Let’s Celebrate … Forever!

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Festival of Tabernacles … Part II

“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago….” (I Corinthians 10:1).

There are some things that must never be forgotten; but always remembered as examples for us, for our children, and for their children. Whether things precious or things dreadful. Be they helpful or hurtful. Whether a child’s cheerful appeal, “Remember, daddy, you promised;” or whether the ominous refrain of an entire nation that lost six million of its own during the 2nd World War: “Never again. We must always remember … this can never happen again.”

The triumphs and tragedies of the past become lessons for the present and patterns for the future. History does repeat itself, especially if we fail to learn from past mistakes and failures. The future is much brighter and our expectations and hopes much stronger when we anticipate and then celebrate milestone events of human history and of our very lives. That’s why we honor birthdays and anniversaries … our own, friends, family, and influential people that helped shape the world we live in. That’s why we commemorate life-changing episodes of our human existence.

That’s why we remember times of great turmoil, that ended victoriously … such as Independence Day and Veterans Day. Or birthdays of great leaders that changed the course of history—such as Presidents Washington and Lincoln and civil rights champion Martin Luther King. And certainly the miraculous birth, horrific death, and awesome resurrection from the grave of Messiah Jesus … at Christmas, Good Friday, and Resurrection Day (Easter), respectively.

The apostle Paul challenged the Jewish believers in Corinth to remember what happened to their ancestors in the wilderness … much of which was covered in last week’s article on the Feast of Shelters. Specifically the attitude and actions of the recently delivered Hebrews (from Egypt) and God’s protection and provisions for them even when they were unfaithful to him. Yes, and God’s correction of them, because the Bible tells us that God disciplines those whom he loves.

“I don’t want you to forget … about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground … All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ” (I Corinthians 10:1-4, italics for emphasis).

It’s crystal clear in the Old Testament record that the food (manna) was actual physical food and the water was real thirst-quenching water, miraculously delivered by God. But Paul shares something with the Corinthian believers even more amazing: Christ was literally with the Hebrews in the wilderness and it was he who supplied both their physical and spiritual sustenance.

After his spectacular encounter with the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road and his equally astounding conversion, Paul knew full well that Yeshua was not only the Son of God, he was God the Son; and that Christ was also fully human, the Son of Man. He understood that the Messiah had made several pre-Incarnate appearances throughout the Old Testament; and Paul fully comprehended that this Jewish born Messiah from the tribe of Judah, from the lineage of King David, had existed with God from the very beginning.

Listen to Paul’s magnificent description of Jesus: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).

WOW!

Do you care to know who Jesus Christ really is and what he has done for you, for me, and for the whole world? Then read this passage again and know beyond any doubt that he is God, Creator, and our Savior. If you believe that he is Creator God and your personal Savior, you will be saved from your sins and the Wrath of God, and you will live forever with Him in heaven.

“God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son, Jesus. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:2-4).

Warnings and Examples

Paul continues with the epic saga of the Hebrews in the wilderness: “These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did … Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snake bites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age” (I Corinthians 10:6-11, italics for emphasis).

As indicated in last week’s article, the Jews were commissioned to bring to mind all the things that happened to them in the wilderness, most importantly the magnificent ways that God protected them and provided for them after he miraculously delivered them from Egypt. One of the more meaningful methods to never forget the sovereign providence of the Lord is by periodic observance of these monumental events. The last, but certainly not the least, of the seven Festivals to be kept by the Jews is the Festival or Feast of Shelters.

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Folks, more than ever before, we are living at the end of the age. We are contemporary, modern-day witnesses to the fulfillment of powerful prophetic signs and events recorded throughout Scripture, the most significant of which is the divinely orchestrated rebirth of Israel, followed by the ever-increasing boasts of terrorist groups and entire nations to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. Yet, just last week in the midst of imminent threats from terrorists, regional conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and other nations that threaten to entangle the United States, Russia, and the EU, millions of Jews and tens of thousands of Gentile Christians celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles.

Why is this Holiday so important? What makes it unique in comparison to all of the other Jewish and Christian Holy Days?

One of a Kind

The Bible tells us this Festival that remembers the remarkable providential protection and provision of God in the lives of his people is the only Holiday (Holy Day) that individuals and even nations are required by God to observe at the end of the age … known as the Day of the Lord. As alluded to in past Eye of Prophecy articles, the Day of the Lord begins with the Rapture (transformation, transference, transfiguration of earthly to heavenly bodies) of dead and living believers in Christ. Followed by the seven-year treaty/tribulation that culminates in the apocalyptic battle of Armageddon. Ending with the majestic return of Messiah Jesus to save the Jews from annihilation and the world from extinction. Then the one-thousand year reign of Christ and believers on the earth. From there … eternity, infinity, and beyond!

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The Old Testament Prophet Zechariah who tells us more about Messiah that any other of the Minor prophets declares: “In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters” (Zechariah 14:16).

What plague? In the preceding verses, Zechariah graphically describes this affliction. “And the Lord will send a plague on all the nations that fought against Jerusalem. Their people will become like walking corpses, their flesh rotting away. Their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day they will be terrified, stricken by the Lord with great panic. They will fight their neighbors hand to hand. Judah, too, will be fighting at Jerusalem….” (Zechariah 14:12-14).

Some Bible scholars believe this passage is describing nuclear warfare, i.e. what could happen to human bodies when a nuclear device explodes. Although there very well may be a nuclear exchange during the Great Tribulation, I don’t believe it applies to this passage. With the primary reason that the Lord, himself, will (supernaturally) inflict this catastrophe on the nations that attack Jerusalem as opposed to other nations including Israel launching nuclear missiles. On the other hand, the very power that Christ wields by the Word of his mouth could very well unlock molecules and unleash the power of the atom that essentially holds all things together.

Revelation vividly tells us more about this final battle, as do a handful of other Scripture passages, both Old and New Testament. “Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (Revelation 19: 11-16).

It gets even more explicit: “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, shouting to the vultures flying high in the sky: ‘Come! Gather together for the great banquet God has prepared. Come and eat the flesh of kings, generals, and strong warriors; of horses and their riders; and of all humanity, both free and slave, small and great’” (Verses 17-18).

Back to Zechariah and the Feast of Tabernacles. “Any nation in the world that refuses to come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will have no rain. If the people of Egypt refuse to attend the festival, the Lord will punish them with the same plague that he sends on the other nations who refuse to go. Egypt and the other nations will all be punished if they don’t go to celebrate the Festival of Shelters” (Zechariah 14:17-19).

The reason why the Festival of Shelters is a divine requirement for all time, with the corresponding harsh punishment if people and nations deliberately and arrogantly refuse to attend this Holy Day once a year, is found in the text … which is the very purpose of celebrating this memorial. “To worship the King…”

And who is the King? The King of all kings? Among other New Testament books, the final book of the Bible tells us exactly who the king is and will be. The very first verse of the first chapter in the Book of Revelation boldly declares: “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ….” Then we read about Jesus: “…He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He had made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6, italics for emphasis).

Immanuel … God with us.

What makes this celebration so different from all other holidays, both Jewish and Gentile, different even from the contemporary observance of Tabernacles? The Answer: Messiah Jesus, himself, will be there! It’s all about Jesus! As well it should be. For he is our Way, our Truth, and our Life. (John 14:6). Once again, the purpose for keeping the Feast of Shelters by traveling directly to Jerusalem during the Millennium is to, Worship the King.

The Festival of Shelters will be celebrated not just in remembrance of the past, but also in reverence of the present and in anticipation of the ongoing glorious future of God’s people. And what does that future presence hold? Just like the small shelters (sukkah) constructed for the Feast of Shelters symbolize God’s sovereign protection and provisions, the Cloud by Day, Pillar of Fire by night, the Tabernacle, and later the Temple contained the very divine presence and glory of God … the Shekinah glory.

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This same glory—the very essence of God—visited the human race through … a Child born to us and a Son given to us (Isaiah 9:6) prophesied by Isaiah; fulfilled when the angel confidently announced to Joseph: “…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God is with us.’” (Matthew 1:20-23).

Upon his glorious reappearance, Jesus of Nazareth will once again be among us on earth and then in the New Jerusalem forever and ever. IMMANUEL! God with us!

Yes, one day soon will see the once-for-all permanent fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy, God with us, take place when Christ returns to Israel. The nations will travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles and to worship the King who first came as a child to Bethlehem to tabernacle (live) among us. But his sojourn was all too brief … only thirty-three years. But, oh what a visit! When he ascended to heaven after he arose from the grave, he left God’s mighty plan of salvation on the earth, available to all who call upon the name of the Lord.

Yes, Messiah will return for all time as Immanuel. This is why so many will gladly make this wonderful pilgrimage to Jerusalem: to show their eternal gratitude that God is with us. “I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever’” (Revelation 21:3-4).

“And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city” (Revelation 21:26).

They will come to, Worship the King.

Festival of Shelters … Worship of and Gratitude for a Divine Solution to the World’s Problems

What do we do when we worship something or someone? According to Webster’s Dictionary, worship is: “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power; to regard with great, even extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.”

Undying loyalty and extraordinary respect goes hand in hand with deep awe and reverence, but also perpetual gratitude for what Christ has done and what he will do to set things right when he returns to the earth.

Those who survive the Great Tribulation, including even those who were fighting against the Jews and against Christ himself will recognize, respect, and revere Jesus Christ as the one who:

  • In fact, wages a righteous war. The One who utterly defeats an immoral, unrighteous, ruthless enemy much like we see with today’s terrorists and the ungodly, wicked, shocking slaughter of innocent civilians perpetrated on entire populations as occurred during Hitler’s evil Third Reich. So will it be when the Antichrist beast of Revelation unleashes his unholy alliances against those who refuse to take his mark. Messiah Jesus will deal harshly and decisively with tyranny and oppression to the extent that, “Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster, and their reign of terror will come to an end” (Proverbs 22:8).
  • The One (and only one) who will bring true and lasting Peace to a destructive world filled with unrestrained corruption, unbridled immorality, unchecked violence, and the horrors of death. He is the, “…Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end….” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
  • The One who can and will bring pure justice with him and administer this justice fairly to all peoples. “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:12). And, “…He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:7).
  • The One whose way and ways are built on absolute truth and righteousness, which all people long for in a ruler. “… Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways O King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed” (Revelation 15: 3-4).
  • The One whose decisions and judgments surpass any human magistrate or Supreme Court known to man: “…Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgments are true and just” (Revelation 16:7).
  • The One who is the “Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). The One who has conquered death itself. “I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:18).
  • The One who will make everything brand new, better than ever before, surpassing even the Garden of Eden. The only One who can be fully trusted to do what he says he will do. “…Look, I am making everything new! And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).

The overwhelming price paid by Jesus Christ for our sins—his agonizing painful death on the Cross—is far too great to trivialize or overlook. His majestic return to the earth is far too glorious and benevolent to ignore or minimize, both before and after the fact. The awesome price of peace with God and peace among men paid for by Jesus blood must always be remembered, not just during the Feast of Shelters but all through the days and years to come. Those who refuse to accept the very presence of God in the form of his Son, Yeshua ha Mashiach; and, thereby, refuse to attend the Festival of Shelters, will also pay a heavy price. Because they (like so many today who will never see the light of Heaven) will not acknowledge what the Lord has done and will do on that day and forever more.

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“The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: The Lord is Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:15-16).

Things to Ponder

On the Jewish calendar, the Festival of Tabernacles is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The number five signifies Grace … the grace of God that bestows blessings and his very presence in all hearts who invite him in. That is the way of it now … the Kingdom of Heaven in the hearts of men, women, and children the world over; those who have believed and received the Son of God, the Son of Man.

“Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:19-21).

One day soon, Jesus Christ will tabernacle among us. He will be Immanuel, God with us … forever. He will restore all things. As it once was long ago, so shall it be again. He will establish the Kingdom of God on the earth and will, thereby, bring lasting Peace to a troubled world—a planet teetering on an axis of evil, ready to plunge into an Abyss of hopelessness and helplessness.

“…The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).

“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

Festival of Tabernacles … Part I

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Feast of Tabernacles

Who doesn’t like and look forward to a holiday? A few perhaps, but Christian and non-Christians the world over spend extraordinary sums of money in preparation for Christmas and Easter; although these time-tested traditions have different meanings for those who celebrate them. For two thousand years Christians have rejoiced in the birth of our Savior at Christmas time and the resurrection of that same Savior and Lord from the grave on Resurrection Sunday. However, for the die-hard secular among us, it’s no longer Merry Christmas … instead they wish you Happy Holidays. And Easter … well it’s just Easter: watching children hunt for hidden eggs and feast on chocolate Easter bunnies. For many, the most appealing attraction of Christmas or Thanksgiving or Labor Day or the 4th of July is a day or two off from work. We need all those days we can get! Right?

For the observant Jew, there are seven Holy Days throughout the year, with some of these more hallowed than others … High Holy Days. Jews call these special times Festivals or Feast Days, which is the same description given by the Scriptures from long ago. For the more secular Jews who pick and choose which holidays to observe, they tend to concentrate on the first festival of the year, Passover, held in the Jewish month of Nisan (March-April); then the three back to back to back memorials in the month of Tishrei (September-October) of Rosh Hashana (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles or Booths or Shelters).

So what’s this Feast of Tabernacles or Shelters all about? And, what makes it totally unique in comparison to the other six Jewish Holidays? The annual festivals are first presented in the Torah book of Leviticus, Chapter 23; then in meticulous detail in Numbers, Chapter 29; and once again in summary fashion from the book of Deuteronomy. “You must observe the Festival of Shelters for seven days at the end of the harvest season, after the grain has been threshed and the grapes have been pressed … For seven days you must celebrate this festival to honor the Lord your God at the place he chooses, for it is he who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work. This festival will be a time of great joy for all” (Deuteronomy 16: 13-15).

In Leviticus and Numbers, more instructions are given such as cessation of all ordinary work on the first and last day of this seven-day celebration. Actually the last day is an eighth day … which is a literal translation (8th day) from the Hebrew, Shemini Atzeret. That 8th day is given the name Simchat Torah, which means rejoice in the Torah (Word of God).

Other requirements plus the major reason for the Feast of Tabernacles can be found in Leviticus: “On the first day gather branches from magnificent trees—palm fronds, boughs from leafy trees, and willows that grow by the streams. Then celebrate with joy before the Lord your God for seven days … This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed in the appointed month from generation to generation. For seven days you must live outside in little shelters. All native-born Israelites must live in shelters. This will remind each new generation of Israelites that I made their ancestors live in shelters when I rescued them from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23: 40-43). The little shelter(s) are called a sukkah in Hebrew, which means a makeshift hut. In English, we might even use the word shack.

Many reading this article might ask, “What possible relevance does the Jewish Festival of Sukkot have in today’s world?” And, “do you mean to tell me that Jews still keep this tradition.” Answers: All the relevance in the world, as I believe you will see in this week’s and next week’s Part II article. Yes, millions of Jews and even tens of thousands of Christians celebrate this remarkable holiday, which began at sunset this past October 8th and ended on the 15th, a day of complete rest. Then the extra 8th day of Simchat Torah took place on the 16th of October.

Let’s Celebrate!

Jews all over Israel and in many countries of the world construct their own version of a temporary sukkot booth or hut in their backyard or on balconies or in open fields. There, for a week, they eat (mostly evening) meals, relax, sing songs, and entertain family and friends; some go so far as to actually sleep in the makeshift shelter at night. Included in their ceremonies are times of prayers and waving a bouquet—a collection of mostly leafy branches from the etrog (citrus type tree), palm and willow branches, and myrtle (boughs of thicker branched trees).

Through a warm-hearted invitation from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, children throughout Israel helped him furnish his own sukkah. The youngsters hung decorations, all the while singing holiday songs. Although the Israeli office of President is mostly ceremonial (the Prime Minister is the actual head of government), this presidential interaction with Israeli children and citizens was truly remarkable.

I suppose it would be equivalent to the US President inviting a sampling of children in America to decorate his Christmas tree; to truly remember that Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ, the divine light that shines brilliantly in a dark world. Do you suppose our President would ever do such a thing!? Or for the President to summon a cross-section of America to wave sparklers and flags at an Independence Day festival in front of the White House, in remembrance of our deliverance from a tyrannical English king? Personally, I think it would be a great tradition for the next President to institute.

Listen to the words of President Rivlin: “Dear children, you are fulfilling an important task by decorating our sukkah. It’s important that everyone who comes to the president’s sukkah feels he is at home, a home which is a symbol. We have disagreements, but we are one nation and celebrate the holidays together.” Then he continued, “The sukkah symbolizes what we were before we became a nation. We are now celebrating to remember our exodus from Egypt; that we were slaves but now we have a country of our own, and that we must not treat others like we were treated in Egypt.”

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Unique Features of the Feast of Shelters

It comes as no surprise that there are seven Jewish feasts ordained by God; this in keeping with the divine number seven replete throughout Scripture. They are: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Harvest, Harvest or Pentecost, Trumpets or Rosh Hashana, Atonement or Yom Kippur, and Festival of Shelters or Sukkot.

Let’s first look at some of the aspects of the Festival of Booths that are distinct, but not necessarily exclusive. In next week’s article we’ll examine the incredible feature of this Holy Day that is entirely unique in comparison to all of the other sacred holidays, both Jewish and Christian.

  • It is one of two festivals that specifically emphasizes celebration for the entire family. The other feast is the Festival of Harvest. “You must observe the Festival of Shelters for seven days at the end of the harvest season … This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters….” (Deuteronomy 16: 13-14a).
  • But there’s more: “…happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns” (Deuteronomy 16:14b, italics for emphasis). Along with the Festival of Harvest, the Feast of Tabernacles explicitly addresses the inclusion of foreigners or Gentiles. Plus it stresses attendance of non-family orphans and widows, i.e. the poor among them. Even servants are included.
  • It is one of two festivals that lasts for seven days … the other being that of Unleavened Bread. The remaining five festivals are a one-day event. I believe there is a reason for this. The one-day festivals represent astounding events in which God decisively and conclusively intervened on behalf of his people, such as overnight Passover deliverance from Egypt, abrupt and authoritative forgiveness of sin on Yom Kippur, or resounding announcement of the New Year at the Feast of Trumpets. Whereas, the Unleavened Bread and Tabernacle festivals are meant to remember the ongoing provisions and protection of God throughout the long (eventually) 40-year journey to the Promised Land.
  • It is one of the three festivals in which the Lord requires the men of Israel to physically attend and participate as a group in the place designated by the Lord, which in due course became Jerusalem. The pilgrimage of women and children were optional. “Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters. On each of these occasions, all men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he chooses…” (Deuteronomy 16:16).

Two of these conditions—travel to Jerusalem and participation of the Gentiles—will be highlighted through a fascinating prophecy found in Zechariah, which we will cover next week. But already God, through Moses, is preparing his special possession Israel to grasp the significance of the Festival of Tabernacles’ application to all peoples and the very purpose for annual observance of this vitally important event. If the Jews were going to be a light to the Gentiles, then select Holy Days should be shared with foreigners. Thus, the Feast of Shelters looks both to the past and the future.

