Why Do We Keep Watching?

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For a moment, I actually thought the rapture was occurring. I heard a trumpet blaring and for a brief moment I felt as though something was pulling me upward.

This happened when I was in college, over 40 year ago, during a time when I had been reading extensively about the rapture. Late one warm afternoon, I fell asleep at my desk in my dorm room. Suddenly, the sound of a loud trumpet fanfare awoke me from a deep sleep and I thought “this is it; the Lord is returning!” After a few seconds, I realized it was the sound of a trumpet warming up for a nearby band rehearsal.

I tell this humorous experience to stress that I have been watching for the Lord’s return for a long time, although not always that intently. After so many decades I do sometimes wonder, “Why do I keep watching? Why do any of us keep looking for Jesus to come and take us home?

It’s the Signs

Unlike when I was in college, today we see signs of biblical prophecies escalating all around us. The countries of Iran, Russian, and Turkey all have troops in Syria just as Ezekiel 38-39 predicts about an alliance of these same nations in the last days. Just in the past few weeks the world learned the following:

  • Iran is building a military base just eight miles north of Damascus that will soon have missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel
  • North Korea has shipped components for chemical weapons to Syria along with building materials for a facility to build these weapons
  • Russia said it would regard any nuclear attack on one of its allies as an attack on Russia (Could they be thinking that Israel might consider using such weapons against the Iranian base?)
  • Putin, the president of Russia, recently boasted of new nuclear capabilities on rockets that will travel several times the speed of sound rendering our defenses useless.
  • Russian has stationed super stealth jets in Syria, perhaps as an added deterrent to Israel attacking the Iranian base
  • A top military leader in Israel stated that a major war between Israel and Iran is likely in 2018.

What do all these things mean? When (not if) Israel attacks this Iranian base, the likelihood of it leading to major conflict appears almost certain.

Could this be the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38-39? We cannot know for certain. Even if it is a lessor conflict than the one the prophet predicted long ago, will it not almost certainly lead to the bigger war of Ezekiel 38-39 as Iran regathers its strength to invade Israel?

Add this to the mix the recent Iranian Parliament request for a timetable of one or two years for pulling its troops out of Syria. Is it possible that Iran, along with Russia and Turkey will strike before then? I believe if Iran’s Parliament enacts such a deadline, it’s likely this coalition will attack before that time.

And now Turkey is talking about a huge Arab coalition attacking Israel with a massive army. The drumbeats of the Gog-Magog war are getting louder.

What Do These Signs Have to Do with the Rapture?

At this point, you may be wondering what these signs have to do with the rapture. Why does the nearness of the Gog-Magog War point to the Lord’s return for His church?

Such a war would signify that the tribulation period is extremely close. Some commentators believe this war happens just before the Great Tribulation while some hold that it might happen right at its beginning. Either way, the nearness of this war points to the closeness of the seven-year time of God’s wrath upon the earth.

If the tribulation is rapidly approaching, and many signs point to it, then the rapture must be even closer since it is prophesied to happen just before the start of the Great Tribulation.

The growing turmoil in Syria and Iran’s constant threats against Israel are just two of numerous signs that we are living in the days of human history as we know it. If there was ever a time in history when the rapture could happen at any moment, this is it!!

The Early Church Watched As Well

Long, long before my experience in college at John Brown University, the earliest followers of Jesus also watched intently for His appearing to take them home. We see it all through the New Testament as turning to Christ meant waiting eagerly for Him to come (1 Thess. 1:9-10; Phil. 3:20-21; Titus 2:11-13).

The Didache, which means “teaching” in the Greek, is a brief document from the early years of the church that provides valuable insight into the anticipation of early believers for the return of Jesus. This document summed up the teaching of the apostles at a time when copies of the New Testament were not available or scarce at best. It provides a summary of what the apostles taught.

Chapter 16 of The Didache says this, “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come.”  These words indicate an immanency regarding the Lord’s appearing, such as would be the case for someone expecting Jesus’ return to occur at any moment. The early saints regarded Jesus’ command in Matthew 24:44 to mean they must watch for His appearing. They had the same expectancy as the New Testament saints.

I admit that after all these years it’s at times difficult to keep up a sense of watchfulness.

However, I then consider the signs and I also wonder about Israel’s upcoming seventieth anniversary, the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, and the new peace plan that is coming out soon from the United States.

As I hear about all these things added on to the events in Syria, my sense of eager watchfulness returns. It’s possible Jesus will return for us quite soon!

