Paris Peace Conference Update

berlin-eu-european-union-federal-chancellery

A couple weeks back, I wrote about the fulfillment of prophecy before our eyes as it related to UN resolution 2334 and the expected January 15, 2017 peace conference in Paris. The world seemed intent on finally establishing a Palestinian state at the expense of Israel’s security.

Last Sunday, January 15, I watched for news on the Paris Peace conference. I expected a big splash announcing the outcome, but saw only scant references to it. At first, I thought the leaders of the nations were purposely downplaying the result of the conference only to surprise the world with a stunning resolution at the UN Security Council Meeting on January 17.

However, such was not the case.

The Peace Conference Flopped

Once the Paris peace conference started, there was much disunity, particularly from Britain and some of the Balkan countries who objected to the harsh language of the proposed statement.  In short, the conference flopped.

The conference’s final statement did not go beyond anything that was already stated in the December 23, 2016 resolution of the UN Security Council.  The final statement added nothing new to the discussion. The heralded meeting of nations failed to live up to all expectations. Discord rather than unity prevailed at the forum of nations.

According to Amir Tsarfati, the European Union could not even agree to support the weakened statement that did come out of the conference as Britain and some of the Balkan countries refused to vote for it.

What Happened?

God’s people prayed.

Between the December 23 UN resolution and the Paris meeting of nations, calls went out for believers to pray. Many Christian leaders sent out urgent appeals for prayer regarding the conference and the future of Israel.

James 5:15 states that ”the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” As Christians prayed, God thwarted the intentions of nations in Paris. Instead of recognizing Palestine as a nation and giving them old Jerusalem as well as Judea and Samaria, they failed to agree on anything substantial.

However, some might ask, “Weren’t you praying against what Scripture says will happen? Prophecy seems clear that the nations will divide Israel and that Jerusalem will be the focus of the nations at the end of the age.”

Indeed, as I mentioned in my previous post, the prophet Zechariah clearly spoke of a time when the world would be obsessed with Jerusalem (12:1-3). We clearly see this in all that has happened. In spite of all the atrocities happening in nearby Syria and the battle for Mosul, the nations are almost exclusively focused on Israel.

Yes, I agree that as Joel 3:2 indicates, the nations of the world will eventually succeed in dividing up Israel and will someday come against it in force to demand that Israel comply with their demands.

However, before this happens, the Bible says that something is also currently at work in the world holding back the evil planned against Jerusalem.

The Restrainer

Amir Tsarfati,* in his prophecy update after the Paris conference, pointed to the work of the Holy Spirit as the restraining force at work in France as a result of the prayers of believers all around the world.

I believe that 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 speaks of the restraining intervention of the Spirit during the last days. Paul recognized that “the mystery of lawlessness” was “already at work” (v. 7). The apostle went on to say that “he who now restrains it [the mystery of lawlessness] will do so until he is out of the way.”

Paul recognized, as did the apostle John (1 John 4:1-3), that the spirit of the antichrist was already at work even as he wrote. However, the person of the antichrist will not be revealed until the restrainer, the Holy Spirit, is taken out of the way (2 Thess. 4:7-8).

The Holy Spirit, residing in the members of the body of Christ, the church, is effectively thwarting the full measure of the “mystery of lawlessness” until the time is right for the unveiling of the antichrist and his treacherous plans for the world. I believe that when Jesus comes for His church, the restraint holding back the full designs of Satan will be lifted.

In the past several weeks, I believe we have seen this in operation. The “mystery of lawlessness” was at work in the passing of UN Resolution 2334 removing Israel’s legal right to east Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. However, God spread discord at the meeting of nations in Paris preventing further action, at least for the foreseeable future.

What will happen between now and when Jesus comes for us? I am not sure. We definitely see the rise of wickedness and violence in the world. Sometimes it seems as though the restraint of wickedness has already been lifted to some degree. It’s possible we may see further action taken against Israel before the rapture.

Pray and Wait

While we cannot know what might happen next or when Jesus will suddenly appear, in the meantime we wait for His return with much prayer.

We know God has a sovereign plan and prophecy will be fulfilled exactly as stated in His Word. We also know that prayer changes the outcomes of what happens around us. James said that our prayers matter, they “avail much.”

I believe Jesus is coming soon. In the meantime, we pray knowing that our prayers along with the restraining work of the Holy Spirit will make a difference.  When this restraining influence is out of the way, the world will, as Jesus said experience “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never shall be” (Matt. 24:21).

Prayer changes things. From our vantage point, it can change the course of history. From God’s perspective, He enjoys working through the prayers of His people to bring about His sovereign and preplanned purposes.

I believe this is what we are seeing today.

Jesus will return for us at precisely the right time. In the meantime, let’s keep praying, waiting, and watching, of course.

 

*Note: Amir Tsarfati is a former office in the Israeli army who speaks around the world on the subject of prophecy

An Eternity Worth Waiting For

wine-glasses-on-table

Despite being bound to a wheelchair as the result of a traffic accident, he was the most joyous, Spirit-filled believer I had seen up to that point in my life. I remember Paul Lundgren’s[i] overflowing joy as he sang about Jesus and his hope of seeing Him face to face. He spoke with excitement of eternity and of his hope of walking again, this time on streets of gold.

As a high schooler who prized involvement in sports (despite an overall lack of athleticism), his joyfulness amazed me. He could not do what I enjoyed doing the most and yet I had never before seen anyone so joyful or so in love with Jesus. Paul Lundgren knew his hope resided in eternity and as a result he could rejoice despite the paralysis in his legs. To this day I am still humbled as I recall his amazing perspective of life.

Isn’t this what our thrilling hope is all about? Isn’t this what we are waiting for? We have so much to look forward to in eternity. Jesus will return for us and we remain with him forevermore.

In recent posts, I have emphasized Jesus’ soon return for His church, especially in light of daunting current events. However, I thought it might be good to focus our thoughts beyond His appearing, to the eternity we will someday celebrate with Him.

Eternity

In his book Desire, John Eldredge quoted Pascal as saying, “Our imagination so powerfully magnifies time, by continual reflections upon it, and so diminishes eternity . . . for want of reflection . . . we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing.”[ii] Eldredge then expanded on that sentiment, “We make a nothing of eternity by enlarging the significance of this life and by diminishing the reality of what the next life is all about.”[iii]

We all fight this tendency, do we not? We focus far too much of our attention on this life rather than eternity. It’s far too easy to think of this moment as all we have, but so much of Scripture speaks of our life in eternity and the joy that awaits us there.

Let’s look at some verses from Isaiah 25:

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain

    the covering that is cast over all peoples,

    the veil that is spread over all nations.

8     He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

    for the Lord has spoken.

9 It will be said on that day,

    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;

    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

What pictures come to mind when we think of eternity? Does feasting with the best wine and food imaginable match your picture of eternity? Do you envision a time with no more death, sorrow, suffering, pain, or tears? Do you see endless joy?

So often our eyes remain focused on this life that we miss our coming celebration when we are forever with our Savior.

Someday we will be the ones uttering the words of verse 9 above, rejoicing because being with the Lord will far exceed our wildest expectations. With sheer delight we will cry out, “This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” There is much emotion and excitement in these words. Someday we will express our overflowing gladness and forever celebrate with the One who saved us and gave us eternal life.

Someday we will be the ones uttering the words of verse 9 above, rejoicing because being with the Lord will far exceed our wildest expectations.

