Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Now learn the parable of the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:32-35). The parable of the fig tree, appearing in what is known as the Olivet Discourse, is perhaps one of the most challenging passages of Scripture for Bible students. The challenge stems from the fact that Jesus appears to be predicting a particular period of time in which we can expect to witness His glorious and visible return to earth. In light of current events and the fact modern Israel has been around for over 74 years, I recently revisited this fascinating prophecy. You can read about my earlier musings on this prophecy here.
The Parable of the Fig Tree--The argument goes something like this: The fig tree represents the nation of Israel. The branch that becomes tender and puts forth its leaves refers to the rebirth of the nation in 1948. Therefore, the generation born around the time of Israel’s return to the land will be alive at the Second Coming of Christ. Sounds like a legitimate interpretation, but is this the correct interpretation of this particular passage of Scripture?
Many conclude this traditional interpretation cannot possibly be correct given Jesus’ words in verse 36: “But of that day and hour no one knows.” He said the same thing in Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Paul reiterated this in his first letter to the Thessalonian believers: “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you” (1 Thess. 5:1).
If you have been following my musings for any length of time you know that I believe the Bible says what it means and means what it says. In other words, God does not have a speech impediment. The rule of thumb I follow is, if the plain sense of the text makes sense; seek no other sense, lest you end up with nonsense. I follow this rule in every sermon a preach and every Bible study I teach and every article I right. With that in mind, how should we approach this difficult text?
Hank Hanegraaf, radio’s so called “Bible Answer Man,” and author of The Apocalypse Code (I do not recommend it), believes the entirety of Matthew 24 refers to events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Therefore, his conclusion is that the “this generation” of Matthew 24:34, refers to the generation alive at the time Jesus gave this prophecy. Since Jesus gave this prophecy around A.D. 32, or so, there were some still alive when the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.
Suffice it to say Hank is guilty of seeking “other sense” in this passage thus ending up with nonsense. He is a partial Preterist who is thoroughly confused on matters of eschatology. He believes all prophecy except for the Second Coming and the resurrection have already been fulfilled. Just to demonstrate how utterly ridiculous this interpretation is, consider the fact that the worldwide preaching of the kingdom, the tribulation period, the return of the Lord in visible glory, and the regathering of the elect of Israel have not yet occurred.
Another solution to this difficult passage is offered by the late Pastor Bob Dewaay. He believes this prophecy is used in a pejorative sense in the New Testament and is therefore qualitative and not setting a time limit. He sees the issue of “this generation” in the sense of Jewish hardness to the gospel and their rejecting Jesus as Messiah down through subsequent generations. He uses passages like Matt. 12:41-45, Luke 9:40-45, and Acts 2:40 to support his interpretation. His argument is well thought out and may very well be correct.
I will admit it is possible the fig tree here refers to Israel’s rebirth. However, I believe Jesus was using this parable to say that when the people of Israel see all the end times signs He described, they will know that His return is really near. Notice I said, “The people of Israel.” I believe the Olivet Discourse, though contained in three Gospels, is meant for Israel (or the Jewish people), and not the Church.
The fig tree is among the last to get its leaves in the spring. So when it begins to bud, you know that summer is really near. Therefore, when the people of Israel see all these signs they’ll know their redemption is near. Luke’s account drives this point home clearly: “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift of your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Another interpretation—one I like better than my own and it may very well be the correct interpretation—suggests Matthew 24:34 says that the generation born when the end times signs begin will still be alive when all signs are fulfilled and Jesus returns visibly to this planet. This interpretation aligns perfectly with my current position that with the exception of Israel's return to the Land, we are not witnessing signs today but rather prophetic trends pointing to future signs that will be fulfilled during Daniel's 70th Week.
According to Psalm 90:10, a biblical lifespan is 70 to 80 years. Many scholars agree that the first of the end times signs was the rebirth of Israel in 1948. Therefore, the generation born around 1948 can expect to see everything fulfilled in their lifetime. If this interpretation is correct we must keep in mind that Israel is recently 74 years as a nation. If a biblical lifespan is 70 to 80 years, what does this say about the lateness of the hour?
