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).

The Right to Life?

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THE RIGHT TO LIFE?

Stunned! Shocked! Saddened! “I can’t believe it.” These emotions and expressions of grief and disbelief have swept over the world since last Monday. Isn’t it enough that wars are waged by and against terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Syria, and Israel? That innocent people are suppressed and oppressed in totalitarian countries all over the world. That men and women, boys and girls, and the elderly are dying by the scores nearly every day in these man-made calamities?

Or the apocalyptic uncertainty that imperils the future of our planet by massive earthquakes, incredibly destructive tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, and traumatic changes in weather patterns. Along with the exponential increase in famines and plagues devastating large parts of some continents.

Then there’s everyday life. The relentless aging of the human body, the ravages of disease in the young, the heartbreak of losing children, parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, friends, relatives.

No, that’s not enough. The onslaught of life’s sorrows and struggles continue to undermine humanity’s desperate search for peace and happiness, seemingly without pause or relief. In the midst of all this turmoil and tragedy, we were told that actor/comedian Robin Williams died at the age of 63, but from none of the above listed causes. Rather, he left this earth by his own hand. Suicide. As is customary with the passing of high-profile celebrities—whether political, sports, religious, or entertainment—eulogies have erupted from the four corners of the earth. In that respect, Robin Williams’ death speaks for the 39,000 suicide deaths each year in the United States alone; although on a much larger scale by virtue of his status in life … afforded him by a global society that defines and worships success.

Often when someone dies, loved ones, close associates, and even strangers will ask: Why? Especially, if it’s what we think or label an untimely, premature, even unnatural death. Yet we are reminded all too often that death is, in fact, natural … no matter the cause. Natural, because it is a normal, accepted fact that everyone must one day die. What makes a death like Robin Williams seem unnatural is that, in the eyes of millions including his co-stars in Hollywood, it defies all rationale logic why anyone who had as much fame and fortune as anyone could want or need would end it all … just like that.

Truly, he was a gifted man, one of my personal favorites. Though he could be a little crass at times, I often laughed at his stand-up comic routines or his spontaneous comedic genius on late night television shows. And I have seen several of his movies, including my favorite, Popeye. You read that right. Not because the movie itself was all that great, but because of the sheer brilliance of Williams’ portrayal of one of the most well-known cartoon characters of all time. As a child, I actually learned to like spinach after watching dozens of Popeye episodes!

The very next day, Robin Williams was followed in death by Lauren Bacall, whose feminine magnetism captured the attention of so many who saw her on the big screen. What baby boomer or pre-baby boomer can forget Bogie and Bacall? Though her passing was another stark reminder of death’s certainty, I’m sure many breathed a sigh of relief that her death at the age of 89 was more natural and expected.

According to news broadcasts and articles, most were shocked at the news of Williams’ suicide. But in light of his periodic struggles with chemical dependency and a recent deep depression, others were not that surprised. And, this past Thursday, his widow announced that he had been diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson’s, which often causes depression because of chemical imbalances produced by the disease.

A Time to Reflect

Although it’s very true, I will not use this article to expose the utter futility of fame and fortune when death strikes. In that regard, Jesus said it all: “If you try to hang on to your life you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Mark 8: 35-37).

Jesus’s reference to trying to hang on to life is a sure way to lose it, in no way suggests a death wish. In the context of these verses and several other passages in the Gospels, Jesus is saying that the real meaning of life is found in him, not in the love and ultimately vain pursuit of riches, fame, and pleasure—at the expense of one’s eternal soul. Compared to eternity, the span of life on this planet is like one small wave in a vast ocean.

The all too mournful death of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall and thousands of ordinary people who die every day reminds us of things we don’t want to dwell on. It’s not easy to write about death or to even think about it, but sometimes we must. Most people go out of their way not to even say the word. They prefer passed instead of died. “He passed away last night.” Though it’s more positive and certainly more comfortable to think about life instead of death; when it comes to periodic contemplation of our mortality, it can be downright dangerous if we do what the proverbial ostrich does and, “Stick our head in the sand.”

Now then, ostriches do not, in fact, stick their head in the dirt. Instead, at the sight or sound of something they fear or some sort of trouble, they run. Boy do they run. For miles and miles at speeds up to 40 MPH. But isn’t that we humans do also? We run from the very thought of death. And those who have no personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ have a ton of doubt and uncertainty as to exactly what happens after they take their last breath. As well they should. Accordingly, they often stick their head in the ground. But why do that? Our whole body will be in the ground soon enough. We all need to take personal stock of our humanity and the brevity of life, shortened even more by those who heartbreakingly take their own lives or whose life is taken by another.

But any reflection on our mortality that excludes the very source of our life and, if we let him, the only one who can and does provide an absolute guaranteed bodily resurrection after we die, is an exercise in futility. To ignore the challenges and claims of the Bible concerning Jesus Christ and his love and his life-giving salvation is tantamount to saying, “I don’t need Jesus. What does he have to do with me and where I spend eternity?”

On the supreme authority of the Word of the true and living God, I beg to differ: I need Jesus, you need Jesus … the whole world needs Jesus!

My former father-in-law once said to me when I was talking to him about Christ: “I don’t want to hear any more of that. If I were to fall off this sofa right now and die, someone will be there to point me in the right direction.” How sad? On whose authority could he make such a statement? At the time he was in good health. A few months later he died. Just a few hours before he died, he fell out of his bed. I couldn’t help but think of what he had said to me. My father-in-law was a kind man with a good heart. But all hearts, good and bad, need to be reconciled to God through Christ. During our brief sojourn on this earth, every human spirit needs to be reunited to the one who created that spirit.

There are dozens of other such notions that people think or hope will take place after they die, without knowing for sure. That’s why I speak and write on the authority of God’s Word, not my own imagination or supposition or even wishful thinking.

Many others have the mindset: Hey, I’ll be okay … millions have died before me. As if the sheer number of people who have died—since death was brought to the human race by our original ancestors, Adam and Eve—would mean that all those people can’t be wrong. Or if they are wrong, at least we’re all in the same boat. It’s misguided comfort and consolation through community. Like, “I can’t be any worse off than so many others who have gone before me. At least we’ll all have something in common.” Really? What might they have in common with Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin? Actually those who will sadly spend eternity separated from God do have one thing in common. None of them believed in or accepted God’s gift of atonement and redemption for their sins.

What about the Right to Life? Who does our life belong to? Does your life belong to you, and mine to me? Did Robin Williams’ life belong to him? Or Lauren Bacall’s to her? Does everyone have the right to claim exclusive ownership of their very existence? Is that how it really works?

The very first paragraph of one of the very first articles published in USA Today, the day after Robin Williams died states, “By now, no doubt, Robin Williams is making them chuckle at the Pearly Gates. Back home, his family, friends, and fans are struggling, choking back tears while remembering how often he made them cry with laughter.”

At first glance these are poignant and comforting words. I refer to this quote only to show the common perception or belief of the vast majority of people all over the world. Which is essentially wishful thinking that they and their loved ones will make it to heaven or at least won’t end up in hell, depending on one’s belief in the existence of hell … or for that matter heaven. I do hope that Robin and Lauren are in heaven; but unless they had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through believing and receiving him as the one who had a right to their life and could have made their life right with God, then I fear for their eternal soul.

A Matter of Life and Death

“This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach … No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it” (Deuteronomy 30: 11 & 14). These words were inspired by God, and spoken by Moses to the Israelites shortly before Joshua led them into the Promised Land of Canaan, later to be called Israel. What was this command that was not too difficult to grasp, that was on the tip of their tongues and on the very top of their hearts? Moses answers this question with these stunning words:

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live….” (Deuteronomy 30: 15-16, italics for emphasis).

Again, he declares: “Today I have given you the choice between life and death … Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life….” (Verses 19-20).

It’s all too evident that the life and death spoken by Moses is more than just physical life and death. The Israelites who heard this message were obviously alive. And certainly by this time in man’s history, it was all too clear that every person ever born would one day die.

When Jesus Christ came to this earth for the express purpose of dying for the horrible sins we all have committed, as well as conquering the very sin nature that everyone is born with which condemns us to death, he provided a means of redemption for all mankind, including all those who came before him—both Jews and Gentiles. This salvation is simply God imparting or imputing the life-giving righteousness of the sinless Son of God to every man, woman, and child who believes what Christ did on the Cross and why he did it. Scripture is clear: We have no righteousness or merit of our own, the kind that God requires to live with him forever in Heaven. Rather, this righteousness is freely given when God forgives all of our sins, past, present, and future. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21).

And what is it that we must do to be made right with God? What must we do to inherit everlasting life? It is, in fact, a free inheritance. There is only one thing that we can do: CHOOSE TO BELIEVE GOD. Thereby, choosing life. It’s called faith or trust in the Lord or reliance on him. It’s giving up self-control of our life and eternal destiny to Christ. It is total recognition and acknowledgment that God’s way is the only real way of LIFE, both now and forever more. Because God through his Son IS LIFE.

Which brings us back to what God through Moses so profoundly told the Jews of that time … applicable to all people who have ever lived. We don’t have the right to life, but we do have the right to choose what we will do with our life. There is a difference, and understanding this difference can make all the difference in the world. Moses is telling his people that they must choose between life and death. They are not choosing to be born. Their physical life had already been given to them. They are not choosing whether to physically die or not … that’s a foregone conclusion. Instead, they are exercising their God-given right to choose between eternal life and perpetual, never-ending death—which the Bible defines as separation from God. This is no different from our choice today.

Jesus said it best when he spoke these incredible words to Martha, just a short time before he raised Martha and Mary’s brother, Lazarus, from the world of the dead. “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” (John 11: 25-26). Jesus’s second reference to death (never ever die) was clearly that of eternal death, meaning everlasting separation from God in hell.

When Jesus asked Martha if she believed that he was life itself (obviously implying he was the source of life, from the moment we are born and the only one who could extend our life through all eternity by raising us bodily from the dead), he was telling her that she must make a choice. She could choose to believe (in) Christ or not to believe (in) him. That’s why Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead: (1) To demonstrate his power over life and death; (2) to confirm that resurrection from the dead includes our very body. Lazarus didn’t walk out of the tomb as a spirit. (See I Corinthians Chapter 15).

So God gave us life. But because we are a fallen race, we ourselves have sentenced this God-given body of ours to death. God knew that would happen from the beginning but he chose not to rescind his gift of free will to mankind. Thus, God provided a redemptive remedy. Through Christ, he gives us life again … everlasting life. We have no say or control over the beginning of our life through physical birth. But we do have the freedom to choose a second birth from above. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).

Thus, it’s a matter of faith and trust that what God says is true. That God and Jesus’s prophetic promises that all who believe in Christ will continue to live (in the very presence of God) forever in Heaven. When we believe this, then God forgives and takes away the penalty of our sins by replacing our unrighteousness with Christ’s righteousness. That’s why the condition of “whosoever believes in him” is part of the most quoted verse in Scripture: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, italics for emphasis).

Long before Moses, Abraham himself was declared righteous because of one thing and one thing only: his trust in God—that what God said was true. “And Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6). Abraham understood that his son, Isaac, was the child of promise, the progenitor of the coming Messiah who would bring salvation to the whole world. This is why Abraham believed the Lord.

Since Christ came into this world there is only one difference between Abraham’s faith, and the faith of Moses and his people to enable them to choose life over death, from the faith of all alive today: Their trust in God and his Messiah looked ahead. Our trust is retroactive, because Messiah, indeed, came to this earth at exactly the appointed time. But the result is the same: A totally unequal but nevertheless magnificent exchange of our sins and the penalty of those sins for God’s righteousness that will enable us to spend eternity in his very presence. As is sometimes said, “It doesn’t get any better than that!”

“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. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. 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: 23-26).

What Are Our Rights?

Please, pay close attention: It’s a matter of giving up what we think is our right to life! Because the fact is: We have no inherent or innate right to life. God created us. Life belongs to him. Every breath we breathe is possible only through the one who first breathed the breath of life and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7).

If you’re having trouble with this, let me ask you: What say did you have in being born? What did you contribute to your conception and birth? How much control did you have when you took your first breath on this planet? Did you choose your parents? And they their parents, and so on back as far as you care to go with your genealogy? If we want to talk about rights, then at least we should conclude that our parents have the rights to our life. But, obviously it goes much farther and deeper than that. How did life begin in the first place? Did our father create the sperm within him, or our mother the egg?

Listen to these magnificent words from King David: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it” (Psalms 139: 13-14). With two words, David expressed his deep appreciation for and acknowledgment of the very source of his being, “Thank you.” He knew beyond any doubt that Almighty God has ownership rights to our very existence, because God created every human being. God has a divine patent and copyright to our complete being … body, soul, and spirit.

However, in that respect, life is nothing like money or land or any other possessions that rightfully belong to someone by virtue of hard work or inheritance, or whatever. Conception and birth is the beginning of all things, a phenomenon that no one who has ever lived has produced or inherited, or caused to happen by themselves and only by themselves.

Just as we have no control over the beginning of our life on this earth, likewise, we have no control over when we die. Whether it be from a sudden auto accident, from a battle in war, from a deadly disease, in old age from a worn out heart and body, we will all die and this death is beyond our control. If we could control the aging process and all the other things that lead to death, I believe we would. In fact, we try our best by spending billions of dollars on health programs and medical cures.