Our lives in eternity will not disappoint even our most imaginative or fanciful pictures of what we think it will be like. Jesus has great plans in eternity for me and for everyone who believes and thus hopes in Jesus, our wonderful Savior. Let that sink in a little more; the Lord not only has plans for our current lives, but also for when we reign with Him in the millennium and then for all eternity.

The Isaiah passage dispels our inclinations to dismiss eternity as nothing and solely focus on what we can attain in this life. We have so much to look forward to in eternity. Our future life will be marked with ever increasing joy and unimaginable blessings. We will rejoice in our great salvation as we realize its full extent. Our waiting will not be in vain.

I do not believe we will experience sadness over anything lost from this life. Jesus’ promise to “make all things new” brings wonderful assurance of the joy that awaits us (Rev. 21:5). We will not mourn the loss of our current life and the things we currently enjoy.

Our coming eternal joy will supersede all the things of this life and never fade away. The newness of eternity will never fade; we will always celebrate Jesus and all the wonders of our future lives.

The New Earth

My eternal focus did not include a restored earth until I read John Eldredge’s book Desire several years ago and began to think about the new earth of Revelation 21. Eldredge said this about it, “How wondrous this will be! Creation can be so breathtaking now. What shall it be like when it is released to it full glory?”[iv] I love to explore nature and enjoy all the wonderful views of the mountains, lakes, and oceans. Such enjoyment of nature will not be lost in eternity; creation restored to its full glory will be even more spectacular.

John Eldredge added this about our hope for a renewed creation:

Our search for the Golden Moment is not a search in vain; not at all. We’ve only had the timing wrong. We do not know exactly how God will do it, but we do know this: the kingdom of God brings restoration. The only things destroyed are the things outside God’s realm—sin, disease, death. But we who are God’s children, the heavens and the earth he has made, will go on. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together” (Isa. 11:6 NIV). . . If all we’ve got are halos and harps, our options are pretty limited. But to have the whole cosmos before us—wow.[v]

Our view of eternity can be so terribly dull compared to what God has revealed about it. The new earth alone will be amazing beyond anything we can comprehend. Although we do not know everything of what our eternal existence will be like, what we do know is far more than enough for us to cease making “a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing” as Pascal urged us to do.

The grandeur of what lies ahead will be so much greater than anything we can ever conceive. We will forever have kingdom responsibilities perfectly tailored for us. We will not feel one second of boredom or frustration in eternity. The newness of eternity will never cease.

As our realization of the wonders of eternity and the new earth grows, our tendency to search for our “golden moment” in this life fades. It’s not that we quench our desires; it’s just that as John Eldredge stated in the above quote, our timing is all wrong. Everything we long for in our hearts is coming, but it’s in eternity rather than this life. Our hope as believers rests in the future Jesus is preparing for us.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives?

This does not at all imply that we ignore this life and not enjoy what the Lord provides for us here. It’s just that we recognize our inner longings for unending joy and realize that such feelings point to eternity.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives? If we know Christ as our Savior, this is our future. We will spend eternity in the most beautiful city imaginable with access to all the beauty of the new earth.

This is why Paul Lundgren could rejoice. He knew his paralysis was temporary; he looked forward to forever when he would walk again. Is this not our hope as well? We all look forward to a time when the heartaches and physical infirmities of this life will be at an end and we will forevermore be with our Savior.

[i] Paul Lundgren was a Christian singer from around 1970 with no relation to current singers with the same name. I heard him sing in Rockford, Illinois. He was not a widely known singer but sang in churches at least throughout northern Illinois at the time.

[ii] John Eldredge, Desire, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p.110.

[iii] Ibid. pp. 110-111

[iv] Ibid. p. 119

[v] Ibid. p. 123

Prophecy Comes Alive Before our Eyes

 

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Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives

 

When writers like myself talk about the nearness of the Lord’s return, I’m sure for some it brings up an image of a scruffy old man draped with a sandwich sign with the words “The End is Near!” printed in bold letters on both sides.

After two thousand years of waiting, I know many dear believers have difficulty wrapping their minds around the nearness of the Lord’s return, and understandably so.

Could Jesus really come for His church in our lifetime? Could the tribulation actually start in the coming years? Why do some believe that the end of human history is at hand?

Prophecy. With so many events aligning so closely with what Scripture predicts about the last days, it’s difficult for me to imagine that we are not getting to close to the time of the tribulation and hence to Jesus’ return for His church.

So while we do not limit God’s patience or foolishly set dates, I believe Jesus would have us be wise in discerning the signs of the times in which we live. The Lord chided the Pharisees and Sadducees for not recognizing the signs of His first appearing (Matt. 16:3). Would He not also expect us to recognize the signs of the tribulation or of His return?

So while we do not limit God’s patience or foolishly set dates, I believe Jesus would have us be wise in discerning the signs of the times in which we live.

For example . . . in just the past couple weeks the dispute over old Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria has reached a fever pitch with highly significant prophetic implications that leap out at us from the pages of Scripture.

The Prophecies Regarding Jerusalem

The prophet Zechariah, writing 2,600 years ago, said this regarding the behavior of the world toward Jerusalem in the last days:

“Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah.  On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it” (12:2-3).

Zechariah long ago prophesied a future worldwide preoccupation of the nations with Jerusalem to the extent that the leaders of the world would literally become intoxicated with it and eventually injure themselves coming against it. The “heavy stone” signifies a boundary stone thus indicating a fixation on the boundaries of Jerusalem.

Does this not describe what is happening today? Isn’t it bizarre that with all the terrorism and violence taking place in the Middle East, the atrocities in Aleppo, the world remains almost solely focused on Jerusalem? One agency estimates that 90,000 Christians were martyred for their faith in 2016 and yet Jerusalem consumes all the attention of the nations, just as the prophets said would happen in the last days.

The prophet Joel, who likely wrote before the time of Zechariah, said this about Jerusalem and Judah:

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land“ (3:1-2).

The first part of this prophecy has come true; the Lord has restored “the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem.”

The next event in this passage is the gathering of nations to fight against Israel with the Lord’s subsequent judgment on them. But notice the reason for His anger with the nations: it is because they have divided up His land, which is precisely what we see happening before our eyes today.

This undue preoccupation with Jerusalem and its boundaries is really no surprise. The ancient prophets said this would happen ahead of Jesus’ Second Coming.

These prophecies from Zechariah and Joel long ago predicted what is currently taking place at the UN. This undue preoccupation with Jerusalem and its boundaries is really no surprise. The ancient prophets said this would happen ahead of Jesus’ Second Coming.

UN Resolution 2334

On Friday, December 23, 2016 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which essentially divides up the land by making all Jewish settlements in old Judea and Samaria illegal. It gives all this land to the Palestinians. Land, by the way, that never belonged to the Palestinians in the past. Israel took that land from Jordan in the 1967 war and now has a peace treaty with that nation.

The resolution also gives the Palestinians control of all of east Jerusalem; something Israel will never accept. It’s now illegal, according to the UN, for Jews to go to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

As a follow up to this resolution, seventy nations will gather in Paris, France on January 15, 2017 with the stated goal “to promote a “two-state solution” as the way that lasting peace will be brought to the Middle East.”[i] Many believe the objective of the conference will be to draw up a UN resolution to this effect that will be presented to the UN Security Council before January 20, when Donald Trump becomes the president.

It’s the prophecies of Zechariah and Joel coming to life before our eyes.  Christian author and speaker David Hunt said this several years ago regarding the Zechariah 12:3-4 passage:

“Consider how remarkable even this one prophecy is. Who could have imagined when the Old Testament was written that all the nations of the world would be involved in deciding the fate of Israel? And this involvement of all nations in dividing Israel has occurred exactly as prophesied and is still in the process of being implemented.”