 

O Lord, How Long?

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It’s almost too much to bear. I want to do more; I want to do so much more but I do not even know where to start.

I hear about the evils of the horrific sex trafficking and wonder now how people can be so wicked. And yet, this practice (undoubtedly inspired by demons) rakes in untold billions of dollars every year as pedophilia becomes more and more accepted in our society, much in the same way homosexuality became increasingly accepted decades earlier.

A year or two ago I watched videos of Planned Parenthood executives boasting about the dismembering and selling of baby parts and thought, “Surely Congress will take action against this atrocity.” Instead, I watched as leaders of the Republican Party supported the continued funding of this vile organization with our tax money. A couple weeks ago, I saw Democratic Senators celebrate the defeat of a bill that would have at least stopped the wicked practice of abortion after twenty weeks. How can these things be?

I delayed posting this article because of the Florida school shooting.  My heart grieves for the families who lost loved ones and for the students who are scarred with memories of that day. Senseless and brutal killing fill our world in the horrors of abortion clinics, in the churches of Nigeria, Egypt, and Sutherland Texas, and with the nonstop killing propagated by terrorists throughout our world. And now, even in our schools.

So I write for the few that will read my ramblings, I pray for the Lord to intervene, I look to what Scripture says about the last days, and I wonder, “How long?” Is this not what the Lord said would happen before His return?

Perilous Times

I like the New King James Version reading of 2 Timothy 3:1, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.” Then the Apostle Paul goes on to describe the people of the last days as “heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:3-4, ESV).

For all the evils I listed above to become so prevalent in our world, these things must characterize many people, do they not? For those involved in the sex trade, do they not need to be “brutal” and “treacherous” to say nothing of the strong demonic influence over them? Absolutely! Do these traits not also describe the doctors at Planned Parenthood who spend their days torturing and murdering precious little bundles of life?

The problem of violence in our world is a heart and spiritual one. The rejection of Jesus and His words has opened the door for increased violence and demonic activity. It will only get worse as our society turns more and more away from the promises of our Savior and continues to see life as a product of godless evolution rather than as a gift from God to be valued and cherished.

What Is the End of All This?

When I look at the evils and violence in our world I feel much like Habakkuk when he voiced this complaint to the Lord regarding ancient Judah, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence’ and you will not save?”

The Lord’s response to the prophet was basically this; He saw what was happening in Judah during the time of the prophet and would respond appropriately to the all the wickedness and violence.

God later gave Habakkuk a vision that I believe also applies to the Lord’s still future outpouring of His wrath upon sinful humanity. The Lord said this about what He would show to the prophet, “For still the vision awaits it 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” (Hab. 2:3). In other words, God would have the last word on things then, He will have the last word on all the evils that is happening in our world today.

To me, at times the Lord seems rather slow to respond to the wickedness and violence in our world, but I know His day is surely coming.  In the meantime, the Lord is graciously giving time for believers to wake up and watch for His coming and for those outside the faith to repent and become heirs of eternal life.

Back in the 1970’s as I read God’s judgments in the book of Revelation, I wondered what would cause the Lord to be so angry with humanity as to pour out His wrath in such a great and terrible way. As I look at the world around me today, that question no longer enters my mind.

Instead, I ask the same question that the Psalmist asked, “O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exalt?” (Psalm 94:3).

It’s not that I desire for God’s judgments to fall or for people to suffer; I do not wish these things on anyone. What I desire is justice for those who cruelly and viciously murder the unborn and for those who engage in all aspects of the vile behavior associated with sex trafficking.

The Lord will have the last word on all these things; count on it!

Scripture tells me two things in this regard. First, God will respond to the wickedness and violence in this world. Someday, perhaps soon, the Lord will have the last word on all these things. Count on it! And when He does they will wish they had never been born.

Second, many prophetic signs indicate that the day when the Lord pours out His wrath on sinful humanity is rapidly approaching. However, this day is being held back only by the Lord’s patience to give as many people as possible more time to repent. Jesus said earth at the time of His return would be like the days of Noah (Matt. 24:37-39). That was another time when God saw that “the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11). Does this not also sound like today?

Just as He intervened in the days of Noah, He will do so again. Please do not be like the scoffers of 2 Peter 3:3-9. Recognize the reason for His delay and watch!

I am thankful for the Lord’s patience with me and with humanity, but still I ask, “O Lord, how long?’