*Note: A handful of times since Israel’s rebirth as a nation in 1948, Jews have made pilgrimages to Jerusalem to keep the Festival of Shelters. The most recent was just this past week. Thus, this tradition has made a come-back for both religious and secular Jews.

Primary Purpose for Keeping the Festival of Tabernacles

The physical means and spiritual purpose for Israel’s celebration of Shelters is summarized as follows: “For seven days you must live outside in little shelters. All native-born Israelites must live in shelters. This will remind each new generation of Israelites that I made their ancestors live in shelters when I rescued them from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23: 42-43). Extraordinarily remarkable is the fact that the Hebrews were still living in these makeshift temporary shelters when God through Moses gave them the Law, the Sacrificial System of Atonement, and the Festivals.

Thus, God is assuring them that they would one day dwell in permanent houses, and otherwise fulfill their destiny in the Land promised to them as an eternal inheritance. In God’s plan and sovereignty it was a done deal. The Lord is telling his people to keep this festival as though they had already reached their destination and were looking back in remembrance of the arduous and perilous journey.

Had the newly delivered Hebrews fully trusted the Lord, they would have entered the Promised Land a year from the Exodus. Instead, it took an agonizing forty years of wandering in circles through the Judean wilderness. They made it far too difficult on themselves. It’s quite evident: When they finally reached the Promised Land (again), they had learned resolute reliance and deferred dependence on the Lord God the hard way. For those who still had some doubts, God convinced them during their first major battle that victory over their enemies and inheritance of the land was possible only when they trusted and obeyed the Lord. The Battle of Jericho clearly taught them this principle. It was a simple but awesome victory. By the time the walls came tumbling down, the battle had been won. And what did the Hebrews do? Exactly what they were told to do: March around the walls seven times, blow the trumpets, and shout. That’s all? Yes, that’s all they needed to do, i.e. trust and obey the Lord their God.

When they finally took possession of the Promised Land, they ate food that they neither planted nor harvested, drank wine that they didn’t produce, wore clothing that they didn’t weave, and lived in houses they didn’t build. All because of God’s sovereignty, grace, and bounty.

In addition to the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—before and during the great trek through the wilderness—the Psalms and many other Old Testament books frequently refer to the miraculous delivery of the Hebrews from Egypt after the fact. And there are several review type references in the New Testament. Through all of these passages we can vividly see two distinct reasons why God wanted his people to keep this Festival for all time: To remember God’s faithful Protection of and Provisions for his people.

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PROTECTION:

God’s divine sovereignty in keeping his people safe while horrifying things were happening in front, behind, and all around them is truly stunning:

  • From the plagues in Egypt, including the most deadly of all—the Angel of Death’s killing of all Egyptian firstborn males. All ten judgments were miraculous displays of God’s power and providence, while protecting his people.
  • With their backs to the Sea and facing certain destruction at the hands of Pharaoh’s chariots, God majestically split the sea into dry land, allowing all of the Israelites to cross over; then drowning all the Egyptians who had the audacity and arrogance to pursue them. This is the most talked about miracle in Scripture, and the most recognized supernatural deliverance of all time. All of God’s miracles are blockbusters, but the parting of the Red Sea, along with the Virgin Birth of Jesus and his Resurrection, are off the charts.
  • Divine deliverance from marauding hordes of bandits and murderers, and from attacks by and against mighty armies before, during, and after entrance into the Promised Land. Though the Jews were required to fight, all of their victories were directly attributed to the Lord’s protection and enablement. For example: The astounding victory over a much better armed and trained Amalekite army while Moses held his staff over his head for an entire day. Moses became so weary that Aaron and Hur helped Moses hold his arms up. As a symbol of Israel’s dependence on the Lord, as long as the staff remained elevated the Israelites prevailed, until the victory was finally won (Exodus 17).
  • Through prayerful pleading by Moses, the Israelites were protected from annihilation by God, himself. This after showing their “gratitude” for their liberation from Egypt by building a despicable and detestable golden calf idol.
  • From even more (massive number of) deaths by ultra-poisonous snakes, because of their constant complaints, continuous ingratitude, and ceaseless distrust of God. “…But the people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. ‘Why have your brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?’ they complained. ‘There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!’” (Numbers 21: 4-5). Those familiar with this part of the wilderness saga will recall the bronze serpent lifted up on a pole and miraculous recovery of those bitten by snakes; if they would simply look at the bronze replica and believe that God would heal them by such a simple childlike act of contrition and obedience.

PROVISIONS

The supernatural ways in which the Lord provided for the delivered Israelites is nothing short of astonishing. Such as:

  • Manna from heaven… the food of angels! Gathered every morning, enough for each day. If they gathered too much, it spoiled. “So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed. Then Moses told them, ‘Do not keep any of it until morning.’ But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them” (Exodus 16: 17-20).
  • Before the manna appeared the next morning, “That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp…” (Verse 13). For anyone who has ever hunted quail, it’s not all that easy, at least not without a bird dog. Here, the birds flew directly into the Israelites’ cooking pots! (Paraphrasing). Yum … all the meat they could eat!
  • The same staff that Moses used to strike the Nile with blood and held aloft to part the Red Sea, he also used to smite solid rock. When he did, streams of water gushed out to quench the thirst of hundreds of thousands of Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 17). This happened again as recorded in Numbers Chapter 20, and water poured from the rock.
  • The very finger of God that blazed the Ten Commandments onto stone tablets on Mt. Sinai, providing the very essence of the Law to God’s people and ultimately standards of morality and right and wrong for all humanity.
  • For forty long years wandering through the wilderness the Israelites’ “…clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell” (Deuteronomy 7:4). Amazing!
  • The ever-present cloud by day and the majestic pillar of fire by night continuously pointed the direction to go. That was the best GPS ever known to man! Right there in front of them. When the cloud moved, they broke camp. When it stopped, they stopped and set up their shelters (sukkah). The next morning they gathered more manna! Hey, for you wilderness junkies, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Time and time again God was faithful when his people were not; when they doubted him, complained against him and Moses about what they didn’t have, and even grumbled over what they did have. But not without consequences, the most obvious of which was forty years of God’s discipline that confined them to the Judean desert.

During which time they had no permanent dwelling places, no real home and hearth to retreat after a long day of work or wandering. Some had tents that they carried in carts or on the backs of their animals or on their own backs. However, most of the people undoubtedly erected a lean-to type shelter made from whatever branches or material they could find or carry. But through it all, God supplied their physical needs … whether through a miracle or through natural provisions along the way of their seemingly never-ending expedition to the Promised Land.

Summary

Because the adults who were delivered from Egypt disobeyed God and refused out of doubt, fear, and lack of trust to enter Canaan, only those less than twenty years began the 40-year passage. When they finally arrived at the threshold of Canaan, here is what Moses reminded them, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good” (Deuteronomy 10: 12-13).

The Bible’s inherent definition and meaning of fear of the Lord is not running scared or being frightened. Rather it means reverent respect and deep awe that leads to worship. It also implies complete trust in the Lord … that he is who he says he is and does what he says he will do.

Included in the Lord’s commands would be, of course, to celebrate the Festival of Shelters—which above all the other festivals depicted the awesome protection and provision God lavished on his people, even though they didn’t deserve it and certainly didn’t earn it. The Feast of Tabernacles would remind them of God’s faithfulness to protect and provide; that he could and should be trusted at all times, for all things, no matter what.

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

The all-inclusive lesson(s) to be learned by the ancient Israelites regarding the unnecessary generation they spent in the wilderness and how this is part and parcel of the need to always remember what happened, and this remembrance should be summoned at least once a year by observing the Feast of Tabernacles, is powerfully expressed in Psalms Chapter 78.

“Yet they kept on sinning against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They stubbornly tested God in their hearts, demanding the foods they craved. They even spoke against God himself, saying, ‘God can’t give us food in the wilderness. Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can’t give his people bread and meat.’ When the Lord heard them, he was furious. The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob. Yes, his anger rose against Israel” (Psalms 78: 17-21).

And what exactly was it that made God angry, the opposite of which is the very thing that pleases God? The very next verse in this chapter answers that question and provides a succinct summary of just how the Lord places all of the things we do or don’t do in a box (so to speak). And this box has a label with but two words: Trust Me.

The Lord’s anger rose against Israel because, “…they did not believe God or trust him to care for them” (Psalms 78:22).

In verses 23 through 31 we read a summary of the Exodus account of the miraculous provision of quail and manna. Followed by: “But in spite of this, the people kept sinning. Despite his wonders, they refused to trust him” (Psalms 78:32).

Despite miracles he performed equal to those in Egypt, the greatest of which was Resurrection from the dead, Messiah Jesus was still rejected by his own people. For this reason, The Lord withdrew his protection of and provisions for Israel. In less than a generation after Christ arose from the dead, they were crushed by the Romans and exiled to nations all over the world, just as Moses said would happen (Leviticus 26).

Not until the rebirth of Israel in 1948 and especially the recapture of the Holy City of Jerusalem in 1967, did God restore his prophetically promised protection of the Jews. Many Israelis are beginning to see and understand that God once again is demonstrating his love and mercy for the Jews and for Israel. Defeat of their enemies against all odds in four major wars and several other clashes with terrorist groups have proven that.

The next step is for all Israel to embrace their Messiah! Stay tuned for next week’s article.

Things to Ponder

“The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Psalms 9:9, italics for emphasis).

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him” (Psalms 91: 1-2, italics for emphasis).

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3: 5-6, KJV).

Webster’s Definition of Trust: “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something” (italics for emphasis).

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6).

What Is A Saint?

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What/Who is a Saint?

In September, 2013, barely a year into his papacy, Pope Francis made a historical announcement that two former popes would be canonized the following year. On April 27th, 2014, nearly two million faithful Catholics converged in Rome to celebrate the formal declaration of sainthood for departed Popes, John XXIII and John Paul II. It was the largest gathering in Rome since John Paul II’s funeral nine years earlier. Pope John XXIII died in 1963. These men were undoubtedly the two most popular pontiffs of the 20th-21st centuries; perhaps, for the past several hundred years.

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As a born-again believer who has placed my trust in the atoning sacrifice of the blood and very life of Jesus Christ, I am somewhat intrigued why a pope, of all people, must also qualify to be declared a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church. According to Catholic dogma, you would think that the very office itself, the very person of the pope who by Catholic Church edict is essentially infallible, need not prove in his lifetime (by his life) that he is worthy of such an honor.

To better understand the dynamics of sainthood in the Catholic Church, let’s examine the criteria of becoming a recognized Catholic saint; and then determine if these conditions are supported by the Biblical designation of a saint. You might ask: Why is it necessary to compare the Catholic Church’s perception of sainthood with the Bible? Answer: Because whether stated or implied, the idea of becoming a saint is tantamount to salvation itself. And one’s salvation or lack thereof is a matter of eternal life or death.

According to Catholic tradition, the first and fundamental requirement is that a potential saint must be deceased. The concept of sainthood is to treat (the memory of) that person as sacred. An equivalent term used is, canonized. The action of being canonized indirectly derives its meaning from the Biblical Canon as the authoritative list of books accepted in Holy Scripture … the Bible. Only it carries it a step further and applies the dogma (doctrines, standards, norms) decreed by the Roman Catholic Church to be (near) perfectly expressed in the lives of its clergy and, to a lesser extent, in the conduct of its laity.

If, then, a nun, priest, bishop, cardinal, or pope exemplifies and exceeds the moral, ethical, spiritual values expected or at least recommended by Catholic creed and tenets, then they are eligible for sainthood. Or, in the case of the Catholic laity, it takes two miracles performed by or attributed to a member of the Catholic Church in order to be canonized. However, occasionally just one miracle was enough … if it was a really big miracle!

From the Kenerman English Learner’s Dictionary we find the following definition of a saint: “A dead person officially recognized by the Catholic Church for having lived a very holy life.” From the British Dictionary, “One who after death is formally recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, as having attained, through holy deeds or behavior a specially exalted place in heaven, and the right to veneration” (meaning here on the earth … italics as commentary). Also, “a person of exceptional holiness or goodness.” From Random House Webster’s Dictionary: “A person of great virtue or benevolence.”

After a person becomes a member of the Catholic Church through (mostly infant) baptism, these definitions accurately summarize the overriding and underlying teachings of the Catholic Church which can be expressed by and condensed to the following premise: Sainthood and, by implied association, salvation must be earned by exceptional holiness, goodness, and by intrinsic virtue.

Thus, even the most virtuous Catholics will never know for sure whether they will be judged worthy of eternal life and heaven until after they die. But there are a few who seemingly will be guaranteed a heavenly existence—and an exalted one at that—simply because they were, after death, declared saints by an earthly decree of the Catholic hierarchy.

Catholic Saints

Down through the ages, hundreds of well-known and even a few obscure Catholics have been canonized. In fact, most days of every calendar month of the year are reserved for an individual Catholic who has been conferred the honor of sainthood … one saint for each of those days. The two recently canonized popes each have a day set aside for them in the month of October … John Paul II on 10-22 and John XXIII on 10-11. Even those of us who are Protestant or Evangelical or those belonging to cults, or even the agnostics among us have heard of some of these saints. Such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Helen, St. Dominic, St. John, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa. Who among us hasn’t celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day or Saint Valentine’s Day at one time or another? Even those who don’t believe in Santa Claus have probably heard of Saint Nicholas! Otherwise known as St. Nick.

Whether interested in history or not, many know about Joan of Arc. Did you know that she was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920 nearly six hundred years after her death? Do you remember how she died? Do you recall why she died? Yes … she was burned at the stake for being a heretic. And who declared her a heretic and subsequently put her to death? Right again … the Roman Catholic Church! There’s nothing like conferring sainthood on someone to make amends for a slight indiscretion such as killing them for claiming to have heard directly from God and leading troops into battle. Obviously, I’m being a bit facetious, but it did happen that way.

At face value, the idea and Catholic Church practice of declaring select men and women as saints seems to be an honorable, worthy, even noble cause. In fact, the Catholic.org website that provides a comprehensive list of these venerated people states: “Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives … God calls each one of us to be a saint.”

In daily living and conversation, we sometimes hear someone say, “He is a saint.” Or the moral/spiritual equivalent: “She’s an angel.” People use these terms interchangeably with the core meaning that the person they’re referring to possesses qualities of goodness and uprightness that assuredly will qualify them for heaven when they die. I’m certain both of these terms were frequently used of Mother Teresa. And rightfully so, at least in terms of her moral excellence and dedication to help the poor and downtrodden. But as we shall soon see, even Mother Teresa’s salvation and sainthood (Biblically defined) is not earned … it’s a gift from God.

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Are they really saints? Who is a saint? To answer these questions let’s look at what the Bible has to say about it.

The reason we need to refer to Scripture has everything to do with God’s definition of a saint. If the Catholic Church’s teachings on sainthood matches up with the final authority of God’s Word, then all is well. If not, then over a billion Catholics in the world need to ask themselves and their ecclesiastical leaders (priests, bishops, cardinals, and the Pope himself) whether a Catholic saint is guaranteed a place in heaven. If so, then what about millions of other Catholics who try just as hard to be saint-like, but who will never be canonized? How many good deeds are enough to outweigh the bad? Can someone buy their way out of hell by giving more than their share to the Church or to charity? Will devoting one’s life to helping the poor assure them of everlasting life in heaven? Will occasional attendance of Mass and visitation to the confessional shorten one’s time in Purgatory, which isn’t even a place mentioned in or acknowledged by the Bible? Heaven, yes. Hell is referenced more often than heaven. But Purgatory? I don’t think so.

Biblical Definition of a Saint

In the King James Version of the Bible, the word saint or saints is used sixty-one times and the word or derivative of the word holy is used 161 times. Saint is an English offshoot of the Latin word, sanctus. Whether saint or holy, the original New Testament Greek word is: Hagios. Which means a most holy thing; a saint. The word Holy in both the Old Testament and New Testament essentially means: To set apart for a special reason or purpose. We also have the word ecclesia, which means called out ones, which is virtually synonymous with our English word, Church.

Make no mistake … the notion of Catholic canonization conveys the meaning of placing the one canonized on a lofty pedestal that suggests a touch of reverence normally reserved for divinity. In fact some synonyms of canonized are: beatified, hallowed, idolized, adored, and even worshipped. This is not the Biblical idea at all. Rather, a Christian saint is simply a sinner saved by the grace of God.

The whole idea of saint, holy, called-out ones is NOT the concept of sinless perfection or conduct, which the Bible clearly indicates is not possible for any man, woman, or child. Paul tells us in Romans 3:10 which is a restatement of the Old Testament verse in Psalms, “No one is righteous—not even one.” Just before that, Paul states, “Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin” (Romans 3:9).

God does not call us to be saints, as such. Not in the sense that in order for God to accept us, we must think saint-like thoughts and perform saint-like deeds. That we must live extraordinarily pure lives in order to be classified and qualified as a saint. Just the opposite: We live uncommon lives as a result of being saved or set apart by God’s grace, through our faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. God’s only requirement to become a saint is that we believe and receive His Son. Then we understand that saint-like holiness or righteousness is given to us, because we have none of our own.

In that regard, a Christian saint is consecrated … to and for the Lord; blessed … a beneficiary of the Lord’s awesome grace; sanctified … becoming more like Christ; and one day glorified … a new resurrected body like our Lord’s upon his resurrection from the dead. But a Biblical saint is not to be worshipped, revered, idolized, adored, beatified, or otherwise canonized.

When God, through Moses, told the Jews to, “be holy as I am holy,” and Peter repeated this to the Christian Church, the focal point of holiness was the core meaning of the word … set apart from the evil world system that fosters greed, corruption, pride, selfishness, violence, and all things ungodly.

The Bible tells us that every human being must first be saved from their sins and the penalty of those sins; that salvation comes from and through one and only one person, Jesus Christ. “For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scripture, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4: 11-12).

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved … For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10: 9-13).

When we believe and receive Christ as our personal Savior, then we become saints! Which is why both the apostles Paul and Peter in their letters to the churches often used the designation of holy ones or saints interchangeably with believers or Christians.

For example, Paul addresses the Roman Christian believers: “I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people” (Romans 1:7). Holy people in this translation is also rendered “saints” in other Bible translations. Both stem from the Greek word Hagios. All of these saints were obviously alive. Some of them were brand new born-again Christians. None of them first had to die in order to be eligible for sainthood.

In his letter to the Colossian Church Paul begins with, “…to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae … since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel … since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1: 2-6, NASB).

Is there a distinction between the Bible’s definition of saint and holy and the Catholic Church’s teaching? Yes, a huge difference.

Once again referring to the Catholic on-line statement: “God calls each one of us to be a saint.” But who is each one? It’s clear whichever Catholic clergy wrote this statement is addressing the Catholic followers of the website. He is telling them that God is calling them all to be saints. With the implication, however, that you must first be a member of the Catholic Church to even qualify as a potential saint. And once again we need to refer to the standards that must be met before the Catholic Church will confer sainthood on any good Catholic: “one who after death is formally recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, as having attained, through holy deeds or behavior … the right to veneration.”

