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

 

jerusalem-from-mt-olives-world-city-266020
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.

God Speaks Through the Fire

 

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Picture of the burned page of the Bible from the Facebook page of Isaac McCord

 

Sometimes we hear or see something that sticks with us and we just know it’s significant. Other things may distract us from it for a while, but we cannot shake the sense it must be important. Such was the case with a story I read last week.

In the wake of the Gatlinburg fires, Isaac McCord of Tullahoma, Tennessee made an amazing discovery.  As he helped clean up an area of the Dollywood Theme Park damaged by the fire, he spotted a piece of paper under a bench. The frayed and wet page turned out to be from the Bible containing a few verses that survived the fire.

Many news websites carried pictures of McCord holding the page of Scripture recovered from the fire. This partially burned page form the Bible is pictured above.

Here is where the account turns prophetic. The verses rescued from the fire are from the book of Joel, mainly from the first chapter. The verses that are most visible speak of the coming destructive fire of the day of the Lord. Joel 1:5 says, “Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.” Another verse visible on the page, Joel 2:1, speaks to the nearness of this “day of the Lord.”

So what is the “day of the Lord” referenced in the verses on this frayed page of the Bible? In Scripture, the “day of the Lord” refers to events surrounding the return of Christ to earth. It includes the judgments preceding His arrival, His return in great power and glory, and the kingdom Jesus will establish on the earth.

I believe judgment portion of this day includes all of the seven year tribulation on the earth as described in detail in the book of Revelation.

To recap, here is what we know regarding this remarkable story:

1)  The deadly fire in Tennessee burned for several days destroying many homes, businesses, and sections of the Smokey Mountain National Park.

2)  The fire destroyed or damaged many places in and near Gatlinburg, including a building containing a King James Version of the Bible.

3)  After the fire, the only remaining page from this Bible contained verses from the book of Joel that speak of the nearness of God’s fiery judgment on the earth during the Great Tribulation.

I do not believe it’s a coincidence that an entire Bible is destroyed by fire except for verses that relate to the Lord’s coming fiery judgment on the world know as the day of the Lord.

I believe the Lord engineered the sequence of events so this page would be found as a warning that this day is indeed coming and may soon be upon us.

I believe the Lord engineered the sequence of events so this page would be found as a warning that this day is indeed coming and may soon be upon us.

As we see our world increasingly reject Jesus and His Words, as we see the violence throughout  our world and grieve as the most innocent among us are murdered each day in abortion clinics, and as we see evil in our world grow worse every day, it’s easy to think the Lord does not see and has forgotten His promise to setup His righteous kingdom someday. Does He really see what’s going on in our world? Will He ever bring justice to the nations?

Christ is coming again!

The finding of this page tells me that the Lord indeed sees what is happening today on the earth and has not forgotten both the warnings and promises He made through the Old Testament prophets and throughout the New Testament. Christ is coming again!

We do not know when Jesus will return for His church and the tribulation will begin. It may be very soon or it may be years later. Jesus said we would not know the day or the hour of His return.

We sense from this discovery, however, that time is running out on our world.

The world needs Jesus more than ever. All the judgments described in the book of Joel are surely coming and are about to be poured out on a Christ-rejecting world. God is not distant; He’s not asleep. He sees the evil throughout our world and He will surely respond.

The finding of the page in the fire does not make the message of the book of Joel any truer than it was before the fire; it’s always been God’s Word. The finding of the verses in the midst of the fire, however, certainly adds urgency to the message of the book for us today.

Before then, we have the opportunity to repent. The Lord, through the prophet Joel, also called upon the Israelites of his day to repent and return to Him (Joel 2:11-14). His words apply to us today as well, “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

The finding of the page in the fire does not make the message of the book of Joel any truer than it was before the fire; it’s always been God’s Word. The finding of the verses in the midst of the fire, however, certainly adds urgency to the message of the book for us today.

It’s not an accident that these verses from the book Joel are now everywhere on the news for people to see.

If anything, God is saying that this day is getting ever so close. Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you eagerly waiting for His return as the apostles encourage us to do throughout the New Testament? Do you realize this world is not your home?

Do you know that you stand at the portal of eternity?

If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so. If you need more information, please contact me and I will walk you through what is means to call upon the Lord.

Trump Versus Our Witness

White House.jpg

This post will be quite controversial to some of you, but as I have listened to several Christian leaders over the past week voice contempt for Trump while remaining totally silent regarding the evil Hillary represents, something stirred deep inside me. I cannot keep silent. This may be a Bonhoeffer moment for our nation (I’ll explain later).