This fascination of the world is even greater now than when David Hunt wrote these words.

Author Michael Snyder wrote this regarding the tension building in Israel regarding what might happen in the January 17 meeting in Paris, “In Israel, there is a tremendous amount of concern that whatever is agreed upon at this conference will immediately be used as the basis for a UN Security Council resolution that would permanently divide the land of Israel and create a Palestinian state. “[ii]

What’s the Significance?

Why is the current activity regarding Jerusalem and Israel such a big deal?

It may very well be another issue that brings the nations of the world to Israel’s doorstep at the end of the tribulation. However, it’s rather easy to see how the current UN resolution as well as the result of the upcoming meeting in Paris on January 15th could become the impetus for military action against Jerusalem such as prophesied to take place just before the Lord’s return to earth.

Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated that Israel will never give up the old sector of Jerusalem. He clearly stated in his response to Resolution 2334 that Israel will not agree to its terms. If the world further seeks to impose a two-state solution upon Israel, it will be met with the same resistance.

Can you see why so many students of prophecy believe we are in the last days? We are already seeing events shape up in the world that could easily set the stage for the great battle at the end of the tribulation, which I believe is at least seven years away.

I pray that President Obama does not allow passage of any UN resolution forcing a two-state solution upon Israel. I very much believe this will lead to disastrous consequences for the United States as well as set the stage for the Great Tribulation. It will lead to greater violence, not peace, and possibly ignite a series of events leading up to the battle of Armageddon.

I also recognize that the refusal of the United States to block such action against Israel may be a part of the fulfillment of end time prophecies. Perhaps we might even expect it even though our hearts react strongly against such action by the UN.

If the UN votes to officially take land from Israel and give it to a newly formed Palestinian State, will it not be yet another bright flashing sign pointing to the nearness of the Lord’ return?

Is this not exactly what the prophets Zechariah and Joel said would happen in the last days?

I believe such a vote would signal the approaching of the tribulation and even sooner appearing of Jesus for His church.

Even if not, it certainly represents prophecy coming alive before our very eyes.

Maranatha!!

[i] Michael Snyder, Circle January 15th: 70 Nations Will Gather In Paris to Discuss the Creation of a Palestinian State, Online article from the Website, The Economic Collapse.

[ii] Ibid.

A Clash of Kingdoms

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In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we continue to see rioting and violence spread across America. Chants of “not my president” and “not my country” are common. Some of the demonstrations have turned anti-American with the burning of American flags and even deadly as a protest blocking traffic kept an ambulance from getting to a hospital in time to save a man’s life. Regrettably, attacks persist on both sides.

In addition to my initial anger at seeing violence fill our streets, I feel sorrow for the protesters. Their shepherds promised them a greener pasture while failing to warn them of the approaching dark clouds, fierce storms, and certain delays for their hopes.

Although not explicitly talked about or even recognized, the underlying reality in all we see about us is a clash of kingdoms. On the one side is the humanistic gospel that somehow through a powerful and benevolent state we can find the long sought harmony between all peoples, eliminate poverty, and forever preserve the environment.

On the other side is not what you might think. It’s not the call to restore America’s greatness again, but what it represents.

Do you remember God’s response to those who built the tower of Babel? They defiantly sought answers in the unity of mankind apart from the Lord. God, knowing where their rebellion would take them, responded by dividing the world into nationalities and a host of varying cultures, languages, and people groups. God split the world into nations so our hope would reside solely in Him, not in human government or in mankind.

The ultimate clash is God’s kingdom versus globalism. And, the election of Trump represents only a small bump in the road for those seeking the establishment of this coming world order. They already have much in place. . . .

What is Agenda 2030?

You might be tempted to think this talk of a world order is all a conspiracy theory and that perhaps I’ve gone way over the edge. Let me explain why hopes for this future world government are real.

The blueprint for this new world order is called “Agenda 2030” and you can read about it on the UN website. This is not a secret initiative and no effort whatsoever has been made to hide it from us.

The problem lies not in the goals so much as in the methods employed to achieve them, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Agenda 2030 consists of seventeen “Post -2015 Sustainable Development Goals” with 169 targets to achieve those goals.[i]  On the surface many of these goals, though not all, seem laudable as they seek to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty,” preserve the environment, and establish worldwide peace. Who wouldn’t want such things? The problem lies in the methods employed to achieve such ends, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Goal ten makes it clear that this new world government will be socialist, which means that a group of elite rulers will decide upon the distribution of wealth across all nations. This goal is to “reduce inequality within and among nations.” How can this be possible apart from a governing board deciding upon the fair distribution of wealth within and among nations?

The goals of the Agenda 2030 cannot be achieved without enforcement at a high level, a socialistic world order where the elite will dictate the wellbeing of the masses.

Though not all agree with me on this point, many who have studied the goals of Agenda 2030 believe they cannot be implemented apart from a powerful group of the rich controlling the world.

Is America Committed to Agenda 2030?

That’s fine for the UN to have those goals, you might be saying, but do they really affect the United States? Is our country really committed to such a sweeping and fundamental change of the world leading to the elimination of nationalism as we know it? Yes!

The following statement is taken from the Whitehouse website:

2015 is a pivotal year for global development. World leaders gathered in New York today to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“2030 Agenda”). The adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which sets out a global development vision and priorities for the next 15 years, captures the hopes and ambitions of people around the globe for meaningful change and progress, including here in the United States. Through the adoption of this historic framework, the United States joins with countries around the world in pledging to leave no one behind by ending extreme poverty and prioritizing policies and investments that have long-term, transformative impact and are sustainable. Under the Obama Administration, the United States has committed and helped mobilize more than $100 billion in new funding from other donors and the private sector to fight poverty in the areas of health, food security, and energy. In the United States, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda coincides with a growing bipartisan consensus on the importance of global development, and direct philanthropic contributions from the American people, who annually provide substantial support for emergency relief and development around the world. . . .[ii]

In his address to the United Nations in 2016, President Barack Obama spoke these words, “I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security.” That sounds a lot like Agenda 2030 to me.

The United States is firmly committed to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 goals, which are nothing less than socialism at an international level rather than on a national level. President Obama made it clear that involvement in this new world order means giving up freedoms. In other words, we surrender our individual rights to international law. This is nothing less than socialism packaged under the guise of the “common good.” It always is!

Billionaire George Soros is a leading proponent of this coming world order and speaks openly and often of the need for a worldwide financial system to replace the broken economies of countries such as the United States.[iii]

Many people, including myself, think it’s likely a devastating worldwide financial collapse will be the opportunity to demonstrate the need for such a global economy and hence a worldwide government with real authority beyond what the UN currently possesses.

Will Agenda 2030 Succeed?

Will there ever be such a world order? Will Agenda 2030 succeed?

My answer may surprise you. Yes! It will surely succeed at some point.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some point be briefly realized on earth.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some future time be briefly realized on earth.

I say this because Scripture foretells the future existence of just such a kingdom. Beginning with the Prophet Daniel in the sixth century BC, the Bible clearly warns that a future world order will at some point overtake the world. Throughout the book he wrote, Daniel prophesied of a kingdom that would envelop the entire world and facilitate the rise to power of someone we refer to today as the antichrist.

The book of Revelation also clearly prophesies of this same coming domain. The global financial system advocated by George Soros is what we see in Revelation 13. Under the leadership of the antichrist, however, it will turn oppressive and deadly. Such a worldwide economic system must already exist by the halfway point of the prophesied seven-year tribulation for this future satanic leader to manipulate in the manner described in Revelation 13.