What does this say about the lateness of the hour? Israel has been a nation since May 14, 1948, sovereignly fulfilling Isaiah 66:7-9, and Ezekiel 36-37. Since that time the nations that made up the ancient Roman Empire have been coming back together in what is known as the European and Mediterranean Unions—a key End Time prophecy. Russia, for the very first time in history, has been entering into military and economic alliances with the nations described in Ezekiel 38-39. Jerusalem has become a heavy stone for all the nations of the world just like Zechariah predicted in Zech. 12:3.
But perhaps the key piece to understanding the lateness of the hour is found in Daniel 9:26-27. Here the prophet Daniel speaks of a pseudo-peace that is coming to the Middle East, between Israel and her enemies. The Bible gives us every reason to believe this peace will be brokered by a European—a descendant of the people who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70—the Romans. Daniel predicts this so called peace agreement will be forced upon the Israeli people. This is amazing considering the ongoing desire of world leaders to broker some kind of peace in the Middle East.
Although it is impossible and foolish to try and interpret prophecy to fit every headline, it is not impossible to see that things are happening in our world, the Middle East, and Israel in particular, that are setting the stage for what the Bible describes as the final act of history—the 70th Week of Daniel and return of Christ. Given the direction things seem to be headed, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see some talk in the near future about dividing the world into ten regions. The Bible is not silent on that and seems to indicate the so called Antichrist will arise from among ten kings in the latter days. With that, I have one final question: Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air? If not, your time is quickly running out!
“His power will be mighty, but not by his own power, and he will destroy to an extraordinary degree and prosper and perform his will; he will destroy mighty men and the holy people. And through his shrewdness he will cause deceit to succeed by his influence; and he will magnify himself in his heart, and through peace he shall destroy many. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, but he will be broken without human agency” (Daniel 8:24-25). According to Wikipedia, “Peace is a concept of societal friendship and harmony in the absence of hostility and violence.” This understanding of peace is passive in nature. It is the absence of war or other hostilities. Peace like this often seems elusive. Even when countries agree to peace terms, those terms often hang by a thread with the smallest misunderstanding resulting in a loss of peace and a return to hostilities.
Christianity affirms God alone is the source of true peace. The Bible teaches peace is possible but only through Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus and His finished work of redemption we can have spiritual peace with God (Romans 5:1). But the Bible also speaks of peace in the Age to Come. This peace will be achieved through Jesus Christ at His Second Coming when righteousness and justice will prevail for one thousand years (Revelation 20:4). Final judgment and the eternal state will commence shortly thereafter (Revelation 21). Leading up to His return to this earth, Jesus reminds us there will be “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:4). The Bible further predicts there will be hostilities and other unrest in that part of the world the biblical prophets were concerned about—Israel and the Middle East. Peace for this region, according to Bible prophecy, would seem elusive but a false peace would come at some future time when a man more cunning than anyone imaginable comes on the scene and seemingly brokers peace between Israel and her enemies.
Once again, the Bible bats one thousand when it comes to predicting the future. This time, the evidence points to two categories of events I like to call the anticipation for peace in the Middle East and addiction to Jerusalem. Consider this article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post on October 17, 2022—Israel slams Australia for revoking Jerusalem capital recognition—“The Australian government cited its belief that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved through peace negotiations.” No one seems to be concerned about the status of any other city on the planet except Jerusalem. Amazingly, this is exactly what the Bible predicts for the last days.
The quest for an elusive peace in the Middle East and the refusal to recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people not only indicates the biblical prophets got it right. It also indicates things are falling right into place on the road to Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Daniel 9:24-27). Again, from the article: “Australian Foreign Ministry Penny Wong said, “Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations [and] recommits Australia to international efforts in the responsible pursuit of progress towards a just and enduring two-state solution.”