Like many people, I felt grief at hearing the latest revelation of what Donald Trump said eleven years ago. I did not listen to the statement, but heard enough about it to know it was shameful.

Later, I listened to his apology a couple times and believed he was sincere. I felt relief as I listened to his expression of regret for his words.

My relief, however, turned to sadness as I read the reaction of many Christian leaders to Trump’s apology, many of whom refused to accept his apology as genuine or forgive Trump for what he said.

Some even say a Trump victory will kill the church. That’s absurd at best!

The reason most give for not supporting Trump is that such backing would compromise our witness as believers to our neighbors and keep them away from the Savior. Some even say a Trump victory will kill the church. That’s absurd at best!

I believe these often repeated assertions are based on several misleading assumptions.

They Assume Hillary Supporters will be Most Open to the Gospel

The reasoning that supporting Trump will cause many to reject Christ has at its heart the assumption Hillary supporters will be more open to the Gospel than those voting for Trump. Why else would they fear such a negative response toward the Gospel from those around them?

Those voting for Trump are not likely to reject the Savior because we as believers support him. Why would they?

If those who do not vote had strong anti-Trump feelings, they would vote for Hillary.

As for Hillary supporters, why would those voting for someone who proclaims that we as believers are deplorable and phobia-ridden for holding to biblical values be more open to our faith than Trump supporters? That does not make sense to me.

They Assume We Need a Perfect Candidate

Many Christians scrutinize Trump as though he was in the running to head up the women’s ministry at their local church. If that were the case then yes, Trump might not be the most ideal candidate.

He is running to be President; he does not need to perfect or have a spotless way of life. Who does? The condemning audio happened eleven years ago and he has apologized. Does God still hold us accountable for our words eleven years ago? No! He forgives our sins! Why do so many deny Trump the forgiveness they themselves enjoy for sins just as bad (if not worse) as that of Trump?

Our presidents do not have to be perfect to accomplish great things.

Some of the world’s greatest leaders have not been perfect; below are James Dobson’s words regarding Winston Churchill:

I have always admired Winston Churchill. He is seen as one of the greatest national leaders in the 20th century. . . . He was not always celebrated as a great leader. He was a bombastic, cigar smoking, at times crude, even misogynistic leader.

It is alleged that he told off color stories to his children before bedtime! A woman once told him he was disgustingly drunk. His response was “My dear, you are disgustingly ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly!”

Along that same theme, Dobson said this about Trump,

So…is Donald Trump good for America? I honestly believe that he has been already. He has shaken the political system. Do his comments offend me? At times! Do I agree with all he says? Not at all! But could he be a “Cyrus” being raised up by God to preserve America?

Our presidents do not have to be perfect to accomplish great things.

They Assume Only Believers will Suffer if Hillary Become President

Many Christian leaders assert it would be good for the church to suffer the consequences of a Hillary presidency. They believe such suffering may spark revival. While this may certainly be the case if God in His sovereignty allows Hillary to win, it overlooks one key reality.

Christians will not be the only ones to suffer under a Hillary presidency!

The union of border patrollers recently voted overwhelmingly to support Trump. In their statement of support, they asserted that the immigration policies of Hillary would result in the deaths of thousands of Americans in the coming years.

She promises to raise taxes on everyone who pays them, has no answers to skyrocketing healthcare costs, and thinks food stamps are the answer to our economic ills.

In light of all this, do we really think our neighbors will be thrilled to discover we stayed home rather than vote for a flawed candidate? Do we really think our unwillingness to vote will make others more open to the Gospel once they experience the dire consequences of a Clinton victory? I don’t think so!

They Assume Our Unwillingness to Forgive Trump Will Make Others More Receptive to the Gospel

Somewhere buried in the thinking of these Christian leaders is the assumption that our unwillingness to forgive Trump will make others more receptive to the Gospel.

Have we gotten so far away from the message of grace that we think our unwillingness to forgive Trump will make us more winsome to others?

How does our adoption of the world’s unforgiving attitude make others more open to the Gospel? Hasn’t our message of forgiveness and mercy always been much more appealing?

Have we gotten so far away from the message of grace that we think our unwillingness to forgive Trump will make us more winsome to others? Did not Jesus condemn the Pharisees for this exact attitude?

Since When Does Our Allowing Evil to Prosper Further God’s Purposes?

