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Heaven

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Today’s Bible Reading: Malachi 3-4:6; Revelation 22:1-21; Psalm 150:1-6; Proverbs 31:25-31

Old Testament

The book  of Malachi (and the Old Testament) closes with prophecy about the coming Messiah. But before this person arrives God will send a messenger to announce His arrival (Malachi 3:1). This follows the ancient tradition of a king sending a messenger before him to announce his arrival to a certain location. Even today the President sends a delegation ahead of him when traveling to another country to prepare for his arrival. Here Malachi is predicting the ministry of John the Baptist.

Just like a refiner or a launderer, the Messiah was coming to make things (i.e. people) better (Malachi 3:2). A blazing fire removes impurities from metal. Soap removes dirt from clothes. Jesus came to remove sin from our lives. Fire and soap hurt and irritate yet make something better. This is also how God works in our lives.

We are made better by the trials and difficulties we go through – if we embrace them as such. When we seek only pleasure from this life while seeking to eliminate any instance of mental, emotional, or physical discomfort (which is pretty much how our culture behaves today) we don’t become better. We actually become weaker. I used to work with someone who, whenever something went wrong in the office, used to say “That which does not kill me makes me stronger”. That is certainly true, but only if your attitude is accepting of such trials.

God could easily have turned His back on all people due to our sin (Malachi 3:6-7). But He didn’t. Just like a teacher may take an interest in a certain student who is having trouble learning rather than give up on him, so too God continues to show an interest in us because we need Him to. This should be enough of a reason for us to turn to Him. His caring never ceases.

People object to believing in God because they mistakenly think He is too demanding. But that is not true. There was only one tree in the entire Garden of Eden Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from. And God only demands that we give 10% (a tithe) of our income back to Him to support our local church. We can keep the remaining 90%. Ten percent isn’t much. Its much less than the government takes in income taxes. And its only just a little bit more than I pay in sales tax.

If we obey God in this financial matter He promises to bless us beyond belief (Malachi 3:10). He even challenges us to test Him on this. This is the only place in the entire Bible where God tells us to put Him to the test.

The people of Malachi’s day were a bit discouraged because they saw non believers prospering. They wondered why they should bother serving and obeying God (Malachi 3:14-15). But they were not looking at life as God does – from an eternal perspective. God is not as interested in our earthly, material comfort as He is in our eternal comfort. The life God calls us to live does not always provide immediate gratification. But the rewards last an eternal lifetime.

These last two chapters of Malachi will be the last recordings of God for over 400 years – until the Gospels are written after Jesus’ death. This time period is known at the “intertestamental” period – the time between the Old and New Testaments.


New Testament

Our final chapter in Revelation describes heaven. Obviously we won’t know exactly what heaven is like until we get there. But this chapter gives us a motivational glimpse.

All the curses that God placed upon the earth due to our sin will no longer exist (Revelation 22:3). Most notably there will be no death. Notice that we will work for eternity. God is a worker and He designed us to be also. I doubt that God is finished creating. Perhaps we will serve Him in whatever He decides to create next, much like the angels do today.

In the 1990s “eye puzzles” were all the rage. They weren’t like normal pictures whose subject matter was obvious. These were images at which you had to stare for a very long time in order to see their actual contents. The Bible is similar. We can’t just gloss over the words and assume we understand their meaning. 

Revelation 22:14 is a great example. Here God tells us that heaven will be a place for those who do His commandments. At first glance this verse might be implying that we get to heaven by being “good”. We do not. Doing God’s commandments is evidence that someone has been born-again and has become one of God’s children. It is not the “doing” of the commandments that allows someone to enter heaven. It is the change in their attitude towards God – they have acknowledged their sin, repented of it (agreed with God that it is wrong), and have been born-again. And that change leads them to want to obey God. Anyone else has chosen to live a lie (Revelation 22:15) and will not enter heaven.