In short, this is a direct contradiction in every sense imaginable to what God tells us regarding salvation and, therefore, sainthood. Rather the Bible states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2: 8-9, NASB). Who is you and yourselves of this passage? None other than, “…the saints who are at Ephesus…” (Ephesians 1:1).

Scripture plainly tells us that our good works or intrinsic worth is not what qualifies us to be a saint or what makes us a saint. We do not and cannot earn our salvation or the right to be called a saint. We automatically become a saint when we accept God’s gracious gift of his Son’s death on the Cross; then trust the Son to save us and give us eternal life because he arose from the dead.

More than Saints, Also Priests!

To all who have personally placed their faith in Jesus Christ and, thereby, are called saints, holy ones (set apart), believers, born-again, or Christians (one who is in Christ and belongs to him), we also have the incredible privilege to be called priests. Listen to the amazing words of the apostle Peter who is writing to “…God’s chosen people…” (I Peter 1:1) “…What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (I Peter 2:5). The spiritual sacrifices are the good deeds and right living that believers do in heartfelt gratitude for their salvation, not in order to merit salvation or in order to become a saint.

Then Peter states: “…You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy” (I Peter 2: 9-10).

Once again we see: First comes salvation (sainthood) as God’s people called out of darkness into light. Then, we show and live the (saintly) goodness of God as a result of our salvation which includes being priests of the Most High God.

Under the Mosaic Law, priests were necessary as a go-between God and the Jews. The Roman Catholic Church has carried on this tradition because the clergy continued with the premise that the average individual Catholic still needs a human intercessor to approach God, to confess sins, and to receive communion, i.e. the Catholic priesthood. To the contrary, the Bible tells us that every person who is a born-again believer (saint) is given the wonderful position of a priest. That is: we can go directly to God to confess our sins, to pray, to fellowship with him, and to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to the Lord, who is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

We love the Lord because he first loved us. We serve him because we are saints, not in order to become a saint. Do you see the difference?

There is a world of difference in these two ideas. Salvation and sainthood can be summed up with these powerful words of truth: “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…” (Romans 3:21-25).

Such magnificent truth and freedom in this passage. To wit:

  • God doesn’t expect us to keep the law and certainly not all the traditions of religious institutions including Catholicism, because he knows no one can possibly keep the entire law. All have sinned.
  • We all have fallen short of God’s requirements of perfect righteousness. There is no amount of good works or right living (apart from salvation in and through Christ) that can please God enough for him to declare us innocent of our sins. Even the best person who has ever lived (whoever that might be) is not good enough to be called a saint … not according to God’s definition of a saint, i.e. one who has been made righteous through faith in Christ.
  • He has shown as a new way to be right with God … by simply placing our trust in Jesus. Christ then covers us with his righteousness and God looks at us through his Son’s righteousness.

Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and other cultic religions are religious systems that have borrowed their theology and practices from the Jewish Law of Moses, with a Gentile twist. Scripture plainly tells us that the purpose of the law was simply to show us what sin really is and that no one could possibly keep the law. That’s why the animal sacrificial system was also given to the Jews, to atone for their constant sins. But Jesus did away with that entire system. He perfectly fulfilled the Law of Moses because we couldn’t, no matter how hard we try. He is the final, once-for-all sacrifice, the High Priest himself offering his life in exchange for the pardon of our sins and everlasting life in heaven with a loving, but holy God.

For the Roman Catholic Church to confer sainthood on those who strive to attain it through holy deeds or behavior is in direct conflict with God’s way of righteousness. For Roman Catholicism to state or imply that salvation is (potentially, although not guaranteed) possible only by membership baptism into the Catholic Church and keeping other of their man-made traditions including the rites of sainthood is a blatant contradiction of who or what is a saint.

And the Bible clearly defines a saint or believer or Christian or chosen-one or called-out one: “But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it: ‘Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin’” (Romans 4: 5-8). And we’ve seen that this faith in God is one and the same as: “when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”

Things to Ponder

For those of us who are believers (saints) in Jesus Christ, we should have nothing against Roman Catholics or Mormons or any other individual. Yet, we are called to share the truth of the good news (gospel); thus, we must expose the dangers of Roman Catholicism or Mormonism or Hinduism. All religious systems that essentially are based on the good works performance of their adherents to obtain whatever salvation their religion supports must be exposed for what it is: A distortion of God’s plan of salvation, that ultimately will determine the eternal destiny of those who believe or who don’t believe.

Biblical Christianity shows us that God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has freely given us salvation that enables us to be and be called saints of the Most High God, when we simply say Yes to Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Understanding that no one comes to the Father except through Christ (John 14:6).

An exceptional and extraordinary benefit to so great a salvation for those who have received Messiah Jesus as personal Lord and Savior is that we can know beyond any doubt that our salvation is permanent. It cannot be lost. We cannot be unborn spiritually any more than we can be unborn physically.

“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (I John 5:13, italics for emphasis).

Russia & Iran versus Israel

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Magog and Israel

Check. According to Webster’s Dictionary there are multiple definitions of this oft used English word: “To slow or bring to a stop. To block the progress. To restrain or diminish the action or force of, as in hold the enemy in check. To investigate conditions, as in check out. To correspond point for point. To mark with a check as examined, verified, or satisfactory” (√).

US President Obama has authorized air strikes against the Islamic State (IS). Check. Despite his growing isolationist foreign policy, even President Obama could not ignore the beheading of two American citizens and the ominous international threat of this barbaric terrorist cell whose goal is blatantly obvious: destruction of Israel, killing innocent people, and ultimately establishing their version of an Islamic Caliphate—first in Iraq and Syria, then the entire globe.

Western allies Great Britain and France agreement to participate in this latest war on terrorism with bombing raids against ISIS (another acronym for the Islamic State) alongside of the United States. Check. They are two of the three most powerful European Union nations. Whether out of shame if they didn’t participate or out of obligation as members of NATO, they dare not remain neutral.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates lending various means of support in the fight against ISIS. Check. Even Muslim Arab countries recognize the danger posed by this ultra-radical terrorist army that has seized control of much of Iraq. They couldn’t care less about the Christian casualties, but they don’t like Sunni ISIS killing fellow Shi’ite Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

Iran and Turkey joining the war against ISIS! Check? Yes, a strange bed-fellow type of check. But with vastly different motives. These two large nations that sponsor and export terrorism themselves, primarily through Hezbollah in Lebanon (Iran) and Hamas in Gaza (Turkey), do not appreciate an up-start gang of mercenaries from countries all over the world—headed by a fundamentalist Sunni faction in Iraq—declaring themselves to be THE Islamic Caliphate. Why? Because the leaders of both Iran and Turkey have declared their respective nations as the headquarters for the Global Caliphate which the Mahdi, the 12th Imam of Islam, will establish. And the ultimate irony: though Muslim, neither Turkey nor Iran are Arab nations.

Russia agreeing in principle that ISIS poses a threat to the Middle East with tacit approval of US and EU airstrikes against this terrorist organization. Check! Really, a check? Yes, but not the kind you can take to the bank knowing it will be cashed. It’s a check that could bounce. It’s not the box checked at the end of a signed hard-copy document that agrees with all of the stipulations and conditions. Rather, it’s the kind of check found in a small box on a computer screen that can be unchecked with the click of a mouse. Now I agree, now I don’t.

Meaning that the only reason that Russia has (reluctantly) endorsed certain tactics against ISIS is because Syria’s still viable government under Assad and even the moderate rebel freedom fighters who initiated the war against Assad are both fighting against radical Muslims—mostly terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda and ISIS—for supremacy in Syria. And Iran supports both Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. And, of course, Russia is a staunch ally of Iran.

The reason that Russia’s check (mark) can be deleted at the click of a key or a phone call is because of a very recent low-key, behind-the-scenes warning by the Putin-led government that was not so secretly directed against the United States. The Threat: If the US or its Allies target the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in addition to raids against ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria, Russia will retaliate. Whether this retaliation would be directly from the Russian military or by means of assisting the Syrian air force remains to be seen.

Already, Russia has been humiliated and infuriated by economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western nations for Russia’s interference with Ukraine. Not since the Cold War with the then Soviet Union—and before that the Cuban Missile Crisis—have diplomatic relations between the US and Russia been so tenuous. It is a political bubble that could burst with a belligerent word, a diplomatic balloon that could explode from an errant missile at any time. An all-out military confrontation between Russia and the United States would be tantamount to World War III. Conflict between two super-powers (some argue that Russia is no longer a super-power, but it’s still strong enough to do serious damage even to the US) would by treaties and alliances guarantee the participation of dozens of other nations … which is what world wars are made of.

But that will not happen!

Really? “How do you know that Russia and the US will not go to war with each other?” you might reply. Is it some hunch or some off-the-wall speculation? No. It’s based on careful examination of Ezekiel Chapters 38 & 39 and credible correlation between current conditions in today’s world with the Gog/Magog battle.

To varying degrees, I have covered this great end-times battle in at least three previous Eye of Prophecy articles. However, because of the recent disputes between Russia and the United States, and to further demonstrate that the God/Magog campaign will take place in the early part of the Tribulation after the Rapture, this article will provide more details to include, for the first time, a parallel with two of the seven seal judgments of Revelation.

Three Reasons Why There Will Not be a War between the US and Russia before (or after) the Rapture

(1) Russia knows that it could never win a conventional war with the United States, let alone the US and its European, Canadian, and Australian Allies. And Russia isn’t any more suicidal than the US when it comes to nuclear warfare. Moreover this third world war would, indeed, be a war to end all wars; it would shatter international economies and infrastructures, even if fought as a conventional war. It would demolish entire cities. It would be the kind of apocalyptic devastation found only in the Great Tribulation.

(2) Armageddon, the Tribulation, and World War III are virtually synonymous. With modern weaponry, you can’t have one without the others. But Revelation is clear: It will not pit Russia against the US and its Western Allies. If there was such a war and even if Russia defeated the Western nations, she would pay a heavy price to the point of being unable to militarily or economically fulfill the Gog/Magog prophecy that says: “You and all your allies—a vast and awesome army—will roll down on them like a storm and cover the land like a cloud” (Ezekiel 38:9). Here, Ezekiel is describing the Russian alliance to include Iran that will sweep over the Middle East and Israel. Instead, World War III will feature the ten-nation confederation led by Antichrist (Nero) against all the nations that oppose him, primarily the Oriental countries of the east. Culminating in the Battle(s) of Armageddon in which the Antichrist and even his enemies will unite against the King of kings, Jesus Christ. This will take place during the latter part of the Great Tribulation.

(3) Russia’s last-days war will not be with the US or the EU; rather it will be against Israel. Which leads us back to the Gog/Magog attack on Israel.

Why the Russian Coalition Assault on Israel Will Take Place after the Rapture

Let’s scrutinize the Ezekiel prophecy and see exactly what will happen and when; but also examine two events described in Revelation during the Tribulation that dovetail with Ezekiel. Among other things, we’ll see that “the distant future” (Ezekiel 38:8) of the God/Magog prophecy is unfolding now; that the Gog alliance is developing right before our eyes, providing more evidence that the Rapture is just around the corner.

The Russian Alliance: Nearly all Bible scholars recognize that the land of Magog is Russia and Gog is the Russian leader who will spearhead the operation against Israel. Moreover, several other nations, the most prominent of which is Iran, will be part of this coalition. (Ezekiel 38:5-6). Only in the past few years did Russia and Iran form an alliance which is a 21st century fulfillment of this prophecy.

Israel is the Target: Speaking to Gog, Ezekiel says, “…you will swoop down on the land of Israel, which will be enjoying peace after recovering from war and after its people have returned from many lands to the mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 38:8). Two conditions describe Israel when this attack takes place. One of them has been fulfilled: Although not all Jews world-wide, millions of them have returned to the Promised Land. Yet, Ezekiel’s prophecy doesn’t state nor imply nor require that all Jews have returned to Israel. Not until the end of the Tribulation and into the Millennium will that happen. The most important feature of this verse and the entire Gog/Magog prophecy is that it refers to (the nation of) Israel. The very fact that Israel was reborn as a nation in 1948 and later captured and established Jerusalem as its capital again (1967) means that this prophecy applies to today’s Israel.

However, the second conditional status before Gog attacks Israel is not quite yet in place: Israel “…enjoying peace after recovering from war…”

When Is Israel Attacked? God through Ezekiel continues his prophecy against Gog: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: …You will say, ‘Israel is an unprotected land filled with unwalled villages! I will march against her and destroy these people who live in such confidence! I will capture vast amounts of plunder…’” (Ezekiel 38: 10-12). Then the Lord tells Ezekiel precisely when the Gog/Magog hordes will be unleashed. “Therefore, son of man, prophesy against Gog. Give him this message from the Sovereign Lord: When my people are living in peace in their land, then you will arouse yourself. You will come from your homeland in the distant north with your vast cavalry and your mighty army, and you will attack my people Israel…” (Ezekiel 38: 14-16).

Here, it’s crucial to understand the relevant conditions that entice Russia, Iran, and other nations to march against Israel. One is the fact that Israelis are “living in peace.” Second, because of this peace Israel has much more confidence than ever before; to the extent that she lets down her guard and protection. Israel will be surprised and unprepared.

Neither of these conditions currently exist in Israel. For sixty-six years since their rebirth as a nation, the Jews have constantly been at war with Arab nations and more recently with Muslim terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and now the Islamic State. Peace has been as elusive as a morning mist, despite the Oslo Peace initiatives in the early 1990’s and despite much rhetoric over a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian dilemma. Israel continues to build her military and is ever-ready to defend against attacks from Arab armies as well as Muslim terrorist cells. With the greatest threat of all looming constantly like a dark cloud over the land … a nuclear armed Iran. In fact, the recent battles with Hamas and the advances of ISIS have created a huge diversion of the world’s attention on Iran. Even the US has seemingly put their efforts to keep Iran from developing a nuclear warhead on a back burner. After all, what do you do with an enemy who is suddenly your ally against ISIS? Only Israel fully realizes that Iran is still the greatest threat, not Hamas and not ISIS.

When will these prophetic conditions of (false) peace and (fleeting) security exist in Israel? The answer is found in the book of Daniel … a passage that most scholars and many Christians are familiar with. “The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings…” (Daniel 9:27).

Most students of prophecy know that this ruler is the Antichrist; that this treaty will be with Israel and will take place soon after the Rapture. Furthermore, the ruler will break the treaty after 3 ½ years and put an end to the Jewish sacrifices that have been resumed with the rebuilding of the Temple soon after the treaty is ratified. Short of a massive attack by Arab nations against Israel, there is no other way that the Third Temple could be erected without this treaty. There is no other way for Israel and her Muslim neighbors to be at peace except for this (peace) treaty. Without such a treaty, there is no other condition of security available in Israel unless she is assured by the Antichrist and his ten-nation confederation that they will guarantee Israel’s safety.

Why the United States Cannot Challenge Russia and Will Not Come to Israel’s Defense during the Gog/Magog Assault

International Response When Russia Attacks Israel: “But Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish will ask, ‘Do you really think the armies you have gathered can rob them of silver and gold? Do you think you can drive away their livestock and seize their goods and carry off plunder?’” (Ezekiel 38:13). Often in Scripture when certain countries are identified—especially in a prophetic setting—these nations existing at the time of the prophecy are prototypes of many other nations that will interact with Israel during the last days. In this case Sheba and Dedan represent Arab nations in today’s world. Tarshish denotes leading Western nations including, I believe, the United States; and, by strong implication or connotation, the EU (Tarshish was ancient and modern Spain). Moreover, Antichrist’s ten kings/kingdoms coalition will be major nations of Europe to include countries like Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Great Britain, and probably even the United States—one of the three kings/kingdoms that Antichrist will force to join his ten kingdom confederation.

What is the Context & Meaning of this International Response to Gog’s Campaign against Israel? Because the beast of Revelation (Nero) will not yet have increased and consolidated his power base, the most he can or will do is to voice disapproval of Russia’s assault by doing nothing more than challenging Russia via political rhetoric. This challenge is in the form of questioning whether Russia is really capable of winning this war against Israel, either because Israel herself is a mighty military to be reckoned with or because the US and the EU just might come to Israel’s aid, or both.

Most importantly, why doesn’t the United States actively come to Israel’s defense as soon as America realizes what’s happening? For example, if Russia were to attack Israel today or in the very near future (prior to the Rapture), I firmly believe that America would take on Russia. For one, we currently have the military superiority to defeat even a nation as powerful as Russia. Two, despite President Obama’s specific dislike of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his general animosity toward Israel, the American people primarily through Congress would overwhelmingly support Israel, economically and militarily, should Israel be attacked.

But that is not the case after the Rapture! Why? Because the United States will be decimated by sheer loss of people … born again Christians. No one knows the number, but the numbers will be substantial, enough to deplete our military and our leaders to the point where Americans simply won’t have the capacity to defend themselves, let alone other nations like Israel. One recent statistic showed that one of every three people in the US claims to be a Christian of some sort. Although a large number of these are undoubtedly Christian in name only, there will be enough people in this country taken at the Rapture to make a significant impact on the entire nation; more so than any other nation on the earth.

On the other hand, the mostly godless nation of Russia will easily recognize the overnight catastrophic weakening of America, as well as the yet fragile, still-growing, and by and large ineffective coalition of the Antichrist and his followers. What better time for Russia and Iran to launch a massive attack against Israel than a few months after the Rapture? Thus, Ezekiel makes it clear that the opposition to this attack is with rhetoric only. Equally evident is that Russia and Iran ignore these verbal challenges and continue to march against the Holy Land.

Which is why the Lord, himself, will rescue Israel with a mighty display of omnipotent retribution. Moreover, I believe this divine reckoning is part of the seal judgments of Revelation! Let’s examine the correlation.

Matching Ezekiel with Revelation: God’s Crushing Defeat of Gog, but also Punishment of Those Nations Complicit in the Attack

In several prior Eye of Prophecy articles, I have emphasized the fact that God’s discipline of Israel (the Jews) ended in 1967. See the Seven Times Seven articles. Once Israel was reborn as a nation and captured the Holy City of the Holy Land, God no longer abandoned his special possession. Conversely, he once again protects Israel, which is not to say that Israel is exempt from hostility and aggression by her enemies. Evil people and nations still exist and Messiah’s final triumph over Israel’s enemies is still a (near) future event.

Which is why God, through Ezekiel, announces in no uncertain terms exactly what God’s response will be to this multi-national attempt to destroy Israel: “…When Gog invades the land of Israel, my fury will boil over! In my jealousy and blazing anger, I promise a mighty shaking in the land of Israel on that day … all the people on earth—will quake in terror at my presence. Mountains will be thrown down; cliffs will crumble; walls will fall to the earth … I will make myself known to all the nations of the world. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 38: 18-23, italics for emphasis).

My purpose for emphasizing the italicized words is to point out that all people on earth will recoil in terror; further, that mountains, cliffs, and walls will crumble not just in Israel, but the world over. Though God’s power displayed against the hordes of Gog will indeed be impressive, people living far from the heat of the battle in Israel would have no reason to quake in terror unless they themselves were directly exposed to mountains, cliffs, and walls falling around and on them. Moreover, they will quake in terror at God’s very presence … meaning his presence in causing catastrophic natural disasters all over the earth. Does that sound a lot like what happens in Revelation? If you answer yes, you are correct, as we shall soon see.