The quest for an elusive peace in the Middle East points to a future time when a man comes on the scene who will seemingly broker the greatest peace deal the world has ever known. This peace deal, however, will end in destruction—“Through peace he shall destroy many” (Daniel 8:25). Furthermore, the Bible predicts the utter destruction of those who concern themselves with trying to tamper with or otherwise change the biblical status of Jerusalem as it relates to the Jewish people and God's everlasting covenant with them—“Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around… It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured” (Zachariah 12:2-3). World leaders are drunk over the status of Jerusalem, and it will not end well for them—just as the Bible predicts.
Finally, are you ready to see Jesus face-to-face? He’s coming soon for His bride—the church. Come to Jesus, confess your sin, and receive His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. I recently preached about Jesus' promise to return for His church. You can hear it at https://youtu.be/0zr7qkU5O4c.
“You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army; and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land” (Ezekiel 38:16). Synchronicity is defined as the simultaneous occurrence of causally unrelated events and the belief that the simultaneity has meaning beyond mere coincidence. The Bible predicts a last days alignment of nations in the world in general and the Middle East in particular. In fact, the Bible is so specific about this and other last days predictions that any honest observer would have to admit we have moved beyond mere coincidence to synchronicity. Something is definitely up. Current events suggest that the 2600-year-old prophecy of Ezekiel 38 may very well be on the near horizon.
The Jerusalem Post is reporting The Russia-Iran drone axis is now a global threat. The Post notes, “Russia’s use of Iranian drones in Ukraine is growing and it is clear that the threat now must be taken seriously not just in the Middle East or Ukraine, but on a global scale.” By itself the Post’s analysis might be categorized as just another article. When we consider the multitude of prophetic trends occurring in our world today, it’s almost uncanny how current headlines seem to leap right out of the pages of Scripture. Think synchronicity.
Are we really this close to the end-time scenario predicted by the biblical prophets? If the answer is yes, how much closer then are we to the next great event on God’s calendar—the Rapture of the Church.
Yes, we are really this close to the end-time scenario predicted by the biblical prophets. As we consider current events and prophetic prediction, I believe it would be naïve to draw any other conclusion. The stage is being set and it is the speed at which it is being set which causes me the most pause. The Bible is true. Things are unfolding just as the Bible predicted. Jesus is coming soon. Make peace with God now through Jesus Christ before the clock runs out. And, by the way, the prophetic clock notwithstanding, your clock could run out at any moment. “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days” (Psalm 39:4).
The Russia-Iran drone axis is just another indication the world is right on track for the fulfillment of the 2600-year-old prophecy of Ezekiel 38. Fifty years ago, the idea of a Russia-Iran economic and military alignment would have seemed laughable. But here we are.
This is not to suggest these things will happen in the next few weeks. Only God knows the exact timing for the fulfillment of all these things. But any honest observer would have to conclude their fulfillment is on the near horizon. Coupled with every other last days prophetic trend the timing picture becomes clearer—soon, a whole lot sooner than most folks are willing to believe.
Consider Ezekiel’s prediction for a particular end-times alignment of nations. But also consider other prophetic trends—Israel’s return to the Land and Jewish immigration to Israel; the search for peace in the Middle East; the movement to rebuild the Jewish Third Temple; worldwide addiction to the Jerusalem problem; the movement towards a global governance and economic system. Conclusion—The Bible is true, and the end-time scenario is quickly coming into focus. Think synchronicity.
Finally, are you ready to see Jesus face-to-face? He’s coming soon for His bride—the church. Come to Jesus, confess your sin, receive His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘This is the statue of the law which the LORD has commanded, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an unblemished red heifer in which is no defect and on which a yoke has never been placed’” (Numbers 19:1-2). What’s going on in Israel? A few weeks ago, a passenger flight from the United States touched down in Israel. This is not unusual because several passenger flights from the U.S. arrive daily in Israel. What made this particular flight unique was the special passengers traveling in the cargo hold—five potentially pure and unblemished red heifers.