A couple of times Jesus speaks in this chapter stating “I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:12, 20). When a parent tells their child “We’ll be eating dinner soon” she is speaking in terms of her own understanding of time. How a parent understands time is not how a child understands time. The child understands “soon” to be sooner than the parent understands it. Similarly, as creations of God our understanding of “soon” is not the same as His. Apparently 2,000 years is not “soon” according to God’s timetable. Jesus will return when He is ready.

But He will also return very suddenly (the Greek word translated “soon” also means “without notice”). These words from Jesus prophetically refer to His certain return. But they are also a warning to those who have not yet repented.


This concludes our reading of the Bible for 2013. I want to thank all of you who joined me and also want to thank you for your support throughout the year. I hope you enjoyed reading the Bible as much as I have. I think you’d agree that it has been an amazing experience. I’ve learned a lot and hope you have too. But there is still far more to learn. Understanding God is an eternal process so I will continue writing about the Bible in 2014. Please continue to visit my blog in the new year.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

The New Earth

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Today’s Bible Reading: Malachi 1-2:17; Revelation 21:1-27; Psalm 149:1-9; Proverbs 31:10-24

Old Testament

Today we start the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi. Based on information in this book we know that Malachi’s ministry took place at the end of Nehemiah’s leadership over the Jews who had returned from exile from Babylon. Unfortunately, much of what God has to say to the Jews through Malachi is similar to what He had to say to them before they were conquered.

The people of Israel were full of doubt and misunderstanding. They doubted God’s love (Malachi 1:2) and they misunderstood their own actions and thoughts (Malachi 1:6-7, 2:17, 3:8, 3:13). I think this type of thinking is inherent in human nature. People ask the very same questions today. We see terrible things happen in our lives or somewhere in the world and we wonder if God loves us. We read in the Bible that certain behaviors are sinful and we wonder how so.

There are things that are true even though we don’t understand how they can be true. The way we find truth is through God’s word (the Bible) and by spending time with Him in prayer. God wants us to know, understand, and act upon truth. His goal isn’t to punish us for being “bad”. His goal is to correct us from being “wrong”.

God’s plan for mankind was intended to bring life and peace. But we have a part in making this happen to – we need to view God and His word with respect (Malachi 2:5). When we fail to do that we bring trouble upon ourselves because we will ignore God’s commands which He gave us in order to help us avoid trouble.


New Testament

Yesterday we read about the culmination of human history on this earth – a time when hate for God runs rampant all over the earth only to be defeated upon Jesus’ return. Today we read about the beginning of the next phase of human history – the eternal phase.

After the final judgement this earth we are living on will cease to exist as will heaven (Revelation 21:1). The Bible uses the word “heaven” in three senses: the earth’s atmosphere, outer space (the universe and beyond), and the place where God dwells. All of these will cease to exist in their current state. They will be recreated on the new earth.

So too will the city of Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2). It is here that God will live with His people (Revelation 21:3) as He hasn’t done since the Garden of Eden. We were created to be in community with God and with each other. That truth permeates the Bible from page one. Sin has damaged our relationship with each other and with God and has prevented us from having perfect community. We will finally experience this in heaven.

At this point God’s plan will be complete (Revelation 21:6). Unlike the “heaven” invented by man, such as in Hinduism, the true heaven is permanent. In Hinduism theology, people stay in heaven only until their cache of karma runs out. Then they must return to earth and earn more karma until they are allowed to return to heaven (if they are allowed to return). This is not true. God is offering an eternal, permanent experience of living with Him to anyone who believes and accepts His offer to be adopted into His family (Revelation 21:7).

John describes the city of Jerusalem in great detail but one interesting aspect is its size. This is no ordinary sized city. It is 1,500 miles on each side, about the size of the United States west of the Mississippi River. There will also be no Temple in this city (Revelation 21:22). We won’t need anything to help us worship God. Here on earth such things often distract us and garner more reverence than God Himself. That won’t be the case in heaven.