Where does suicide fit it? When someone takes their own life isn’t that exercising control over death and over their life by ending it? No, it does not demonstrate ultimate control. Why can I say that? Because when a person makes the tragic choice of ending their life, it’s clear (though we may not understand all of the reasons or factors) that their life is out of control. They can no longer cope with life’s harsh realities and demands. That’s why we describe such a tragic event as an “unnatural or untimely or premature death.” But the same thing can be said of someone dying from cancer in their forties. Or losing a child by leukemia or in a car accident. Or young men and women dying in war. Or any number of other untimely deaths. Death is death. It has and will continue to overcome every person who has ever lived.

With the gift of life, God also gave us the RIGHT TO CHOOSE. Choose what or who? Choose Christ who is the resurrection and the life. The moment we choose to believe and receive Christ, we have (present tense, right then and there) everlasting life. If we reject him or choose not to choose, then we have chosen eternal death … everlasting separation from God. Either way, it’s our choice. That’s the right we have. We do not have the right to claim that our very life and existence belongs to us, because we did absolutely nothing to come into existence and there is no birthright that applies to being born itself. Birthrights apply only to future possessions or positions or promises … not to the essence of life itself.

But we do have the right to choose our eternal destiny, either heaven or hell. And there will be a destiny, because once we’re born, we will continue to live forever. It’s just a matter of where and with whom.

Summary

When we claim our very life and existence as our own, we have committed theft of the highest degree. And like any theft, the thing stolen doesn’t belong to the thief just because he has (temporary) possession of it. But it’s much more than stealing something that doesn’t rightfully belong to us. It’s a deliberate defiance of and callous rebellion against the very one who gave us life. It’s telling God that he doesn’t have the right to show us what must be done in order to alter the course of our eternal destiny without God if we continue to disagree with him.

But if we agree (that’s what repentance means, a change of mind to agree with God) with the Lord and accept his amazing plan to redeem us (redemption means to buy back or purchase), it will immediately change our destiny from hell to heaven. Long ago, God developed a marvelous flight plan to heaven for the human race. Then, through his Son’s death and resurrection, God even purchased our ticket to Heaven. But we must reach out and take that ticket. All we need do is to simply agree with so great a salvation and say, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you died for my sins and rose again. I belong to you. You are mine and I am yours.” When we do, we will have chosen Life over Death.

This is such an enormous, but simple truth to grasp. It’s so supremely significant that Paul had to remind the believers in Corinth of such ownership rights. “…You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6: 19-20).

And later Paul expressed this in a slightly different way by referring to the world at large. “…Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them” (II Corinthians 5: 14-15).

We do not have rightful ownership to our life. Rather, we are custodians of our life, including whatever God-given gifts, talents, and possessions that comes with that life. A truly wise custodian will listen to and follow the instructions of the owner. I’m sure that Robin Williams wasn’t thinking of all these things just before he died. No, it’s likely that he chose long before to go his own way and do his own thing, like so many before him.

In trying to explain why someone pursues a lifestyle that is headed for disaster, how often do we hear someone say, “Well, it’s his life?” But that’s exactly the error that all those who die without Christ make. It’s a belief that, after all is said and done, the most important thing in life is to say and do what Frank Sinatra made famous with the song Paul Anka wrote for him: I Did It My Way. For sure we have that choice, but do we have the right? If you believe in good and evil, right and wrong, then this question is for you, as well as for all those who could care less about right and wrong. Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out that you didn’t have the right to your life after all.

Things to Ponder

One of the most significant (if not the most important) truths to grasp is that our very life and existence was given to us by God. When we wrap out minds around that precept, then we stand a much better chance of making the right choices in life. Of which, by far, the most vital is whether to choose Christ (thus, eternal life in heaven) or to reject him in favor of another god or gods. Make no mistake: we all will choose someone or something as our god—whether fame, fortune, power, sex, or an actual false, man-made god or even ourselves. Anything that takes the place of the one true and living God, is a god.

To this very day, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of Messiah Jesus, is asking the same question that Moses asked so long ago:

Life or death?

Which will you choose?

Proportional Warfare

PROPORTIONAL WARFARE? … Israel’s Response to Terrorism

For the first time since the latest Israeli/Palestinian conflict erupted in early July, Hamas held to its side of a (72-hour) cease-fire. Israel had every right to reject this or any cease-fire for at least two reasons: (1) Hamas’ track record of cease-fire violations; (2) Israel had not completely finished their primary objective of destroying the cross-border tunnels and as many weapon sites as possible. In that respect, a cease-fire only benefits the terrorists, giving them the opportunity to move their weapons and use what tunnels are left to infiltrate Israel for their “tunnel vision” resolution of killing Jews.

In last week’s article, we looked at the appalling misuse of Moral Equivalency by Israel’s enemies and by leaders of nations and ethnic groups who shamelessly distort Israel’s right of self-defense by comparing such right to Hitler’s depraved campaign of genocide against the Jews, forever known as the Holocaust. To the contrary, it would be immoral for a country not to take tough measures to protect its citizens.

Last week’s and this week’s Eye of Prophecy articles are just two of several columns written by responsible journalists and commentators who are compelled to refute the twisted logic of so many, whose seemingly main purpose in life is to denigrate and demonize Israel. Whether such reporting has created a more balanced perspective on the volatile issue of Moral Equivalency remains to be seen. However, it does seem that some of the more rational “moderate” leaders have begun to recognize, albeit reluctantly, Israel’s moral right to protect her citizens from indiscriminate and deadly terrorist’s attacks.

But even these so-called moderates won’t let a day go by without promoting a second common component of the Moral Equivalency formula … what might be called a Plan B or a back-up strategy. The second element of Moral Equivalency is that of Disproportionate Response … meaning Israel’s military intervention must be restrained and/or in direct proportion (or even a lesser proportion) to the actions of the terrorists.

For example, US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have advised Israel to use “restraint” in their military reaction to terrorism. Likewise, the majority of national and international leaders, journalists, and social pundits have demanded that Israel not only use restraint, but that Israel’s response be precisely proportional to the terrorist’s attacks. Of course, none of them dare to define or quantify this proportional restraint … how much, how often, how long! Why would they? How could they? To do so would mean acknowledgment that if their own people were attacked in such manner, they would categorically deny the right of anyone else telling them how much retaliation and restraint is enough.

Since this war began, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of articles written, media discussions via radio and television, and editorialized in general throughout the world. A fairly recent debate head-lined as A Moral dilemma in the Viewpoints section of The Arizona Republic (a newspaper I subscribe to) published on July 27, 2014—about three weeks into the Israel/Hamas war—is a representative cross-section example of world-wide arguments over the nature and extent of Israel’s war-related conduct.

In one corner was journalist Farley Weiss; the headlines on his side of the Point/Counterpoint read, Hamas’ continuous attacks on civilians justify Israeli incursion.

In the other corner sat Bishara A. Bahbah, whose column was headlined, Israel must pull back from invasion that is killing Gaza innocents.

Point/Counterpoint

Farley Weiss: “Israel following its 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza, thought they were leaving the Palestinian Authority in control but, after winning an election, Hamas took control. The people of Gaza elected in Hamas a leadership committed to Israel’s destruction. Recently the Palestinian Authority unified with Hamas and has kept that unity throughout this Hamas attack on Israel.”

*Note: As I have indicated periodically in past Eye of Prophecy articles, there is no Israeli “occupation” of the Gaza Strip. Even prior to 2005, there were only a few Jewish settlements in Gaza. Then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon closed down all Jewish settlements and relocated those displaced Jews throughout Israel proper. The Palestinian Authority (headed by Mahmoud Abbas headquartered in the West Bank) was forced to relinquish authority to Hamas in the Gaza Strip soon after the Jewish settlements were dismantled. These two quasi-governmental entities claim exclusive right to represent the Palestinians in Israel. Although their differences are legion, the primary distinction is that one (Hamas) is more radical and violent in its ideology and methods; whereas the other (Palestinian Authority) will ostensibly seek diplomatic solutions. However, both agencies have clearly demonstrated a mutual mindset and goal: The destruction or dissolution of the State of Israel.

Bishara Bahbah: “This war has brought to light several observations: This is not a proportionate tit-for-tat war. It is a disproportionate fight between Hamas which lobs what everyone calls “rockets” and what I call oversize Chinese fireworks. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized what Israel’s prime minister described as a ‘pin-point operation’ by stating, ‘It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.’”

*Note: Obviously Bahbah quoted Kerry’s sarcastic suggestion to prove his point that the death of Palestinian “civilians” would not be occurring at all; if, in fact, Israeli was accomplishing their “pin-point” selective bombing of terrorist’s targets. And, of course, Bahbah capitalized on Kerry’s unwarranted comment by slinging his own version of the proportional war mentality prevalent throughout the world. It appears that Kerry conveniently overlooked the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan caused by “pin-point” selective targets of American missile strikes that went awry, resulting in several friendly fire casualties and/or death of Iraqi and Afghan civilians.

By no stretch of the imagination am I criticizing the US military mistakes during the Iraqi War and the still ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. In fact, our military does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties, no less than Israel does. In fact, Israel goes much farther than does the United States. They announce ahead of time to the civilian population exactly where the strikes will take place, with enough time for the civilians to evacuate.

Moreover, if these rockets launched by Hamas are only “Chinese firecrackers” then I’d hate to be hit by a “real missile.” Fact: These rockets can inflict substantial damage. Fact: The main problem for Hamas is not the firepower of the missiles, rather it’s their “aim.” Fact: Even when their aim is accurate, often their target structures are empty or the missile lands just far enough away to preclude serious damage or casualties.

I believe there are two other significant factors: (1) the ability through almost daily practice (both drills and actual rocket attacks) of the Jews to seek shelter in just the few seconds allotted to them before the missile strikes. (2) The periodic intervention of God, perhaps through angels, to protect his people, the Jews. Scripture and history is replete with events in which God chooses to miraculously rescue his people (both Jews and Christians). Why the Lord doesn’t do this all the time is a question that will never be answered this side of eternity. Except to say that one day all evil will be eradicated and Jesus Christ will rule and reign with complete justice, righteousness, and peace. Until that time, we must concede to his perfect plan and perfect timing in execution of that plan.

Bahbah: “This war waged by a Middle East democracy had killed more than 800 people and wounded about 5,000 Palestinians. On Israel’s side, at least 35 soldiers were killed in addition to three civilians.”

*Note: At the time of this Eye of Prophecy article, the Palestinian fatalities are a little over 1,900; with the Israeli death toll of 64 soldiers and three civilians. Did you catch his phrase: “This war waged by a Middle East democracy.” As though the war was started and unilaterally carried on/out by Israel. Yet, the unfairness of Bahbah’s statement is endorsed by numerous journalists, broadcasters, and heads of state … especially ambassadors to the United Nations.

Farley Weiss: “It is as astonishing as it is disheartening to hear the frequent criticisms directed to Israel’s response. Many have called on Israel to exercise either proportionality or restraint despite the unyielding and indiscriminate missile attacks on it civilians. Which brings the question: Should a nation defending itself do so in a manner where its casualties are expected to equal those against whom they retaliate … or condemned simply because its capability to administer punishment exceeds that of the belligerent who initiated the hostility? Of course not! Only the intellectually dishonest would suggest that a nation whose children are kidnapped and murdered may respond to their murderers only ‘moderately.’ Especially, when but for the response many more of their children would be murdered.”

More Proportional Pros and Cons

One of the morally and intellectually absurd indictments against Israel for violation of Palestinians rights and/or disproportionate retaliation also extends to the United States for not equally providing a high-tech deterrent system to the “governing authority” in Gaza … meaning Hamas. This convoluted logic referred to Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system (the US heavily contributed to the design and funding of Iron Dome).

Listen to the words of UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay: “They have not only provided the heavy weaponry which is not being used by Israel in Gaza but they’ve also provided almost $1 billion in providing the Iron Dome to protect the Israelis from rocket attacks. But no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.” Surprisingly, she makes two allowances: that Israel is not using “heavy weaponry” provided by the US against Gaza and also that Israel is, in fact, being subjected to rocket attacks (from Gaza).

But these concessions are rendered meaningless by her preposterous demand that Gaza be supplied with equivalent protection. It’s not enough that the Israelis provide advance warning of terrorist targets to allow Gazan civilians to flee harm’s way. Ms. Pillay (and others that share her twisted views) demand equal opportunity funded protection for Gaza, which obviously includes Hamas.

Next, is a more balanced editorial view of the issues:

Read with me an excerpt of an editorial written by Richard Kemp for The Gatestone Institute on-line news site, published August 3rd. Kemp’s article was written generally to expose the incessant unfounded indictment of Israel’s conduct in this war, and specifically to counter biased inflammatory comments disguised as interview questions from a reporter who asked an Israeli IDF spokesperson: “So are you going after innocent civilians or is it incompetence Colonel Lerner?”

Richard Kemp replied: “To suggest that military incompetence is the only explanation for civilian deaths other than deliberate mass murder reveals a breathtaking but unsurprising ignorance of the realities of combat. Although rarely allowed to complete so much as a single sentence (Kemp is referring to interviews of Israeli military and political officials), Israeli attempt to explain IDF targeting policies are inevitably dismissed as laughable fabrication.”

*Note: If someone is going to argue for a proportionally conducted war, then why don’t reporters express some measure of gratitude that Israel allows far more interviews of their officials than does Hamas or the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank? In fact, at great risk, a handful of responsible journalists have leaked information that Hamas has threatened reporters if they write anything whatsoever negative about Hamas’ conduct in this war.