I say this with a great deal of certainty, based on what comes next in Ezekiel Chapter 39. Let’s read it: “You and your army and your allies will all die on the mountains … You will fall in the open fields…” (Ezekiel 39:4). Previously in Chapter 38, Ezekiel declared that God will, “…punish you and your armies with disease and bloodshed: I will send torrential rain, hailstones, fire, and burning sulfur!” (Verse 22). Obviously, this is referring to the mountains and fields of Israel, as that is where Gog (Russia) and its armies have arrived to annihilate Israel. But what comes next is often overlooked by scholars, including me at one time.

Immediately after telling Gog that his armies and allies will perish within Israel itself, the Lord declares: “And I will rain down fire on Magog and on all your allies who live safely on the coasts. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 39:6). This is an extraordinary disclosure, one that plainly and emphatically refers not to just the destruction of Gog’s armies in Israel, but also the very motherland of Russia and citizens of other nations who were otherwise living and watching safely on the coasts.

We need to remember that Gog is the ruler who will lead multi-national armies against Israel. But Magog is the land itself from where Gog originates. (See Ezekiel 38:2). Thus, during this awesome display of divine intervention, God will simultaneously “rain down fire on Magog.” Russia itself will be devastated. But not just Russia. Who else? Her allies? Yes, but not the nations and armies who are directly participating in the attack against Israel. Rather, the text states, “your allies who live safely on the coasts.”

Do you see what’s going on here? These same nations who stood idly by while Russia (Gog) arrogantly marches against Israel, nations whose leaders could or would do nothing more than challenge Russia with mere words (did Russia really think they would succeed), will also suffer the wrath of God. There are several examples in the Old Testament where God punishes not just nations that were overtly hostile against Israel, but also those who condoned these attacks and who were complicit by refusing to help Israel, i.e. silent allies.

Matching Ezekiel’s Gog/Magog Destruction with Seal Judgments in Revelation

“I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood … The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places. Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they cried to the mountains and the rocks. ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?’” (Revelation 6: 12-17).

In order, this is the sixth seal, but the first of twenty-one judgments (seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls) in which the entire earth fully realizes that the increasing apocalyptic events on earth are now directly from God and Messiah Jesus. Which is exactly what God is telling us when Ezekiel writes: “I will make myself known to all the nations of the world. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

That and the other correlations already discussed have convinced me that God’s mighty judgment of Gog, Magog, AND many other peoples/nations who directly or indirectly conspired against Israel is an integral part of the sixth and or seventh seal judgments. When Christ breaks the seventh seal, here’s what will happen: “Then the angel filled the incense burner with fire from the altar and threw it down upon the earth; and thunder crashed, lighting flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake” (Revelation 8:5, italics for emphasis).

Once again, this descriptive language closely matches what Ezekiel says, with the extremely strong connection that the 6th and/or 7th seal judgments are the world-wide catastrophes taking place at the same time that the Lord crushes the Gog invasion of Israel. “Fire will rain down on Magog and on all your allies who live safely on the coasts. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 39:6, italics for emphasis).

The quaking and shaking in Israel caused by God will not devastate Israel; but that same quaking (two massive earthquakes back to back in the 6th and 7th seal calamities) will move mountains and islands the world over. Israel will be partly damaged, but not overwhelmed, as Israel is not subject to God’s wrath. To the contrary, Israel will be protected—with the exception when Christ sets foot on the Mount of Olives, and a regional earthquake strikes Jerusalem after the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are raised from the dead and taken to heaven. In other words, why would God destroy the land of Israel all the while protecting it and the Jews from annihilation at the hands of Russia and Iran?

The apocalyptic imagery used in Ezekiel regarding the means of God’s divine vengeance against Russia, Iran, and the other nations that actively participate in the assault against Israel, and those countries that passively, apathetically, and indifferently look on, is remarkably similar to what we find in Revelation.

Things to Ponder

I trust that you’ve gleaned more insight on the Gog/Magog invasion against Israel. When it will occur, who will be involved actively and passively, what God will do in response, and how it correlates with two of God’s astounding judgments on the entire earth, all of which takes place during the Great Tribulation. The additional fact that the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments are chronologically successive coupled with the decimation of the United States by the Rapture and the still growing empire of Antichrist; tell us that the Gog/Magog war will occur within the first year or two of the Tribulation. But certainly before the Antichrist increases his authority.

For me, it brings the “distant future” Gog attack against Israel right down to the present time. Contemporary alliances of certain nations, the dizzying pace of world events unfolding one after another further demonstrates just how close we are to the breathtaking transformation of both the living and dead in Christ (Rapture). Followed by the greatest calamity the world has ever or will ever experience; ending with the majestic triumphant return of the Prince of Peace and King of all kings to put a stop to the carnage.

Hallelujah to the Lamb of God!

Happy New Year?

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Happy New Year!

Blow the trumpets! Sound the shofar! Stop all work and celebrate the New Year! Eat apples dipped in honey for a sweet year ahead. Bite into a pomegranate in hope that your good deeds for the coming year will be as many as the 613 seeds of this delicious fruit. Bake challah bread and shape it into round loaves symbolizing the precious circle of life. Examine your heart and reflect on your existence. Repent for the wrong things you have done. Make amends with others that you have offended. Contemplate, but be content!

For two days beginning this past Wednesday at sundown (which is actually the start of Thursday), millions of people all over the world celebrated another New Year by engaging in these activities and more. Each day the shofar was blown one hundred times!

What New Year? The year isn’t over yet, so what’s this all about? Most of you probably know … the shofar gave it away. Yes, the people I’m referring to are Jews. Yes, their New Year is different from the rest of the world. It comes directly from the Bible as one of the seven annual festivals, also called High Holy days; anniversaries that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the true and living God) commanded the Jews to remember.

“Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord’” (Leviticus 23:24-25).

When the 2nd Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, there was no longer a fire offering to the Lord. In fact, the entire Jewish sacrificial offerings were eliminated … to this very day. For those of us who recognize that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah, we understand that his once and for all sacrifice for our sins ended Israel’s animal sacrificial system. While Jesus was still on the cross, the Temple Veil that protected the holiest sanctuary of the Temple was mysteriously and miraculously torn apart. This miracle confirmed the New Covenant of God’s Grace, whereby every man and woman could enter the very presence of God by simply believing that Messiah Jesus purchased their salvation at the highest possible price.

“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood … God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus” (Romans 3: 25-26).

Although the Old Covenant atonement through animal sacrifice is gone, many Jews still keep all or most of the seven holidays (Holy days). Especially, the three festivals that take place in the Jewish calendar seventh month of Tishrei, which is the overlapping Gregorian months of September and October. They are: The Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashana that begins on the first day of Tishrei; then Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement that begins on the tenth day of the month; then Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) that begins on the fifteenth day of Tishrei.

Rosh Hashana has also become the Jewish New Year. In Hebrew, rosh means head, ha means the, and shana means year. Thus, Rosh HaShana is the head of the year or the first day of the New Year.

But wait a minute! If Rosh Hashana on the 1st of Tishrei begins a new year, then why is Tishrei the seventh month of the year? Even though the Jewish calendar consists of 30-day months (a lunar calendar) or 360 days in the year instead of the Gregorian calendar of 365 days, there are still twelve months in the Jewish year. In fact, the Bible declares that the Jewish month of Nisan is the first month of the Jewish year (overlapping our months of March and April). “The Lord’s Passover begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the first month” (Leviticus 23:5). The seventh month can’t also be the first month.

The reason God selected Nisan as the first month is because the very first festival to be perpetually kept by the Jews was that of Passover. You remember: celebratory remembrance of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. In effect, Israel became a nation on that inaugural Passover.

Does that mean that the Jews have two months each calendar year that are the beginning of a new year? Yes and no … mostly yes!

Two New Year’s Every Year!

For the observant (Orthodox, Conservative) Jew, but also for the less religious among them, Passover is the first High Holy Day of the year and, therefore, is the beginning of the first ceremonially religious new moon festival month of any given calendar year. But somewhere along the way, Jewish rabbis, priests, and scribes realized that the beginning of human history was much broader and more universal than when God chose Abraham to be the ancestor of the Jewish people. Although they knew that the Jews and Israel had been chosen by God to reveal himself through the Scriptures, to be a light to the Gentiles and to be the source of the Messiah, they also understood that human recording of time itself must begin with God’s creation of the first man and woman … Adam and Eve.

Whether the traditional Jewish calculation of time beginning with Adam is accurate or not, they identified the first day of Tishrei as the beginning of the first year and every New Year, thereafter. Thus, Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of Adam (including Eve even though she was created after Adam) who is the progenitor of the human race. But, they also calculated that it was the day (1st of Tishrei) that Abraham bound Isaac for the sacrifice that God mercifully withheld when Abraham demonstrated that his love for and obedience to God was greater than his love for the child promised by God … Isaac as opposed to Ishmael. So there is both Gentile and Jewish significance to Rosh Hashana, which essentially is the civil or calendar beginning of every year for the Jews. However, for religious festival purposes, Tishrei is still the 7th month of the (religious) year.

Did you get all that? If not, then just think in terms of Rosh Hashana as the first day of the new calendar year for the Jews. Tishrei 1st is the same as our January 1st. Did you also know that many Bible scholars (including me) place the time of Jesus’s birth in the month of Tishrei? But that’s another article for another day.

Naturally, Jews all over the world recognize the Roman (Gentile) or Gregorian calendar as one means of measuring time as each New Year (January 1) rolls over. In that respect, it’s just one of many accepted differences between Jew and Gentile that isn’t significant enough to merit discord or dispute that might result in hostilities between the two peoples. In fact, many Jews also celebrate January 1st alongside their Gentile neighbors, but mostly because it’s just another opportunity to party and/or to be courteous!

Yet, when it comes to commencement of world history in terms of God creating the first man (and woman) in God’s image, the Jews invariably revert to and rely on revered tradition, i.e. that the Jewish calendar is the accurate record of how long man has been on the earth.

Thus the first day of every New Year begins on the 1st of Tishrei, which by the Gregorian calendar is no sooner than September 5th and no later than October 5th. Whereas, some Jews may concede that the Gregorian measurement of time could be a viable representation of recorded history (as long as the 365 days are reduced to 360 days in a year), they adamantly refuse to accept the Gentile demarcation of time before and after Christ. Although Jews in all walks of life will, out of necessity, often refer to historical events in the same manner as Gentiles, ultimately they reserve the right to classify time without reference to BC or AD. Or the contemporary designation to eliminate any reference to Christ by using BCE and CE … before Common Era or Common Era.

The Gregorian calendar tells us that we are in the year 2014. If, however, we use the Jewish calendar, then what New Year began just three days ago? Answer: 5775. Five thousand, seven hundred, seventy-five years ago God first breathed life into Adam and he became a living soul. The Jewish year 5775 actually corresponds with the Gregorian year of 2015.

Whether we use the Jewish calendar or the Roman calendar, I’d like to redirect the emphasis of this article to some eventful milestones in recent Jewish history that correlate remarkably with the Mount Olivet discourse found in Matthew Chapters 24 & 25, in which Jesus announces his return will take place before one specific generation (what I have termed the Omega Generation) passes from the scene. Further, that this final generation will have witnessed significant events (birth pangs), to include the miraculous rebirth of Israel, which must take place before Christ returns to the earth. Although the rebirth of Israel is not specifically referenced in Matthew 24 and 25, it is a clear prerequisite to the Rapture and Physical Return of Christ to the earth, as demonstrated by dozens of Biblical prophecies, particularly in the Old Testament.

Before we define a Biblical generation and examine some key benchmark dates, let’s first review the amazing words of Jesus; a statement that specifies a generational link between the stunning events of the last days and his glorious return.

“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:32-34).

Definition & Applications of Generation with 20th and 21st Century Target Dates

Because this part of today’s article was addressed in a previous Eye of Prophecy article entitled, The Omega Generation, published on 2-15-14 under the category of The Rapture, I will quote from that article.

Excerpt from: The Omega Generation: (in italics)

When Jesus says, “this generation” he is not referring to some vague, unspecified, undefined, ambiguous period of time. Rather, he is identifying the precise generation that will be alive and witness the amazing end time’s events described in Matthew and Luke. In other words, this is a literal, identifiable generation. Scripture gives us two primary designations or parameters of a generation, both of which are measured in real-time.

One Hundred Years: “Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years … After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction’” (Genesis 15: 13-15).

This is a phenomenal prophecy given to Abraham even before Isaac was born, in which God not only talks about the (many) descendants of Abraham; but hundreds of years before the fact announces that they (the Israelites) would be slaves in a foreign land (Egypt), only to return to the Promised Land of Israel. Moreover, God equates a generation to 100 years … 400 hundred years equals four generations. Think about it for a moment. Although unusual (perhaps even rare), there are people the world over who live to be one hundred … some even a few years more. Yet, 100 years of age is pretty much the maximum scope of any given lifetime or generation.

“Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty” (Psalms 90:10).

This insight as to the customary lifespan of a human being was given to Moses, who is the author of Psalms 90, the only Psalm credited to Moses. Again, think about it. By and large, the normal or average lifespan of most people the world over is between 70 and 80 years of age. By seventy, virtually no more children are conceived and birthed by a woman. For all practical purposes, a person who reaches 70 years of age (perhaps a few more years) has lived a generational life-time. They have children and grandchildren who are the progeny of the next generation. King David, himself, died at exactly 70 years of age.

If Jesus is referring specifically to the last generation, and I believe the text/context is crystal clear that he is; then this generation must have a designated start-up date or dates. Without an actual event (which can be identified by a specific calendar year) to begin the generation, the 70-year or 100-year generational time frame is much too vague … meaning there’s too much overlap or ambiguity as to the actual decades involved. If you were explaining your generation to someone, what would be your reference point? How would you describe it? Wouldn’t you say, “In my generation….” Essentially, then, your reference or starting point is the date of your birth!

Using our first example of four generations of Israel’s enslavement in Egypt, God gave Abraham the point-in-time commencement of this 400 hundred years (four generations) captivity, i.e. from the time that the Jews no longer enjoyed freedom in Egypt, which was not too long after Joseph died. Another example is the 70-year Babylonian captivity, which just happened to be the exact length of the 2nd measurement of time for a generation … 70 years. Historically, we know the beginning (586 BC) and end date (516 BC) of this time-designated punishment of Israel.

Is it, then, possible to select or identify events/dates in Israel’s contemporary history that correspond to the Biblical definition of a generation … that is one hundred years and/or seventy years? The answer is a resounding, YES. In fact, we’ve already touched on these dates in the previous three articles. In addition, I partially addressed these events some time ago in the Eye of Prophecy article, entitled, When the Rapture, published 8-10-13, as well as The End of the Age article published 11-23-13.

So, let’s look again at the three monumentally crucial events of the last 100 years, relating to the return of the Jews to Israel.

  1. Balfour Declaration of November, 1917: England extended official support that Palestine could be a home for the Jews. This was the beginning of Jewish autonomy in Israel, although the land was still called Palestine at that time.

Recognizing this very important event/date, we can then apply the Biblical generational measurement of 100 years. Once again, however, we need to convert Roman calendar years to Jewish years. Doing the math we come up with 101.4 Jewish years which translates to 101 years and 5 months. From November, 1917, this would take us to March or April, 2019.

2.  United Nations Resolution of November, 1947: UN voted to grant statehood rights to the Jews; the nation would be called Israel. (May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion proclaimed the reborn existence of the State of Israel!).

This was the 2nd significant milestone in fulfillment of hundreds of Biblical prophecies concerning the Abrahamic Covenant, i.e. the physical restoration of Israel. Most Bible scholars and historians select the statehood date of May 14, 1948 as the historical landmark, which it certainly is; however, the actual declaration of statehood was almost anticlimactic. Reason: officially, the British Mandate (rule) over Palestine expired on that date. But it was the UN Resolution that delivered the pivotal turning point or breakthrough. Without the UN resolution of November, 1947, there would have been no recognized Israeli State in May, 1948. Yet, there is only a period of 6 months separating these two events; thus, selection of either one would be a legitimate application to the 70-year generational measurement of time.

Again, doing the conversion math, we arrive at a total of 70.97 or (rounding it off) 71 Jewish years. Adding 71 years to November, 1947, we arrive at November, 2018. If we utilize May, 1948 as the benchmark date, the 71 years would take us to May, 2019.

3.  June, 1967 Six-Day War (Jubilee Years): In addition to the two Biblical measurements of a generation (100 years and 70 years), what happens if we also select the Jubilee time-frame of 50 years? As stressed in the previous seven times seven articles, the 50-year Jubilee was part of God’s formula for disciplining Israel, as the Jews also failed to keep the Jubilee. Consequently, I believe the Jubilee will also be a component part of God’s magnificent restoration of Israel.

In this instance, we will use the next epic milestone in Israel’s brief modern-history … that of the June, 1967 Six-Day War. We talked about this at great length in last week’s article, to include the fact that it occurred 50 years (not coincidentally, a Jubilee period of time) from the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

Once again we convert 50 Roman calendar years to Jewish time and we come up with: 50.7 years which is 50 years and 8.4 months (8-9 months). From June, 1967, this would take us through February or into March, 2018.

We’ll conclude today’s article with a final excerpt from Omega Generation, but first we need to determine which year of the Jewish calendar fits with the Roman calendar and its conversion to Jewish years as identified above. What then might be the Jewish calendar year when the Day of the Lord begins (with the Rapture extending through the seven-years of tribulation) and why?

Answer: The year 5777. Which begins at sundown on October 2, 2016 until Rosh Hashana approximately a year later in 2017.

Reasons: The year of 5777 fits quite nicely with the Gregorian year of 2017: One hundred year generation after the Balfour declaration, 70 years after the UN resolution of Israel’s statehood in 1947, and 50 years of Jubilee after recapture of Jerusalem in 1967.

It has everything to do with the numbers in this year. Five, then three sevens. Time doesn’t permit an in-depth examination of the number seven, or the number three (three sevens, i.e. 7, 7, 7). Except to say that both numbers are clearly and Biblically associated with God and divinity.

What about the number five? Some Christians attribute this number as symbolically depicting God’s grace and redemption. Although a case could be made to confirm this connection, an even stronger argument can be presented to establish a link between God’s gracious interactions with the Jews.

  • There are five books in the Torah or what Gentile Christians call the Pentateuch … Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. These books are also called, The Book of the Law or the Mosaic Law.
  • In the original Tabernacle there were five curtains, five pillars, five sockets, and an altar that was five cubits long and five cubits wide.
  • There were five kinds of offerings periodically required of the Hebrews: Burnt, sin, trespass, grain, and peace offerings. (Note: The entire sacrificial offering system was a demonstration of God’s grace, forgiveness, freedom from sin, and on-going restoration of the Jews. The sole purpose for these offerings was repeated atonement for breaking of God’s laws and gratitude for his pardon of their sins and provisions for their welfare).
  • There were five parts of the Holy Oil used to anoint the priests and separate all things used in the Tabernacle as holy instruments for God’s use. Moreover, this Holy Oil is a distinct representation of the Holy Spirit, given to each believer, Jew and Gentile alike, after the Covenant Age of Grace was instituted by Christ sacrifice for our sins, which ended the daily and yearly Jewish animal sacrificial system.