Jesus’ Kingdom

My hope most definitely does not consist of the vision to “make America great again.” I am not against this sentiment, it’s just that my ultimate expectation rests in the manifestation of a much greater kingdom, one to which I already belong. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The Bible teaches that this currently invisible domain will someday crush and destroy the existing world order at Christ’s Second Coming. Daniel pictures the arrival of Jesus’ kingdom as that of a rock demolishing the kingdoms of this world (2:43-45). The prophet also prophesied of the coming of “one like a son of man” who would be given kingdoms and dominions of this world once this final world order is crushed (7:8-14).

Jesus later claimed to be this “one like a son of man” who would crush the domains of the world and setup His everlasting kingdom on earth (Matt. 26:64).

Psalm 2 is just as current today as it was 3,000 years ago when first penned. Verse 1 asks, “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?” This Psalm clearly speaks of the clash of kingdoms we see today. In the end, Jesus receives the kingdoms of this world as His inheritance from the Father.

Earlier, I said that the election of Trump only signifies a small bump in the road to those dreaming of a heavenly paradise on earth with a united humanity. If Hillary had won, I would have regarded the reality of Agenda 2030 as being a step closer.

Even the full implementation of Agenda 2030, however, cannot stop the coming kingdom of my wonderful Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. He is alive. He is coming again just as He promised.

Jesus, the good and true Shepherd, will bring about a kingdom that will far exceed all the dreams that could be possibly imagined by proponents of the new world order. Those who know Jesus will enjoy this paradise on earth and in heaven forever. Those on the left are seeking a temporary paradise that will surely disappoint them in the end.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

Does this mean we ignore the wellbeing of those around us until the Christ’s kingdom comes? Heavens no! Only that we do so knowing that lasting peace for the world and the healing of creation only comes with Jesus’ return to earth.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

In Jesus alone there is no hate, only love. He died on the cross so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life.

If your trust for eternity is not in Him, please turn to Him before it is too late.

 If you as a believer have your hopes set on the things of this life, please recognize such hopes must be redirected to God’s eternal kingdom and Jesus’ soon return to take us home.

___________________________________________

[i] The goals and targets of Agenda 2030 are posted on the UN website at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

[ii] FACT SHEET: U.S. Global Development Policy and Agenda 2030 on the Whitehouse website at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/27/fact-sheet-us-global-development-policy-and-agenda-2030

[iii] Interview with George Soros: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf6fWN6KlRI

Will the Waiting Ever End?

black-and-white-woman-girl-sitting

With my little transistor radio in hand, I followed every pitch. I heard the crack of the bat as Hank Aaron hit a deep fly ball. I was sure he had ended Ken Holtzman’s bid for a no-hitter; I remember the disappointment in the voice of the radio announcer as he described what he believed would be a homerun for Aaron. However, the wind was blowing in that day at Wrigley Field.

As Billy Williams, the Cubs’ outfielder, went back to the wall, he seemed to give up on the play. Then at the last second, Williams put up his glove, caught the ball, and preserved the no-hitter. (I later saw a video clip of the catch.)

I thought the Cubs were well on their way to winning the National League pennant that year. However, the New York Mets, not the Cubs, won the World Series in 1969.

Today, 108 years since they last won the World Series, the Chicago Cubs are now the reigning champs! It seems surreal to write those words. Did they really win last night?

If the Cubs had won it all last year, their fans would still be celebrating today. The storyline, however, would not be near as dramatic. Since last night, every mention of the Cubs’ victory contains a reference to the 108 years of waiting.

As believers, we yawn at the mention of waiting 108 years.

The year was approximately AD 50. That’s when Paul preached the Gospel in Thessalonica causing many of the people in that town to turn from idols to Christ and as a result, wait for Jesus’ return (1 Thess. 1:9-10).

Yes, it’s been 1,966 years since the apostle preached that message of hope to the Thessalonians and still . . . we wait. The longsuffering Cub fans have nothing on us in terms of waiting.

Waiting for Jesus’ Appearing

Almost every epistle in the New Testament contains a reference to Jesus’ soon return for His church. As the apostles preached the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire, their preaching included Jesus’ future appearing as something that could happen at any moment.

In all their preaching and writing, they assumed we would wait in great expectation of Jesus’ return.

In Romans 8:23, Paul wrote that we as believers “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Then in verse 25 he added, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Notice the emphasis on waiting “with patience” for what Jesus promised us. We believe; we hope for what we do not see; we wait.

In 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul used the same Greek word for “wait” to describe the believers in Corinth as those eagerly awaiting Jesus’ appearing.

In all their preaching and writing, the apostles assumed we would wait in great expectation of Jesus’ return.

In Philippians 3:20 Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus, Christ.” As believers, we live in eager expectation of seeing our Lord at any moment.

Peter instructed his readers to “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Peter’s instructions echo Paul’s words on waiting.

The apostle John also emphasized our hope in Jesus appearing as something that would have a purifying effect on us (1 John 3:2-3). James added these words, “The coming of the Lord is at hand . . . . the Judge is standing at the door” (5:8-9).

The New Testament church waited for Jesus’ appearing as something that could happen at any moment. We refer to His return as something “imminent;” it can happen at any time. That was the hope of the New Testament church and nothing has changed since that time to diminish such anticipation, unless you count the passing of a couple thousand years.

Waiting for Justice

Along with waiting for Jesus’ return, we also wait for His justice to prevail in our world.

We frequently hear daily terror attacks somewhere in our world. We read of brutal atrocities committed against believers in places throughout the Middle East and in Nigeria. Scenes of intense suffering as a result of all this violence appear on television and Internet news sites.

The stories of Planned Parenthood profiting from abortion through the selling of body parts grieves me deeply. Does not the Lord see this? How can He let this continue? Where is He?

I’m almost embarrassed to recount the number of times I have needed to go to Psalm 37 for God’s perspective on those things. I did so this morning as I felt stirred by another instance of evil prevailing and needed the reminder of the Psalm.

And what do I find in Psalm 37? The Lord, through David, tells me this, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devises . . . For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land” (vv. 7 and 8).

I have a tendency to fret and hence the need for the Psalm.

Psalm 37 is clear on two things: First, God will surely judge wickedness. Second, we may not see it. This is because Lord patiently allows time for sinners to repent. I’ve benefited from this many times as He graciously gave me time to return to Him in my life as a believer.

So many times I wish the Lord would show up and punish the evil I see in the world. However, I believe that day is coming and in the meantime, I wait. We wait. Sound familiar?

Waiting for the End of Suffering

Tonight, my wife and I are going to the visitation for a baby boy who died earlier this week of cancer at the age of seven months. We do not have to look far to see great suffering in our world. Little Lincoln endured so much pain during the three months in which cancer ravaged his tiny body.

Notice the tender touch of the Savior; the text does not simply say Jesus will end our tears but will gently “wipe” them away from our faces.

In my favorite passage from Isaiah, the prophet tells of a great celebration and foresees a day in which the Lord “will swallow up death forever . . . and wipe away tears from all faces” (25:8). Notice the tender touch of the Savior; the text does not simply say Jesus will end our tears but will gently “wipe” them away from our faces. He is able even now to ease the grieving for little Lincoln.

I love the response recorded in Isaiah 25:9 of those enjoying the feast of this still future day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Someday we will echo those very words as we praise the Lord.

Notice that even in eternity, after all suffering and pain have ended; we will emphasize the waiting as we rejoice in our great salvation.

The Scoffers

The apostle Peter tells us that in the last days some will give up on the waiting and mock our hope in Jesus’ return. In 2 Peter 3:3-4 he says, “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’”

The Lord knew the wait would be long and many would give up believing in His return and push aside their hope.