Kemp goes on to say: “The truth is very different. The IDF has developed the most comprehensive and sophisticated measures to minimize civilian casualties during attacks against legitimate military targets. Mandatory multi-sensor intelligence and surveillance systems to confirm the presence or absence of civilians precede attacks on every target from the air. Text messages, phone calls and radio messages in Arabic warn occupants to leave. Air-dropped leaflets include maps showing safe areas. When warnings go unheeded, aircraft drop non-lethal explosives to warn that an attack is imminent … When pilots use laser-guided munitions they must have pre-designated safe areas to divert the missiles in flight should civilians suddenly appear.”

I’ve noticed one glaring irony of Israel’s morally proportionate strategy to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties: Hamas also has time to remove themselves and their weapons. Thus, neither the terrorist nor their weaponry is taken out … mission failed. Not entirely: There is one less building or area from which to launch terrorist’s missiles. Yes, that also includes Palestinian homes, but Hamas frequently uses these homes and their own people who live in the houses to store weapons and launch rockets from the roofs and backyards of these dwellings. It’s also apparent that Hamas terrorists are not always at the place where they store their weapons; however, the civilians that occupy those homes or shops or mosques wouldn’t dare remove the weapons without Hamas’ permission. Hence, sometimes the mission is accomplished by taking out a missile launcher or two.

Of course, mistakes happen. Surveillance and intelligence is never 100% guaranteed. It is a known and morally acceptable premise of war: Civilians are killed in battle. I certainly am not making light of civilian death and injuries during war. It is, indeed, tragic. But what army on the face of the earth would simply lay down their arms and refuse to defend their country because their enemy suffered civilian casualties?

In fact, both terrorist organizations like Hamas and governments that support such terrorism, like Iran, classify all of their targets (primarily Israelis) as soldiers. In this warped view, there is no distinction between civilian and military personnel. Evidently, this enables them to rationalize any and all terrorist strikes against innocent people. Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have made public statements that the three kidnapped and murdered teenage boys were soldiers! (These brutal killings was the catalyst that started this current conflict). None of these boys were in the IDF; in fact, two of them were not old enough to be drafted.

Now a quote from another of Israel’s critics, Eugene Robinson. “First is the tremendous loss of human life. It matters that civilians are in the line of fire between Israel and Hamas—even if, in some instances, it seems clear that Hamas put them there … But while it is not possible to specify an exact number of acceptable Palestinian casualties, that number has clearly been surpassed.” (Italics for emphasis).

A personal observation: Although I staunchly back Israel for several reasons, not the least of which is God’s unconditional support of the Jews and Israel, I will listen to the rhetoric of those who chastise and even condemn Israel; if, in fact, their arguments are rational and half-way logical—which they rarely are. Often, human viewpoint morality is in the eye of the beholder, which is why I enclose my own views in the context of God’s absolute truth found in the Bible. I will hear out Israel’s critics; primarily to see how they explain their world-view.

But what Robinson and many others like him are saying, is anything but logical or reasonable. To wit: If he’s going to adamantly insist on more proportional conduct from Israel by asserting that the number of Palestinian casualties, “has clearly been surpassed,” then he is morally and rationally compelled to give a precise number of those casualties. Otherwise, his argument is guilty of begging the question without so much as a hint of a possible answer … how many are too many? Is it 500 Palestinians killed, 1,000, 1,250, or 1,500? Whenever that “unknown” number is reached, does that mean that Israel has a moral obligation to stop what they’re doing, even though their military objectives haven’t been met? If the ratio between Israeli dead and Palestinian dead reaches a predetermined gap, is Israel required to send its troops home; thereby, allowing Hamas to continue attacks through tunnels and by continually firing rockets into Israel to even the score?

I do give him credit for acknowledging that Hamas deliberately puts Gazan civilians in harm’s way. But it’s that very concession that causes his logic to crumble like a house of cards. Meaning, how is it possible for Israel to strike back at the very terrorists who initiated this conflict, if there are civilians in front of and all around the Hamas fighters and their weaponry? With that mentality, Israel has no right whatsoever to fire a single shot or launch a single rocket at a building that clearly houses terrorists and their weapons.

Other Examples, Questions

Just a quick World War II example: Not only did the Allies recognize the obvious fact that civilians in Germany, Japan, and Italy would be unavoidable collateral casualties during all of the air and ground campaigns; they sometimes deliberately struck targets that were mostly civilian … with the rationale that the civilians were by and large in complete support of their troops and military endeavors. Thus, there was no warning before some of the most devastating attacks in the annals of warfare, ancient or modern: The Allies Carpet bombing of Dresden, Germany, of Tokyo, and the Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which brought an end to WW II.

What nation would order its military to stop firing until more of their own soldiers or civilians were killed to proportionally equalize the body count of their enemies. To, thereby, satisfy the demands of not only their enemies, but even their friends who suggested or implied that a more balanced casualty rate would make a just war even more just!

This is particularly true when it’s exceptionally challenging to differentiate between soldiers and civilians in the first place, such as in Iraq and in the Gaza Strip. The enemy doesn’t wear uniforms now days. For example, what terrorist would answer a question put to him by an Israeli soldier, “Are you Hamas or a civilian?” With the absurd answer, “I’m a terrorist; you can shoot me now.”

According to reliable sources/reports from both the Israelis and objective journalists and reporters who are not taking sides, more than half of the Palestinian fatalities have been young men who were clearly or ostensibly fighting for Hamas. This is in direct contradiction to Hamas reports that over 90% of Palestinian casualties have been civilians.

But the very fact that it’s tough for not only Israel but even the Palestinians themselves to differentiate between a true neutral unarmed civilian and a terrorist who has a civilian day job and by night fires missiles into Israel, makes it morally irresponsible to condemn Israel for a single civilian casualty. Should Israel do as much as is reasonably and practically possible to avoid “civilian” casualties? Of course they should. AND THEY DO!

Just a couple of days ago in one of his many news conferences, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu felt compelled to defend attacks against his nation’s conduct in the Gaza war. He said that his country’s actions were “justified” and “proportional.” According to USA Today,” he showed footage of Hamas firing mortars and operating from tunnels in civilian areas of Gaza near schools and mosques.”

Such a shame that Israel (or any nation whose cause of self-defense is objectively obvious to the whole world) must defend herself against a constant barrage of accusations that she is waging an unjust or disproportional war … all the while defending herself against a volley of deadly attacks from an immoral terrorist group.

Three thousand years ago under King David’s reign, Israel was the greatest nation on the face of the earth. And once again Israel will (soon) be the most prominent nation on earth, under the reign of none other than Messiah Jesus. Not because the Jews are innately better than anyone else, for God loves you, me, and all of us equally, including the Arabs!

Listen to the words of Moses just before the Hebrews were to enter the Promise Land so long ago, the same land that is now Israel … the same land that has been given to the Jews in perpetuity forever and ever. “After the Lord your God has done this for you, don’t say in your hearts, ‘The Lord has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is pushing them out of your way. It is not because you are so good or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land… (Deuteronomy 9: 4-5).

But Moses also told the Hebrews (Jews), “The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors… Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commandments. But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him” (Deuteronomy 7: 7-10, italics for emphasis). Indeed, God disciplined even Israel for her many sins by removing his protection; thus allowing Israel’s enemies to subjugate the Jews for most of 2,500 years.

God IS love, but he is also holy and just. All those who spiritually reject God’s love demonstrated by the awesome salvation provided to anyone who believes and receives his Son, Yeshua, have sentenced themselves to everlasting separation, Jew and Gentile alike, from El Elyon … The Most High God. (See John 3:18 & 3:36 … in fact, read the entire third chapter of John!)

Likewise, those who physically persist in their diabolical determination to destroy God’s chosen people and usurp control over the land promised to the Jews, must pay the price. There are hundreds of Scripture passages that dramatically depict the utter ruination of peoples and nations who dare to defy the true and living God by seeking to destroy the descendants of Abraham.

Israel was selected by God because they were God’s choice to bring blessings to all nations of the earth, through a Jewish Messiah. If anyone has a problem with that, then they need to take it up with God.

Newsflash!

Just a little while before this article was to be posted (which now makes the article a little longer than anticipated!), I discovered the following story from one of my news sources. It’s an amazing example of what was said earlier in this article; that the Lord sometimes intervenes to protect … in this case, his special treasure and possession, Israel. Although the aforementioned Iron Dome has met or exceeded expectations, it is not a perfect system. It cannot intercept ALL incoming rockets/missiles nor does it hit its target 100% of the time. Estimates are 80-90%, if an intercepting Iron Dome missile is launched at all.

From several Israeli (in the Hebrew language) press sources, reports have surfaced of Hamas missiles miraculously changing course in mid-flight. One of the Iron Dome Commanders recently witnessed the “hand of God” divert an incoming rocket from a densely populated area of Tel Aviv.

These are his words: “A missile was fired from Gaza. Iron Dome precisely calculated (its trajectory). We know where these missiles are going to land down to a radius of 200 meters. This particular missile was going to hit either the Azrieli Towers, the Kirya (Israel’s equivalent of the Pentagon) or a central Tel Aviv railway station. Hundreds would have died. (Note: During my trip to Israel in 2006, I drove near all three of these locations … they, indeed, have a high concentration of people during the day).

“We fired the first (interceptor). It missed. Second (interceptor). It missed. This is very rare. I was in shock. At this point we had just four seconds until the missile lands. We had already notified emergency services to converge on the target location and had warned of a mass-casualty incident.

“Suddenly, Iron Dome (which calculates wind speeds, among other things) shows a major wind coming from the east, a strong wind that … sends the missile into the sea. We were all stunned. I stood up and shouted, ‘There is a God!’ I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. It was not told or reported to me. I saw the hand of God send that missile into the sea.” (Italics for special emphasis).

Another Newsflash: Yesterday, just a short time after time ran out on the 72-hour cease-fire, Hamas fired more rockets into Israel, wounding two Israelis … one seriously.

Things to Ponder

Has anyone not heard of nor remember the mighty Exodus of God’s chosen people from Egypt? Especially the splitting of the Red Sea?

“Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind (Exodus 14:21, italics for mega-emphasis).

There is no defense system created by or known to man which can rival God’s personal defense of his people. Moreover, there is no defense scheme strong enough or a military mighty enough to achieve a (righteous) victory in war unless the true and living God is on their side. Yes, God does take sides. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalms 33:12).

“Tell everyone about God’s power. His majesty shines down on Israel; his strength is mighty in the heavens. God is awesome in his sanctuary. The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!” (Psalms 68: 34-35).

I’m compelled to repeat from last week’s Eye of Prophecy article, entitled Moral Equivalency:

Scripture is replete with prophetic promises that God in the last days would once again protect Israel from her enemies, and even fight for her. That day began in 1948 and was fully ratified in the Six-Day War of 1967. I suppose people could debate Moral Equivalency issues in the context of the Israeli/Palestinian ongoing conflict ad infinitum. Who’s right, who’s wrong; what’s right, what’s wrong? How much (self-defense) is enough? Israel … whose land is it?

The Bible is very clear as to who’s right and who’s wrong; what is just and what is unjust. Whose land it is because the Lord himself gave it to one people, and only one: The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

According to Scripture, the time of debate is over.

Now it’s a matter of choice. From God’s perspective, it’s always been a matter of free will choice. Spiritually: To choose God’s marvelous plan of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ, that will determine a person’s eternal destiny. Morally: To at least recognize, if not support Israel, chosen by God to bring salvation and blessing to the whole earth.

As one reader succinctly commented on last week’s Eye of Prophecy article: “I, for one, plan on being on the right side in this ultimate conflict.”

How about you? Care and dare to take sides?

Moral Equivalency

MORAL EQUIVALENCY

Once again, ominous events in the Middle East have riveted the attention of hundreds of millions of people world-wide. Once again the sounds of exploding missiles, the blasts of a myriad of bombs, and the sights of smoke columns ascending to the skies have formed an unrivaled focus on the tiny nation of Israel. Again we are reminded of the decisive but, nevertheless, inspiring words of the one, true living God; who is known in Scripture by many awesome names, none more applicable in today’s world than, The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob … expressed succinctly as the God of Israel.

“This message concerning the fate of Israel came from the Lord: ‘This message is from the Lord, who stretched out the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and formed the human spirit. I will make Jerusalem like an intoxicating drink that makes the nearby nations stagger when they send their armies to besiege Jerusalem and Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock. All the nations will gather against it to try to move it, but they will only hurt themselves’” (Zechariah 12: 1-3).

In the numerous articles I’ve read, the recent broadcasts I’ve heard, and the alarming images of war catapulted through cyberspace, it’s clear that nearly everyone who is half-way interested in what’s taking place in the Middle East has some sort of opinion. Most of these opinions hover around one end of a pendulum or another … in dramatic support of Israel or in dismal but dogmatic castigation of the Jews and of Israel.

The stark difference between the mindset, motive, and the very heart and soul of Israel and that of her enemies (specifically the terrorist regimes called Hamas and Hezbollah) was recently expressed in a simple, but insightful statement gone viral through the internet. Though a paraphrase from the original announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it is almost a direct quote:

“Israel uses rockets to protect its hospitals and children. Hamas uses hospitals and children to protect its rockets.”

There couldn’t possibly be a more profound valuation to describe Israel’s true character; conversely, to expose the malevolent disposition of Hamas. This statement is also the optimum refutation and exposure of the Moral Equivalency expected of and imposed on Israel by the vast majority of nations, as summarily expressed by their leaders.

What is Moral or Immoral Equivalency and How Does It Work?

Frankly, I’d prefer not to use this term if for no other reason than it is an awkward concept to grasp, especially when applied to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. However, in the contemporary context or modern version of an age-old conflict between Jew and Arab, many politicians, philosophers, and social pundits have often used (or misused) this vague notion of Moral Equivalence to bash Israel.