Perhaps you may think it extreme that I consider a Clinton presidency to be evil, but when you look at all we know about her a compelling case can be made in this regard. Consider the evidence:

  • The e-mails just released show her to be vile, foulmouthed, and disgustingly antagonistic of blacks, Muslims, Catholics, and even voters in her own party.
  • She supports abortion up until birth and publically proclaims that Christianity must be changed to accept abortion as well.
  • She destroyed 33,000 e-mails after Congress had subpoenaed them as evidence; she also physically destroyed cell phones with a hammer to hide the same evidence.
  • She lied to the families of the Benghazi survivors and then later accused them of lying.
  • She believes in a one world government and if elected will continue the push for a socialistic world order that will as Obama clearly stated at the UN, mean that we will need to surrender “some of our rights and freedoms.”

My question is this: since when does allowing evil to succeed further God’s purposes? Yes, I totally recognize God’s sovereignty; He may allow Hillary to become president and use that for His purposes. Perhaps her election would trigger events leading to the rapture and Great Tribulation.

But at this point all we know is that we have an opportunity to stop the evil Hillary represents. Why step aside and let evil prevail by allowing her to claim the presidency?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous Lutheran pastor put to death by the Nazis said this, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I believe this may very well be the Dietrich Bonhoeffer moment for our country

We will not have another opportunity to turn back the growing tide of evil spreading across our nation. If elected, Hillary will hasten the setting up of the coming satanic and demonic world order.

Not to vote, or voting third party, equals a vote for Hillary. Not to speak up against the evil she represents through our voting is to speak in favor of that evil. There is no third option in this election!

This election most certainly is not a matter of refusing to vote for the lessor of two evils. That old and worn out analysis does not match the reality of this election!

Hillary, based on the sample of items I listed above, is evil. In fact, I do not know of any Christian leader who denies that she is desperately evil.

Trump, while not the most perfect of candidates, is certainly not evil. If that were the case, do you think godly men who know him such as James Dobson, Ben Carson, Mike Pence, and Mike Huckabee would all so highly endorse him? There is no way on earth these highly respected men of God would endorse someone who is evil.

This is NOT a matter of voting for the lessor of two evils! It’s matter of taking stand against the evil that Hillary represents by voting for Trump.

There is no third option in this election!

We either vote for Trump, who I believe is becoming a better candidate with each passing day, or we allow evil to gain an even greater foothold in our nation.

Not to vote, or voting third party, equals a vote for Hillary. Not to speak up against the evil she represents through our voting is to speak in favor of that evil. There is no third option in this election! It’s either Hillary or Trump!

 

Desire Breeds Hope

lake

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

Does God Keep His Promises?

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“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

 

 

It’s Coming, Possibly Soon

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The small sign flashed through the darkness, “I80 Closed Ahead.”

Tired from almost 14 hours of traveling, I drove past both the sign and nearby exit before fully processing the message. I soon began telling myself the message couldn’t possibly be true. If the interstate was truly closed ahead, there would have been a much bigger sign warning of its closure. Besides, very few cars were getting off at the exit by sign. Like me, almost everyone else kept going. I also knew of another upcoming exit; I still had time to get off the highway before being stopped.

Within a few miles I saw the flashing lights of a police car and slowly rolled to a stop. Interstate 80 was closed!

As I reflect on my response to the warning sign that night, I realize many explain away God’s warnings in Scripture regarding the tribulation in much the same way. They drive past the way of escape offered through Jesus’ death on the cross thinking the world around them will never change. Almost everyone else is going their way, what could possibly go wrong?

Scripture repeatedly warns of a coming time of terrible tribulation upon the earth. The prophet Jeremiah referred to this period as “time of Jacob’s trouble.”[i] Jesus Himself described a future time of great tribulation in Matthew 24:15-29 as He warned of terrible conditions on earth just before His return in glory. The book of Revelation provides alarming details of this time of God’s wrath yet to come upon the world.

The coming tribulation will affect everyone reading this post, possibly quite soon. Either you will be caught up to forever be with Jesus before it starts or witness the beginning of this terrible time of suffering on the earth.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Today, we see signs of the coming Great Tribulation upon the earth everywhere. In Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus gave us signs of what the world would look like as this time of tribulation approached.

It’s almost as if Jesus opened a laptop and read current news stories from the Internet to His disciples when He spoke of the signs of the coming tribulation.