We see this all around us today. Many today mock the rapture. They cannot believe the Lord would keep us waiting almost two thousand years for His return. Surely we have misunderstood prophecy; there must be a different interpretation to the passages regarding His appearing.

“Jesus has already returned,” the scoffers tell us, “your hope is not to be found in His return.”

But is this not why Peter warned against such scoffing? The Lord knew the wait would be long and many would give up believing in His return and push aside their hope. He knew scoffers would arise and through Peter warned us about these modern day naysayers.

Today, Chicago Cub fans celebrate the end of a 108 year wait for a World Series victory. Someday, perhaps very soon, we will celebrate the end of a much longer wait, that of waiting for Jesus’ return to take us to His Father’s home (John 14:2-3).

Some old Cub fans, like me, doubted the Cubs would ever win the World Series, However, if there is one thing their victory teaches us, things we wait for can happen.

I am not making that same mistake with Jesus’ return. He is coming again, just as He promised.

When that happens, we will not complain about the wait. But like Cub fans today, we will greatly rejoice that the day has finally arrived.

Habakkuk in the Morning

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I need the message of Habakkuk this morning!

As I look at the evil and injustice flourishing in our nation, discouragement looms at my doorstep.  Habakkuk helps me close the door to such feelings of despair.

The book of Habakkuk begins with the prophet’s complaint of violence and injustice in Judah:

2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,

    and you will not hear?

Or cry to you “Violence!”

    and you will not save?

3 Why do you make me see iniquity,

    and why do you idly look at wrong?

Destruction and violence are before me;

    strife and contention arise.

4 So the law is paralyzed,

    and justice never goes forth.

For the wicked surround the righteous;

    so justice goes forth perverted.

Does this not describe our nation today? Is this not our world!?

My heart grieves as I think of all the violence all about us, of the despicable practices of abortion clinics, of the growing violence toward police, and of the almost daily terrorist attacks that claim the lives of so many innocent lives throughout the world.

I’m horrified by the actions of Planned Parenthood as well as by both political parties that not only refuse to take action against the selling of baby parts, but continually vote to continue taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. Just this week, Hillary celebrated the anniversary of Planned Parenthood. We live in evil times!

BTW, Hillary believes Christianity must be changed to accept abortion and if elected she will have a Supreme Court that will fully back her in this matter.

We see “iniquity” prospering throughout our nation as never before. Twenty years ago I never could have imagined that our Supreme Court would someday rule in favor of same sex marriage or that a candidate of a major party would fervently support this along with a host of other sins so clearly forbidden in Scripture.

The prophet saw that the law was “paralyzed.” Could there be a more apt description of what is happening in our nation?

The prophet saw that the law was “paralyzed.” Could there be a more apt description of what is happening in our nation? The rich and powerful are not called to account for their evil and yet bakers who stand by their biblical convictions face obscene fines.

Truly, justice is “perverted” in our nation as the “wicked surround the righteous.”  The institutions that we as nation rely on to bring the wicked to justice are now stained with political corruptness.

I see a nation one election away from surrendering to an oppressive and socialistic world order that will, as President Obama clearly stated recently at the United Nations, “take away some of our rights and freedoms” for the “common good.” The recently uncovered e-mails reveal that Hillary is totally on board with this evil agenda to subject America to this satanic and demonic world government.

The message of the prophet, however, calls me to a higher perspective far away from the feelings of despair that lurk nearby.

The Lord Sees

The Lord saw all the evil in Judah during the time of Habakkuk; He sees everything today.

His response to the wickedness of Judah was already on the way, even before the prophet voiced his complaint (1:5-11). God was raising up the Babylonians who in about twenty years from the time of Habakkuk would begin their conquest of Jerusalem.

The Lord sees and just as in day of Habakkuk, we can be sure God will respond in a similar way to the wickedness around us unless we repent as a nation.

It’s so easy to think the Lord does not see the vile things done today in our abortion clinics or the lewd display of evil around us. We think He would surely have done something by now if He truly saw the violence and injustice that daily surround us. How could He possibly let this continue so long?

The Lord sees and just as in day of Habakkuk, we can be sure God will respond in a similar way to the wickedness around us unless we repent as a nation.

In Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 we find this warning, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”

Far too often we mistake God’s patience for His lack of interest or unwillingness to deal with sin. As Solomon points out, such a perspective ends in tragedy for those who believe the Lord does not see or care about their wicked lifestyle.

It’s a Matter of Faith

Habakkuk convicts me of my unbelief. Yes, I know all the warnings of Scripture concerning His judgment of nations and of wickedness, but at times my thoughts do not reflect a belief He will actually judge evil or punish the wicked in this life.

Habakkuk begins his book questioning God’s absence and ends with an amazing statement of faith despite the lack of the Lord’s blessing.

The prophet Habakkuk provides us with two amazing statements regarding faith.

The Apostle Paul later quoted his words in 2:4, “. . . but the righteous shall live by faith.” In midst of the calamity about to descend upon Judah, the Lord says that those who know Him will “live by faith!”

As the book ends, we see the prophet proclaiming that regardless of any calamity he might see, he would still “rejoice in the Lord” (see 3:17-18). Habakkuk starts out questioning God’s absence and ends with an amazing statement of faith despite the lack of the Lord’s blessing.

The message of Habakkuk assures us God will not let evil continue unchecked. At just the right time, the Lord will show up and deal with any society that rejects Him and openly flaunts its rebellion toward Him.

We see this clearly in Psalm 37. The Lord not only sees the evil about us, but laughs at the wicked because He knows what’s ahead for them. I know this message is true, but do I live by faith believing God will someday soon intervene in our world?

The test of faith often comes as a result of God’s patience; He often waits a very long time so people have as much opportunity as possible to repent and avoid His wrath.

It’s a Matter of Waiting

As the Lord responded to Habakkuk regarding how he would deal with the Babylonians for their sins, He said this in 2:3, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

We know Jesus is returning soon. We recognize all the signs for the beginning of the Great Tribulation on the earth. And yet . . . we wait.

There’s that pesky word “wait.” Is this not where our faith so often falters?

We know Jesus is returning soon. We recognize all the signs for the beginning of the Great Tribulation on the earth. And yet . . . we wait.

We see horrific violence in the world and daily hear “rumors of war” like no other time in the history of humanity. Every week I read a story about how World War III is about to start and I wonder how much longer the Lord can delay His appearing to take away His church. And yet . . . we wait!

I remember a particular thunderstorm from my grade school years in Rockford, Illinois. In the midst of the wind and rain, everything grew perfectly calm for several seconds. Then suddenly, a huge bolt of lightning and loud crashing thunder interrupted the tranquil moment. Although the lightning struck harmlessly on our property, it set our neighbor’s home on fire.

I sense we are in the calm before the storm. Despite all the threats of violence and rumors of war throughout the world, our nation seems eerily peaceful on the surface.

I Thessalonians 5:3 speaks of a time when “people are saying, ‘There is peace and security’” ahead of the “sudden destruction” that will mark the beginning of the day of the Lord or the Great Tribulation.

The leaders of the world today often proclaim “peace and security” not realizing they are fulfilling prophecy. I believe the “sudden destruction” of 1 Thessalonians looms over the world at this very moment.

How long will this last? We cannot know. God is patiently waiting for as many as possible to repent and find eternal life in Him. However, I believe the rapture and subsequent Great Tribulation are rapidly approaching.  How much longer will the Lord wait?