So, let’s begin with a workable definition of Moral Equivalency. Straight from the Internet site of Rational Wiki: “Moral Equivalence is a form of equivocation often used in political debates. It seeks to draw comparisons between different, often unrelated things, to make a point that one is just as bad as the other or just as good as the other….”

The term equivocation in the above definition means to, “…use equivocal language with intent to deceive.” Equivocal means, “subject to two or more interpretations and used to mislead or confuse … of doubtful advantage, genuineness, or moral rectitude” (Webster’s Dictionary).

Essentially, then Moral Equivalency is a process (that has been given a name) to identify what’s happening when someone tries to convince others that what they’ve done or are about to do is morally just and right; conversely, what the other side has done or will do is morally wrong. Either one of these positions are almost always compared to precedents or events in history; and then are contrasted to the beliefs or actions of people representing or involved in the other side of the issue or dispute.

How’s that? “Clear as mud,” you say. Yep … I wouldn’t argue with your conclusion. Sorry, given the fact that an entire book could be written on the subject, this is the best or most I can do in an introductory attempt to explain something that isn’t easily explainable.

Two examples given in the above referenced Website article: “Drawing a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.”

And, “The term Axis of evil, drawing a moral equivalence between Iraq, Iran, and North Korea with the original Axis of World War II.” (This is just being used as an example, whereas the first illustration is an integral part of today’s blog article).

Trivia question: Do you remember who first coined the term, Axis of Evil? Well done. You got it right. It was former US President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address not too long after 9/11.

Concerning the first example, I was somewhat stunned that it would be used at all, considering the utterly horrific nature of this morally equivalent comparison. Although I certainly knew of this assessment by those who hate Israel and the Jews (in fact I referred to it in last week’s article), I didn’t realize just how wide-spread this morally equivalent (actually immoral and depraved) comparison was until I discovered it in the Website article. Or, until I read some shocking statements recently spouted by world leaders during the preparation of today’s article.

Sadly, ever so sadly, that’s exactly what is taking place in today’s world … the exponential increase of Anti-Semitism particularly in Europe; fueled by unjust, inaccurate, unfounded rants and raves against not just Israel’s conduct in the current Gaza war, but against Jews all over the world.

Of all places, you would think European nations would forever remember the absolutely horrendous results of the Holocaust. Yet, shortly after the latest clash between Israel and Hamas terrorists began, thousands in France took to the streets screaming among things, “Death to the Jews.” In Belgium a sign at a city café in Saint-Nicolas read, “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Jews are not under any circumstances.” In Germany, chants of, “Jews to the gas chambers.”

Did you notice that in each of these tirades, the protestors used the word Jews? Not Israelis, but Jews. That says it all: It’s much more than just deploring Israel’s “disproportionate military response” as a nation. It’s a reawakening of the deadly mindset and straight-from-the-heart hatred of the Jewish race.

Obviously referring to the horrific context of the Holocaust that is not yet a complete generation removed, Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, responded: “We are currently experiencing in this country an explosion of evil and violent hatred of Jews, which shocks and dismays all of us. We would never in our lives have thought it possible any more that anti-Semitic views of the nastiest and most primitive kind can be chanted on German streets.”

Though I rarely quote from past blogs, I would like to include a quote from last week’s Eye of Prophecy article entitled, Replacement Theology (Part II). It fits so well with what I found during research of this week’s column.

“There are some who even compare the State of Israel to Hitler’s Third Reich. That is the absolute height of hypocrisy, hatred, and ignorance, given the fact six million completely innocent Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. In past wars and in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Israelis go so far as to warn Palestinian civilians to vacate certain areas, before the IDF targets those areas to attack terrorists (who blatantly use their people as human shields). Are these the tactics of a nation bent on genocide? Hardly. Conversely, Hamas and other Muslim terrorist groups deliberately target Israeli civilians with their rockets, missiles, and suicide bombers. They even use their own people as human shields. Truly in today’s world: Evil is good and good is evil.”

That is the epitome of the appalling use of Moral Equivalency to justify one’s actions by comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to German treatment of the Jews in World War II. The six million Jews that Hitler’s Third Reich slaughtered represented 37 % of all Jews in the world at that time. The numbers alone expose the hypocrisy and stupidity of such correlations. Not to mention the manner in which the Jews were rounded up, interned in ghettos, then shipped off to concentration camps to be gassed in the chambers and burned in the ovens. To compare this to Israel’s actions of clear self-defense against what is now over 2,500 (probably more by the time this article is posted) rockets launched from Gaza into Israel and IDF soldiers killed by terrorists who emerged from tunnels on Israeli soil, is totally ludicrous. More than that: It’s morally wrong to the Nth degree to make such a judgment.

For the most part, the Moral Equivalency Court of World Opinion has rendered a guilty verdict against Israel, while exonerating the Palestinians and/or justifying the actions of terrorists in their “human rights struggle against Israel.”

In other words: Those who hate the Jews and even those who are ambivalent or marginal toward Israel claim the right to make a morally equivalent comparison between Israel (and say Hitler’s Germany) even if the analogy is immorally wrong to the point of being evil.

Yes, there are God-given absolute values (truth and morality) in the world that enable us to distinguish between true/accurate moral comparisons and false/inaccurate equivocations. But that’s a whole different subject for a different day.

World Reaction in the Context of Moral Equivalency

To be sure some leaders from some nations have expressed support and solidarity with Israel because they’ve finally realized just exactly who and what Hamas is. They’re beginning to understand that Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank want a totally different kind of peace that the Israelis so passionately pursue. They want a “piece” of Israel here and there, with the ultimate goal of killing or expelling ALL of the Jews in Israel.

People in Uruguay and Argentina have actually held demonstrations in favor of Israel. And a few other countries have voiced support such as Canada. Still, the prevailing consensus of ALL Arab or Muslims nations—and to a lesser extent, but nevertheless with imposing numbers of people in many nations all over the world—is that the Palestinians have the higher moral right to use any means possible; including condoning their terrorist leaders to mercilessly fire missile after missile indiscriminately into Israeli homes, hospitals, and marketplaces. Or to emerge from one of the dozens of tunnels built with subsidized funds from the United States and other countries, and shoot or abduct Israeli soldiers and Israeli citizens. Though not from a tunnel, that’s how this current conflict began in the first place … the kidnapping and brutal murder of three Jewish teenage boys, one of whom held a dual citizenship in the US.

As in past conflicts within Israel, once again the media as a whole continues their reporting with an obvious and flagrant bias against Israel in favor of the Palestinian plight. Most of the time, journalists will include quotes from international leaders who have accurately sized up the facts and speak out for the morally right actions of a nation (Israel) to defend itself against terrorist attacks. Many journalists report these statements out of obligation to be at least half-way objective in their reporting. However, when it comes to a general summary of their investigative columns or editorials, many journalists will ignore or gloss over the “essentials” in order to subtlety and surreptitiously say what they really want to say.

A good example is an article posted on 7-31-14 by Associated Press reporter, David Jackson. This is the final paragraph of his article: “…The Israeli military’s offensive has destroyed much of Gaza, as civilian deaths and injuries have climbed. Schools, mosques, homes, marketplaces and the only power plant have been targeted, creating what the U.N. has called a growing humanitarian crisis.”

Whether Mr. Jackson’s closing remarks were deliberate or inadvertent, the result is the same. If you didn’t know that all of the “targets” were occupied either by terrorists or their weapons or both, what would be your conclusion? I know what mine would be: The Israelis are indiscriminately selecting civilian targets. But we know better, don’t we. Even agencies of the United Nations (who are pretty much anti-Israel) have acknowledged that the terrorists and their weaponry have taken shelter in or very near schools, mosques, homes, marketplaces and a power plant.

When you multiply this kind of reporting hundreds of times over … well you can imagine the cumulative distorted images created in the minds of millions who don’t know or don’t want to know, “the rest of the story.”

Next, I’ll quote an Italian Philosopher Gianna Vattimo who verbally and in his writings has described himself as a, “non-violent person.” I’m using this man as a cross-section representative of any given citizen of any given country, albeit one who has exerted a good deal of philosophic and social influence.

Says Vattimo in response to the current war in Gaza, “I’d like to shoot those bastard Zionists.” Then when asked on the air (I believe it was radio, but it might have been television) if he would prefer to see more Israelis killed, his reply was: “Of course!” Further that Israel was, “…a bit worse than the Nazis.” Well, that was generous of him to conclude that Israel was only slightly worse than the Nazis!

This is what none other than the President of a nation (Venezuela) had to say about Israel’s on-going attacks on terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip: President Nicolas Maduro said that these attacks (by Israel) have, “…initiated a higher phase of its policy of genocide and extermination with the ground invasion of Palestinian territory, killing innocent men, woman, girls, and boys. Venezuela also rejects the cynical campaigns trying to condemn both parties equally, when it is clear you cannot morally compare occupied and massacred Palestine with the occupying state, Israel, which also possesses military superiority and acts on the margins of international law.”

Did you catch the scathing indictment that both states and implies lack of any moral correctness on the part of Israel? That no one should even dare to morally compare both Israel and the Palestinians equally. In fact, according to this politician it would be a gross injustice to denounce the Palestinians for any of their actions. Or (implied) if anyone chooses to condemn both sides, the criticism directed against Israel should vastly exceed any reproach against the Arabs of the Gaza Strip. Why? Because Israel essentially has no moral right to “invade Palestinian territory.”

Did he make any reference at all to the thousands of missiles and rockets launched randomly and indiscriminately from the Gaza Strip against Jewish civilians? No, and you never will hear that from national leaders like Maduro and many like him, particularly representatives from the United Nations. Or that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the IDF not to respond to these rockets for ten days, to essentially give Hamas the opportunity to seriously consider the inevitable consequences of these unprovoked attacks against Israeli civilians.

Speaking of the United Nations, over the past several decades more resolutions in the form of sanctions have been passed against Israel than all of the other nations in the world combined. That includes, Syria, Korea, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Nigeria … all of whom have brutally suppressed their own people as well as Christians and Jews. For the second time since the latest conflict erupted, the Human Rights Council of the UN condemned Israel for, “gross violations of human rights.” Only the United States voted against the 29-1 resolution, with several countries abstaining from the vote.

Furthermore, just three days ago, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency found all kinds of weapons stored in one of its Gaza schools, for the third time since the war began! To be sure, this UN agency judged Hamas for keeping weaponry in schools. What else could they do with such obvious evidence? But do you know what UNRWA did with the weapons? They gave them back to Hamas, who undoubtedly moved the weapons to another school or perhaps someone’s house!

More Chilling Evidence

There is so much more unequivocal and undeniable and irrefutable evidence of who started this war (Hamas always initiates these conflicts usually by resumption of rocket attacks on Israel). That Israel’s response was just that … a response. And which side always breaks a cease-fire even those called for by Hamas? At the time of writing this article, at least six cease fires have already been broken, all by the Hamas pseudo-government in the Gaza Strip. In fact, Ron Prosser, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, replied with this classic statement: “When a cease-fire is called, we (Israel) cease, and Hamas fires!”

In past conflicts Hamas has denied using their own people as human shields, by means of launching missiles from areas of heavy civilian concentration or firing upon Israeli soldiers from such places as schools and shopping areas. Yet, it’s become so overwhelmingly evident that Hamas uses, misuses, and abuses its own people by placing them in harm’s way, that they no longer deny it. In fact, they’re now explaining why they employ this despicable immoral strategy.

Listen to the words of Fathi Hammad, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council: “For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahadeen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahadeen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: ‘We desire death like you desire life.’”

Notice in the next-to-last sentence of his quote what order Hammad places the mujahedeen (Arabic term for holy or jihad warrior). You can bet your life savings that Hamas’ warriors will never be found in front of the woman and children. In fact, Palestinians civilians are not allowed in what few bomb shelters exist in Gaza … only the warriors are allowed in! No, Hamas doesn’t use the millions of tons of concrete provided to them by the US and a few other nations to build shelters. Instead, they use the concrete to build elaborate smuggle and attack tunnels that end up in Israel.

And, perhaps the most shocking statement of all … because it comes from the mouth of the Prime Minister of a prominent Middle East nation. Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan who has no love for Israel out did himself with these inflammatory words: “We have been witnessing this systematic genocide every Ramadan since 1948. Now (Israel’s) barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s.”

To anyone who has any knowledge whatsoever of Israel’s history in particular and the Middle East in general, we simply consider the source of such a provocative lie. But for those who don’t know or don’t want to know the real story, this kind of blatantly false accusation can easily fit the adage (paraphrasing), “If you tell a lie long enough and loud enough, many will believe it to be true.”

Perpetually, the subject of who’s right and who’s wrong and what is moral and what is immoral flows from this age-old conflict between ancient enemies. Invariably, Israel—even by nations who sometimes support Israel—is either classified as the aggressor or at the very least is accused of a completely disproportionate response, no matter the brutality of the attacks against Israel.

Which will be the subject of next week’s article, i.e. is there such a thing as disproportional retaliation. If so, when is it out of proportion? How much can/should someone or an entire nation do to protect themselves from those who seek to kill and maim them? When are all things no longer fair in love and in war?

Sha’alu Shalom Yerushalayim (Pray for the peace of Jerusalem).

“Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘May you have peace.’ For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem” (Psalms 122: 6-9).