Today, we see these signs everywhere we look. It’s almost as if Jesus opened a laptop and read current news stories from the Internet to His disciples when He spoke of the signs of the coming tribulation. Here are a few of the signs we see of the coming Great Tribulation:

Earthquakes: Earthquakes are following this exact pattern as the number and severity of earthquakes have rapidly increased during the past 20 years.  They are increasing like birth pangs, exactly as Jesus predicted.

Wars: “Wars and rumor of wars” abound in today’s news stories. Just today I read a news item where “experts” say we are closer to WW III than at any time in the previous 60 years.

Persecution: Persecution of Christians worldwide continues to dramatically increase, just as Jesus said would happen ahead of the coming tribulation.

The Temple: Jesus spoke of a Jewish Temple that the antichrist would defile halfway through the tribulation. Signs of this coming temple appear almost every day. The Temple Institute is now training Levites to be priests and the Sanhedrin recently named the high priest for this temple.

One World Government: The framework for the one world government of the tribulation is already in place. Those planning this coming world order are not hiding their plans and agenda; it’s no secret as to what they are planning. By 2030 the elite plan to have this worldwide socialist order in place with all nations of the world under one leader.

There is an Exit

There was an exit by the sign that night that would have allowed me to miss the traffic jam on Interstate 80. In the same way, Jesus is our only way of escape from the coming wrath that will befall the world.

Jesus made it clear that He alone is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him.[ii] If you have never placed your faith in Jesus and His death on the cross for your sins, please do so before it is too late. Scripture promises that all who call upon “the name of the Lord will be saved.”[iii] Turn to Jesus; look to Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. He is the only place of refuge in a world heading for calamity.

John 3:16 assures us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” These familiar words hold the promise of life for all who believe. Jesus died so that we might have eternal life.

The “I80 Closed Ahead” sign is flashing brighter than ever before in history. Do not make the same mistake with your eternal destiny that I made that night in ignoring the flashing sign and driving past the exit. My failure to heed the warning led to a temporal delay in getting home. Rejecting Jesus and His gracious offer of salvation will have eternal consequences far beyond the coming Great Tribulation.

Please understand this does not mean we desire to see suffering on the earth or the deaths of so many people as will occur during the tribulation. That is most definitely not our hope. Our hope is in Jesus’ appearing and our desire is that as many people as possible find Him as their Savior before this time of tribulation begins.

I see God’s hand of restraint in so many areas around the world. How much longer will He hold back the evil and destruction that seem ready to explode to an even greater degree in our nation and throughout the world?

Without Jesus’ intervention, however, the world is on a path to total self-destruction in which all human life will be lost.[iv] Jesus made it clear that without His return after the tribulation all life on earth would perish. God’s judgments during the tribulation will be warnings for people to repent, which millions of people will do and find eternal life in Him.

We do not know when Jesus will come for His church. I believe everything is in place for the tribulation to begin; it’s just a matter of time before God’s patience comes to an end and Jesus appears to take us home!

While things may seem bad now, Paul tells that the restrainer now actively works to hold back the antichrist until the time is right for the day of the Lord, or the tribulation to begin (see 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). When that happens, things will get much worse in our world in a big hurry.

I see God’s hand of restraint in so many areas around the world. How much longer will He hold back the evil and destruction that seem ready to explode to an even greater degree in our nation and throughout the world?

[i] Jeremiah 30:7 (KJV)       [ii] John 14:6       [iii] Romans 10:13     [iv] See Matthew 24:22

The Dangers of Silence

Compared to when I was growing up, the church is deafly silent on the matter of future things.

What is going on that makes our churches so quiet on prophecy? Why do pastors gloss over prophetic references in their sermon texts avoiding references to the future hope of believers? The Apostle Paul refers to our hope of Jesus’ imminent appearing in almost every book he wrote, yet somehow the topic never comes up in sermon series from these epistles.

Some might ask: Why does that matter? Does it really make a difference if our churches remain quiet on future things?

I believe it makes a huge difference! Here are a few of the dangers resulting from the current pervasive silence on eschatology, or study of future things, in our churches:

1. Postings on the Internet can become the main source of information on prophetic matters rather than God’s Word

When churches remain silent on prophecy, believers who are curious look for answers where most everyone else looks for answers today, on the Internet. There they find a wide array of teachings and opinions, some biblical but many bizarre and misleading. Some believers possess the needed scriptural discernment to sort through the mess, but others lack this and as a result become easily swayed by what they read. Even well-grounded Christians can fall prey to the misinformation on the Internet if they are not careful.

