 8 and 20, speaks great things, changes times and seasons and persecutes the true saints of the most high.
Notice that the little horn, the "Man of Sin," is obviously not the fifth universal empireýwhich is the true Kingdom of Christ. It is, however, part of the fourth, the dreadful (Roman) beast. Da 7:19,20 God is judging the nations now, but with particular emphasis on those that have claimed to be His kingdom. They have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. This great sin of nations will thus receive national punishment.
Russia and the Baltic States
The prophet Amos gives us a very exciting view of the past eighty or so years in a remarkably encapsulated form. "Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! To what end is it for you? The day of the LORD is darkness and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him." Amos 5:18,19
Those that prematurely desired the day of the LORD, thinking to establish themselves in power, will find a bitter fruitage awaits their actions. In our time we have borne witness to the empire of the lionýthe universally recognized symbol of Great Britain. During the height of colonialism the sun never set on the British Empire. After World War I the British sun began to set. As men began to flee that colonial arrangement the bear met them.
All recognize the bear as Russiaís national symbol. Truly, with the demise of the British Empire, the rise of communism out of Russia began. Now we see communismís collapse. The Soviet Union is dissolving. One by one the member states of the USSR have proclaimed their independence. One by one they are fleeing into the house. Nationalism is scripturally represented by a house. The various republics are fleeing into their houses of nationalistic pride. As they lean on the walls, as they put their trust in the strength of a nation, they are bitten by a serpent. That old serpent, Satan, will deceive the nations.
What will the deception be? Will it be the uniting again of church and state? Will the nations succumb to creating another counterfeit kingdom of Christ? We must watch and pray lest we also be deceived.
We are espoused to Christ as pure and holy virgins of faith. We lament the fall of the early church into fornication (Re 17:12) with the kings of the earth. Yes, the Church will reign with Jesus over all the earth, but it will be by Godís powerýnot the power of earthly strength. The hope of our faith, to be joined with Christ and bless all the families of earth, will soon come to pass. Let us keep our faith and our patience in this hour of temptation. (Re 3:10) May we, by Godís grace, stand strong in the promises of His word and His Divine principlesýthey are His keeping power.
We encourage you to read "The Battle of Armageddon" a powerful 656 page treatise on the passing of this world and the establishment of Godís Kingdom on earth.
Who will be Godís Judges?
"The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son." "The saints shall judge the world... we shall judge angels!"
Spotlighting the attention of the press and the public for the past several months is the choosing of the right person to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The selection has heartened some and divided and dismayed others. The appointed candidate, his character, his background, his values, his philosophy and even his loyalties to Constitution or "natural law" have been rehearsed, questioned and mulled over before confirmation to that respected position.
Simply said, the people of the United States, their Congressional representatives and their "watch dog" media have serious concerns about who will now sit in judgment over them and decide on issues for the next thirty some years.
By contrast to the recent hearings in this confirmation process and its media attention, a process of confirmation of "associate judges" is going on that the nation and even the world knows little or nothing about. More remarkable, this selection has been in progress for almost 2,000 years.
From the Gospel according to Joh 5:22,23, it is clear Godís supreme choice is His Son: "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which sent him." While God does not ask us to pass approval on his appointment, we are asked to join God in honoring His Son!
Godís Supreme Judges
But, Jesus will not judge alone. God has determined to have other judges with Jesus. Who will they be? "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world. Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" 1Co 6:2,3
Who are these associate judges who will seemingly have so much power? How can any be trusted to "judge the world," let alone angels? The Apostle Paul himself says he does not even have the capability of judging himself, "Yea, I judge not mine own self." He chides the brethren for judging each other, "Why dost thou judge thy brother?" (Ro 14:10)
Christians for centuries have shamefully judged other Christians. The Papacy through the years has judged and persecuted Protestants. In our own country Protestants have persecuted Catholics. Where has Godís hand been?
Back when Israel was an infant nation in the land of Israel, God "raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge." (Jud 2:18) There was no king. This system prevailed for longer than U.S. American historyý450 years. The people prospered with their judges. One of their greatest judges was Samuel. However, his sons, who were also judges, abused their authority. Instead of waiting for another appointment of a judge after Samuel, the people in their frustration chose another system. They wanted a king just like all the other nations around them. The new kings over Israel were a mixed blessing.
The question remains, how will the Church whom Paul is addressing, judge the world and angels? Where will these judges come from? What will be their background? Will they have weaknesses? What will be their "record"? Their qualifications? On what Law will their decisions be based? Then, just what will be their responsibilities?
"Brothers, you see Godís way of calling you. There are few among you who are wise as the world counts wisdom; there are few who are influential; there are few of aristocratic birth." (1Co 1:26) Even Jesus, "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor." (2Co 8:9) The background of Godís judges is evidently humble. Why is this so? God wants sympathetic judges to represent Him, ones who understand because they have plumbed the depths of human experience. These first-hand experiences with the needs and frustrations of life will make them sympathetic when finally reaching a position of judicial authority. They will not forget.
However, simply being poor and exposed to trials "common to man" (1Co 10:13) will not automatically qualify a person to be a good judge. The Christian who is being prepared to "judge the world" in Godís Kingdom is sensitive. He is sensitive because through his lifeís ordeals he or she has not become bitter or vengeful. These overcoming Christians will be qualified judges because they have fought against their own fallen conditions. They have learned compassion and are effective in their sympathy because they understand human nature.
Will Christians who are to be judges with Christ have a perfect record? If "perfect record" means no mistakes, No! There will be dark corners in their lives, seeming inconsistencies. But in those dark corners and inconsistencies, the struggle against sin will be obvious. There may be failures, but there will be no hypocrisy.
Natural LawýHigher Law
By what Law will these overcoming Christians judge in the future? Will it be their own lawýor interpretation of Godís Law?
One of the recent concerns aired during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings has been the question of "natural law." The position taken by many has been that a judge should be responsive to the U.S. Constitution and not to his own conception of a higher "natural law." In American judicial history, "natural law" has been cited to justify decisions. "Natural Law" was cited to affirm that slaves confiscated from a pirate ship should be freedýwhile in another case "natural law" was cited to affirm that a slave, as property, should be returned to his owner! No wonder Senators were concerned about the nomineeís comments about "natural law." We should not be surprised that men not governed by Godís Laws would be nervous about someoneís interpretation of "higher laws."
Godís judges will understand His Laws. Their interpretation and application of those Laws will be consistent with Godís wisdom, justice, love and power. Godís judges will be nurtured on his Law while they walked the earth. "O, how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me I have sworn and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments." (Ps 119:97,102,106)
Just what is Godís Law? Jesus summarizes the whole Law, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul and strength and thy neighbor as thyself." But that Law has been the farthest from manís experience. How to apply it? How to enforce it?
How sensitive is God to the suffering of humanity? He is described as the God of the widows, the fatherless, the needy and poor. (Ps 68:5; 72:4) Yet the widows, the fatherless, the needy and poor have suffered long centuries with barely any justice at all. Indeed, the whole groaning creation waits "for the manifestation of the sons of God." (Ro 8:19,22) They are waiting for Godís judges.
They will share authority under Jesus, who is Godís "Holy arm." "Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad before the LORD for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth. His right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory for he cometh to judge the earth with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity." (Psa 96-98) This time has not come yet. Valiant have been the attempts of man to dispense justice and judgment. Sad has been the success.
How will this righteous judgment be established in the earth? Each man deserves dignity and just rights. "Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." (Isa 2:3) Godís judges in heaven will have their visible representatives on earth. Addressing Israel, God says, "And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross and take away all thy tin: And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The City of Righteousness, the faithful city." (Isa 1:25,26)
These judges will be Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the worthies of old. They are fathers of faith to the Christian. But they will be children of the Church in the Kingdom: "Instead of thy [the kings daughterís] fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth." (Ps 45:12-16)
Finally, one of the closing promises of Jesus to his followers will be fulfilled. The Church will be able to render equitable judgment to the groaning creation crying for justice. "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me, that ye may sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Lk 22:28-30) Then no citizen of the Kingdom need fear an unfair decision when Godís judges represent Him.
"And I saw thrones, and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Re 20:4
Manna for the Christian
"What is it?"
Israel in the wilderness of Sinai what a striking picture! Egypt behind them. Canaan before them, and the sand of the desert around them. The wilderness afforded not one blade of grass for the Israel of God. Manna: The "bread from heaven" alone was their portion. "Manna" literally means, "what is it?" What was "manna"? How essential was it?
Israel in the wilderness was a graphic illustration of Christians in this wilderness world. They have nothing here. Their life being heavenly can only be sustained by spiritual things. Though "in the world, they are not of it" for Christ has chosen them out of it. Christ can only sustain the new life in the believer. "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." Christ is the "bread from heaven "
The manna was so pure and delicate that it could not remain for long in contact with the earth. Manna fell with the dew (Nu 11:9) and had to be gathered before the sun was up. Each Israelite, therefore, had to rise early and seek his daily portion. So it is with the people of God now. The heavenly manna many be gathered fresh every morning. We must feed upon Christ our primary object. We must seek him "early" before other things have had time to take possession of our hearts. Many of us fail in this sorting out of priorities. We give Christ a secondary place, and the consequence is we are left feeble and barren.
Another lesson: With the exception of the Sabbath, the manna would corrupt if an Israelite gathered more than his daily portion. Manna could not be hoarded up for the days ahead. There is a danger of the Christianís intellect outstripping his heart. Paul tells us that "knowledge puffeth up but love buildeth up." We should always remember that Christianity is more than a system of doctrines. Christian theory must become a living realityýa personal, practical, powerful force, revealing itself in all the circumstances of life shedding its influence over the entire character and imparting its love to every relationship which one may be called of God to fill.
From Nu 11 we learn that Israel grew tired of the manna and longed for the "fleshpots of Egypt." But they seemed to have forgotten the lash of the taskmaster and the toil of the brick kilns.
Unfortunately, this longing for the world can happen to the Christian. When "first love" declines when Christ ceases to be our satisfying portion when the Word of God and prayer lose their thrill and become heavy, dull and mechanical then the eye wanders back to the world and the heart follows the eye. We forget, at such moments, what the world was to us when we were in it and of it. We forget what toil and slavery, what misery and degradation we found in the service of sin and Satan and think only of the gratification and ease, the freedom from those exercises, conflicts and anxieties which attend the wilderness path of Godís people.
Some allow the world to determine for them what they will do and what they will be. They conform to the influences about themýthey can rise no higher because they have looked no higher. All too often this is the only goal parents want for their childrenýjust a good job and financial well-being. In this pursuit countless people are trampling upon others while they try to claw their way to a "mythical" financial top. How much of the human spirit is being trounced and how many are left wounded and discouraged from the modern oppression of human competition! Are you committed to never-ending toil, to uncomforted mourning, to a meaningless succession of nights and days consumed with just eating, drinking and breathing? Is this what you are seeking?
What Seek Ye?
Jesus once asked one of the most searching of questions: "What seek ye?" (Joh 1:38) Is it pleasure you are seeking, the desire to be entertained, to have others take care of your mind, to let them fill it with what they wantýonly to sense inwardly you are shriveling in mind and heart? Most people would not like to think this is true of themselves, but their actions demonstrate this is indeed what they are seeking. But "What seek ye?"
For those seeking faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love, the place to find it is in God and Christ Jesus His Son (2Pe 1:5-11). Here is where our search will begin and end. If we seek these things of God, we must do so with a fixed purpose and determination. The world is not going to assist us here. We must feed on things of the Spirit of God. Like the Israelites who gathered manna (Ex 16) every day to sustain them, so we must seek to feed upon the Word of the Lord.
Heroes of Faith
Daily, consistent devotion to God has characterized the outstanding men and women of the Bible. Out of their devotion a rich life of faith resulted and out of their faith, the result was evident in their actions. Heb 11 presents the record of their faith.
-ABEL offered a sacrifice "which pleased God." (Heb 11:4)
-ENOCH had such great faith he could be said to "walk with God." (Ge 5:22; Heb 11:5)
-"By faith ABRAHAM obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive an as inheritance; and he went out not knowing where he was to go." Abraham believed God, which is considerably different than believing in God. He believed not only for himself, but his faith grew to the point where he was willing to offer his own son in sacrifice at Godís request. God acknowledged his faith saying, "For now I know that you fear [reverence] God." (Ge 22:12)
-"MOSES" refused to be called the son of Pharaohís daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward." Heb 11:26
The list could go on telling of the devotion of these heroes of faith Both their great and small acts of faith were embedded in a daily walk with God, a daily fellowship with their God.
The Christian must daily gather his "manna." Morning devotions are a must for every Christian. To help you gather the "bread from heaven" early each morning, we recommend the daily devotional entitled, Daily Heavenly Manna. Of the numerous daily devotionals available, many Christians have found this companion to be the most complete and balanced diet for morning meditation.
Goat Helps Save World
The headlines in the daily news are very troubling. The collapse of the Soviet Union has resulted in the outbreak of civil wars. More unrest looms in the future. In the West concern is generated by the vast stockpile of Soviet nuclear weapons. Who really is or will be in control of "the button?" The plight of the common people of the former USSR does not leave us unmoved. Our hearts are troubled by the forecasts of riots and impending starvation.
Domestic crises face us in this country also. Lingering economic recession has resulted in massive layoffs. The list of corporations going bankrupt, restructuring or cutting work forces grows daily. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost. Tens of thousands of families are undergoing severe hardship. Recent surveys show that the mood of the country about its economic future is darker than at any time since the Great Depression.
Drug and alcohol abuse are claiming increasing numbers of lives. The spread of AIDS is mushroomingýwith no sure hope of a cure in sight. The environment is staggering under the weight of decades of reckless abuse. Forests are steadily being gouged off the face of the earth. The ozone layer, which protects us from the sunís harmful rays, is being destroyed.
In these stormy times great leaders are needed to guide the nations to security. Ironically, just when the need is so great, many leaders are now being judged incompetent or ineffective. Others are caught in scandal. But there is one leader, soon to be revealed to the world, who is more than capable of solving all of Earthís ills. Jesus Christ who in his times will show who is the King of those who reign as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords. (1Ti 6:14,15, NAS margin)
The government of the world will at long last be upon the shoulders of Jesus (Isa 9:6) and his associates. Those who have suffered with him in the present time are the ones who will be kings and lords with him at his appearing. 2Ti 2:11,12; 3:12 (NAS)
The Sufferings Foretold
Jesus said, "Moses wrote of me" (Joh 5:46). After his death and resurrection he spoke to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and then to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself."lk 24:26,27
Moses wrote prophetically of Jesus in the Tabernacle worship services. There, in the drama of the Day of Atonement sacrifices, a type or picture of Christís sufferings was portrayed. The blood of a bullock and a goat was used to make atonement for the sins of the people. (This "the Lordís goat" should not be confused with the "scapegoat" which was not sacrificed as was the bullock.)
The blood of the bullock was taken into the Most Holy of the Tabernacle first. It opened the way for the blood of the Lordís goat which would follow. Then, after the blood of the goat was offered, the fat of the bullock and goat were burnedýa sweet savour. The carcasses of those animals were burned outside the camp. This gave off a pungent and highly objectionable odor to the Israelites.
The bullock obviously represented our Lord Jesus. Why was a goat also offered? Who did the Lordís goat represent? The Apostle Paul helps to clarify these questions in the book of Hebrews.
"We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." Heb 13:10-13 The Apostle shows that we (who are serving in the antitype of the Tabernacle) can partake of the spiritual altar. Those who served in the type could not partake of the true altar while offering typical sacrifices. The bodies of the typical sacrifices were burned outside the camp. The stench of their burning was a reproach unto these dwelling in the camp of Israel. Paul reveals that Jesus fulfilled the Day of Atonement sacrificeýbearing the reproach. "The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." Ro 15:3 Paul also teaches that we bear the reproach with Jesus. "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp bearing his reproach." Heb 13:13
The Lordís Goat Typifies the Church
Christís brethren, the true Church, bear the same reproach that he bore in fulfillment of the type. Therefore, we are represented in the picture of the offering of the bullock and goat. Our role was pictured by the Lordís goat and Jesusí role by the bullock.
Many scriptures are brought to a full clarity when we perceive the role of the Church in the sin offering picture. Referring to his life of sacrifice and impending crucifixion Jesus said "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" Joh 18:11 Christís followers drink of that same cupýthe cup of sharing in his sufferings. "Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of." Mk 10:39 "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (the participation) in the blood of Christ?" 1Co 10:16
The stench of the burning bodies of bulls and goats pictures how the world (which knoweth us not) views our life of sacrifice. "We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved and in them that perish. To the one we are a savour of death unto death, and to the other a savour of life unto life." 2Co 1:15,16
Hard sayings are opened up and made plain. "Fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his bodyís sake." Co 1:24 Jesusí sacrifice as the bullock was perfectýcomplete. What then was behind or lacking in the afflictions of Christ? It was the fulfilling of the goat picture by Jesusí body members. "For as we have many members in one body, ...so we, being many (individual members) are one body in Christ. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." Ro 12:4,5; 1Co 12:27 We thus are to be heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him; that we may be also glorified together. Ro 8:17
The Goat Helps Jesus Save the World
All the present troubles that plague mankind will be thoroughly corrected by the rule of Christ. Jesus the head and the church as his body will rule with strict justice and tender mercy. God will make his covenant with mankind through them just as he made a covenant for the blessing of Israel. After the bullock and goat were completely offered the people were blessed. After Jesus and his body members are completely offered the blessings of God will be bestowed upon the remainder of men.
2Co 6 is thrilling from this perspective. "For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." vs. 2 Commonly the emphasis on this scripture is that now is THE accepted time, now is THE day of salvation. Looking at the original Greek, the word "the" is not found. The proper rendering should be "now is an accepted time, now is a day of salvation." Now is the accepted time to call a few to a spiritual reward. The rest of mankind will have their day of salvation during Christís earthly Kingdom. Isaiah confirms both the proper language and thought of 2Co 6:2.
"Thus saith the LORD, in an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages." Isa 49:8 The apostleís application of this scripture to us proves that we, Christís followers, are given to establish a covenant of the people.
As the goat shared with the bullock in renewing the Covenant of Israelýso we share with Jesus in establishing the covenant of blessing for the world (Isa 49:8). By working with Jesus we will help establish the earth. By assisting Jesus in the conquest of sin those heritages desolated by death will be re-inherited. Thus it is that a lowly "goat," by Godís grace, helps save the world.
When Grace Is Not Grace
Eph 1: 6, 7
If not for Godís infinite, inscrutable grace, where would we be? We would be nowhere. We would be nothing. Nowhere. Nothing.
Christianity begins with an admission, an admission of undoneness. This undoneness is called sin. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God..." (Ro 3:23) This frank admission is the beginning of real wisdom and progress.
Humanist theories may propose that manýby just one more peace conference, one more breakthrough in scienceýcan pull himself up. Evolutionists mayývery unscientificallyýhypothesize that man is getting "better" now than at any time in the past. New Agers may dream-with old Eastern thought-that man is on the dawn of a better day-if only we can do just a little better ourselves.
But the Christian is free to admit that we are at the mercy of Godís plan of grace. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Being justified freely by his [Godís] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Ro 3:23, 24)
How then could anyone think of adding anything to Godís grace? Would there be anything a Christian canýor mustýdo beyond being justified simply by faith because of the grace of God? The Apostle Paul says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not by works lest any man should boast." On the other hand, in another place Paul does say, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." And, of course, the Apostle James says, "Faith without works is dead." (Jas 2:20) Are these scriptures contradictory to clear teaching that we are saved by Godís grace by faith in Jesus Christ? Not at all.
Faith, Works and Salvation
Most of the Apostlesí arguments seemingly against "works" are taken from the context of keeping legalisms of the Law of Moses, the Law Covenant. The Apostles dealt extensively in this area, showing how once justified by faith, we cannot please God by works of the Law. Needless to say, one could not be justified before God in the first place by works of the Lawýinstead of faith in Jesus.
What does it mean to be "saved by faith"? Furthermore, how are we to understand "salvation"?
First, one is saved from the condemnation, which rests heavily, and squarely on all Adamís posterity, "As in Adam all die." (1Co 15:22) There is nothing anyone can do to save himself from this predicament of sin and its consequence of death. "Our righteousness is as filthy rags" Only Godís merciful grace alone can provide a recovery from this no-way-out situation.
Paul adds a further dimension to "salvation" when talking to the Church at Rome, "For now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed (Ro 13:11). If a Christian had salvation when he first believed, how could salvation be said to be "nearer" at any point after that time? Also, Jesus himself taught, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Mt 10:22). Paul too warns, "Ye are saved if ye keep in memory what I have preached to you, unless ye have believed in vain" (1Co 15:2).
It is evident that after a Christian receives justification by faith, he or she must "show his faith by his works" (Jas 2:18). Justification is not eternal life. Salvation from condemnation is one thing. And salvation to life is another. The Christian must grow in Christ-like character and serve God with his whole heart, mind, soul and strength. Once we become "branches" in the true vine of Christ, we must bear fruit. If a branch does not bear fruits of spiritual development, it is "cut off." Joh 15:1-8
The Justified Must Bear Fruit
Where then is Godís grace? Godís graceýthrough Jesusýenables the Christian to grow and mature. "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (Joh 15:5). A Christian must do his part after he is freely justified by God. To expect grace to continue without growth is to "receive the grace of God in vain" (2Co 6:1). One must not presume on the grace of God. Grace received without responsible living is grace received in vain.
What kind of fruitage must a Christian bear? Peter says we are to add to our faith, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and finally love. How necessary is fruitbearing? "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Pe 1:3-11).
Godís grace does not stop with justification; but Godís grace enables the Christian to grow. "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work" (2Co 9:8). Christians must do their part.
Too many Christians feel all they need to do is acknowledge Jesus died for them and they are guaranteed passage to heavenýregardless of what they do or fail to do. In Christianity Today, January 14, 1991, p. 28, David F. Wells says, speaking of evangelistic revivals, "They prove hollow, and when a mere 10 percent of the professed converts in a crusade are still faithful after a year, evangelists and pastors pronounce it a great success. What happens to the substantial number of people who Ďdecideí for Christ but find their decision was apparently empty of spiritual reality?" Has the 90 percent "received the grace of God in vain"? Or perhaps they never accepted grace in the first place. In any case, if they have not born fruit, they could not be abiding in the grace of God.
Some of the same Christians who believe expecting "works" on a Christianís part is demeaning Godís graceýalso believe countless billions will be lost forever because they do not accept Godís grace now. Consider this question: Which of these two views is demeaning to Godís graceýwe can do nothing now or God can do nothing later?
The Gospel of the Grace of God
What did Paul mean when he so eloquently referred to the "Gospel of the grace of God" (Ac 20:24)? Paul himself identified the "gospel" as given to Abraham, "In thee shall all nations be blessed" (Gal 3:8). He goes on to explain, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Ga 3:16). Is the "seed" from Abraham only Jesus Christ? Paul does not leave us to wonder. "Ye are all one in Christ. And if ye be Christís, then are ye Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Ga 3:28, 29). Which promise?
"By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore...and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Ge 22:17, 18).
Does the "gospel of the grace of God" teach that the Christian church, the seed of Abraham, would alone be blessed? No! The gospel is this: In Abrahamís seed all nations would be blessed. Truly, the "seed" would be blessed by being a blesser to the nations. "So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham" (Ga 3:9). Abraham will be blessed because he will be a blesser! If we are to be blessed "with Abraham," not specifically by him, we are to share the same type of blessing he does. The Christian Church will be the bride of the "king" and Abraham will be among the "princes of all the earth" (Ps 45:14,16). Abraham and his "seed" together will be blessersýof the nations.
The gospel of Godís love and grace has been "preached [virtually] in all the world for a witness unto all nations." (Mt 24:14) Are we to believe that if the nations have had the gospel "preached" to them, the promise to Abraham is fulfilled? A "witness" does not mean a conversion of the world. The gospel was sent out to "take out of them [the Gentile nations] a people for his name" (Ac 15:14). Is this preaching alone all there is to the blessing of the nations? Certainly it could not be so. Although the gospel has been printed in every language of the earth, precious few of earthís billions have really been able to hear or believe.
Godís Grace to the Nations
Might the promise to Abraham so long ago, then, have been an overstatement? Or is the promised blessing thisýthe future "healing of the nations" (Re 22:2)? For the Christian who has been blessed by believing the gospel, the promise may seem to be fulfilled. But not so for the vast majority of people blinded by Satan.
[Satan]"the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." (2Co 4:4) Thus the gospel has not been understoodýif even heard at all by the manyýbut it will be in "due time" (1Ti 2:4-6).
The only opportunity for believing the gospel will come when Jesus binds Satan a thousand years "that he should deceive the nations no more" (Re 20:2,3). Christís thousand-year Kingdom is when Godís grace will bless the nations.
"And in this mountain [Kingdom on earth] shall the Lord of hosts destroy the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God we have waited for him, and he will save us we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isa 25:6-9).
To say Godís grace will only save a few now while Satan is the "god of this world"ýis not grace at all. To say Godís grace does not require that a Christian must grow and show his faith by his worksýis not grace at all. But Godís grace does enable the faith justified Christian to grow. And Godís grace has planned blessings for all others as wellýblessings that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1Co 2:9).
This grace is grace.
The Holy Alliance
Ronald Reagan entered the office of President in January 1981 on a crusade against the Communist Empireýor as he characterized itý"that evil empire." Pope John Paul II had an implacable hatred of Communism. These two crusaders met for the first time on June 7, 1982, in the Vatican Library.
The February 24, 1992, issue of TIME under the article, "The Holy Alliance," details the incredible story of their meeting and agreement to undertake a clandestine campaign to hasten the dissolution of the Communist empire. The following are some quotations:
%"One of his earliest goals as President, Reagan says, was to recognize the Vatican as a state Ďand make them an allyí" [emphasis added].
%"Both the Pope and the President were convinced that Poland could be broken out of the Soviet orbit if the Vatican and the U.S. committed their resources to destabilizing the Polish government and keeping the outlawed Solidarity movement alive after the declaration of martial law in 1981."
%"A free non-communist Poland, they were convinced, would be a dagger to the heart of the Soviet empire; and if Poland became democratic, other East European states would follow."
%" the objective was akin to creating a Christian Democratic majority in Poland with the church and the overwhelmingly Catholic membership of Solidarity as the dominant political force in a post-communist Poland."
%"Both sides agreed that the Soviets must become the focus of an international campaign of [Economic] isolation and the withholding of Western and Japanese technology from Moscow."
%"The key Administration players were all devout Roman Catholicsí CIA Chief William Casey, Allen, Haig, [Vernon] Walters, William Wilson, Reaganís first ambassador to the Vatican. They regarded the US-Vatican relationship as a holy alliance: the Moral force of the Pope and the teaching of their church combined with their fierce anti-communism"
%Archbishop Pio Lashi said: "It was a very complex situation But I told Vernon, ĎListen to the Holy Father [Pope]. We have 2,000 yearsí experience at this.í"
%"Step by reluctant step, the Soviets and the Communist government of Poland bowed to the moral, economic and political pressure imposed by the Pope and the President."
We can appreciate the idealism of Reagan and the Pope to rid the world of that "evil empire." Aside from the issue of how involved a Christian should be in the governments of this world, we want to probe the prophetic implications of this incredible drama. Therefore, we will be discussing prophetic organizationsýand not making value judgments of individuals.
Quotations 1 and 7 (above) from the TIME article are revealing. In Quotation 1 Reagan refers to the Vatican as a "STATE." The Roman Catholic Church claims to be a civil government in addition to being a Christian Church. Why? It claims to be Godís Kingdom on earth. As such, it claims the right to civil power and consequently actually functions as a world powerýexchanging ambassadors with other nations, etc. Whatís wrong with claiming to be both the spiritual and civil Kingdom of God?
Who is the Virgin?
The faithful church is spoken of as a chaste "virgin" engaged to the Lord, eagerly awaiting the return of her heavenly bridegroom (2Co 11:2; Mt 25:1-13). After the Lordís return, the marriage takes place and only then does the bride (faithful church) and the bridegroom (Jesus Christ) set up the Kingdom of God on earth (Re 19:7; 21:1-5; 22:17). Conversely, Re 17:1-5 symbolically describes a woman who is called "the mother of harlots" because she "committed fornication" with "the kings of the earth." This fornication is symbolic of a scripturally unlawful union with the governments of the world. This woman is not symbolic of individual Christians, but of a religious organization that did not wait for the bridegroomís return and the marriage. Rather, she broke her vows of engagement to Christ by uniting with the kings (governments) of the world to set up the counterfeit Kingdom of God before the Bridegroomís return. This is spiritual harlotry in Godís sight. And if there is a "mother of harlots," there are also daughters.
Who is the Harlot?
Quotation 7 refers to the Vaticanís experience of 2,000 years influencing and manipulating governments. Two thousand years is a bit presumptuous. It was not until 533 AD that the Bishop of Rome was recognized by the Emperor Justinian as the head or Pope of the Church of the Roman Empire. After 539 AD the Pope of Rome exercised temporal power over Rome and its environs. In 744 AD Emperor Charlemagne made the Pope ruler of much of Italy. In 800 AD Papacy was officially recognized as the Kingdom of God when Charlemagne had Pope Leo III crown him Emperor of the Western Empire and/or Holy Roman Empire. For centuries this Papal counterfeit Kingdom of God held the masses in chains of superstition and crowned and uncrowned kings and emperors.
Luther and other reformers identified the Papacy as the "little horn of Daniel 7 & 8 and the antichrist beast of Revelation 13." The civil power of Papacy was relatively unchallenged until Napoleon downgraded the Papacy in 1799. Later in the 1870ís with the unification of Italy, Victor Emmanuel liberated the Papal States leaving the Pope Vatican City. Then the Marxist philosophy of Communism eclipsed Papacyís influence after 1917.
In the Reagan-Pope John Paul battle against communism, Papacy might look like "Mr. Clean" compared to Communism. But look at another scenario recorded in Paul I. Murphyís book, La Popessa. In Munich in 1919 Adolf Hitlerís nationalism was born. Archbishop Pacelli, later to become Pope Pius XII, already lived in fear of atheistic communism because of its professed aim to annihilate Catholicism. He presented Hitler with a large amount of Church money to "help his small, struggling band of anti-communists. ĎGo quell the devilís works,í Pacelli told Hitler."
In 1933 Pope Pius XI signed a concordat with Hitler. "It ordered the Holy Seeís clergy to swear fealty to Hitler and the Third Reich. It further ordered that prayers be said publicly for the Fuhrer and Germany by Catholic bishops and priests. The Church, in effect, pledged never to oppose Hitlerís dictatorship." A similar pact, the Lateran Treaty, was signed with Mussolini. The Papacy considered the Nazis and Fascists as their best defense against communism.
In German Catholics and Hitlerís Wars, by Gordan Zahn, the author, a Catholic sociologist and professor of sociology at Loyola University, explains that almost all German Catholics completely supported Hitlerís wars of raw aggression and ruthless conquest because of formal direction given by Catholic Church leaders and the Catholic press. 
In late 1942 the Vatican learned of the Holocaust but chose to remain silent so as not to offend Hitler. Again we can sympathize with the good intentions of individuals. But Re 17:1-5 shows a church system that continued to unite with the governments of Europe and calls it harlotry.
There is a current demand that the Vatican open its files on its post-war activities to probe whether the "escaping Nazis Ďhad many protectors in the Vatican,í where prelates hope they would be useful allies in the coming fight against communism."
A Secret Agenda
With the collapse of Communism, seemingly the crusade of Reagan and Pope Paul was accomplished. But the Vatican had a secret agenda unknown to Reagan. The fall of "that evil empire" was only the beginning of this agenda.
Pope John Paul II revealed the Vaticanís complete agenda in a statement on April 21, 1990, "A united Europe is no longer a dream. It is not utopian memory from the middle ages [emphasis added]. The events that we are witnessing show that this goal can be reached."
The Pope wants to revive the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages when no one dared question the Papacyís claim to be the Kingdom of God on earth. That glorious hour of Papal Rome was written in lood. Historians call it the Dark Ages.
A controversial book, The Keys of this BloodýPope John Paul II Versus Russia and the West for Control of the New World Order was written by Dr. Malachi Martin, a Vatican insider, friend and advisor to Pope John Paul. Martin, a priest who writes from a Catholic perspective, credits the Pope for coining the phrase, "New World Order"ý before President Bush.
Whose New World Order?
"John Paul had taken on not merely a national regime but an international system of government. He had opened the first effective challenge to the political order of the Soviet satellite system and of the Soviet Union itself. Just as he said he would in his earliest speeches after his papal election, he had indeed called for the beginnings of Ďa New Orderí in Central Europe and in the international, political and economic order enlaced with it."
Martin predicted first the fall of Gorbachev then President Bush, after which Pope John Paul would bring in a united Europe.
"John Paulís goal is a geopolitical structure for the society of nations designed and maintained according to the ethical plans and doctrinal outlines of Christianity as taught and propagated by the Roman pontiff as the vicar of Christ. There can be no compromise with the dialectal materialism of that ĎEastí or with the capitalist materialism of that ĎWest.í
We are living in prophetic times. Europe will be ruled by a short duration church-state system just before the returned Christ fully destroys manís perverted "New World Order (a revised old Holy Roman Empire)" and replaces it with Godís truly New World Order, the Kingdom of God on earth.
1. Lutheran World, September, 1960, pp. 128-129.
2. Paul I. Murphy, La Popessa, Warner Books (N.Y. 1980), p. 52
3. Murphy, p.198.
4. German Catholics and Hitlerís Wars by Gordon Zahn, Sheed and WardýNew York, 1962, p.56.
5. Murphy, pp. 193-202.
6. Star Ledger, February 21, 1992.
7. New York Times, April 23, 1990.
A Chaste Virgin
The current divorce rate is more than one in three. Sensuality prevails despite the deadly risk of sexually transmitted diseases (recent reports are that 1 in 250 Americans are HIV carriers). Homosexuality is militantly promoted as an "alternate lifestyle." For the Bible believing Christian, this is a sad commentary on the worldís condition. Today the saying is often true that "as goes the world so goes the church." Indeed, some churches are now making theological adjustments to compensate for the needs of their worldly-wise membership.
The Roman Catholic "mother church" has greatly modified its standards in recent years. "Since Vatican Council II, the traditional grounds for obtaining an annulment ýin effect, a declaration that one or more of the requirements of a sacramental marriage was missing in the first placeýhave been more liberally interpreted. In 1990, Catholic marriage tribunals in the United States accepted 45,000 petitions for annulment. Nearly 37,000 were granted. Since 1983, however, the church no longer excommunicates divorced and remarried Catholics, which may be why only 10 percent now bother to seek annulments." (Newsweek, March 30, 1992 p.60)
These are staggering statistics. Fully 82% of all annulments applied for were granted. Also, if 45,000 annulments represents only 10% of those needing one, a half million American Catholics are divorcing annually with the churchís tacit consent!
A recent Associated Press release detailed the intent of several mainline Protestant churches to modify their position on sexual morality. Why are they modifying their position? They want to remain relevant. Todayís society, which they serve, is rapidly changing. Traditional values are constantly being challenged. If these churches donít "keep up with the times" their support would wither away. If their popular support dies; their organizations would also die. A large segment of todayís church membership is involved in adultery, fornication or homosexual relations. These, however, some Protestant churches would pardon. The modern theological concept by which pardon could be given is called Justice Love.
Justice Love, in brief, is defined as a sense of mutual caring and commitment between partners. It can exist whether the partners are married or not. Extramarital, premarital and homosexual relations would be permitted so long as Justice Love was present. The Protestant church leaders advancing this viewpoint believe "justice love" is the real object of Jesus teachings. They consider the physical acts committed in these relationships of little eternal consequence. They feel that the love behind them is what God wants for humanity. Instead of being transformed by the faith of Christ; these churches are conforming the faith of Christ to this worldís standards. Ro 12:1,2
We cannot agree to their sophistry. We affirm that love is the greatest of Godís gifts to mankind. Love, however, does not contradict other teachings of Godís Word.
Jesus said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." Mt 19:9 The council of Apostles and elders in Jerusalem (Ac 15:4-29) admonished the brethren of Christ to abstain from fornication. "Be not deceived," said Paul, "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God."( 1Co 6:9-10) Paul is obviously not excluding those who formerly practiced those things. He goes on to say "And such were some of you." ( 1Co 6:11)
We legitimately ask, have the standards of discipleship changed? Are those who practice Scripturally prohibited sexual acts better people than those who practiced them in the days of Jesus and the Apostles? Are todayís sinners more deserving of Godís grace than those of ages past? The answer to all three questions is no. The Word of God has not changed in regard either to standards of discipleship or Godís perception of the fallen human race. "Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever." Ps 119:160
A Worldly Church
A popular phrase is "Iím too bad for heaven and too good for hell." Many now involved in Scripturally unauthorized sexual relationships are otherwise very good people; perhaps better than we are in some respects. They may be noble-minded co-workers, neighbors or even family members. Surely these are too good to be doomed to an eternity of ceaseless suffering! Yet, according to Godís Word, such shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven. 1Co 6:9-10
Failing to see that the Scriptures teach two salvations (for Christians now and the remainder of mankind in Christís kingdom) has resulted in a theological disaster. To save as many as possible the worldly masses, the tares of Matthew 13, have been squeezed into the church. To fit the masses in, the standards of discipleship were reduced to the lowest possible common denominator. The narrow way and straight gate of the high calling in Christ Jesus have been trampled by trying to fit the whole world into it. Mt 7:13,14 The masses who practice immorality will not inherit the kingdom of heavenýthat reward is reserved for Christís "little flock." Lk 12:32 But Jesus has other sheep beside his little flock. He has those who will be his at his coming (Greek "presence"). These will be blessed in Christís earthly kingdom. Joh 10:16; 1Co 15:23; Mt 25:34
The Biblical standards of Christian discipleship are very high. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said by them of old time ĎThou shalt not commit adultery:í But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Mt 5:27,28 Far beyond merely avoiding fleshly acts of immorality, the true Christian is to avoid spiritual adultery. In other wordsýto avoid illicit union with the spirit of the world. 1Co 2:12
The Apostle James said, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?" (Jas 4:4 NAS) James called the brethren (male and female) "adulteresses." Why? They were courting the carnal values of this world. They were in grave danger of committing spiritual adultery, of leaving their first loveýJesus the Bridegroom.