 

We Are Summoning Up Demons

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(Below is an article written by Jan Markell about artificial intelligence [AI]. As Jan explains, AI is not something that is coming in the future; it is here now and developing far more quickly than even its founders imagined. Many of them are sounding the alarm about it. Is this setting the stage for the tribulation? How far will God let this go?

The Billy Crone videos mentioned later in the article are long, but quite fascinating, informative, and well worth the time.)

I started watching videos online of robots who look human and who “think.” They answer questions and seem to process real thoughts. Developers of these robots say someday they will solve society’s problems. Such men also believe that it is possible for artificial intelligence to be a billion times smarter than humans. Try to process that!

Various leaders in the field of “AI” have made some of the following statements:

  • “The human era could be ending and machines will take over.”
  • “He who develops AI rules the world. We aren’t going to be able to control it.”
  • “We are summoning up demons.”
  • “We are playing with fire.”
  • “This is one of the dumbest things we can do.”
  • “Soon robots will walk among us. They will play with us, teach us, and they will truly be our friends.”
  • “AI will be smarter than humans and will become a god.”
  • “AI could become the worst event in the history of civilization.”
  • “In the end, the machines will win.”

Maybe this new religion isn’t the promise of paradise after all. Some promoting AI are evangelists and some of them offer a new Promised Land. But some of the very movers and shakers of the artificial intelligence industry are sounding serious warnings.

This is really not the wave of the future as it is all being employed now! Outfits like Google have every bit of information on us they need: Address, e-mail, occupation, history, photos, our family, our interests, our searches. Simply stated, they have all our vitals.

So how will this play into Antichrist’s agenda? Will this manage all buying and selling? We want tech companies to work for us but we end up fitting into their plans and purposes! Dare I say, we are almost their useful idiots.

We’re all aware of the biblical prophecy found in Daniel 12:4 that knowledge will increase in the last days. But machines smarter than people? Surely God would never allow that to happen. He created mankind in His image and He didn’t create them to be superseded by computer chips. That is not stopping man from trying!

In 1948 there was a milestone event as it concerns “signs of the times.” That was the re-birth of Israel 70 years ago. Are we in the generation of a more current sign that could involve end-time technology, the “image of the beast,” “mark of the beast”, etc? Could this wave of technology be as relevant as the stirring of the dry bones? We look at that 1948 happening in a rear-view mirror. Technology is a 21st century fulfillment.

Viewing one now-famous robot, Sophia, is a bit unnerving. YouTube loves to feature her and has introduced her to millions. She is attractive, clothed, looks you in the eye, and answers your questions. She can be your friend, companion, problem solver, and perhaps someday, your spouse. At the very least, she will run your errands and put away your groceries. In the wrong hands, she will be dangerous.

Young people are particularly drawn to artificial intelligence. Some will tell you that they can get an answer more quickly from Google or Alexa than they can from God. Who needs God in an age of artificial intelligence? Who needs an invisible God? And Google or Alexa may tell you what you want to hear in Technicolor, 3-D, and instantaneously! Don’t brush this off as silliness. It’s our world today. Welcome to the brave new world.

Google admits that they want to be like the mind of God and suggests we will be “godlike.” They are grabbing bundles of data from us. There is a “home invasion” going on by the world of technology. If you think you have privacy, think again! We are being monitored and this is not crazy talk. It is not sensationalism. It is not kooky conspiracy language.

The world of “Big Brother” exists and will be in full bloom during the Tribulation from which the Church is absent. And as I quoted above, an inventor admits, “This is one of the dumbest things we can do.” It has a very dark side.

In late January I featured artificial intelligence expert Pastor Billy Crone on air for a two-week series on AI. You can access the programs from January 20-21 and January 27-28 here or here.

You may not be skilled in technology and you may think this doesn’t affect your life but it does. And it’s a guarantee that younger people in your world are captivated by all of this.

Things are falling into place.

AI cannot speak anything into existence or give anyone eternal life. It cannot give anyone comfort, guidance, or offer anyone peace or hope. It cannot still the wind or calm the sea. It is more like Frankenstein than like God. It is trying to be like God but will fall far short! We are fearfully and wonderfully made. AI is fearfully fraudulent.

Stay ahead of the game and become informed. Events of the Tribulation are casting a shadow today. The shout and the trumpet are close. He is coming soon! God sits in the Heavens and laughs at these people (Psalm 2).He will allow them a short season of notoriety and then will crush the evil doers at His Second Coming.