Summary

Back to the final excerpt quote from Omega Generation article:

Now comes the really exciting feature of all these conversion tables and what you might consider to be some boring mathematics. First, none of these three possibilities give us an exact day/hour of Christ’s return that begins with the first phase which is the Rapture and ends with his physical return at the end of the Tribulation. And that’s good. Why? Because Jesus, himself, said that no one can possibly know the day or hour of his return. I emphasize that almost to a fault in my article, When the Rapture. Therefore, I wouldn’t even pretend to know the exact date of Christ’s return, nor would I ever venture a guess. Forget it!

On the contrary, Jesus did advise us to recognize the seasons, the times, the signs, and the symptoms if you will, of his glorious return. If he didn’t want us to put 2 and 2 together, then why did Jesus provide so many clues and signals? Why would he have even used the metaphor of the fig tree in bloom? Even more challenging: Why would he have selected a time-measured or time-dedicated point of reference (generation), if he didn’t want us to identify the noteworthy bench mark events of the final days, aligned alongside the pre-Rapture birth pains and post-Rapture (Tribulation) incidents that he describes.

Things to Ponder

The Lord will return at the appointed time, which is his time alone. But that time will be on a specific day in a specific year. He might choose a date that would match up with the Jewish calendar or with the Gregorian calendar or both. Would be just like the Lord to synthesize and/or overlap these dates, by giving both the Jewish and Gentile (Christian) calendars mutual consideration and credibility as a means of identifying the equally important events of the Rapture (for the church) and physical return of Christ (on behalf of Israel).

Meaning that the beginning of the Day of the Lord, which is the Rapture, could take place during the Jewish year of 5777 through 5780, with the corresponding Gregorian years of 2016 through 2019.

Whatever the date—today, tomorrow, next year, or 2017 (5777)—I will say what I’ve said before: I would be very surprised if the Rapture doesn’t take place by the end of the year 2020!

That statement is NOT a presumptuous prediction nor is it far-fetched conjecture. Rather, I prefer to call it spiritual speculation as it is based on Biblically supported evidence by means of careful correlation between Bible passages and connection with recent historical milestones affecting the nation of Israel.

Please understand … the physical return of Christ to the earth has everything to do with Israel. The Rapture is only a prelude to the Day of the Lord, but what an overture it will be: Resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transfiguration of both the living and dead in Christ with new immortal bodies like our Lord.

And away we will go!

http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/19694/song-idf-soldiers/?

Alliances against Israel

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Alliances against Israel … Will Fail

Most nations that came into existence down through the ages did so gradually through a growing population, commerce, culture, and merging political unions among their own people. Some became great empires by conquest of rival nations, such as Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. A handful of others were birthed from revolution against governments that ruled them through colonial expansion, like the United States of America’s declaration of independence from England. And then there’s Israel; a nation reborn from the ashes of the Holocaust just three years after six million Jews were murdered, and from the floods of dispersion and exile for two millennia.

Unlike many of the powerful empires that preceded them, it was necessary for the United States and Israel to immediately fight a War of Independence for their very survival. Then subsequent wars to maintain freedom won by the ultimate sacrifice of the blood and lives of so many valiant soldiers and civilians.

In last week’s Eye of Prophecy article, we ended with a quote from Psalms 83. The entire chapter is a prophetic picture of what Israel’s ancient and modern enemies intend to accomplish against the Jews. The Psalmist pleads with God not to ignore the malicious plans of Israel’s enemies, who are also God’s enemies.

“Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies? Don’t you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up? They devise crafty schemes against your people; they conspire against your precious ones. ‘Come,’ they say; ‘let us wipe our Israel as a nation. We will destroy the very memory of its existence’” (Psalms 83: 2-4).

Following this conceited conspiracy to eradicate Israel as a nation and the Jews as a people, there is a list of peoples who were complicit in this evil plot. Some Bible scholars believe Psalm 83 speaks of a massive end-times coordinated assault against Israel that will comprise a modern configuration of the countries listed in this Psalm. That the descendants of these people currently populate the nations that border Israel today … Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and more distant lands such as Iraq.

They see the Psalms 83 integrated attack against Israel on or close to the same level as the Gog/Magog invasion of Israel (Ezekiel 38 & 39) and/or the final campaign against Israel initiated by the Antichrist, found in Daniel Chapter 11, which is the same apocalyptic conflict of Revelation 16 & 19 known as Armageddon.

Too Many Dissimilarities between Psalms 83 Countries and Today’s Nations

I agree with their evaluation, but only in part … that there logically would be some descendants of the Psalms 83 countries that continued to populate the geographical areas surrounding Israel today. Yet, in reality the “nations” listed in Psalms 83 were not really countries at all, at least not how we define nations today. Instead, they were minor gentile kingdoms (large ethnic groups) consisting of indigenous tribes, similar to the twelve tribes of Israel before King Saul began a merger and King David completed this unification of the twelve tribes into the mighty nation of Israel around 1,000 BC.

For example, some of the peoples listed in Psalms 83 were: Ishmaelites, Hagrites, Gebalites, Amalekites, and people from Philistia and Tyre. Philistia was located in the modern-day strip of Gaza, however, today’s Palestinian Arabs living in Gaza are not descended from the ancient Philistines. Many of these clans whose names end with “ite” were more like tribes or ethnic groups, some of whom inhabited various parts of ancient Canaan with overlapping ill-defined regions which eventually became the land of Israel. Yes, Edom and Moab were larger territories to the east of Israel; but, like the smaller tribes, they were virtually wiped out through war and assimilation into other societies.

In fact, there is one large empire mentioned in Psalms 83 that would qualify as a nation, actually a great nation at the time: Assyria. The text states, “Assyria has joined them, too, and is allied with the descendants of Lot” Yet, the reason Assyria joined this malicious plot that sought to destroy Israel through an ancient alliance is because Assyria, at that time, was already preparing for an eventual (successful) campaign that culminated in complete conquest of the ten northern tribes of Israel. History also tells us that Assyria turned on her allies as well as some of the other peoples listed in Psalms 83 and totally destroyed them during its reign as a regional power. Eventually, Assyria itself was obliterated by Babylon, the first great world empire identified in the Book of Daniel. Thereafter, Assyria ceased to exist.

Thus, there are significant differences between these ancient peoples and their alliances; too many distinctions to connect them with contemporary countries that are mostly populated by Arabs (not ancient Canaanites). Consequently, I don’t believe that Psalms 83 depicts a huge modern-day unified attack against Israel in the same vein as the Gog/Magog war, and certainly not the Antichrist led assault against Israel.

But, I do endorse the idea that these ancient ethnic groups identified in Psalms 83 are models of modern countries, with their behavior toward Israel a predisposed pattern of godless nations today that have sought to destroy Israel ever since her rebirth (1948). In fact, we addressed the three major wars fought by Israel between 1948 and 1973, in last week’s article. And we’ve also addressed the minor wars between Israel and terrorists groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. It’s these smaller ethnic factions, some of which have morphed into terrorist organizations, that more closely resemble the warring tribes identified in Psalms 83.

And, as alluded last week, I don’t believe that these terrorists groups—even if they unify to some extent—can defeat Israel or will even try to take on Israel in the form of a joint campaign. If they do, they will be soundly defeated. Rather, it’s the monumental alliance of nations found in Ezekiel and Daniel and Revelation that specifically result in two (and only two) end times invasions of Israel. They involve governments of large, significant nations in today’s world.

Psalm 83 Summary: The conspiracy of mostly ethnic tribes identified in Psalms 83 applied primarily to the times in which this passage was written, not to an end-times alliance of nations surrounding Israel today. Other than a handful of actual descendants from some of these countries that may live in Syria, or Jordan or other contemporary nations, there is no direct observable connection between the peoples of Psalms 83 and today’s Middle East. However, the boastful claim of these ancient countries—to wipe Israel from the face of the earth—has once again reared its ugly head as evidenced by the rhetoric of mostly Muslim leaders bent on Israel’s annihilation. In that respect, the Psalms 83 prophecy is relevant today, but not by means of a huge, one-time multinational attack on Israel. Instead, there have been three wars with conventional armies and several other minor conflicts that involved terrorists groups against Israel, with all of them ending in failure.

The Two Invasions of Israel

Let’s scrutinize the two epic battles involving alliances that will engage Israel during the seven-year Tribulation, as well as God’s three-part strategy that results in final victory over these doomed nations. Both of these larger-than-life campaigns involve entire nations (not ethnic sects or terrorist groups) aligned against Israel, with the second coalition joining forces even with its enemies; thereby, turning its final attention from Israel to direct confrontation with the King of kings (Messiah Jesus) in the greatest show-down of all time … Armageddon. Both will take place in Israel.

Before we examine these two end-time wars against Israel, I need to emphasize that, with the temporary exception of the Jewish Maccabees defeat of the Syrian Greeks (Antiochus Epiphanes IV) in 168-167 BC, Israel had not been able to defend herself since Babylon conquered Judah in 586 BC. The ability of Israel to finally protect her people and land is one of the three methods used by God to defeat Israel’s ancient foes; one that in our generation has been restored to the Jews who vowed: “Never again.” Never again will they be led as lambs to the slaughter, so grotesquely displayed during the Holocaust.

Israel’s Military: As this article is being written, Israel possesses one of the top-five militaries on the planet … with only six million people, a population smaller than many cities throughout the world! For the first time in 2500 years, Israel has the God-given capability to fight her own battles. In principle, this began when they were reborn as a sovereign nation in 1948; the practical validity of which was stamped on the global conscience in the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel recaptured the Holy City Jerusalem of the Holy Land. This was a monumental milestone in Israel’s prophetic destiny, a breakthrough to confirm that Israel was once again the land promised to the Jews, that she was no longer under Gentile supremacy which resulted from God’s discipline (punishment) of Israel as decreed long ago by God through Moses.

Here I would strongly recommend that you read a series of Eye of Prophecy articles entitled Seven Times Seven (to the 4th power), Parts I, II, III, published 1-25, 2-1, and 2-8-14 respectively. You might even want to begin with the article of 1-18-14, An Incredible Time Lapse Prophecy that is an introductory prelude to Seven Times Seven. I’m convinced it will be worth your while to check into this largely unrecognized, but nevertheless stunning prophecy found in Leviticus Chapter 26 … of all places!

This prophecy comes with an actual timetable that concluded God’s discipline of Israel in 1967. For sure, Israel will undergo an even greater time of testing and trouble during the Great Tribulation, a national life and death struggle in which the Jews will suffer extensive casualties, but not as a result of God’s punishment. Rather it will be a prophetic spoke connected to the wheel of God’s punishment of the Gentile nations who dare to wage war against God’s special possession, Israel, in these last days.

Already, Israel’s skill and bravery in battle is well-known and recognized by the entire world. How could they miss it, given Israel’s remarkable success in the aforementioned wars. What they don’t know or refuse to acknowledge (which is even true of many Israelis) is that the Jews once again have a Divine source of help. Scripture is crystal clear: When the Jews returned to the Promised Land and Israel was reborn as a nation, they were once again placed under the mighty protection of the God of Israel, who is also the God of gentiles redeemed by the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua.

The First Assault against Israel: You might want to review two prior Eye of Prophecy articles: Beware of the Bear published on 3-22-14, and The Omega Generation, posted on 2-15-14. Both columns touch on this first titanic attack against Israel, known as, The Gog/Magog War.

In keeping with the main theme of this current article, the emphasis will be on how God strategically deals with this ungodly Gentile coalition that arrogantly defies God … presumptuously thinking it can defeat Israel with vast superiority of numbers and weaponry.

We see in Ezekiel 38 and 39, two of the three main strategies that God employs in conquering Gentile nations. They are listed in points one and two below:

(1) Confusion, division, in-fighting within the coalition itself.

(2) God’s direct, miraculous unassisted (Israel simply watches while her enemies are destroyed) intervention mostly through nature.

(3) The third divine strategy will be described later in the 2nd and greatest battle(s) of all time: That God fights alongside of his people. However, the Jews bear the brunt of the initial onslaught against them. That is, until Jesus spectacularly descends from the clouds with power and great glory, sets foot on the Mount of Olives, assumes complete control of the war, and unleashes his divine power to utterly destroy Israel’s enemies.

This third method, in which Israel participates in its defense by fighting for its very survival, is not found in the Gog/Magog attack on Israel … meaning that Israel doesn’t engage this Russian led coalition. First, because of the irresistible, overpowering strength of Russia and her allies, including entire Muslim nations such as Iran and Libya (not ethnic terrorist sects of Islam). Secondly, in order for God to demonstrate that, if he chooses, he alone can defend Israel without the Israeli military (IDF) doing anything at all. Thereby, accomplishing God’s plan to once again reveal his awesome power to both Israel and her enemies.

“In this way, I will demonstrate my glory to the nations. Everyone will see the punishment I have inflicted on them and the power of my fist when I strike. And from that time on the people of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God. The nations will then know why Israel was sent away in exile—it was punishment for sin, for they were unfaithful to their God. Therefore, I turned away from them and let their enemies destroy them” (Ezekiel 39: 21-23, italics for emphasis).

Let’s read about the first manner (Point #1) in which God has defeated Israel’s enemies in the ancient past, and will do so again when Gog/Magog marches on Israel soon after the Rapture takes place.

“I will summon the sword against you on all the hills of Israel, says the Sovereign Lord. Your men will turn their swords against each other” (Ezekiel 38:21). Several times in Old Testament battles between Israel and their enemies, God supernaturally intervenes by causing discord, disarray, doubt, and panic within the ranks of the enemy. None more well-known than Gideon’s army of 32,000 troops whittled down by God to a mere three hundred soldiers against thousands upon thousands of Midianites (Judges Chapter 7). Although Gideon’s army later engaged in mop-up actions, for all practical purposes the Midianites lost the battle because of sheer panic before a single Israelite sword was unsheathed.

I’m convinced that the Lord will create the same kind of disharmony among today’s terrorists as one means to diminish their numbers and effectiveness. And then later with entire nations who mobilize vast armies against Israel. Yes, God sometimes chooses to terrorize Israel’s enemies! This is based on another Biblical principle: Israel’s enemies will fall into their own traps … will be struck down by their own tactics and weapons. I suppose we could call this, Reverse Terrorism. In a righteous, Godly sense.

“The wicked conceive evil; they are pregnant with trouble and give birth to lies. They dig a deep pit to trap others, then fall into it themselves. The trouble they make for others backfires on them. The violence they plan falls on their own heads” (Psalms 7: 14-16).

The second means that God uses to vanquish Israel’s enemies is Divine omnipotence … sheer overwhelming power. As demonstrated in the next two verses: “I will punish you and your armies with disease and bloodshed; I will send torrential rain, hailstones, fire, and burning sulfur. In this way, I will show my greatness and holiness, and I will make myself known to all the nations of the world. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 38: 22-23). Ezekiel Chapter 39 contains even more graphic images of what God will do to the forces of Gog/Magog. And I do mean graphic! Read it for yourself.

We read about such power throughout the Old Testament, not the least of which is God’s supernatural judgments against Pharaoh performed through God’s miraculous manipulation of nature. Then, of course, there’s the breathtaking, fearsome seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of Revelation. It’s not just virtual reality; it’s realism that even the secular world acknowledges and describes with such terms as: The Wrath of God or A Catastrophe of Biblical Proportions.

The Second and Final Assault against Israel: This of course, is the great series of military conflicts that will lead to the battle to end all battles, the day of reckoning in the Valley of Megiddo. Once again time/space does not permit quotation of several passages from Zechariah and other Old Testament books, but the gist is that Israeli soldiers will initially defend Israel against Antichrist and his coalition; however, Nero (Antichrist) will prevail for a short period of time. A remnant of surviving Jews will continue their fight to the death in this epic struggle for Israel’s survival (they will fight like King David as quoted in a verse from last week’s article). But then Scripture is clear that the Jews will steadily succumb to overwhelming military superiority until there is virtually no hope. Only then will the Lion from their tribe of Judah spring to their rescue. He will fight alongside the remaining remnant of Jews, and ultimately assume complete control of the battle. To include the other two heavenly approaches to victory. As follows:

“On that day, says the Lord, I will cause every horse to panic and every rider to lose his nerve. I will watch over the people of Judah, but I will blind all the horses of their enemies. And the clans of Judah will say to themselves, ‘The people of Jerusalem have found strength in the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, their God’” (Zechariah 12: 4-5). Blinding of the horses (there will be actual horses used in this battle as well as heavy armament) will be both literal and figurative; for example, by disrupting all of the electronic devices used in today’s weapons and communication systems. The Antichrist and his forces will soon be running blind.

Finally, the second phase of God’s invincible power will also be used against Antichrist and his forces in this final battle. There will come a time in this great conflict where Jesus will simply take over and speak his foes into oblivion. In an almost anti-climactic end to this colossal war, we read, “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet … both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Their entire army was killed by the sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies” (Revelation 19: 19-21). (Also, please read Daniel 11: 40-45).

That, my friends, will be the ultimate display of Royal and Regal power straight from Messiah Jesus, the Son of God, against all those to dare to be anti-Christ or who dare try to destroy God’s special people and land.

Things to Ponder

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords” (Revelation 19: 11-16).

I implore all those who are undecided: Today is the day of salvation. Choose Messiah Jesus now before it’s too late. If you do, you will one day soon be riding one of those white horses following our Lord into battle. You, and I, and millions of other who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, will watch in awe as Jesus delivers his people, defeats Antichrist, and destroys evil.

We will exclaim with the host of heaven, “…Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations” (Revelation 15:3).

It’s your choice. From above the battlefield with a bird’s eye-view, you can ride a beautiful white horse behind the King of kings and be on the winning side. Or you can watch from below while Christ triumphs over the enemies of God and his people. Are you from above or from below?

As the late Christian songwriter Rich Mullen wrote in one of my favorite songs, Awesome God:

“There’s thunder in his footsteps, and lightning in his fists. Our God is an Awesome God.”

The battle lines have been drawn. We’re either for Christ or we are against him. There is no middle ground.

The Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror … Will End

Why terrorism and terrorists groups? Why not Muslim nations crushing the Jews or Christians and spreading Islam through conventional warfare? Easy answer: Because they’ve tried that tactic and failed. They can’t defeat Israel and certainly not the United States or the European Union with their military. Thus, the militant among them resort to guerilla warfare through killing of innocent civilians.

But that is not to say that Islamic authorities sit idly by while the radical among them pursue Jihad (Muslim holy war). Some Muslim regimes are fighting to stay in power, and all Muslim governments are chasing the contemporary strategy of condemning and censuring Jews (especially Israel itself) and select Christian groups through Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, with deceitful lies that make their people the victims and Jews and Christians the villains. In that regard, the scheme is rather old: If you tell a lie loud enough and long enough (especially through today’s media), many will believe it.