The woman described in Re 17 represents a false church. Her main characteristic is that of being an adulteress. She is guilty of committing fornication with the kings of the earth. She "sold out" to the kings of the earth in order to be relevant to this world. The result was unfaithfulness to her espoused husbandýthe Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of waiting to reign with King Jesus at his appearing and kingdom; the false church of Re 17 united with the kings of the earth.
That adulterous alliance brings temporal power now! They have reigned as kings without us. (see 1Co 4:8) The urge to wield temporal power in this present life has been a great test for the church. Changing Biblical standards of morality to oblige worldly values is a test now. The hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world (Re 3:10) will also try the faith of Christís brethren.
The Chaste Bride
Will we remain chaste, or become adulteresses? Will we look to the world for our standards or will we choose the narrow way? Will we bravely go forward in the old paths against the strong contradiction of sin? By Godís graceýwe will remain spiritually chaste.
"I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2Co 11:2) The pure and simple faith that Paul had imparted to the Corinthian church, and to us by his epistles, can only be maintained by holding fast the doctrines as they were originally taught. "For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." 2Co 11:4 NAS
Bearing the tests of moral and doctrinal purity magnify the beauty of Christís brideýhis true church. How lovely she looks to him as she stands in faithful obedience to his teachings. Relevance to the world and its subsequent approval will be meaningless to the true Christian. All who are Christís will look to him for guidance. All who are Christís will seek his approval.
The Gospel of Health
When Jesus walked the face of this sin-sick and groaning earthýwith great compassion he healed many who were sick. By Godís power, he also miraculously fed thousandsýon more than one occasion. He even raised the deadýthree of them.
Did Jesus succeed in establishing Judea and Samaria as an oasis of health and freedom from hunger in the earth? The hungry he fed, no doubt, hungered again and the sick once healed, no doubt, in most cases, fell sick again and Lazarus, in the end, died again. Did Jesus lack enough of Godís power to accomplish real success?
Healing and Faith
When Jesus healed the woman, who was seriously sick for twelve years, he said, "Thy faith hath made thee whole" (Mt 9:22). When Jariusí daughter died, Jesus said, "Believe only, and she shall be made whole" (Lk 8:50). Did lack of belief and faith alone stand in the way of Jesus healing everybody? Why did Jesus tell Jarius and his wife, "Tell no man what was done" (Lk 9:56)? To the healed leper, why did Jesus say, "See thou tell no man" (Mt 8:4)?
Although Jesus performed thirty-six miracles during his ministry, physical healing was incidental to his main mission. Although on some occasions Jesus may have healed "all" in a particular crowd, he certainly did not heal all in the land of Israel.
At the Pool of Bethseda, there were a multitude of sick, but Jesus only healed the one "invalid" man (Joh 5:1-9). There is no record that this man had more faith in the Lord than had the others. On the contrary, the context shows that he had no faithýthat he did not even know who Jesus was and did not learn until afterward who had helped him! Did Jesus then call the others to step up to be healed? He quietly slipped away anonymously in the multitude. Why?
Jesus did not wish to over-stimulate the popular support of the people by these miracles of healing. But with tender yearning, Jesus desired to heal the hardness of heart of his Jewish brethren which causes spiritual "blindness," but they would not be healed (Joh 12:37-40). "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him." In reality, the physical miracles were merely a means to an endýspiritual healing!
Jesusí main purpose on earth was to preach the Gospel and die on the cross as a "ransom for all." The miracles were designed to serve as a testimony to his messiah-ship and as a token illustration of what his Kingdomýwhen establishedýwould actually do for all people.
Healing and the Early Church
In the Apostlesí day, gifts of the spiritýincluding healingýwere given to establish the earth church in its infancy. But Paul pointed to the more superior ("best") giftsýthe fruits of the spirit of love (1Co 12:28-31; 13). Speaking in the first person as representing the growing church, Paul said, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things." The gifts of tongues (foreign languages) and healing (physical) were as "toys" of childhood in comparison to the fruits of the spirit belonging to the mature Church of later years. Just like tongues, healing was a "sign" to unbelievers, not to believers (1Co 14:22).*
Paulís dearest spiritual son, Timothy, was frequently very sick. Did the Apostle lay hands on him and heal him? Surely Timothy had sufficient faith. No, Paul suggested Timothy "use a little wine for thy stomachís sake and thine often infirmities."
The great Apostle Paul himself asked the Lord three times if he could be relieved of his great handicap of bad eyesight (Gal 4:14,15). Surely the Lord could have blessed this sincere request so that Paulís ministry in the gospel would not be hampered. But Paul was denied this request. Instead, the Lord told him, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2Co 12:7-9). Paul saw clearly the reason for suffering: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me." He gloried in his infirmities. He saw Godís power in a way he could never have experienced if he had been physically healed.
No one likes pain and suffering. Naturally, we appreciate and long for physical health for ourselves and our loved ones. God can and does overrule in some cases to give remarkable health and strength for labor in His service. The Christian way, though, is a walk of sacrifice, not of bodily preservation and prosperity. Spiritually minded Christians know the purpose of suffering and desire spiritual healing and growth. In Jas 5:14, the Apostle encourages those who are spiritually "sick" (Gk., asthaneo, "without strength, weak") to go to spiritual leaders for prayer. Unresolved sins cause spiritual sickness. Or these sick may simply go to other Christians and confess their sins "that they might be forgiven him" (Jas 5:15). Who that has experienced healing of the soul has not realized it of more value than the healing of any earthly disease?
* Related to the subject of healing, tongues speaking is another popular phenomenon of our day. For an in-depth treatment of the subject, send for the booklet offered with the coupon.
Healing in Our Day
Many today claim to be healers in Christís name. Many even claim to be healed. How do we account for this phenomenon?
There are several possible explanations: Medical science today has demonstrated a very vital link between a positive mental attitude and good health. The body naturally has wonderful immunity and recuperative powers. From THE HEALING BRAIN, Dr. Ornstein says, "The brain communicates with and controls the body through this continuous flow of chemical messages. In this sense each nerve cell and the brain itself, is like an internal pharmacy dispensing a stream of powerful drugs to influence and control moods, thoughts and bodily functions."
Many who present themselves to healers believe so intently that they can find relief and recovery, that they actually do by their own positive attitudeýif even temporarily.
Another explanation is a sad one. A lot of fraud exists. Investigative reporting has recently uncovered some of the sensationally "successful" healersýboth on and off television. In a recent ABC broadcast by "Primetime Live," Diane Sawyer identified several frauds perpetrated by popular evangelical faith healers.
The third explanation lies in the possibility of the fact that people are so desperate to be healed that they would be glad to be healed even if they were assured the cures were performed by Satan himself. Satan and his fellow fallen angels, in fact, do transform themselves into "angel[s] of light" and "ministers of righteousness" (2Co 11:14). Especially in these "last days" can we expect such increased activity. The time of Jesus return is marked by "the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2Th 2:9).
Jesus intimated this very turn of events: When accused by the Pharisees that he was casting out devils and healing by the power of Satan, Jesus replied, "Can Satan cast out Satan unless his house be divided?" (Lk 11:15) He not only silenced their logic, but gave us a prophecy. In the future when Satanís house of fallen angels would be "divided," Satan would actually revert to healings and miracles. Satan has had considerable power over death, including disease. When he does do good and blessesýas an angel of lightýhis purpose is to delude Christians and counterfeit Godís plan. Such apparent healings detract from real spiritual healings and growth for Christians. They are also Satanís pseudo attempt to rival the incoming blessings of Godís Kingdom.
Therefore, regarding episodes of healing that cannot be explained by natural healing or by fraud, the power, alas, is attributable to Satan and his crumbling house. In these last days before Godís Kingdom, Satanís house is to be divided before it falls.
The Gospel to Abraham
Who can blame a poor groaning creation for desiring that the sorrow, sighing and tears of sickness and death be alleviated? All have received a heritage of sin and the penalty of sin laid upon father Adamý"dying thou shalt die"ýwhich has made us all heirs of suffering as well as death. Fortunately, the Kingdom for which we pray, "Thy Kingdom come," is very close.
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more Pain"(re 21:1-4).
The time for permanent, universal healingýspiritual and physicalýis when the "river of water of life" flows from the "throne of God" in Christís Kingdom.
"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life which bare twelve manner of fruits and the leaves of the tree [grove] were for the healing of the nations." (Re 22:1,2)
When this "New Jerusalem," Godís Kingdom, comes to earth, then all peopleýnot just a fewýwill have an opportunity to be healed of their spiritual, mental and physical sicknesses. Then the "eyes of the blind will be [literally] opened and the ears of the deaf shall be [physically] unstopped" (Isa 35:1, 5).
The Gospel originally preached to Abraham was that "In thee shall all nations be blessed" (Ga 3:8) How are all to be blessed? This Gospel of the Kingdom given to Abraham and confirmed by Jesus actually embraces all in the Gospel of Healing and Health.
Christians Must Remeber the Holocaust!
A Plea from Christians
Jews all over the world commemorated YOM HASHOAH, Holocaust Remembrance Day, on April 30th. But do Christians remember that insane night of death camps, gas chambers, crematoriums, smokestacks belching the horrible stench of burnt flesh...that sadistic night during which 6 million Jews were slaughtered?
The word "holocaust" primarily denotes a sacrificial offering that is wholly consumed by fire. Monstrously evil men contrived that diabolical Nazi ideologyýthe destruction of the Jewish people is a necessary sacrifice to solve the economic ills of Germany and Europe. This Jewish massacre was unprecedented in numbers and purpose. Though many other people were tragically affected, the Nazi "solution" was aimed at exterminating a particular family of man...a single bloodline, a single gene pool. It was genocide.
Why are many Christians uncomfortable that the Jewish community keeps insisting that we remember something that happened fifty years ago? Some Gentiles are so disconcerted that they are driven to rewrite history denying the holocaust ever happened. But their "revisionist facts" are exploded as fast as they are manufactured. Perhaps their own latent anti-Semitism motivates them to forget or deny the Holocaust. After all, who were the actors in that nefarious drama?
Who informed on their Jewish neighbors? Who charged into Jewish homes...knocked on false walls...dragged out terrified families? Who pulled the beards of old men...violated young Jewish women...demeaned poor bewildered souls in every conceivable way and herded them into cattle cars? Who stripped innocent crowds of their clothes and their dignity forced them naked into mass shower rooms and turned on the gas as pandemonium filled the rooms? Who ordered bodies to be stacked in huge pyres like cords of wood? Who fired the furnaces? Who were these predators of human life? For the most part they were professed Christians who celebrated Christmas, Good Friday and Easter. On Sunday they worshipped in cathedrals and churches. But during the week, they engaged in one of the most heinous crimes ever perpetrated against humanity. Christians must not forget the Holocaustýbecause Christians were there too.
The Holocaust is an indictment of so-called Christian Europe. Both Catholic and Protestant sociologists observed that the Nazi extermination of six million Jews was impossible without the active cooperation of the public. The suppressed Gentile anti-Semitism surfaced in that atmosphere of self-preservation. Although some Christians objected, thousands of professed Christians turned informant or cooperated in a thousand indirect or silent ways.
The Holocaust could have been stopped. Hitler could have been halted. Hitler would have been paralyzed if Catholics and Protestants refused to cooperate with the Nazis. Bible Students in Germany did refuse and suffered the consequences. Being a small minority, they ended up in prison or were put to death themselves.
Roots of Anti-Semitism
"We must never forget," observed Christianity Today (March 9, 1992), "that anti-Semitism had its roots in the theology and practice of the Christian church, from the writings of the early Church Fathers [100-350 C.E.] through the Inquisition, even in the comments of Martin Luther." The Church Fathers taught that as "Christ killers," the Jews must be kept in degradation as living witness to the truth of Christianity. Also the Land of Israel, they felt, should be rendered a desert and the Jews forbidden to go to Jerusalem. This was confirmed by Saint Thomas Aquinas, the most authoritative thinker of the Roman Church. As a consequence, popes, cardinals, bishops and priests who initiated anti-Semitic acts saw themselves as carrying out Christian teaching.
Hitler told German Bishop Berning and Monsignor Steinman that he was merely going to do to the Jews "what the Church had done for 1,500 years." Hitler also took great satisfaction in quoting Martin Lutherís vicious anti-Semitic statements.
Swiss Catholics Admit Guilt of the Church
Timed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of Jews from Spain (April, 1992), the Swiss Catholics issued a nine-page declaration that said in part, "Through misguided preaching and catechisms, the church contributed to the creation of the climate that allowed the murderers of the Nazi regime to carry out their crimes against the Jews."
Where was the Indignation of Our Christian Civilization?
By 1942 leaders of the Christian West were well aware of the Holocaust. The Vatican was counting on the Nazis to defeat atheistic Communism, therefore, made no public outcry (La Popessa, Paul I. Murphy). The Protestant Churches were little better. Thank goodness, individual Christians did speak out. But where was the International Committee of the Red Cross that was supposedly investigating the Nazi concentration camps? Following a six-year study of 350,000 Red Cross documents, Swiss Professor Jean Claude Favez wrote in his book, Silent Witness, "The ICRC knew what was happening, that is quite clear. It did not dare confront the Germans." The ICRC in a statement to the Jerusalem Post (August 31, 1988) admitted that it could have saved more Jews from the Nazis.
The delayed condemnation and action of the British and U.S. governments was feeble indeed (The Abandonment of the Jews, David S. Wyman). Jews were being brought to death camps by train. The U.S. refused to target any railroad tracks leading to the death camps while carrying out bombing missions on nearby areas.
For several years U.S. newspapers hid the facts of the Holocaust by burying them in small vague articles in the back of the paper (Beyond Belief, the American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933- 1945, Deborah Lipstadt).
After promising in 1917 to provide a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine, Britain in 1939 shut the doors of Palestine to Jewish immigration. Jewish refugees jammed on dilapidated ships were turned back to the death camps of Europe or perished at sea.
The American Public
In 1938 four polls showed that up to 85% of the American public was opposed to increased immigration quotas which would have allowed Jewish refugees to escape Nazi Germany. On May 13, 1939, a refugee ship, The St. Louis, sailed from Europe with 937 Jewsýdestination Cuba. Arriving there, they were refused entry. For 36 days The St. Louis sailed to every port in the free world including the United States. No room was made for the Jews either in the United States or anywhere else in the free world. The ship was ordered back to Germany and the weary cargo to their doom in the death camps. The U.S. "Closed Door Policy" to the Jews remained essentially the same for the duration of WW II.
After WW II
As incredible as it might sound, Nazi war criminal hunters and U.S. government officials claim that Vatican and International Red Cross representatives aided Nazis with documentsýenabling them to escape to South America. Why? They hoped they would be useful in the future battle against Communism. (Department of State, Office of American Republic Affairs, July 14, 1947, Subject: "Illegal Emigration Movements in and Through Italy." The New York Times, Jan. 26, 1986, "Vatican Is Reported to Have Furnished Aid to Fleeing Nazis")
While immigration restrictions were keeping Jewish Holocaust survivors out of the U.S., Nazi war criminals were given entry in exchange for information on Communist activity in Eastern Europe (Nazi War Criminals in America: Facts and Action, Charles R. Allen: The News Tribune, May 13, 1987; The New York Times, Jan. 26, 1984). A Department of Justice 1983 report stated that Klause Barbie, Nazi war criminal, had been employed and protected by the U.S. intelligence agency.
The annual "Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents" in the U.S. for 1991 revealed an 11% increase over 1990. The nature of these incidents, furthermore, were more vicious than in the past. Anti-Semitism is increasing worldwide and is at its highest level since World War II.
Unfortunately, religious bigotry is the worst bigotry of all. Until the Christian churches modify their theology that makes the Jew an object of disdain and until they recognize that the Jewish people have a glorious Divine destiny separate and distinct from the Christian Church, anti-Semitism will continue to plague this nation.
The Bible Studentsí answer to "Holocaust Revisionists" is personal experience. Nine-tenths of our Bible Students in Germany were wiped out by the Nazis. The Holocaust did happen.
Bible Students urge our fellow Christians to remember that "he that toucheth you [Israel] toucheth the apple of his (The Almightyís) eye" (Zec 2:8). How can we as Christians forget Godís unconditional promise to Abraham, "I will make of thee a great nation...And I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Ge 12:2,3). To learn about Bible prophesy being fulfilled in Israel and our responsibility as Christians, read the online booklet: The Time to Favor Zion is Come.
The Source of True Promotion!
The American public is in the throes of another election year. From the Presidency to local offices, candidates are doing "whatever it takes" to get into office. With the insurmountable problems facing leaders today, we are glad that some are still willing to take the responsibility of public office. This world desperately needs good leadership. Sadly though, the tactics of successful political campaigns call for tough assaults on the character and competence of the opposition.
The Presidential conventions provided a national forum for what the Scriptures declare to be evil speaking, malice, strife and anger. How sad this is! Representatives of both political parties claimed to be stalwart Christians, yet used "the works of the flesh" to accomplish their goals. (see Ga 5:19-21) It is unseemly for a professed disciple of Christ to use such tactics for political success. Those who would provide "Christian leadership" for our country must not do so at the expense of Christian principles.
At the Democratic convention Mr. Clinton, lifting a phrase from the Bible, promised to provide "a new covenant" for the American people. The declaration of this noble goal was followed by repeated assaults on the competency and character of the Bush administration. The Republican convention took an even more strident toneýslandering the democratic candidate and his family while quoting scriptures and calling for a "Holy War." Similarly across the country political campaigns are getting uglier with each passing election.
Christian people, concerned about the decline of morality in our time, feel that they must grasp the reigns of power and restore order. Some feel compelled to save our country by making it a "Christian nation." The drive to subdue the world for Christ is not a new idea. By war or Inquisition, "Christian" leaders have tried for centuries to do this. Their lack of success is copiously noted in volumes of bloody history.
Christians Not To Rule Now
Sad to say, professed Christians have labored under a thorough delusion respecting Godís plan for mankind. They once claimed that Christ set up his Church in Kingdom power at the first advent. They also claimed that the Church has since been reigning on earth as his representative. Western civilization referred to itself as "Christendom"ýan abbreviated form of "Christís Kingdom." On the strength of this delusion so-called heretics, the "heathen" and the Jewish people have been persecuted to death as opponents of Christís Kingdom. However, using the "ends to justify the means" cannot win the world for Christ. Inquisition tactics of torture, murder or confiscation of property are totally at odds with the principles of Christís true Kingdom!
The belief that Christís disciples would make this world his Kingdom contradicts Jesusí words. "Jesus answered and said, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now is my kingdom not from hence." Joh 18:36 If the world would be won for Christ, the "god" of this present evil world (the real leader) must be conquered. That leader is Satan! He will be bound during the thousand year Kingdom of Christ, that he may deceive the nations no more. 2Co 4:4; Re 20:2,3 Meantime, Christís true followers must walk as he walked and not carelessly ignore his commands.
Christís Disciples Must Bear Fruit
If potential leaders want to benefit from proclaiming their relationship with him, they should bear the fruits of that union. Jesus left us a beautiful lesson about this before his crucifixion. This lesson was to help believers grow in their faith until Jesusí return. He would seek his fruitage (faithful believers) at the harvest of the Christian age. "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." Joh 15:5-8
Notice that it is by bearing fruit that we shall be his disciples. What fruits did our Master expect us to bear? "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christís have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts [the works of the flesh]. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Ga 5:22-25. These are the elemental characteristics of any who would be faithful disciples.
Christís followers have little chance of gaining the worldís submission while in their present humble condition. It is unlikely that the world, by popular vote, will accept the rulership of Christ. "And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." Mal 3:15 Should the Christian use wrath or brute force to conquer the proud, wicked or tempters? Will we do evil that good may come? No! Not by any means! Walking against the course of this present evil world brings forth the fruits of the spirit!
"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Ro 12:21 Faithful Christians must be tried and developed through faithful obedience to Christ. They must wait until he [Christ] shall reign to subdue all his enemies.
Deliverance To Come Soon
Rather than seeking to fight this world on its terms the Scriptures admonish us to "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." Ps 37:7-11
Proper Christian Weapons
Godís way of bringing the world into submission to Christ is not through the strength of the flesh or carnality. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2Co 10:3-5
The weapons of our spiritual warfare are to give us the victory over personal sinýwhat the Scriptures call, "the old man." Eph 4:22-24 Rather than using worldly-wise leaders to take this world by force, "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are." 1Co 1:27-28
The things that now are, this present evil world, will be "brought to nought" by something that doesnít exist yet! That "something" will be the completed body of Christýa body that has many members. The disciples of Christ who are victorious in overcoming will receive the crown of life. Those who suffer with him in the present time will reign with him in his future kingdom. "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." Yes, it is God who will do the work of conquering this unrighteous world and subduing it in righteousness. He will do this great work through the agent He has chosenýthe glorified Christ, Jesus the Head and the church his body. 1Co 12:12; Jas 1:12; Ro 8:17; Re 20:4,6; Ro 16:20
The Present Reality
We would love to help the world out of its present sin-sick condition now! But we also realize that this will be accomplished in Godís chosen way and time. Therefore, do not expect world leaders to be recognized as high profile Christians. The scripture is still true that "the world knoweth us not, because it knew him (Jesus Christ) not." 1Joh 3:1 The true body of Christ is a mystery to the world and its princes. "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." 1Co 1:7,8
The world still does not recognize those who are diligently following Christ. The world and its leadership still do not recognize his humble servants. They are still generally considered to be foolish, weak or base.
Not To Be Deluded
The idea that Christ has already set up his kingdom through the established churches is a false doctrine. This false doctrine deluded many during the heyday of Christendomís power. The Scriptures symbolically refer to this delusion as drunkenness. All the nations of Christendom were drunk with the wine of this false doctrine. Re 17:2 Christians gave assent to the power of the church, while thoughtlessly praying, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
The prophetic Word of God shows us that we may expect this deluding doctrine to become a force in the world again. Our prayer is that Christís followers will not be deceived by that "strong delusion." 2Th 2:11 May we all resist the offer of power and glory in this present world. May we resist the use of carnal weaponsýthe "works of the flesh"ýto accomplish the works of God. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Ga 6:7-9
Our desire is that all who profess Christ will give diligence to make their calling and election sure. 2Pe 1:10 Jesus and his bride (the true church), as the elect of God, will rule over the earth. Then there truly will be a "new world order" that todayís leaders can only dream of. Godís election will result in blessings for all under the reign of His Christ.
"...the Poor Ye have with You Always"
"There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment and poured it on his head but when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always." Mt 26:7-11
"Always" has been a long time for the poor to be poor. Was Jesus being insensitive to the poor? Was he who came to save the poor concerned about his own comfort above the poor? What did Jesus mean? The recent Census Bureau announcement revealed a sobering fact about the poor: In the USA the ranks of the poor have reached 35.7 million the highest percent since 1964. The number of the worldís poor is also escalating beyond all proportions.
Who are the Poor? Why are they Poor?
The homeless: five to six p.m. is the guiltiest hour of the day in big cities across the country. That is when most working people walk to parking lots, bus stops, or subway stations, heading home. That is when those without homes thrust out their hands in hope of getting quarters or dollar bills before heading back to their shelters or make-shift beds. That is when most of the better-off avoid eye contact with these most visible poor. A recent USA Today headline stated, "For Homeless, Streets are Meaner: Public Fed Up, Frustrated."
The refugees: In the eastern German town of Hoyerswerder, youths chanting nationalist slogans attack an apartment complex filled with refugees. Neo-Nazis break into a refugee home and club an Albanian youth to death. Since German reunification in the fall of 1990, there have been over 2,000 such attacks on foreigners. Englandís streets see racial attacks on Indian people, while Haitian refugees are turned back from attempts at immigration by the country which says, "Give me your tired, your poor." The war-torn: In Somalia the "poor manís war" has left it in the grip of starvation. The UN is trying to find a way to save more than a million helpless people from staring to death.
The diseased: The devastating impact of AIDS will slam hardest the poor countries that can least afford it because their economies are already so small and their living standards so low. The virus hurts stricken countries by forcing them to divert precious capital from investment to health care. By the year 2000 those expected to have HIV will be 40%.
What Has God Done About the Poor?
Under the Old Testament Law, the poor were to be provided for: "And thou shalt not gather every grape of thy vineyard, thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God." (Le 19:10) "And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat." (Ex 23:10,11) "Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land." (De 15:11)
The Scriptures say, God loves and hears the poor: "For the Lord heareth the poor." (Ps 69:33) "For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth: the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence and precious shall their blood be in his sight." (Ps 72:12-14) "Who is like unto the Lord our God. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy." (Ps 113:5-7)
But the poor are still poor. When will God raise them "out of the dust"?
When Jesus Walked on this Earth, He Loved the Poor
Jesus read in the temple: "He hath sent me to preach the gospel to the poor." (Lk 4:18) Jesus taught: "Sell that thou hast and give to the poor." (Mt 19:21) The ones not rich in this worldís goods are most often those who are poor in spirit. The first beatitude Jesus taught was, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5:3) Jesus praised the poor widow who gave all that she had, only a mere two mites.
But Jesus did not help all the poor of Israel. He mostly healed those who came near to hear the Gospel. Did he lack the power to help the rest?
What is Now Being Done for the Poor?
A lot, but with frustration. Many noble efforts have been thwarted by manís selfishness. A 200-ton delivery of U.N. food was hijacked in Mogadishu. "The shooting starts at the exit gate and continues along the way and at the distribution centers" says a worker from the relief agency CARE. The International Committee of the Red Cross has delivered more than 80,000 tons of food to Somalia, but they warn food they are bringing must be more than doubled and they themselves donít have the capacity. Preoccupation with the nationalistís crises in what was formerly Yugoslavia is blamed for the Westís failure to act on the needs in Africa.
The Churches are Doing a Social Work Too
The churches are involved in helping the poor on many levels. One Protestant radio program solicited volunteers for the recent Florida hurricane victims: "We need volunteers who know house construction! Fax us your offer to come down and help. Hereís the Fax number." The Catholic Church runs a boarding school in Illinois for children who have been variously exploited. Many are street kids, runaways and throwaways, with considerable experience in the most degrading facts of life.
What is the motivation behind the Christian churches, which are trying to help the poor on an organized, concerted basis?
A good part, no doubt, is due to love of fellow man and a noble desire to help. But the other part, no doubt, is a sense of urgency to save souls feeling now is "the only day of salvation." But what about those miserably overdosed drug addicts who slipped through our fingers or the thousands who died in Somalia who never heard of the Name of Jesus or those Moslems who died on the frozen mountains of Iraq. Is Godís arm short?
Did Jesus do a Social Work?
Jesus did not engage in a work of uplifting the downtrodden, sick and hungry. Why? What prevented him from taking on that task? Apparently, he had the power. What stopped him? Truly, he had compassion upon them because when he saw the multitudes who had come to hear him, he healed them of all their diseases. So what stopped him from going further?
When Satan tempted Jesus, "If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine" (Lk 4:7). Evidently when Jesus was offered the kingdoms of this world by the tempter, he understood that Satan wanted him to divert his attention from Godís plan. The Devil wanted Jesus to cooperate and take his new directions. "Worship" is not the thought of bowing down, but of service to follow Satanís plan. Compromise with the Adversary meant establishing a kingdom without Jesusí having to suffer and die i.e., without the cross. Satan himself did not want a poor sick race. He thought he could make a deal with Jesus to skip the dying on the cross and set up the Kingdom of blessings immediately.
Did Jesus succumb to this temptation? No he did not. Jesus realized that any immediate worldwide program for blessing the poor dying race of Adam would only be temporary, partial and in the end frustrating. By taking the long hard course, was Jesus disinterested in humanity? Of course not! He was soon to give his life fully for the lives of all. Was he shirking the responsibility to help the poor and needy? Not at all!
His commission was to reach the "poor in spirit" with the Gospel to take out from men a "people for his name." Afterwards "the residue of men" would be blessed in the Kingdom (Ac 15:14-17). That is also why Jesus did not ask his disciples to systematically go through the countryside helping, healing and feeding all the poor. Jesus knew that the time for blessing the worldís poor was near but not yet. In the Kingdom, he would not just heal temporarily. He would not only feed a few for a short time. He would not only up lift the spirit of the poor for a day or week or month, but he would feed, heal and comfort the poor with the everlasting blessings of the Kingdom for which he taught us to pray.
"Sell All that thou Hast and Give to the Poor"
But still what did Jesus mean when he said, "Sell all" (Mt 19:21) That young man he spoke with took him literally and went away sad. We understand that Jesus was asking him to give up all as a sacrifice. He was advised not so much about the care of the poor as about full surrender of his earthly possessions and full submission to follow in Jesusí footsteps.
The lesson for us is that the young man was asked to understand the "spirit of sacrifice," the "spirit of consecration." Jesus was not discussing what to do for the poor, but being ready to relinquish his great possessions even as Jesus did. "Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye though his poverty might be rich" (2Co 8:9). To "inherit the Kingdom" one must use his possessions for glory of the Lord. He could no longer cling to them.
We too cling to our possessions as if we could "take them with us." Jesus told his disciples that he had "no where to lay his head." Jesus had given up his earthly home for the sake of the Gospel. His example was to do those things which would "lay up treasure in heaven," not on earth.
The end-time church is particularly tested with the temptation of materialism and spiritual poverty. "Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked" (Re 3:17). Many Christians are sucked into the frenzy to acquire material possessions. After all, we live in a society, which makes its living by the sale of material things. So we are bombarded by temptations to see, want, desire and buy.
What is the solution to materialism and spiritual poverty? "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich" in spiritual things! (Re 3:18) By "seeking first the Kingdom of Heaven" in all of our choices each day, our hunger for spiritual things increase. Material things lose their taste. We see through them. They are fragile. We must only use our possessions as a means to an end of serving God, not self.
What Poor are we Responsible for Now?
When Jesus scolded the others for chiding Maryís loving gesture, he said, "For ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always." He knew that literally there would be no time for anointing his own body for burial after he died on the cross. But he was also thinking of his body members needing loving attention and care.
James says (Jas 2:15-17) that we should help our "destitute" brother or sister and thus demonstrate our faith by these works. Paul collected money for the "poor saints which are in Jerusalem" who were in straits from famine and persecution (1Co 16:1-3; Ro 15:25,26). By distributing "to the necessity of saints" (Ro 12:13) we are bestowing of our means on Jesus.
The Poor will Be Always, but not Forever.
When Jesus said "the poor you have with you always," we might still wonder, did he really meant always forever? We think not. Elsewhere, when Jesus was comforting his disciples he promised, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." We rather think that it is in this sense of until the end of the age that the poor will remain poor. The promised "kingdom of God" will raise the "poor out of the dust" because there will be no politics in distribution. "Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper." (Ps 72:11, 12) There will be no homeless, no refugees, no hungry, no war-torn because the causes of poorness will be removed. "For the needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever" (Ps 9:18).
We believe that the poor will be with us always, but "always" is not forever.
If you would like to know more about this Kingdom which is coming soon, read the online book THE DIVINE PLAN OF THE AGES. We will be happy to communicate with you and hopefully answer questions you might have. Please write us. And, do not stop praying for the Kingdom! It is the complete answer on the poor.
The Wonders of God
How quickly the seasons go by! As the warm days of summer wane into autumn, we reflect upon the greatness of creationís architectýour Heavenly Father. Our spiritual minds perceive and our spiritual hearts receive great lessons from nature. Surely the character of our Creator is stamped indelibly upon all His works.
Ponder the season of harvest and be blessed by its testimony to Godís love. Through the miracle of seed and its fruitage, He provides abundantly for our nourishment. Notice the deepening richness of the autumn skyís blue. This blue, a symbol of faithfulness, reminds us that the killing cold of winter will surely be followed by the new blooming life of spring. Indeed, the swiftness with which the seasons roll by impresses the brevity of sin blighted human life upon our minds. At the same time we grow in appreciation of our human life upon our minds. At the same time we grow in appreciation of our Godís eternally enduring Being. He truly is "the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity." (Isa 57:15) The Psalmist has well said, "My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. But thou, O LORD, shalt endure forever; and thy remembrance to all generations." Psa 102:12,13
The lesson of our Godís enduring Being, His enduring love, faithfulness, and mercy, greatly strengthen our faith. We, who depend on Him for the issues of life, have a different perspective from the world in general. Surely He "hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. " See Eph 2:1-6.
From our spiritual point of view we feel, as the Apostle Paul felt, that "the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2Co 4:18) Realizing this we "henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind." (See Eph 4:17-24) That is, our lives focus on spiritual growthýlaying up for ourselves treasure in heaven. (Mt 6:19-21) The Christian mind resists the lure of the worldís transitory fashions and fads.
Fashion and fad fuel popular culture and then swiftly burn out. Popular cultureís appetite for things new and different is insatiable. What a contrast this is to the Christianís spirit of "tell me the old, old story!" Popular cultureís superficial nature often causes the loss of important lessons that may be realized by those who seek the enduring eternal things. One example of this is to be found in the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
A decade ago popular culture fixed much attention on that enduring stone monument. Wild speculations were brought forth. "It was a landing base for extra terrestrials!" "It sharpens razor blades!" "It preserves fruit!" However much truth may have existed in any of these statements, they missed the real lesson of the Great Pyramid. Popular culture had satisfied itself for a season upon the Great Pyramid and then moved on.
In sheer mass, the Great Pyramid dwarfs all other buildings in the world. Its ninety million cubic feet of solid rock weigh 6,840,000 tons. That is enough stone to build a sidewalk 3 inches thick, and 2 feet wide, around the world. The number and weight of the Great Pyramidís stones would be comparable to a pile of 3 million automobiles. The Great Pyramid is as tall as a 40-story building, and the circuit of its base is over 1/2 mile. Clearly, whoever built the Great Pyramid wanted it to remain!
The Great Pyramid is the most unusual building in the world. The scientific knowledge of its builders is startlingýand as an engineering feat it is unmatched. The solutions to many scientific and mathematical problems were monumentalized in the Great Pyramid forty-one centuries ago. Could the Pyramid builders have been four thousand years ahead of their time? Or did God Himself instruct them in the secrets of the Universe?
We read in Isa 19:19-20,
"In that day shall there be an altar unto the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt."
This scripture has caused many Christians to consider carefully the lessons that the Pyramid has to teach.
It is located in the exact center of the land surface of the earthýcalculated by its Builder over 3,000 years before Columbus discovered America. Though built over 4,000 years ago, its measurements indicate the circumference of the earth, the distance from the equator to either pole, the sunís distance from the earth, the length of the solar year, the length of the precessional cycles, the value of pi, etc. The Great Pyramid witnesses, not by hieroglyphics or drawings, but symbolically by it location, construction and measurements. It is a symbolic (not sacrificial) altar, and a storehouse of historic, prophetic and scientific truths, in perfect accord with, and a corroborative witness of, the Bible and its Divine Plan of the Ages.
Just as we have traced Godís plan for mankind through the Scriptures, so may we trace it in the Pyramid. Its architectural features portray the Divine Plan of the Ages in a dynamic way.
For over forty centuries the seasons of man have whirled by this altar to the LORD. In that time few have seen the blessed confirmation of the plan of God that is to be found there. Foreknown to God are all His works, and the testimony in stone given by the Great Pyramid confirms this fact. Portrayed in stone is mankindís catastrophic fall into sin, sickness, and death. There, too, we see the grand designs of our Heavenly Father in the Great Flood, the works of the Jewish Law Age, and the Christian era of faith. Salvation, first of Christians to be spiritual sons of God and secondly, to the remainder of humanity as natural sons, is taught in the Pyramidís passages.
For those who love God and are inspired by the grand vision of His Plan of the Ages, the new videotape program, "The Great Pyramid" will be a faith building refreshment. We invite you to order your copy of this exciting presentation and see that the Great Pyramid truly is an altar, a pillar, for a sign and a witness unto the LORD our enduring God.
"His name shall endure forever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen." Ps 72:17-19
"I Will Come Again"
Reissued for May of 1999
When this age-abiding promise was first uttered by Jesus to his Apostles, it did not make sense. To the then "natural minded" men who followed Jesus, they assumed that Jesusí next logical move would be to take charge as a King, throw off the yoke of Roman bondage, exalt the Jews and bless the world. Why should he leave now? There was work to be done here. When Jesus spoke of his death and strangely of his leaving, the idea simply did not fit into their expectations. But as they wended their way along the path to Gethsemane, Jesus had assured them, "if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again." Joh 14:3
Dazed, these words made little impression on his little band. But forty days later on Mount Olivet, huddled together in amazement with eyes turned heavenward, straining to catch the last glimpse of their ascending Lord, this promise came alive, "I will come again!" Yes, their beloved Master would return. The Apostles wove that glorious theme into the fabric of their ministry and their very lives.
Christís Second Coming is the most frequently discussed doctrine in the New Testament over one third of its writings deal with this momentous event! As Christians our hearts thrill at the hope of being united with the returned Lord Jesus, our heavenly Bridegroom, seeing him as he is, living with him and experiencing his love forevermore and the reality of reigning with him (Re 20:5) in a kingdom that extends to the ends of the earth, bringing "peace like a river and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream." Isa 66:12
Long have faithful Christians prayed with the Apostle John, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Long centuries passed during which, seemingly, nothing happened. But our day is suddenly charged with an atmosphere of great expectancy.
However, in order to appreciate the reasonableness of the Bibleís prophetic teaching on this deeply interesting subject, it is necessary that we have clear views of both the object of our Lordís second coming, and of the manner in which he will be revealed.