As with all prophetic concepts, we can’t fully understand this one until it happens. But certainly God has given us a wonderful sneak-peak at what heaven will be like. One of the best aspects is that there will be absolutely no evil there (Revelation 21:27). After living on this earth that will certainly be a welcome change.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

The Final Judgement

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Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 14:1-21; Revelation 20:1-15; Psalm 148:1-14; Proverbs 31:8-9

Old Testament

The final chapter of Zechariah speaks of the final days before Jesus’ return. The prophet speaks of all the nations of the earth gathering to conquer Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2) much like we read about in Revelation over the past couple of days. Much of the city will be plundered with many killed and captured. Just when it seems that all hope is lost, Jesus will return to rescue His people (Zechariah 14:3).

When Jesus left this earth 40 days after His resurrection He ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Mark 16:19-20) and it is to this same location that He will return (Zechariah 14:4). When He does the mountain will split in two (from west to east) creating a valley through which the Jews remaining in Jerusalem will flee (the Mount of Olives is just to the east of Jerusalem, within walking distance).

After defeating Israel’s enemies, Jesus will rule over the earth (Zechariah 14:9). The mountains surrounding Jerusalem will no longer be needed for defense, so they will be flattened (Zechariah 14:10). After thousands of years of turmoil, the city of peace (that is what “Jerusalem” means) will finally live up to its name.

The armies of the world, motivated by love of self and hate of God, won’t fare so well (Zechariah 14:12). The description of how these people die leads some to believe a nuclear bomb will destroy them. We’ll have to wait and see. Some of Israel’s enemies will survive. Some of those will change their opinion about God (Zechariah 14:16). They will go from hating Him to worshipping Him. But others will still refuse to recognize God as God (Zechariah 14:17). I find this pretty amazing considering all that these people will have experienced over the preceding years. But it shows just how deeply its possible for pride to run in some people.


New Testament

Yesterday in Revelation we found out the fate of the antichrist and his sidekick. Today we find out what will happen to Satan after Jesus returns.

Its interesting that God sends an angel to seize and bind Satan (Revelation 20:1-2). Here we see that God’s full power is not needed to overpower Satan. Satan is not God’s counterpart. Satan is a created being – an angel – whose evil God is using to bring about His purposes. All that is needed to stop Satan in the strength of an angel – one of Satan’s peers.

This is very significant because it demonstrates that we – human beings – have the power right now to resist Satan. When a person is born-again he/she is filled with God’s Holy Spirit – the full power of God. This power certainly exceeds the power of any angel. If an angel can bind Satan then we also have the ability to exercise control over Satan.

In fact, Satan really has no power over us. He cannot control us in anyway. His only tactic is to deceive (Revelation 20:3). All Satan does is put lies and misinformation into our heads. It is only when we give credence to his deceptions (which we do constantly) that Satan has any power. That is why God commands us to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Too often we live life too quickly. We don’t stop to think about what we are thinking about. The result is bad decisions that hurt ourselves and others.

Interestingly, Satan is not yet thrown into hell at this time. He is only restrained for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:3). During this time Jesus will reign on earth – becoming earth’s first (and last) perfect ruler. After this time period (known as the Millenium) Satan will be released again for a short time.

During the Millenium believers will participate in Jesus’ global government (Revelation 20:4). God does not do everything Himself. He can. But He doesn’t. From the beginning of time He has employed angels and humans to assist Him in His work. This will continue during the Millenium and into eternity.

At the end of the Millenium Satan will be released from his 1,000 year prison sentence and will pick up where he left off . He will once again deceive plenty of people into fighting yet another war against Jesus in Jerusalem, which they lose instantaneously (Revelation 20:7-9). After 1,000 years of a perfect earth – no crimes, no wars, no problems of any kind – people will still rebel against God. This proves that our sinful nature is not caused by our environment or our parents or society. It is within each of us since birth. And it is brought to life by Satan’s deceptions.

Satan himself is thrown into hell for all of eternity (Revelation 20:10) and Jesus then sets up the final judgement of all human beings (Revelation 20:11-15). Notice that this is not a trial. There will be no presenting of evidence or debating facts. God has all the facts. All that will happen here is people will be sentenced. Those who are born-again and have had their sins forgiven will be declared “Not Guilty” and will be sentenced to eternity in heaven. Those who have not had their sins forgiven will have the pay the penalty for those sins and will be sentenced to hell.