Jesus, Hatred, and the Last Days

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The new Ten Commandments monument outside the state Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas after someone crashed into it with a vehicle.

Did you know that hatred is a sign of the last days?

In Matthew 24:9-10 Jesus said this, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.” Amidst all the other signs of which we are so familiar, Jesus lists hatred, particularly against His followers, as an indication of the end times.

Today, see hatred everywhere in our world. Opponents of Christianity killed an estimated 90,000 believers in 2016 and opposition to our faith has not diminished since then. Anti-Semitism is epidemic across Europe that has led to many Jews fearing for their lives, especially in France.

The apostle Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, describes the godlessness of the last days. Although he does not use the word hatred, he aptly describes the divisive, angry, and intolerable culture of our day.

It Begins with Arrogance

The hatred we see permeating our society starts in the heart. William Barclay, famous New Testament commentator, put it this way, “But the sin of the man who is arrogant is in his heart. He might even seem to be humble; but in his secret heart there is contempt for everyone else. He nourishes an all-consuming, all-pervading pride; and in his heart there is a little altar where he bows down before himself.”

Does not Barclay’s definition of one who is arrogant (2 Tim. 3:2) capture what we are seeing today? It’s not enough to have an opinion, but today it so often comes with spiteful “contempt” for all those who disagree. It’s this pride that leads so many to ridicule opinions of which they disagree.

The craft of making a well-reasoned case to support one’s point of view has degenerated into the art of personally destroying one’s political opponent. Arrogance breeds a sense that “of course those who think differently than me cannot be right; therefore I am justified in using whatever means necessary to destroy my opponent.” It’s all about the politics of personal destruction at the expense of truth.

Abusive and Slanderous

The next word in Paul’s list after “arrogant” is “abusive.” This word denotes someone who insults God as well as other men and women. It’s the verbal expression of contempt that begins in the heart of one who is arrogant that finds its expression in slandering the good name of others.

The most common derogatory label today is “racism.” If someone does not agree with this person’s point of view, he or she must be a “racist” or a “bigot’ or possess some dark and evil phobia. Political victories today are often measured in one’s ability to convince the majority that one’s opponent is a racist, even if you must lie about what was said behind closed doors or twist words to make ones opponent appear to hate others.

Did I mention that Paul also used the word “brutal” to describe people living in the last days?

In verse 3, the apostle depicts people during the last days as “slanderous.” We live in a day where false accusations are the norm rather than the exception. A recent news article told of one attorney who sought to give large sums of money to women who would accuse President Trump of sexual harassment or worse.

Daymond Duck, one of my favorite writers on the Rapture Ready website, said this, “Sexual harassment and racism are definitely wrong, but character assassination to silence a person that someone disagrees with is also wrong. Slandering people, ruining their reputation, calling them names, and getting them fired is not of God.”

How Should we Respond?

First, I believe our response must be one of respect for the opinions of others. Just because we vehemently disagree with someone does not mean we cannot value their opinions or ideas. It’s sometimes difficult for me to argue my case without getting carried away, but I must remember that I can be confident of what I believe without impugning the intelligence of others.

Secondly, we must understand the times in which we live. We are living in the last days of human history as we know them; the dark days of the tribulation are rapidly approaching. What we see in our world is precisely what the Lord Jesus said would happen during this time; it should not surprise us.

Our focus must be on bringing others to the Savior rather than convincing them of our political agenda. I have reached the conclusion that I really do not care what others think of President Trump. What matters is drawing people to the Savior, not to my assessment of the President.

And lastly, there is the aspect of humility. This does not mean compromising beliefs or telling someone they may be right when what they believe contradicts Scripture. For me, it starts with recognizing that the source of truth is not in me or even in my ability to recognize it. It starts with Jesus, my risen Savior. He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and rose from the dead to prove that His words, His claims are true.

The beliefs that I cherish start with Scripture and my confidence does not come from my abilities to reason or debate but from Jesus and what the Lord reveals through His word.

Yes, the world will hate followers of Christ for our beliefs on abortion, same sex marriage, gender identification, Islam, and the like, but such hatred is exactly what Jesus said would happen, especially in the last days before His return to earth.

What I see in the world around me saddens my heart. People are becoming increasingly vicious and cruel in their blasphemy of both Christ and His followers. But I also know a much better day is coming with Jesus’ peace and righteousness will reign supreme over the entire world.

Maranatha!!

Why Must There be a Third Temple?