The Manner and Objective of the Second Advent
As we have observed, the object of his coming is to reconcile "whosoever will" (Re 22:17) of the world to God, by a process of ruling, teaching and disciplining. This is called judging and blessing. The manner of our Lordís coming and appearing is of paramount importance, as the student of prophecy strives to determine what manner of time the Holy Spirit does signify for the establishment of Godís Kingdom on earth.
The Bible Student must hold clearly in mind the object, while studying the manner, of our Lordís return and both of these, when studying the time. This is needful to offset erroneous views, already preoccupying many minds, based on false ideas of the object and manner of our Lordís coming.
Grasp and hold in mind as firmly as possible the fact that Godís plan is one harmonious whole, which is being wrought through Christ. Hold in mind that the work of the second advent stands related to the work of the first as effect to cause: That is, that the great work of Restitution at the second advent follows the work of Redemption accomplished at the first advent as a logical sequence according to Godís divine plan.
Therefore, the Lordís return is the dawn of hope for the world, the time for bestowing the blessings secured by the redemption. The Gospel Age has been merely a parenthesis, during which the Bride of Christ is selected, to be associated with her Lord in the great work of restitution, which he comes to accomplish.
Signs of His Coming
Few would question that we are living in an era of human history, which is without precedent. Most Bible-believing Christians feel we are living in the very time the Bible says Christ is to return. There is a surge of interest in prophecyýa revival of interest in the second advent. Many speak of the imminent coming of Christ.
Their expectations are based on our Lordís Great Prophecy recorded in Mt 24, Mk 13, Lk 17, 21. Many believe that the nearness of Christís return is indicated by such signs as the following: Israel restored (Mt 24:32; Jer 16:13-18); knowledge and travel increased (Dan 12:4); evils exposed as never before (Lk 12:2; 1Co 4:5); infidelity rampant from university to pulpit (Lk 18:8; 2Ti 4:1-4); men seeking pleasure, morality rotting (2Ti 3:1-5, 13); strikes, walkouts (Jas 5:1-4); racial strife, riots (Zeph 1:7-9); juvenile delinquency (2Ti 3:2); wars and war preparations intensified (Joel 3:9-11); men crying fearfully for peace (1Th 5:3; Lk 21:26); trouble everywhere (Mt 24:21,22).
Coming or Presence
Let us take a closer look at our Masterís words and see what these signs really prove. "And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming [Greek, parousia], and of the end of the world?" Mt 24:3
The Greek word here translated "coming" is parousia. It really means "presence." Therefore, if parousia means "presence," then the fulfillment of the signs given by our Lord in His prophecy would not mean that he is coming soon, but that he is already secretly presentýas "a thief in the night." Remember, the Scriptures teach that Christís initial return would be a thief-like, secret presence before "every eye shall see him." (See 1Th 5:2; 2Pe 3:10 ; Re 16:15)
Rotherhamís Emphasized Bible, Vineís Dictionary of New Testament Words, Youngís Analytical Concordance, and many other standard works in fundamentalist and evangelical bookstores confirm this definition of "presence."
The Bible Definition
However, we are not confined to dictionary definitions. The Lord has graciously provided His people a Scriptural definition for the Greek word parousia thus leaving us in no doubt as to its true meaning.
Parousia occurs in Mt 24:37 where it is mistranslated "coming." The following chart compares its parallel citation in Lk 17:26 and, in so doing, the Bible provides its own definition for parousia.
Mt 24:37†††††††††† Lk 17:26
But as the days††† =†††† As it was in the days
of Noah were,†††††††††††††††††† of Noah,
so shall also the††† =††† so shall it be
parousia of the†††††††††††† in the days of the
Son of man be.†††††††††††††† Son of man.
The phrase "parousia of the Son of man" in Mt 24:37 means the same as the phrase "in the days of the Son of man" in Lk 17:26. The "days of the Son of man" in Lk 17:26 refers to the time that Christ is present, just as the "days of Noah" refers to the time when Noah was present among his wicked generation. Therefore, parousia in Mt 24:37 should be translated "presence of the Son of man" instead of "coming of the Son of man."
The Scriptural definition of parousia is further confirmed by the Apostle Paulís use of it. The thought of "presence" is plainly shown by the contrast with "absence" in Php 2:12. "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence [Greek, parousia] only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
While no doctrine is mentioned more frequently in the New Testament than Christís second advent, few doctrines have been as greatly fragmented into such diversified concepts. Much of the beauty of this doctrine has been wrested from the grasp of Godís people. All secular Greek dictionaries define parousia, "presence." Most Bible dictionaries likewise define parousia, "presence." Most current fundamentalist and evangelical writings on the second advent usually begin by correctly defining parousia, "presence." Then something strange happens. Somehow the word "coming" replaces "presence." Incorrect theology requires parousia to be translated "coming," but Scriptural harmony requires that it be translated "presence."
The Main Point
If, as we have seen, parousia means "presence," then all the signs that our Lord gave us in Mt 24, Mk 13 and Lk 17, 21 do not indicate his imminent coming-they indicate his secret thief-like presence. We see those signs being fulfilled all around us.
The Scriptures show that the first stage of our Lordís parousia, presence, will be secret. "The day of the Lord will arrive [will be here, Greek, hekoýsee Strongís, Youngís or Vineís] as a thief." (2Pe 3:10, Rotherham) A thief enters a house quietly, doing a secret work. Consequently, the first works of our returned Lord are during a secret presence. The world will, at first, be unaware that Christ has returned. "But ye brethren are not in darkness that that day should overtake [implies a period of overlapping] you as a thief." 1Th 5:4
Later, his presence will be made manifest to all. The Scriptures use another Greek word, apokalupsis, to describe this revealment to all. "The Lord Jesus shall be REVEALED [apokalupsis] from heaven in flaming fire taking vengeance." 2Th 1:7-8 It is in reference to this revealment to all, that Scriptures like Re 1:7 apply; "He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him." Christians, who are not overcharged with the cares of this life, will experience the joys of discerning the signs of his secret presence (Lk 21:34-36), before they are "caught up together" with him.
When Does the "Parousia" Begin?
A number of Christian writers are publishing works which propose the date of Christís return. The fulfillment of the "signs" which our Lord gave us indicate that we should be looking for his secret presence now. Space does not permit a complete discussion of Bible time prophecy nor a harmonization of seemingly conflicting scriptures [such as "every eye shall see him"] regarding the second advent. We encourage you to read the online book The Time Is At Hand which contains detailed studies of the time prophecies pointing to our Lordís return. You can also write to obtain a hardcover copy of this book. Also read the online booklet, I Will Come Again.
The Shout for Freedom and Rights
Le 25: 13, 14
Serbians, Croatians, and Bosnians are embroiled in a struggle, which ranks with the most bitter this world has seen. Even the control of inches of land has brought out the deepest of hatreds that could be expressed by one group of people against another.
In another part of the world, Somalia, warlords of clans are fighting incessantly for chunks of land and power.
At home in America, it is twenty-eight years since the major civil rights legislation of the Sixties was passed. It is thirty years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke the famous "I have a dream" speech at Washingtonís Lincoln Memorial. He quoted from scripture:
"Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." (Isa 40:4,5)
It is now 130 years since the Emancipation Proclamation started the process of freeing people owned by people in America. And it is 217 years since the Declaration of Independence asserted that all men are "created equal." Yet, all people have not been able to share in the "dream." While civil rights laws are difficult to legislateýlegislating attitudes is impossible.
What do these struggles throughout the world have in common? The resounding theme rising from every continent of the earth today is the cry for freedom from oppression and abuse. The echoing cry reverberates for the inherent rights of every man, woman, childýborn and unborn, even for the whale, the owl and the tree. They represent the oppressed crying for their rights. But who hears?
Godís Laws of Restitution
When it comes to human rights and dignity, there is a set of laws which God legislated for ancient Israel almost 3,500 years ago. These laws are the Laws of the Jubilee. They are the most unique set of laws the world has ever known. Not only did they provide for equity in the distribution of land, but they even provided for leveling out inequalities that might arise between people.
Mosesí law provided for a restitution every fiftieth year-the Jubilee year. This law prevented the accumulation of property, for whatever reason, in the hands of a few. (Le 25:9,13-23,27-30) If a man became involved in debt, he might be obliged to sell a part ýor even all of his propertyýand then, with his family, go into servitude. But God made a bountiful provision for the unfortunate. He arranged that such adverse circumstances might not continue forever, but that all their accountsýcredits and debtsýmust be reckoned only to the Jubilee Year. At that time allýland and peopleýmust be freed from old misfortunes to make a fresh start for the next cycle of fifty years.
The system did not work perfectly, but it helped. Equality could not be legislated back then either. But what was important was that this Jubilee system served as a model of a greater reality when all people would have equal rights and fair distribution of properties and privileges. Paul calls the features of the Jewish Law "a faint outline of the good things to come" (Heb 10:1, Good News Bible). Jesus also explained, "Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the law will be done away withýuntil all its teachings come true" (Mt 5:18, GNB).
What does the Jubilee Law teach? It teaches that equal property rights and equal rights of personal liberty will some day be reinstated. Because of sin, man has lost his right to life. He is a slave to death. Because of sin, he has lost equality as far as his property rights. Through the centuries of manís history the few have oppressed the many by taking away their rights and dignity. How long will this continue? When will the Jubileeís "teachings come true"? After all, Jesus died almost two thousand years ago.
When is this time of Restoration?
It is the purpose of Jesus Christís second advent to restore everything lost in Adam.
"And he [God] shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." Ac 3:20, 21
"Restitution" is indeed the object of his return! What does "restitution" mean? [The same word was translated "restore" earlier in the Book of Ac 1:6 when the disciples were asking about restoring the nation of Israel to its former status.] "Restitution" literally means "to reconstitute in health, home and organization" (Strongís Concordance 605, 600). Since it is the "times" (plural) of restitution, this implies various stages in a process of restoration. Since it is the "times of restitution of ALL things," this also implies a very comprehensive restoration process.
How did "all the holy prophets" talk about the "times of restitution"? They did not mention the word "restitution" in spite of the fact that the Apostle Peter says they all "spoke" about it. But the prophets of the entire Old Testament, in fact, pointed to this time of restoring everything man lost in Adam-his home, his health and his life rights. Moses, also a prophet, verbalized this time of restoring in the Law. On Mt. Sinai, he received the Jubilee law too from God Himself. This time of restoration is the Kingdom of God in the hands of the Christ Messiah. This Jubilee for the world is not a year but a thousand years longýit is the Kingdom of Christ so long prayed for by Christians. For the world of mankind this will mean a release from the bondage of the tomb and all the misery leading to it.
How Did the Jubilee System Work?
When the fiftieth year came around in Israel, could one imagine that everyone was happy to give back the lands to the rightful owners? Was it a joyful occasion to release their bond servants? No, rather, there must have been considerable resistance to this equalizing process. On the other hand, might it be imagined that those demanding their lands back might be asking for perhaps a little more than their due?
Legislation is one thing. Human nature another. No doubt, the Jubilee year was a clamorous, agonizing period of time. No doubt, disputes needed in many cases to be brought to courts of law. Counter claims, no doubt, complicated the real issues. The entire year must have been required to arrive at any state of equality for all of Israel.
Regarding the time for the establishment of Godís Kingdom on earth in the hands of the returned Lord Jesus, the prophets spoke extensively about a time of trouble. The era of blessing and restoring of rights and life will have its inauguration in a heated social struggle and violent political strife. The cry for Jubilee rights against inequalities and oppression have already ascended to a crescendo in these last days. The Book of James speaks of a particular cry concerning a particular kind of oppressionýthat is, the oppression of the laborer by the rich.
"And now, you rich people, listen to me! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches have rotted away, and your clothes has been eaten by moths. You have piled up riches in these last days. You have not paid any wages to the men who work in your fields. Listen to their complaints! The cries of those who gather in your crops have reached the ears of God, the Lord Almighty. Your life here on earth has been full of luxury and pleasure. Be patient, then my brothers until the Lord comes." Jas 5:1-6 (GNB)
Labor unions emerging at the end of the nineteenth century did much to address the needs of the common laborer. But these unions have their limitations and have brought with them their own abuses and are not the answer by any means.
The yoke of colonialismýand more recently communismýthroughout the world has been broken off the necks of oppressed peoples. Each little ethnic subgroup is demanding its right to a place under the sun and its own separate identity. The minorities within each country are no longer quiet, but are rising up to demand both their just and fancied rights.
As might be expected, there are excesses. There are imagined rights as well as legitimate rights. While no human has a right to oppress another human being, the time of change has seen nations which claim to be "Christian" taking affirmative action for the fancied rights of homosexuals.
The clashing cries for the rights of the unborn verses the rights of the woman over her own body ("Pro Life" and "Pro Choice") are a very heated controversy. So important are these claims that they have continually become presidential campaign issues. Where does the Christian stand on these issues? Our sympathies lie, of course, with the whole groaning creation crying for just rights and justice. But the Christian was not asked to throw his or her efforts into social reform, improved legislation or political issues. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight." (Joh 18:36) The Christian really cannot condone the methods advocated and employed to right some of these wrongs. Often they are inappropriate or violent. But far from being disinterested in these issues, the Christian longs for the time that these injustices will be fully and fairly addressed in Godís Kingdom.
What we see today is the beginning of the Jubilee cry. THE TIME IS AT HAND states that the Jubilee "will open with sweeping reforms, with recognition of rights, liberties and possessions long lost sight of; but the work of completely restoring (to the obedient) all that was originally lost will require all of that age of restitutionýa thousand years." (p. 179)
Then truly the "dream" of all mankind will be realized. All will be given an equal opportunity to find eternal life and happiness in Christís Kingdom. The "valleys" of the oppressed will be elevated and the formidable "mountains" of the oppressors will be made low in this kingdom. (Isa 40:4,5)
You may already have a copy of the book THE TIME IS AT HAND. If so, or if you recently requested one, please read the chapter on "Earthís Great Jubilee," which treats precise lines of scriptural reasoning on the exact timing of the Jubilee system. Also available is an article, "The Jubilee of Restoration," which we will be happy to send you for your study of this important subject in greater detail.
The Golden Thread of Salvation Proves the Bible is Inspired
If you read 66 different books, written by over 40 different authors with no contradiction between them, you could only conclude there was collusion between the different authors or one person was supervising them all. But what if these 40 authors lived over a period of 1600 years and there was still no contradiction between them. Impossible! Unless, a miracle happened.
There were 66 books written by over 40 different authors, whose lives did span 1600 years and their writings on diversified subjects didnít contradict each other. Collusion was impossible. But a miracle happened. One person supervised their writings. That one person was God. This collection of 66 different books is usually printed in one volume entitled THE HOLY BIBLE, which is divided into two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
How do we know these 66 books are harmonious? How do we know the Bible is the inspired Word of God? There are many ways of proving the internal harmony of our 66 books of Scripture, but tracking the promised "seed" of salvation is doubly inspiring. It is the golden or Divine thread that weaves through the whole Bible, binding it together in its glorious promise of eternal life.
The first three chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, describes the creation of Adam in the "image of God" dwelling in an Edenic paradise, with the assurance of this eternal home if they obeyed the laws of God. Disobedience would be penalized by death. "Dying thou shalt die." (Ge 2:17) The laws of God are necessary for the eternal well being of the human race. Satan tempted our first parents. They disobeyed and were banished from Eden. As a result of Adamís fall into sin and death, the whole race is "born in sin and shapen in iniquity." By one manís (Adamís) offense all became sinners and were condemned to death. (Ro 5:16-19)
The last three chapters of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, prophesies that mankind will be restored to life in an Edenic paradise, which will be his eternal home, while Satan is destroyed. All the books of the Bible in between describe the process of redemption and reconciliation by which man and his earthly paradise are restored.
Who is the Seed?
The golden thread of the promised "seed" of salvation begins in Ge 3:15 when Adam fell from Godís favor of life. God promised that the "seed" or descendant of Eve would bruise the serpentís head (representative of Satan, 2Co 11:3). A blow to the head can be fatal. Here was a glimmer of hope. If Satan is destroyed then manís lot would be improved. But who is this "seed" or descendant of Eve that would accomplish this? Ge 22:17-18 reveals that the "seed" would come through the lineage of Abraham and it would consist of two classes. Abrahamís "seed" would be "as the stars of heaven" (a heavenly class) and as "the sand upon the seashore" (an earthly class). Now the glimmer of hope becomes bright. "And in thy (Abrahamís) seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."
In Ge 26:1-4, when God repeats the promise of the "seed" to Isaac, God only likens it to the "stars of heaven" (a heavenly class) with no reference to the sands of the seashore. Again God promises that the "seed" or descendant of Isaac would bless "all the nations of the earth." Then, at the death of Isaac, the lineage of the "seed" of promise that was to bless "all the families of the earth" was narrowed to Jacob. In Ge 28:13-14 Jacobís "seed" or descendants was likened to the "dust of the earth" which like "sand of the seashore" symbolizes an earthly class. Jacobís name was changed to Israel. The promised "seed" would be Israelitish.
The Isaac or Heavenly Seed
Now skipping over to the New Testament, Paul finally identifies the promised "seed" or descendant that is to bless "all the nations of the earth." In Ga 3:16 it states, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. And to thy seed (singular), which is Christ." Yes, Jesus Christ is the "seed" or descendant of Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel) that is to bless "all the nations of earth." But Paul expanding on his lesson of 1Co 12:12 that the body of Christ is composed of many members yet is one body, makes a startling statement in Ga 3:27-29. "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christís, then are ye Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise."
All those in Christ are Abrahamís "seed" and heirs of the promise. But remember the promise was not that the "seed" would receive the blessing but that the "seed" would do the blessing, that is, bless "all the nations of the earth." Remember Ge 26:4, Isaac symbolized the "stars of heaven" or heavenly phase of Abrahamís "seed." In Ga 4 Paul shows that Isaac pictured Jesus and his church, the Christ, head and body.
Similarly, in Ro 4:13-14, Paul teaches that through righteousness (justification) by faith Christians become the seed of Abraham who are the heirs of the world. The world thus inherited will be blessed by the church in Christís kingdom. Re 20:4
Remember Ge 3:15. The "seed" of the woman was to destroy Satan and He 2:15 informs us that Jesus will destroy the devil who brought the whole human race under the power of death. Now comes the conclusive proof that faithful Christians (spiritual Israel) are part of the "seed" of the woman. In Ro 16:20 Paul states that "the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." Although the second advent of Christ and his kingdom, when all of this would be accomplished, was nearly 2000 years future, yet from Godís perspective of time it would occur "shortly."
The Jacob (Israel) or Earthly Seed
Remember Genesis 28:14 shows that Jacob (Israel) pictured the earthly seed. The nation of Israel will play an important role in Godís kingdom (Zec 8:20-23; Isa 2:2-4; Eze 16:55-63) when human-kind are restored to perfect life in a worldwide Edenic paradise. Thus Ro 4:17 reveals that when God said to Abraham (Ge 17:5) "I have (past tense) made thee a father of many nations," He in His foreknowledge could speak of it as an accomplished fact. That is because God even then intended to resurrect the dead to fulfill His promise to Abraham.
Just as the sand of the seashore is innumerable, so the literal Hebrew of Ge 22:18 reveals that all the nations of the earth will become a part of the earthly "seed" as they come into the Israelitish Kingdom of God (Zec 8:20-22). Ge 22:18 "In becoming that Ďseedí shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves." Thus Re 20:8 refers to all the nations at the end of the 1000 year Kingdom as the sand of the sea. Those who overcome the test of the Little Season will receive the blessings of eternity. Re 21:4-7
The golden thread of the "seed" of promise begins in Ge 3. It weaves through all the books of the Bible and its glorious fulfillment is prophesied 65 books later in the third chapter from the end of the last book of the Bible (Revelation) which was written 1600 years after Genesis. Yes, the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, 66 books are transformed into one harmonious book. No other book gives such a reasonable explanation for the permission of evil. No other book gives man such a wonderful hope.
"No Way Out"
Lk 21: 25, 26
In plain television view of the Bosnian killings, the Christian West has a dilemma. Both military intervention and milder economic sanctions promise terrible consequences. Allowing the violence repeats the shameful do-nothing failures of World War II.
On June 28, 1914, the spark that ignited the Great War was lit by a Serbian anarchist in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Later, to fix things the so-called "peace of Versailles" provided for an amalgamation of Southern Slavic peoplesýSlovenians, Croats, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Serbs. This threw Ottomans and Hapsburgs togetherýa mix of Catholics, Orthodox and Moslem.
During World War II, Croatians cooperated with the Nazis against their Serbian neighbors. Post war Communists held all these factions in check. Now with the Communist suppression broken, strong latent nationalism has erupted as "ethnic cleansing" producing new large-scale rapes and murders.
In desperation to keep some semblance of "world peace," the nations are gathering in such alliances as the United Nations. But the "peace-keeping" forces have no peace to keep. Committing forces means the risk of getting caught in an inescapable "black hole" conflict. What to do? There are no simple choices. There seems to be no way out. No human way out.
Who Said There was ĎNo Way Outí?
When Jesus talked about the nations reaching a point of "no way out," he was actually answering a question (Lk 21:7).
His apostles were asking about the destruction of their temple which they associated with the end of their age and mistakenly with Jesusí return. In order not to discourage them about the long time that would pass before he would returnýlong after the destruction of their temple, he simply described many events that would have to take place before he would return. In this way he prepared them (as well as later Christians) for the long wait. After vividly portraying this period of waiting, he concluded by encouraging them, "In your patience possess ye your souls" (Lk 21:8-19).
Then Jesus addressed their specific question about Jerusalem and the temple (Lk 21:20-24). The Great Teacher realized his disciples would not be able to comprehend that while the collapse of the temple and Jerusalem was imminent, their destruction would also portray the destruction of an anti-Christ system at the end of the age. But Jesus encouraged a way for Christians to flee Jerusalem. "When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains...." Many Jewish Christians did escape Jerusalem in an extraordinary but temporary lull while Titus laid siege to Jerusalem 67-70 A. D. Prophetically, Jesus was also suggesting a way of escape for Christians from the false Christian system at the end of the age. Then they do not flee to literal mountains, but to Christís kingdom (see also Mt 24:15-19). Christians have a way out by faith.
A Nation with a Separate Destiny
Even in such an awful prophecy about literal Jerusalem being destroyed and people being scattered, Jesus explained that Jerusalem would be "trodden down" only until "the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Mt 24:24). Not only would there come a time when Jerusalem would cease to be under Gentile domination, but that Israel as a nation would "shoot forth" (revive) as the "fig tree" (Mt 24:29,31). Israelís restoration would be a sign that "summer is nigh," that the Kingdom is being established (Mt 24:32-33).
The "times of the Gentiles" did expire with World War I. The church-state ruling houses of Europe were broken. One of the few positive results of World War I was the Balfour Declaration (1917) which gave support to the creation of a Jewish State. But the regathering and restoration of Israel have been arduous and painful. Still it would appear that Israelýwith enemies without and conflict withinýalso has "no way out."
But the Scriptures are clear that though Israel would experience difficulties in the end times, it would not be destroyed as a nation. The other nations of the world, however, would come to their national end in great tribulation. "For I am with thee [Israel], saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee..." (Jer 30:11).
In fact, while anarchy will pull the nations down, armed forces from those nations, intent on destroying Jerusalem, will actually be destroyed themselves because God will fight for Israel. "Then shall the LORD go forth and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle" (Zec 14:1-3).
The ironic twist is that the peoples of those same nations which were destroyed will later come back to worship the Lord in Jerusalem (Zec 14:16). When the "mountain," the Kingdom of God is fully set up, "all nations shall flow unto it." They will come to Jerusalem to seek the God of Israel and learn of Godís ways (Isa 2:1-4).
"The Powers of Heaven Shall be Shaken"
Jesus pointed out that when he would return at the end of the age, the nations of earth would not only find themselves in such a "no-way-out" predicament, but that the very heavens would shake (Lk 21:26). How would the heavens "shake"?
When Jesus spoke of the "fig tree," "the sun," "the moon," "the stars" and his coming on a "cloud," it is important to understand that he was speaking in figurative language. That was his method (Mt 13:13-17). The "heavens" represent the religious element of this world order as opposed to the "earth," the secular element. At the same time that the secular world is in troubleýso too is the religious, Christianity.
The religious world is "shaken" of public confidence. The religious element no longer offers the stability and security it did in the past. The Gospel light of the "sun" appears darkened and obscured. The reflective light ("moon") of the Old Testament is no longer considered a guiding light by many. Both the true Gospel and false gospels have fallen into disrepute. In ancient maritime navigation, stars told the captains of ships where they were and where to go. "Stars" are teachers. Today true Christian teachers are fallen from honor. False Christian leaders also are continually being exposed and viewed with disdain.
Notwithstanding the illusion that Christians will soon convert this nation or other nations of the world, Christianity is being "shaken." The most rapidly growing religion in the world is Islam.
Pseudo Christs Offering a Way
In the parallel account of Jesusí prophecy found in Mt 24, there are two distinct references to false [pseudo] Christs. Not only would false claims be made throughout the Gospel Age (Mt 24:5), but at the end of the age (Mt 24:24), many would also make such preposterous claims. Many false Christís have rallied a small following for a short period of timeýwhile the rest of the world would look on in appalled amazement. A most recent false Christ, cultist David Koresh, while adhering to the traditional Christian beliefs of the trinity and hell fire, added a few deranged claims of his own.
However, there have also been anti-Christs [not against Christ but attempting to take the place of Christýa counterfeit Christ]. Great church systems have claimed holy authority and have used their power through the might of kings and leaders to control both believer and unbeliever alike. The damage they have done in the name of Christ is horrifying. Such has been the recent triangle of maniacal behavior in the BalkansýSerbian Orthodox against Croatian Catholic against Bosnian Moslem. It is very odd that while Jesus said, "My Kingdom is not of this world else would my servants fight for it," the followers of mainline Christian churches see no conflict and have regularly taken up arms to kill and be killed, much the same as the "Davidians" and other "cults."
"Menís hearts failing them for fear"
The "sea and the waves roaring" (Mt 24:25) represent the restless, clamorous masses of humanity. The breakdown of the Communist monolith has spawned new-nation states in response to long dormant nationalist aspirations. Despite the excitement and satisfaction of nationalist desires, such as the unification of Germany, frustrations are frightening. Economic inequity in Germany has caused recent labor disputes and ethnic hostilities against immigrants. Tens of thousands of dissatisfied eastern Europeans trek west in search of a better life. They too will be welcomed with hostility.
Thus while Jesus predicted there would come a time when the nations would have "no way out," the "powers of heaven shall be shaken" also. The result: "Menís hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken" (Lk 21:26). It is not on a literal "cloud" that Jesus returns. When "he cometh with clouds," they are the clouds of trouble (Re 1:7). Eventually the world of mankind will "see"ýperceiveýthat behind the trouble in the world is Christ setting up his Kingdom of righteousness.
"Rejoice when you see"
True Christians are asked by Jesus to not despair when they see the trouble in the world, but to look up in faith and rejoice. But Christians do not "look up" if they are "overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness and cares of this life" (Lk 21:34-36). If they are too involved in worldly priorities, they will be too busy to search the Scriptures and notice the significance of world conditions. The "day" is here and many are "unawares." Christians are to "watch" when "these things begin to come to pass."
The "way out" is the Kingdom. Faithful, watching Christians with Jesus will be there to help the peoples of the nations into that Kingdom (Re 21:24).
There is Hope
The carefree days of summer and vacation time are behind us. Somehow, we hoped that by Labor Day the U. S. economy would be jump-started, that the horrors and evils of Bosnia would be behind us and our soldiers would be out of Somalia. Instead, massive layoffs by major corporations continue to stagnate the economy, the stark horrors of Bosnia remain and our soldiers continue in the quagmire of Somalia with 400 more troops ordered in- not out.
Actually, if we review the events of the last two months, there seems to be little to give us much hope. Yet the extreme severity of the problems is the one thing that gives real hope. Dan 12:1-2 and Hag 2:7 reveal that just before Godís Kingdom, when "the desire of all nations shall come," conditions on earth would mark us in "a time of trouble (or "shaking of the earth") such as never was since there was a nation." The noted historian, Arnold Toynbee, designated our era as "an unprecedented time of troubles." The events of this not so lackadaisical summer confirm that the "time of trouble" of Dan 12:1 is upon us.
Our Economy Will Yet Collapse
(Eze 7:19; Zeph 1:18)
Unprecedented floods in the Midwest and the scorched earth drought in the farmlands of the Southeast resulted in crop destruction that will haunt our frayed economy. Flood recovery will cost over 20 billion dollars while we are still strapped with paying off Hurricane Andrew. Massive layoffs continue. How many more disasters can our crisis ridden economy absorb?
Unprecedented Crime, Violence, Hate-in "the Last Days"
In July, the Report To The Governor On The Disturbances In Crown Heights revealed that there were three days of uncontrolled violence against Jews simply because they were Jews. The only disagreement is who was responsible for not taking steps to quell the violence immediately. Acts of anti-Semitism are at an all-time high throughout the world. Will the "hunters" rise again (Jer 16:16)? There is an alarming increase in skinheads and violent murders of members of all minorities by skinheads (Time, August 9, 1993).
The abortion battle has reached a new high in violence. It has been bloody. Now it is deadly. Doctors who perform abortions have been shot or murdered. Those who pulled the trigger are considered heroes by some.
Violent car-jackings have instilled a fear of driving in some parts of the nation. (Time, August 16, 1993). And what about our youth, the flower of any nation? "Theyíre armed, dangerous and live next door. From inner cities to quiet suburbs, Americaís youth have developed a fatal attraction to firearms" (Time, August 2, 1993). In addition to gang killings and crime, the latest craze of youth is drive-by shootingsýaiming mostly at cars and houses. Thus far this year, New York City has experienced an average of 28 deaths a month from random shootings. But even quiet towns like Omaha, NE and Lexington, KY are being shot up by young punks.
Immorality Marks Us in "the Last Days"
Thanks to the new morality, sexual activity of teens is on the increase. The National Center For Disease Control and Prevention reported that 7 out of 10 high school seniors are sexually active (Newark Star Ledger, August 22, 1993). More than a million teenagers become pregnant each year. Most alarming is the increase in pregnancy among girls 10 to 14 years old. HIV (AIDS virus) infections continue to spiral at an astronomical rate. The greatest increase is now among heterosexual relations. Our society is so pleasure driven that the simple Biblical solution to these sex oriented problems, premarital abstinence, is considered impractical.
July Fourth Fireworks
Fortunately Americans just missed the greatest July 4th fireworks explosion in history. It was sheer luck, not FBI or police prowess, which the UN, Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, etc. were not blown up the week of July Fourth. Only because a member of the terrorist gang turned informant were we spared. This doesnít bode well for the U. S. in the future. Terrorist acts are extremely difficult to prevent. Egypt can well attest to that. Islamic fundamentalists are determined to overthrow President Mubarak and they just may succeed. To the South, Sudan has become the haven, training ground and launching pad for the Islamic fundamentalist militants. Meanwhile, in Southern Sudan, the Islamic Government has been waging a campaign of genocide against black Christians that would make Bosnia look like a picnic. Two million have been killed since 1989 (Jewish Press, August 27, 1993). Where is the news media?
Europe is No Better
Europe is in the throes of its severest recession since the "great depression" of the 1930s. Ethnic hatred and violence in Germany and elsewhere has become so common place that it doesnít make headlines anymore. And then there is Bosnia, the shame of every Western leader. Joel 3:9-10 speaking of the end time, predicted that "weak" nations will say, "I am strong." Despite President Clintonís threats, the little Serb army in Bosnia has defied the UN and bullied its forces all over the countryside. The peace treaty that is being brokered by the UN appears to be a sell-out to ethnic cleansing and violence.
Also, the breakup of the Communist Empire and nations into smaller ethnic nations is a remarkable fulfillment of Amos 5:18-19. The end-time would find mankind fleeing from a "lion" (British Empire) only to meet the (Russian) "bear." With the fall of Russian Communism each segment is going into its "house" of ethnic nationalism. First we saw the dividing of the Soviet Union into ethnic republics, then Czechoslovakia divided into two republics. Now the former Yugoslavia is splintering into ethnic nations. This threatens a domino effect of further ethnic splintering in the former Soviet Republics.
Popeís Trip to Denver
The most significant event of the summer was not the Popeís trip to Denver, as colorful a media event as it was, but President Clintonís anxiousness to travel from Washington to Denver to welcome the Pope as he stepped off the plane. Then he had a private meeting with him. Would Clinton do the same for the head of any other church? No. But all heads of State are eager to meet with Pope John Paul II (Time, August 23, 1993). Why? Because he is not just the head of a church, the Vatican is the capital of a church-state government, the Papal State. For centuries the Papal State has claimed to be the Kingdom of God on earth. Remember when Popes crowned and uncrowned kings? Historians refer to that era as the "Dark Ages."
The Pope has 1.5 billion followers worldwide. They might differ with him on abortion, birth control, celibacy of the priesthood, but they revere him as the head of the Papal State. Through his priesthood he has an intelligence gathering network that is the envy of every government. It reaches down into almost every town and villa over much of the globe. Nations are anxious to exchange ambassadors with the Vatican. John Paul II plays power politics with a skill that awes world leaders. John Paul and former President Reagan successfully plotted the downfall of the Communist Empire (Time, February 24, 1992). His ultimate political agenda is revealed in the following statement he made April 21, 1990.
"A united Europe is no longer a dream. It is not utopian memory from the Middle Ages [emphasis added]. The events that we are witnessing show that this goal can be reached." The Pope wants to revive the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages.
The Scriptures (Re 13, 17, 19) indicate just such a church-state union will result in the final downfall of our civilization. But there is hopeýfor upon these ruins God will set up His Kingdom that will rule from the rivers to the end of the earth. Manís extremity will be Godís opportunity. Da 2:44; Zeph 3:8-9; Ps 46:6-10
The newly updated booklet "What Is This World Coming To?" shows that todayís headlines were prophesied over 2,000 years ago in the Bible. The booklet "Church Union and Anti-Christ" focuses on the "man of sin," "Anti-Christ," and "false prophet" prophecies. Together they will give you a guide through the thrilling prophetic times in which we are living.
Health and Well Being for All
Recent headlines present the Bible-believing Christian with a wealth of points to ponder. The declining economy of Western nations, wearisome civil war in Bosnia and prospects of peace in the Middle East are just a few current events leading to the fulfillment of prophecy. But two seemingly unrelated news items especially caught our attention. One is the National Health Reform bill and the other, an insidious insight into hell.
National Health Insurance
President Clintonís idealism and enthusiasm are nurturing the work of national health reform. Though we do not agree with all of Mr. Clintonís positions, we do appreciate the fact that he has thrown himself so energetically into serving the needs of the people he leads. For his personal sacrifices of time and energyýhe has our respect. The basic idea of health reform, medical care for all Americans, is an excellent one. The majority of Americans feel that health care for all is humane and just.
Daily, the need for national health care is becoming more painfully obvious. Too often common people are faced with the uncommon experience of losing health insurance. Businesses large and small are reeling from the current economic crunch. In order to cope they are either laying off thousands of workers or reducing, even canceling, the health benefits employees formerly took for granted. Every day wrenching news stories of uninsured families stricken with a catastrophic illness and medical bills amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars reach our earsýand hearts. The burdens of such debts have driven many to despair.
Such suffering arouses tender concern in most people, and should definitely touch the hearts of Godís people. The benevolent spirit manifested in the health reform plan is heart warming. The human race needs comfort. Remove the gloss of televisionís entertaining fantasies and the short-lived comforts of materialistic pursuits and a basic truth is revealed. That truth is that the human race has groaned and travailed in pain together throughout history and, truly continues to suffer today. Wars, disease, crime, drugs, old age, poverty, physical abuse, prejudice, loneliness and many other woes have not left a single person on this planet unaffected. This fact leads us to appreciate every just effort to alleviate human suffering in lifeís brief season.
Yet, while some are calculating the means to comfort this short life, others have calculated the probability of eternal conscious torture for most Americansýand for the world! What a contrast!
Headlines Cause Heated Response
The New York Times (Monday September 20, 1993) reported that Southern Baptists are receiving intense criticism for a report published on the front page of Alabamaís The Birmingham News. That report was a county-by-county breakdown of who was bound for eternal salvation or eternal damnation. The Southern Baptists have calculated that 46.1 percent (1.86 million) of Alabamaís citizens are bound for an eternity of hellís unimaginable horrors. Intense furor rose in Alabama.
National figures were also calculated by the Southern Baptists but, presently, are not going to be made available. We donít wonder at this. If 46.1 percent of a Bible-belt stateís population is probably "unsaved," many more may be considered "unsaved" in the other states. The national numbers of those the Southern Baptists believe will be eternally lost would raise a tremendous controversy.
An Emotional Issue
Merely mentioning hell raises intense emotions. Perhaps it is fear that, for the most part, causes many to respond so frenetically. But, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." And "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." 2Ti 1:7; 1Joh 4:18 In full love and trust we come to the Lord through His Word. A topical study of hell and other related subjects (immortality in particular) gives us a Biblical concept of hell dramatically different from the concept taught through the dark ages.
Sources of Thought
Reading any objectively written history of Christianity will reveal the source for much of what we once considered the teachings of Scripture. That source of thought was primarily focused through one manýSt. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. Augustine was a brilliant man who ardently admired the doctrines of Plato (the noted Greek philosopher) and the Neoplatonists. Their ideas of good and evil, of the "immortal soul" and of eternal punishment greatly appealed to Augustineís fertile mind. However, Augustine also fell in love with the Bible and its story of Godís Anointed OneýJesus Christ. It was unfortunate that he did not choose one or the other. Augustineís genius was able to fuse the simple faith of the Bible with the philosophical ramblings of the Greeks.