What is the significance of the red heifer (red cow)? Numbers 19:1-10 describes the sacrifice of the red heifer and specifies the sacrificed heifer must be red, without defect or blemish, nor can a yoke ever have been placed upon it. This is the only instance where the color of the animal to be sacrificed is specified. Furthermore, the sacrifice was to occur away from the entrance to the tabernacle, “outside the camp,” according to Numbers 19:3. The Mosaic Law further describes this sacrifice is for purification purposes. But what does this have to do with the Jewish Third Temple?
According to Bible prophecy there will be a third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem during the last days just prior to the return of Christ. We do not know exactly when it will be built but we do know it will be in full operation by the midpoint of Daniel’s Seventieth Week (also known as The Tribulation) when the Antichrist will put a stop to sacrifices, enter the Holy of Holies, and declare himself to be God, and demand the whole world worship him, thus desecrating the Temple (see Matthew 24:15). In fact, Jesus referred to this event as the singular event signaling the beginning of the latter half of Daniel’s Seventieth Week which the Bible also refers to as The Great Tribulation (see Matthew 24:21). But what does all this have to do with the red heifer?
The Jews are ready to rebuild their Temple, but they cannot do so without sacrificing an unblemished red heifer for the purposes of priestly and temple ritual purification. Without the red heifer, the Temple service cannot be reinstated! Many believe the arrival of these five red heifers brings with them the very strong possibility for the first time in nearly 2000 years that the Temple can be rebuilt, and Temple service restored. Anything is possible, I suppose, but there are some (myself included) who lean towards the requirement for the red heifer used for this purpose must be born in Israel. I cannot point you to chapter and verse for this requirement. I draw my conclusions from Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s teaching on the subject and his assertion concerning rabbinical law making it more stringent in that the red heifer must be born in Israel. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Regardless of how things unfold in the coming days the arrival of potentially unblemished red heifers in Israel shows us just how accurate Bible prophecy for the last days is, how close to the start of Daniel’s Seventieth Week we are, and how much closer to the Rapture of the Church that puts us. The time to come to Jesus is now!
“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My plan will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10). I have not written much lately concerning prophetic trends occurring today. A few reasons include things are happening so fast I can hardly keep up, there are Bible teachers a lot smarter than me writing and talking about these things, and life has simply been too busy to leave much time to write. But I am going to try to do a better job writing about these and other biblical subjects. Maybe this will satisfy the handful of people who have asked me to do so.
Major world events continue to take place further setting the stage for the end-times scenario found in age-old Bible prophecy. Most of the world—and many in the church—remains oblivious to the reality of what’s happening. But for Christians who believe and understand Bible prophecy, the only real surprise is seeing it occur in our lifetime. Some call these major world events prophetic signs, but I prefer the phrase prophetic trends. I believe we are witnessing all the prophetic trends the Bible predicts for the last days just prior to the return of Jesus for His bride, the church. I also believe these trends are rapidly converging. I classify these trends under six categories.
Over thirty years ago, when I first began studying Bible prophecy, we had maybe two or three of these prophetic trends in play. Today, they are all to one extent or another in play. Here are some recent prophetic trends related events that help us to see just how close to the Seventieth Week of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27) we are, which can only mean the Rapture of the Church is likely a whole lot closer than most are willing to believe. Consider these recent news items:
Aliyah, on Sept. 29, 2022, The Jerusalem Post reported 55,000 Russian Jews eligible for Aliyah were impeded by flight shortage. The article reports about 40,000 Russian Jews have received immigration visas and about 15,000 are in the middle in the process of making Aliyah. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’” (Isaiah 43:6).
Anticipation, on Sept. 22, 2022, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid joined other world leaders at the United Nations where he endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in his address in front of the UN general Assembly. Current U.S. President Joe Biden later tweeted, “I welcome Israeli Prime Minister Lapid’s courageous statement at the UN General Assembly.” Not to be out done, Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau tweeted that a two-state solution “with Israelis and Palestinians living in peace, security, and dignity—is in everyone’s best interest.” It seems the predicted covenant with death is approaching. “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week” (Dan. 9:27).