Notice that everyone, regardless of how famous or anonymous… how wealthy or poor… will be brought back from the dead to appear before Jesus (Revelation 20:12). No one will escape. Nothing that person did on this earth will grant them any special treatment. All will have to have their lives assessed and will pay an eternal price for not following Jesus.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

The Second Coming

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Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 12-13:9; Revelation 19:1-21; Psalm 147:1-20; Proverbs 31:1-7

Old Testament

Jerusalem is God’s holy city. Muslims claims that Jerusalem is their third holiest city but they didn’t start making this claim until the 1930s when the creation of a Jewish state began to become a possibility and Jews began moving into Israel in greater numbers. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran. Nor are there any Islamic/Muslim writings prior to 1930 which hold Jerusalem in high regard. The Muslim claim to Jerusalem is based solely on jealousy.

But the Bible has claimed Jerusalem for the Jews (and God) for thousands of years. As such God will protect it against anyone and everyone who tries to take it away from Him (Zechariah 12:2-3). Many peace plans have come and gone because Israel has rightfully refused to give up control of Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling this prophecy.

We’ve seen dozens of passages this year which equate Jesus with God and we see one more here in Zechariah 12:10. God is speaking in these verses and says (emphasis added) “They will look on me who they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son”. As Jesus’ body hung dead on the cross a Roman soldier pierced His side to ensure He was dead. It was God who was hanging on that cross (“they will look on me…”). These prophetic verses, written 500 years before Jesus, predict that God would come to earth in a human body and be killed.

But these verses also prophecy how Israel will some day look upon Jesus as their savior (Zechariah 12:10-12). At some point in the future, Jews will collectively come to the realization that Jesus is the Messiah they have been waiting for for so long.

When the Romans and Jews conspired to have Jesus killed they were actually doing what God wanted done (Zechariah 12:10, 13:7). It was always God’s plan to send His Son into the world to die for the sins of mankind. See also Isaiah 53. God uses the evil of people to bring about His plans.


New Testament

In yesterday’s New Testament passage the world mourned for Babylon – the world’s political, economic, and spiritual system – after God had destroyed it. So often we get sad when things in life don’t go the way we want. But God always does the right thing (Revelation 19:2). When we were children we didn’t always understand our parent’s decisions until we grew up. Likewise, we don’t always understand the events God brings into our lives until we get to know Him, and ourself, better.

Someday there will be a wedding in heaven between Jesus, as the groom, and all believers, as the bride (Revelation 19:7). Marriage is not two people who are in love (or in lust) declaring that they will spend the rest of their lives together (only to break that promise more than 50% of the time). Earthly marriage is symbolic of the eternal, unbroken, relationship between Jesus (God) and believers. This is why same-sex marriage is not acceptable – it violates God’s extremely important design of and purpose for marriage.

No created being should be worshipped (Revelation 19:10). Angels and humans are created by God and are both servants of God. Compare this to Jesus who freely accepted worship – He never turned it down as the angel does here – because Jesus is not a creation of God. He is not a human being as Muslims, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses claim. See Hebrews 1:6, Matthew 8:2, Matthew 14:33, John 9:38, et. al. Jesus was God.

When Jesus first appeared on this earth He came to die a sacrificial death to atone for the sins of mankind. When He was nailed to a cross to die He was perceived as a loser because the world didn’t understand (and still doesn’t understand) that Jesus came to defeat sin. But when He comes the second time He will come to judge those who reject Him as their Savior (Revelation 19:11-16).

When the world’s armies join forces at Har Megiddo (Mount of Megiddo; “Armageddon” in English) at the end of the Tribulation in an ill-conceived effort to eradicate God from the planet, they will actually be gathering for their own destruction (Revelation 19:17-19). They will be killed en-masse in an instant by Jesus. Notice that there is no battle mentioned here nor is Jesus accompanied by an army of His own. A army of millions is no match for Jesus. This battle will be over before it even begins.