 

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Model of the Proposed Third Temple in Jerusalem

 

President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked much talk of the third temple. The people of Israel have already shown great support for a new temple; now the excitement for this is even stronger than before in light of President Trump’s announcements.

Is this renewed anticipation in itself prophetic? Yes it is. Scripture tells us there will be such a temple at least by the midpoint of the coming tribulation. As such, the indicators pointing to its construction tell us that this time is getting closer.

We will start with the prophecy and then explain what it means.

The Prophecy

In Matthew 24 Jesus said this about an event that will take place during the tribulation, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place . . .” (v. 15). Here Jesus refers to another prophecy where Daniel tells us that the antichrist will put an end to sacrifices at the temple for the second half of the seventieth week, or the time of tribulation (Dan. 9:27).

Revelation 11:2 records the instructions the apostle John received to measure the temple during the time of the tribulation. It’s curious that the voice tells him not to measure to outer courts of the temple because “it has been given to the Gentiles.” This fits perfectly with the proposed placement of the temple on the temple mount with the Al-Aqsa Mosque currently occupying the place where the outer courts would be.

Based on these prophecies, the Jews will build their third temple before the half-way point of the seven year tribulation. This will happen to fulfill the prophecy of Jesus regarding the antichrist’s desolation of the temple.

Has Jesus’ Prophecy Already Happened?

Some believe the prophecies of Matthew 24 happened in 70 AD when Titus and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. They claim this event fulfilled Jesus’ prediction regarding the “abomination of desolation” (v. 15) regarding the temple as well as His second coming, which they believe also happened at that time.

However, this does not take into account the writing of five books of the Bible after 70 AD that do not mention anything about the Lord’s return. The book of Revelation, written in about 95 AD, describes in detail the Lord’s return and the tribulation as future events. This date comes primarily from Irenaeus, who grew up in the church at Smyrna and was mentored in the faith by a disciple of the Apostle John. This timeframe is also confirmed by many internal evidences in Jesus’ messages to the churches in chapters 2-3.

In addition, both the apostle Paul and John refer to Jesus killing the antichrist when He returns (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:20). Titus, the Roman general, not only survived destroying the temple, he eventually became emperor over Rome.

There is no mention in history or in church history for that matter of Jesus’ return happening in the first century AD.  How could this happen without reference to in the first few centuries of the church? It’s impossible. When Jesus returns to earth, it is something the entire world will witness (Rev. 1:7).

The Preparation for the Third Temple

If the tribulation were to start today, could Israel finish the huge task of constructing the temple in three and a half years? Yes. This is truer today than a decade ago because of all the work that a group in Israel has already done in preparation for its construction.

The Temple Institute spent the last thirty years researching all the many facets of the temple. Consider a few of their preparations:

  • They spent $100K on the architectural drawings for the temple; one can even take a virtual tour of the temple design at the Temple Institute website.
  • They started a school to train Levites to serve as priests in the new temple.
  • They located the perfect red heifer for the purification sacrifice.
  • They have constructed several of the furnishings for the temple including the altar.
  • After years of research and finding the proper dyes, they have prepared the required garments for the priests and high priest.

A newly constituted Sanhedrin has also appointed a high priest to serve in the new temple. The picture at the top of the post shows him offering a sacrifice on the streets of Jerusalem.

In addition, the transportation department within the government of Israel recently announced it is planning the infrastructure to deal with the large crowds they expect will be coming to the newly constructed temple.

The Significance

What does this mean in terms of the nearness of the tribulation? It signifies that everything is ready for the building of the third temple as never before in history.

Many believe that the building of the temple will come about as the result of a peace treaty with Israel, perhaps the one initiated by the antichrist. If the covenant were to grant Israel permission to build its temple, t’s a reasonable assumption it could be ready within three and a half years. The Temple Institute recently boasted that once they have the necessary access to the temple mount, they could begin offering sacrifices on the Temple Mount within a matter of weeks.

The early church father Irenaeus wrote about the antichrist defiling a future temple in Jerusalem.  In his book Against Heresies, written about 180 AD, he wrote, “But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem.” Isaac Newton, after studying the books of Daniel and Revelation, came to the belief that God would restore Israel as a nation someday and that the antichrist would defile their temple after that.

We now see prophecy coming to life before our eyes. If after all these years we see so much progress toward the building of the temple, can the tribulation be very far away?

And if that is getting ever closer, how much more so Jesus’s return for us!