Alignment, on Sept. 23, 2022, The Jerusalem Post reported on changes that have occurred in the Middle East this year. According to the article, Iraq is in chaos, Israel confronts Iran, and Turkey grows closer to Russia, and there have been continued advances concerning the Abraham Accords. The phrase from the article that captures my attention concerns the Turkey-Russia-Iran alliance: “One major trend in the past year has been the continued integration of Turkey into an alliance and partnership with Russia and Iran.” Let me put that into biblical terms for you: “One major trend in the past year is the continued integration of the Ezekiel 38 countries of Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-togarmah (Turkey), Rosh (Russia), and Persia (Iran). “And the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meschech and Tubal, and prophesy against him” (Ezek. 38:1-2).
Arrangements, on Sept. 19, 2022, several news organizations reported the arrival of five unblemished red heifers in Israel from the United States. The Temple Institute tweeted “exciting news to share about a major advance in efforts to raise a red heifer whose ashes can be used for purification—a huge step toward the building of the Holy Temple!” It remains to be seen whether these five red heifers will remain unblemished, and it is my understanding the actual red heifer, whose ashes will be used in the purification of the future third Temple, will have to be born in Israel. See Numbers 19-21 for more about the ritual of the red heifer.
Addiction, on Oct. 5, 2022, The National reported, “The British foreign secretary has been urged to ‘refrain from taking any illegal action’ by the head of the Arab League after the UK’s proposal to move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” A day earlier, Palestinian leaders were on the record condemning a proposal by British Prime Minister Liz Truss to move the UK’s Embassy to Jerusalem. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said, “Any change in the status quo in Jerusalem would undermine the two-state solution and will be considered a tacit recognition of the city’s annexation to Israel, which will encourage the occupying state and the settlers’ radical groups to continue their aggression toward our people and toward the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.” Let the reader note he did not mention the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem. “Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around… It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured” (Zech. 12:2-3).
Austerity, on Sept. 29, 2022, The Jerusalem Post published an analysis, “Nord Stream [pipeline] sabotage will permanently shift global trade.” The article noted the damage to the Nord Stream pipeline is “important and symbolic and will also likely usher in a new global economic order.” It is still not clear who damaged the pipeline. Some have suggested Russia is behind it while others suggest the U.S. is behind it. Regardless of who is behind the sabotage, it is certainly causing a shift in the world economy and may very well be just one more event that is moving the world closer to the predicted one world government and economic system for the last days. “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark” (Rev. 13:16-17).
It is clear to me the prophetic trends pointing to the end-times scenario predicted by the Bible are all in play and are rapidly converging. The Seventieth Week of Daniel (aka the Tribulation Period or the Great Tribulation) where God shifts His attention back to Israel and the Jewish people and pours out His wrath upon an unbelieving world is close at hand. The message is clear. Come to Jesus so that you can escape all these things which are coming upon those who dwell on the earth. Although some believe the church will go through part or all of Daniel’s Seventieth Week, I believe the Bible is clear in teaching that Jesus will return for His bride—the church—before this time comes upon the world. I recently preached about this event—the Rapture of the Church (our Blessed Hope as believers) and you can hear it at https://youtu.be/6rgIwMelLrk.
“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks is to speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:7-11).
Every generation since Christ’s first coming has believed their generation would see the return of Jesus in their lifetime. It is no surprise, therefore, to hear someone point this out whenever someone like me suggests we are living near the end of the age and the return of Christ for His church is on the near horizon (see 2 Peter 3:3-5). The difference, however, between all those previous generations and our generation is the convergence of end-time trends we are witnessing today. Previous generations may have witnessed a prophetic trend here or there, but our generation is the only generation that is witness to all of them and they are all converging at breakneck speed. These converging signs or prophetic trends are just too numerous to list but here are a few.
First of all, we have the sign of signs—Israel’s return to the Land. This sign of signs was prophesied over 2,600 year ago by the prophet Ezekiel (see Ezek. 37:11-13). Furthermore, Jews are from all over the world are returning to Israel in record numbers.