The pagan Greeks viewed the cross of Christ as foolishness. Despite their great philosophical "wisdom" they did not know God! (see 1Co 1:21-23) Yet, when the foundations of orthodoxy in Christian doctrine were established, Augustine embraced the teachings of pagan Greeks as the guidelines. Confusion has reigned ever since. Despite Lutherís bold declaration against the immortality of the soul (point 27 of the 95 Theses), the other Reformation leaders embraced Augustineís Grecian philosophy. Lutherís Biblical truth on the "soul" was lost to and in the Protestant Reformation. This sort of theology became the intellectual weapon of church scholars by which they ruled the ignorant massesýin fear. Today we are able to read the Bible in simple faith, trusting that the words actually mean what they say.
Scriptures On "Immortal Soul"
There are no Scriptures using the phrase "immortal soul." We must turn to Plato if we want information on that. The Bible teaches that immortality is conditional. That is, if we want it, we may obtain it on certain conditions. We must be Jesusí disciples. Immortality will be given "to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life." "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." Ro 2:7; 1Co 15:53
Those who do not seek for immortality continue under the sentence of death pronounced upon Adam. The death sentence is the wrath of God. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Eze 18:4; Ro 1:18
Those who die go to sheolýthe Hebrew word translated hell, grave and pit in our Bible. A concise definition of sheol is framed by this scripture, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave [sheol], whither thou goest." Ec 9:10
The point is that if human beings really are dead they know nothing. They feel nothing. They do nothing. The "unsaved" (another word we donít find in the common version of the Bible) do not experience eternal conscious torture. They experience deathýthe cessation of existence. Even many of Christís disciples would experience the condition of death. Paul, speaking of brethren who had seen Jesus after his resurrection, noted that "He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep." 1Co 15:6
When would they be raised from the dead? At the second advent of Christ. "For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangelís call and with the sound of Godís trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever." 1Th 4:15-17 (NRSV)
HeavenýBy Invitation Only
The call to become one of Christís body members is not being extended to everyone. The scriptures speak of Godís invitation to the heavenly spiritual reward as "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Php 3:14 The invitation is selective. Godís saints are noted in the book of Revelation as being "called, and chosen, and faithful." Re 17:14 We thank our God, "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2Ti 1:9
The Destiny of the Majority
While the scriptures clearly teach the present election of comparatively few, this does not imply that the rest of the groaning creation has been cast off by an uncaring God. Those who do not go to heaven as members of the body of Christ will not suffer eternal agony. Neither will they pass out of existence eternallyýdoomed or forgotten by God. It is Satan who desires mankind to believe that God would condemn a living creature to an eternity of suffering, without hope of ever being freed, for whatever sins they committed during their threescore and ten years on earth.
Mankind will experience a call to Godís kingdom on earth when Christ reigns over it. "And the Spirit [Jesus] and the bride [his church] say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Re 22:17
Godís grace to the few who are called with this holy calling is wonderful. In speaking of this grace, Paul gives us a clue as to the purpose of the call. "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)" 2Co 6:1-2 The Greek language reads "now is an accepted time, behold, now is a day of salvation." The Christian era is not the only day of salvation nor the only acceptable time. Proof of this is supplied by the scriptures themselves.
Paul quoted Isa 49:8-10 "Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them."
Those that Paul urges to receive the grace of God not in vain are Christians. These are given, by God, "for a covenant of the people." That covenant will provide the rest of mankind an opportunity to be freed from the prison-house of death. It will lead the willing and obedient to the waters of life eternal as human beings. If we are faithful to our Lord we shall reign with him. The privilege of helping to deliver the groaning creation from the bondage of sin and death will be oursýas kings and priests over the earth. That is the purpose of our heavenly calling. (What a marvelous solution to the question of universal health care!) What a great vindication of the righteous character of our God. Ro 8:16-21
"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful." Re 21:3-5
For a detailed study of the scriptures on hell and immortality send for the 105 page booklet, "Where Are The Dead?"
Despite the euphoria over the Israeli-P.L.O. peace accord, the road to actual peace between Israel and the Arabs is full of difficulties. Bible-believing Christians view this startling development with great prophetic interest. Those who have a short prophetic time frame expect a peace that will prophetically position Israel in the setting of Eze 38:11 - dwelling "at rest," "without walls and having neither bars nor gates." Then Gog and his associates would invade Israel resulting in the destruction of our world order (Eze 38-39). We, however, are inclined to believe that other prophetic events have to develop in Israel, Europe, and the United States before the drama of Eze 38-39 can unfold. Therefore, whether or not peace is attained, this peace process will set in motion a series of events that will precipitate another Arab-Israeli war.
Regardless of our prophetic view, Christian attitudes toward Israel and its land are all important. Sometimes attitudes contradict. For example, some Christians who believe God used the Holocaust to punish the Jewish people for not having the faith to return to their promised land, feel it is now right for Israel to give up land which they claim the Jews were punished for not having the faith to occupy in the first place.
This raises the questionýwhose land are the world powers pressuring Israel to give to the Arabs? During the period of the prophetic development of Israel, before Godís Kingdom is set up in Jerusalem, God refers to the land as "His land." Eze 38:16; Isa 11:11. Joel 3:1-2 reveals that one of the reasons the Lord punishes the nations is first they scattered His people Israel among the nations and then they "parted (partitioned) My land." In 1917 Britain declared the Jews had a right to a National Home in Palestine. The League of Nations in 1921 gave Britain a mandate to implement this Jewish State on both sides of the Jordan River. In 1922 at the urging of Britain, three-quarters of Palestineýall of Palestine east of the Jordan River was given to the Arabs and is now known as the nation of Jordan. In 1947 the UN reneged further on the worldís promise of a Jewish State in Palestine by partitioning the remaining one-quarter of Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State. Despite the Arab boast to push the Jews in the sea, in the Ď67 War Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza and now had one-quarter of the land promised to them in 1917 and 1921. Ever since, the World powers have been pressuring Israel to give up the West Bank and Gaza and now, seemingly, they have succeeded. The LORD is angry with the nations for these efforts to partition His land to appease the oil rich Arab nations.
The Rabin-Arafat agreement is at variance with Mic 7:11 (NAS, NIV) which identifies our time as "the day for extending your (Israelís) boundaries." This peace agreement actually shrinks Israelís boundaries, consequently it will not last. There is only one nation on earth that has its boundaries decreed in the Bible. That nation is Israel. Ge 15:18-21 declares that Israelís ultimate boundaries are from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates River. These boundaries will be fully attained in Godís Kingdom after the "time of trouble" or "great tribulation" which terminates our world or age (Dan 12:1; Mt 24:3, 21-22; Zeph 3:8,9). We will content ourselves here with identifying the minimum territory Israel will occupy before the "time of trouble" is over, and incidentally deal with the immigration of Russian Jews to the extent that that immigration is tied into the "land issue" scriptures.
Ps 83 deals with the Israeli-Arab conflict. It contains a prayer for the defeat of the Arab nations. The following scriptures reveal how this defeat is accomplished.
After Mic 7:11 speaks of our day as "the day for extending your (Israelís) boundaries," Mic 7:13-17 describe the "time of trouble." For example, Mic 7:13, "And the earth (symbolic of the social order) will become desolate because of her inhabitants. On account of the fruit of their deeds." Mic 7:14, sandwiched in this "time of trouble" setting, speaks of the Lord feeding (Hebrew "ruling," Strongís 7462) over Israel in a territory that includes Bashan (the Golan Heights-De 3:3,4; Nu 21:23-25; Jos 21:27) and Gilead. Gilead is a part of the East Bank of the Jordan River. The current peace process in the Middle East is negotiating the status of the† Golan Heights and the West Bank. What man proposes, God disposes. If Israel is forced to compromise land for peace, Mic 7 indicates that Israel will again acquire the Golan Heights, and not only the West Bank, but the East Bank as well, before the time of trouble is over.
Zec 10:10,11, speaks of an immigration of Jews from Assyria and Egypt that is so large that it will fill the land of Gilead and Lebanon. Jos 13:5,6, reveals that at least southern Lebanon belongs to Israel by divine right. Israel already occupies a buffer zone in southern Lebanon. An immigration from Assyria and Egypt will be so numerically great that it will fill the land of Gilead (East Bank) and southern Lebanon.
Literal Assyria is Iraq. There are fewer than a thousand Jews in Iraq and Egypt. This is hardly enough to fulfill Zec 10:10. Mic 5:5-7 is an example that "Assyria" is symbolic in other prophecies concerning Israel. Here Assyria invades Israel just before Israel becomes a blesser nation (Mic 5:7), and "Assyria" is repelled. This is evidently a parallel account of Gogís invasion recorded in Eze 38-39. It is generally agreed that Gog and some of his associates mentioned in Eze 38:3-7 refers to Russia and at least some of the republics of the former Soviet Unionýincluding the Moslem republics. Therefore, the massive immigration from Assyria may be a reference to† the current wave of Jews from Russia and the CIS (former Soviet Union) republics. Symbolic "Egypt" is the Christian world. There are over 5 million Jews in the United States alone.
Eze 20:32-38 identifies Israelís ancient exodus from Egypt as a picture of the exodus of Jews from all nations back to Israel at the end of the Gospel age. In this picture Israel had to cross a "sea" and a "river" in order to enter the promised land. The sea and the river (Hebrew word here does not mean the Euphrates but merely a river) in Zec 10:11 seem to be symbolic of removing the obstacles that prohibited the Jews from leaving the former Soviet Union. That obstacle was Communism. With its removal the massive exodus began. Nearly a half-million have immigrated to Israel.
Peace, Peace When There Is No Peace
Isa 11:14-16 also speaks of the smiting of a sea and a river (again in Hebrew not the Euphrates) in connection with a large immigration of Jews from Assyria to Israel. Isa 11:13 parallels Jer 3:18 the "house of Judah" and the "house of Israel" become one in Diaspora and return "together" to the Promised Land. Isa 11:14 shows any peace agreement will explode in a two-front war on Israelís southwest and eastern borders. "They (Israel) shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west (Gaza strip on the southwest Mediterranean coast where the Palestinians now reside)." The Hebrew literally means a flying attack from behind. The picture becomes even more vivid as the Hebrew for "shoulders" in Nu 34:11 refers to a maritime coastý"the side (shoulder) of the sea." Any Palestinian state or self-rule on the Gaza Strip will be short lived. Eventually, Israel by missiles or planes will circle out into the Mediterranean and attack the Palestinians from behind. Then the war shifts to the eastern front and Isa 11:13 (NAS) continuesý"they (Israel) will plunder the sons of the east. They will possess Edom and Moab. And the sons of Ammon will be subject to them."
These Old Testament nations occupied territories that are now within the Arab nation of Jordan on the East Bank of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. A war in which Israel defeats Jordan and occupies portions of Jordan, Gilead, Ammon, Moab and Edom could spark a wave of worldwide anti-Semitism that could precipitate a further massive exodus from Russia and the former Soviet Republics as described in the 16th verse.
In Ezekiel 38:14,15 Gog, is spoken of as coming from the "northern parts." Jer 16:14,15; 31:7,8; 23:8, 3:18 all speak of the regathering from all the nations, but additionally mention an emigration "out of the land of the north," which seems to be the land of Gog, or the former Soviet republics. Jer 3:14-18 reveals a trickle return, which was true from 1878 to the fall of communism in 1990. Isa 27:12-13 also speaks of trickle immigration from Russia until the sounding of a great trumpet, which causes another massive immigration. The Jubilee trumpet blast of human rights brought down Communism and nearly a half-million Jews fled to Israel. Isa 11:13-16 indicates the next massive immigration wave from the former Soviet Republics to Israel might be after the next Arab-Israeli war.
Zeph 2 is a parallel prophecy to Isa 11:13 which showed a decisive victory over the Palestinians in Gaza on the west and Moab, Ammon and Edom on the east. The Zeph 2 setting is during "the day of the Lordís anger (Zeph 2:2)." Zeph 2:4-7 describe a complete defeat of the Philistines in the Gaza area. Of course the literal Philistines have long since passed off the scene but they are symbolic of the Palestinians who now occupy that territory. Ironically one of the fanciful claims of the Palestinians is that they are descendants of the Philistines.
Then Zeph 2:8-10 indicts Moab and Ammon for all their abuses towards Israel. "I have heard the reproach of Moab and Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people and magnified themselves against their (Israelís) border (Zeph 2:8)." The Lord spared ancient Moab and Ammon during Israelís wilderness journey but not modern Moab and Ammon, which is the Arab nation of Jordan. It was Jordan who captured the West Bank, the Bible Jerusalem, expelled all Jews during Israelís War for Independence in 1948 and occupied them until Israelís victory in the Ď67 War. It was Jordan who destroyed all Jewish holy places in Jerusalem. Also Jordan and the Palestinians sided with Saddam Hussein during Desert Storm in the hope he would fulfill his threat to "scorch half of Israel." Now in the "peace process" Jordan is maneuvering to have the West Bank and Jerusalem federated to Jordan. Because of these sins, Zeph 2:9 informs us that Moab and Ammon (parts of modern Jordan) shall become "a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people (Israel) shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people (Israel) shall possess them."
Who Are The Palestinians?
Joan Peters in her book From Time Immemorial proves historically that the overwhelming majority of Arabs in Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza, do not have centuriesí long roots in the land. For centuries relatively few Arabs wandered in and out of the land of Israel. The Royal British Commission in 1937 blamed those Arabs for the desolation of the land. When the Jews, since 1878 and especially after World War I, returned in fulfillment of Bible prophecy, the economy of that land perked up. As a result, Arabs from Syria, Egypt, Iraq, etc., poured into Palestine by the tens of thousands. In Eze 36:1-7 the Lord is angry with "the people round about" the land of Israel (Arabs) who came into the land and made it a desolation. Eze 36:7 shows the Lord will punish these self-styled Palestinians. (And that punishment as already noted was depicted in Isa 11:13 and Zeph 2:3-8.)
After their decisive victory over the Arabs, Israel will dwell in peace and unwalled villages as symbolized in Eze 38:11. At this juncture, Gog and the nations listed in Eze 38:3-6 will invade Israel. Here we disagree with many of our "born-again" Christian friends. We do not believe in the so-called second holocaust in which nine-tenths of the Israelis will be eternally destroyed when slain by the forces of Gog and only a one-tenth holy remnant remains. The Scriptures show that some Israelis will be killed in Gogís invasion but even these will come forth from the grave for their trial for eternal life. (Joh 5:28-29).
This concept of the destruction of nine-tenths is based on the RSVís gross mistranslation of Eze 20:37 which implies the "rod" that Israelis pass under is a shepherdís counting rod. The New RSV has corrected its former mistranslation of Eze 20:37.
Holy Remnant Is A Holy Flock
The several Hebrew words translated remnant mean remainder, descendants, survivors. The thought of minority is not contained in these Hebrew words. The Hebrew words translated remnant can refer to a minority or a majority. Mic 2:12-13 refers to the remnant of Israel that is delivered as a flock that is noisy because it is crowded with men. Eze 36:32 speaks of this flock as a "holy flock" that is increased with men. This "holy flock" will be led by the Old Testament saints who, when raised from the grave, will be made princes in all the earth (Psa 45:16). Together they will be the nucleus of Godís Kingdom that will spread unto the ends of the earth. Zec 8:20-23 The Scriptures show that some Israelis will be killed in Gogís invasion but even these will come forth from the grave for their trial for eternal life. (Joh 5:28-29).
For a more detailed Scriptural discussion of the land issue and the "holy flock" send for the booklet The Israeli-Arab Peace Process In Bible Prophecy.
Will you be in the Lordís Great Army?
"The Lord shall utter his voice before his army my great army the earth shall quake before them, the heavens shall tremble." Joel 2:11, 25, 10
Whose army would you rather be in if you had to choose? How could you go wrong by being in this army? What will be expected of the soldiers? What will be the results of this apocalyptic tour of duty? Who signs you up? Is this only for men? Who is the enemy? What happens to the casualties? Can this army lose?
No army of the Lord could lose-or fail of His intended purpose for it. The Prophet Joel graphically portrays four divisions of this army that "executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?" (Joel 2:11) The army is described as four units: "the palmerworm," "the locust," "the cankerworm" and "the caterpillar" (Joel 1:4; 2:25). Is this prophecy about literal locusts before which "the earth shall quake...the heavens shall tremble"? How could the literal heavens tremble because of plagues of insects?
In Scripture "earth" represents the existing social order, while the "heavens" depict the spiritual or ecclesiastical order of things. Another prophet describes a similar universal trauma: "I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen..." (Hag 2:20,21) This army under the Lordís providence will overthrow the kingdoms of the nations ("earth") as well as false spiritual leadership ("heavens"). Just as apostate Israel suffered deserved punishment when its civil and religious ruling powers were destroyed, so too will apostate so-called Christian nations at the end of this age.
Where is This Army?
But where is there such an army ready for the great and very terrible "day of the Lord"? Just as Jesus is portrayed as a lamb for his guileless innocence and Satan as a roaring lion for his pouncing fierceness, these plagues of insects represent a relentless, devastating "army" of people bent on destruction. "The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them" (Joel 2:3). Could this be an army of Christians doing the Lordís bidding? Hardly-rather than being a "great" army of the Lord, Christians are described as a "little flock" (Lk 12:32). Their only weapon is Truth.
In the past, God used the forces of godless peoples to bring judgments against His people. In the period of the Judges of Israel, numerous times He brought the peoples from the surrounding nations (such as the Moabites and the Ammonites) to inflict his punishments. He called Assyria, "the rod of mine anger." These instruments of judgment, of course, were always willing instruments-often too willing. God dealt with them subsequently.
Do any of earthís armies today fit Joelís prophetic description? This army is highly disciplined: "...They do not press one another, every one on his beaten track do they go forward; and they pass through between warlike weapons, and change not their purpose." (Joel 2:7,8 Leeser). Is it the Russian army? Perhaps a European army? Or is it the army of the United States or one from Asia?
True, there is always the possibility of an army turning its power against its own governmental authorities instead of upholding and preserving them. In order to quell the popular uprising in Tiananmen Square in China, in 1989, the local divisions of the army were purposely not brought in. Divisions from remote areas were pressed into service to preserve the status quo. The government was careful not to use local troops who might have shown sympathy for local, peaceful protesters. But elsewhere that is exactly what happened. Eastern European troops did balk and support the people instead of the governments. The result toppled governments, but it could have been anarchy.
The Lordís Great Army, in fact, is mustering all over the world, in the Christian world as well as in the non-Christian world. The Lordís Great Army is not disciplined in the usual sense of the word, but only in the sense that its collective purpose is riveted on one objective: destroy the ruling powers of the "heavens" and "earth." It is the army of discontents, discouraged and dissatisfied common folk. Many "attacks" on society have been made in the recent past with more or less success. After World Wars I and II, a variety of socialistic governments promising more benefits to the common man came to power on the ruins of most European monarchies. Socialist programs in democratic societies have met with limited success and many more problems. Most recently, communistic socialismís collapse has opened the door of frustration which could lead to anarchy.
Waves of Travail
The "day of Godís wrath" is a progressive trouble, in waves, described in Scripture also as "travail upon a woman with child." (1Th 5:1-3) The "locusts" of Joel seem to assault in four "waves." What the first does not accomplish, the second does, and what the second does not, the third does....and so on.
In the climactic assault of Godís judgments as portrayed in Revelation, it appears that the religious part of Christendom (which is called "Babylon") falls before the civil/secular part. This is obvious because the "kings" and "merchants" who supported Babylon are very upset that the religious part is collapsed: "The kings of earth...shall bewail her...when they shall see the smoke of her burning...and the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her" (Re 18:9-11). Jeremiah too indicts Babylon-Christendom in his prophecy even mentioning, "The Lord Almighty has sworn by his own life that he will bring many men to attack Babylonia like a swarm of locusts, and they will shout with victory" (Jer 51:14). Yes, Godís greatest judgments lay against the Christian nations because of their greater responsibility. And He will use His Great Army. The Final Blast
But while the trouble and distress of this day of the Lord will be first and specially upon the Christian nations-and later upon all nations-the final blast will be upon Israel.
The Prophet Ezekiel describes (Eze 38-39) the "army" of "Gog," "even a great company with bucklers and shields" coming against vulnerable Israel which is dwelling in "unwalled villages." The armies representing the collapsing governments of earth will come to take a "spoil" of Israel. But when God fights for Israel an insurrection will dissolve the enemies of Israel into anarchy and thereby complete universal destruction of earthís governments. The ultimate result is that God "will be known in the eyes of many nations" and Godís spirit poured upon the house of Israel (Eze 39:29). The prophet in Zec 14:1-3† depicts "all nations" gathered against Jerusalem. After God fights for Israel and delivers them, the ironic twist is that peoples from those same nations will then have to go to Jerusalem for instruction and help if they want Godís favor and wish to prosper (Zec 14:16; Isa 2:2,3). "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it...neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart" (Jer 3:17).
Godís Disarmament Program
Ps 46 describes this revolutionary, anarchistic "army" by yet another figure, that is, a roaring "sea." The Christian is not to fear when he or she sees these events fomenting: "Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea...the nations raged, the kings were moved; he uttered his voice, the earth melted...." (Ps 46:2-6) Again the thought is not literal mountains and sea. In fact, the text interprets itself by explaining that the "sea" is the raging peoples of the nations and that "mountains" are "kingdoms." Notice the two prophecies are parallel in description: In the Joel prophecy when God "shall utter his voice before his army," a "desolate wilderness" results. In the Ps 46 prophecy, when "He uttered his voice, the earth melted," and also "desolations" result.
The Christians are "glad" (Ps 46:4), but not because they will be snatched out of the whole mess-rather because they know what lies beyond the "desolations." God will establish his own "peace process" when "He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth." He will set up his own disarmament program. The same "heathen" that raged will exalt God: "Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth." As for the damage done by the "locusts," a period of restoration will follow. And instead of a few Christians in the worldís population having Godís spirit as sons and daughters, Godís spirit will be poured upon "all flesh."
Godís ultimate goal in using His Great Army, of course, is not just the destruction of governments and religious society. The purpose is to prepare for His Kingdom and the blessing of all the families of the earth. "Yet once...I will shake the heavens and the earth...I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come...and in this place will I give peace" (Hag 2:6-9).
What do the discontented, discouraged and distraught of the earth really desire? Peace, healthy bodies, a loving environment, meaningful lives and equal opportunities to grow and develop. Whether they know it or not, they are waiting for Godís Kingdom on earth. Christians rather than being part of this discontented "army" clamoring for redress from the inequalities and the injustices of society-are asked to be patient and wait on the Lordís time (Jas 5:1-8). And that time is very soon when Christians, as the "sons of God" (Ro 8:19-22), will be able to stop the waiting and the groaning and bless the people who were once part of such a Great Army.
"Jerusalem is not occupied territory"
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 280 of March 18, 1994 condemned the Hebron massacre and declared Jerusalem "occupied territory." For the United Nations to say Jerusalem is "occupied territory" presupposes Jerusalem rightfully belongs to the Palestinian Arabs. This was most unfortunate.
Facts of History
Archeological digs establish a 3000-year-old history of a Jewish Jerusalem. Over one thousand years later, in CE 70, Jerusalem fell to Rome. Notwithstanding the determined effort thereafter by Gentilesýespecially Christians and Moslemsýto ban Jews from Jerusalem, the first recorded census of Jerusalem taken in 1844 revealed the Jews as being the majority population. Jews have continued to be the majority.
Jordan Made Jerusalem "Occupied Territory"
When Israel became an independent state in 1948, armies from seven Arab nations invaded the new-born State. Outnumbered 100 to one, Israelís rag-tag army pushed back the invaders. Divine Providence was telling the world something about whose Land it is. The only exception to Israelís rightful victory was East Jerusalem.
The Arab State of Transjordan captured East Jerusalem, expelled all Jews and destroyed or desecrated all Jewish holy sites. That is when Jerusalem became "occupied territory." Also defying the UN mandate, Transjordan occupied the west bank of the river Jordan. No longer limited to being "Trans" (across) Jordan (the East Bank), Transjordan reduced its name to simply Jordan, now ruling over both the occupied West Bank and the original East Bank of Jordan.
In the 1967 Six-Day War, under the threat of being "pushed into the sea" by Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Israel actually liberated the "occupied territory" of Jerusalem and granted free access to Jews, Christians and Moslems to worship at their holy sites. Israel also liberated the West Bank and Gaza. How easily recent history is forgotten and/or distorted. Read the history of how the Palestinians were treated by their Arab brothersýthe Jordanians and the Egyptians. Under the Israeli government they now live in comparative luxury.
The UN has had the audacity to call Jerusalem and the "West Bank" "occupied territories" only when Israel regained them in the 1967 War. In 1922 the League of Nations recognized the legal, moral and historic right of the Jewish people to a national homeland in Palestineýincluding Jerusalem. If the Jews had a right to Jerusalem in 1922, that right is valid today. But, since then, vast oil reserves were discovered in Arab lands. The nations are compromising Israelís rights for their own oil interests. Consequently, the U.S. administration and the UN define East Jerusalem as "occupied territory." No part of Jerusalem is "occupied territory."
Jerusalemýindivisibleýbelongs to Israel. The same logic applies to the West Bank. Unfortunately, Israelís government is too intimidated by tremendous pressure from the U.S. and other world powers to insist on its historic right to JudeaýSamaria, the so-called "West Bank."
Since its statehood, the hand of Divine Providence has more than once worked on behalf of Israel the miracle of the Six-Day War the SCUD missiles of the Gulf War. The nations had better understand, "For he that touched you [Israel] toucheth the apple of his [Godís] eye" (Zec 2:8). The nations had better heed the Biblical warning of Divine Providence: "In that day I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut to pieces" (Zec 12:3).
The First Hebron Massacre
Jews lived almost uninterruptedly in Hebron for over 3000 years until 1929, when Arabs (who were not called "Palestinians" until the late 1960s) massacred 69 Jewish people in Hebron and forced the British to terminate all Jewish presence in Hebron.
The Worth of Jewish Life
Hitler found that Gentiles considered Jewish life cheap. He put a price on their heads for safe passage to other nations. To his surprise no one was willing to pay the price. They ended up in "The Final Solution"ýthe extermination of all Jews. Amazingly, Jewish life seems to remain an expendable commodity today. Several years ago Palestinians massacred 22 worshipers in the largest synagogue in Istanbul. There were bloody attacks in synagogues in Copenhagen, Antwerp, Paris and Rome. Islamic and Palestinian groups rushed forward proudly to claim the "honor" for these attacks. There were other attacks, such as, the Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinians at the Munich Olympics.
Since the signing of the Washington Peace Accords, over 30 Israelis have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. On February 18 Tsippora Sasson, who was five months pregnant, was killed by Palestinians while riding in a car with her husband and two children, ages 6 and 9. She was shot in the head and abdomen. This happened seven days before the Hebron massacre. THE NEW YORK TIMES ("all the news thatís fit to print") gave her murder a mere three sentences while dealing with the Hebron massacre almost on a daily basis.
All these murders of Israelis were not acts of a single distressed person but were planned by groups which the majority (or near majority) of Palestinians support. These terroristsí acts were not renounced by the Palestinian people or their leaders. Remember how the Palestinians cheered as Iraqi SCUD missiles flew overhead on their murderous mission to Israel? The Hebron massacre was the act of one person. All the rest of Israelýincluding government leaders and settlersýrenounced and denounced this horrible act.
Where are the outcries of world opinion or UN resolutions condemning the repeated atrocities by Palestinians? Why is the world so insensitive to the shedding of Jewish blood by many Arabs? Yet, when one sick Israeli committed an atrocity, the PLOýbacked by an oil-rich Arab blockýpressured the UN Security Council to pass a resolution condemning Israel.
Where violence is concerned, neither Israel nor any other nation is above scrutiny; but the persistency of outcry against Israel is suspect. Where Israel has erred, it will receive Divine retribution. The killing of innocent Israelis or Arabs is most tragic. We grieve for both the Israelis and Arabs who have had their loved ones torn from them.
The Historical Perspective
At the breaking up of the Turkish Empire by the Allies at the end of W.W.I, both Arabs and Jews requested independent states. The world powers were generous in the extreme to the Arabs by granting them 21 independent Arab states, covering 5,414,000 square miles. The Jews asked for only 0.9 percent of that vast territory. In 1917 and 1921 the Allied Powers agreed to this request. As a consequence of "oil diplomacy" Israel now possesses a mere 0.2 percent of it.
There is a higher dimension in this issueýDivine Providence. The new Israeli State is a miracle of history prophesied in the Bible. Its boundaries, which include the Golan Heights and the West Bank, were foretold (Ge 15:18-21; Jer 16:13-15; Zec 10:9-10; Mic 7:14). Its reclamation of wastelands (Amos 9:14), climatic changes (Zec 8:11-12; Joel 2:21-23), and capture of Old Jerusalem (Zec 12:5-6) were prophesied long ago. Eventually the Arabs will recognize Israelís rights. Then Israel and her Arab neighbors shall be "a blessing in the midst of the earth" (Isa 19:24) in Godís Kingdom "when the law shall go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." Isa 2:3.
"In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, ĎWe will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.í" Zec 8:23
Are You Born Again?
A U.S. News & World Report (April 4, 1994) article on the spiritual status of America reported, "Forty-six percent of Americans described themselves as born again." In other words, almost one of every two people in America claims a committed relationship to God by following Jesus! Millions.
"What Must I do to be Saved?"
When the Roman jailer asked this question, Paulís answer was simply, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..." (Ac 16:30, 31) Is this believing merely a one-time assent to ĎJesus died for meí? No, Paul explains himself throughout his own writings, "...ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain" (1Co 15:2). Nothing we can do will save ourselves from the condemnation of death. However, after that "foundation" is laid, then build we must with "gold, silver, precious stones" of character and service to gain salvation (1Co 3:11-15).
Likewise, the Apostle Peter says that after we have escaped "the corruption that is in the world through lust," we must add virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and "agape" love to our faith. Only then, he says, "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2Pe 1:4-11).
Jesus himself said, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Mt 10:22). First we are saved from condemnation because of Adamís sin. Nothing we can do can pull us out of that "horrible pit" (Ps 40:2) of just condemnation. But after He sets "our feet upon a rock," Jesusí atoning merit, we are admonished to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Php 2:12).
"One-Hundredfold in this Life..."
In exchange for a sense of guilt and undone emptiness, the Christian experiences peace because of the precious blood of Jesus. In exchange for a restless grasping for the material "things of earth," he or she experiences a peaceful contentment. "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus." (Php 4:19) In exchange for friends or family who may forsake us, the Christian finds a new family in the household of faith. The true Christian does not aspire to "getting ahead in the world." Why?
He does not accumulate his treasure on earth, but in heaven. Even so, the spiritual rewards a Christian obtains, even in this life, are one-hundredfold more than compensating. (Mt 19:29)
The Truly Committed Christian Life
What does a real Christianís walk look like? Has the truly committed Christian stopped stealing, quit drugs, left off smoking, swearing and drinking? Yes, but there are a lot of sincere, smart people who do "none of the above" without being Christians. Does a real Christianís walk include a ministry of helping people, such as, flood or disaster victims, AIDS babies or unwed mothers? A lot of good, altruistic people have devoted their lives to helping people in this countryýand other countries. Many of these fine people are not professing Christians.
What are the true terms of discipleship, following in Jesusí footsteps? Jesus said, "I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (Joh 15:19). Can so many millions of Americans all be true Christians? Jesus called his followers a "little flock" (Lk 12:32). His invitation is, "If any will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Lk 9:23). What about all the good people who go to Church on Sunday and are pleasant to their neighbors during the week? "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name...done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you..." (Mt 7:22,23). To live a life of self denial and loving the Lord with all oneís heart, mind, soul and strength is the truly committed Christian walk. That is why Jesus said, "But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it" (Mt 7:14).
The New Mind
Those who heed the call to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" experience a gradual transformation of mind. "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Ro 12:1,2). This New Mind is the new identity that begins to think of things from Godís standpointýthat is, spiritually. The New Mind feeds on Godís Word and grows stronger and stronger. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels..." (2Co 4:7). The mind of the "flesh," however, wars against the New Mind. Even the Apostle Paul said, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of the mind…who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Ro 7:22, 23)
The new-minded Christian today struggles with the old mind of the flesh. The flesh has a hard enough time trying to be "good"ýlet alone sacrificing legitimate human needs and denying self, to follow Jesus. When the Christian wants to set aside time to study the Scriptures, the flesh wants to relax and watch TV. On a free Saturday afternoon when the New Mind would like to witness or do Christian service, the "flesh" wants to go to a mall or go boating or skiing.
Paul, like us, was not "at home in the body" (2Co 5:6). He well understood, "If our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2Co 5:1). Knowing that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1Co 15:50), he longed for the time when the New Mind would be given a "spiritual body" (1Co 15:44).
"Born of the Spirit"
When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Jesus explained that to understand the Kingdom one must have this New Mind. The Master further was pressed on to say that to actually enter the Kingdom, one must be "born of the Spirit." "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born (Gk. Ďbegottení) again, he cannot see (íknow, understandí) the kingdom of God" (Joh 3:3). Nicodemus then wanted to know how he could "enter the second time into his motherís womb and be born?" Jesus continued to explain, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Joh 3:4,5).*
Jesus then plainly elaborates that someone who is "born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." In other words, if one is born of the flesh, he is a fleshly being. And if one is born of the spirit, he is a spirit being. Jesus also compared someone who is born of the spirit to the wind. The wind is invisible, powerful. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (Joh 3:8). Someone who is "born again" is a resurrected spirit being with a spiritual body.
First, the Christian is begotten of the Word, through the Holy spirit. The Apostle James explains, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (Jas 1:18). He or she then develops, grows stronger and more mature.... In the human process, the body develops for nine months and when the baby is born, the mind develops. With the New Creature, the mind develops first, then at the resurrection, the spirit body is given. "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him...So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption" (1Co 15:38, 42).
But one might ask, donít the Scriptures talk about a babe in Christ who should grow into "manhood" in Jesus?
Many figures are ascribed to the Christian: He is a soldier. He is to be like sheep. He is part of the bride of Christ, and he is also a branch on the True Vine. The symbols are not to be confusedýeach has a lesson. The point of Jesusí lesson for Nicodemus was that one who is "begotten" understands spiritual things. One who is "born" can come and go like the wind.
The important idea is that once a Christian is saved from condemnation in Adam, he is begotten to a new life. He must be nurtured to grow and developýor else he will be a "castaway" (1Co 9:27), "cast forth" (Joh 15:6). "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" says Paul (Php 2:12). But the prospects of a spirit birthýbeing born againýare glorious.
Since faithful Christians as part of the true Church are the "firstfruits of his creatures" (Jas 1:18; Re 14:4), who are the later fruits? The later fruits of Godís creatures are the millions of Americans, Africans, Chinese, Moslems, and Indians, who will come to know Jesus under the loving reign of Jesus and his resurrected Bride.
There is another one! We look closer just to be sure. Yes, pinned to a blouse or jacket is a little golden angel. Angels seem to be showing up everywhere these days. Even the first Lady of the United States reputedly wears one on days when she needs extra help.
Greeting cards, gift boutiques, printed media, television, motion pictures-all are brimming over with "angel-ware" to feed the publicís latest infatuation. A recent telephone poll revealed that two-thirds of Americans believe that angels truly do exist. Half believe that they have their own personal guardian angel. Surprisingly one in three Americans believe that they have felt an angelic presence or experienced angelic help in their lives. (TIME December 27, Ď93)
But the publicís current interest doesnít seem so much fueled by a desire to know and serve God as by the need to be comforted in these desperate times. Angels are perceived as invincible mighty spirits-far above earthís din of war, economic grasping and social unrest. They are free from all the frailties of human sin, weaknesses of the flesh and limitations of time and space. The thought that each person has so mighty an angel as a personal protector, guide, and friend is very appealing indeed. It is a great comfort in a chaotic world.
For those who balk at the concept of an omniscient and supremely powerful God who rules the universe with very exacting laws, the popular concept of angels offers a convenient compromise. Angels are commonly viewed as intermediaries between the lofty God of the universe and puny man. This brand of New Age angel is "warm and fuzzy," nonjudgmental and benevolent to all regardless of their adherence to Godís rules. Who Are Angels Helping?
According to the publisher of Angel Watch, a bimonthly newsletter, "Each of us has a guardian angel. Theyíre non-threatening, wise and loving beings. They offer help whether we ask for it or not. But mostly we ignore them." However well intentioned such New Age theology may be, it cannot be held as authoritative for Christian people.
For the truth as to who are helped by angels we must go to the source of Christian faith-the Scriptures. "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." Ps 34:7 The angels of the Lord help those who have a reverential fear, respect, for God-not a lackadaisical attitude toward Him or His principles of righteousness.
Godís promise is, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 2Co 6:17-7:1
The most finely tuned delineation of who are helped by angels is given by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" He 1:14
The Lordís angels are sent forth (not acting of their own volition) by the command of God. They are sent forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation. Not all mankind will be heirs of salvation in the special sense referred to in Heb 1:14. (see 1Ti 4:10) The heirs of the kingdom will be those who are called, and chosen, and faithful. Re 17:4 Those who are faithful to God and, yes, His rules will be the heirs of the kingdom.
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 1Co 6:9-11
The Heirs of Salvation
Simply put, angels are not acting as guardians for everyone. They are acting on behalf of those who will be heirs of salvation. Of this class the Scriptures say:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his … For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Ro 8:1-17
The heirs of salvation are those who submit themselves fully to a life of walking after the spirit. They will be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ if they suffer with him. The angels of God minister to those who are fighting the good fight of faith to become heirs of the kingdom.
The Fallen Angels
The Scriptures use distinguishing phrases to divide angels into two basic categories. "The angel of the LORD," "the angels of heaven" or "the angels of God" are phrases that distinguish the holy angels from the fallen angels-otherwise known as demons. "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Greek tartaroo-a prison to confine these disobedient spirits], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." 2Pe 2:4 Their sin was that they left their dominion, took human form and illicitly commingled with the Adamic race. Jude says, "The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." Jude 6
The fallen angels left their first estate, the spirit realm, and were subsequently placed in chains of darkness. They could no longer materialize and so were constrained to work through the powers of darkness- demonic possession, mediums and sowing evil influences in menís minds. Jude reveals that these chains of darkness are to last unto the judgment of the Great Day of Christ. That day is upon us-even as we see the signs of Mt 24 being fulfilled.