Things to Ponder

Scripture is replete with prophetic promises that God in the last days would once again protect Israel from her enemies, and even fight for her. That day began in 1948 and was fully ratified in the Six-Day War of 1967. I suppose people could debate Moral Equivalency issues in the context of the Israeli/Palestinian ongoing conflict ad infinitum. Who’s right, who’s wrong; what’s right, what’s wrong? How much (self-defense) is enough? Israel … whose land is it?

The Bible is very clear as to who’s right and who’s wrong; what is just and what is unjust. Whose land it is because the Lord himself gave it to one people, and only one: The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

According to Scripture, the time of debate is over. Israel has been reborn as a nation. Great number of Jewish exiles have returned to the land where they now live with children borne to them and children borne to their children. Though there still remains the final spiritual restoration of the Jews to their God and his Messiah, the ultimate destiny of Israel and her enemies has been sealed.

“…When oppression and destruction have ended and enemy raiders have disappeared, then God will establish one of David’s descendants as king. He will rule with mercy and truth. He will always to what is just and be eager to do what is right” (Isaiah 16: 4-5).

Ultimately God will judge between right and wrong use of moral comparisons and between right and wrong, itself.

Because: He IS right (righteousness). He IS just (justice). He IS truth (absolute morality).

You decide. Is the Bible right about God’s provisions, promises, protection, power, and presence for and over Israel?

 

Please, click on the below video link, to hear one of Israel’s most beautiful songs sung by, in my opinion, the best female vocalist on the planet.

Watch and listen to Ofra Haza sing Yerushalayim Shel Zahav    (Jerusalem of Gold)

Replacement Theology (Part II)

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REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY (Part II)

If you read last week’s Eye of Prophecy article on Replacement Theology, you might have said, “Okay, I understand that it’s Biblically wrong to believe that the Church has replaced the people and nation of Israel including the erroneous conclusion that God has abandoned his plans for Israel and the Jews in favor of the Church; but does that really make a difference in today’s world or the future?” Or if you didn’t read the previous article or know very little about Replacement Theology, you might be thinking: So, what’s this about? Why is it such a big deal? What harm has it done or will do? In the end God will make all things right.

You got the last part right. The Bible is explicitly clear: God will conquer evil and restore justice and peace to this corrupt and crazy world we live in. But until that time, the Lord also expects his true followers to proclaim the good news of the Gospel, to defend the truth of God’s Word, to resist and expose false teachings, to fully understand that his plan for Israel is embedded in everlasting and irreplaceable Covenants that he made with Abraham and David. God will make good on these eternal promises to Israel. We’re watching these things unfold before our very eyes, in this generation.

Last week we looked briefly at one of history’s most horrendous crimes (The Holocaust) in which evil leaders—Hitler and the Third Reich—of an entire nation used Replacement Theology to, in part, justify genocide of the Jewish race. They cunningly cited Martin Luther’s misguided, misunderstood, and misapplied theology that God had forever abandoned the Jews.

To wit: The Jews were not only a forgotten people, but they fully deserved all the bad things that had happened to them or would happen to them. Moreover, the Church was the only thing that mattered to God; thus, the Church would inherit all of the blessings that had been previously promised to Israel and the Jews. Never mind that Hitler and his cronies also hated Christianity and persecuted most pastors and churches that in any way, shape, or form spoke out against the Third Reich. Those who supported or protected the Jews would suffer the same horrific fate in the concentration camps.

After all, Israel as a nation was no more, having been destroyed by the Romans some fifteen hundred years before Luther came on the scene. The Jews had been scattered to the four winds, wandering throughout the earth, settling in countries that barely tolerated their presence. Worst of all according to advocates of Replacement Theology: The vast majority of Jews in Germany and elsewhere refused to accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah and convert to Christianity. Luther considered this an affront to God and the Church; thus, in a display of appalling intolerance he turned on the Jews and hounded them in no less fashion than the Catholic Church had persecuted him and the fledgling Protestant movement.

In a strange but perverse twist of fate, Martin Luther and those who championed his departure from the Catholic Church became bedfellows with the Catholic Church in their oppression of the Jews. They endorsed the tactics of the very institution that Martin Luther defied when he proclaimed the real truth of the gospel … salvation by the grace of God apprehended by faith, and faith alone. Luther knew all about the mostly catholic Crusades against Islam which also included slaughter of thousands of Jews on the way to Jerusalem and in Jerusalem. And he certainly knew about the Spanish Inquisition in which the Catholic Church murdered thousands of Jews, before, during, and after Martin Luther’s lifetime. Yet when it came to Judaism, Catholics and Protestants set aside their differences to harass, deprive, oppress, and even eradicate God’s chosen people … in an effort to make sure the Jews got what they deserved.

The Risk of Taking on Israel

Yes, it’s true that God again withdrew his protection of the Jews that led to the Roman conquest of 70 AD. Because of the lapse of some fifteen hundred years, I suppose it was somewhat natural or humanly logical for Martin Luther to surmise that the Jews would never be restored to the land of Israel or fulfill their God-appointed destiny. This may have been even truer with the passage of another four hundred years leading to the 20th century. But there’s absolutely no excuse for anyone today to ignore the incredible Birth of a Nation as demonstrated by Israel’s rebirth in May, 1948. The Jews return to the Promised Land signaled a homecoming to the place given to them by God as an everlasting possession. Hence, they should no longer be replaced by the Church; in fact, this replacement was a grievous error to begin with.

There’s no excuse to any longer support the twisted theology that Israel will be forever supplanted by the Church, with the disturbing results such as nations and even churches boycotting, sanctioning, divesting, and delegitimizing (even demonizing) Israel in today’s world. Or the new emerging spin of Replacement Theology, given the term Christian Palestinianism. In a few words, that term means (illogically and unreasonably) taking sides with the Arab Palestinians in Israel against Israel itself for two reasons: (1) Endorsement of the core tenants of Replacement Theology; (2) total ignorance of the history of Palestine and Israel since 1917, but especially since 1948. Indeed, Anti-Semitism has begun to rear its ugly head all over the world, unlike anything we’ve seen since the Holocaust.

There are some who even compare the State of Israel to Hitler’s Third Reich. That is the absolute height of hypocrisy, hatred, and ignorance, given the fact six million completely innocent Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. In past wars and in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Israelis go so far as to warn Palestinian civilians to vacate certain areas, before the IDF targets those areas to attack terrorists (who blatantly use their people as human shields). Are these the tactics of a nation bent on genocide? Hardly. Conversely, Hamas and other Muslim terrorist groups deliberately target Israeli civilians with their rockets, missiles, and suicide bombers. They even use their own people as human shields. Truly in today’s world: Evil is good and good is evil.

They have no idea what they’re doing. They have no clue as to the enormous risk taken when people, cities, and countries denounce Israel. Do they think that God’s promise that those who curse Israel will, in turn, be cursed was an idle threat? (Genesis 12:3). Or maybe they do know what they’re doing! Perhaps they like to play with fire.

The very fact of Israel’s return from the fires of Nazi death camps and the floods of dispersion precludes and refutes the notion that the Jews have no place in God’s design for the human race. So what, if it took nearly 2000 years … it could have taken 4000 years but it still would have happened. A thousand years is but a day in God’s cosmic calendar.

That was Luther’s monumental mistake, and the grave error made by so many so-called Christians today and even by true, well-meaning believers in Christ: That God has only one plan and it involves only the true Church, the body of Christ. WRONG! WRONG! Not that the Lord doesn’t have a wonderful plan for the Church, the bride of Christ … most assuredly he does. But he has an equally marvelous future for the very people he called out from the nations beginning with Abraham; the Jewish race who gave us our Messiah.

Israel’s destiny is certain. Her time of discipline by banishment to the ends of the earth is over. God has restored his protection of Israel, though there are still tough times ahead. She is being and will continue to be reestablished to her rightful place of prominence among the nations of the earth. She has a fervent hope and a glorious future guaranteed by none other than the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who gave his name to Moses as I AM. No other god can predict the future, because there is no other god besides the true and living God … Yahweh.

We will continue to hammer this point home: God’s original purpose for Israel will be accomplished. This is not just a wish or a whim. Why? Because there are literally hundreds of Scriptural passages that dogmatically assert with absolute certainty that Israel will be reinstated as a nation and the Jews will return physically to that land and spiritually back to the God of Israel; and will one day (soon) recognize and passionately embrace their Messiah, Yeshua. There are far more Scriptural references to Israel’s future than that of the Church.

Passages such as: “See, my people will return from far away, from lands to the north and west and from as far south as Egypt. Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering. Yet Jerusalem says, ‘The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.’ Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:12-15).

The proponents of Replacement Theology can try as hard as they like to substitute the Church for Israel in these verses (and many other similar passages) but they will fail miserably. Just look at the passage again and try to squeeze the Church into the text. It can’t be done. There’s nothing whatsoever symbolic in this text. Just one example: the literal directions of the compass—north, west, south—in proximity to Jerusalem. From lands all around Israel, “my people will return from far away…” Nowhere (else) in Scripture do we learn that the Church will be returning to Jerusalem from distant lands or from lands surrounding Israel. Frankly, that’s absurd. The Church is not geographically centered anywhere (certainly not in Rome). It’s comprised of multiple Peoples, races, languages, and ethnic groups from every nation on the face of the earth.

Also, the last I heard, a mother’s deep love for her child is just as strong today as it was when Replacement Theology claims the Church replaced Israel … at Pentecost. Thus, the analogy with God’s immense love for Israel and guarantee that Israel will never be forgotten is just as true today and tomorrow and forever. But the Lord declares in this passage that even if a mother could forsake her child that the Lord would, “not forget you!” (Israel). Either God lied when he said this (and all the other passages that declare God’s eternal love and destiny for Israel) or the Church did not, in fact, replace Israel at Pentecost or any other time in history.

Replacement Theology … Back to Its Beginning

As alluded, the idea of the Church displacing Israel certainly didn’t begin in Martin Luther’s time. It was long before that, going all the way back to the first century. By the time that Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome around 57 AD, some Gentile (and even some Jewish) believers were already entertaining the idea that the Jewish people in general and Israel in particular no longer had any meaningful place in God’s ultimate plan for the human race. That Israel’s time had come and gone; she had served her purpose as a chosen people. Accordingly, Israel must be cast-off in light of God’s unveiling of a great mystery—the synthesis of Jew and Gentile into one new creation.

In part this may have been attributed to their misunderstanding that the spiritual truth of the one new man in Christ also extended to the physical existence of Israel and the Jews … as presented in last week’s article by quoting from Galatians, which was written some seven-eight years before the book of Romans. “There is no longer Jew or Gentile… For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham….” (Galatians 3: 28-29).

And later when the gospels were written (although many alive at that time may have remembered the words of Jesus, himself … even before the gospels were written), some believers may have misunderstood and misapplied the parables of Jesus as found in Matthew 21 & 22. There are three parables: Parable of the Two Sons; (Matthew 21: 28-32); Parable of the Evil Farmers (Matthew 21: 33-46); Parable of the Wedding Dinner (Matthew 22: 1-14).

Each of these parables are addressed primarily to the Jewish religious leaders who had just tried to trap him again with a blunt confrontational question: “By what authority are you doing all these things. Who gave you the right? (Matthew 21:23). Jesus’s reply and handling of this question is remarkable … but so are all of his responses to the religious leaders. If you’re curious, go ahead and read it!

Each of the three parables contain the same theme/truth: Essentially that the Kingdom of God/Heaven will be removed from the Jews and given to the Gentiles. This is best summarized in the second parable when Jesus concludes: “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit” (Matthew 21:43). At face value, then, it would seem feasible that 1st century Christians—especially Gentile Christians—would resolve that the new creation in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17) of each believer as individual members of the whole (the body of Christ) should supersede everything contained in the Old Covenant, including the very nation of Israel.

Note that Jesus was referring to the Kingdom of God exclusively in the context of the Jewish religious leaders (representing all of Israel) forfeiting their role and participation in accomplishing the very purpose for Israel’s existence, i.e. to be a light to all nations by sharing the Word of God and recognizing and accepting the Jewish Messiah at the appointed time of his arrival. The Jewish leaders did none of these things. More than that: In light of the overwhelming evidence (Jesus’s teaching and miracles), they still rejected their Messiah and eventually handed him over to be killed by the Romans.

Yet, the Kingdom of Heaven was not Israel itself, nor would it be confined to the Jews. That’s the pivotal point missed by those who say Israel is a nonentity … totally abandoned by God, completely cut off from all future prophecies and promises. It would not be Israel, herself, that would be forever thrown away; rather, it was the Kingdom of God—temporarily established in the hearts of individuals all over the world—that would be taken away from Israel.

Of course, Israel and the Jews would suffer the consequences, pay the penalty for once again disobeying God and his Word (specifically as applied to their Messiah); which was no less than future judgment placed on Israel by the Lord during the time of Moses … see Leviticus Chapter 26. The ultimate phase of that four-part declaration (Seven times over) entailed the destruction of Israel and exiled captivity to the Gentile nations. That’s exactly what happened in 70 AD; as well as the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC, one that the Jews would tragically not learn their lesson.

Again, the pivotal point missed by Replacement Theology: Even the devastating loss of the Jews beloved land, Israel, and forced exile for nearly 2000 years was not a permanent consequence of their disobedience. In fact that was impossible, if for no other reason than all of the Old Testament promises of Israel’s restoration and eternal destiny as God’s chosen people, one of which was quoted earlier in this article.

For that matter, if God could renege on his promises to Israel, then couldn’t he conceivably do the same with promises made to New Covenant believers (the Church)? For example: What if the Lord decided not to Rapture the Church after all (I Thessalonians 4 and I Corinthians 15), because the Church had in the last days strayed so far from God that it was hardly recognizable?