Secondly, the Jews now control Jerusalem and Jerusalem has become a burdensome stone to the whole world (see Zech. 12:1-3). The so-called peace process has gone on for decades without success. The parties just cannot seem to get together over the issue of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. A future world leader will arise who will seemingly work all this out but at great cost to the Jewish people and the world (see Dan. 8:25-27).
Thirdly, Jesus predicted an increase in wars, rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes (see Matt. 24). He also predicted an increase in deception and warned three different times to see to it that no one deceives you. We live in an age of remarkable misinformation, disinformation and outright lies. It is important we know what we believe and why we believe it and that we keep our eyes on Jesus so that we are not deceived in these last days.
Fourthly, we are witnessing the rise of global government. This trend has picked up steam in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Bible, this rise in global government will one day coalesce under ten political leaders who will ultimately give their power to an individual the likes of which the world has never before witnessed (see Dan. 7:7-8; Rev. 13).
Fifthly, the good news of the Gospel has spread around the world. Jesus predicted the Gospel would be preached to every nation before the end (see Matt. 24:14). Furthermore, John predicted God would even use an angel if necessary (see Rev. 14:6-7). Our generation is the only generation that can honestly say this gospel has gone out into all the world.
These are just a few of the many signs the Bible predicts for the last days just prior to the return of Christ for His church. Others include the rebuilding of the Third Temple in Jerusalem, the total breakdown of society, a return to the days of Noah (days of perversion), and the alignment of nations for the last days. This is not an exhaustive list, but these are signs or trends we are witnessing today which, along with the previous five, are all converging together. Folks, Jesus is coming soon!
So, if all these things are true and the end is indeed a whole lot closer than most folks are willing to consider and believe, what should we do? Peter tells us to do three things. First of all, we are to live holy lives by purifying our minds, pursuing holiness, and practicing prayer (1 Pet. 4:7). Secondly, we are to live humbly by loving others, forgiving one another, and serving all (1 Pet. 4:8-10). Finally, we are to live heavenward by focusing on God’s purposes, serving in His strength, and bringing Him glory (1 Pet. 4:11). In other words, as God’s people, we are to live in light of the Lord’s soon return!
I've been thinking. I was asked recently what I thought about Calvinism. My first thought is I really don't care too much for labels. But, we live in a world of labels. I'm a Christian. That's a label. I'm a Southern Baptist. That's a label. If I move back to Kentucky, I'll be a Kentucky Baptist. That's a label. So I guess we can't really get away from labels. Still, I prefer to focus less on labels and more on Jesus and His Word. Besides, John Calvin would cringe if he knew his name was being used as a label.
Salvation, as revealed in God's Word and delivered to us by the apostles and prophets is a mystery we don't fully understand. Paul writes about this mystery, "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things" (Ephesians 3:1-10). John speaks of a time yet future when, "the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets" (Revelation 10:7).
So what does all this mean? Well, for one thing, when it comes to salvation, it means the plans and purposes of God are far beyond anything my fallen finite mind can fully comprehend. Consider this in light of what Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers. "Rather, as it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him'" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
When it comes to the mystery of salvation we must remember, the Bible is replete with passages that speak of God's sovereignty. Furthermore, it is replete with passages that speak of personal responsibility. Where these two streams of thought meet is beyond me. This is part of the mystery of salvation none of us will fully comprehend this side of glory. And we may not fully comprehend it on the other side of glory either. After all, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).
The bottom line is this: I don't fully understand the mystery of salvation and you don't either. It boggles my mind--even as a 46 year-old, seminary trained theologian of rare inability. But this much I do know, as a 10-year-old little boy, I prayed to receive Jesus and Jesus saved me. I didn't fully understand it all then and I certainly don't now. But I believed what the Bible taught, in, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Since that time I have come to believe the words of Jesus, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). And therein lies the mystery. So, let's not get wrapped up in labels. Let us do what the Bible says. Let us make our own calling and election sure (see 2 Peter 1:10) and let us proclaim the gospel so that others may hear and be saved (see Matthew 28:16-20). A final word of caution: When contemplating the mysteries of God, always err on the side of sovereignty.