In fact, this devious strategy is actually found in the Koran; which offers Muslims the right to lie to the whole world if lying will aid in defeat of their enemies. It gives a whole new meaning to: The end justifies the means.

Since the United Nations passed a resolution in November, 1947 admitting Israel to the family of nations, then later recognized Israel’s declaration of statehood on May 14, 1948, Israel has fought three major wars against a coalition of Arab nations. Each of these wars resulted in a resounding Israeli victory and all three triumphs were considered by even the most objective military experts as astounding, if not miraculous. Israel prevailed against all odds.

On May 15, 1948, the day after Israel became a sovereign state, five Arab nations led by Syria and Egypt attacked with armies that vastly outnumbered and outgunned the hastily assembled, rag-tag Jewish army. National leaders the world over, including US President Harry Truman, gave the Jews no chance whatsoever of winning; Israel would die a national death within days or weeks after its rebirth. Instead, it was the Arabs who were soundly defeated in Israel’s War of Independence. Even hardened Israeli officers and soldiers, some of whom had abandoned the notion that God any longer cared about Israel’s destiny, attributed the victory to divine intervention. The miracle of this victory was transparently obvious: there’s absolutely no way that Israel could have or should have won that war. Perhaps God was on their side after all.

The Six-Day War in June, 1967 was equally stunning. Not because Israel didn’t have (by that time) a much stronger military than in 1948; but because of the sheer brilliance of the Israeli Defense Force’s strategy and execution of those plans. Which accomplished a feat that has never in military history been achieved: A massive rout of an enemy that was still much stronger (on paper) in men and material in only six days! Strong evidence that God was on their side.

Finally, the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Because the Arab nations struck without warning on one of Israel’s high holy days (Day of Atonement), they caught Israel woefully unprepared. It was the bloodiest war with, by far, the highest casualties on both sides. Yet, Israel’s victory was no less miraculous for the very reason that such a sudden attack from an enemy that still boasted a clear military superiority should have by all rights defeated a foe that was caught completely off guard. It would be similar to the United States rebounding in a short time and actually defeating the Japanese at Pearl Harbor or soon afterward; rather than taking another four years to finally conquer Japan. There’s no doubt that God was on Israel’s side!

Which is why the more recent Israeli (minor) wars have been fought against terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah in Syria or Hamas in Gaza. Likewise with factional Muslim armies in Iraq and Afghanistan trying to defeat US led coalition troops via head-on open battle-line warfare. It won’t work.

Iran is one Muslim nation that is coming close to direct confrontation with Israel and the West by their sneaky, underhanded efforts to build a nuclear weapon. Do you think US and EU sanctions against Iran are working or will eventually make a difference by deterring Iran’s resolve? That is as close as you’ll get to a rhetorical question.

Muslims Short on Patience

For centuries followers of Islam were well-known for their patience. Although the Muslims in general and Arabs in particular have lost more battles and wars than they have won, normally they have taken their losses in stride and reverted to their long-term objective that eventually Islam will prevail. Their mindset is that setbacks are only temporary. Inevitably they will win back the territories lost to the infidel … such as Spain, once conquered and controlled by the Moors; or seizing what they still insist on calling Palestine.

But no longer do we see such patience or the willingness to wait any longer than they think necessary to accomplish their clearly stated goals. They are growing tired of waiting for Israel and Western nations to weaken and implode from within; they are becoming anxious to once and for all deal with the (their) Jewish problem.

And so, the terrorists who are wreaking havoc almost daily are those who don’t have the patience to wait for a multi-nation Arab/Muslim coalition to accomplish the diabolical objectives of Islam … subjugation of all Jews and Christians and ultimately domination of the entire earth under an Islamic Caliphate (global government) controlled by their version of a messiah, the 12th Imam. Less than two years ago, Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—who was simply a puppet of the Ayatollah—publically declared that the Muslim Mahdi (messiah) would arrive only after Islam launched a holy war to defeat the infidels. And just a couple of weeks ago, a top Muslim cleric in Turkey announced that this Mahdi would set up the global Islamic Caliphate in Turkey itself. Such unity! Two non-Arab Muslim countries vying for national rights to be the messianic headquarters for an Arab Imam descended from Muhammad.

One can only wonder what Arab leaders think about these boastful claims. But it doesn’t matter what they think; because it won’t happen that way … not according to the Word of God. This (false) messiah—the Antichrist—is not a Muslim Imam, nor will there be a revival of the ancient Roman Empire. Rather, the one who would dare proclaim himself Messiah and God is none other than a revived Roman Emperor! For Biblical and historical evidence of the origin and actual identity of the Antichrist beast-king of Revelation, Daniel, and II Thessalonians please read Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666? Or refer to the Eye of Prophecy series on the Antichrist, by clicking on the category of Antichrist. Then decide for yourself.

Paradoxically, the revolutionary mindset of certain segments of the Muslim population in certain Arab nations impatiently waiting for their national leaders/military to take on their sworn Jewish and Christian rivals, subsequently ignited the smoldering fire of individual rights against suppression and oppression by their own leaders, that resulted in what is now called the Arab Spring. The result: Toppling of governments in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and possibly to come in Syria. Plus, major protests and demonstrations in Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan.

We are bombarded with incessant rhetoric from Muslim nations and terrorist cells that call for the downfall of the United States and all Western nations that align themselves with anything that looks and acts like a democracy or republic. The killing of the two American journalists is an ultra-harsh reminder that they mean business. But that is not their ultimate goal.

According to several passages in the Bible, evidenced by the constant oratory of hate streaming from the mouths of Muslim presidents, prime ministers, imams, and leaders of terrorist groups alike, the overriding ambition of not just their leaders but the average Muslim in the average Muslim country is the utter destruction of Israel and annihilation of the Jews (everywhere, not just in Israel). And, along the way, Christians must also be eliminated.

Muslim impatience in reaching their avowed goal is yet another (strong) sign that the end is drawing near (see Psalms 2).

Recent Statements to Confirm the True Agenda of Islam and Muslims

Despite the heavy blow inflicted on Hamas by Israel during the recent 50-day war, Hamas remains defiant and pledges that there will be more fighting to come. In the following statement from Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, he divulges the true motive for their terrorist activities: “The value of this campaign is not in the opening of this crossing or that crossing, but in paving the way for the next phase of liberating Jerusalem and the land of Palestine. Today we are closer to Jerusalem.” Zuhri then chanted, “Khaybar, Khaybar al Yahood,” which means that Allah will return to expel or kill the Jews. Khaybar was a Jewish village north of Medina, Saudi Arabia, which Mohammed brutally conquered in 629 AD.

Lest you think this terrorist is speaking only for Hamas or other terrorist cells, a poll taken by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research shortly after the final cease-fire that appears to have ended the most recent conflict, produced the following results: Sixty-one percent of Palestinians would choose Hamas’ leader, Ismail Haniyeh for president, if Palestinian presidential elections were held today. Only 32% would vote for current President Mahmoud Abbas (of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank … the so-called moderate branch). In the aforementioned speech by Sami Abu Zuhri, a large nearby crowd cheered him on.

Do you see what’s happening here? The average Palestinian Arab now has an even stronger desire to follow Hamas, which is tantamount to support of Hamas’ objective to drive the Jews from Israel and to take over Jerusalem—which is clearly the capital of Israel going back at least 3000 years to King David. Jerusalem is mentioned hundreds of times in the Old and New Testament; not once in the Koran! If Muslims are going to argue right of supremacy and occupation based on the Koran, then why is Jerusalem not even found in the Koran? But then, another contemporary tactic of Muslim Arabs alongside of terrorism is to rewrite history or reinvent it. In other words: there’s only Muslim history, which is a counterfeit, copy-cat, Johnny-come-late religion thousands of years after Abraham and Moses, hundreds of years after Jesus Christ.

Sorry, sometimes I get a little irritated when it comes to an entire religion that claims a belated replacement superiority over the true and living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God’s appointed Messiah, who died for the sins of the world. But the day of reckoning will come for false religions and for all who reject their only hope of salvation in Messiah Jesus.

From an al-Qaeda source: “Israel is a legitimate target for Muslim militants all over.”

From the Islamic State (ISIS) we read one of their sworn objectives: “(the) Islamic State will do everything within its means to continue striking down every apostate who stands as an obstacle on its path towards Palestine.” Question: On its path to where? The answer is as clear as was the hideous beheading of the two American journalists through ISIS videos, the first committed by a British-born terrorist Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary nicknamed “Jihadi John.” The 2nd journalist killed was American but also a Jew.

It is Israel that ISIS really wants.

Another ISIS statement from the same English magazine publication, Dabig (aimed at young Muslims or anyone sympathetic to Islam in Western countries) that condemned the apathy and impotence of Arab States and other Muslim organizations to carry out, the will of Allah:

“Its (Islamic State) actions speak louder than its words and it is only a matter of time and patience before it reaches Palestine to fight the barbaric Jews and kill those of them hiding behind the gharqad trees—the trees of the Jews.” *Note: The call to kill Jews hiding behind trees is almost a direct quote from the Koran where it demands that the trees and rocks expose the Jews hiding there so they can be eliminated by faithful Muslims.

I beg to differ: It’s terrorists that cowardly hide behind woman and children. Did you catch the height of hypocrisy by calling the Jews barbaric … the same Jews/Israelis who gave ample humane warning to both Hamas and innocent Gazan civilians before attacking Hamas militants and weaponry; with Hamas sheltering themselves by hiding in civilian occupied mosques, schools, private residences, and other public buildings.

Another ISIS boast: “The first priority is to perform hijrah from wherever you are to the Islamic State. From the state of the infidel to the state of Islam.” The infidels are not only Jews; they are also Christians—who are almost as much a hated target of Muslim terrorists in particular and Muslim followers in general as are the Jews. Which is why Christians of certain ethnic communities in Iraq are being systematically robbed, beaten, raped, tortured, killed, or evicted from their homes, jobs, families, and friends. Still, the ultimate goal is to complete the Final Solution began by Adolph Hitler: genocidal extermination of the Jews and unlawful possession of the Land that God, himself, promised to the Jews.

As intimated in last week’s article, it’s unlikely that the divided house of Islamic terrorists, including and especially ISIS, will ever be unified enough to launch a coordinated series of strikes against Israel. But if they do, Israel’s leaders understand that they will receive no assistance from their neighbors, even though these neighbors are currently opposed to the more radical terrorists … Hamas and ISIS.

These are the words of IDF Brigadier General Zvika Fogel, retired commander of the IDF Southern Command: “The future is unclear, but we must prepare for the worst … the day on which the Islamic State to our north and Hamas to our south launch coordinated terrorist attacks against Israel. The Assad regime and Hezbollah, as well as Egypt and the Palestinian Authority will not defend us. They will stand on the side and protect their own interests. We must ready ourselves for this war, which we will have to win.”

As also mentioned in the previous Eye of Prophecy column, Hezbollah is fighting on the side of Assad against ISIS and other ultra-radical terrorists in Syria. It’s amazing that Syria or Hezbollah or Egypt or the PA would remotely think about backing Israel for any reason whatsoever, but that is the current state of affairs in the topsy-turvy Middle East. And I wonder how much, if any, assistance would be given to Israel even by the United States?

God’s Strategic Plan and Purpose

The Bible predicted this long ago, referring to Israel’s enemies: “O God, do not be silent! Do not be deaf. Do not be quiet, O God. Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies? Don’t you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up? They devise crafty schemes against your people; they conspire against your precious ones. ‘Come,’ they say, ‘let us wipe out Israel as a nation. We will destroy the very memory of its existence’” (Psalms 83: 1-4).

Can these words be any clearer? The enemies of Israel are the enemies of God. Furthermore, the latter part of this chapter provides a graphic description of how God will deal with Israel’s foes; to judge wicked, ungodly Gentile nations or kingdoms that seek to destroy Israel.

Let’s read part of this divine retribution against those whose unrelenting ambition in life is to eradicate the Jewish race and usurp control over a land that does not belong to them:

“O my God, scatter them like tumbleweed, like chaff before the wind … chase them with your fierce storm; terrify them with your tempest. Utterly disgrace them until they submit to your name, O Lord. Let them be ashamed and terrified forever. Let them die in disgrace” (Psalms 83: 13-17, italics for emphasis). Such an appropriate choice of words written some twenty-seven hundred years ago (terrify and terrified), don’t you think. Such poetic justice, wouldn’t you say; that the terrorists of today will recoil in terror at the awesome power and judgment of Almighty God.

Although this passage was directed against mostly ethnic tribes and small kingdoms that were plotting against Israel at the time that the words were penned (during the reign of King Jehoshaphat of Judah), the conspiracy claims of wiping Israel from the face of the earth also apply to peoples and nations in today’s world that have made the same arrogant boasts against the Jews. These ancient tribes more closely resemble the contemporary sects of Islam, some of which have morphed into terrorists organizations. More on this next week.

God’s plan is that all those who seek Israel’s destruction will not go unpunished, will pay the price for their hatred of and violence against the Jews. They themselves will be terrified, but not by other ungodly nations or governments; rather by God’s people in conjunction with the righteousness and justice of a holy God who has sworn to establish the Jewish people in a land given to them thousands of years ago … a Promised Land that would be their home forever.

And what might be God’s overriding purpose in throwing terror back into the face of terrorists, of dealing with Gentile nations aligned against Israel in the same fashion that these nations have dealt (harshly) with Israel and the Jews? The last verse of the Psalm 83 passage answers that question: “Then they will learn that you alone are called the Lord, that you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth” (Psalms 83:18, italics for emphasis).

Not Allah, not the totalitarian state gods of fascism or communism, not the mythical gods of the Greeks and Romans, not the legions of false gods found in Hinduism, or the non-existent ethereal state of Nirvana boasted by Buddhism, nor any other god of any other religion or cult.

We are talking about the One and True Living God, the Creator of the Universe and all living things. He is I AM (Yahweh): The Everlasting One. He is El Shaddai: Almighty God. He is El Elyon: The Most High God.

And, do you know His Son’s name?

Things to Ponder

I believe Scripture is sufficiently clear that terrorist groups will not play a major role in the end-times scenario that unfolds during the seven-year Great Tribulation. Before the Rapture takes place that ushers in the Great Tribulation, terrorism will diminish in scope and size. Thus, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and others like them will weaken significantly—through decimation by fighting each other; by absorption into the standing armies of some Muslim governments that subsidize them; from periodic blows inflicted on them by Israel or the United States and its allies; by other Muslim governments turning on the terrorists; or all of the above.

Ethnic rivalry, particularly those than spawn terrorism, is part of the preliminary birth pangs spoken of by Jesus, but not the final contractions. That will involve entire nations and their governments, Muslim or otherwise, assembled to take on Israel.

Next week we will examine the two final Gentile coalition attacks on Israel, both of which include entire nations and governments, not local, regional ethnic groups.

Stay tuned to next week’s article, the third in this trilogy on nations and terrorist groups aligned against Israel, for more evidence on how all this will unfold.

Last week’s article: A House Divided … will fall. This week’s post: The Reign of Terror … will end. Next week’s subject: Alliances against Israel … will fail.

A House Divided

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A House Divided … Will Fall

Amos and Andy, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Tom and Dick Smothers, The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello: Young and old alike remember these famous entertainment teams that brought relief through comedy to the troubled world of their time … The Great Depression, World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Cold War, and all of the perilous times in between. One of my favorite routines was Abbott and Costello’s classic, Who’s on First? It was the favorite of millions, including President Franklin Roosevelt for whom Abbott and Costello performed the skit several times.

Do you remember? Have you seen it on syndicated television or the internet? Abbott attempts to explain the players on a baseball team to an uninformed Costello; that many players have nicknames. In those days several major league baseball players had colorful nicknames such as Dizzy Dean and Daffy Dean, pitchers for the St. Louis Cardinals. In the parody, Abbott names the first baseman, Who; the second baseman, What; and the third baseman, I don’t know. Other positions are named such as the shortstop, I don’t care, but it’s the three basemen that, until the very end, thoroughly confuse Lou Costello to the point of exasperation. It’s a comedy routine that is brilliantly and hilariously nonsensical.

Sometimes dissimilarity is the best form of evaluation. In general, I’m using these comedy teams in stark contrast to the incredibly complex, dizzying array of terrorist groups in the Middle East; whose alliances, with or against each other, with or without host supporting nations, with certain ethnic groups, or against minority groups such as Christians and Jews, can literally change from one year to the next. And Abbott and Costello’s routine as a specific example of the perplexity within the ranks of terrorist cells, alongside the bewilderment and utter horror of terrorist’s victims all over the world.

Were it not for their radically malevolent objectives and the brutal expression of torture and killing to accomplish their evil agenda, the never-ending merry-go-round of Who’s on First (Who shall we follow today), What’s on Second (What shall we do about those who use to be on our team), followed by I Don’t Know (Who or What to fight for now) would be downright laughable. On the contrary, these teams of terrorism are extremely dangerous … no laughing matter.

The terrorists are constantly asking themselves: “Tell me again: Whose side are we on? Are you sure they’re on our side? Can we trust them? If they’re the enemy of our enemies, then they must be our friend? First we conquer the enemy, then we’ll deal with our friends!” I would venture to say that many terrorists are just as confused about their alliances, as those who deplore the very existence of terrorism are profoundly perplexed and shocked by the vicious tactics of extremists.

Let’s identify a few of the major players on this field of terrorism in which the deadly game of racial, ethnic cleansing and Islamic conquest is played out without any civilized moral rules of conduct that humanity has recognized even in times of war. Such as the double war crime perpetrated by Hamas: killing innocent Israeli civilians while sacrificing their own Palestinian civilians by using them as human shields.

Terrorists Equal Muslims

Before we list some of the more well-known terrorist groups, we need to once again remember that all of the Middle East terrorists are Muslims or those who support Islam, with two primary sects that frequently fight each other for supremacy in whatever countries they operate: Sunni and Shi’ite. Time/space does not permit an in-depth analysis of the basic differences between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam; except to say that Sunnis comprise the more liberal, secular Muslims, and the Shi’ites the more conservative, religious Muslims. Yet both sects can be equally malicious in pursuit of their wicked and warped goals. Plus, there are other smaller but even more radical sects of Islam such as the Taliban, Islamic Jihad or the Wahhabi movement (Wahhabism) that claims several million Muslim followers in Qatar, UAE, but mostly in Saudi Arabia. This is the ultra orthodox Sunni group that produced some 15 of the 19 terrorists who took down the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon, planned by the infamous Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda cronies.

Moreover, the greater majority of Muslims are Arabs, but not all … such as the majority population of Iran which are Persians, and Turkey which are Turks. The major Islamic nations involved are: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the non-State Palestinian occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank within Israel. For example: Iraq’s civil war which has intensified since withdrawal of US troops in 2011 was and still is between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.