The ramification is that we may now expect that these fallen angels will again materialize and seek to deceive the world. They may bring about great delusions, which will try the faith of many. 2Th 2:8-12
What About Those Who Have Experienced Angelic Help?
Many claims have been made of angels manifesting themselves to various people. These angels brought about healing, powerful senses of peace, visions of glory in war and other revelations. We do not dispute the claims of those who have been helped-we believe that they have seen what they say they have seen. But, in the light of Godís word, we do question what may have been behind what they have seen.
Perhaps the chief danger with "angel-ism" is that it may lead people to a new gospel. A gospel which features open-armed acceptance of sinners by angels-but has no Christ. There is "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1Ti 2:5-6
Godís Holy Angels Not Manifest to Our Senses
Our Gospel Age differs from the Jewish and other ages in Godís divine plan. Leading up to and through the establishment of the Christian church, angels of God did manifest themselves to mankind in order to do Godís work and will. Miraculous demonstrations of divine favor, gifts of tongues, healings, discerning of spirits-and angelic visitations had their intended effect and then passed away. The church of Christ, strongly rooted in the Scriptures, has since walked by faith and not by sight. 2Co 5:7 It would now be inappropriate after the Churchís establishment to expect that angels will appear to us, outwardly manifesting themselves.
But the angels of the Lord, nevertheless, have a more particular charge over us of the Gospel church than over any others of Godís people in previous times. The Lord is especially interested in spiritual Israel. So it is that these angels care for us, supervise our affairs and communicate to us the will of God in ways which our human sight cannot perceive. They communicate in the sense of arranging providences for us.
Godís angels would not be whispering into our ears. We believe the Scriptures identify those spirits, which whisper into the ears of men as being fallen angels. We hear so often of criminals committing heinous acts because "voices in their head" ordered these acts. These whisperers are the same ones who aid and abet mediums in their seances, channel voices to the New Age shaman and even appear as angels of light-all with the purpose of creating darkness. On the other hand, Godís holy angels will keep their first estate.
The Lordís people of the present age are to find their instructions in his Word. They will not believe any other Gospel even though an angel would speak to them or appear before them. As Paul warned, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Ga 1:8 These other angels are fallen ones; we call them demons.
We must be aware of their devices because "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Eph 6:12
The followers of Christ have the Bible and the invisible ministries of the holy angels to provide for their interests-to providentially guard and guide their affairs. This, to us, is very real and of great comfort. God has given us the scriptural assurance that not a hair of our heads can fall to the ground without his knowing it. We, as heirs of salvation, have our angels always beholding our Fatherís face in heaven- communicating with him regarding our every experience. Mt 18:10
Our minds can rest, in these desperate times, knowing that our heavenly Father has appointed the accomplishment of his purposes for us in Christ through the diligent and capable ministrations of his holy angels.
The Vaticanís Hidden Agenda?
Full diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the Vatican were established on June 15 of this year. This momentous event broughtýat bestýmixed emotions to most Jews. Since itís renewed statehood in this century, Israel has sought the recognition of the Vatican. This desire is understandable since the Roman Catholic Church has 1.5 billion adherents and over the centuries anti-Semitism flourished and Jewish blood flowed where Catholics were either a majority or large minority. The holocaust was no exception. With the ending of World War II, the Jew proved a double dilemma to the Vatican.
The First Dilemma
First, how could the Vatican dispel the dark cloud of suspicion of Papal implication in the holocaust? Since the Vatican signed a concordat of cooperation with Hitler, many concluded that the very fact the Papacy never publicly denounced the holocaust implied silent consent. Hitler in a friendly session with Bishop Bering and Monsignor Steinman observed that his policy for the Jews, after all, was "what the church had done for 1,500 years."
But the Vatican was intent on changing its public image. The Vatican II Council (1965) declared that all Jews are no longer responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. Then the Vatican followed with phrases, such as, "God holds the Jews most dear" and "the Jew is our elder brother." From the mouths of their newly found younger brother, these were encouraging statements to a people who have suffered bitter persecution and anti-Semitism for centuries. Yet these expressions fall short of acknowledging that the Jewish people have a glorious covenant destiny with God that is separate and distinct from the Christian church. Image Change?
The Israeli government was satisfied with the Vaticanís change of image. But did anything more than the image really change? The fact that the Vatican did not recognize Israel until after the PLO did speaks volumes. The Vatican was in an embarrassing situation. If the Vatican continued to refuse recognition of Israel after so many others (including the PLO) have, suspicions that the Vatican was anti-Semitic would be confirmed. But before such recognition, the Vatican wrung out of Israel the promise to be included in negotiating the final status of East Jerusalem.
Israelís leaders were elated that the Vatican gave up its demand for the "internationalization" of Jerusalem. But exactly why did the Vatican give up this demand?
The Vaticanís Second Dilemma
The Vaticanís second dilemma is related to the theological problem posed by Israel possessing East Jerusalem, the Old City.
Why did the Vatican demand Jerusalemís internationalization during the UN debate of the Partition Plan in 1947? New Yorkís Cardinal Spellman committed all energy to keep Jerusalem out of Israeli control. He telegraphed the Papal nuncios (ambassadors) in South American countries with the demand that they urge their home governments to take an uncompromising stand at the UN for the internationalization of Jerusalem. The Vaticanís ostensible reason for this policy was that thus all three major faiths would be guaranteed free access to their holy places. However, from 1948 to 1967 when Jordanian forces occupied Jerusalem, Jewish holy places were shamefully desecrated and synagogues destroyed. Furthermore, Jews were denied access to East Jerusalem and the Western Wall. During this time, the Vatican never once raised a cry for internationalization.
In fact, since acquiring Old Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has guaranteed all (Christians and Moslems in addition to Jews) free access to their holy places. With Israeli control, the Vatican renewed insistence that Jerusalem be internationalized to provide free accessýa privilege the Israelis already assured the three faiths! Obviously, a deeper reason exists for Vatican opposition to Israelís possession of Old Jerusalem. The Roman Catholic Church believes Israelís right to be the Kingdom of God ended forever with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Roman Legion in 70 CE. When the Roman Catholic Church grew to world prominence, it claimed to be the rightful heir of the Kingdom of God. RomeýVatican Cityýbecame the "New Jerusalem." The rebirth of Israel challenged Catholicismís "Kingdom of God" theory. But the claim of Rome to be "the eternal city" was completely deflated when Jerusalem, "The Eternal," became the capital of Israel in 1967.
Some Christian theology designated many Old Testament places and events as pictures or "shadows" (also termed "types") of realities that would replace the historic place or event itself. In type-and-shadow theologyýif the type or shadow reappearsýthen the supposed reality is not valid. Thus, the re-emergence of Old Jerusalem as Israelís capital destroys the Vaticanís claim to be the "New Jerusalem"ýthe capital of the actual Kingdom of God.
Yes, the Jewish community must recognize the real issue of Jerusalem. Jewish leaders feel that if they can convince the Vatican that Israel will always provide free and equal rights to all three faiths, certainly then, the Vatican will recognize Israelís control over Jerusalem.
If only the issue were that simple. Why does the Vatican act like a world political power, exchanging ambassadors with other nations? No other Christian church claims this prestigious status. The only excuse that the Vatican has to act as a world power is the claim that it is both the spiritual and the temporal Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem. In the coming months and years, Catholic prelates in every nation will both covertly and overtly try to influence public opinion against Israelís controlling East Jerusalem. As already shown, Israelís possession of the capital of its ancient kingdom is a challenge to Romeýa challenge which Rome is compelled to remove!
The Vaticanís Hidden Agenda
Why then did the Vatican recently drop its demand for internationalization if it doesnít want Israel to have Jerusalem? The answer is plain and simple. The Vatican caved in to PLO pressure, not Israeli, on the internationalization issue. The PLO is vigorously opposed to internationalizing Jerusalem because it wants East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state. The Vaticanís main concern was that Jerusalem not be in the hands of the reborn Jewish State.
None should be surprised if the Vatican throws its negotiating weight fully behind Arafat when East Jerusalemís status is deliberated. The Vaticanýbe it rememberedýopposed Israeli control of Jerusalem in 1947. In September 1982 (as well as several other occasions), the Vatican received Yasser Arafat, an international terrorist, with all the honor and dignity accorded a head of state. The prestige of administering the holy sites of a Palestinianýruled Jerusalem would greatly enhance the Vaticanís larger agenda as the "New Jerusalem," the Kingdom of God.
That the Vatican is determined to terminate Israelís exclusive sovereignty over East Jerusalem is reflected in the statement of the Vaticanís Foreign Minister, Jean-Louis Tauran (Amman, Jordan, July 9, 1994): "Before territorial problems are resolved, we have to find international guarantees to safeguard the uniqueness of the city. .. and assurances that never again one party should claim Jerusalem as its possession [emphasis ours].
"It [Jerusalem] should be a crossroads of peace, a bridge between Earth and Heaven."
Of course, the Vatican wants a major part in the administration of that "bridge." Evidently, Israel has its counter ploy. The September 2nd, 1994 JEWISH PRESS stated that Foreign Minister Peres has offered "the Vatican a sizable amount of control over Jerusalem."
The Vaticanís Greater Agenda
All heads of state are eager to meet with Pope John Paul II (TIME, August 23, 1993). Why? He is not just the head of a church, but the head of the Papal State. The Vatican is the capital of this church-state government. Through his priesthood he has an intelligence gathering network that is the envy of every government. This network reaches down into almost every town and villa over much of the globe. John Paul II plays power politics with a skill that awes world leaders. Nations are anxious to exchange ambassadors with the Vatican. Pope John Paul and former President Reagan successfully plotted the downfall of the Communist Empire (TIME, February 24, 1992). During this clandestine campaign Archbishop Pio Lashi said to the diplomat, Vernon Walters, "It is a very complex situation listen to the Holy Father [Pope]. We have 2,000 years experience at this." It was further observed, "Step by reluctant step, the Soviets and the Communist government of Poland bowed to the pressure imposed by the Pope and the President."
The Popeís ultimate agenda is revealed in the following statement he made on April 21, 1990: "A united Europe is no longer a dream. It is not a utopian memory from the Middle Ages [emphasis added]. The events that we are witnessing show that this goal can be reached." The Pope wants to revive the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle (Dark) Ages.
Can Rabin and his administration outmatch the Vatican on Jerusalem? In the final analysis, neither Vatican prelatesýnor secular presidents nor military mightýare any match for the Almighty. The warning of the Almighty in Zec 12:3 stands:
"And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it." Jerusalem, indeed, will be internationalized! But Jerusalem will belong to the Jew forever. People from all over the world will come to Jerusalem to worship, but it will be to learn about the God of the Jews and to praise His Holy Name.
"Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you." Zec 8:22, 23 (also Isa 2:2, 3; 60:10-12; 66:18-22).
In Search of Godís Kingdom
We invite you to search the Scriptures for the true meaning of the kingdom of God, which was promised to be established by our Lord Jesus Christ. We encourage you to write for a copy of the booklet: THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
Population: How Near the Limits?
The worldís population is expected to double in the next century to the inevitable 10 billion. According to the U.S. BUREAU OF THE CENSUS, WORLD POPULATION PROFILE, every 2 seconds 9 babies are born and only 3 people die. In other words, while you are reading this newsletter the Earthís population will increase by over 2,000. In fact, the world population growth per hour equals 10,600. The consequences are boggling. "Today the Green Revolution falters, ecosystems are badly degraded and fresh-water supplies continue to shrink. Refugees produced by population pressures in Africa and Asia already threaten to destabilize nations." (TIME, June 17, 1994) Some would predict "a world of growing chaos, anarchy disease and corruption as hungry refugees surge across borders in search of food and nations fight over scarce resources." (U.S. News&World Report, September 12, 1994). "Imagine a world in the not too distant future that teems with 17 billion people. Virulent plagues sweep the planet. Wars are fought to control not oil, but fields of wheat. It would not take much to trigger such an apocalypse" (TIME, September 5, 1994) "If governments continue to fiddle while human numbers explode, it becomes ever more likely the horsemen of famine, disease and anarchy will have their Day."(time, June 17, 1994)
The United Nationsí International Conference on Population & Development in Cairo this September contrived a 20-year action program which some 180 countries were expected to endorse. This conference was planned to consider ways of averting human and environmental catastrophes. However, the conference was attacked by the Vatican and its "newfound Islamic allies" as promoting a "project of systematic death" because it offers safe abortions. Other issues such as, "womenís empowerment" and the relationship of poverty to large families emerged. In the end, no country voted against the final draft of the 113-page plan calling on governments to commit $17 billion annually by the year 2000 to the cause of curbing population growth. Still no matter what actions the nations are able to take to curb the population explosion, the Earthís population is almost certain to double in fifty years.
Did God Miscalculate?
Is there some miscalculation on Godís part regarding the Earth being adequate for humanityís home? How can there be enough food for everybody? How can the environment support the thronging billions today? And if the Scriptures also teach a resurrection of Earthís dead billions to a Millennial Kingdom on Earth, isnít this promised Kingdom totally impractical?
God commissioned the first pair in the Garden of Eden: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Ge 1:28, NEW AMERICAN STANDARD). For 6,000 years the divine command has been in process of fulfillment. If babies are still being born, confidence and faith in Godís foresight would indicate that the Earth has not reached its capacity for population.
Large Population, A Recent Phenomenon
Up to the mid-1800s, the population of the earth has been relatively low. Only in the last one hundred years or so has the Earthís population reached 1 billion. In other words, the number of people living in the twentieth century is comparable to all the people who have ever lived since the earliest civilizations. In AD 1 the worldís population was about 200 million and stayed about the same till 1850 when it reached up to 1 billion. In 1975 it shot up to 4 billion and in 1993, it topped 5.5 billion (THE WORLD ALMANAC:1994, p. 499). Therefore, only recently has Thomas Malthusí 18th century projections of doom actually become the overpopulation specter which could threaten humanity.
When God commissioned the first pair to "fill" the Earth, did not He justly and lovingly provide an adequate Home for humanity? Yes, He did, but when Adam and Eve sinned, they were not only were condemned, but also their home-the Earth- was cursed (Ge 3:17-19):
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return to the ground.
As a result, Earth became a very inhospitable Home to man. But if the Earthís productivity had not been diminished, the abundant yields would have given Man too much time to get into more trouble than he did anyway. Thus man, for most centuries of human history has laboriously eked out a living from the stubborn soil.
Since the end of the last century, however, the agricultural scene changed dramatically. And today, instead of walking behind a plough and ox, the farmer may sit in his air-conditioned cab and while listening to CDís of Bach in stereo, he plants seeds or harvests all day. Almost. Many of the Third World countries still farm primitively. Nevertheless, famines in these countries are just as much the result of politics and greed as they are from shortage of rain and lack of technology.
Grain is in surplus. Forty-six million acres of U.S. farmland and 11 million acres in Europe have been deliberately idled under government programs to boost farmersí incomes. Are problems of food shortages and population really based on the size and capacity of the Earth?
Experts say that the ecological capacity of the Earthýset by available land, climate and sunlight for photosynthesisýis sufficient to produce food not just for 10 billion, but a staggering 1,000 billion people. (U.S. NEWS, September 12, 1994) One liberal estimate of the number of people who have lived since the beginning of creation is approximately 252 billion. Even then, allowing ten square feet for each individual, they could all fit in the state of Texas. (THE DIVINE PLAN OF THE AGES, pp. 160, 161)
But still we see wrenching scenes of starvation, masses of refugees and the hapless homeless on our television news. We wonder why if we have the technology and room to provide for the needs of man, will Man ever learn to share? Is the Earth still "cursed"?
The LORD said, "The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool and I will make the place of my feet glorious" (Isa 66:1; 60:13). The "curse" laid on the Earth in Eden will be lifted in Godís Kingdom on Earth. "And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him" (Re 22:3).
When the "ransomed of the Lord shall return," the wilderness shall be habitable and "the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose" (Isa 35:10,1). Man will "return" to where he was. Not heaven. Man, as represented in Adam, was in a perfect Garden of Eden. Man was ejected from this paradise on Earth. He worked with the "thorns and thistles" and eventually died in sorrow. But the Scriptures say, "The earth shall yield her increase" (Eze 34:27). In the Kingdom, Adam and his children will "return" to an uncursed, blossoming, glorious Earth. Not only will there be enough space for food production, but for flowers!
What does it mean that Man should "subdue" the Earth? And what is the "dominion" that he lost over the Earth and will regain? As the full establishment of the Kingdom approaches, man is already subduing the Earth. He is probing its secrets and discovering new and better grains and ricesýas well as ways to preserve the Earthís ecological balance and integrity. These advances in technology are not because Man is "smarter" now, but because this is the due time for increasing knowledge in the "time of the end" (Dan 12:1-4). In the genetic engineering of better variations of food products, scientists are not actually creating "new" strains but may be merely re-connecting heartier, superior strains lost after the "curse" on this planet Earth.
It would seem that we are catching glimpses of the incredible potential of Earth now, but that in the meantime real solutions by man are prevented because of greed, politics, and money.
At the population conference in Cairo, the related problems of poverty, gender equality, women empowerment, birth control and abortions emerged as significant factors in population control. Although the draft resolution passed, is implementation realistic in each nation and culture? In each family? What solutions may we expect from our great Creator on the many- faceted dilemma of over-population?
Even if conditions in Godís Kingdom on Earth are to be like the Garden of Eden, a limit as to the capacity of the Earth as Manís Home would have to eventually reach a limit. Since God commissioned the first pair to "fill the earth," this request would imply that sometime in the future the earth would be filled to capacity. Exactly what does God have in mind for birth control?
When Jesus was asked whose wife would the woman (who had seven husbands) be in the resurrection, he answered, "The children of this world marry and are given in marriage: but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage" (Lk 20:33-35). The sex division between Adam and Eve was merely for the propagation of the race and not a permanent arrangement. When the Earth is filled to capacity-including room for all those who died in Adam to be resurrectedýthe marriage arrangement, as Jesus said, will become obsolete. Since the Millennial Kingdom is a program of gradual rehabilitation and reconstruction, no doubt marriage will gradually and naturally dissolve.
Man will be one family. The Earth will be abundantly fruitful. While this promise may not be literal, the prophecy (Mic 4:1-4) would certainly indicate enough food and space for everyone:
But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain [Kingdom] of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains [manís kingdoms] they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
Energy devoted toward the military will be converted to agriculture. Economic security and human dignity will be the inheritance of every single human being that has ever lived:
And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. Isa 65:17
In spite of the gloomy outlook of our Earth supporting a burgeoning population, God is in control. Man may have almost reached his limits, but God has an all-encompassing Plan of blessing Man. Man will not be allowed to destroy himself and his Earth with overpopulation. (Neither will God burn up the whole Earth as some may tell us.) God has no limits to His wisdom nor lack of power to execute His promises. "The Earth abideth forever."
Your questions on this subject are invited! Also, should you have other questions on Bible or religious topics, please feel free to write them in and we will do our best to give a scripturally sound suggestion for an answer.
In this season of Thanksgiving we invite you to consider...
One of the Masterís Forceful and Beautiful Lessons: Matthew 6:28
MANY and varied are the precious lessons taught by the Master during His earthly ministry, and they never grow old. To the true disciple of Christ they are ever new ever fresh. Whether He taught by the seaside or on the mountains or by the wayside, as He walked and talked with His chosen Twelve, His words of wisdom and grace come to us vibrant with meaning, pulsating with life, full of strength and power, cheering, encouraging and blessing our hearts.
In using these words under our consideration, our Lord, as was His custom, drew an illustration of something familiar to all His hearers. Godís care over the lilies seemed a fitting reminder of His greater care over His own people, of His infinite Wisdom, Power and Love. He who so carefully supervised the clothing of the simple flowerwhich bloomed only to fade in a dayýthat its robes were more regal than the kingly vesture of Solomon, would surely provide for the clothing of those who trusted in Him!
Some Have His PromiseýSome Have Not
Undoubtedly much that our Lord said to the Jews would not have been said to Gentiles; for the Gentiles were then under the general curse and condemnationýthe whole world was alienated from God. The people of Israel alone had been brought back into covenant relationship with God, through the Law Covenant made at Mount Sinai; hence different words would be applicable to them. Having come into relationship with God, His promises were theirs. All things should work for their blessingýtheir cattle, their fields, everything, would be blessed of the Lord, if they would be faithful to Him. Our Lord was, therefore, in line with this thought, exhorting the children of Israel to have greater confidence in God, greater trust in Him who had chosen them to be His peculiar people.
We, like the Master, should make a clear distinction between the persons to whom we would give consolation and assurances of Godís care, and all others. We are to remember that some have come into His family and some have not! That some have His promises as theirs, and some have not. We are not to deceive others and to imply that they have a right to claim as their own, promises which were never given to them. Rather, we shall do them more good if we point out that these promises are conditionalýonly for those who make a covenant with the Lord under the special arrangement open during this Gospel Age. To the Christian this lesson of unfailing trust and confidence in God is a very important one, and to have learned it represents a very considerable growth in grace and in knowledgeýin the spirit of love, which casts out all fear. It means a nearness to God, a fellowship with Him, which those who have not learned this lesson cannot enjoy.
The Worldís Heavy Burdens
To the people whom the Master generally addressed, the matter of providing for the necessities of life was a very important one. He rarely had the very rich amongst His audience, generally the poor; and the poor in Palestine and other Eastern countries find it very difficult to obtain food, clothing, etc. In many parts of the world today, especially in India, there are people who scarcely ever go to bed without going hungry; and to these the necessities of life are a very important consideration.
Our Lord Jesus indicated that this was so in His time, saying that the important consideration with most people was, "What shall we eat and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?" They were anxious and worried. "After these things do the Gentiles seek," said the Master. Their object in life was to procure food and raiment. That was the burden of their prayer. And even the Jews, though professedly the people of God, had not learned implicit trust in Him, but were to a large extent grasping after the material things, seeking chiefly worldly gain rather than the true riches. Our Lord said that His disciples were to realize that God knew what things they had need of before they asked Him, and should rest fully content in the matter of what God would provide them respecting their temporalities. Jesus wished them to be sure that God would so supervise their interests that they should not want anything really good and needful to them.
This seems to be the whole lesson that our Lord was inculcating in bringing in this illustration from Natureý"consider the lilies of the field." It was a forceful reminder that the things of the Kingdom were the things of paramount importance, and that in seeking these things first, they might have the assurance that all needed earthly things should be theirs.
Proper Consideration of the Lily
What is it that we are to consider about the lilies? "How they grow!" What does this mean? Jesus Himself answers, "They toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." That is, the lilies grow in a very reasonable way; they develop grace and beauty, and are adorned in robes of loveliness without putting forth unnatural, unusual stress or effort. They are not worried about growing. The lily does not wake up in the morning and say, "Now, I wonder if I can make another quarter of an inch today. I wonder if I shall be able to grow as fast and to look as beautiful as that lily over there; and I wonder what people will think about me." It simply assimilates what it can absorb from the earth, and from the atmosphere what God has provided for it there. It does not say, "I think that I shall go to another place, I cannot grow here," but it does the best it can wherever it happens to be.
The lilies of Palestine to which our Lord referred were evidently not the kind of flowers that we generally term lilies, but were apparently of some other plant family, and a very numerous species, we should judge, growing everywhere. Those who are accustomed to the flowers of Palestine point to a common reddish flower, which they think was meant by "the lilies of the field."
Our lesson, then, as New Creatures, is that since we have given our hearts to the Lord we are not to be worried, anxious, about the things of the present life. Nor are we to be overýanxious regarding our spiritual growth. We are simply to do our best, and trust the growing to Him. But we are to be particularly engaged respecting the things God has promised us as New Creatures in Christ, that we may make our calling and election sure and attain to the glories which our Father has in reservation for those who love Him. If we give our attention to these things, the Master assures us, the Heavenly Father will so supervise our affairs that we shall not lack any necessity of a spiritual kind or of an earthly kind. He will give us whatever of spiritual blessings and of temporal blessings we need as spirit-begotten children of God that we may finish our course with joy.
We are not to interpret our Lordís words to mean that we are to neglect our proper duties in life; that He would not have us do any more spinning or toiling than the lilies do; that He would not have us labor with our hands and our brains in order to care for our family, home, etc. Surely not! For these things are inculcated in the Word of God. Here, evidently, He is merely impressing us with the thought that while we are doing to the very best of our ability in harmony with the surroundings and conditions which God has provide for us, we are not to be worried. We are to be as free from anxious care as are the lilies, to be fully content and to look up in faith to our Heavenly Father, expecting and accepting His providential care and overruling in all our affairs and interests.
"Just leave all with Him; lilies do, and they grow;
They grow in the rain and they grow in the snow.
Yes, they grow.
They grow in the darkness, all hid in the night,
Or if in the sunshine, revealed by the light,
Still they grow.
They ask not your planting; they need not your care
As they grow;
Dropped down in the valley, the field, anywhere,
There they growý
In garments of beauty, arrayed in pure white,
All radiant in glory from heavenís own lightý
Rest and Peace in Perfect Trust
God knows all about our circumstances. If we need to be transplanted to another place, into a different kind or soil, where our new nature can better thrive and expand, or where our reasonable, temporal needs can be better obtained, He can arrange for it. He knows just what is good for us, best for us, temporally and spiritually. It is our part to look for His leadings, not attempting to take the helm into our own hands, nor concluding that the Lord will never change our conditions, etc. If it is best for us that they shall be changed, He will change them, if we trust in Him; and surely, if we are His children, it is His will that we desire, not our own! We are to be perfectly restful under whatever conditions or circumstances we find ourselves, restful in the thought, "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him." -Mt 6:8.
Will this not mean sometimes strong tests of faith and endurance, if the conditions of our lot are painful and hard to bear? It may be such; but if the Lordís providence does not for a time offer a way of escape, we may be sure that the test will prove one of the "all things" that will work out our good, if we submit sweetly to His will and wait for Him to point out a different way, if it shall seem best to Him. Let us as lilies of His planting, bloom for the glory of our Heavenly Husbandman.
Asking for Daily Needs
While Jesus tells us that we should ask, "Give us this day our daily bread," this is not a specification of what we would prefer to have in a temporal way. We are not to specify things that would be most pleasing to our palate. We are to leave that part to Him. We are merely to acknowledge that we are dependent upon Him for the necessities of life, that we are looking to Him, that we are waiting on His providence and will accept those things which His Wisdom provides as proper for us in connection with the instructions of His Word.
So on we go, growing daily, happy and content in God, and preparing for the Kingdom; for Christians who cannot learn now, under present conditions, to trust in God, would probably not be able to learn this lesson under other conditions. Present conditions are especially helpful, indeed, for those who would cultivate trust, dependence upon the Lord. In this respect we see that the poor have an advantage over the rich; and it was those who were poor, like the lilies of the field, that our Lord Jesus was addressing in the words of our text. And it is to those who are poor in spirit, who realize their own impotency, who long for the rest and peace that Jesus alone can give, who come to Him for this rest, that all the Masterís gracious promises and lessons of wisdom, comfort and instruction are given.
"O flower of Heavenly birth, blooming in earthly soil,
Taking on fairest hues from sun and wind and rain,
Soon shall thy beauty grace the Heavenly realms Above,
Transplanted to a fairer clime to bud and bloom again!"
The spirit of the foregoing article stands in stark contrast to the Prosperity Preaching of our materialistic era. The Apostle Paulís admonition sums up well the matter of material wealth for the Christianý"godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1Ti 6:6-10
The video presentation "For This Cause" illuminates the glorious work of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a wonderful message for all at this season of the year. Please write to find out how to obtain a copy.
"Man of the Year"
January / February 1995
The prestigious "Man of the Year" award for 1994 was bestowed upon Pope John Paul II by Time Magazine.
No other world figure has commanded the admiration he has enjoyed as the globetrotting (over 1/2 million miles) Pope. His kindly smile and fatherly wave have made the "Pope Mobile" a legend. Although they might disagree with his theology, both Catholics and Protestants have joined in the accolades of praise for this man. Billy Graham has extolled Pope John Paul, "as the conscience of the whole Christian world."
Of course, he has his detractors. Many are former priests and nuns who have experienced the tragic consequences of enforced celibacy. The extensive sexual abuse of children by priests has been the shocker of our time. Who knows the sum toll of child abuse over the centuries? What is the root of this problem and what can be done? The solution, as expressed by ex-nun Patricia Nolan Savas, is simple: "Any organization that can, with the stroke of its sacerdotal pen, remove the pain of eternal punishment from a Friday hotdog and pluck St. Christophers from millions of dashboards can surely admit that it has erred in other matters." 
The implications are obviousŗBy the stroke of a pen, John Paul could end the Catholic Churchís centuriesí long dogma of "forbidding to marry" which no less than the Apostle Paul identified as one of the "doctrines of devils" (1Tim 4:1,3). No wonder the majority of Catholics in the United States disagree with this dogma of celibacy imposed on priests, brothers and nuns.
Not Just a Church
John Paul was extolled for his moral leadership in 1994 by time, but the article admitted that the UN population conference in Cairo could be considered the Popeís "low point" of the year. Yet at this conference of 186 nations, which included the Papacy, the policies of President Clinton and the Pope hit head onóand the Pope won.
Why was the Vatican the only Christian Church at the Cairo conference? The Vatican is more than a church. The Vatican State is a civil government that exchanges ambassadors with the nations of the world. The Vatican claims to be both the spiritual and civil Kingdom of God on earth.
To set up a Kingdom of God before Christ returns to set up his own Kingdom, the Scriptures identify as the work of "antichrist." The Greek word translated antichrist means instead of Christ (Strongís 473&5547), not against Christ. This fact motivated Luther and other reformers to identify the Papacy as the "little horn" of Daniel 7 & 8 and the antichrist "beast" of Revelation 13. This historic Protestant view holds that antichrist is a systemónot an individualówhich thrives during the Christian Age.
The concept that the antichrist or "man of sin" would be an individual who would appear in the future at the end of the Christian Age was first presented by the Catholic Jesuit Priest Ribera in 1580 to counter the Reformation view that the Papacy was the antichrist. A future individual antichrist, however, did not become popular among "born again Christians" until after World War II.
Pope John Paul appears to be a sincere and compassionate individual, but the government which he headsóthe Papacyóhas an unfortunate track record. And that unfortunate record is not just from the remote past. The following is a documentation of Papacyís unsavory influence in world affairs during much of the 20th century:
The Papacy from 1919-1994
1919. Hitlerís Nazi-ism was born. Archbishop Pacelli (who became Pope Pius XII) gave Hitler Church money to "help his small, struggling band of anti-Communists Ďgo quell the devilís work,í Pacelli told Hitler."
Under Vatican pressure, part of Ukraine was taken from Communist Soviet Russia and given to Catholic Poland.
1922. Much to the Vaticanís delight, Mussolini set up a Fascist dictatorship in Italy.
1925. Any Vatican representative was forbidden to enter the Soviet Union. From this time the real Vatican campaign against the Soviet Union "began to flood Ďthe whole world.í" Later the Vatican established Fascist parties in most European nations in its attempt to "establish Totalitarianism wherever possible."
1926. Under Vatican pressure, Pilsudski set up a Catholic Fascist dictatorship in Poland. For over 15 years Catholic priests accompanied Polish soldiers in expeditions to punish the "rebel Ukrainians." Orthodox churches were burned and many were executed.
1929. Vatican signed the Lateran Treaty with Mussolini, which guaranteed the full and independent sovereignty of the Vatican State in Vatican City. Also Fascist Italy paid the Vatican a vast sum of money to compensate for the loss of the Papal States in 1870.
1933. The Pope had Franz von Papen persuade President Hindenburg to appoint Hitler to be Chancellor of Germany. Fritz Thyssen, a rich Catholic steel magnate who financed Hitler, wrote an article in the Swiss Arbeiterzeitung entitled, "Pius XII, As Nuncio, Brought Hitler to Power."
"I learned much from the Order of the Jesuits [said Hitler]. .. until now there has never been anything more grandiose on the earth than the hierarchical organization of the Catholic Church. I transferred much of this organization into my own party."
1936. The Vatican and Mussolini backed General Francoís bloody civil war against the Spanish Republic and vigorously supported his Fascist regime.
1939-1941. The Vatican pressured Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium and France to cave in to Germany.
1939. The Vatican and Hitler, with the fall of Czechoslovakia, set up a Catholic Fascist State in Slovakia headed by a Catholic prelate-Monsignor Tiso. His regime was brutal towards Jews and non-Roman Catholics. After the war he was executed for war crimes.
1941. The Axis Powers and the Vatican set up the Catholic Fascist Party, Ustashi, in Croatia under the dictatorship of AntePavelic. Archbishop Stepinac was the Supreme Military Vicar of the Ustashi Army. Jews were murdered, Serbian Orthodox churches were destroyed and Serbs were given the choice to convert to Roman Catholicism or be killed.
1943. When it was known that Germany would lose the war, the Vatican and Britain tried to plot the fall of Hitler, then have Germany join forces with Great Britain and the U.S. in a war against Russia.
1945-1989. The Axis Powers and the Vatican lost World War II and Communism swept over 1/3 of the world.
1982-1989. Pope John Paul and former President Reagan successfully plotted the downfall of the Communist Empire (time, February 24, 1992). During this clandestine campaign Archbishop Pio Lashi said to the diplomat, Vernon Walters, "It is a very complex situation ... listen to the Holy Father [Pope]. We have 2,000 years experience at this." It was further observed, "Step by reluctant step, the Soviets and the Communist government of Poland bowed to the pressure imposed by the Pope and the President."
1989. The Communist Empire fell. Papacy finally triumphed over her bitter enemy.
1990. The Popeís ultimate agenda is revealed in the following statement he made on April 21, 1990: "A united Europe is no longer a dream. It is not utopian memory from the Middle Ages [emphasis added]. The events that we are witnessing show that this goal can be reached." The Pope wants to revive the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle (Dark) Ages. ...
Are the Heavens Rolling Together "as a Scroll"? (Isaiah 34:4)
1992. A group of 40 prominent evangelical and Catholic scholars and leaders has agreed that Christians must stop aggressive proselytizing of one anotherís flocks and work together more closely to "contend against all that opposes Christ and His cause." "We dare not by needless and loveless conflict between ourselves give aid and comfort to the enemies of the cause of Christ," the statement, signed March 29 in New York, says, "Not since the 16th century have Protestants and Catholics Ďjoined in a declaration so clear in respect to their common faith and common responsibility.í"
"... Although the document addresses the relationship between evangelicals and Catholics, it acknowledges that belief in "the one Christ and one mission includes many other Christians," most notably Eastern Orthodox and Protestants outside the evangelical camp. What brought the two communities together to this point, some signers said, are the experiences of worshipping together in the charismatic movement and working together for political causes, such as the pro-life movement. Evangelical Protestants "have much more in common with Bible-believing Catholics" than with liberal Protestants, Charles Colson said.
1993. In November Moody said, "Today, for good or bad, the lines that separate evangelicals and Roman Catholics are fading. More and more people from both sides are working together. .." Charles Colson writes, "Itís high time that all of us who are Christians come together regardless of the difference of our confessions and our tradition ..." Ministries of Billy Graham, Luis Palau, World Vision, and charismatic groups such as YWAH involve Catholics.
1994. Christianity Today (December 12) observed that the consensus among younger evangelicals is to "collaborate with Roman Catholics." The ecclesiastical "heavens," in fact, are rolling together. What shall be the result? "The heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and their host shall fall down. .."
1. USA TODAY, DECEMBER 8, 1993.
2. LUTHERAN WORLD, SEPTEMBER, 1960, PP. 128-129.
3. JOSEPH TANNER, DANIEL AND REVELATION (LONDON: HODDER & STOUGHTON, 1898), PP. 16,17.
4. PAUL J. MURPHY, LA POPESSA (NEW YORK: WARNER BOOKS, 1980), P. 52.
5. AVRO MANHATTAN, THE VATICAN IN WORLD POLITICS (NEW YORK: HORIZON PRESS, INC., 1949), P. 272.
6. IBID., PP. 272, 280.
7. IBID., PP. 273-275 (MANY REFERENCES GIVEN FOR DOCUMENTATION)
8. MURPHY, LA POPESSA, AND MANHATTAN, THE VATICAN IN WORLD POLITICS, PP. 22-24.
9. MANHATTAN, THE VATICAN IN WORLD POLITICS, PP. 168, 169.
10. LEO LEHMANN, BEHIND THE DICTATORS (1942), FRITZ THYSSEN, I PAID HITLER (1941).
11. HERMANN RAUSCHNING, HITLER SAID TO ME (1939), PP. 266-267.
12. MANHATTAN, THE VATICAN IN WORLD POLITICS, PP. 95-99.
13. IBID., PP. 247-265, 340-341.
14. IBID., PP. 262-236
15. AVRO MANHATTAN, THE TERROR OVER YUGOSLAVIA, THE THREAT TO YUGOSLAVIA (LONDON: WATTERS, 1953).
16. JOHN LOFTUS & MARK AARONS, THE SECRET WAR AGAINST THE JEWS (ST. MARTINíS PRESS: NEW YORK, 1994), P. 87.
17. NEW YORK TIMES, APRIL 23, 1990.
18. NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL RELIGION REPORT, APRIL 4, 1994.
The Christian Right
What impact would 33 million "voter guides" have on the 1994 Congressional elections? The Sunday before that election, 33 million voter guides were distributed by the Christian Coalition providing voters with information on how candidates stood on key issues believed to be important to Christian theology.
The "Christian Right," largely funded by the 1.4-million member "Christian Coalition" provides funds for securing key spots in government which will assist in establishing the conservative "Christian majority" of this country. The result? "Coalition leaders claim their voter guides helped Republicans prevail in 50 important races. According to People for the American Way, a liberal activist group, 60% of all the candidates affiliated with or strongly supported by the religious right won their races" (TIME, November 21, 1994).