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).First of all, let me begin by saying thank you to all who prayed for my family and me during my brush with death last November and my subsequent recovery. I am doing well and I continue to grow stronger each day. I am thankful for God’s grace in my life. He is good and all things really do work together for good in the lives of His elect.
Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve written on the subject of Bible prophecy. The reasons for my neglecting to keep you up-to-date are two-fold. I have been so busy serving my family and Airmen. I have also found it challenging to keep up with everything going on in the world today. When it comes to the return of Christ it seems the stage setting for the end-time has prophetic scenario found in the Bible is on steroids. Things are occurring at a fascinating speed. And, it is consistent with a proper understanding of Bible prophecy to conclude things will be in place when God’s plan for Israel resumes in the Seventieth Week of Daniel.
I believe we are nearing the end of the church age. The rapture of the church is imminent. It is the next great thing! The late John Walvoord has noted, “In the present world scene there are many indications pointing to the conclusion that the end of the age may soon be upon us. Never before in the history of the world has there been a confluence of major evidences of preparation for the end.” Interestingly, Dr. Walvoord wrote these words in 1962. The confluence of major evidences of preparation for the end he noted has only increased.
I am careful to use the words stage setting when it comes to the prophetic preparation for the end of the present age. The present church age is not a time in which Bible prophecy is being fulfilled. God is, however, preparing the world for a major shift in His dealings with the world. Paul reminds us God’s attention will one day turn from the church to Israel. He writes, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). God has not replaced Israel with the church. He will fulfill all of His covenant promises to Abraham and the other Patriarchs, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
God has given us enough insight in the Bible that we are able to discern a detailed and progressive outline of what is coming in the near future. I am presently teaching through Revelation on Wednesday evenings. I have stressed to my students Revelation provides an excellent context through which we can gain a good grasp of the hundreds of other biblical passages that relate to Bible prophecy pointing to God’s attention one day turning back to Israel and the subsequent return of Christ to this earth. This understanding, I believe, is crucial. Tommy Ice agrees, noting, “Just as there was a transition in the early church away from Israel as God’s mediatorial instrument to the church, so it appears that there will be a transition at the end of the church age as God sets the stage to resume His unfinished plan with Israel after the rapture.”
This transition fits perfectly with the understanding of Bible prophecy as being more pattern focused than prediction focused. The church age commenced on the Day of Pentecost. Forty years later, in A.D. 70, the Jewish Temple was destroyed. This historically fulfilled the last specific prophecy God has fulfilled related to Israel and was, I believe, the final fulfillment as God transitioned from Israel to the church. This provides a pattern for us to watch for in order to discern the times in which we live. Galatians 4, noted at the beginning of this article, reminds us Jesus came to this earth the first time after God had set the stage, so to speak, in preparation for that coming. If we understand prophecy as more pattern than prediction we rightly conclude God will set the stage again in preparation for Jesus’ return to this earth.
While the world continues its advance towards globalism, morally it is moving backwards. Paul’s words to Timothy ring true: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1). He then goes on to describe what this apostasy will look like. The United States was certainly helped along under the previous administration. In fact, many of the developments we witnessed under President Obama were not only immoral but far beyond anything our Founders could have imagined. One would have to be totally ignorant of these and other developments within the world of our day to not admit that something supernatural is going on. It is certainly something to think about.
The end-times alignment of nations described by several of the Old Testament prophets, especially Ezekiel and Daniel, is coming sharply into focus. Even the election of Donald Trump to the presidency is likely to move things along supersonically. He certainly appears to be a friend of Israel and that friendship may result in some remarkable things in the days ahead. So keep your eyes on Israel but also study to gain an understanding of the prophetic scenario concerning the alignment of nations in the last days. Such an understanding will help you discern where we are on God’s timetable. If His focus is about to shift back to Israel then His return for His church is close—mind-bogglingly close!