Originally the United States’ excursion into Iraq was to remove Saddam Hussein from his reign of terror and to rid the country of WMDs (many of which Hussein transferred to Syria before arrival of US troops). Hussein was the ruthless leader of the dominant Sunni minority, with Shi’ites comprising the majority of the populace. How confusing is that? The minority as the dominant force of Muslim control over its people. But that’s also the current situation in Saudi Arabia, where a minority sect of Islam rules via super-wealthy sheiks. Yet, deposing Saddam Hussein took less than two years; the following eight years saw a bloody campaign to prevent Sunnis and Shi’ites from destroying each other.

The biggest tragedy of all: Whoever is fighting whom, invariably there are thousands of innocent civilian deaths and injuries … in Syria hundreds of thousands. And hundreds of thousands more are refugees—stripped of jobs, housing, and personal possessions by their own leaders and/or rebels fighting against those leaders.

The sum total of these destructive regional, civil-war type of conflicts is an exact fulfillment of what Jesus said would occur in the last days: “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom….” (Matthew 24:7). Nation and kingdoms are not the same words used here by The Lord. One means a country, the other refers more specifically to racial or ethnic groups within a region or nation.

In the 20th Century we witnessed two World Wars (nations against nations) and several other smaller wars all over the globe. In the latter part of the 20th and now in the 21st Century, we are experiencing racial, ethnic, and religious clashes like never before in the history of mankind (kingdom against kingdom). The vast majority of these hostilities are initiated and perpetrated by Muslims against other Muslims, but also against Jews and Christians.

Don’t let anyone mislead you into thinking that these conflicts are generated primarily by national domestic interests or objectives. They are almost exclusively racial and/or religious in nature, i.e. Muslim Arabs seeking to impose their brand of Islam on other Muslims or non-Arabs or non-Muslims through a religious ideology and system that is diametrically opposed to the Judeo-Christian faith, values, and heritage. Or, non-Arab Muslims intent on suppressing and eventually stamping out both Christianity and Judaism in their country, region, and ultimately the entire globe. For both the terrorist and nations that support certain terrorist cells, there’s no better or more final method to reach these satanic objectives than to kill Jews, Christians, and even rival Muslims. World-wide Jihad is in full gear, and there’s absolutely no evidence that it will slow down.

Major Terrorist Groups

The following is a highly condensed, tip-of-the-iceberg summary of countless studies of and articles/books written by geopolitical experts about terrorist groups and the nations in which they operate.

Muslim Brotherhood: This is the Qatar supported Sunni dominated movement in Egypt that finally rose to power when their leader Mohammed Morsi becoming Egypt’s President in 2012 in an ouster of long-standing President Hosni Mubarak; only for Morsi to fall out of favor in just over a year’s time with the greater populace … but most significantly, the military. The United States endorsed Morsi’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s overthrow of Mubarak, and now has supported President Abdel al Sissi as Morsi’s replacement. For all practical purposes, the Egyptian military is in control. The current Egyptian military-civilian coalition is now backed by Saudi Arabia, which formerly opposed the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas: The Palestinian quasi-government slash (/) terrorist group that operates in the Gaza Strip, originally affiliated with and backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Supported by Egypt in 2011-2012, then Egypt turned against Hamas when the Muslim Brotherhood government was ousted earlier this year. Actual headquarters of Hamas was moved from Syria, to Egypt, to Qatar, which is now its main sponsor. Since Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip in 2006-2007, it has been a staunch rival of the Palestinian Authority which is the administrative agency for Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank. The West Bank (so named because this Palestinian occupied territory is just west of the Jordan River) is located in a fairly large swath of central Israel which historically is part of the Judea, Samaria region of Israel. I and many others who support Israel normally refer to this part of Israel as Judea and Samaria. The term of West Bank is only a few decades old.

Just a few weeks ago, a surprising unity treaty was struck between Hamas and the PA, only in the past few days to be significantly weakened by an exposed Hamas plot to overthrow Mohammed Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Do you know who exposed and foiled this plot? None other than the Israeli Secret Service Shin Bet, who provided details of this plot to Abbas! Go Israel! And this occurred near the end of the 50-day war that just concluded (we think) between Israel and Hamas.

Talk about who’s on first … who’s in charge? Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority claim to represent the Palestinians against their sworn mutual enemy Israel, but neither entity can decide just how to wage this campaign; whether to combine forces or continue with their own strategies, independent of the other. Actually, this bitter in-fighting among Palestinian Muslims is advantageous to Israel, as any division within an enemy’s ranks is beneficial to a country or people struggling for their very survival. And, despite being a United Nations recognized sovereign state, some six million Jews are indeed fighting for their very lives against hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims who will not acknowledge that even one square mile of Israel belongs to the Jews.

Also, Iran has supported Hamas off and on. But in 2011 Hamas turned against Iran after Iran took sides with Syria’s President Assad. But Hamas doesn’t back the moderate Muslim rebels fighting against Assad; rather they support the ultra-radical rebels whose militants come from both al-Qaeda and the newly formed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Are you confused? You should be … you have every right to be. One good thing about evil: If it isn’t crushed by those who represent what is good, right and just, it will eventually self-destruct from within. We who value life and liberty can only hope that the self-destruct button is pushed sooner than later.

Hezbollah: For the past few years all is quiet on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, which is where Hezbollah is located and from where it exercises a great deal of control of the government and populace. However, this semblance of peace could change any day, as there are reports of terrorist’s cells taking over the Golan Heights in Syria, poised to strike northern Israeli towns.

In 2006 Israel and Hezbollah fought a bitter war that, like nearly all other conflicts with Israel, ended in a tenuous cease-fire. Hezbollah is staunchly backed by Iran, and Iran by Russia; thus, Hezbollah is fighting alongside Syria’s Dictator President Bashar Assad against the free-Syrian Army freedom fighters. As indicated, the (moderate free-Syrian) rebels are also fighting against other more radical Shi’ite and Sunni rebels from several countries. Both are battling Assad and his Alawite troops for ultimate control of Syria. Thus, all three warring factions must constantly look over both shoulders, as each as two different enemies!

These radical rebels are now aligned mostly with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), recently shortened to Islamic State due to this despicable terrorist group’s stated intentions of establishing a Islamic Caliphate (religious state) in the entire Middle East. Recently, however, Hezbollah’s infrastructure and leadership was severely undermined by a combination of factors, including a newly formed government in Lebanon. The US backed Lebanese Armed Forces are working together with Hezbollah to confront Sunni extremists in Lebanon—which are part of the ISIS terrorist group. I guess than means that Hezbollah is no longer an extremist group?!

Who’s on first is anybody’s guess. What will happen second depends on who’s on first. After that, I simply don’t know. Do you? Madness, sheer madness!

Al-Qaeda: Continues as a force, although more splintered and less organized, to be reckoned with all through the Middle East, even after the US Navy Seals assassination of its leader, Osama bin Laden. But is no longer the most feared or ruthless terrorist cell. That designation now belongs to:

Islamic State: As if terrorism couldn’t get much more cruel or cold-blooded or merciless, along comes a daunting more conventional military threat from the most militant of radical Muslims. Even Al-Qaeda has distanced itself from this new Muslim kid on the block! Mostly because Al-Qaeda is both jealous and fearful of the increasing power of this newly formed terrorist group. Who among us has not heard of the inhumanly ruthless beheading of yet a second American journalist just a few days ago?

In fact, the more significant national players on the Middle East playing field such as Iran, the Shi’ite government in Iraq which is desperately trying to fend off the military onslaught of ISIS, Syria’s still formidable government led by Assad; also Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan … all have voiced their apprehension and opposition to what is now the most gruesome and barbaric revolutionary faction in our supposedly civilized world. This brutal regime includes men (and a few woman) from nations all over the world, many from Great Britain and some even from the United States, several from my childhood State of Minnesota. Mostly they are malcontents, dissidents who are a combination of mercenaries and ideological misfits who would join any cause that gave vent to their love of power and domination through subjugation and killing of anyone who stands in their way. It’s all too clear: They love violence as much as the merciless Muslim Arabs alongside of them.

If you’re not yet confused enough, then try this on for size: The current Shiite militia in Iraq, called the Peace Brigades, formed to counterattack the Islamic State, is led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who previously led the Iran-backed Mahdi Army that fought furiously against the United States during the Iraq War. Now, the United States is casting its allegiance and lending its support (through aircraft bombing of Islamic State terrorists and humanitarian aid to ISIS’s victims) to al-Sadr and the Peace Brigades. Rightfully so, but please …. Someone make sense of it all!

Will the Terror of Evil Ever End?

Arabs fighting against Arabs, Muslims against Muslims. Muslims against Jews, against Christians, against ethnic groups like the Kurds in Iraq. Name a non-Muslim or even Muslim ethnic, racial, or religious group in the Middle East, including northern African countries, and you can be sure that they are under attack from Islamic terrorist cells or soon will be.

Yes, for the present time, the House of Islam is divided. That’s bad for the innocent victims of Jihad including their own people; but, for the most part, this internal division is good for Israel and the Western World.

We will continue this line of thought in next week’s article, to include in-fighting of Muslims against Muslims as one of three primary strategies used by God to deal with ungodly Gentile nations and kingdoms, particularly those that seek to destroy Israel.

*Note: One day soon, very soon, someone will make sense of it all, by ending it all … meaning the carnage of war and human suffering and evil itself. None other than the Prince of Peace. I repeat for emphasis: Very soon.

“On that day the Lord will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David! And the royal descendants will be like God, like the angel of the Lord who goes before them! For on that day I will begin to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12: 8-9).

Things to Ponder

Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself is doomed. A family or city split by feuding will fall (Matthew 12: 25-29). The in-fighting between Muslim nations and terrorist cells is actually a good thing for Israel and for democracy. Certainly Israel and all who value what is true, just, and right, deplore the horrendous suffering of innocent people caused by sectarian strife and so-called holy wars. But if all Arab and Muslim nations agreed to set aside their differences and pursue their one common denominator objective to destroy the Jews, then the entire Middle East, indeed the globe, would be engulfed in World War III.

Tragically, the entire world will be aflame with war, but not until after the Rapture during the Great Tribulation. As hideous as ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah is and can be; as ominous as a nuclear equipped Iran would be, their differences are currently too abundant to accomplish their unified ultimate objective to destroy Israel. The future assault on Israel will come first from a Russian led-coalition, then a second attack from the Antichrist and his coalition of nations, to include some Muslim countries. Until then, Israel will not be overcome. But innocent people will continue to suffer.

Click on to the following video. Listen to an IDF soldier’s poignant description of the recent war between Israel and Hamas.

http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/20821/inside-story?

The Child of Promise (Part II)

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The Child of Promise … a Jewish Messiah

When my mother died in 2011, each of the children claimed for our own some of her possessions, which is universally quite normal and customary. One of the things I ended up with was her Bible … The Scofield Reference Bible, King James Version. It was one of the first study Bibles, which contain hundreds of commentaries on and cross references to select passages throughout Scripture. My mother was an ardent reader and student of the Bible, and she loved to underline her favorite passages. Hundreds of verses are underlined. Even some of the commentary is highlighted along with dozens of hand-written notes in whatever open space she could find in her Bible!

This Bible is decades old. Exactly how old, no one seems to know. But on the very first page that includes such things as: THE HOLY BIBLE… Old and New Testaments, Authorized Version and other credits and acknowledgements, my mother wrote, “Saved and Baptized (Nov. 29-1953). Obviously that’s the date when she accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. Presumably, she purchased that Bible shortly thereafter.

Although I don’t touch her Bible too often, when I do, I handle it ever so delicately; as an archeologist would upon discovery of a long-lost artifact or treasure. In fact, that’s what her Bible looks like … a priceless literary heirloom that has rested on some dusty book shelf for a hundred years. Obviously, it was just the opposite. Nearly every time I saw my mother, her Bible was open at one time or another. Still, when I turn the pages, it occurs to me that it might just crumble into dust if I don’t caress each sheet with tender loving care!

Many students of the Bible make it a practice to underline select passages, which is perfectly appropriate. I’m not one of those. Long ago I decided not to underline or highlight favorite passages, because my tendency would be to lock into those verses and, thereby, overlook or minimize the importance of all the verses that were not underscored. But that’s just me … underlining is strictly an individual preference. In that sense, all of the books and verses of the Bible are my favorites.

Still, if say my life depended on it, or even if someone pressed me to identify my favorite passage with the statement, “Oh, come on, everyone has a special verse or two. You’re not being practical or honest to say that you don’t have a favorite;” I would be compelled to say, “I suppose you’re right.”

John 3:16 comes to mind: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (NASB). It is, in fact, the most quoted verse in the Bible, and probably the favorite of millions of Christians. I’m sure many have been redeemed through that verse alone. And rightfully so, as no other verse so systematically or succinctly summarizes who and what salvation is all about than this direct quote from and about Jesus himself. Even many unbelievers have heard of the verse.

Yet, as magnificent as that verse is and always will be, it’s not my single most favorite. That belongs to a passage in the Old Testament that I have on occasion quoted in a handful of previous Eye of Prophecy articles. It is an incredible prophecy of the second Child of Promise, which is the subject of this week’s post in continuation of last week’s article on the first child of promise, Abraham’s son, Isaac. As was documented through various Biblical passages, Jesus Christ was a direct descendant of Isaac, who was the child promised to Abraham, the child who would be the progenitor and prototype of THE CHILD who would alter the course of human history.

A Wonderful Promise

Here it is: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9: 6-7).

This was neither the first not the last great announcement of the Promised One, but it is a proclamation that compresses both the first and second coming of Messiah, written some 700 years before the birth of Christ, and now encompassing nearly two thousand years before his soon-to-be glorious return. Just two verses that integrate the awesome plan of God, first for spiritual salvation and then for the physical establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth, that will last forever.

Here are just a few of many insights that these verses provide for the whole world:

  • “For a child is born to us….” This is the ultimate Child of Promise. The present tense verb is demonstrates that this child was part of God’s timeless plan from the very beginning. That it was only a matter of time until the child would actually be born. This birth was that of a human being, but a child unique like no other, because he would also be God Incarnate … flesh and blood. The genealogies of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels trace the birth of Jesus back to Abraham and Adam, respectively; to confirm that Jesus was to come through Isaac, through the Jewish people. But that his heritage also goes back to the first created man (and woman). In fact, the first announcement of a Savior is found in Genesis 3:15.
  • “A son is given to us.” Showing us that the child was, indeed, a gift from God to the human race. “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son…” Truly, this son was none other than the Son of God. But it was imperative that the Son would also be a man, for only another man would qualify to be a sacrificial substitute for the human race. A man tempted in every way as we are, but without sin.
  • “The government will rest on his shoulders.” Here we have a time-warp panoramic view of the future (both when the prophecy was given and even to this day). People all over the world long for someone who is willing and able to govern the planet and accomplish the highest human aspirations possible such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is a well-documented historical reality that the very best form of human government is achieved through a benevolent king, who serves and judges his people equally. Not a government where might is right, but Might through or by Right. From Isaiah’s prophecy, we see that the government will rest upon Messiah’s shoulders, with the unmistakable context and connotation that this is a world-wide reign of the highest order of honor, integrity, and truth. (Kingdom of God). Christ will give a whole new meaning to benevolent ruler; beyond anything we’ve ever seen, experienced, or hoped for in the world’s dismal state of current affairs and the abysmal condition of the human race from time immemorial.
  • “And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Once again we see that the child that is born, the son that is given is God himself, for these names belong only to divinity. More directly, this child is Messiah Jesus, the Son of God and God the Son. This statement in Isaiah unequivocally declares that the Messiah is coequal to God, as he bears the very names of Almighty God, plus the additional title of Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace).
  • “His government and peace will never end.” This incredible kingdom of incomparable peace is truly eternal. Peace—not just the absence of war—but a world of wholeness and tranquility never before experienced on this earth currently plagued with corruption, greed, suppression, evil, natural disasters, disease, and death. Try as we may, there will never ever be true harmony on this earth unless it comes through Messiah Jesus.
  • “He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David…” Jesus will be the greatest King and Judge of all time. There will be pure absolute justice on this earth, the kind we can only dream about. An unadulterated fairness, with crystal clear standards of right and wrong never before experienced or practiced by mankind. Jesus will rule with a righteous firmness, but with evenhandedness that only a perfect Judge could administer one hundred percent of the time. Indeed, he will forever be Immanuel—God with us on this earth.

Why is it vitally important to understand the genealogical roots of Messiah Jesus? To fully grasp why he is the Promised Child that descends directly from Abraham, and even more specifically from the first child of promise, Isaac … as opposed to Ishmael? Isn’t it enough to know that he is the Savior of mankind? Do we really need to know his ancestral lineage? Through whom he was born and why from that family?

I believe the answer to these questions is a resounding, yes. For both Jew and Gentile. For both to comprehend that God’s covenant with Abraham required two dynamic disclosures. (1) The descendants of Isaac would be given possession of Israel as an everlasting physical inheritance. (2) Through the promised child, Isaac, the Jewish light to the world (Christ) would come, and bring with him eternal spiritual salvation to both Jew and Gentile.

For the Gentiles: Most Gentile believers in Christ know that Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary, in the town of Bethlehem in the country of Israel. But a lot of Gentile believers forget or pay little attention, to the point of making it almost incidental, that Jesus was, in fact, Jewish through and through. That he descended from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and King David, just like the Scriptures said he would. Accordingly, many Gentile believers place little emphasis on the Old Testament or on Jesus’s Jewish heritage. This, despite the fact that there are hundreds of Old Testament prophecies about both the first and second coming of a Jewish Messiah.

Consequently, they minimize or even ignore the significance of the Jews and their relationship to the Land of Israel that leads to many unfortunate repercussions such as Replacement Theology … which was discussed at length in two previous Eye of Prophecy articles published on July 19th and 26th, 2014. The tragic error that emerges from this totally unbiblical viewpoint is that the Church has replaced Israel in every single Biblical passage that contains prophetic promises clearly intended only for Israel. As a result, some of these Christians even question who has the right to the land in the context of the on-going conflict between Arab Palestinians and Israelis (the Jews).

And, in clear contradiction to several passages in the New Testament (such as Romans Chapters 9-11), Gentiles, both believers and unbelievers, have been falsely led to believe that the Jews forfeited their eligibility to all of the promises found in Scripture, which includes their right to possess and live in Israel; even to the absurd extent that Jews do not have access to the same salvation through Jesus freely given to the Gentiles. That God will deal with them separately, based on whether they keep the Law of Moses, like they were supposed to do thousands of years ago … but didn’t. Actually, they couldn’t, any more than any Gentile can keep all of God’s laws.

On the contrary, God wants Gentile believers to understand that their blessings and benefits spring directly from the heritage of God’s eternal plan for the chosen people, the Jews, as well as the physical ancestry of the very Messiah who would make this heritage possible. Yes, as a whole, but not entirely, Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah. But God made good come out of such a tragic denial that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah. So much so that the Lord inspired the apostle Paul to explain it this way:

“…I stress this, for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead!” (Romans 11: 13-15). To me this is amazing. For centuries, the main underlying and disturbing reason that Gentiles the world over harbor deep resentment (even hatred … Anti-Semitism) against the Jews is all too obvious: They are jealous of the sometimes spectacular accomplishments and general success of many Jews in so many fields of endeavor—medicine, science, architecture, construction, the arts and entertainment, philanthropy, and government.