For all of human history, right up to the present, people have thought they were smarter than God, more powerful than God, more “correct” than God. We think we can outwit God, manipulate God, and even eradicate God. This is simply arrogance. For all of history God has been patient with human arrogance – to which there is no limit. During the Tribulation the hubris of man will be so out of control that people will think they can defeat Him and create a planet free from His sovereignty. They will find out they are wrong.

The antichrist and his false prophet will be captured and thrown – alive – into hell (Revelation 19:20) while their armies are killed (Revelation 19:21). Tomorrow we’ll read about the final judgement of mankind. But notice that the antichrist and the false prophet won’t even appear before Jesus to have their lives judged. Their guilt is so certain that God simply throws them directly into hell.

Its important to note that these men will be thrown “alive” into hell. People live forever. Even though our bodies may die, we will be given new, eternal, bodies and we will reside somewhere – heaven or hell – for all eternity. Earth is just a pit stop. Earth is a fork in the road where we can choose where we want to spend eternity. God invites everyone to join Him in heaven. But its up to each of us to accept His invitation.


Psalms

We just read how God will obliterate the arrogant who defy Him. But He will support the humble (Psalm 147:6). The word “support” implies fragility or weakness. When we realize how frail and weak we are we become stronger than our pride could ever make us because God will give us His own strength.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

The Last Laugh

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Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 10-11:17; Revelation 18:1-24; Psalm 146:1-10; Proverbs 30:33

Old Testament

One constant theme of the Bible is that people need leadership. Without a leader we will wander (Zechariah 10:2). When it comes to spiritual matters this is of eternal importance. Leaders are expected to shepherd people towards God. When they don’t the people suffer and then those leaders have to answer to God (Zechariah 10:3).

It is also possible that people will reject a leader that God has in mind for them. In a democratic country, such as the United States, where government leaders are elected by popular vote, this is certainly possible. God’s response in these cases is to raise up a leader who cares nothing for the people but who cares only for his/her own welfare and legacy (Zechariah 10:16).


New Testament

Yesterday’s passage in Revelation (chapter 17) dealt with the downfall of the one-world religion that will exist on earth during the Tribulation. Today’s chapter will deal with the downfall of the one-world political & economic system that will also exist at this time.

At some point in the future the world will think it is a good idea to unite under the leadership of a single ruler. They will chose this leader based on his charisma as we’ve seen, but will know nothing of his true character. This man will lead the world into total chaos as his true nature is revealed. He will declare himself to be god and will demand worship from the entire planet. His reign will succeed for a while, but only by through violence. In the end God will have the last laugh.

Rather than faithfully devoting themselves to the true God the world will chase after false religion, wealth, and comfort (Revelation 18:3, 7) and will blatantly murder God’s people (Revelation 18:6). The world will be filled with people who care nothing about God or the less fortunate, but who care only for themselves.

But the entire system will come crashing down when God sends His judgements into the world as we’ve been reading. Everyone will mourn because their selfish way of life can no longer be sustained (Revelation 18:8-14). Notice that much of the wealth that was created was completely unnecessary – none of the items listed in Revelation 18:12-13 are necessities. They are all luxuries. This time period will be characterized by people pampering themselves with things they don’t need, such as BMWs, granite counter tops, etc rather than using their wealth to help others. People will be completely selfish. I think we can certainly say that we are well on our way to living like this.

The entire world’s economy will come to a complete halt (Revelation 18:17, 22). People will not know what to do. Everything they had been chasing after will suddenly be gone. All their efforts will be revealed for what they were – pointless. These people will have forsaken a relationship with the God who created them and who loves them and in exchange piled up temporary and meaningless material wealth for themselves that could do nothing for them.