Multiple signs of the time, all of which indicate that we are likely nearing the time of the start of Daniel’s Seventieth Week—also known as The Tribulation—are converging at a rapid pace. Many others could be noted save for space and time. Suffice it to say, however, it is clear that we are witnessing the major end-time players being prepared and the stage being set in our own day for what is coming. But before the curtain rises on the final stage of world history, “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
For me personally, I am looking less for signs of the time and more for my coming Savior. He is coming for His Bride—the church. He could come at any moment. Are you ready? I am. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
I am five days into my Bible reading plan for 2017. Although I am five days in I have read a chapter ahead in a few books, Romans not withstanding. The selected reading for today, therefore, is Romans 6. This great chapter builds towards the greatest chapter in all the Bible--Romans 8. For now, however, the focus is on being dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.
Reading: Romans 6
"For he who has died is freed from sin" Romans 6:7
Paul's letter to the Romans is the greatest letter ever written. I think I've said that many times. And if Romans is the greatest letter then chapter 8 is the greatest chapter. Paul’s primary purpose in writing Romans was to teach the great truths of the gospel of grace to believers who had never received apostolic instruction. It is a deeply spiritual and thoroughly theological treatment of the gospel. One of my college professors who is now with Jesus--Ray Frank Robbins--referred to Romans as the Constitution of Christianity.
John MacAruther writes, "The overarching theme of Romans is the righteousness that comes from God: the glorious truth that God justifies guilty, condemned sinners by grace alone through faith in Christ alone." In the first few chapters Paul discusses the condemnation of all mankind and our need for the righteousness of God in Christ. He explains how we can have that righteousness through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.
Chapter six begins his great exposition on sanctification. In Christ, we are dead to sin and alive to Christ. In fact, he writes in verse 11, "Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). The word consider means "to reckon." In other words, it means I am to take into account what it means to be made righteous in Christ and to live accordingly. In this case, I am to consider myself to be dead to sin. In other words sin no longer has power over me. The power of sin has been broken. If I am dead to sin then I ought to be about the business of mortifying remaining sin in my life because I am dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
To be alive to God in Christ Jesus means we are in fellowship and union with Him. We are, by God's amazing grace, members of Christ.
Prayer: Lord, help me to do as Paul commands: to consider myself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ. Help me to understand and experience this sanctified life to the fullest for Your glory.
Today begins day 1 of my journey thorugh the Bible using a modified version Professor Grant Horner's Bible Reading Plan. As often as I can I plan to post a devotional thought from one of the selected readings for the day.
Reading: Genesis 1
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1
Genesis is a book about beginnings. The English title, Genesis, comes from the Greek tanslation meaning "origins". The Hebrew title is derived from the Bible's very first word, re'shiyth, which is translated "in the beginning." The New Testament writers quoted from Genesis over 35 times and there are hundreds of allusions to Genesis in both the Old and New Testaments. Genesis accounts for the beginning of creation, the beginning of time, the beginning of history, the beginning of God's chosen people--Israel, and the beginning of redemption. In fact, the story of redemption which begins in Genesis 3 is not fully completed until the last two chapters of the Bible--Revelation 21 and 22.
Who is this God about whom the author of Genesis writes in Genesis 1:1 as the Creator of all things? He is none other than Jesus Christ. Speaking of Christ, Paul writes, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:15-16). The writer of Hebrews says the same thing, pointing out it is Christ, "through whom also He made the world" (Hebrews 1:2).
Although it is not fully revealed in Genesis 1, Christ is God the Creator. What is fully revealed in Genesis 1, is God creating heaven and earth (1) very recently, i.e., thousands not millions of year ago; (2) out of nothing; and (3) in six consecutive 24 hour days. The Bible is at variance with any philosophy that excludes God or suggests a creation date earlier than about 10,000 years ago.
An orderly creation acount reveals the fact of God's existence. In Romans Paul writes, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). The heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) includes all of creation.
God's creation also reveals He is a God of purpose. This is seen, not only the creation account itself, but His revelation of Himself to and through Israel.
Prayer: God, I praise you for who you are--the Creator, My redeemer and King. Help me to wonder after Your creation and discover my place in it.
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
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