"More politicians than ever owe their jobs to the organizing and financial support supplied by religious right groups their expectation is that the right-wing agenda will receive top priority in the next two years" (NEW YORK TIMES, November 12, 1994).
What Issues Are at Stake?
*†† Restriction on Sexual Preferences
*†† End Casino Gambling
*†† Increased Military Funds
*†† Immigration Limits
*†† Prayer Rights Amendment
*†† Family Values
*†† Decrease in Foreign Aid
*†† Liberal Gun Control Laws
*†† Tougher Crime Laws
The perception of the Christian Right includes the sincere belief that the "liberal left" has betrayed the heritage of the founding fathers of our country and has created a system which deprives them, the Christian majority of this land, of their moral, economic and religious rights. They believe they have a God-given mandate to take control to set matters straight.
What of the Liberal Left?
Whatever the "liberal left" can be accused of, one fact is certain: In the last hundred years, social, political and economic reforms in the United States temporarily defused many internal revolutions which might have erupted from the masses of discontent common folks unable to make ends meet.
But the solutions have not been broad enough, nor able to really solve any social or economic problem permanently. Still, what will come if those meager reforms are now rolled back? Who will help the poor, the dispossessed? "For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. Will help come from President Clintonís "New Covenant"? or from Godís New Covenant? (Ps 72:12; Jer 31:31) But when?
Should a Christian be Politically Active?
Just what legitimate part should the Christian take in influencing or supporting policies of governments?
First, are the convictions espoused by the Christian Right scriptural? In many issues, they are. Certainly the integrity of the family arrangement is scriptural. The God-given privilege of procreation should be cherished and protected. The alternative lifestyle "families" are unequivocally forbidden in the Bible.
Prayer really is the life-line of the Christian to God. Who would deny that resource? In addition, the moral and practical implications of gambling are devastatingýand addictive. Godís justice calls for rigorous punishment of crime. What is a Christianís responsibility in regard to these principles of Godís Word?
Frustration with "the kingdoms of this world"-the inequalities, inconsistencies, the unrighteousness-is understandable. The Christian is to "Lift up a standard for the people" (Isa 62:10) and "Let your light so shine before men" (Mt 5:16). Does holding up a standard and letting our light shine give authority to work with earthly governments? On the contrary, Jesus said, "My Kingdom is not of this world" (Joh 18:36). He taught his disciples to pray for a future Kingdom, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth" Jesus was not a political reformer. Jesus spoke of the "new wine" of his Kingdom which could not be poured into the "old bottles" of the current society and government (Lk 5:37,38).
As the worthies of old, Christians are "pilgrims and strangers on the earth" (Heb 11:13) whose "citizenship is in heaven" (Php 3:20 NAS). Thus while Christians need to exemplify Godís principles of righteousness in their lives, they are not to force these principles on the world around them.
Prayer in Public Schools
Prayer should be taught in the home. Children should be encouraged to pray in school, at McDonaldís and everywhere. But organized public prayer does not need to be practiced in schools.
A student may pray just about any time he or she wishes and does not need state legislation to allow or disallow that privilege. "From the vantage point of the Golden Rule, it [arranged prayer in schools] is undesirable. A lone Baptist student in a mostly Mormon classroom in Salt Lake City would quickly come to empathize with the Jewish pupil surrounded by Southern Baptists in Tennessee. Do we want our elementary school children getting the message that their faith is unacceptable and foreign to their classmates? The student of the minority faith will have three choices: insult her classmates and teacher (and embarrass herself) by leaving the room, plug her ears and try to pray her own prayer, or else listen to othersí prayers every day for 12 years of public schooling." (CHRISTIANITY TODAY, January 9, 1995, p.18.)
Religious exercises in public schools is not a new debate. A quote from 1906, THE NEW CREATION, sums up,
"Notwithstanding our reverence for the Bible as the Word of God, we believe that the fact that the Jews are opposed to the teachings of the New Testament that some infidels, skeptics, Buddhists, Theosophists, etc., are opposed to the Bible entirely in view also of the fact that all of these classes are taxed for the support of the schools and required to take advantage of them-it would be both just and wise to omit religious exercises in the schools and ignore the Bible as a religious book rather than give offense to so many who do not agree with us" ("Parental Obligations," p. 542,543).
Increasing the Military Budget
Some issues advocated by the Christian Right are not even in harmony with a Christian spirit or are even directly opposed to Christian teaching. These issues, however, are consistent with the theology of the Christian Right.
Did Jesus exclude the United States when he said, "My Kingdom is not of this world then would my servants fight"? What is a Christian to do with a gun in his hand? "He that lives by the sword shall die by the sword," Jesus said. Our early Christian brethren died in the arena rather than bear arms for the state.
Why would Christians promote military readiness when Godís program is total disarmament? "He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire" (Ps 46:9).
At this time when the poor of this country and the poor of the world need help from the wealthiest nation in the world, why would Christians instead promote spending on carnal weapons? Godís indictment on ancient Sodom gives pause for consideration, "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy" (Eze 16:49).
If the Christian Right believes they are setting up Godís Kingdom now in the United Statesýthen a military priority would be consistent with that theology.
Does limiting welfare benefits, toughening immigration laws and decreasing foreign aid reflect a Christian attitude or solution? Neither do these ideas sound like the platform of Godís Kingdom: "Good will unto all men." No, but a limited view of Godís grace which says only a few professing Christians will have any blessed future-relegating out whole continents of humanity to a torturous eternityýhas to have some effect on attitudes about people and life in general.
The Christian at the "Center" of Godís Will
While the Christian may not participate in and promote the reforms of our society, the Christian is deeply sympathetic with the poor groaning creation (Ro 8:22). The true Christian attitude longs to bless and help his fellow manýin Godís way, in Godís time.
The Kingdom solution is not an illusionary pie-in-the-sky answer. The establishment of "peace on earth" will be gradual. The first step will be disarmament, converting military resources into peaceful resources, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares" (Isa 2:4). Everyone will be an "immigrant" into this Kingdom, yet there will be no "foreigners." It will be crime-free, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isa 11:9). There will be no food or housing shortages because there will be work for all, "And they shall build houses and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat" (Isa 65:21,22).
The Kingdom will be a learning time, "When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" "They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding" (Isa 29:24). Justice and equality will be the norm, "Judgment also will I lay to the line and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies" (Isa 28:17). There will be no ineptness in government, no specially favored constituents, no failed campaign promisesýonly Godís fulfilled promises and only Godís power effectively blessing and favoring all. Why will this Kingdom government be effective? "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Je 31:33). Instead of temporary reforms, there will be everlasting answers to manís deepest needsýbeginning with the heart.
Is Godís Kingdom Political?
Is Godís Kingdom for which every Christian has prayed for 2,000 years political? Of course it is. It will replace the "kingdoms of this world" (Re 11:15). To be consistent with their prayers, though, Christians are not to involve themselves in this worldís politics, but wait for the Kingdom of God. Then they may participate as competent rulers and sympathetic judges (1Co 6:2; 2Ti 2:12). Then prayers in schools will not be an issue at all. Praising God in every continent will be universal, "According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth Let the poor and needy praise thy name O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people" (Ps 48:10; 72:21; 117:1).
A Mystery Revealed
"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery" Ro 11:25
Paulís Epistle to the Romans is a guiding light to the Christian church. Seeking enlightenment, Christians should heartily desire to understand the mystery Paul is referring to in our theme text-Ro 11:25. "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in."
Gentile Christians in the church at Rome were feeling a great sense of superiority over the Jews. Paul reminded them (and us consequently) that Gentiles were "wild olive branches"ýgrafted into the trunk and root of the Abrahamic Promise. He also gave assurance that God is able to graft the natural branches in again. The Jews, noted Paul, are still "beloved for the fathersí sakes."
Consider with us two major issues. What has become of the Law Covenant and what shall become of the Jewish people? The general sentiment in the Christian world is that the Law Covenant ended and the Jews were eternally cast off from favor at the beginning of the Christian era. Then, common opinion asserts, the New Covenant promised in Jer 31:31 was given to the church of ChristýSpiritual Israel. A careful examination of the Scriptures will reveal that the Law Covenant has not ended. The New Covenant belongs to the Jews and through it Jewish people will yet receive salvation. Please consider the following.
Types and Antitypes
Students of the Scriptures know that Old Testament events, types, pictured things that would have a much grander fulfillment, the antitypes. With regard to the Mosaic Lawís "matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." Col 2:16-18 (NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION) A type ends when the antitype (fulfillment) begins. When following a shadow, it comes to an abrupt end when we reach realityýthe substance. For exampleýthe type of the Passover lamb being slain ended (found its fulfillment) in the offering up of Christ our Passover.
The Mosaic Law Covenant was a type or picture of the New Covenant. If the New Covenant has begun then the type of the Law Covenant must have ended. We inquire, "Which scriptures teach that the Law Covenant has come to an end?"
Mosaic Law Covenant Ended?
Four scriptures seemingly teach that the Law Covenant has ended:
*†† "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Ro 10:4
*†† "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;" Col 2:14
*†† "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, [of the law covenant]" Col 2:20
*†† "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:" Eph 2:14-16
The first text is the strongest, but only if we stop reading it halfway through. This is frequently done, "For Christ is the end of the law. " If it did not have the last half, this would be a very strong scripture to show that the Mosaic Law Covenant is ended. But the last half argues powerfully that the Law is not ended. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
Only those Jews who had believed on the Lord Jesus were freed from the grasp of the Law. Only those who had become dead in Christ could enter into Christian libertyýfree from the bondage of the Law. All who did not believe remained (and still remain) in bondage to the law.
These four texts all refer to Jewish believers who escaped the Lawís bondage by becoming dead with Christ. "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." Ro 7:4 By coming into Christ (as members of his mystical Body) Jewish Christians were (and are) freed from their obligations to the Mosaic Law. Otherwise, as the above scripture shows, the Law still has a claim over them. Therefore, the typical Law Covenant still exists.
The Christian Covenant Oldest of All
A doctrine cannot be proven by a type-unless that type is interpreted for us by an Apostle. Such is the case in Ga 4:22-31. The Apostle Paul reveals the significance of Abrahamís two wives, Sarah and Hagar. They were an allegoryýrepresenting "the two covenants." The Hagar Covenant corresponded to the Law Covenant. This covenant brought forth a seed-the nation of Israel. Likewise the Sarah Covenant brought forth a seed-the seed of promiseýSpiritual Israel. "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise." Ga 4:28.
Sarah was Abrahamís wife long before Hagar was given to him. This fact is paralleled in Ga 3:15-17. The promise to Abraham that he would have a seed (Sarah Covenant) came 430 years before the Law Covenant (Hagar Covenant) was made. The Sarah or Grace Covenant is thus 430 years older than the Hagar or Law Covenant. The covenant Sarah typified is not the New Covenant. It is even older than the typical Law Covenant.
Carefully looking at the type ("Cast out the bondwoman")
The Apostleís lesson in chapter four is that as Hagarís son Ishmael persecuted Sarahís son Isaac so the Hagar (Law) Covenant seed, natural Israel, was persecuting the Sarah (Grace) Covenant seed, spiritual Israel.
Abraham, as a type of God, pronounced punishment on Hagar and Ishmael.
We note that they were not to be put to death by stoning or slain with sword or spear. "But what does the scripture say? ĎDrive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.í"( Ga 4:30 NRSV) She was turned out into the wilderness, still very much alive. In this way the antitype has been fulfilled. The nation of Israel has been dispersed to the four corners of the earth (the wilderness) by Divine decree. see De 28:64-67 In this wilderness condition they are still obligated and bound to their very much alive "mother"ýThe Law Covenant.
Three Further Witnesses
"In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." Another proof that the Law Covenant did not end at the first advent of Christ is given in Ga 4:24-25, 29. These verses were written nearly a quarter century after the Cross. Yet the Apostle still speaks of the Law Covenant in the present tense.
"Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children." "But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also." (Ga 4:24-25, 29 NRSV) These scriptures affirm that the typical Law Covenant is still in force. Therefore the antitype, the New Covenant, cannot have begun.
The second witness is 1Co 9:20, "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law." This is very clear. The Law still had to existýstill be in forceýin order for the Jews to be under it.
The third witness, Heb 8:13, says "In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." The word "old" in the original Greek has the thought of "senile." Senile does not mean deadýpassed away. It means feeble, aged or infirmed. The typical Law covenant did not end at the cross-it became weak. It started to decay after the time of the cross and is now getting "ready to vanish away."
Evidences of the New Covenant
There are clear scriptural evidences as to when the New Covenant has begun. These are found in the context of the classic New Covenant text-Jer 31:27-34.
Three points stand out as to the time when the New Covenant will be in effect. First, the nation of Israelýthe Jewish Peopleýscattered to the four corners of the earth will be regathered. They will be planted in their land. Therefore the New Covenant cannot be made until the Great Diaspora ends. (Jer 31:27, 28)
Second, in those days of the New Covenantís operation no one will die for their fatherís (Adamís) sin. Each will die for his own sin. (Jer 31:29, 30) Manifestly, this has not yet occurred as Paul asserts in Ro 5:12.
Third, in that time it will no longer be necessary to tell anyone, from the least even unto the greatest, to know the Lord. This is due to the fact that all shall know him. (Jer 31:34) Comparatively few have really known the Lord since the time of the first advent. Therefore this too awaits fulfillment.
If these three future events are Scripturally associated with making the New Covenant, it is rational to understand that the New Covenant is also future.
The Mystery Revealed
The New Covenant is not the "Sarah" or Christian Covenant. But if it is not for Christians, then with whom will the New Covenant be made? "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah." Jer 31:31 When the fullness of the Gentiles be come in (see Ac 15:14-17) "there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my [Godís] covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins." The Law will then have completed its role of leading the nation of Israel to recognize Messiah. Ga 3:24
Then the New Covenant of Jer 31 will be made with the nation of Israel. Blessings will begin to flow forth from the Divine storehouse upon Israel and through them to the rest of mankind. Though God has led the Jews on a path separate and distinct from the way He leads Christians, the Jewish people are not forgotten nor cast off forever (see Ro 11:11,12). They too will realize Divine salvation. This mystery will then be made plain. Israelís partial blindness will be removed. God will restore them, turning away ungodliness from Jacob and forgiving their sins. God "shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit." Isa 27:6
Beware of Polytheism
Historically Christianity religion along with Judaism and Islam have been categorized as monotheistic religions. However, since many Christians believed in the Trinity, some felt their claim of monotheism was suspect. Since the Trinitarianís historic phrase "one substance" was nebulas enough to imply their three gods were one personóthe Trinitarian wing of the Christian church was accepted as monotheistic. The word "Trinity" does not appear in the Bible. Adolf Harneck, a Trinitarian and noted church historian observed that as late as the 3rd Century most Christians did not believe the holy Spirit was a personality but merely the power of God. Early church writers, such as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Novatian, Arnobius and Lactantius, were very explicit in affirming that the Heavenly Father alone is the supreme God and that Jesus is completely subordinate to His authority and will. As educated converts from Paganism vied for positions of authority in the church. They brought with them the pagan concept of a "triune god" that was resisted by ordinary believers. "The victory of orthodoxy [so called] was a triumph of priests and theologians over the indeed deeply rooted faith of the people."
In 325 AD Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nice and through political intrigue with the bishops had the Nicene Creed formulated. It stated that the Father and Son are coequal and coeternal. This disagreed with Jesusí words, "My Father is greater than I." (Joh 14:28) "I can of mine own self do nothing my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (Joh 5:30) "as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." (Joh 20:21) "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father: and to my God and your God." (Joh 20:17)
Note that the Heavenly Father is said to be the God of Jesus. Jesus spoke of his Father in Joh 17:3 as the "only true God."
Then in AD 381, 300 years after the Christian Church began, the holy Spirit was declared a God and the dogma of the Trinity was forged by the Trinitarian wing of the Church at the Council of Constantinople. They defined the Trinity as three Gods in one substance. This was not a Scriptural teaching held from the inception of the Christian Church. This was the forging of a tradition that would plague the church for centuries.
Why the Tradition Endured
In the whole Bible there is only one scripture that seems to teach the concept of three persons in one. It is the King James rendering of 1Joh 5:7, 8, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."
The words italicized in this scriptural quotation are not found in any of the oldest and most reliable Biblical manuscripts. That they are not a genuine part of the original text is the unanimous verdict of contemporary scholars, evangelicals included. Look up 1Joh 5:7, 8, in the Revised Standard Version, New American Standard Version, New International Version, etc. These translations do not agree with the King James Version. They omit these italicized spurious (not authentic) words. Why? Because overzealous Trinitarians added these words after the Council of Constantinople in AD 381.
More properly translated 1Joh 5:7, 8, reads: "For these are three which testify; the spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three are of one."  Here the holy Spirit is part of the only trinity (three in one) taught in the Bible. But it is a trinity of non-personalities, the water (Jesusí baptism), the spirit (Jesusí anointing), and the blood (Jesusí death). Blood and water are not persons; therefore, the third part of this trinity-the holy Spirit is not a person either. Rather, it is the Holy influence or power of God.
Since the corruption of 1Joh 5:7, 8, was not yet discovered by the Reformation period, the Protestant Reformers accepted the tradition established in 381 AD of three Gods in "one substance." Until the mid 20th Century, the esteem of the King James Version by many Born-Again Christians bordered on Divine inspiration; therefore, they were locked into the corruption of 1Joh 5:7, 8. But now with their exposure to new translations, Born-Again Christians are redefining "the Trinity."
Trinitarians now claim that the phrase "one substance" was not used to teach that the Father, Son, and holy Spirit were one person. Rather they were of the same nature and one in purpose, yet three distinct persons. However, history indicates to the contrary.
"The Papacy has in some of its churches, as, for instance, in the monastery of the so-called Trinitarians of Madrid, an image of the Triune God, with three heads on one body. The Babylonians had something of the same. Mr. Layard, in his last work, has given a specimen of such a triune divinity, worshipped in ancient Assyria." 
"In the unity of that one Only God of the Babylonians, there were three persons, and to symbolize that doctrine of the Trinity, they employed, as the discoveries of Layard prove, the equilateral triangle, just as it is well known the Romish Church does at this day." 
In the mid-20th Century C. S. Lewis was considered an outstanding spokesman for Protestantism. Lewis affirms the "one substance" view of the Trinitarians:
"we could never have guessed in advance, any more than a knowledge of squares would have enabled us to guess at a cube. He contains Ďpersonsí (three of them) while remaining one god, as a cube combines six squares while remaining one solid body. We cannot comprehend such a structure any more than the Flatlanders could comprehend a cube." 
This traditional view of the trinity was an unfortunate 4th Century (381 AD) departure from the teachings of Jesus and his Apostles. This was bad enough, but the redefining of the Trinity by many contemporary Born-Again Christians has crossed the line to polytheism. To say that the Father, Son, and holy Spirit are coequal and coeternal Gods, one in purpose and all of the same nature, yet separate and distinct persons is plain and simple polytheismóa worshipping of three separate Gods. This was a gross departure from true Christianity.
A Return To Jesusí Teachings
Meanwhile in 1864 Benjamin Wilson, a Christadelphian, published THE EMPHATIC DIAGLOTTóan interlinear Greek-English translation. It was one of the first to render 1Joh 5:7, 8 correctly, its effect was electrifying. Many Christian groups founded after its publication didnít believe in the Trinity. Also, THE EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT rendered Joh 1:1, "the Word was with the God and a god was the Word." This defines Jesus as "a god" who was inferior to and separate from the Father. Several translations in the 20th Century that follow this rendering have raised the ire of Trinitarians. However, THE BIBLE TRANSLATOR (Vol. 28, No. 1, Jan. 1977) published by translators who are Trinitarians, said of this renderingó"As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted."
The word "God" in the Old Testament is often a translation of the Hebrew word ELOHIM. Since Jesus and the Father are both called ELOHIM, it is asserted that they are the same being. But angels (Ps 8:5), Abraham (Ge 23:5,6), Israelís judges (Ex 21:6) and the Church (Ps 82:6) are also called ELOHIM  in the Scriptures. ELOHIM signifies: a mighty one, prince, ruler, or judge; and since it is scripturally used to refer to men and angels, as well as to God, its use in referring to our Lord Jesus Christ does not in any way prove his equality with God. Nor is there any validity in the assertion that, because ELOHIM is plural in form, its application to God indicates that there is more than one person in God. In Ex 7:1, Moses is called ELOHIM by God. Was Moses plural? Certainly not, for the word ELOHIM, like our English word "sheep," can be either singular or plural, as the occasion demands.
Several scriptures seem to refer to the holy Spirit speaking, however, other scriptures also symbolically portray non-personal entities as exercising personality traits. In Pr 1:20-22, "wisdom" is portrayed as speaking and referred to by the personal pronoun "she." Also, in Lk 7:35, wisdom is designated "she" and has children. In Ro 7:11, "sin" is spoken of as exercising mental deception.
A dilemma for Trinitarians! How can the concept that the Father, Son, and holy Spirit are three Gods that are coequal harmonize with Isa 11:2-10? In this Kingdom scene, the Son will receive the spirit of the Father that he might have the wisdom to perform the work of the Kingdom. If these are three equal Gods, why will the Father need to give his Son a third God to enable the Son to exercise wisdom?
1. Adolf Harnack, OUTLINE OF THE HISTORY OF DOGMA, Translated by E. K. Mitchell (Starr Kemp Press, 1957) P.266.
2. Ibid. P. 266.
3. Benjamin Wilson, THE EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT; NESTLE AND MARSHALL; and THE INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT.
4. Rev. Alexander Hislop, THE TWO BABLYONS (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1959) P.17.
5. Ibid. P.16.
6. C. S. Lewis, THE BEST OF C. S. LEWIS (Washington, D.C: Cannon Press, 1974) P.282.
7. see STRONGíS CONCORDANCE and NEW ENGLISHMANíS CONCORDANCE.
Is Hell Burning?
"When it comes to a literal fire, I donít preach it because Iím not sure about it."  -Billy Graham, 1993
"According to a recent Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans believe in Hell or say they do, up from 52 percent in 1953." Whatever people believe Hell to be, a majority of people in this country believe Hell exists. If we accept the Bible as the Word of God, then Hell is a reality. The question is, what is that reality?
If we have a vaguely uncomfortable feeling about thinking of billions of the unsaved spending an eternity in a place of torment, perhaps it would be of comfort to know that God actually does have a just and reasonable plan for man. We do not have to rationalize our comfortable lives by telling ourselves that Christian missionaries are conquering continents of sinners. For if we tried, the fact that Islam is todayís fastest growing religion would indeed be a bitter fact to swallow. In any case, how can a loving and just God allow for a burning hellýsuch a concept is contrary to His character?!
The Scriptures say that death, not torment, is the penalty for sin. "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die" (Ge 2:17). "The soul that sinneth it shall die" (Eze 18:4). But since the "father of lies," Satan, contradicted God, "Ye shall not surely die" (Ge 3:4), he had to devise a cover-up to hide the fact that the human race was actually dying. Throughout human history Satan has been very successful in perpetuating the lie that man does not really die but lives on in an afterlife-one of bliss or torment. So the worldís religions have all carried on Satanís lie in one form or another until our day.
The idea of an individual trial for the soul may have come from the ancient Egyptians or from the teachings of Zoroaster who taught that a "Lord of Lies" who lived in a "hell" in the dark reaches under the earth recorded the deeds of men as debits and credits. When the body died, the soul went to be judged (remember Satanís first lie). If the "soul" is found in the "black," it is permitted to proceed to the House of Song. However, if the "soul" is found in the "red," it is doomed to hell. Furthermore, the eastern religions of Hinduism and Buddhism both teach of many hells to which the soul must continuously migrate. Since Satan is the originator of the lie, "Thou shalt not surely die," and all the ancient religions perpetuated this myth, how does the Bible define Hell? Can we find support for the common conception of Hellýone filled with fire and torment?
Two principal places in the Bible which mention fire and hell togetherýoccur in Deuteronomy 32 and Luke 16. Remarkably both these passages deal with the subject of Israelís "death" as a nation and the exaltation of the Gentiles to Godís favor.
The Rich Man and Lazarus
The plot of the story that Jesus tells is simple. A poor man sits outside the house of a rich man begging for crumbs. When both these men die, they are taken to different places. Being tormented with flames in hell, the rich man calls out to the poor man, who has been brought to Abrahamís bosom. The rich man begs for "water" but cannot be comforted because of the "great gulf fixed" between them. Is Jesus relating the experiences of real people? Does an existence of torment await those rich in this worldís goods? Are the poor automatically promised an afterlife of bliss and comfort?
When Jesus taught, how did he speak to the people? "All these things spoke Jesus unto the multitude in parables, and without a parable spoke he not unto them" (Mt 13:34). Unless Jesus was instructing his disciples in specific codes of conduct (Lk 16:18, Mt 18:15-22), he would only use parables to teach his message. Parables can be recognized by their narrative, story-like quality. Parables are often difficult to understand. Once, the Disciples asked Jesus about the meaning of a parable he had told that day. But Jesus first explained, "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto those who are outside all these things are done in parables...." This story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable which contains an important lesson to the Pharisees who were listening (Lk 16:14), but probably didnít understand.
In parables, groups of people are represented by different symbols. To represent his faithful servants, our Lord used the symbol of "wise virgins" in the Mt 25 parable. In this parable, the rich man represents a favored class-the leadership of the nation of Israel. The Apostle Paul speaks of this rich favor, "What advantage then hath a Jew?... Much in every way, chiefly because unto them were committed the oracles of God" (Ro 3:1,2).
Being "clothed in purple and fine linen" the rich man certainly represented royalty. Purple is the color of kings! To Moses God promised in Ex 19:5,6, "Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice...ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." The "fine linen" signifies the righteous purity accounted to the Israelites because of the sacrifices of the Law.
Clearly, our rich man clothed in purple and fine linen represents the richly favored status of the Scribes and Pharisees, the spiritual leaders and representatives of Israel. If the rich man represents a favored class, then Lazarus must also be interpreted as a class-a downtrodden people. The beggar class consists of the publicans and sinners of Israel and Gentiles seeking the truth and favor of the Lord. Sitting outside the favor of God, this sin-sick class begged for some little crumb of favor. For example when the woman from Canaan, a Syro-Phoenician, sought Jesus to free her daughter from possession, Jesus first ignored the woman. Then he said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." When she persisted Jesus explained to her, "It is not meet to take the childrenís bread and to cast it to dogs [identifying the heathen as dogs]." The woman replied, "Truth Lord: yet dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masterís table." Jesus replied by giving a crumb of favor to this unfavored Gentile.
In our parable, we learn that eventually both Lazarus and the rich man die. How did the Gentiles and Jews die? Their death represents an end of their status as favored and unfavored. They did not die literally because we know that the condition of death is a state of oblivion: a state of nothing. "For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Ec 9:10). But the Gentiles did not literally go to heaven because Jesus was the first to ascend to the Father (Joh 3:13). The Gentiles were grafted into the Abrahamic promise (Ge 22:17,18; Ro 11) The Lazarus class is "brought nigh" through faith in the Lord Jesus. "That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph 2:12-14).
Martin Luther provides a sensible interpretation of "Abrahamís bosom." He states, "By Abrahamís bosom we understand to be meant the Abrahamic covenant." (Ge 22:16). Godís covenant with Abraham promised his seed would "bless all the families of the earth." Expounding on that promise, Paul says, "And if ye be Christís then are ye Abrahamís seed and heirs according to the promise" (Ga 3:29). The Gentiles were brought to Abrahamís "bosom"-a place of intimate favor with God!
Israel, on the other hand, was rejected from Godís favor and thus "died" as a nation (viz. lost its polity). During the time the Gentiles were being invited into the kingdom of God, the nation of Israel experienced the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. and the beginning of their Diaspora or dispersion all over the world.
And so the rich man class, Israel, represented in its leadership "dies"-loses favor-after it rejects the crucified Lord (Ac 3:13-17). The favor shifts to the Lazarus class and the nation of Israel finds herself being hunted and persecuted. Israel, the rich man class is well described as "tormented." Throughout the ages the Jews have indeed cried out for comfort, but have received none because of the "great gulf fixed," separating them from any relief or favor.
A Great Gulf Fixed
What does this "great gulf fixed" signify? The word "fixed" seems to indicate that the gulf is a pre-determined or pre-established barrier prohibiting the Christians from giving comfort to the tormented Jews. Would this barrier last forever? No. Our Lord in Isa 40:1,2, commands, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My People, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lordís hand double for all her sins." This "warfare" refers to a time of difficult struggle and persecution. Eventually the warfare and torment comes to an end. In fact, Israelís restoration is represented as gathering the "dry bones" of the nation of Israel "out of your graves [to] bring you into the land of Israel" (Eze 37:11-14). Their blindness would be removed and sins forgiven (Ro 11:25-27).
Mosesí Prophetic Song
Looking at the one other place in the Bible where hell is in the same context as fire or flame (De 32:15-22), we find actually a song that is parallel to the Rich Man and Lazarus Parable. The rich man of the parable is referred to as "Jeshurun" in Deuteronomy. Jesus based his parable on this song (see De 31:30) about Jeshurun and may have combined it with a contemporary story (described in an article, "Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades" attributed to Josephus). He created a parable to teach the lesson of the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees losing their favor to the humbler class and eventually to the Gentiles. Both stories have one favored and one disfavored who trade places. Though the poor man has the name Lazarus in our Lordís parable, in Deuteronomy, the poor man is equal to "those which are not a people" (De 31:21).
Songs are more often written in a symbolic language, deep with meaning. If we study the context of the word "fire" in De 31:22, we find that this fire refers back to the jealousy of God in De 31:21. Godís anger burned hot against all the evil His nation has committed. Hell is defined as destroying the Jewish nation, "I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men" (De 31:26). The fire burning is symbolic of Godís jealousy destroying Israel as a nation. This song is not about a literal fire burning in hell.
Is the Rich Man in a Fiery Hell?
Fire represents destruction. The Christianís faith is "tried with fire." (1Pe 1:7) Literal fireýno. What is destroyed? The dross of human-mindedness is destroyed so that the Christianís faith may be as pure "gold." The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus does not teach a fiery hell, but a nation destroyed and a people scattered and suffering.
Even Hell [Gk. hades] itself will not last forever. When "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades] where is thy victory?" (1Co 15:55) If we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also have to believe that Hell will not forever be a penalty for Adamís sin. The highly symbolic Book of Revelation says "And death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death [Gehenna]" (Re 20:4) The dying condition of the race of man will end, plus all those in Hell (actually dead) will be released in the awakening. This will be the time of the death of death, the death of hell. No more will man die because of Adamís sin "Dying thou shalt die." Neither will Satanís lie be repeated. Satan will be destroyed.
Godís wonderful character will be vindicated and sincere Christians who struggle with the idea of a God who would permit an eternity of hell fire torment will be grateful to know the Bible does not teach it.
1. TIME, November 15, 1993.
2. Alice K. Turner, THE HISTORY OF HELL, Harcourt Brace & Company (New York: 1993), p.4.
The Reformation Faith
Do you know what role the teaching of the "immortal soul" played in Martin Lutherís Reformation? The Reformation endeavored to reclaim the Biblical doctrines and practices that the church of the establishment had discarded or corrupted. The 16th Century Reformation primarily dealt with the most serious errors and misguided practices of the Roman Church, such as, indulgences, purgatory, the Mass, prayers to the saints, forbidding to marry, antichrist and the infallibility of the Pope. The deflection from "the faith once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 2) intensified over many centuries. The Reformation from these errors would also require centuries. The recovery from the errors of church-state union, eternal torment, the trinity, etc., would be the Reformation work of the 17th-19th centuries.
Remember the Apostles predicted a great "apostasy" or deflection from the Truth (2Th 2:2,3; 1Ti 4:1-6; 2Pe 2:1-22). By the time Jude wrote the book that bears his name, some of the apostles had already died in the Lord. Jude 3-4 warns that just as predicted, "certain men crept in unawares" and were teaching error. Then he devoted the rest of his epistle to warning against the dire consequences of their doctrine. The deflection from pure doctrine that continued in the following centuries was incredible.
Salvation By Money
By the 16th Century, the corruption of doctrine and practice degenerated to the selling of indulgences-the salvation of souls could be purchased by money. This nefarious practice was fine-tuned by the Dominican monk Tetzel. With the authority of Rome, he said:
Come and I will give you letters, all properly sealed, by which even the sins that you intend to commit may be pardoned. I would not change my privileges for those of St. Peter in heaven; for I have saved more souls by my indulgences than the apostle by his sermons. There is no sin so great, that an indulgence cannot remitŗ .
Priest! noble! merchant! wife! youth! maiden! do you not hear your parents and your other friends who are dead, and who cry from the bottom of the abyss: We are suffering horrible torments! a trifling alms would deliver us; you can give it, and you will not!ŗat the very instant," continued Tetzel, "that the money rattles at the bottom of the chest, the soul escapes from purgatory, and flies liberated to heaven. O stupid and brutish people, who do not understand the grace so richly offered! Now heaven is every where opened!"
The Reformation Begins
On October 31, 1517 a Franciscan Monk, seething with righteous indignation at this diabolical affront to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, nailed 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg, Germany. The blow of Martin Lutherís hammer resounded throughout Europe. The Reformation began! The 95 Theses dealt primarily with true repentance versus indulgences. In this context, Lutherís 27th proposition strikes out against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul as this quote demonstrates.
... that he [the pope] is emperor of the world and king of heaven, and earthly god; that the soul is immortal, and all these endless monstrous fictions [portenta] in the Roman rubbish heap of decretals." If Luther didnít believe in the immortality of the soul, what happened at death? Luther said:
"For just as a man who falls asleep and sleeps soundly until morning does not know what has happened to him when he wakes up, so we shall suddenly rise on the Last Day, and we shall know neither what death has been like or how we have come through it. We are to sleep until he comes and knocks on the grave and says, ĎDr. Martin, get up.í Then I will arise in a moment and will be eternally happy with him."
Lutherís logic was simple yet devastating to the errors of purgatory, indulgences and the worship of saints. If the soul was "asleep" and not suffering in purgatory there would be no need of indulgences. This also provided Luther with an effective argument against saint-worship. How can you pray to saints who are asleep?
The Resurrection Hope
Note well that Lutherís hope of eternal life was not based on an immortal soul that survives death, but on the resurrection in the "last day" when all believers would be awarded eternal life. He reclaimed the long discarded Biblical teaching on death and the resurrection of the dead.
The main point of the Apostle Paulís discussion on the resurrection (1Co 15) is that Jesusí death and resurrection guarantees that "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1Co 15:22). In Ac 24:15 Paul also speaks of the resurrection of the just and the unjust. After the death of the Apostles, history records that the main Christian teachers of the second century did not believe in the immortality of the soul.
"Justin, Tatian and Theophilus, on various grounds, supposed that the soul, though mortal in itself, or at least indifferent in relation to mortality or immortality, either acquires immortality as a promised reward, by its union with the spirit and the right use of its liberty, or, in the opposite case, perishes with the body."
Christians were a minority in a hostile heathen world. Grecian philosophers came into the Christian Church and brought with them Platoís doctrine of the immortality of the soul. To make Christianity more palatable to the heathen, Christians accepted Platoís error and heathens poured into the church. Christians now believed that at death the soul lives on. Then they distorted the resurrection to mean that at some future point the soul will again be confined to a human body for the balance of eternity. No wonder Luther whimsically remarked, "It would take a foolish soul to desire its body when it already was in heaven!"
What Is The Soul?
The error of all heathen religions is that we have a soul; whereas, the Bible plainly states we are a soul. Ge 2:7 states, "God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul." God didnít put a soul in man. Rather the combination of the body and breath (power) of life made man a living soul, a sentient being. Take away the power or energy of life and you have a dead soul. As stated in Eze 18:20, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Yes, souls can die. Ps 146:4 reveals what happens to all at death: "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." Since all sentient beings (living souls) die, the Christian hope is in the resurrection of the dead.
The Hebrew word translated soul is NEPHASH (Strong 5315). In Le 5:1, 2, 4 (KJV) a "soul" or "nephash"can see, hear, touch and speak with lips. Why? Because in verse 4 "soul" is interchangeable with "man." "... or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be, that man shall pronounce with an oath."
Further, souls can eat and be cut off or destroyed (Le 7:20, 25, 27). Souls can also be torn to pieces by lions (Ps 7:2) and can be utterly destroyed by the sword (Jos 11:11). This is further proof that man does not possess a soul but man is a soul. Consequently the NAS and NIV both translate NEPHASH in these scriptures "person."
Immortal Soul Not In The Bible
Nowhere do the terms immortal soul or immortality of the soul appear in the Bible. The words immortal and immortality only appear five times in the whole Bible (1Ti 1:17; Ro 2:7; 1Co 15:53, 54; 1Ti 6:16; 2Ti 1:10) and refer once to God, once to the risen Christ, and three times immortal life is held out as a reward in the resurrection for Christís faithful followers.
The Scriptures speak of death as a sleep (Da 12:2; Joh 11:11; 1Th 4:13-14) because in death there is no conscious thought (Ps 146:4; Ec 9:10). But at the resurrection all shall be awakened from the sleep of death. Jesus said (Joh 5:28, 29) "the hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shallŗ come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life (faithful Christians are given immortality in the resurrection-1Co 15:53, 54) and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment (Greek Krisis)." The majority of mankind died without hearing the name of Jesus (Ac 4:12), which is the only means of salvation. Many scriptures show that their crisis or trial time will be in the resurrection. Martin Luther was right-the soul is not immortal. At death the soul sleeps until the resurrection in the last day.
1.† J. H. Merle DíAubigneí, D.D., HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 86, 87.
2.† Martin Luther, ASSERTION OF ALL THE ARTICLES OF M. LUTHER CONDEMNED BY THE NEWEST BULL OF LEO X, Nov. 29, 1920, Art. 27, in his Works, Vol. 7 (Weimar: Hermann Bohlhaus Nachfolger, 1897), pp. 131, 132.