Psalms

Our passage in Psalms touches on these same issues. When people put their trust in other human beings, including leaders, they will be disappointed (Psalm 146:3-4). Rather we should put our hope in God who is completely unselfish and who wants nothing but the best for us. Just like he will do to the antichrist and those who will follow him, God will frustrate the plans of those who are evil – those who live for themselves and ignore the plight the less fortunate (Psalm 146:9).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

God Hates Religion

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Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 9:1-17; Revelation 17:1-18; Psalm 145:1-21; Proverbs 30:32

Old Testament

Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:1-7 against the nations surrounding Jerusalem is remarkable in the fact that the cities are listed in the exact order they were subsequently conquered by Alexander the Great, thereby fulfilling this prophecy exactly. Even more remarkable is God’s promise in Zechariah 9:8 in which He says He will protect Jerusalem from the attackers. History shows that Alexander passed by Jerusalem after being shown a copy of the book of Daniel which prophesied that he (Alexander) would conquer all these lands. Alexander was so impressed with the Scriptures that he did lay a single finger on Jerusalem.

The remainder of Zechariah 9 predicts the future coming of Israel’s true king, Jesus who would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). Riding on a donkey in ancient times was actually a symbol of royalty. The idea of a conquering military king riding a stallion is very much a modern and Western concept. Riding a donkey identified someone as a peaceful ruler.

Like much of prophecy, Zechariah’s comments bounce back and forth between near-future and far-future. Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey circa 32 AD (Revelation 9:9) but will bring peace to the earth and will reign over it when He comes again in the future (Revelation 9:10).


New Testament

Revelation 17 & 18 describe the downfall of future Babylon. In these chapters Babylon is representative of a world-wide religion (Revelation 17) and a political/economic system (Revelation 18). Whether this implies that the city of Babylon (about 50 miles south of Baghdad in Iraq) itself will once again exist is debatable. Its possible. Its also possible that these passages refer to the world during the Tribulation – a people united by evil against God just like Babylon of Genesis 11.

During the Tribulation a single, world-wide religion will be ushered in by the antichrist. This religion will denounce the true God of the Bible (Revelation 17:3). This world-wide religion of the antichrist will have the appearance of accuracy and truth (Revelation 17:4) and will be adopted by all the nations, presumably in the name of tolerance and unity.

We can certainly see this happening today with the “Coexist” movement and others like it. Many people believe that religion is divisive and they are correct. Religions are man-made inventions and as such each religion competes with all the others for idealogical supremacy. But biblical Christianity is not a religion – it is not man-made. It is God-made. Therefore it is 100% true which explains why all world religions hate it and will come together at the end of time in an effort to stomp it out of existence once and for all.

But Bible-believing born-again Christians will not give up their belief and join the antichrist’s one-world-religion movement. As a result they will be killed by people in the name of this religion (Revelation 17:6). Throughout history many atrocities have occurred in the name of religions. The Crusades. 9/11. Aztec sacrifices. Thugee sect killings. Burmese Buddhists killings. None of this is from God. Sadly, many people reject the idea of a God based on these terrible incidents. But anyone who does so is confusing religion with God. God did not invent religion. Religions are man-made attempts to justify ourselves before a god of our own invention. God hates religion (we’ve read this several times this year).

Exactly who the kings are who are mentioned in Revelation 17:10-12 is not clear. Some believe that at some point the planet will be divided into 5 or 10 administrative districts. We’ll have to wait and see how things play out on the world stage. But what is clear is the they will give all their power to the antichrist (Revelation 17:8) and will act in unison in an effort to defeat Jesus (Revelation 17:14).

One way to bring two enemies together is to unite them against a common enemy. After the Rapture there will be no more Christians on the planet and, hence, no one to speak out against the world removing Jesus from society (although we know a few will be born-again during the Tribulation). Perhaps the world leaders will see this as an opportunity to eradicate the Bible and the Jews from the planet once and for all based on the misguided notion that God is the source of all our problems and that man is the solution to all our problems. But as we’ve learned by reading the Bible this year, and can see from the last six decades of human history, the more we remove Jesus from our culture the more our culture collapses. Pride prevents people from admitting this. But no one who looks at recent history objectively can deny that this is happening. Apparently this false belief will continue, and intensify, until the end.