Yes, how unfortunate that millions of people in today’s world prefer to ignore or even reject God’s magnificent plan for Israel and the Jews (remnant), because they simply cannot and will not grasp the fact that God’s discipline of Israel was only temporary. But already in the Apostle Paul’s time, this sinister half-truth had stealthily crept into the Church. Which is why the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write Chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Romans. Why Martin Luther and so many others have arbitrarily chosen to ignore these chapters found in the same book that Luther used as valid evidence against the practices of the Catholic Church, will be forever beyond my comprehension of such things. Except to say that even giants of the faith can be misled and deceived if they don’t study and compare all of Scripture … to all of Scripture.

Any passage/topic in the Bible can be interpreted and understood by using two criteria: (1) The Bible itself … either by context or by allowing one or more other passages to support, magnify or clarify a certain passage; (2) by historical events that verify the accuracy of Biblical prophecy and/or the validity of the existence of people, places, and events recorded in Scripture.

Time/space doesn’t permit an in-depth examination of these three marvelous chapters in Romans concerning Israel and how the Jewish people continue to fit into God’s timeless plan of the ages. Please read them for yourself and/or read the Eye of Prophecy article entitled, The Heart and Soul of Israel, published on 1-4-14, under the category of Current Events … for a more comprehensive understanding that God will never abandon what he calls his Special Possession.

Romans 9-11: The Enduring Legacy of the Jews and Israel

Paul had not yet been to Rome, thus he wasn’t personally involved or responsible for establishing the fellowship (church) of believers in Rome. His letter to the church in Rome was written from Corinth near the end of his third missionary journey throughout many provinces of the Roman Empire. Sometime before the letter was written Paul had significantly reduced his evangelistic efforts to the Jews. For two reasons: (1) Jesus had specifically selected Paul to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles; (2) Frequently, in his early preaching to the Jews, he had been severely persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders, some of whom were undoubtedly the very ones who took part in handing over Jesus to the Romans for crucifixion.

Nearly all of the early Christians were Jews; but in no small part attributed to Paul’s efforts, many Gentiles were accepting the Jewish Messiah as their Savior. And, as indicated: by the time that Paul wrote Romans, it’s evident that many believers were questioning whether God had or would eliminate Israel from her original prophetic inheritance; a birthright graphically depicted by Jewish prophets long before, particularly Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.

Yet, Paul was still utterly passionate for and compassionate to his Jewish brethren. So much so, that he begins these three chapters with the most incomprehensible, unfathomable statement ever made by a human being (in my opinion). I say that in the context of how knowledgeable Paul already was about so great a salvation that Christ had made possible through his sacrificial death.

“My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned…” (Romans 9: 2-5)

After making this astounding statement, Paul then explains that Israel and the Jews are here to stay. And keep in mind, this was only some thirteen years before the tragic devastation of Jerusalem and total destruction of the Temple, as predicted by Jesus some twenty-five years earlier. Paul was fully aware of Jesus’s prediction.

“Well, then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people!” (Romans 9:6). Paul goes on to explain that the authentic children of Abraham would be those Jews who recognized that Isaac was the true Son, “…through whom your descendants will be counted, though Abraham had other children, too. This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children” (Verses 7-8).

By the end of Chapter 9, Paul had already gotten to the heart of the matter; by synthesizing and reconciling the dilemma of the New Covenant (that both Jew and Gentile are redeemed alike by faith in Messiah Jesus) with the Abrahamic covenant that the Jews would forever possess the land of Israel. This is possible because, “only a remnant (of the Jewish people) will be saved” (Verse 27). He goes on at the end of this Chapter and much of Chapter 10 to explain that both Jews and Gentiles are made right with God the same way, because, “…all who believe in him (Jesus) are made right with God” (Romans 10:4).

Not until Chapter 11 does Paul answer the final million dollar question of whether Israel itself would be utterly and inevitably disowned by God.

“I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel! Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning….” (Romans 11: 1-2).

Then, “Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it” (Romans 11:11-12, italics for emphasis).

This is nothing short of an astounding statement. Think about what’s being said here. Not only will individual Jews and Israel as a nation be restored to God, but the whole world (what’s left of it after the Great Tribulation) will receive God’s blessings beyond belief, i.e. global justice, prosperity, true brotherhood, unity, safety, peace … without wars and corruption and greed. The beginning of this great revival of the Jewish people is already beginning all over the world. More Jews have come to Christ in the last seventy years than in all of history. And it will culminate at the end of the Great Tribulation when, as a Nation, the Jews will cry out as one voice for Messiah Jesus to save them—both physically and spiritually. When they do so the entire world will receive a blessing of unrivaled and unheard of proportions.

“I will strengthen Judah and save Israel; I will restore them because of my compassion. It will be as though I had never rejected them, for I am the Lord their God, who will hear their cries” (Zechariah 10:6).

That my friend, is what the Second Coming of Christ—his physical return to Jerusalem at the end of the Great Tribulation—is all about, to be followed by the magnificent rule and reign of Jesus during the Millennium. Until and unless the Jews (which they certainly will) look up to see that redemption is near and, thereby, reach out and embrace Jesus as their Messiah, the Great Tribulation would continue until no one on the earth would be left alive. Jesus says as much during the Mount of Olives discussion with his disciples. “For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones” (Matthew 24:21-22).

The chosen ones are the Jews, NOT the tribulation saints. Chosen ones is exactly the same terminology in Romans that Paul used for the Jews. There are other Bible passages to support application as the Jews (Jewish nation of Israel and Jews all over the world) not the least of which is a companion verse in Matthew 24. “And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones (some translations say “elect”) from all over the world….” (Verse 31). This verse clearly follows/succeeds Jesus’s physical return to the earth … read the preceding verses for confirmation. And this verse echoes numerous Old Testament passages that talk about the gathering of Jews from all over the earth, such as Isaiah Chapter 49, cited earlier in this article.

What is it, then, that will cause Christ to shorten the greatest calamity of all time … the Great Tribulation? None other than when the Jews shout their acknowledgment of Yeshua as Savior and King. When they say, Baruch, haba, beshem Adonai. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” In that very day, the King of all kings will personally put a stop to the world-wide carnage reaching such a terrible crescendo that would destroy civilization as we know it. Were it not for Messiah’s compassionate love for his people and his hearken to their desperate plea for help, and cry for salvation; the entire earth would be destroyed.

“And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, ‘The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness’” (Romans 11:26).

Because God does, indeed, make all things work together for good to them that love him (Romans 8:28), he will turn the sadness and badness of Israel’s rejection of Messiah and rejection of Israel by the nations into a glorious victorious rescue of his people from utter annihilation at the hands of the Antichrist. And then pour out blessings of monumental proportions to those Gentiles who supported and sustained the Jews.

Things to Ponder

Most people who actively or tacitly support Replacement Theology don’t even know that’s what they’re doing; in fact, many have never even heard the term. They don’t know enough about the Bible to understand the significant difference between the Church and Israel, and even less about God’s two distinctly separate plans for these two groups of God’s people(s). Instead, they see through the eyes of misguided church leaders and listen to equally misguided and misinformed secular politicians and journalists who themselves ignore the true history of the Middle East concerning Israel and its Arab neighbors. Just look at the dozens of United Nations sanctions against Israel, while at the same time minimizing and virtually ignoring the brutality of what Muslims are doing against fellow Muslims (and Christians) in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and other countries.

When will they ever learn?

Replacement Theology (Part I)

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REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY (Part I)

As a young man I had the pleasure of reading all seven novels that make up the timeless story of redemption so profoundly crafted by C.S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia. Millions of others have also read one or more of these books, or have heard about them, or have seen the movies based on three of the books, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Many books, articles, and commentaries have also been written about the novels.

As expected in a series that consists of seven individual books, there are numerous plots, subplots, adventures, and stories; but one way or another they all relate to the Divine rescue and subsequent reign of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. To replace, to substitute, to exchange is the overriding theme of these novels, as so beautifully expressed in the Christ-like character of Aslan … the original Lion-King. When Edmund, one of four Pevensie children, betrayed his brothers and sisters and all of Narnia with his Adam-like disobedience of what he knew to be good and true and right, Aslan understood there was only one remedy. And that was Aslan’s own personal sacrificial death at the hands of the evil Queen of Narnia … an unmistakable representation of Satan.

The Queen demanded (rightfully so) the death of Edmund for his treason, but she was forced to accept Aslan’s offer to replace Edmund … a righteous and flawless substitute in exchange for a fallen son of Adam. But neither the fictional Queen nor the real Satan understood that when a perfectly just and sinless person (Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man) takes the place and bears the penalty of those who have sinned—every person who has ever lived—by shedding blood and dying, that the perfect sacrifice, Aslan (Christ), would be raised from the dead.

Replace: “To restore to a former place or position; to take the place of as a substitute or successor; to put something new in the place of. Synonym: Displace, Supplant, Supersede…” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, copyright 1980).

Using this definition, think about the greatest replacement and exchange gift of all time. When Jesus died a horrible death on that cross and then arose from the dead, he restored us to our former place and position as innocent sons and daughters of God, exactly the way Adam and Eve were created by God. He took our place as a substitute and successor to put something new in the place of the original sentence of death and hell … eternal separation from God. All we need do is to agree with God that we are sinners in need of this substitutionary sacrifice and believe in/on Christ as the one who exchanged his precious blood and life for our terrible sins and the just penalty for those sins.

God IS love. But he is also righteous; and that holiness demands justice. As clearly as we understand substitutionary replacement, we also understand justice. If someone assaults and robs you, or harms or even kills a loved one, it’s morally right to demand that, “justice must be served.” That’s exactly what Jesus did when he died on the Cross for our sins. He satisfied God’s demand for justice, then pardoned all those who believe and accept what Christ did on our behalf. Without justice, there would be complete chaos and anarchy … which we have all too much of as it is.

So many Bible passages explain this incredible trade provided by God through Jesus, who was not only the Son of God, but God the Son. But none more so than: “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21, NASB).

If It Doesn’t Work, Trade It In or Get Rid of It

I would think this generation would comprehend better than past generations what it means to replace something or someone with something or someone better. Among other things, we have been called: The disposable generation!

Sometimes when cars, televisions, dishwashers, or toys break down we get them fixed. But not always and not indefinitely. Sooner or later—oftentimes sooner—we simply discard that old computer and replace it with a new one. We’ve become experts at: Out with the old, in with the new. Unhappily, this all too often and too easily applies to friends, wives, and husbands. Just check out the 20th and 21st century divorce rates for confirmation.

We are constantly and many times flippantly, causally, and whimsically replacing old things with new things, old relationships with new ones, and more so than ever before, old (but time-tested) truths for a new truth of today. In fact, we’ve gone much farther than that: we have begun to trade truth for lies, good things for bad, right for wrong. “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshipped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen” (Romans 1:25, italics for emphasis). Traded means replaced or exchanged, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an equal exchange. There are good trades and bad trades. Trading God’s truth for lies is as equally bad as God’s trading the precious blood of his Son for our transgressions is good.

This has been an age-old problem, but according to Scripture the inversion of right and wrong will intensify to a magnitude unparalleled in history during the end-time last days as described by Scripture. Of course, it’s fun and exciting to exchange that old clunker for a brand new car, or that ultra-slow computer that took three seconds too long between clicks for a sleek, supersonic, speed-of-light computer. I’m not knocking new just because it’s new. Look at the spectacular New Covenant that was given to us because of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. The new way is God’s matchless irreplaceable grace to forgive our sins simply by trusting in what Jesus did for us. And it’s so much better than the old way of trying to vainly and unsuccessfully please God by keeping the law.

But with the breath-taking, hard-to-keep-up-with, warp-speed developments in technology (especially in the last 70 years), we’ve learned consciously and subconsciously that the only permanency is change itself. Subtly, slowly at first, we adapted to advancing technology; but in the last two decades or so we’ve been bombarded with changes so abrupt and rapid that we really don’t have or take the time to consider the consequences … whether the change is really an improvement or not.

Even more of a phenomenon is the impact that material changes have exerted on our spiritual life. Material things come and go so fast, that many people 40 years old or more couldn’t tell you how many cars they’ve bought and sold. This disposable mentality seeps and creeps into the spiritual and emotional dimensions of our life, to the extent that we sometimes shed our values, ethics, and morals much like an old worn-out pair of jeans. We find ourselves, “…tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching…” (Ephesians 4:14). And all we really need do or say in defense of lowering our standards of morality and spirituality is: “Well, this is the 21st century” For those reading this article over the age of 14, you or your peers might have said, “Well, this is the 20th century.”

Do you get the drift? Every person in every generation in every century going back as far as you like, could have and probably did say the same thing. As if the current generation is always the most enlightened; therefore possessing the right to redefine morality or set brand new standards that replace honored truths of the past. Which is another reason that many people cannot abide or tolerate even hearing the name of Jesus Christ in today’s society. Because, for one thing, Jesus Christ is the, “same yesterday, today, and forever.” When the name of Jesus is mentioned in Scripture or by his followers, his name embodies all that he is, does, and will do. Including, but not limited to all of the truth of Scripture that he either taught himself or is taught about him throughout the Bible. So, we can safely and equivocally maintain that God’s truth, morality, and values are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Whether material or spiritual, if we mess around with the laws of physics and the truth of God … if we play with fire we’re going to get burned, physically and spiritually. (See Lake of Fire in Revelation 19 & 20).