3.† Paul Althaus, THE THEOLOGY OF MARTIN LUTHER (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 414, 415.
4.† Rev. John McClintock D.D. and Dr. James Strong STD, CYCLOPAEDIA OF THEOLOGICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL LITERATURE, Vol. IV (New York: HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS, 1872), 517.
5.† Paul Althaus, THE THEOLOGY OF MARTIN.
Why are the Nations so Angry?
"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and everŗThou hast taken thy great power and hast begun to reign. And the nations were enraged." Re 11:15,17,18 NAS
Why would the nations be enraged and angry if Jesus Christ were reigning? Wouldnít he rule justly, fairly and rightly for everyone in the world? Thatís the problem. Since certain nations are tyrannizing others and since certain groups of people within nations are tyrannizing some, the tyrants would resent anyone changing things.
Just how does the "kingdom of the world" "become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ"? Is this a peaceful process of negotiation and peace treaties on paper? Is it even a process-or is it instantaneous?
The nations of the world make up the "kingdom of the world" which belongs to its god Satan. "The god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe notŗ" (2Co 4:4). Satan would not be pleased that his "kingdom" was being disturbed or invaded. Neither are the selfish, greedy nations who serve Satan interested in surrendering peacefully and quietly.
What does Jesus do when he is installed as a king "upon my holy hill of Zion" and given the "nations for thine inheritance" (Ps 2:2-8)? They are broken "with a rod of iron" (Ps 2:10). No wonder they are angry. Where is Christís peaceable Kingdom?
Daniel prophesies that when Jesus uses his authority as king, one of the first major effects would not be peace. "At that time shall Michael stand upŗthere shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time" (Da 12:1). Jesus is "Michael" which means "who as God." How appropriate because it is Jesus ruling for God when he would "stand up." ["Stand up"-as identified in the Book of Daniel-means to rule, for example, "And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominionŗ" (Da 11:3).]
Nations Always Angry?
But havenít the nations always been warring and fighting? Havenít the oppressed always been angry? The unique factor when Christ would begin reigning would be that the trouble would be globally unprecedented-"such as never wasŗ."
Christ could inaugurate his Kingdom immediately, but then the peoples of the earth would not understand the need of his rule of justice. They need to manifest their own character and reach exasperation with their own attempts at peace. The setting up of his righteous Kingdom would be a painful process. World War I was a turning point that broke up the ruling houses of Europe, which had endured for centuries. Out of the ashes of colonialism, over a hundred new nations sprouted, each demanding its right under the sun. For the first time, though, the whole world began to wobble down the road of self destruction. Despite all the peace agreements for arms control, the nations now have achieved MAD ("Mutually Assured Destruction"). No matter the Soviet Union is gone; Russia is selling nuclear reactors to Iran. Etc. But even the poorer nations have their bombs: germ and chemical. Jesus describes these days as a time when "there should no flesh be saved" (Mt 24:22).
Societies are breaking up within nations-with each layer and segment demanding rights and dignity as never before. And each ethnic grouping is demanding to be free of oppression. Human rights are demanded everywhere. Everywhere the truth on every subject is emblazoned. When Christ reigns, he uses the sword of Truth, "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that it should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of ironŗon his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Re 19:11-16). Truth is what will finally triumph. If Christ is reigning and causing all this trouble among the nations, when and how will it all end?
The Positive Effects of Christís Reign
What would be the positive effects when Christ begins to reign? The same prophecy in Da 12:1 that says when Christ stands up to reign over the nations-causing a "time of trouble"-also says he will stand "for the children of thy people." Who are the children of Danielís people? Israel, of course.
Few people can deny the incredible phenomenon of the reemergence of a lost people, who for almost 2,000 years had been scattered all over the world. Few Christians can deny the prophetic significance of the regathering of Jews to their ancient homeland. Even many Orthodox Jews associate the restoration of Israel with the coming of Messiah.
What is not generally understood, though, is that through His "arm," Jesus, it is God who is ruling over them to bring them back to the Land. "As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm and with fury poured out, will I rule over you. And I will bring you out from the people and will gather you out of the countries (of the whole world, not just Babylon) wherein ye are scatteredŗ" (Eze 20:33,34; also Isa 52:10, 63:5). The gathering process is not gentle, but "with fury."
The word here for "rule" (STRONGíS EXHAUSTIVE CONCORDANCE, 4427) literally means in Hebrew, "to ascend to the throne." It is the same word used when all the kings of Israel began their reigns. Just as the kings of Judah sat on the "throne of Jehovah" (1Ch 29:3), so Christ reigns for God when Israel is being gathered and restored. "O sing unto the LORD a new song, for he hath done marvelous things; his right hand, and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory" (Ps 98:1).
The Jews would be gathered step by step and prepared gradually for their place in the Kingdom. As Ezekielís prophecy foretold, the scattered people would be gathered like "dry bones." Then sinews and skin would be put on them as a people. Finally, they would be infused with the spirit of God (Eze 37:1-14). In the meantime, Jerusalem would be a "burdensome stone for all people" (Zec 12:3). The nations of the world would have trouble knowing what to do with Jerusalem. They would be angry about that too.
Christ, the Scepter of God
So if we see the miraculous process of the restoration of Israel, and we observe the painful process of the disintegration of the nations-only one conclusion is possible...Christ is reigning!
Christ has always reigned in the hearts of his people. That is where his kingdom started. But now he is beginning to rule over his enemies. "The LORD [Jehovah] says to my Lord [Jesus]: Sit at My right hand, until I make thine enemies a footstool for thy feet. The LORD [Jehovah] will stretch forth Thy strong scepter [Jesus] from Zion, saying, Rule in the midst of thine enemiesŗThe Lord [Jesus Christ] is at thy right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations..." (Ps 110:1,2,5,6 NAS).
The nations resist the righteousness of Christís incoming Kingdom. They will in the end try to destroy Israel. Most Christians see the invasion of Gog and Magog against Israel as a final punishment on Israel (Eze 38, 39). In reality, that is when God will fight for His people as He did in days of old (Zec 14:1-3). In reality, though He may be chastising Israel, He will make "a full end of all nations [governments] whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee [Israel]" (Jer 31:11).
Christians should not wait to acknowledge with the rest of the world the reign of Christ is begun. They see him at work in setting up his Kingdom, both in the tearing down of the old order and the preparation for the new.
An illustration from the days of the Kings of Israel demonstrates this early recognition. King Davidís reign was forty years. Yet he only reigned in Jerusalem thirty three years (2Sa 5:4,5). The first seven he reigned in Hebron, where only his "brethren" acknowledged and served him. Christís "brethren" too would first comprehend that he is reigning. They are encouraged and energized by this fact. They tell others.
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth" (Isa 52:7). The last "feet" members of Christ announce this peace in a tumultuous time. They see his reigning work through the eyes of faith...based on the Scriptures.
Christians who are awake and watching see the vision of the Kingdom when all peoples of the earth will not be gathered against Israel to destroy it but to go up and learn about God. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain [Kingdom] of the Lordís house shall be established in the top of the mountains...and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain [Kingdom] of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion [spiritual Israel] shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem [natural Israel]" (Isa 2:2,3).
The nations will then be humbled and ready to learn. "Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to pray before the Lord...In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you" (Zec 8:22,23). This will not be the time when Christians first comprehend that Christ is reigning. This will be the time, though, for the peoples of the angry nations to serve Christ and be healed (Re 22:1,2).
Darwinism Taken to Court
In 1859 Charles Darwin presented to the world his origin of the species. He proposed that millions of years ago life spontaneously formed in a rich "primordial soup" of organic chemicals. Every form of life and every creature including humans, he submitted, evolved from that simple origin of life. What is forgotten is that Darwin acknowledged in the first edition of his book that supernatural assistance from God was necessary to drive biological evolution.
The intelligentsia of the world was ready for him. The arts, sciences and academia had just emerged from the mind-shackling superstitions of Dark Age theology. Atheism and agnosticism were the heady wine of the intellectuals in Darwinís day. Darwinís theory lent itself to a worldview of reality that could be explained by natural law. Within a few decades Darwinís theory of evolution was no longer considered an hypothesis, but a scientific fact. The ironic twist was that while his theory of evolution was not based on scientific, empirical investigation, those who ruled the halls of academia imperiously proclaimed it as fact.
The Apostle Paulís words (Ro 1:20-22) were again fulfilled:
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became Foolsŗ"(nas)
As in Israel of old (Isa 2:8; 44:13-17; 46:5-7) those who cut down a tree, built an idol and then worshipped it, Darwinism became just such a hand-crafted idol. At its altar 99 percent of Americaís practicing scientists pay homage. They dare not publicly do otherwise or they could be purged and shunned by Americaís top universities. Academic freedom is a farce in the sacred temples of Darwinism. For example, the veteran writer Forrest M. Mimms was dismissed by the noted periodical, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, simply because he did not believe in Darwinís evolutionŗnever mind that he never mentioned this fact in his writings.
Great publishing houses like MacMillan, Doubleday and McGraw-Hill, do not dare publish anti-evolutionary works lest they rouse the ire of the scientific establishment. After all, they publish tens of thousands of scientific books annually for secondary and college level schools.
The Social Impact after 100 Years
The reign of Darwinian naturalism in our leading universities for 130 years has eroded the moral values of our society. The most influential intellectuals in America and around the world are mostly naturalists who believe that God only exists as an idea subjectively in the minds of the religious. In the universities of our Darwinian establishment, naturalism is the virtually unquestioned assumption that underlies not only natural science, but all intellectual pursuits. Darwinism is not only considered a biological fact, it also greatly influences the behavioral sciences and the humanities-a twist Darwin never intended. As such, it must bear much of the responsibility for the social ills of today.
The famous Harvard paleontologist, George Gaylord Simpson, described the "meaning of evolution" as follows: "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind." What would be your response if you were one of the over 70 percent who agreed? Probably, There is no God; I can do my own thing. The judges who make legal decisions, the journalists who mold public opinion, the educators who shape our childrenís thinking all were educated at these universities.
After 130 years of godless Darwinism reigning in academia, every student is taught a Darwinian worldview and life is considered cheap. Condoms are distributed in high school cafeterias; homosexual relationships are just as viable as heterosexual marriages; abortions are now a method of birth control. Rape, drugs, murder, suicide are the norm in the youth culture of today.
Enough is Enough
Finally, someone from within the sacred precincts of academia said, Enough is enough! Phillip E. Johnson, former law clerk at the Supreme Court and for 20 years a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, hauled Darwinism off to the Court of Universal Truth. Although a Christian, Johnson in his book, DARWIN ON TRIAL (1991), solely used the natural disciplines of logic and science to prove that Darwinian evolution was fraudulent in its claim to be "scientific fact."
Johnson methodically tears away at the fabric of Darwinism by addressing each of the following problem areas of evolution: natural selection, the mutation controversy, the lack of fossil evidence, the assumption that "biological relationship means evolution relationship," the vertebrate sequence, molecular evolution and pre-biological evolution. Johnson demands that the scientific community use the rules of science, that is, proof by empirical results. He shows that no empirical proof exists for any of Darwinismís main assumptions.
In one of Johnsonís refutations, he identified what Darwin termed "variation" as what is called mutation today. "Mutations are randomly occurring changes which are nearly always harmful when they produce effects in the organism large enough to be visible, but which may occasionally slightly improve the organismís ability to survive and reproduce." But the fact that scientists have been able to breed fruitflies into every possible genotype only proves that fruitflies can be caused to change through artificial selection not "natural selection." Ultimately the end result of all these genetic experiments is still a fruitfly-not a new species. This experimentation does not at all make a case for beneficial mutations being the engine behind natural selection.
Natural selection can be seen as a tautology-a way of saying the same thing twice. "In this formulation the theory predicts that the fittest organism will produce the most offspring, and it defines the fittest organisms as the ones which produce the most offspring." Johnson comments on this tautology by stating, "When I want to know how a fish became a man, I am not enlightened by being told that the organisms that leave the most offspring are the ones that leave the most offspring."
The fossil record is Darwinís weakest link because of the lack of missing links. Additionally, the age of the fossil is basically determined by the age of the rock in which it is found; and the age of the rock is determined by the age of fossils in the rock. Is this scientific reasoning? Observes Johnson, "Most people are unaware that Darwinís most formidable opponents were not clergymen, but fossil experts."
Although Biblical creationists have been challenging the citadel of Darwinism for years, Johnsonís scientific case against evolution has been taken to the university campuses aggressively and successfully challenging professors to debate. In addition to DARWIN ON TRIAL, Johnson published a new book (in 1995) challenging the devastating moral impact of Darwinism on our culture. His goal is to "legitimate the assertion of a theistic worldview in the secular universities." Actually Johnson is a creationist who allows for the Genesis creative days being any length of time-not just 24 hours. Yet he is hailed as a hero by the fundamentalists who use the 24-hour creative day as a test of Biblical Christianity.
How Long is the Creative Day?
Chapters One and Two of Genesis provide conclusive proof that the seven creative days are not each 24 hours. The Hebrew word "yom" is used exclusively in Genesis to denote "day." After Genesis describes the creation of the heavens and the earth including the account of the seven creative days ("yom"), the very next verse (Ge 2:4) summarizes the entire work of the preceding verses: "These are the generations [Hebrew, "history"] of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day ["yom"] that the Lord God made the heavens and earth." "The day the Lord God made the heavens and earth" must be longer than 24 hours because it includes the work of all seven creative days. The "day" of Ge 2:4 defined, in fact, the whole period of creation!
How long was the seventh day? Ge 2:1-3 reveals that God finished his creative work at the beginning of the seventh day and rested. But the Genesis account is clear that the seventh day did not end. In Hebrews Chapter Four we are informed that Israel failed to enter into Godís seventh day rest during the time of Moses, Joshua and David. But Christians now have the privilege of sharing in Godís seventh day of Rest. In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives an enlightening account of why Godís seventh day of rest lasts until the end of Christís 1,000-year Kingdom on earth. If the seventh day is a long period of time, the same would be uniformly true of each of the first six days.
So while evolution proposes enormous periods of time to arrive at the complexity we see in this world, we know the Bible does not, on the other hand, suggest an unrealistically short week of 24-hour days to accomplish Godís creative work.
When the final verdict in the trial of "Creation vs. Evolution" will be made universally known, Darwin and all the most determined evolutionists will be thankful for their wise and loving Judge-who is also their Creator.
Documentation is now available for further proofs that Darwinian evolution is not a scientifically proven fact. Also included is additional information on the work of all seven creative days, elaborating on why the seventh creative day, based on the Bible, extends to the end of the thousand-year Kingdom of Christ. Send for your booklet, "Creationism Triumphs over Evolution" @$ 1.00 postpaid.
What Does the Jewish Passover Mean to Christians?
ŰChrist our passover is sacrificed for us:ŗlet us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.Ų 1Co 5:7-8
Around this time of the year, we begin to see the shelves at the supermarkets stacked with towers of matzos as well as all sorts of kosher foods for Passover. The next aisle over we see rows of stuffed plush Easter bunnies, lambs, baskets, chocolate eggs and cards with lilies and crosses. Soon the Jewish families will be gathered around their tables to commemorate the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Christian families will focus attention on the death of Jesus and celebrate his resurrection.
What does the Passover have to do with ŰEasterŲ? Long before there was a Jewish Passover, the Apostle John tells us, the ŰLamb [of God was] slain from the foundation of the worldŲ (Re 13:8). How could that be? If a lamb is for redemption of man and man was not even placed on the earth yet-the slain Lamb would have to have been only in the mind of God as part of a plan of salvation. Later when sin actually did enter the world, God would reveal a glimpse of how much the Lamb would cost Him. Father Abraham was told, ŰTake now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovestŗand offer him there for a burnt offeringŲ (Ge 22:2).
But the momentous exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt was a magnificent drama of Godís plan of salvation in careful detail. The whole nation was enslaved to the cruel taskmasters of Egypt. They groaned many years under this oppression. Finally, the due time for deliverance arrived. Moses instructed the children of Israel to carefully select a lamb for each household. It was to be slain, roasted with fire while its blood was put on the doorposts and lintels of each house. The firstborn of each family was in jeopardy of death if there was no blood sprinkled on the doorposts. But the angel would Űpass overŲ those houses where it was sprinkled.
By a thorough search, all leaven (hametz) was to be removed from the household. While standing up with staff in hand, the Israelites were to eat a lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The next morning the whole nation was delivered out of Egypt. The miraculous opening of the Red Sea allowed the children of Israel to pass through safely. This was the passover of the whole people of God in addition to the firstborn.
Today Jewish families emphasize in their Seder celebration, the passing over of the nation into freedom. Since temple times, though, the Lamb is not slain. But the bitter herbs and the unleavened bread are on the table. The cherished account of the passover is read.
Christ our Passover
Keeping the Jewish tradition, our Lord Jesus sat down with his twelve disciples at the Űlast supperŲ actually to partake of the Passover. According to custom, one piece of matzo was not consumed, but hidden. If one of those at the table could find it during the meal, it would be ransomed back by the head of the Jewish passover Seder. Also, based on the prophecy that Elijah would come before Messiah and announce him (Mal 4:5,6), a cup of wine was set aside for this prophet.
At the end of the meal, Jesus took a piece of matzo and may have used this hidden unleavened bread (ŰafikomenŲ). Likewise, he took the cup of wine, possibly the ŰElijah cupŲ leftover after the meal, and attached new meaning to the drinking of it with his apostles. Now that Jesus came to fulfill the Passover, the hidden and deeper meaning of the unleavened bread was revealed. First the Messiah had to suffer and die and offer his pure, unblemished human life for the world. ŰMy flesh I give for the life of the world.Ų
And here was the ŰElijahŲ announcing the coming of the Messiah of glory! How appropriate for Jesus to take this cup and share it with his disciples. ŰAnd he took the cup and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselvesŗAnd he took bread and gave thanks and brake it and gave unto them saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of meŲ (Lk 22:17-20).
For the disciples, it was difficult to comprehend that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Passover sacrifice. They heard but did not understand that the unleavened bread represented Jesusí body and the wine his blood. Hours later Jesus was to sacrifice that life on the cross and become that slain Lamb. As often as his disciples had celebrated the yearly Passover, Jesus now asked them to observe a new celebration to take its place.
The Body of Christ
Jesus could have said more, but he knew his disciples could not bear to know much more yet (Joh 16:12). But in due time, Apostle Paul opened more understanding on the unleavened bread and the cup for the followers of Jesus. ŰThe cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one breadŲ (1Co 10:16,17). Can it be? The followers of Jesus not only partake of Jesus, but are part of the loaf themselves (though they contribute no merit to the sacrifice).
Yes, the followers of Jesus not only take to themselves the righteous merit of Jesus to be justified, but they are invited to be sacrificed with him. ŰPresent your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable serviceŲ (Ro 12:1). How could human beings have anything ŰholyŲ to sacrifice? By faith, the Christian personally accepts Jesus as his Savior and is made righteous and holy. Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him. ŰOur old [justified] man is crucified with himŲ (Ro 6:6). ŰIf we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.Ų
Search for Leaven
Why did the Lord ask Israel to get rid of leaven? Leaven represents sin. Do we continue to sin just because we are counted righteous? No, that would be totally inconsistent. We strive to put away sin, leaven, with all our might. We search the crevices and dark corners of our hearts for any impurities. ŰPurge out therefore the old leaven, Ų the Apostle Paul said, Űthat ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truthŲ (1Co 5:7,8). This purging of sin is a lifelong effort, ŰSearch me, O God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlastingŲ (Ps 139:23-24).
Most Christians understand we are to fight against sin even though we are justified in Christ. But most Christians do not understand that we have the privilege of dying with Christ as part of his body, his sacrifice. Most Christians understand that we are called the Űfirstborn, Ų also Űthe firstfruits.Ų But most Christians do not follow through to understand that the whole world of mankind will be the later born, the afterfruits. Just as in Israel of old, the firstborn were passed over first, later was the passover of the entire nation. Now is the night of the Christianís deliverance. In the morning of Godís Kingdom, the billions of earth will be delivered from their bondage to sin and death.
The Jewish people too have missed part of the big picture. They mostly concentrate on the deliverance of the nation; the firstborn passover is not stressed. How appropriate! Though as a people, they missed the calling to be part of the firstborn, they will be the leaders of all people in Godís Kingdom on earth for the second Passover. So the Jewish Passover is really a complete moving picture of the drama of salvation.
Where will you be in that drama?
For a more thorough discussion of the meaning of the Passover to Christians, send for your copy of an article, ŰThe Passover of the New Creation, Ų taken from the book THE NEW CREATION. Or if you prefer, you may order the book itself, which also includes a discussion of ŰBaptismŲ and the daily life of the Christian.
Seed of a Worldly Church!
In few words Jesus painted a broad panorama of Christian history. The parable of the wheat and tares, found in Mt 13, describes the course of Christianity from the beginning, to its culmination in a harvest. The householder of the parable sowed good seed in his field. The anticipated fruitage was corrupted by the householderís enemy. The enemy over sowed the wheat field with tare seed (false wheat) while the householderís menservants slept. When the blade was spring up and brought forth fruit, the act of vandalization was manifest. The true wheat was choked in the midst of the imitation wheat.
The menservants asked if they should weed out the tares. The householder said, "Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them into bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." Mt 13:24-30
The Parable Explained
This lesson greatly interested the disciples and so they asked Jesus to explain it. What a great benefit to us that he did! The householder represented Jesus. The field-the Christian world with its fruitages. The good fruit represented Christís true followers, his faithful disciples. Tares, which outwardly look like wheat, were imitations planted by the enemy-Satan.
The tares were not to be weeded out until the harvest. The harvest would take place in the end of this world or age (Greek- aion). Jesusí work at the end of the Christian Age is as Chief Reaper. He will order his angels (messengers in the Greek), his disciples, to harvest the wheat in his second advent just as he did in the first. Lk 10:1-3; Joh 4:35,36
The two fruitages are the result of two different kinds of seed. Wheat, the true Christian, springs forth from the Word of God. This is taught in the parable of the sower. "The seed is the word of God...they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it and bring forth fruit with patience." Lk 8:11,15 The apostles carried forth the ministry of Christ, preaching the word of life, sowing seeds of the kingdom. The Father Űbegat us with the word of truth". Jas 1:18 "In Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the gospel," said the Apostle Paul. 1Co 4:15
A sinister turn in church history occurred when the apostles fell asleep in death (compare Mt 13:25). In their absence Satan sought to corrupt the church. His weapon was error. Just as truth produces a true Christian, so error produces an imitation. Satanís work of corrupting Godís truth in Christ began even during the apostlesí time. ŰEvery spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and thus is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now is already in the world.Ų 1Joh 4:3
That anti-christian spirit spread throughout the Christian world sowing tares. Satan hoped to choke the spiritual life out of Godís wheat by surrounding them with tares. One of Satanís principal instruments to sow bad seed were the Neo-Platonist Christians. These were philosopher Christians who sought to apply scientific methods in understanding scripture. Their methods were derived from Plato, a great man-also a pagan.
The unfortunate result of bending scripture to fit human philosophy was the creation of bad seed and its fruit-nominal Christians. Human science did no favor to the church of God. How sad that the apostolic admonition was not heeded, "Avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some (believers) professing have erred concerning the faith." 1Ti 6:20,21
A False Seed Close up
One such false seed was the Grecian philosophy of eternal torment for the wicked. Neo-Platonic concepts of the afterlife corrupted the simple truth of the Bible Hell. The New Testament Hades and the Old Testament Sheol no longer were perceived as the death state. They were instead transformed into a place of eternal conscious torment. (Space does not here permit an adequately thorough discussion of death and hell. We encourage you to order the booklet "Where Are The Dead?" offered at the end of this letter. The scriptures on these subjects are fully discussed in the booklet.)
The threat of such enormous and eternal suffering was (and still is) held over the heads of unbelievers. They converted to Christ under pressure. Thus many people, who would not otherwise bother being burdened with Christís name, have made a profession of faith.
Godís Purpose in Christianity
Conversion through coercion is not Godís purpose in Christianity. "True worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Joh 4:23,24 In other words, God wants our hearts to yield in willing love to Him and His truth. Many unwilling converts, motivated by fear, have feigned obedience to Him. That is how a tare is created.
The purpose of Christianity is to call out a people for Godís name. Those called out are Godís elect. The elected ones, found faithful in this life, will serve in the office of priests and kings. Their ministry will be to the remainder of humanity-those not called and willingly converted during the Christian Era. See Ac 15:14-17 and Re 5:10.
The confusion brought about by doctrines of fear have clouded over many important Christian doctrines. The doctrine of election, that God now calls a few to belief, is made horrible by trying to fit it in with Satanís doctrine of eternal conscious torment. The great twists of mind, heart and conscience needed to grasp Satanís teachings on hell bear an empty fruit at best. At worst, those twists bear a fruitage of hate, injustice and selfishness.
Hell in National News
ŰThe Rekindling of HellŲ was the featured cover article of U.S. News and World Report for March 25, 1991. ŰRecord numbers of Americans now believe in a nether world and in a wide variety of after death punishments, Ų it claimed. According to a Gallop survey done in November 1990, three out of five Americans now believe in hell. However, views of what constitute hell sharply differ.
Some try to understand hell philosophically and, through human wisdom, invent the hell of their choice. Others fall back on creeds of human invention and hold forth the hell of tradition. Some are returning to the Scriptures to study them anew. The Scriptures are shedding light on hell. "Such highly regarded theologians as Clark H. Pinnock, theology professor at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario; John R.W. Stott, president of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and Philip E. Hughes, a noted Anglican clergyman and author, contend that rather than suffering endlessly, those who ultimately reject God will simply be put out of existence in the Ďconsuming fireí of hell."
"Those who subscribe to this view-called Ďannihilationismí-point to New Testament passages that speak of Ďeternal destructioní and Ďthe second deathí for those who know not God and to the Old Testament prophet Ezekielís declaration that Ďthe soul that sins shall die.í"( U.S. News and World Report, March 25, 1991, p. 63).
These men are to be commended for looking back to scriptures to understand what the Biblical hell is. Hughes interestingly observes Űthat the traditional belief in unending punishment is linked to the erroneous belief in the Ďinnate immortalityí of the soul-a belief, he says, that is based more on Plato than on the Bible.Ų
On the other hand, traditionalists Űargue that annihilationism takes some of the punch out of Gospel preaching. ĎTo tell the unrepentant that the worst fate that could befall them is extinction,í says Harold O.J. Brown, a theology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Ďmakes continuing in sin seem less risky.íŲ And that is the very point of the parable of the wheat and tares. Wheat, the true Christian, rejoice to leave sin behind. They love righteousness and hate iniquity. They are not coerced by terror, but by love and the beauty of Godís Word.
Tares may look back longingly at Űthe good old daysŲ of sin or may yet practice their old sins after coming to Christ. A popular phrase on T-shirts and bumper stickers today is "How much can I get away with and still get to heaven?" That is not the spirit that a true follower of Christ will have. "Love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." 1Co 13:6
Forewarned is Forearmed
Our hope for all Godís people is that they will be led on to full Christian fruitage by Godís Word. We pray that His people will stand firmly for the truth even against the majority public opinion or entrenched human creeds. Remember that the tares in the parable are the overwhelming majority. Let us all, by the grace of God, receive the Word of God into good and honest hearts, bringing forth good fruit with patience.
The Heavens Declare the Glory of God
The first verse of the Bible states that God created the heavens and the earth. The second verse describes this earth that ŰwasŲ in existence for an undisclosed period of time. It was in a primitive, unprepared state. Not until the third verse is the work of the first creative day commenced. Important to notice is that the work on the first creative day was not the creation of the earth itself, but God causing light to penetrate the Űdarkness on the face [surface] of the deep [the waters that already covered the unfinished earth].Ų
The work of the seven creative days did not begin until the third verse. Because the creation of the heavens and the earth was before the seven creative days, the first two verses are not within the time frame of the seven creative days. Thus the actual age of the Űheaven [universe] and earthŲ are not indicated. Between the creation of the heaven and earth and the commencement of the seven creative days, the earth literally Űlie wasteŲ and was ŰemptyŲ of life for an undesignated period of time. These two characteristics of the primitive earth waste and empty of life only anticipate the coming work to be accomplished on the seven creative days.
This global waste would have to be transformed into a habitable host planet capable of sustaining life. Then all the life forms up to and including humans would be created.
For the scriptural reasons already considered, the length of the seven creative days in no way indicates the age of the universe or even that of our planet earth. Theories about a Űyoung earthŲ or one billions of years old are not relevant to the Genesis account of the seven days of creation.
Age of Universe and Planet Earth
Certain other scriptures, as a matter of fact, indicate the universe and the earth have existed for a long period of time. The Psalms compare the antiquity of the founding of the earth as a suitable metaphor for Godís existing from eternity (Ps 90:1,2). ŰLord...before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.Ų If the forming of the earth is compared to God, from everlasting to everlasting, a very ancient earth is suggested. The earth, indeed, did exist long before its preparation for life began.
Pr 8:22-23 compares ŰwisdomŲ as existing for a long time and before the earth was created:
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning or ever the earth was...
Whether ŰwisdomŲ is applied in these verses to the literal wisdom of God or to the Son of God as the personification of wisdom, the logic of these verses is that the wisdom of God has existed for an extremely long period of time. Why? Because the wisdom of God was in existence before the heavens and the earth were created. If the universe and the earth are only 6,000 or 7,000 years old, as some believe, the logic of these verses is meaningless. A comparison of just more than six millennia is not very long. A young universe and earth of only 6,000 years old is just as absurd as the many arbitrary speculations of phenomenal lengths of time.
Who Fine-tuned the Universe?
Many of the recent discoveries of the universe support Biblical creation. Ironically, some of these discoveries were by scientists pursuing their atheistic quests to prove evolutionary life on many of the other planets of the universe. The eminent cosmologist, Fred Hoyle, aggressively opposed theism and Christianity. But Hoyle discovered that an incredible fine-tuning of the nuclear ground state energies for helium, beryllium, carbon and oxygen was necessary for any kind of life to exist. If the ground state energies of these elements proportioned to each other were just 4 percent higher or lower, there would be insufficient oxygen or carbon for life on the planet earth.
This fine-tuning forced Hoyle to conclude a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology. Another scientist, Paul Davies, who once promoted atheism, wrote:
[There] is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all....It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned natureís numbers to make the Universe....The impression of design is overwhelming.
Astronomer George Greenstern wrote in his book, The Symboiotic Universe:
As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency or, rather, Agency must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?
The theoretical physicist, Tony Rothman, concluded a popular level essay as follows:
The modern cosmologist who gazes at the same sky through the eyes of Einstein and sees the hand of God not in angels but in the constants of nature. ... When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, itís very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.
In an article on the anthropic principle, cosmologist Bernard Carr wrote:
One would have to conclude either that the features of the universe invoked in support of the Anthropic Principle are only coincidences or that the universe was indeed tailor made for life. I will leave it to the theologians to ascertain the identity of the tailor!
Physicist Freeman Dyson, also dealing with the anthropic principle, concluded:
The problem here is to try to formulate some statement of the ultimate purpose of the universe. In other words, the problem is to read the mind of God.
MIT physicist and former president of the Association of Women in Science, Vera Kistiahowsky, commented: ŰThe exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.Ų Arno Penzias, who shared the Nobel prize for physics said:
Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ŰsupernaturalŲ) plan.
Cosmologist Edward Harrison evaluates the end conclusion of cosmology:
Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of Godýthe design argument of Paleyýupdated and refurbished. The fine-tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one....Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.
The winner of the Crafoord prize in astronomy, Allan Sandage, relates his recognition of God:
I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.
The agnostic astrophysicist, Robert Jastrow, narrates the ironic twist of his colleaguesí research of the universe:
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
The Fingerprints of God
Incredibly, scientists in their atheistic quest to find evidence of self-starting evolutionary life in the universe have found fingerprints all over the universe the fingerprints of God. Life on earth did not just happen by chance. Our habitable planet is here for man in a friendly universe because of design. Our planet is a livable place because God designed and fine-tuned the many laws which govern and set parameters for the universe.
For example, unless the number of electrons is equivalent to the number of protons to an accuracy of one part in 1037, or better, electromagnetics in the universe would have so overcome gravitational forces that galaxies, stars and planets could never have come into existence. One part in 1037 has been illustrated as follows:
Cover the entire North American continent with dimes stacked up to the moon (230,000 miles). Make a million other piles of dimes of equal size. Paint one dime red and hide it in the billion piles. The odds that a blindfolded person would pick the red dime are one in 1037. This is only one of the delicately balanced parameters that is necessary to allow life on the planet earth.
Since 1966 scientists have discovered over 40 fixed parametersýthe fingerprints of Godýwhere the universe must have values falling within narrowly defined ranges for life to exist on earth.
While paleontologists, geologists, botanists, biologists were stumbling around in the 130-year-old overly researched fields of fossils and genetic variation trying to refurbish old tired-out concepts with new phraseology to resell evolution as fact Darwinian cosmologists and astrophysicists were out to conquer new frontiers also. But when they scaled the universe for evidence of evolutionary life, the unexpected befell them. They ran headlong into the inexplicable miracles of a Creator. Often this encounter with God made them believers. If some scientists have failed to hear the united testimony of the fossils or have failed to hear the wonderful witness of molecular harmony, they should at least look up in the heavens to see the harmonious evidence of an amazing Creator. They should notice what their colleagues have discovered. They should not be the last to know that creationism has always triumphed over evolution.
Jesus In Search of Christians
This past Easter season numerous articles in several national news magazines surfaced on the subject of searching for and redefining the Űhistorical Jesus.Ų U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT featured ŰIn Search of JesusŲ; TIME featured ŰThe Search for JesusŲ and NEWSWEEK, ŰRethinking the ResurrectionŲ also in Christianity Today, ŰWho Do Scholars Say That I Am?Ų Can a traditional view of Jesus hold up to the scrutiny of such modern investigation as the Jesus Seminar and publications of dozens of books which today challenge the faith of Christians?
The challengers ask, Was Jesus divine? Did he walk on water? Was he resurrected? The controversial, California-based ŰJesus SeminarŲ with its 50 religion professors Űconcluded that no more than 20 percent of the sayings and even fewer of the deeds attributed to Jesus are authentic.Ų In a debate this year conducted by the Jesus Seminar at Oregon State University, the dispute was presented that Űbelief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a burden to the Christian faith and deflects attention from his role as social reformer.Ų Scholars are contending the Gospel accounts were written long after Jesusí death and that Űhis body was probably eaten by wild dogs.Ų
Some Christians might respond, ŰItís in the Bible and thatís it!Ų But honest questions regarding Christian faith deserve to be addressed. ŰAlways have your answer ready, when anyone asks you to give an account of the hope all Christians share...Ų (1Pe 3:15). Actually, the Christian faith has never been unchallenged in every time, in every way, in every age.
Challenges to Christianity
Even in the apostlesí day, Gnosticism a philosophy of intuitive ŰknowingŲ apart from divine revelation confronted the first Christians. Gnosticism of the second century claimed Jesus was an ordinary man. By the fourth century the response of ŰorthodoxyŲ was that Jesus was not only the Son of God, but that he was God himself. The Reformation placed the Bible in the hands of the common people, but unfortunately for about 150 years, skeptics of the Bible have felt at liberty to write off portions of the Bible as mythical. Today using the recently discovered texts, such as Gnostic Gospels, Űcritics fashion rather different biographies of Jesus than those found in the Gospels...Ų So we have come full circle back to the old Gnostic notions! The challenge to the Biblical account of Jesusí life, teachings, death and resurrection has been popularly revived in Űappearances on talk shows, interviews, and appeals to tabloid media.Ų
In an effort to make Jesus more palatable to modern Christians, proponents would like to redefine what Jesus said and who he was when he walked on this earth. Tired of the conflicting dogmas of Christianity, they search for a contemporary Jesus who is not too demanding. ŰBelieving in Jesus does not mean believing doctrines about him.Ų So the self-appointed committee of the ŰJesus SeminarŲ voted on each phrase that Jesus spoke in the Gospel accounts. Phrases like, ŰIf any will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow meŲ or ŰMy kingdom is not of this world else would my servants fightŲ were voted out. Long passages were eliminated because who could have remembered what Jesus said so long afterwards? What is not taken into account is that back then as members of an Űoral culture, Ų people were accustomed to memorizing long epics. Also what should be taken into account is the sending of the holy Spirit which will Űbring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto youŲ (Joh 14:26). Also what was not appreciated was that the Gospel accounts were not written in the second century, but by eyewitnesses in the first century.
Archeology Confirms the Gospel
Recent archaeological discoveries have demolished the theories of 19th century scholars who claim the gospel accounts were written 100 to 200 years after Jesus. ŰOne fragment from John, the Rylands Papyrus, dates around A.D. 130, meaning John (the last gospel written) was penned no later than A.D. 90-100...Last year the discovery of several fragments of Matthew was announced...they most likely date around A.D. 50. Fragments of Mark have been found among the Dead Sea scrolls, which were hidden during the A.D. 60s.Ų And no, Jesus was not an Essene himself only contemporary to this reclusive community is the conclusion of most recent scholarship. Neither was he a zealot or a revolutionary attempting to undermine the Roman government. ŰThe early Christians...followed in the footprints of the Master. For at the time when the Jewish War broke out, they did not join together with the Zealots, but fled to the other side of the Jordan.Ų
The Whole Bible
To pick and choose what passages are authentic quotations of the Gospel accounts is to undermine the integrity of the whole Bible. The problem of sin and the plan of redemption introduced in the Old Testament would never come to a fulfillment without a suffering, dying and risen Messiah. Was Adam in the Garden of Eden only an allegory? What about Abraham? Shall we throw out Genesis too? Then the promise to Abraham that in his seed would Űall the families of the earth be blessedŲ (Ge 12:2,3, etc.) would be missing!