Yes, I need the reminders from Habakkuk this morning as I recover from my angst of the past couple days when everything seemed so murky.

Habakkuk reminds me of God’s sovereignty; nothing escapes His notice and or diverts Him from His purposes. His Word will not fail!

The Lord will not let evil go unchecked. At precisely the right time the Lord will show up, much, much to the dismay of those who now reject the Lord and so openly flaunt their rebellion toward Him.

Will Any Believers Be Left Behind?

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I was terrified! Had they left without me?

As I frantically searched for my mom and dad, that question kept popping into my mind. Maybe they thought I was with my older sister. Maybe each thought I was with the other. Where were they? I had just looked away for a moment and now they were gone!

Not only was I two thousand miles from home, I was alone in Chinatown of all places. We were visiting my sister who lived in southern California and had spent the day sightseeing before ending up in Chinatown for supper and to do some shopping.

After what seemed to be a very long time, although it was perhaps only a minute or two at the most, I finally located my mom and rushed to her side.

Somehow, in all my panic, I knew my parents would never leave their second-grader behind in such a strange place.

And yet, I am hearing of more and more Christians who believe the Lord could possibly leave them behind when He comes for His church. Theologians refer to this as the partial rapture theory, which teaches that only those who are watching for the Lord’s return or are ready for it will go to heaven when He comes for His church.

Will Jesus leave any believer behind when He comes for His church? No, He will no more leave any of us behind than a loving parent would leave his or her child behind in a store or anywhere else.

Let me explain why I am so sure of this.

An Unbroken Link

In Romans 8:30 the apostle Paul assures us that all who are justified will be glorified. This is an unbroken link. As believers, our glorification is just as certain as our justification.

All those in Christ will be glorified. Why would Jesus delay this for some while completing it for others? That does not make any sense. Scripture nowhere supports such a thought.

In other words, since God justified us when we were His enemies, how much more shall we be delivered from the coming wrath, including that of the tribulation, now that we are His beloved children?

Furthermore, while we were in the position of being enemies of the God, He saved us by grace and bestowed on us the very righteousness of Jesus (Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:5-6, 2 Cor. 5:21). As Paul says in Romans 5:9, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

In other words, since God justified us when we were His enemies, how much more shall we be delivered from the coming wrath, including that of the tribulation, now that we are His beloved children?

We receive eternal life totally by grace through faith. Why would the completion of our faith be based on merit or work? God’s grace leaves no room for boasting. Are some believers now to have a reason to boast because they were included in the rapture?

Absolutely not! Our salvation from beginning to end is all by God’s grace.

No Such Distinction

Scripture passages dealing extensively with the rapture make no distinction between believers who will be raptured and those who will not. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says “the dead in Christ will rise first;” They will all be raised to meet the Lord in the air. After which Paul says, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. . . .”

Paul earlier in verse 14 said this, “God will bring with him those who have fall asleep” indicating those who have died in Christ. Regardless of our maturity level at the time of death, we will all go to be with Jesus and then return with Him at the rapture to be joined with our bodies.

My question is this: If there is no distinction for believers who are now with Christ regarding their part in the rapture, why would there be such a difference for living believers? Why would living believers be held to a different standard in order to be included in the rapture?

Would not this mean it is safer to be dead when Jesus returns? How crazy is that!?

Paul emphasizes that we will “all be changed;” we will all go to meet Jesus when He appears. We are all saints regardless of our maturity or anticipation of the Lord’s return for us.

In writing to perhaps the most worldly and divided church of all the early New Testament churches, the apostle makes it clear that at Jesus’ return “we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51). If he was ever going to make such a distinction to indicate a partial rapture, here is where he would have done so when addressing the subject for the church at Corinth.

Instead, Paul emphasizes that we will “all be changed;” we will all go to meet Jesus when He appears. We are all saints regardless of our maturity or anticipation of the Lord’s return for us.

Assumption of Eagerness

The New Testament writers assumed that all believers eagerly anticipated the return of Jesus for His church. This became a term of identification for early Christians. The result of turning to the Gospel from idols meant that the Thessalonian believers naturally waited for Jesus’ return (1 Thess. 1:9-10). Paul characterized believers in this way in several passages throughout the New Testament in places such as Philippians 3:20 and Titus 2:11-13.

When the writer of Hebrews says in 9:28 that Christ “will appear a second time . . . to save those who are eagerly waiting for him,” he is referring to all believers in the same way Paul does in many of his texts.

The apostles did not envision followers of Christ who were not eagerly awaiting His return for them.

 Confusion of Rewards Versus Readiness

Some also use 1 John 2:28 to support their assertion that some believers will be left behind. Here John says, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” This verse speaks to the need to be ready for Jesus’ return; it says nothing of anyone being left behind.

I believe this verse actually confirms that all believers will be taken in the rapture. How is it possible for someone to feel shame in Jesus’ presence if they are not with Him? Saints who are not walking with the Lord when He returns will experience shame, but they will not be left behind.

2 Timothy 4:8 indicates that those who love Jesus’ “appearing” will receive a reward referred to as a “crown of righteousness.” Those who eagerly await Jesus’ return and thereby walk closely with Him will be rewarded. This does not exclude others from the rapture.

What is the standard?

If some believers are to be left behind at the rapture, how is that to be determined?

Is it based on eagerly watching for Jesus appearing? For me, that often changes several times a day. There are times when I am conscious of awaiting His return and other times when my mind is preoccupied with other things. How can this be the basis for who goes or who is left behind?

Others say that maturity in Christ is the standard with the tribulation used by God to purify fleshly believers. Again, what is the standard for this? What passage supports such a works-based approach to our deliverance from the tribulation?

By placing the emphasis on our behavior rather than God’s grace, the partial rapture theory actually undermines our anticipation of Jesus’ appearing. How do we eagerly look forward to the rapture if our focus is totally on our readiness for it?

Our place in the rapture is solely determined by God’s love for us as His dear children. Nothing more; nothing less!

In 1 John 3:1-2 John says, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. . . . Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Our place in the rapture is solely determined by God’s love for us as His dear children. Nothing more; nothing less!

The key question regarding readiness is: Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you called out to Him for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life?

I John 5:12 says, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” If you have not put your trust in Jesus, please do so before it is too late. He is coming soon!

Desire Breeds Hope

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Before settling into my new calling as a writer, my wife Ruth and I decided to take a road trip to celebrate my retirement from a long career as a financial analyst. We greatly looked forward to our trip: to our stay at a bed and breakfast in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina and then to our time exploring Savannah, Georgia.

Before we left on our trip, Ruth and I spent much time thinking and talking about our vacation and what we would do. Our anticipation of hiking in the mountains, exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, and dining at seafood restaurants in Savannah increased our desire for the day to come when we would at long last leave on our trip.

When it comes to our glorious future, however, many churches remain mostly silent regarding our life to come. How can we eagerly await Jesus’ appearing and eternity if we seldom, if ever, hear about it?

“Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.” John Eldredge

John Eldredge referred to this disconnect in his book Desire, “C.S. Lewis summed it up, ‘We can only hope for what we desire.’ No desire, no hope. . . . Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.”[i] Later Eldredge added this statement regarding this connection of desire with our hope:

Whatever it is we think is coming in the next season of our existence, we don’t think it is worth getting all that excited about. We make a nothing of eternity by enlarging the significance of this life and by diminishing the reality of what the next life is all about.[ii]

Passing references to the fact that we possess eternal life do not impassion us, especially in America where so many of us enjoy comfortable lives. Without a vision of what to expect in eternity, it’s difficult to imagine heaven can be any better than our current existence with smartphones, widescreen TVs, and all the comforts this life can offer.