When we try to compare or relate material technological advancements to values and morals and truth itself, we are truly making apples into lemons. But that doesn’t seem to bother very many people in today’s world. So, when it comes to open or tacit support for abortion or homosexuality or sexual promiscuity, or cheating on income tax, all one need say is: “Come on … this is the 21st century.” And all the relativism and secular humanism that goes with that amoral mindset.

Thus, there is great heartache, danger, and eternal consequences when we begin trading in God’s truth as found in the Bible in favor of any number of religious or irreligious man-made systems. For the most part it’s not all that difficult for a born-again Christian who wants to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to recognize, for example, the vast difference between the god of Islam (Allah) and the God of the Bible. Or to understand that Biblical Christianity is the only “religion” in which a pure substitutionary sacrifice made it possible to exchange the penalty for our transgressions with an everlasting pardon that profoundly alters God’s divine verdict from guilty to innocent.

What is confusing, if not deceptive is when a (small) portion of the Bible is made to stand alone as a doctrinal truth that contradicts other truths/facts found in Scripture with regard to that particular subject; or passages that are misapplied because they are not placed into a broader context of the whole counsel of God, i.e. the entire content of Scripture. Replacement Theology is one of those half-truths that cleverly discounts, distorts, ignores, and even rejects the Big Picture of God’s purpose for and destiny of Israel.

So What Is Replacement Theology?

By now we should have a foundational grasp of the Replacement part of this term. Theology is simply a study and working knowledge of God—including his attributes, interaction with the human race, and the fundamentally important truths that he has shared with mankind. Many theologians call these truths, Doctrines. I encourage you not to shudder at that term or otherwise brush it off as irrelevant or overbearing or whatever you think of it. In today’s world many people, including some Christians don’t like to use the word, as it carries the connotation of something absolute or something too hard to understand; that it unnecessarily interferes with today’s emphasis on unity and love at the expense of Biblical truth. After all, the term is periodically used for such secular things as describing government policy. For example, The Truman Doctrine, named after President Harry Truman.

Biblical doctrine or dogma is simply the end product of accurately describing and consolidating Christ’s teachings and life into categorical terms that define who he was and what he did, equally as God and as man. So we have the marvelous (doctrinal) truths of Justification, Sanctification, Glorification, Reconciliation, Propitiation, and others.

Previous Eye of Prophecy articles have periodically touched on the treacherous theory of Replacement Theology, but this article and the next are written exclusively on the subject. In a nutshell, Replacement Theology maintains that the Christian Church has symbolically and, therefore, has spiritually (actually) replaced Israel in ALL of the Biblical prophetic passages pertaining to Israel, beginning with the Church’s inception at Pentecost. This includes hundreds of Old Testament predictions about Israel’s future troubles and restoration as found in end-times prophecies. Shrewdly, this symbolic spiritual substitution then becomes a literal transfer exchange of all of God’s promises for the nation of Israel to the Church. Ironically, none of those who shamelessly embrace Replacement Theology will talk about, let alone acknowledge, the Biblical passages in which God disciplines Israel.

Sorry, but they can’t have it both ways. If they’re going to substitute Israel with the Church in the good, positive blessings prophesied for Israel, they must be consistent and also replace Israel with the Church concerning negative things that will happen to Israel in the last days … just before the people, the nation, and the land of Israel are finally restored, both physically and spiritually. Next week, we’ll refer to a few Bible passages to show how ludicrous and indefensible this premise is.

By and large, proponents of this deceitful theology are Christian in name only, comprise a majority of Catholics, found in some of the more liberal Protestant denominations such as mainstream Presbyterian or Lutheran or United Methodist, or some, or all of the above.

Tragically, however, even some Evangelical Christians can be found lurking in the camps of Replacement Theology. Even more heartbreaking: the notion and impact of Replacement Theology was fostered and fueled by one of the most influential Christians in all of history: Martin Luther.

Millions of people world-wide, both believers and unbelievers, know at least something about this Catholic priest who dared confront his colleagues and superiors in the Catholic Church … fellow priests, bishops, cardinals and especially the Pope. Much like the apostle Paul who (literally) saw the light of Christ and the amazing grace of God expressed through the New Covenant; Martin Luther experienced a radical transformation when he fully realized that the extra-Biblical Catholic doctrines (especially that of purchasing indulgences … buying with money one’s salvation) were nothing more than a perversion of God’s grace. Grace that shows us that salvation is freely given through faith in Jesus Christ, and him alone.

“The just shall live by faith,” claimed Luther, was the only way of permanent redemption and reconciliation for mankind. Primarily through the Book of Romans, he finally understood that the religious hierarchy of the Catholic Church was misleading millions of their followers by asserting that baptism and membership in the Catholic Church followed by keeping dozens of man-made rules and regulations were the only way to gain God’s favor and escape the judgment of hell.

God took hold of Martin Luther with such verses as: “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 3:25). Without doubt, the Catholic Church constantly presented the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (for example through Mass) as a cornerstone doctrine of the Church. But they failed miserably to explain that one must personally believe and receive (by faith) this substitutionary sacrifice in order to be made right with God. Instead the clergy of the Catholic Church, much like the priests and scribes of Israel in Jesus’s and Paul’s day, imposed keeping of sacraments (with the Jewish religious leaders, it was complete obedience to the Law of Moses) as a legalistic requirement in order for one to achieve and maintain a right standing with God. Their deception was: Good Works to obtain salvation, not the Biblical way that good works follows salvation. As Jesus said, paraphrasing: The inside (the heart) must first be changed, then the outside (conduct and behavior) will change. (Matthew 23:26).

Thus, Martin Luther, with great courage and boldness, confronted the Catholic clergy with the real truth of salvation such as: “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. This is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are” (Romans 3:21-22, italics for emphasis to demonstrate that even religious leaders need God’s forgiveness for their self-righteousness).

Speaking directly to the Jews in Rome (and everywhere) Paul said: “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit….” (Romans 2: 28-29).

This is what Martin Luther proclaimed to the Catholic Church … that a change of one’s heart (no matter if that heart was basically good or demonstrably bad) because all have sinned against God, was the only way to salvation. That a true Christian is one whose heart has been transformed by the grace of God, not through the ceremony of baptism or membership rights in the Catholic Church.

Luther’s Tragic Mistake

Despite all this, despite being used mightily by God as a spring-board to the greatest turnaround in Church history that historians have now called the Reformation, this great man of God made a mistake that is normally made by those religious leaders who seek to lead (mislead) others by promoting traditions over the Bible, or emphasizing out-of-context Scriptural passages, or distortion of pivotal truths of the Bible by means of deliberate or sometimes inadvertent exclusion of other key passages relating to that doctrine. Yes, Luther made the same error that Jesus accused the Jewish Sadducees of when they tried to spring one of many traps against Jesus.

Jesus told them, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). Context is always important in Scripture, but in this case Jesus’s statement was somewhat universal; meaning it could have been and, in fact was, applied to several other situations in which the Pharisees or Sadducees attempted to trap Jesus into saying or doing something that would enable them to arrest Jesus, or at least show him up in front of the common people. There were many such events and not once were they successful. We constantly read that the response of Christ amazed and astonished both the religious leaders and the people. And often his disciples!

It’s crystal clear that Martin Luther’s born-again salvation experience took place while he was, of all things, a Catholic priest. And this change from spiritual darkness to light was a direct result of knowing and believing exactly what true salvation is: God’s righteousness imputed to anyone who believes and receives his Son, Christ Jesus—apprehended by faith, not by good works or ritualistic performance of whatever the Catholic Church demanded. Specifically, for Martin Luther, his “seeing the light” came principally from the first eight chapters of the Book of Romans.

And, it’s true, the most important theme of the Bible is that of salvation … freely given by God because Christ purchased our pardon with his death and resurrection. When Martin Luther fully realized then proclaimed this, under the threat of “ex-communication” by the Pope, the true universal church (which is not the Catholic Church) has never been the same since the first and second centuries. His protest became the root word and meaning for Protestant, though even the Protestant movement has unfortunately compromised many core truths of Scripture as seen in some of the contemporary Protestant denominations.

When it comes right down to the absolute basic tenant of the Christian faith, salvation by grace through faith, that is ultimately all we need to know … in terms of our eternal destiny. On the other hand, God has given us so much more truth about so many more things that he wants us to know and absorb and apply; things that will shape our world view and enable us to grasp and more fully appreciate the deep riches of knowledge and wisdom in his Word.

So, what part of Scripture did Martin Luther make a mistake in not knowing, or perhaps not applying? It was none other than God’s two-part plan; one plan for a spiritual merging of both Jew and Gentile into one new Man, which is the Church, the body of Christ, composed of individual born-again believers. He got that part, as summarized in the follow passage: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promises to Abraham belongs to you” (Galatians 3: 28-29). The promises here are not referring to the aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant in which the actual land of Israel is given to Abraham and his descendants (Jews) forever. The promises that Paul is talking about are all the blessings given to the Gentiles through Isaac, the promised child, who is a prototype of the Messiah and through whom the Messiah would come.

This mysterious but wonderful truth is exclusively spiritual in nature and impact, unseen by the human eye as opposed to material things that can be seen. We walk by faith, not by sight. For example, for a Gentile free man to be one in Christ with a Jew, or a slave, or a female certainly doesn’t mean physically, via blood line or by marriage. It is by a spiritual adoption. The marriage and “one flesh” unity of a wife and husband comparison used in Scripture is only for the marriage of one man to one woman. The key phrase in this verse is, in Christ. Everyone is sealed by the Holy Spirit when they believe and receive Jesus. Thus, they are one in Christ.

The second plan is for a physical remnant of Jews and the actual physical nation/land of Israel from where the Son of Man in bodily form will rule and reign forever. This is what Luther missed or at the very least wrote off as being unimportant in God’s economy as Luther saw it.

Ironically, another passage, one of the previously quoted verses in Romans was undoubtedly a stumbling block to Luther, in that he used it against the Catholic Church (rightfully so, with its intending meaning), but also against the Jews—in gross error to rationalize and support his biased view of the Jews which came later in Luther’s life. “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents…” (Romans 2:28).

Obviously, Paul’s purpose here is to show that simply being a Jew doesn’t guarantee entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e. automatic birth status into God’s family. Yet, it’s evident that Luther used (misused) this passage and a few others to mistakenly conclude that the Church had replaced Israel and the Jews as the people that God would, from now on, exclusively acknowledge as children of God who would inherit eternal life, but also to include every single one of the prophetic passages that clearly refer only to the Jews and to Israel.

Things to Ponder

Hundreds of years later, this Replacement Theology would be used by Hitler and the Third Reich’s propaganda machine in an even more distorted, depraved, and despicable way to justify eradication of all of the Christ killers from the face of the earth … the Jews. Obviously, Hitler’s reference to Martin Luther wasn’t the only warped justification offered to Germans (or any other people that hated the Jews) to begin his campaign of genocide; but it certainly contributed to the perverse thinking of those who wanted to believe the racial superiority propaganda disseminated throughout Europe.

It is probably the single most horrendous example of what can happen when even true Christians do not know the whole counsel of God’s Word and/or deliberately misuse what they know by omitting a large portion of Scripture that would otherwise put these misused passages into the proper perspective and context.

Next week’s article will continue with examination of other passages that have been erroneously isolated to justify the concept of Replacement Theology; with, of course, Bible verses that clearly show us that Israel had and still has a glorious future. We will also look at more devastating results of this devious doctrine in today’s world.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!

O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!

Bible Trivia games can be fun, stirring the interest of the most ardent of Bible students; and sometimes stimulating spiritually those who have only a marginal interest in such things. Nothing wrong with Bible Trivia, as long as we don’t trivialize and play games with the Word of God itself. Whether in casual conversation, or in a Sunday school class, or a mother lovingly training her child in the Scriptures with an easy question to answer, most believers and even some unbelievers have asked or been asked, “What is the shortest verse in the Bible?” Many times down through the 67 years I’ve been on this earth, I’ve heard this cute little question.

Yes, I’m asking you! Agreed, a pretty easy question for some, unless you’re not all that familiar with Scripture. Answer: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

As long as we’re on the subject, how about a slightly more difficult question: What was the occasion that caused Jesus such deep sorrow, so profound that even the Son of God (though he was also fully man) broke down and cried? Nearly every time I read this passage, I’m no less impressed that omnipotent, omniscient Divinity would shed tears of grief, especially in public for all to see. Though Jesus was also the Son of Man, and cared deeply for the physical and spiritual welfare of both friend and foe; as the Son of God wouldn’t he set aside personal feelings, and rise above the grief-stricken moments of life that so many people dread and seldom discuss … such as death?

This question is only a little more difficult than the first, because many of you know the answer. The setting was the death of Jesus’s close friend, Lazarus, brother to Mary and Martha, also dear friends of our Lord. But think about it: Jesus knew that Lazarus had died before he was even told. In fact, at first he was only told that Lazarus was very sick. He also knew the purpose for the untimely passing of Lazarus … so that Jesus could demonstrate his mighty power over death itself, by raising someone who had been dead four days—something that had never been done before. (The Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha and then Jesus had raised people from the dead, but very soon after they had died … before they were buried).

Jesus knew all of these things, but still he wept openly. And what was the reaction of those who saw him weeping? “The people who were standing nearby said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But some said, ‘This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?’”

Had I been there, I suppose one of these reactions would have been mine. I’d like to think my response would have been with those of the first group … to discern that Jesus’s acute anguish was because he loved Lazarus. Which would have been the right response. Of course, Jesus loved his friend.