On the contrary, here Paul is telling the Gentiles that he wants the Jews to become jealous of so great a salvation purchased by a Jewish Messiah freely given even to the Gentiles. But this is a different kind of jealousy. It’s not a destructive type of envy; it’s the kind that makes them want what the Gentiles who believed in Jesus had … forgiveness of sin, a personal relationship with Messiah, and everlasting life with God in heaven.

Paul then uses the metaphor of an olive tree and its branches. “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root. ‘Well,’ you may say, ‘those branches were broken off to make room for me.’ Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. For if God did not spare the original branches he won’t spare you either” (Romans 11: 17-21).

This is Paul’s emphasis: Gentile believers should not feel superior to Jews in general and Israel is particular just because some (not all) Jews have rejected Jesus as Messiah. Rather, both Jew and Gentile can receive the wonderful blessings and promises given to Abraham, which ultimately is God’s righteousness given to them through faith in Christ, and Christ alone. Paul continues:

“I want you to understand this mystery … so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles come to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved … Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. Now they are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God’s mercy” (Romans 11: 25-31, italics for emphasis).

In the 20th and 21st century, Jews are coming to Messiah Jesus in greater numbers than since the first century when for decades the greater number, by far, of Christian believers were Jews. And one day all Israel will be saved … meaning those killed for their faith during the Great Tribulation and those alive who have placed their trust in Christ upon his glorious reappearance on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

For the Jews: It’s equally important for the Jews to recognize that the New Testament is simply a continuation of God’s Word to the human race, every bit as historical, accurate, reliable and God-inspired as the Old Testament. That it contains meticulous records of the life of Christ to show how he fulfilled dozens of Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. That Yeshua descended from King David and even further back from Abraham and Isaac. To understand why God spared the first child of promise from sacrifice, but not the second child of promise.

For the first child of promise, Isaac, was to be the physical ancestor of the coming Messiah, thus God would not allow Abraham to follow-through with God’s test of Abraham’s love. But that God’s love for his chosen people and for the entire world (Gentiles) meant God could not and would not spare the second child of promise, God’s own precious Son. Because it was the God-man, Christ Jesus, who would die for the horrible sins of all people and the eternal punishment of those sins in hell forever separated from God. That it’s a historical fact that Jesus arose from the dead to prove that he was the divine Son of God, the very child to be born and son to be given, who is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. To acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth is, indeed, their beloved Messiah.

To remind Jews that Jesus was a Jew. That he met all of the qualifications and stipulations spoken of the Messiah as found in the Old Testament. Many Jews to this very day do not know or have placed little emphasis on the fact that Jesus was one of their own; that he descended through the tribe of Judah from where the Messiah would originate. From the loins of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and King David. I personally know a Jewish Rabbi who, after much searching and doubt, found Jesus as his Savior. Before he accepted Jesus as Messiah, this Rabbi used to think that Jesus was a Gentile and that his last (surname) name was Christ! He had no clue that Christ is a title, which is the English version of Messiah in Hebrew.

For Jews and Gentiles Alike

When we comprehend the historical distinction that God himself makes between Isaac, his chosen child of promise, and the child birthed from a servant woman, we better understand the enormous distinction between God’s divine plan of salvation and man-made religious systems that vainly tell God what man will do to gain his favor. It is a concession to our Creator and Savior that his marvelous remedy for our sin-nature and rescue from the penalty of our sins (both physical and spiritual death) is far superior (indeed the only means of reconciliation) to anything that man could invent to solve the sin problem. It is a life-changing recognition of the challenging difference between Law and Grace. Let’s see just how this works as found in the Book of Galatians. Here’s what the Lord tells us through the apostle Paul:

“Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave-wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave-wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4: 21-26).

*Note: This illustration is timeless … we see the exact same phenomenon in today’s world: With the exception of thousands of Jews who have trusted in Messiah Jesus, we still see millions of Jews who believe observance of the Mosaic law is the only way to satisfy God’s demands. Or Gentile religions such as Islam, Mormonism, Catholicism, Hinduism, and many others that share one common denominator: hoped-for salvation through keeping of laws and performance of good deeds, or obligatory tithing, or church membership, or baptism, or all of the above. But let’s read Paul’s optimistic conclusion to the Galatians:

And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit … So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman” (Galatians 4: 28-31, italics for emphasis).

The essential core truth of the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate Child of Promise, is that all who place their trust in him will be granted the same inheritance promised to Isaac—to be children of the Most High God. A spiritual birth from above that entitles us to a resurrected new BODY when Christ comes again. A body that will live forever in the New Jerusalem and also on the new earth. With complete freedom from sin, sorrow, and death.

The great mystery of God’s salvation revealed through Messiah Jesus is that both Jew and Gentile will be one new person in Christ. We both will share in the awesome inheritance granted to Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob, then all Jews who believe in the 2nd Child of Promise, Yeshua. And all Gentiles who believe in Jesus will be grafted in to this tree of life forever and ever!

And don’t forget: This also includes the perpetual existence of Israel and Jerusalem occupied by God’s chosen people, the Jews. But as in days of old, there will be foreigner Gentiles living in the Promised Land as well as all over the millennial earth.

Things to Ponder

Some Striking Similarities between Isaac and Jesus

Isaac: A miracle birth. Sarah was ninety years old when she conceived and bore Isaac. That just doesn’t happen!

Jesus: An even more miraculous birth. Born of a virgin! That says it all.

Isaac: The promised child (not Ishmael), whose progeny would be the children of Israel, with a perpetual inheritance to the Promised Land of Israel. Both Abraham and Jacob lived part of their lives outside of Canaan (Israel). Only Isaac lived his entire life within the geographical boundaries of Israel. Coincidence?

Jesus: The Promised Son whose death, burial, and resurrection would bring countless (spiritual) children of God into the everlasting Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God coming to this earth.

Isaac: A foreshadow to the coming Messiah, Isaac was the child of Promise spared as a sacrifice when God substituted a ram, so that God’s promise to Abraham would spiritually and physically come to pass.

Jesus: The very Son of God, whom the Father did NOT spare as the once for all sacrificial substitute for the sins of the whole world. He was and, indeed, still is: “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Are you ready for the greatest feature attraction of all time, coming soon to the theatre of your life? Stay tuned for the blockbuster return of the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords!

The Child of Promise (Part I)

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The Child of Promise

No religious book or set of books, no so-called sacred texts for any religion or cult on earth compares to The Book, the very Word of God … The Bible. None of these non-Biblical writings including the Koran, contains the incredible meticulous details of people, places, and events found in the Bible. Not one offers a sweeping plan of salvation that reconciles man to God and, thereby, rescues man from both the permanency of physical death and the ensuing eternal separation from his Creator and Savior.

None claims to predict the future, because they can’t. Only the God of the Bible dares to declare the end from the beginning, resulting not in just one or two, but hundreds of prophecies. And not predictions that merely have a 50% chance of fulfillment, but historically fulfilled prophecies of people not yet born, kingdoms not yet formed, buildings and monuments not yet built, battles won or lost not yet fought, events thought impossible at the time, and the Messiah who would come at a precise date set by Scripture. These astounding prophecies included the place of Messiah’s birth, the means of his birth, the kind of miracles he would perform, the method and details of his execution, and the amazing announcement of his resurrection before he arose from the grave.

God’s Word is eternal. According to Jesus: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35, NASB).

Jesus said that: “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This is a direct quote from the Old Testament passage of Deuteronomy 8:3.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16, NASB).

All Scripture is beneficial, which means even the genealogies. Genealogies? Yes, even those seemingly tedious lists of who begat whom bear much more truth and insight than we might suspect. Granted, even for the most ardent reader of Scripture, it’s an imposing task to read every name in a genealogy such as listed in the Book of Numbers or I Chronicles and other Old Testament passages, or even the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. For example the genealogies in Matthew and Luke trace the lineage of Jesus Christ as the Son of Man back to Abraham and as the Son of God back to Adam, respectively.

When I read these ancestral records, I am utterly amazed at the detail … how generation after generation of God’s people methodically preserved this information first by verbal then by written records. And these are just a small portion of the dozens of ancestral or tribal leaders or other facts and figures of Israel’s (and many Gentile Nations) history, as precisely recorded in the Bible. Just read the book of Numbers to see what I mean.

Genealogy is making a comeback, especially since the advent of the computer. Lately, we seem to be bombarded with TV and Internet commercials from such sources as Ancestry.com.

Many are enthusiastically searching for 3rd, 4th, 5th (and beyond) generation ancestors to see if they really are Italian, or German, or Spanish, or English, or Irish, or all of the above. They want to know just how authentic they really are! Heritage is suddenly important. Where did I come from? Who am I? What is my place in the world? Legacy and birthright and culture does matter.

Years ago, before the advent of computerized ancestry charts and sources, I discovered that there was royal blood in my family! Apparently I belong to some sort of nobility, by virtue of my great-aunt to the 6th or 7th generation removed reigning as the Queen of Holland … I think it was on my mother’s side. I mean shouldn’t that entitle me to a discount on a dam that I’d like to build near some land I own in a remote part of northeast Arizona! You remember don’t you … the Dutch boy who stuck his finger in a dike and saved his town from drowning should the dam have ruptured?

“So what!” you say. And, I agree. For all I don’t know, my blood-line Queen of Holland could have been the wicked witch of the west. When someone else proudly tells us about their ancestry, we normally will respond with something like, “That’s nice.” But when we tell someone about our heritage (with all the embellishments we can get away with) such as “Daniel Boone was my great, great, great, great-uncle, we expect them to reply, “Wow! that’s impressive.” Such is human nature.

Yet, there is one genealogy that universally transcends all other ancestral heritage, one that has supernaturally impacted the human race by altering the past, present, and future of every person on this earth who has recognized the royal lineage that brought us the first child of promise, and then accepted as personal Savior the Divine second child of promise.

The First Child of Promise

The Book of Genesis gives us a detailed account of the life of Abraham, beginning with God instructing him (at the age of seventy-five) to abruptly, “…Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12: 1-3). Then, God said, “I will give this land to your descendants” (verse 7). Actually, the story of Abraham begins with a genealogy that starts with Adam’s son, Seth, all the way to Abraham’s father, Terah. (See Genesis 11: 10-26)

Later, despite more assurances from the Lord, Abram (God changed his name to Abraham which means, “father of many”), expressed apprehension bordering on doubt as to just how God’s promise could possibly come about. “But Abram replied, ‘O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son … You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir’” (Genesis 15: 2-4).

Next, comes one of the most astounding declarations ever made by God, who is well-known for an abundance of amazing announcements throughout Scripture! “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6, italics for emphasis).

That is incomprehensible. For one thing, it goes against the grain of every religious principle or precept or even non-religious self-conceived notions of what it takes to find favor with the true and living God or some other man-made god—that good works and right conduct is the ticket to eternal salvation.

It says, “Abram believed the Lord.” And then what happened … what did God do in return? The text is crystal clear. It says that: God declared Abraham righteous (which throughout Scripture means forgiven, justified, and reconciled to God for eternity) simply because Abraham trusted God’s promise … that Abraham would father a child of this unique promise. This child of promise would be the progenitor and prototype of the second child of promise, who would be the very source and fulfillment of all the blessings promised to Israel and the Gentile nations. Hebrews 12:2 confirms this prophecy by stating that, “Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.”

This very same faith (in the second child of promise) is what makes you and I right before God. No ritual keeping of spiritual or ceremonial laws, no performance of good deeds that hopefully outweigh the wrong things we’ve done, no observance of all the man-made requirements of so many religions that seek to merit God’s favor and pardon. None of these … only simple child-like faith that says, “I believe you Lord.” Amazing!

Well, many of us know what happened next. Still no child of promise as Abraham approached the age of eighty-five; and his wife, Sarah, was nearing seventy-five years of age (past child-bearing). Sarah persuaded her husband to do what was totally accepted and customary in those days if a couple could not bear children: to conceive a child with Sarah’s Egyptian servant, Hagar.

Was this a decision not based in faith and trust? Yes, it was, which demonstrates that even the giants of faith (Abraham) sometimes take matters into their own hands and help God along with his plans! That’s another astonishing feature of the Bible. It records dozens of examples of men and woman of God who, through moments of weakness and doubt, made mistakes and failed to fully trust the Lord their God. You won’t find this in other religious writings, such as the Koran. You will find only the exemplary things that their prophets or religious leaders do, or should I say, a pretentious portrayal that they essentially can do nothing wrong. That they are the most noble of men or woman.

And so, Ishmael was born. Would he, therefore, be the child of promise? What do you think Abraham and Sarah thought about Ishmael? Well, for another twelve years or so, we don’t know for sure. But there’s no indication in the Genesis account that Abraham or Sarah didn’t think that Ishmael was the answer to God’s promised child. For one thing, it was already an established practice that the firstborn would be given the main birthright inheritance (a double portion) by his father. This in no way reflected a greater love for the firstborn over his siblings or parents playing favorites. Rather, it was a legal, positional, and traditional heritage given to the firstborn.

However, the birthright blessings of the firstborn was not an automatic divinely guaranteed inheritance, particularly if God (through his foreknowledge of what would happen) had selected another child to carry out his plan(s). We see two monumental examples of this with Esau and Reuben. Esau and Jacob were twins, but Esau was born first, which entitled him to the first and most prominent blessing. But we know he forfeited that right. Rueben was the oldest of Jacob’s twelve sons, but he also forfeited his firstborn rights by some very wicked behavior. Thus, God chose Jacob over Esau and Judah over Reuben as the direct ancestors of the second child of promise.

Subsequently, it was necessary for God to once again remind Abraham that this first child of promise would be borne not by a handmaiden, but by Sarah herself. By the time of this reminder, Abraham was almost one hundred years old and Sarah ninety years of age. Most students of Scripture remember the remarkable story of this renewed promise that also included the Lord’s disclosure that he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

Three men suddenly appeared at Abraham’s dwelling (tent). It’s clear from this encounter and from the following account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, that two of these men were angels and the third was the Lord, himself. Whenever we read in the Old Testament of “The Lord” appearing to someone, it is none other than the pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, himself. The Bible is clear that no man has ever seen God the Father. Instead, he is seen (all of his glorious attributes and personage) through his very Son, who is also God the Son.

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). “So the Word became human, and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (John 1:14). Jesus also said, “For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me” (John 12:45). He, of course, was referring to God the Father.

After Abraham and Sarah had fed the three men, they were told, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!” (Genesis 18:10). Do you recall what happened next? Of course, you do. Sarah laughed at such a promise. “Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’” (Genesis 18:13-14).

God said it … case closed. “…The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does” (Psalms 145:13). “He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever” (Psalms 146:6). The very author of the universe and of life, itself, had no problem opening the barren womb of a ninety-year old woman, from whom the child of promise would be borne. Would you agree?

Yet, how supernaturally ironic! Prior to this remarkable visible encounter with the Lord, himself, Abraham had been told that he would, indeed, be given a son through Sarah, and the son was to be called Isaac, which means “laughter” or “he laughs.” Not in the facetious, doubting, questioning, or even sarcastic sense, but in the full positive connotation of the laughter of joy.

What most of us forget is that before the supernatural pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ to Abraham and Sarah, God had previously spoken just to Abraham about Isaac.

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am El-Shaddai—God Almighty … This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! … I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them! I will confirm my covenant you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation … I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God’” (Genesis 17: 1-8).

Then beginning in verse fifteen God said to Abraham, “…Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name with be Sarah. And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”

And what was Abraham’s response? Well, it was a godly physical display of reverence encased in an all too human shell of uncertainty. Read with me:

“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100?’ he thought. ‘And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?’ So Abraham said to God, ‘May Ishmael live under your special blessing!’ But God replied, ‘No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants … But my covenant will be confirmed with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year’” (Genesis 17: 17-21, italics for emphasis).

So, all you men out there who would scold Sarah for laughing at the Lord’s renewed promise that she would bear THE child of promise, we need to remember that Abraham was the first to laugh! But his and Sarah’s laughter of skepticism would soon turn to sheer laughter of delight, upon the birth of Isaac. Once and for all, Isaac and only Isaac would be the child of promise.

World-Wide Repercussions of These Promises

By far, the most incredible feature of this just quoted passage is the beginning of a family tree that set in motion a genealogical prophetic heritage which would forever alter the course of human history, with its repercussions unfolding right before our eyes in the 21st-century. It has steadfastly transformed the eternal spiritual destiny of both Jew and Gentile (all who believe in Messiah Jesus), as well as tangibly predetermined who has the eternal right to the Promised Land of Israel.

It is the fact that the first child of promise, Isaac, would be the direct ancestor of the second Child of Promise, who is none other than Messiah Jesus. We will continue that premise in next week’s article, Child of Promise (Part II).

This week’s article emphasizes that God’s covenant with Israel would forever belong to the Jews, confirmed through Isaac, not Ishmael. This is extraordinarily important to grasp especially in light of the perpetual disagreement over birthright inheritance of the Promised Land … Israel. A dispute that is once again manifesting itself through the tenacious terrorism and abhorrent anti- Semitism waged against Israel in particular and world-wide Jewry in general.

Arabs and Muslims claim exclusive right to Israel mostly because they have fraudulently changed the historical record. They accurately claim Abraham as their original ancestor, but then presumptuously substitute Isaac with Ishmael as the lawful, rightful descendant of Abraham. This is a blatant contradiction of God’s promise thousands of years before Mohammed introduced a whole new religion to the Arabs, Islam. The original promise was rejected and replaced with a false claim that Ishmael inherited Abraham’s birthright which included ownership of the Promised Land, simply because Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn.

Never mind that God later corrected and clarified Abraham and Sarah, by stipulating that it was indeed, Sarah’s own child that was the Child of Promise. That was the original covenant promise with Abraham, and would not be changed, especially by an act of (temporary) disobedience in which Sarah gave her servant to Abraham to bear a child.

Things to Ponder

This unilateral Abrahamic covenant—meaning God would unconditionally keep this covenant with Abraham specifically carried on though Isaac, not Ishmael—was to be the very God-given promise that the Jews would inherit the Promised Land, but that they also would be a light to the Gentile Nations. This especially included the descendants of Ishmael, who have indeed been blessed (as God also promised) with a huge number of descendants, far outnumbering the Jews. But God did not intend that this promise would grant Israel’s land rights to Arabs, Palestinians, or Muslims. Furthermore, the Light to the nations would be illuminated and shine brilliant in none other than the appointed Messiah, because salvation was destined to “come through the Jews” (John 4:22).

As Messiah, Jesus rightfully proclaimed: “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12). In that same passage, Jesus, in no uncertain terms claimed that he was the Messiah when he said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM he…” (Verse 20). The “I AM” part of that astounding declaration was none other than the sacred name of God, himself … Yahweh. Later in that same discourse with the Jewish religious leaders, he again made the amazingly bold statement, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” (John 8:58).

The very fact that Jesus arose from the dead fully validates his claim of who he is and what he will do upon his glorious reappearance.

Read with me the last two verses of the entire Bible:

“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen, Come Lord Jesus! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people” (Revelation 22: 20-21).

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