A quick question for pastors reading this: Is the Internet really the only place you want those in your church studying prophecy? Would it not be better for you to provide the biblical guidance they so desperately need?

2. False teachings flourish

Without sound biblical teaching in our churches on future things, people become misled by what they read on the Internet or in various books on eschatology. The silence of so many churches on future things has opened the door wide for false teachings to flourish. This is precisely what we see today; teachings that deny our hope in Jesus’ imminent appearing are rapidly growing in popularity.

When pastors fail to proclaim the “whole counsel of God,” they do not provide the needed protection against the enemies of the Gospel (see Acts 20:26-30). Paul called these false teachers “grievous” or “fierce wolves” and rightly so. Sound biblical teaching on eschatology is so greatly needed today with the presence of so many false teachers.

3. Believers look to this life for their hope

Churches that ignore the two-world perspective of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 focus the hope of believers on this life rather than eternity. We need teaching on such things as healthy marriages, parenting, finances, etc., but without an eternal perspective these things quickly become the goal and hence the hope of many. When the focus of teaching and preaching becomes this life alone, those listening will of course put their hope in this life. It’s no mystery when churches ignore our thrilling future hope that those in the pews regard this life as their home. This is the case in so many churches in America.

I am not saying that pastors want those in their church to regard this world as their ultimate home; their silence on prophecy, however, accomplishes this end whether intentional or not.

4. Believers are not prepared for what is coming

The storm clouds gathering on the horizon threaten to sweep away all of the props of this life, all the things to which so many of us look for our hope. Are we prepared for that to happen?

Today we read of threats from massive terror attacks, powerful earthquakes, deadly volcanoes, global wars, as well as total economic collapse. It’s not just the portrayers of doom saying these things, but respected and knowledgeable experts in each of these areas predicting such things.

Yes, Jesus may come for His church before any of these things happen. That, however, still represents a different hope than that of many of Christ’s followers today. Those in Christ will not miss out on the rapture. But will those also look to the things of this world as sources of hope be among those who feel shame once in the presence of their Savior (1 John 2:28)?

In addition, can we really be sure that the violent persecution of believers we see throughout the world will not occur here in America before Jesus returns for us? Are we ready should that happen?

How much longer can our churches keep quiet about our hope? As prophecy starts to be fulfilled all around us in dramatic ways, why are our pastors not pleading with us to look up because our redemption is near? Paul certainly was not silent regarding the hope Jesus’ soon appearing and he did not see even a small fraction of all the telling signs we see today.

This is why I write; I feel an urgent need to turn our eyes toward the return of Jesus and the thrill of our eternal hope. We cannot know for sure when Jesus will return, but we see signs all around us of the coming tribulation and we sense it cannot be a whole lot longer till He returns for us.

Today a great need exists for followers of Christ to know the source of their ultimate hope and why they can be confident, based on Scripture, of that hope.

Eternity

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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.” 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.”[i] We all fight this tendency. It’s all too easy to think this moment as all we have and ignore eternity or “make a nothing” of our glorious hope.

Scripture, however, continually points the eyes of our hearts to the joy that awaits us in eternity.

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.”

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

Our lives in eternity will not disappoint even our most imaginative or fanciful pictures of what 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.

The Isaiah passage dispels our inclinations to dismiss eternity as nothing and solely focus on the joys of 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.

We will never experience sadness over anything lost from this life. Jesus’ promise to “make all things new” in Revelation 21:5 brings wonderful assurance of the joy ahead for us. We will never mourn the loss of our current life. The newness of eternity will never fade; we will always bask in it joy.

Revelation 21:9-26 describes the new Jerusalem where we will dwell for all eternity. This immense and beautiful city will be our home forevermore. Scripture also speaks of a new earth, one where creation will restored to its intended glory before sin entered into the world. It will be spectacular beyond what we cam imagine!

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 mentioned in 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?”[ii] I love to explore nature and enjoy all the wonderful views of the mountains, lakes, and oceans. I recently drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway enjoying the vast beauty of God’s creation. If this earth now can show forth God’s glory with such majesty, what will it be like in eternity? I can only imagine.

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

The grandeur of what lies ahead will be so much greater than anything we could ever conceive. We will reign with Christ during the millennium and then throughout eternity. 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. Its joys and pleasures never end.

[i] Eldredge, John, Desire, p.110-111

[ii] Ibid. p 119