But he loves us all equally. And the Bible teaches us that his love is unconditional, a love that no one can totally grasp or entirely appreciate; a love that drove him to the Cross where he voluntarily allowed cruel, evil men to torture him, spill his blood, and crucify him. And yet we know full well: We all nailed him to that Cross. Might, then, there be another reason why Jesus was so passionately upset?

Let’s answer that question with a question that is more difficult than the first two, a question that I think not too many could answer off the top of their heads … without referring to the passage itself. In addition to deep sorrow and grief, did Jesus express any other emotion when he saw Mary “…weeping and saw the other people wailing with her….” If so, what were those spontaneous reactions? And were these strong feelings expressed before or after he wept?

If you said, yes—then you’re right. There were other things going on in Jesus’s mind and heart than just grief. What were they? Let’s read the text: “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled” (John 11:33, italics for emphasis). Anger is self-explanatory, but note that it was deep (unfathomable, bottomless) and it welled (gushed, flooded) up (in his soul and heart). Deeply troubled depicts frustration, disturbance, aggravation. And these overpowering feelings were expressed before he wept. But also after … at least the anger. “Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance” (John 11:38).

Progressively, we’ve now reached a tougher (perhaps for some a very tough) question. Beyond the deep sorrow, why or at what was Jesus angry and troubled? If we look only at the passage on Lazarus’ death and Jesus raising him from the dead, we would need to speculate a bit to answer this question. But when we examine other episodes in Jesus’s life and teachings, the explanation becomes very clear.

Some Things That Troubled Jesus (Significantly)

It’s unmistakably evident in the gospels that Jesus was greatly disturbed—sometimes to the point of anger—over the appalling effects of sin in the human race. The consequences of this dreaded disease that affects all of mankind is nothing short of devastating, including physical death itself. Even worse, spiritual death which is eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire. But it didn’t have to be this way. All Adam and Eve had to do was to believe God, listen to and obey the one command he gave them. Had they done that, they and their descendants would have lived forever, including Jesus’s dear friend, Lazarus. And, Jesus need not have died a horrible death on a Cross for our sins.

Jesus was equally furious with the religious leaders in Jerusalem and throughout Israel who were as he described them, “The blind leading the blind.” Most recall Jesus’s righteous anger when he overthrew the tables of the money-changers in the Temple, and actually drove them out at the end of a whip. These self-righteous double-dealers couldn’t have cared less about the sanctity of the Temple and those who were there to truly worship the Lord. These charlatans cared only about money, power, and prestige.

Many Pharisees and Sadducees had personally witnessed or were told first-hand about numerous miracles performed by Jesus, not the least of which was Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead; but they still rejected him and his claim to be their Messiah, the very Son of God. He lashed out at their hypocrisy, but he didn’t condemn them, as such, for their many sins (because their very sins had already sentenced them to everlasting judgment); rather he convicted them for their unbelief, for their stubborn refusal to see and believe that he was their Messiah Redeemer. Their mind was made up: No amount of miracles or words of truth would soften their hardened hearts. They refused to believe that they even needed personal salvation. Only “sinners” needed to be forgiven; and they certainly were not sinners!

He blasted them as hypocrites, as “sons of the devil” because they had elevated man-made traditions above the law of Moses, all the while thinking and preaching that righteousness (right standing with God) was only possible by keeping the law of Moses and following dozens of additional rules and regulations, which no one had ever done or could do, including the religious among them. Tragically, many do this to this very day, through religious systems that deem man-made traditions equal to or even greater than the Bible, the very Word of God. (See my Eye of Prophecy articles on the Woman and the Beast, or the Wiles of the Woman).

Thus, Jesus, in a brief sweeping panoramic moment of heartache over the tragic condition of the human race so agonizingly exemplified in the death of a close friend, wept. He wept in sorrow, and he wept with anger. Jesus knew what he was about to do … raise Lazarus from the dead! Still, for a moment … in the moment, the horrible consequences of man’s sin and rebellion against his very Creator, overwhelmed our Lord with grief, anger, and exasperation beyond our finite ability to fully understand or empathize.

It’s apparent that the Lord was even a little bit miffed at Martha, who had just a few moments earlier agreed with Jesus when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this, Martha?” ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him…’” (John 11:25-27). Because, when Jesus told them to roll away the stone, “…Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, ‘Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.’ Jesus responded, ‘Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?’” (John 11: 39-40). I’m positive, however, this was a loving, gentle reprimand, unlike his righteous indignation against the religious leaders.

And then we’re told exactly why Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, in Jesus’s prayer to the Father just before he commanded Lazarus to, “Come out.” The reason: “…so that they will believe you sent me” (Verse 42). And isn’t that the reason we believe in Christ to this day? Or the reason that anyone who really cares and is searching for truth and answers and who truly wants to live forever in heaven should believe in Jesus?

Raising Lazarus from the dead is a breath-taking example of God’s love for the individual, for every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. “For God so loved the world…” (Meaning every person ever born).

Now, let’s take a look at Messiah’s unsurpassed love and unequaled compassion for an entire nation.

National Security?

Can you think of another incident in which Jesus wept? Where and why? Is it when he uttered the words which are the title of this article, O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem…? No, it isn’t, but we’ll get to that passage later on. Sorry, space is short, so I needed to be more abrupt here!

Before we examine the other scene in which Jesus wept, and clearly see that Jesus was also referring to the holy city of Jerusalem in the holy land of Israel, we need to grasp the fact that neither in the ancient past nor in the contemporary present has God ever set aside or chosen a specific (race of) people or a nation or a land to be his people or his special possession other than Israel … the Jews. Of course, he has called out and saved (redeemed) individuals from all languages and nations to be the sons and daughters of God; but the Church is not spiritually or symbolically Israel. Never was, never will be. God has two distinct plans in simultaneous operation: One for Israel, nationally as the sovereign land of Israel; the other for the Church, composed of all individuals, both Jew and Gentile, who have placed their trust in Jesus sacrificial death on the Cross.

To be sure, there are some universal principles in Scripture whereby God relates to and deals with nations in similar fashion as he does with Israel. For example, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Psalms 33:12). With the obvious reverse connotation: Any nation whose corporate leaders and national laws deny, distort, diminish, or even trivialize God’s spiritual and moral laws will be a nation that God will leave to itself. The worst thing that can happen to any city, state, or nation that deliberately turn their back on God is that the Lord will withdraw his blessings and protection. It is said: Be careful what you wish for! If by our words and actions we respond to God’s Word of truth, life, justice, and peace, with, “No thanks, we’ll do it our way;” then that’s precisely what will happen. He’ll give us our own way. Then look out: We’re on our own!

Of course, that’s perfectly okay, if citizens of a country place their trust and confidence in their political, social, and economic leaders! To the extreme of making all things secular and shaping that secular humanism into a godlike status. What’s to worry? The State or Federal government will take care of us! Our military will save us! Scripture is clear on that, too. Without God’s sovereign guidance and protection, all the military might in the world is futile. God’s own chosen people did that and look what happened: Total destruction of Israel and exiled captivity at the hands of their worst enemies.

Obviously, I’m referring now to this great country called the United States of America. I only hope it’s not the late great country. But in the grand scheme of things, this wonderful Republic is just one of many nations on earth, all of which will be ultimately judged (as a nation) by our treatment of Israel and/or our expulsion of God from every facet of our society. If we ever become a godless nation, we will go the way of other once mighty kingdoms who have fallen into ruin, or have become a shell of what they once were, or have ceased to exist altogether.

Israel, and only Israel, was given through Abraham the awesome covenant promise that the land of Israel belongs exclusively to the Jews, and will remain forever as their land. With Jerusalem, itself as the ultimate dwelling place of the Most High God. And that God’s Messiah (his very Son) will rule and reign from his throne in Jerusalem as promised through the covenant promise with King David, the mightiest king in Israel. Until that is, Christ returns as the King of kings. Last but not least, the words of Jesus, himself, when he said, “…salvation comes through the Jews” (John 4:22). There are several other promises unique to Israel, but these three are top of the list.

And, I’m certainly not belittling America or demeaning any other nation. She was founded by men and woman who acknowledged the sovereign providence of God, many of whom were born-again believers in Christ. This nation has seen millions upon millions of people come to faith in Christ; a direct result of the unabridged freedom of worship and liberty to pursue life and truth and peace unparalleled in the annals of human history.

I am as patriotic as anyone I know (of). I still get chills when I hear our National Anthem. I still shed a tear or two when I hear songs like, God Bless the USA (Lee Greenwood). Go, ahead, you know the melody. Sing the chorus aloud, or to yourself if you’re (for example) in a library or on a plane while reading this!

That I’m proud to be an American,

Where at least I know I’m free.

And I won’t forget the men who died,

Who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,

Next to you and defend her still today.

‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,

God bless the USA.

But we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that this country has been and still is beyond God’s discipline and even withdrawal of his protection, especially if we oppose Israel or even ignore her. Or, if we continue to remove God and the name of Christ from our governments, schools, public squares, and military. I mean, even military chaplains can no longer pray, “In the name of Jesus.” God help us.

The Second Weeping

Messiah Jesus loves each person who ever lived, enough to die for us. But the Lord also loves Israel as a nation, with a unique love that is special to/for her people. So much so, that he wept a second time (on Palm Sunday) five days before he was crucified and eight days before he arose from the dead.

“But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep. ‘How I wish today that you of all people (meaning his very own chosen people by birth/blood) would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation’” (Luke 19: 41-44, italics for emphasis).

The New American Standard Bible translates the last part of this passage, “…because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Both versions are saying the same thing: In spite of overwhelming evidence then—and even more so after Jesus arose from the dead—Israel deliberately and (some) out of ignorance refused to recognize and acknowledge that their Messiah (Immanuel, God with them) had come to Israel at the appointed time, prophesied to the very day by one of their prophets. God, himself, through the Son of God, Jesus, had visited his people and lived among them, urging them to turn from their sins, call upon the Lord and be saved. But they did not accept their opportunity for salvation.

This broke Jesus’s heart. And, he wept.

He knew this from the beginning, which is why he knew that he must fulfill his very purpose on this earth—an unbelievably cruel death on a Cross—for the sake of the Jews first, but also for the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). He knew that his people would not heed the plea of God Almighty when he said long before “…O Israel, if you would only listen to me!” (Psalms 81:8). And when God told the disciples (and the whole world) on the Mount of Transfiguration, “…This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5, italics for emphasis).

This was not the first time Jesus agonized over Israel. Earlier, some Pharisees (of all people) who apparently had listened and were at least half-way receptive to what Jesus was teaching and doing came to warn him. They said, “Get away from here if you want to live! Herod Antipas wants to kill you!” (Luke 13:31).

I love the Lord’s reply: “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. Yes, today, tomorrow and the next day I must proceed on my way. For it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem!” (Luke 13: 32-33). Astounding! Profound! But everything Jesus said and did was off the mind-boggling chart.

So, you didn’t think Jesus could be sarcastic if he wanted to? But the sarcasm was reserved expressly for Herod and the religious leaders who would later demand his crucifixion. Imbedded in his reply was a prophetic reference to his resurrection on the third day—to accomplish his majestic, but spiritually and physically painful purpose for coming to earth as the Son of God, but also the Son of Man.

Next comes an even more starling response, which is an abrupt change in his words and emotions. But nevertheless a continuation of his train of thought regarding Jerusalem … as represented by the all-powerful, highly respected, seldom questioned or challenged religious leaders … but even to include many common people, who would later join their pious leaders during Jesus’s trial, sentencing, and death.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned. And you will never see me again until you say, “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13: 34-35).

I have learned the Hebrew expression for that last sentence. Baruch, haba, beshem, Adonai. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Though Scripture doesn’t record that Jesus shed tears when he uttered these heart-rending words, he may have. At the very least, he vented his incredible passion and compassion for Israel and for Jerusalem. So great a love, and so great a salvation that most of Israel missed during his first visit to this beloved land, and city of Jerusalem that many call: The center of the universe.

As Jesus solemnly predicted in both passages: Forty years later Jerusalem would be sacked by the Romans, the Temple demolished with not one stone remaining on another, and the Jews exiled to the four corners of the earth.

Does the story end there? Not on your life. Or the life of any Jew today. Jesus said they forfeited peace when they wouldn’t let him bring them together and show what he would do for them … by believing and receiving him as Messiah and as God. To this very day, Israel still longs for that peace. To this very day, her enemies have sworn not to seek peace with Israel, but to destroy her. Many of my Eye of Prophecy articles have touched on that subject.

But soon, very soon, there will come a day when Messiah Jesus declared that the surviving remnant of Israel will, “…look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died” (Zechariah 12:10).

But when mercilessly attacked by their enemies, they will also fight alongside of Messiah: “On that day the Lord will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David…For on that day I will begin to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12: 8-9).

And on that day Israel will shout from the rooftops in unison, with hearts of gratitude and gladness: “Blessed is he (Jesus) who comes in the name of The Lord (God the Father)!”

Things to Ponder

Who do you say that Jesus is? Is he just one of a few great men and/or teachers who ever lived? How will you answer his question, his challenge directed specifically to his disciples, but also universally to every individual … to you?

“Then he asked them, ‘But who do you say I am?’” (Matthew 16:15, italics for emphasis). Amazingly, his question contains the answer … I am? That was the sacred name God gave to Moses (Yahweh).

Can you, will you say what Peter said in response? “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Verse 16).

Jesus doesn’t merely show us a way to God. He IS The Way.

He doesn’t just give us truth. He IS Truth.

He doesn’t only explain what life is all about. He IS Life.         (John 14:6).

See the Eye of Prophecy blog site page entitled, God’s Plan of Salvation.

 

 

 

 

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