Perhaps the importance of this repeated promise is not understood by the Űcommittee.Ų Perhaps that is why their Jesus is only a Űsocial reformer.Ų But Jesus was not trying to patch up an old society (Mt 9:17). Instead, Jesus was first calling followers to be Christians to walk in his footsteps. Later, after the root cause of evil and all injustice is eradicated, Jesus with the faithful Christians will inaugurate a brand new social order.
Are Miracles Possible?
When skeptics discredit the miracles of Jesus, many Christians counter by saying the Man Jesus was divine. He could do anything. Is either side true? To discredit ŰmiraclesŲ in the first place is very prejudicial. It assumes without proof that our world contains no dimensions of reality not perceived by our senses or calculations. Scientists cannot explain all the ŰwhysŲ or ŰhowsŲ of the laws of nature. Moses and Elijah performed miracles by the power of God. Surely God who created the laws of the universe could manipulate them for His purposes at any given time! In any case, when Jesus was a man, he used the power of God too. In the raising the Lazarus, Jesus prayed to his Father, ŰI know that thou hearest me always.Ų Jesus was not praying to himself. Jesus was not God. Jesus was not Divine.but since as a man he was faithful to death, divinity was his reward. ŰThe word was made flesh and dwelt among us...For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spiritŲ (1Pe 3:18). If he was divine, he could not die. Other critics say he did not die on the cross. But in his Gospel account Joh 19:34, without realizing its implication reports, ŰBut one of the soldiers with a spear, pierced his side and immediately came there out blood and water.Ų The significance of this comment is incalculable from a medical point of view. Ordinarily when a dead man is cut, no blood flows and thatís why John added, Űthe witness is trueŲ (Joh 19:35). Instead of dying by exhaustion and asphyxiation from crucifixion, Jesus who earlier had probably fallen flat on his chest with his arms strapped to the crossbeam, sustained myocardial injury to his heart. Then the tremendous workload on the heart of the crucifixion process caused an external rupture of the myocardium which characteristically would account for the presence of clear pericardial fluid as well as volume of blood.  The reporting of this phenomenon stamps the Gospel record as a truthful report based on modern medical knowledge unavailable to anyone at that time who would attempt to fabricate a legend. ŰBut we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor: that he by the grace of God should taste death for every manŲ (Heb 2:9). The ŰcommitteeŲ would have to vote Apostle Peterís writings out, not to mention Apostle Paulís, ŲAnd if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sinsŲ (1Co 15:17).
How do we know Jesus was resurrected from the dead? God anticipated this question. That is why He overruled that Roman soldiers would guard the tomb on pain of death for losing the corpse. If the resurrection of Jesus were a fabrication, why were the followers of Jesus so slow to believe and be convinced? Why were women the first witnesses? The testimony of women in society at that time carried far less authority than that of men.
The whole point of Jesusí post resurrection appearances was to convince his followers that he, indeed, was alive and risen but not that he experienced a bodily resurrection. Jesus had said, ŰMy flesh I give for the life of the world.Ų He was not going to take that flesh back. The body he assumed to appear in was not the body of the man Christ Jesus. His intimate followers did not even recognize him when they would first speak with him. For Thomasí slow-to-comprehend faith, Jesus appeared in a scared body. Surely, for all eternity Jesus will not have a body disfigured by holes! Besides, Űflesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.Ų During the whole forty days before his ascension, he only appeared briefly less than a dozen times. The message was always, Yes, it is me, but I am different. If he were flesh and blood, the world could see him again. But Jesus said, ŰHenceforth the world seeth me no moreŲ (Joh 14:19). If John saw what the risen Christ looked like, he would know what Christians would be like in heaven (1Joh 3:2).
The best proof of Jesusí resurrection is what he promised would happen in the world when he would return. He would have to give signs because he would be invisible to human sight. One sign would be unprecedented world trouble and simultaneously the other sign would be the restoration of the nation of Israel (Da 12:1-4; Mt 24:32). The logic is simple: the old order of society would be concluding while Jesus would be preparing Israel to be a instrument of blessing in his Kingdom to bless all the nations of the earth (Isa 2:1-4).
Let men search for Jesus as they will but Jesus is searching for true Christians who have followed in his footsteps and are eager to bless all the families of the earth with their risen Lord.
The New Poor
Jamesí prophecy weighs heavily on the minds of many Bible-believing Christians today. Like gathering clouds signaling an impending storm, a darkly somber mood is growing among the workforce today. The mood is further chaffed by headlines telling of executive bonuses in millions of dollarsýgiven for laying off tens of thousands of workers. Modern day ŰreapersŲ laboring in their ŰfieldsŲ are increasingly despondent about the future. Bible prophecy shows their despondency will lead to world wide conflict. This will usher in the Golden Age of Messiah.
But the publicís mood stands in seeming contradiction to the rosy statistics oft quoted by political leadersýthe net gain of 27 million jobs in the United States since 1979, the low national unemployment rate. Yet these facts belie the impact present day layoffs are having on middle class workers.
The Way Things Are Today
Todayís job market is quite different than it was when many in the current workforce entered it. The differences are significant.
Twenty five years ago almost everyone laid-off was able to find employment that paid as well as their old job. United States Labor Department statistics now show that only about 35 percent of people laid off are able to find jobs that pay as well as their former one. The majority must submit to ŰretrainingŲ or lower pay and fewerýif anyýbenefits.
Headlines trumpet the disparity of a constantly widening gulf between rich and poor in distribution of wealth. After adjusting for inflation, the US... median wage is 3 percent below what is was in the late
1970s. From that same time, average household income has climbed by 10 percent. However, of that 10 percent gain, 97 percent of it went to the richest 20 percent.
Ironically, many workers today have financial interest in mutual funds. These force Wall Street to pressure large corporations for worker layoffs to drive stock values up. Comfortably middle class workers may actually lose their jobs to benefit their Űretirement packageŲ and, simultaneously, force them down a few rungs on the economic ladder. Could this be part of the fraud James speaks of? We believe so. ŰReapersŲ are being defrauded of their rightful wages. Jamesí prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes.
Withholding wages by the above means has made the rich richer while adding to the ranks of the poor. What of these newly poor (and potentially poorer) middle class masses? Eric Hoffer, the noted Űlongshoreman philosopherŲ masterfully summed up the dynamics of mass movements. In his signature work The True Believer he noted that the masses of earthís poor who had never known wealth were usually content. Their lot in life seemed normal to them. The most volatile and revolution minded mass of poor is the newly poor. When middle-class masses are impoverished, Hoffer noted, revolution will follow.
Reaping the corners
Consider a very interesting feature of the Jewish Law. (While we in Christ are no longer under the dominion of the law, the Law was of God and it Űis holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.Ų Ro 7:1, 4, 12 ŰWe know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.Ų 1Ti 1:8-9 It is good food for the New Creature to ponder in the quest to know God better.) God is full of mercy and compassion. He does not forget the little ones, the widows or the poor. Consider the wonderful provision he made for these in the Mosaic Law.
ŰAnd when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.Ų Le 19:9, 10
The Lord made provision in the Israelitesí business dealings to provide for the poor and the stranger. The owner of grain fields or vineyards would be blessed far more by obeying the Divine commandment than lust for profit. In leaving fruit for the less fortunate, they would practice mercy and receive Divine favor.
The opposite spirit seems to rule today. The Űbottom lineŲ governs business. The corporate world seems constantly straining to be leaner and meaner. The goal today is to glean every cent of profitability from every aspect (corner) of business. This is often at the expense of the poor ŰreaperŲ who was laid off, took a pay cut or lost benefits.
While such intense gleaning benefits investors and corporate leaders (the rich), it has a very negative impact on society. Corporate shake-ups force community leaders, civic minded volunteers and youth program helpers to cut back their time, service and financial support. Local merchants may lose business or close their doors as customers dwindle. Relocation causes a real estate market glut and property values go down.
ŰGleaning the cornersŲ sets off a chain reaction of corporate shake-ups leading to societal shake-ups. The scriptures symbolically refer to social shake-ups as earthquakes (see for example Re 11:13, a prophetic description of the French Revolution).
Shaking the earth
All the world is being gathered together by economics. Economists now speak in terms of The Global Economy. The interweaving of world-wide economy has fueled feelings of despair in the West. No longer are Western nations self-assured leaders of the worldís economy. No longer is the factory worker or corporate middle manager secure in their job. With the increase of travel and instantaneous worldwide communication, a worker in the United States may be competing with someone in Asia, Africa or South America for a job. This rigorous competition drives down wages for todayís Űreapers.Ų Job security is almost nonexistent.
Notes David Donald Herbert, a social historian at Harvard, ŰItís important to recall that throughout American history, discontent has always had less to do with material well-being than with expectations and anxiety. You read that 40,000 people are laid off at AT&T and a shiver goes down your back that says, ĎThat could be me,í even if the fear is exaggerated. What we are reacting against is the end of a predictable life....Ų
As the masses in the workforce tremble at the prospects of the future, Jesusí words reach our hearts with special force. Regarding his coming again he said, ŰAnd there shall be ... upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity [Greek Űno way outŲ]; the sea [masses of humanity] and the waves [special interest groups] roaring; menís hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of the heaven shall be shaken.Ų Lk 21:25, 26
Help for Godís people
The Apostle Paul links the shaking of the heavens with a simultaneous shaking of the earth. ŰAnd His voice shook the earth then, but now he has promised, saying, ĎYet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.í And this expression, ĎYet once more,í denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things [this present evil world and its sin stained social arrangement], in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain [the Kingdom of God and its righteous rulership]. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.Ų Heb 12:25-27 NAS
Those who cling to the cross and look with faith to their Lord will be strengthened in the troublous times prevailing today and coming in the future. Realize the impact of the Apostleís teaching. In the midst of all the shaking going on in the world now, there are elements of the kingdom of God present. These elements are unshakable and will remain beyond the troublous times to become a foundation for Godís kingdom on earth. As the prophet Daniel foretold, ŰIn the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.Ų Da 2:44 Let us lift up our heads and rejoice for our deliverance draws nigh!
Help for the groaning masses
Godís plans have provided great deliverance for those who are Christís. But he has also provided for the deliverance of the groaning creation, the masses. See Ro 8:19-21.
In Heb 12 Paul was quoting the prophet Haggai. ŰYet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations will come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.Ų Hag 2:6, 7 After shaking every aspect of present society and bringing about the end of this present evil world (Ga 1:4) God will bring to pass the desire of all nations. What do they desire? The deep desire of nearly all people is peace, respect, equity, economic security and especially love. These desires will all be secured when the Lord establishes his Kingdom on earth.
He will fill his house with glory. That is, Christís followers, the church will receive their spiritual glory as the temple of God. 1Co 3:16 Then will be brought to pass the scripture, ŰBehold the tabernacle of God [Christís church ruling as priests and kings] is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall their be any more pain: for the former things [the present society] will be past away.Ų Re 21:3,4
If the economic pressures of our time are weighing you down; if the shaking up of society is troubling your heart, think on all these things which we have noted. ŰBe patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth [Christís disciples], and hath long patience for it...Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.Ų It is Űeven at the door.Ų Jas 5:7, 8 Re 3:20
A Pastor of Excellence
Eighty years ago on October 31, 1916, newspaper headlines shocked the nation. A world renowned Christian minister died "in the harness" on a transcontinental speaking tour. To thousands of congregations around the world he was a beloved Pastor. Tens of thousands of individuals were encouraged by hearing his hope-inspiring lectures. Hundreds of thousands were greeted by his smiling face as they weekly opened their local newspapers to read his faith inspiring sermons. In the last three years of his life "some eight million people" saw and heard this dynamic speaker on film as Pastor Russell introduced his epic motion picture, THE PHOTODRAMA OF CREATIONýthe crowning feature of his ministry. Of course, it broke all records in attendance and technology. Never before had sound and color been incorporated into motion pictures. Pastor Russell was dead. An era of excellence in the communication of faith and hope came to an end. Wasnít Pastor Russell the founder of Jehovahís Witnesses? No! Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just how popular was Pastor Russell? The Overland Monthly, a noted periodical of that time, reported in 1909 that STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES by Charles Taze Russell, was one of the worldís three most circulated works surpassed only by the BIBLE and THE CHINESE ALMANAC.
THE CONTINENT, a publication whose editor often opposed Pastor Russell, once published the following significant statement concerning him: "His writings are said to have a greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America."
George Swetnam, the official historian for the Pittsburgh Bicentennial in 1958 -1959 wrote, "Pastor Russell traveled constantly, covering more than a million miles, delivering more than 30,000 sermons and lectures and talks, writing books totaling over 50,000 pages, which have reached a circulation of more than 20,000,000 copies.- his influence has easily been the widest of any man who ever lived in the city, [Pittsburgh] not even excepting Andrew Carnegie." [Swetnam, George WHERE ELSE BUT PITTSBURGH (Pittsburgh: Davis and Warde, Inc., 1958) p. 110]
The LONDON GRAPHIC (April 8,1911) described Pastor Russell as follows: "The advent of Pastor Russell brings to this city and country a man of international reputation, who is known almost as well in Great Britain as he is in America.ŗwho is reputed to be the most popular preacher in Americaŗ"
And, finally, the CHRISTIAN GLOBE (May 5, 1910) of London, states, "Since the days of Henry Ward Beecher and Dr. Talmage, no preacher has occupied so prominent a position in the United States as Pastor Russell of Brooklyn Tabernacle holds today."
The full impact of Pastor Russell∆s ministry can only be understood against the backdrop of church history.
An Overview of History
Life for the Christian minority in the second century was brutally cruel. The pagan religious leaders and civil leaders demanded allegiance to their multiple gods. By the third century many Christian leaders felt a need to compromise Christian doctrine to make Christianity more acceptable to the rulers of the Roman Empire. For starters, they embraced Plato∆s "immortality of the soul." There was also the urgent need for multiple godsŗ.The "trinity soon became a hallmark of Christian doctrine. Then Christians succeeded beyond their most extravagant hopes: In the fourth century, Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. It did not matter that he did this for his own political reasons. Through the centuries following, the church∆s "glorious" reign over the nations was written in blood. Historians called it the "Dark Ages."
The world church persecuted any and all who rejected its claims. Millions who were consigned to eternal damnation were then supposedly justifiably tortured in this life. The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century helped but a little. Luther∆s rejection of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was forgotten. Soon the Protestant churches found it expedient to retain much of the "Dark Age" dogmas, especially the trinity and eternal damnation for all who rejected their gospel.
A tidal wave of infidelity swept over the Christian world in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Modernist theology was born. The only response permitted within the precincts of conservatism was to blindly defend the old creeds of the "Dark Ages." Something had to be done.
Pastor Russell Founded the Bible Students
In 1870 at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, a Bible Class was formed for systematic Bible study. Soon they selected Charles Taze Russell as their Pastor. At that time other earnest Christians were forming independent Bible classes for in-depth Bible study.
Pastor Russell became a leader of thought and activity among these congregations. In 1879 Zionís Watch Tower was formed, later known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (not to be mistaken as Jehovahís Witnesses). This society did not become the central authority of the Bible Student movement. It could not because all cooperating congregations of Bible Students held strictly to congregational self- government. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was basically a publishing house and lecture bureau.
Pastor Russell never claimed to originate Bible truths, but rather to recover the truths held by the First Century church. He succeeded more than any other person, of course not without controversy. Wearied with the "Dark Age" theories of Christendom, he inspired hope and faith in the hearts of the masses. Like Jesus, the multitudes clamored to hear him.
Why do some ministers today use the same old worn out vilifications that "doom and gloom" ministers in Russell∆s day concocted in desperation? Sheer jealousy! The people clamored to hear Russell and demanded that the newspapers carry his sermons. His "opposition" lamented that Pastor Russellís writings had a "greater newspaper circulation every weekŗthan the combined circulation of all the priests and preachers of North America." Why? Because Pastor Russell∆s message gave hope in contrast to those "doomsday preachers."
Every Jew, Hindu, Moslem, etc., and evenChristians who do not accept their particular brand of Christianity before death, they say is damned to and eternity of torment. These preachers of "doom" both in Russellís day and today hold in contempt the Gospel of love taught by Pastor Russell and the Bible Student movement he founded. Calvinists especially cringed under the heat of the sunlight of this love. No wonder they taught that the vast majority were eternally damned before they were even born. Unable to meet Russell∆s scriptural logic, many resorted to personal attacks on him. All these attacks have been refuted.
Not Founder of Jehovahís Witnesses
After the death of Pastor Russell in 1916 Joseph Rutherford, whom Pastor Russell had recently dismissed from his staff, legally seized control of the Watch Tower, dismissed the majority of the Board of Directors and established dictatorial control. The writings of Pastor Russell were discarded. The Watch Tower became the central head and authority over all congregations willing to yield their sovereignty. Basic doctrines of the society seriously digressed from the teachings of Pastor Russell. The methods of conducting the evangelistic work were altered. The more sensational digressions such as refusing blood transfusions and saluting the flag even caught the public∆s eye.
Many individuals and congregations refused to surrender their Christian liberty or accept the new teachings. As early as 1917, the exodus from the newly declared sovereign headquarters began. By 1931 over three quarters of those associated with the Bible Student movement in Pastor Russellís day had separated from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and formed independent and autonomous congregations. Todayís Bible Students trace back through these separatists to Pastor Russell their founder.
Jehovah∆s Witnesses Founded in 1931
In 1931, fifteen years after Pastor Russellís death, Jehovah∆s Witnesses was founded. Its founder, Joseph Rutherford, presented a startling resolution entitled A NEW NAME which was adopted at its international convention on July 26, 1931. The resolution first observed that neither "Russellites" nor "Bible Students" were any longer appropriate names. (This position was ironically true, as over 75% of Bible Students from Pastor Russell∆s era had already separated.) Henceforth they would call themselves "Jehovah∆s Witnesses." Joseph Rutherford not Pastor Russell founded Jehovah∆s Witnesses. Pastor Russell died in 1916. Jehovah∆s Witnesses was founded in 1931. Pastor Russell founded the Bible Students who still affirm his teachings. Rutherford rejected Russell∆s teachings, purged Russellís Bible Students from his movement, rejected the name Bible Students and named his new movement "Jehovahís Witnesses."
Pastor Russell vs. Jehovah∆s Witnesses
The main teaching of Pastor Russell was that Jesus died a ransom for all. (1Ti 2:5, 6) Jehovah∆s Witnesses teach that Jesus died only for some. Pastor Russell taught a future probation because millions have died without hearing the Gospel. Even among many who hear it, uncertainty and confusion exist. (Joh 5:28-29; Ac 15:14-17; Re 22:17) Jehovahís Witnesses, like all fundamentalists, believe that if you reject their brand of the Gospel you are lost eternally.
Pastor Russell believed Bible prophecy taught that the Jewish people would be regathered to the promised land and the State of Israel would be reborn. (Mt 23:32; Eze 37:1-14; Jer 31:4-12) Jehovahís Witnesses teach that the regathering of the Jews and the birth of the Israeli State is a change of history completely unrelated to Bible prophecy.
Pastor Russell did not found Jehovahís Witnesses. They reject his basic teachings. Pastor Russell founded the Bible Students. Bible Students today, as in Pastor Russell∆s day, affirm his teachings, which scripturally portrays a Gospel of love that wonderfully reflects the attributes of God.
This year, now almost past, has been momentous in terms of elections in key places around the world: Russia...Israel...the United States. Current world affairs seem overly affected by those single men chosen for offices of power.
Worried analysts evaluate Boris Yeltsinís survival. Will he hold up long enough to effect any democratic changes in Russia that may have begun?...Who will replace him?...Will Netanyahu hold up against world and internal pressure to keep Israelís God-given Land?...Others asked, would a U.S. change in the Presidency of the United States cause a rollback in any progress may have been made on behalf of the senior citizens or the poor?...But above and beyond any platform plan of any world leader is Godís divine plan which has a specific agenda and a specific time table.
Elections of the Past
In the past God permitted certain powerful leaders to come to power to serve his own purposes. A pharaoh, "which knew not Joseph," arose in Egypt at the right time as Moses speaking for God said to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth" (Ex 1:8; Ro 9:17). Pharaoh served Godís purposes. When it was time for the Babylonian world empire to end, God overruled that Cyrus came to power. "Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him...to open before him the two-leaved gates [of Babylon]...I will break in pieces the gates of brass and cut in sunder the bars of iron...For Jacob my servantís sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou has not known me" (Isa 45:1-4). Cyrus did not know God, but God picked him for power because He knew Cyrus would be generous enough to make a decree that the Jews could go back to their Land and rebuild their temple.
Israel itself only needed Godís one vote to be considered the "elect" of God. "As touching the election, they [Israel] are beloved for the fathersí sakes" (Ro 11:28). What purpose does Godís election of Israel serve? To the first father of Israel, Abraham, was given the promise, "In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is upon the sea shore... .In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Ge 22:18). Passed down to Isaac, then Jacob and then his twelve sons the nation of Israel inherited this special choosing of God. "O children of Israel...you only have I known of all the families of the earth..." (Amos 3:1,2). This election of Israel meant not only special care by God, but also special responsibility and therefore special chastisements through history.
Blessing of the Non-elect
What is not generally comprehended is that the choosing of the seed of Abraham was not just for the blessing of the seed of Abraham. The selected "seed" was and is to "bless all the families of the earth." In other words, Israel was elected to be an instrument of blessing to the non-elect!
To say Israel had lost their chance to be blessers by not accepting Jesus Christ is to ignore the Apostle Paulís powerful discourse in Ro 11. Yes, "the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded" (Ro 11:7). Only a few accepted the call to become Christians, but Paul concludes that this blindness would only last until the Church was complete, "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Ro 11:25). After that time, "Thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, the Deliverer will come from Zion, and he will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." (Ro 11:25,26).
Some Christians are very enthusiastic about the present regathering of Israel, but their expectation is that only a small remnant will be saved and up to 10 million damned. If that were true, it would be a gross exaggeration for the Apostle Paul to say, "All Israel will be saved." Then too, to say this has already happened that "all the families of the earth" have been blessed would also be a gross exaggeration on Godís part.
The Elect: Two Parts
What is also not appreciated generally is just who is this chosen, elected "seed"? The promise is that the seed would be as the "stars of heaven" as well as the "sands of the seashore." The elect seed would be both spiritual and earthly. Most Christians usually only appreciate half the promise, that is, regarding the heavenly seed. But the spiritual "seed" will work together with the earthly "seed" to bless all the families of the earth. The Christian elect will work through the earthly elect to bless all the nations (Isa 2:1-4) Godís promises concerning those whom He elects are not an exaggeration!
What can a Christian do now to "bless all the families of the earth"? Or at least some of the families of the earth? Wouldnít the best most efficient plan be to exert good Christian influence on the governments of this world, its laws, its policies? Christian involvement in politics is nothing new. Back in the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity thinking it useful for adding some stability to his wobbling Roman empire. On the other side, grasping Christian leaders who were eager for more power consorted with his civil government. Why wait for Christís kingdom when we can help it happen?
When Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight," he could have just as easily said, My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants vote...or run for office... On the contrary, he taught his disciples to pray for the coming kingdom, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." But Christians became weary of waiting, weary of being persecuted.
Ambitious leaders in the church rose to power. They violated the laws of ordination laid down by the Apostles in the early church. Members of each congregation were responsible for placing their leaders into office. That responsibility was relaxed and "wolves" were quick to swoop in and take advantage of the flock. Paul had warned, "After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock" (Ac 20:29).
Elections in the Church
Election of church leaders was the custom in the early church. "And when they had ordained them elders in every church and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord" (Ac 14:23). The word for "ordain" comes from a root word meaning "to stretch," and so means "to be a hand-reacher or voter (by raising the hand)" (strongís exhaustive concordance of the bible, 5500). Scripturally, church government means, therefore, congregations electing pastors! It does not mean appointments of church leaders by some self-appointed board or body of people. If the early church practice would not have been changed throughout the Christian age, what a different history we would have of the Christian church! Instead of getting involved in secular affairs of state, Christians should have taken the responsibility of electing their own leaders.
The New Testament gives specific guidelines for election of the office of "overseers" in the church (1Ti 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11). The Apostle did not leave these regulations as a quaint protocol just for his time for electing servants in the church. The qualifications for office are clear: A candidate must be apt to teach, not a novice; possessing a blameless reputation, just, holy, able "both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (NAS), etc. But gradually the bodies of believers from city to city surrendered their responsibilities to hungry "wolves." Soon the prominent bishops in each church yielded their allegiance to the most powerful bishop in Rome. While later some Christians rejected the Bishop of Rome, they still usually fell short of claiming their scriptural responsibility for electing their own elders or pastors.
So what is a Christian to do? Yes, Christians are to vote. They are to vote in their congregations as the Apostle Paul laid down the inspired regulations. No, they are not to participate in the governments of this world by voting or getting involved in politics. But they are to be law-abiding and "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesarís and to God the things that are Godís." And yes, they are to have faith that those whom God brings to power (Ro 13:1-3) are permitted for a time to serve Godís own purposes in the outworking of His divine plan.
The Jews and The Land, Where Shall We Stand?
Struggles of Epic Proportion
Many Bible-believing Christians today see the handiwork of God in the regathering of the Jewish People to their reborn stateýIsrael. The news is filled with the great drama now going on there. Two peoples are locked in a struggle of epic proportions. To the worldly, not enlightened by the prophetic lamp of the scriptures, the struggle is merely political. It is not. At stake is the question, "Who is God?" Is He the mighty Yahweh of the Jews or Allah of the Muslim faith? The question is valid and vital.
Where we as Christians stand on this issue is of utmost importance. Are we supporting the Arab side of the land struggle? If so we may, unwittingly, be opposing our God. The prophet Ezekiel shows us God∆s perspective on the contested land and the embattled Jewish people. Speaking to the invading forces of Gog at the time of Israel∆s final battle, God warns, "And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes." Eze 38:16
We emphasize the phrases my people and my land. God tells us in this verse that He considers the Jewish people and the Land of Israel to be His. Note that this occurs before the revealment of Messiah to the Jews as recorded in Zec 12:10. The land of Israel and the Jewish people are inseparable. This is by Divine decree. God promised the land to Abraham and his seed after him. That promise was passed from Abraham to Isaac, then to Jacob and on to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Simply put, if Allah∆s nation of Islam succeeds in wresting the land of Israel from the Jewish peopleýthe prophecies of our Judeo-Christian Bible will have failed. The Bible would be invalidated and the Koran verified as the true word of God to men. We are full of faith that God∆s word will not return to Him void. The Jewish people will receive the Biblically promised land. They will do so even if the whole world opposes themýfor God∆s will shall be done.
The Israeli-Arab conflict over the land seems epitomized in the current Hebron negotiations. Almost daily we hear of Hebron∆s little band of Jewish settlers and their struggles to thrive as a community. We were there a few months ago and would like to share with you perspectives we gained. Consider. ..
A Brief History Lesson
Many are unaware of the modern history of the Jews in Hebron. Until 1929 there was a thriving Jewish community in Hebron. Jewish merchants and citizens lived in peaceful coexistence with their Arab neighbors. Civility characterized their interaction. More importantly, Jewish physicians and nurses ran the sole health clinic in Hebron. The amount of charitable care they provided the Arab community was large. They were the only source of health care for the Arabs.
Riots plagued Jerusalem prior to 1929, instigated by the Arab community. The result of these riots was murderous persecutions of Jews in the "City of Peace." Hebron remained quiet. Harmony between Jews and Arabs prevailed until Arabs from Jerusalem came to foment uprisings in Hebron. The quiescent way of coexistence there was soon to be shattered.
British officers, as eyewitnesses recall, told Hebron∆s Jewish community leaders that they were short on weapons. Due to this shortage they couldn∆t guarantee British protection of Hebron∆s Jews should the Arabs attack them. Unfortunately, the British also told the Arabs the same thing.
August 1929 in Hebron was a bloody month. Arabs began attacking Jews. Using knives, axes, machetes, picksýwhatever they could findýindiscriminate attacks were unleashed. Not only were strong young Jewish men brutalized, but also women, the elderly and even tender young children. When Arab fury was, for the time being, satiatedý69 of Hebron∆s Jews had been slaughtered. Photographs of the survivors keep the story fresh in our minds. Pictorial records of victims∆ wounds deeply jar our Christian sensibilities.
Having their fill of Jewish blood the rioters began to turn on the British, who were standing by to watch the melee. Seeing the advancing mob, an officer on horseback drew his pistol and fired two shots into the air. The riot stopped then and there. If only that man had fired his precious two bullets an hour or two earlier, much human suffering would have been averted.
The survivors were told that their safety could no longer be guaranteed. They had to leave their homes, synagogues, businesses and fields without any financial compensation. Imagine suffering such material loss in addition to their physical wounds. The Jewish community of Hebron faded and, after the 1948 War of Independence, was completely gone. Gone were benefactors of the Arabs. The medical clinic was closed. Jews were barred from Hebron by its Jordanian Army occupiers until after the ś67 War.
In 1979, Jews finally began to return to their homes and synagogues left behind for a half century. What drew them there? What could impel them to move to such an inhospitable placeýwhose bloody past looms over the present? Quite simply and powerfullyýthe Word of God.
We heard an oft repeated refrain in our travels in Israel. Jerusalem is the heart of Israel and Hebron is the mother of Israel. Jewish roots here are deepýthe result of a history that goes back more than three millennia! Abram dwelled in Mamre, which is in Hebron. Ge 13:14-18 Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah in Hebron for 400 shekels of silver. Ge 23:17-20 Joshua took Hebron as part of the promised land of Canaan. Jos 14:6-14 Hebron was one of the six Cities of Refuge. Jos 21:13 David began his reign over Judah in Hebron. 2Sa 2:1-4 In Hebron David was anointed king over all Israel. 2Sa 5:1-3 Conversely, Hebron is not mentioned at all in the Koran.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs holds the bones of the Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wivesýthe parents of the Jewish people. Is it any wonder that the Jews are compelled to live here beside their ancestors? Their deep faith yearns to be connected with the land and cities God gave to their fathers. Bible prophecy assures us that one day their hopes will be amply fulfilled.
Some of our Christian friends support the concept of Replacement Theology. That is, Israel has been everlastingly superseded by the Christian Church. Supposedly, Israel∆s national role in God∆s plan is finished. (We do not agree. Limited space does not here permit a verse-by-verse consideration of Romans, Chapter 11. Read it carefully several times. It powerfully teaches Israel∆s continuing and future place in God∆s plan for mankind.)
Generally the traditional Christian churches tend to hold Replacement Theology∆s tenants. Not seeing Biblical promises to the land or people of Israel as existing any longer, these churches actively support the Muslim cause. They say that Israel should give up land. Recently (December 1996) they sponsored a full page advertisement in The New York Times calling for Israel to give up sole administration of Jerusalem.
Ironically, in supporting Islam∆s aims, these Christians may be hurting the cause of Christ. Islam∆s goal is world domination. We quote from their fiery rhetoric, "The governments of the world should know that Islam cannot be defeated. Islam will be victorious in all the countries of the world, and Islam and the teachings of the Koran will prevail all over the world. Only then will their Jihad (Holy War) be complete." "We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry śAllahu Akbar∆ resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle. There will be jihad." We note the burgeoning growth of mosques in the United States and Europe. (Interestingly, for the first time, in December 1996 Islam∆s half-crescent symbol was raised in New York∆s Grand Central Terminal alongside a Christmas tree and a Hanukah Menorah for the holiday season.)
PLO flags covered with Arabic script are displayed in public gatherings. The message, "First we will kill the Saturday people and then we∆ll kill the Sunday people." Internationally renowned Bishop Desmond Tutu recently addressed a snickering crowd of Arabs. He was standing under such a banner as he spoke.
As Christians we must support the message of our Bible. Israel, dwelling in its God given land as a blesser nation, is part of that message. The God of Israel, not Allah, shall reign over all the earth.
We have used Hebron as an example. The larger contest for possession of the land will greatly intensify when the issues of final redeployment and Jerusalem come to the bargaining table. The principles that apply to Hebron apply to the whole land issue. Remember all God∆s promises regarding the land and the people of Israel. As Christians, perceiving the role of the Jewish people in the plans of God, may our faith give us the courage to stand and to speak for what is right.
Christian leaders and governments of the so-called Christian world are exerting tremendous pressure on Israel to give up land. It seems incredible that Israel will possibly suffer a temporary land loss because Christians are siding with Allah and not the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible.
Come Quickly, Lord Jesus
Biblical prophecy was the foundation of the Protestant Reformation.
From the first, and throughout, that movement [the Reformation] was energized and guided by the prophetic Word. Luther never felt strong and free to war against the papal apostasy until he recognized the pope as antichrist. It was then he burned the papal Bull. Knox∆s first sermon, the sermon which launched him on his mission as a Reformer, was on the prophecies concerning the papacy [the Man of Sin]ŗ All the Reformers were unanimous in the matterŗ
The Reformers believed Jesus could not return until the Man of Sin/Antichrist was revealed (2Th 1:13). Now that the Man of Sin had been identified, their attention turned to the events that would lead to the second advent.
To the Reformers, the books of Daniel and Revelation in symbolic language contained the prophetic history of the whole Christian Ageýfrom Pentecost down to and including the return of Jesus and the destruction of this world. The Antichrist was Papacy. The time periods in Daniel of 1260, 1290, 1335 and 2300 days were symbolic. Each day symbolized a year as revealed in Eze 4:6 "I have appointed you a day for a year."
Now the Reformers focused in on the next prophetic events that would lead up to the second advent of Jesus. After identifying the Man of Sin, the next milestone would be the end of the 1260 years marked by a severe blow to Papacy. On the basis of Re 11:4, 7, 13 many mainline clergy predicted the details of the French Revolution that would result in the collapse of Papacy between 1795 and 1799 at the end of the 1260 years. The incredible point is they made this prediction 50-160 years before the event.
The aged pope [Pius VI] was dragged from the altar ŗ His rings were torn from his fingers, and finally, after declaring the temporal power abolished, the victors [the French Revolutionary Army] carried the pope prisoner into Tuscany, [where he died]. The papacy was extinct: not a vestige of its existence remained.
However, the historical record also shows that the papacy revived.5 The papacy destroyed and revivedýthis was incredible. It was the most momentous phenomenon in church history. Re 13:3 clicked in the minds of many Protestant leaders the world over. Surely they reasoned this was the deadly wound of Antichrist that was temporarily healed. In great expectation the floodlight of Adventism swept across Europe and the United States. With the ending of the 1260 years, mainline Protestants now believed the second advent of Jesus was eminent. This wave of Adventism was a logical sequence in the prophetic heritage of the Reformation. The much sensationalized William Miller was actually a late comer to this worldwide Adventist phenomenon. The prophetic faith of the Reformation seemed to be locked into a nineteenth century expectation of the second advent. Martin Luther predicted Jesus would return 300 years from his time. This would be between 1830-1850. In the latter 1700s John Wesley, founder of the Methodist denomination, like many of his contemporaries predicted 1836 for the date of the second advent.
Joseph Wolff, world renowned missionary, preached 1847 as the date of "the coming glory and personal reign of Jesus Christŗ" In 1836 Wolff was invited to present his second advent message before the United States Congress and the legislatures of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
What Went Wrong?
All of the expositors of Adventism were generally correct by marking the 1790s as the conclusion of the 1260 years resulting in the severe setback to papacy. Then they variously calculated from 1836-1855 as the ending of the 2300 years when the sanctuary class [the church] was to be cleansed (Da 8). Actually, a nucleus of the sanctuary class, the church, was finally cleansed at that time from the defiling errors of papacy. But they erred by assuming that the second advent would occur when the sanctuary was cleansed.
Many Protestant clergy from all denominations were involved in Adventism during the first half of the 1800s. Why was William Miller singled out for ridicule, especially when he appeared on the scene later with much of the same prophetic reasoning of those which preceded him? Miller was an evangelist. He unfortunately used a date for the end of the world to scare thousands to convert or be damned eternally. It∆s not that Joseph Wolff and others didn∆t try. Miller was no different than the fundamentalists today who threaten all with eternal torment if they don∆t accept Jesus before his eminent return. They Warný"will you be ready if Jesus comes tomorrow?"
Actually the 19th century Adventists were close in their calculations of the 1260 and 2300 day/years. The ending of the 1260 years of the persecuting power of papacy (Da 7:21, 25) and the cleansing of the sanctuary (church) from the defiling errors of papacy were milestones on the church∆s road to the Second Advent. See the book THY KINGDOM COME.
Twentieth Century Fundamentalists
Fundamentalists of the 20th century look with disdain at the prophetic struggles of their 19th century brethren. The secret rapture, seven-year tribulationists of the 20th century with their literal Man of Sin concept and future literal 1260 days (3 1/2 years), departed from the prophetic faith of the Reformation. Ironically, their prophetic heritage traces back to the counter Reformation of the Jezuits.
What has been the prediction record of these seven-year tribulationists? Basic to their concept is the "eminent coming" of Jesus. They claim that ever since Jesus∆ ascension, no prophetic event had to happen before his returnýfor centuries he could have returned on any day. In the words of John F. Walvoord, President of Dallas Theological Seminary ý"the Lord could come at any moment and there are no necessary intervening events." The obvious inconsistency is their seven-year tribulation must precede Jesus∆ return. They cover here by claiming Jesus will secretly return to rapture his saints. First a "secret presence" then "every eye shall see him."
Still this is a false prediction. Actually, John Darby back in the mid 1800s sold the seven -year tribulation concept to some fundamentalists. During the balance of the 1800s up until 1948 many fundamentalists preached that Jesus could return any day. On May 14, 1948 a prophetic miracle happenedýthe rebirth of the State of Israel. This proved a prophetic event had to occur before their concept of the second advent. Hal Lindsey, the student of Walvoord, unwittingly destroyed the "eminent coming" theory when he admitted -"The one event which many Bible students in the past overlooked was this paramount prophetic sign: Israel had to be a nation again in the land of its forefathers." If they believed their "eminent coming" theory was true, then they were wrong all the years before 1948 in saying Jesus could return any day. Israel restored proved their "eminent coming" theory was a failed prediction.