It’s The Specifics!

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, he provided specifics of what America would look like with the ending of racism. His vivid picture of racial equality inspired a nation. If he had simply called for the ending of racism without his detailed vision of what it would look like, his message most likely would not have given so much hope to the crowd that day.

Likewise, it is the specifics of our spectacular hope that focus our hearts on eternity. As Eldredge noted, “bland assurances” of a distant eternity do not cause us to desire eternity nor do they give us hope.

Ruth and I grew in our excitement of our trip to the South as we talked about the specifics of what we would do on our vacation.

It’s the details of the Lord’s return for us, our roles in the upcoming millennium, and our eternal home that arise desire in our hearts for what is coming and magnify our hope.

We do not know all of the details of our immortal bodies, our roles in judging the world, or what our upcoming existence will be like. However, what Scripture teaches us about these things is more than enough to inspire us each day with desire, even longing for what lies ahead and generate hope in our hearts for Jesus’ appearing.

Hard Pews and Hollywood

Our desire for eternity is frequently deflated by popular misconceptions of what it will be like.

Many see eternity as an unending church service as John Eldredge also notes in his book Desire, “Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea of eternity is an unending church service . . . . we have settled on an image of the never-ending sing-along in the sky. . . . And our heart sinks.”[iii]

Of course we will sing and worship the Lord throughout eternity; I am very much looking forward to that. Scripture, however, also speaks of our reigning with Christ during the millennium and then forever. We will have thrilling kingdom responsibilities and forever enjoy a restored earth. We have an amazing future; one we can be excited about and celebrate!

Lonely believers sitting on clouds with harps and angels diving into icy rivers to earn their wings do not exactly thrill our hearts with thoughts of heaven

Hollywood does not help us in this regard with its rather depressing pictures of eternity. Lonely believers sitting on clouds with harps and angels diving into icy rivers to earn their wings do not exactly thrill our hearts with thoughts of heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 6:2 Paul asks, “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” This sounds entirely different than hard pews or what Hollywood would have us to believe about heaven. That does much more to peak our interest than the bland pictures we often visualize in our minds.

The Ploy of Satan

While churches do not fill in the blanks regarding our eternal hope, Satan actively works to introduce teachings that destroy our hope and take our eyes off eternity. First, his false teachers generate so much controversy that many pastors stay away from the subject just to be safe.

Secondly, the teachings of many leave us straining to identify what hope is left for us. If all of the New Testament prophetic passages have somehow already been fulfilled and those in the Old Testament reduce to allegories of the church, where is our hope for the future? We are left with just hope of the “sweet by-and-by.”

Where is our ultimate hope, for example, if Revelation 19-22 has already been fulfilled as some teach today? Such teaching seriously undermines any desire for eternity and squashes all hope. We are left with no specifics of eternity and no reason to take our eyes off this life and desire something better.

Where is our ultimate hope, for example, if Revelation 19-22 has already been fulfilled as some teach today?

Scripture teaches that we possess an amazing and thrilling hope for all eternity; one that should excite us and focus our hope all the more on what is to come.

It’s understandable Satan would not want us to hear about the thrilling details of eternity since that would fill our hearts with hope and longing for Jesus’ appearing to take us home.

It’s not understandable, however, that so many pastors neglect prophecy and in so doing dampen the desire and thereby the hope of those in the pews.

As John Eldredge so aptly stated, “No desire, no hope. . . . Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.” But once we hear what the Bible teaches about our hope, we cannot help but desire for what is to come.

Jesus is coming soon! The more we understand what that means for us the more we will desire His appearing.

[i] Eldredge, John, Desire (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), pp. 64-65

[ii] Ibid., pp. 110-111

[iii] Ibid., p. 111

The Rapture, What’s to Fear?

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What causes fear in us at times regarding the rapture? Does our apprehension arise from its abrupt nature or its unexpected timing? Does the unknown or the supernatural cause anxiety to rise within us? Perhaps we do not want our dreams for this life to end so soon.

I suspect many of us at times can identify with a least a few of the above reasons.

Does Scripture give us any help to relieve our apprehensions and hesitations? Is there a way to look at the rapture that sparks delight and hopefulness rather than dread or even disdain?

I believe there is.

One of the most comforting pictures of the rapture in Scripture is that of the bridegroom coming for his bride. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul purposely used language to invoke images of the Jewish wedding customs of their day when speaking of Jesus’ return for His church.

The Marriage Covenant

Jewish marriages in the first century AD began with the groom making a covenant with his bride. The groom “would drink a cup of wine with her which sealed the covenant and he would pay the bridal price for her to the father.”[i] The bridal price ensured that the groom would follow through on the covenant.

Do you see the similarities with what Jesus did for us in purchasing our salvation on the cross? He paid the price with His blood so that we, His church, might become His bride.

Jesus’ words regarding the cup of wine He drank with His disciples in the upper room resemble those spoken by a groom sealing the marriage covenant with his bride, “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood . . .’”[ii]

The drinking of wine from a cup and the announcement of a covenant both spark images of the Jewish marriage customs as well as point to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies regarding the new covenant.

The Announcement

Once he confirmed the marriage covenant with His bride, the groom announced he was going to prepare a place for his bride in his father’s house.[iii] He would not see his bride until he completed his work on the honeymoon chamber and returned for her.

Once he confirmed the marriage covenant with His bride, the groom announced he was going to prepare a place for his bride in his father’s house.

Jesus’ words in John 14:2-3 mimic this announcement of the bridegroom, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

I believe Jesus purposely chose words to show how His actions resembled a groom leaving to prepare a place for his bride with a promise to someday return for her.

The Return of the Bridegroom

Similar to Jesus’ words regarding His return, the Jewish bridegroom returned later to take his bride back to the place he had prepared for her.

The Jewish groom enjoyed coming as a thief in the night to quickly snatch away his bride and take her back to his father’s house. He arrived at his bride’s home with much fanfare as his friends shouted and blew a shofar or trumpet to announce his surprise arrival. The groom then took his bride back to his father’s house for seven days.

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul speaks of Jesus coming for His church with a shout or the “voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (v. 16). In John 14:2-3, Jesus stated that the purpose of His return for us will be to take us back to His Father’s house. There we will remain for seven years while the Great Tribulation takes place on the earth.

The Comforting Message for Us

The brides of Jesus’ day did not fear the arrival of the bridegroom. The bride looked forward to the surprise return of her bridegroom; this was an expected and exciting part of the wedding festivities.

This picture of the rapture provides much comfort for us because of the following reasons:

1. He’s preparing a place for us!

Jesus is now preparing a place especially for us. This is frequently overlooked in teachings regarding the rapture.

We can be sure this place will be amazing beyond anything we can imagine. Jesus is designing and preparing it with our specific needs and desires in mind. The best five star hotels on earth cannot compare to the place Jesus is getting ready for us.

The rapture represents Jesus return to take us to the place He has prepared for us. We can be sure this place will be amazing beyond anything we can imagine.

The rapture represents Jesus return to take us to the place He has prepared for us. Would not the brides of Jesus’ day eagerly anticipated seeing the place their grooms had prepared for them?

2. The Rapture is a groom returning for His bride!

While the element of surprise in the rapture may alarm us at times, it helps to remember this was part of the excitement for Jewish weddings of the first century AD. The groom was not coming to harm his bride, but to take her home to begin their exciting adventure together.

Rather than be something to fear or even dread, the bride joyously anticipated the day when the groom would snatch her away and take her to his home. Her groom’s surprise appearance represented a key part of the love story they would share for the rest of their lives.

So it is with Jesus’ return. He’s taking us away from this life to something wonderful, to an eternity full of wonder and amazement, which we will enjoy in new immortal bodies that will never be subject to illness, pain, gaining, or death. Jesus is coming as a bridegroom coming for His bride; it’s an act of love to give us a much better life than we can imagine.

3. The Rapture will lead to much celebration!

Once the bride and groom had spent seven days together, the feasting began. They joined their attendants, friends, and invited guests for a huge celebration of their wedding.

This is in our future as well. Revelation 19:6-10 describes the “marriage supper of the lamb” that occurs in heaven before we return to earth with Jesus. Just as with the marriage celebrations of Jesus’ day, I do not believe this will be just a sit-down dinner lasting a few hours; it will last several days, at least!

4. It’s the alternative that should be frightening to us!

Here is where the comparison breaks down a bit. During the seven days the bride and groom spent together in the honeymoon suite, the bride’s attendants and friends of the groom began celebrating.

During the seven years we are with the Lord in heaven, however, the Great Tribulation will occur on earth. Evil will flourish. Humanity will experience God’s wrath as a final call to repentance. It will be a time of great suffering and much death upon the earth.

Whenever I am tempted to fear the Lord’s return, I think of the alternative. We will be sooooo much better off being with the Lord than remaining on the earth. I believe the “sudden destruction” mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 happens shortly after the rapture.

It’s the alternative of Jesus not coming for us that should frighten us. Jesus is coming to lovingly take us out of this world before the terrible judgments and destruction of the tribulation.

Truly, it’s the alternative of Jesus not coming for us that should frighten us. Jesus is coming to lovingly take us out of this world before the terrible judgments and destruction of the tribulation.

Just as with a groom coming for his bride, the rapture represents Jesus’ love for His church. Will Jesus’ return surprise us when it happens? Most likely! Will He in love tenderly welcome us to the place He has prepared us? We can count on that.

The wedding imagery of the rapture helps us see it as an act of love rather than something to fear or dread. It’s meant to change our perspective, to help us look forward to Jesus’ return for us with excitement rather than anxiety.

When anxious thoughts of the rapture creep into your thinking, remember it’s not about striving to replace fear with hope but of looking forward to Jesus’ appearing as a bride getting ready for her groom’s arrival.

Jesus does not want us to be afraid of His return for us but rather eagerly anticipate it as the beginning of eternity or our time in paradise. He’s coming to rescue us out of this world and take us to a place of amazing beauty and joy, beyond all we can imagine.

[i] Winston, Joy, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Article on the Rapture Ready Website

[ii] 1 Corinthians 11:25

[iii] Winston, Joy, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Article on the Rapture Ready Website

Does God Keep His Promises?

israeli-flag

“Israel’s future guarantees our salvation.” (Amari Tsarfati, prophecy speaker)

In other words, if God can break His covenant with the likes of Abraham, Jacob, and David, what does that say about His promises to us? If God does not keep His covenants with Israel, what does that say about His character, His faithfulness to us as New Testament believers?

Do you see the implications? Refuting those who claim God replaced Israel with the church is not merely some meaningless squabble among theologians. It’s so much more than that! The debate has far reaching implications impacting where we put our hope each day as we step out of bed.

Refuting those who claim God replaced Israel with the church is not merely some meaningless squabble among theologians.

Because God is trustworthy, our hope in His promises remains secure. Eternal life is a done deal for those in Christ.

Why, however, are we so confident that God’s promises to Israel remain in effect?

It Begins with a Question

I like to begin the defense of Israel’s continuing place in God’s program with the question the disciples asked Jesus just before He ascended back into heaven, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Earlier, such kingdom hopes led to arguments among the disciples as to which of them would have the greater positions of honor in Israel’s restored kingdom (Mark 10:35-40). Although such arguing seems to have ended, they clearly expected to soon be a part of this glorious realm.

Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”  Jesus did not contradict or refute the premise of their question that He would restore Israel someday. Instead, He simply told the disciples they could not know the timing of this restoration as it was something the Father alone had determined “by his own authority.”

Why Would They Ask Such a Question?

The confidence of the disciples regarding a future kingdom raises certain questions in my mind. After watching the Jewish leaders reject Christ and demand His crucifixion, what made the disciples so confident the Lord would restore the kingdom to these very same people? Why did the disciples think Jesus would soon initiate a glorious restoration for the very same people whose rejection had led to Him being mercilessly mocked, scourged, whipped, and nailed to a cross?

Many people in the history of the church certainly used this behavior on the part of the Jews to justify their belief God had forever rejected Israel. But the not the disciples, the ones who watched their fellow Jews reject Christ and witnessed His suffering. They remained confident of the Lord’s intention to still give Israel an amazing kingdom in spite of her recent condemnation of her Messiah.

Why So Confident?

Why were the disciples so sure of this after all they had witnessed?

The Old Testament prophets provide us with the answer. After His resurrection, Jesus spent time explaining to His disciples how He fulfilled Old Testament prophecies (Luke 24:25-27; 44-47). With all this recent insight from their Master regarding how He fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, the disciples still believed the Lord would restore Israel as a nation.

Either they were still terribly confused and had not at all understood Jesus’ recent teaching, in which case the Lord surely would have corrected them as He had done earlier (John 14:8-9); or, they based their question on what Jesus had recently taught them regarding how He fulfilled prophecy.

I believe the disciples correctly understood Jesus’ teaching on how He fulfilled Old Testament Scripture for both His first and second coming. They assumed the Lord would one day restore the fortunes of Israel because that is precisely what Jesus taught them after His resurrection.

The Grand Story of the Old Testament Prophets

The Old Testament prophets tell a grand story; one I am sure Jesus repeated to His disciples after His resurrection. It is a story of great hope for the people of Israel revealed in the midst of their rebellion and impending judgment for their sins.

The prophet Zephaniah, for example, not only warned of imminent disaster upon Judah but also prophesied of a glorious future for the nation, “At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord” (3:20). The disciples used the same terminology as Zephaniah in their question to Jesus in Acts 1. Could the Lord have quoted this same verse to them before His ascension? I believe that is highly likely.

The Lord, in no uncertain terms, declared through the prophet Jeremiah that Israel would always remain a nation in His sight.[i] If the sun comes up tomorrow morning, Israel remains a country before the Lord. If we see the moon or the stars tonight, Israel still exists. Based on this passage alone, it’s easy to understand why the disciples expected to see a restored Israel even after watching the Jews reject and crucify the Savior. Perhaps Jesus discussed these verses from Jeremiah with His disciples after His resurrection. That would explain their continuing hope for Israel’s restoration.

Many more such passages from the Old Testament prophets could be quoted with promises of a future restored kingdom for Israel. Those who seek to replace Israel with the church ignore many great promises from the Old Testament regarding Israel as well as the Apostle Paul’s clear denial that God had rejected His people Israel (Rom. 11:1).

Our security rests in God’s faithfulness; He is a covenant keeper. That’s why we regard Israel’s hope as the guaranty of our hope.

Our security rests in God’s faithfulness; He is a covenant keeper. That’s why we regard Israel’s hope as the guaranty of our hope. He will keep His covenants with Israel despite their rebellion and sin. His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 was unconditional; it never depended on the worthiness of his descendants to inherit the Land and still does not.

In the same way, our salvation never depended on us nor will it ever depend on our behavior! God will keep His promises to Israel and to us. It’s impossible for God not to keep His Word regarding the future of His people.

He is faithful forever!

[i] Jeremiah 31:35-36