Psalms

God is compassionate by nature. He is good to everyone, even those who hate Him (Psalms 145:8). Everything He does He does with our best interests in mind (Psalm 145:17) and will not ignore anyone who calls upon Him (Psalm 145:18). Sadly too many people don’t believe this today.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Armageddon

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Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 8:1-23; Revelation 16:1-21; Psalm 144:1-15; Proverbs 30:29-31

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Old Testament

God is absolutely crazy about His children! He loves them passionately (Zechariah 8:2). There are only two categories of people in the world: those who are God’s children and those who are not. In the Bible Jerusalem/Israel represent those who are. The Gentile nations represent those who are not. Anyone can chose to become one of God’s children – He invites everyone into His family. 

There are many benefits to belonging to God’s eternal family including safety (Zechariah 8:8) and prosperity (Zechariah 8:12). Just as the land that was Israel was once a desolate wasteland that was revitalized by God, so too are each of our lives dry and barren by nature. But God wants to change that. He wants our lives to be peaceful and full of blessing (Zechariah 8:11).

Many who don’t believe in God or who don’t believe in the true God of the Bible may experience success. They may feel that their lives are “blessed”. But but what they have is nothing compared to what God has to offer. But just like parents don’t take care of children that are not theirs, God does not bless those who don’t belong to Him (Zechariah 8:21-22). Atheists and non-believers may achieve worldly wealth and success but they are really settling for “good enough”.


New Testament

Previously in our reading of the prophecy of Revelation, the earth has given power to an initially-benign ruler, known as the antichrist, who later reveals his true, egomaniacal nature and leads the world into complete rejection of Jesus. Almost 7 years of chaos and turmoil result from this decision. Today in our passage the final seven judgements are released upon the earth ushering in the return of Jesus, which we’ll read about in a couple of days.

At this point there are very few Christians on earth. Prior to this Tribulation period all believers were removed from the earth in the Rapture. While some people will come to faith in Christ after that, the number will be very few. Most of those that do will be killed by the antichrist who will declare himself to be god and will demand the world worship him as such or die. To pledge allegiance to the antichrist will be to declare oneself an enemy of God.

In response God will inflict these enemies with painful sores (Revelation 16:2). He will then complete His destruction of the earth. Back in Revelation 8 God destroyed 33% of the world’s ecology. This was a warning – He could have destroyed 100% of it. But in His mercy He keeps well over half of it hoping that people will take notice and repent. As we know, they will not. They will dig in their heels against Him even more.

God will then destroy the rest of nature (Revelation 16:3-4) and will cause the sun to become so hot that people will be scorched by it (Revelation 16:8-9). Notice response of these people: rather than believe God and admit their sin, they will curse Him. Its not like they didn’t have advance notice. The Bible was written thousands of years ago and I’m sure copies will be available during this time. Yet they will choose to ignore it because of their own pride and arrogance.

With so much of the ecology destroyed, human beings won’t be able to survive much longer. Hence, the return of Jesus must be near. Sure enough He will return in Revelation 20.

The next two judgements are against the antichrist, who has lead people into spiritual darkness, and his kingdom. As we’ve read numerous times this year, God holds leaders accountable for how well of a job they did leading people to Him (or at least not leading people away from Him). Needless to say the antichrist will fail this test miserably. God will respond by plunging the antichrist’s kingdom (since He will rule the world I believe this refers to all of earth) into darkness (Revelation 16:10). Again, the people of the world will curse God and refuse to repent.

The next thing God will due is miraculously dry up the Euphrates River so that a huge army can march west (Revelation 16:12). joining the armies of the rest of the world in a war against God (Revelation 16:14). For centuries people thought the drying up of this mighty river was fantasy. But with the modern invention of damming rivers, this is a reality. The Atatürk dam in southern Turkey can easily stop the flow of water drying up the river in a matter of days.

These armies will come to do battle against God at a place called Armageddon (Revelation 16:16). Contrary to popular misunderstanding, Armageddon is not an event in which the world is destroyed. Armageddon is a place. Its Anglicized name comes from the combination of two Hebrew words: “Har” (mountain) and “Megiddo” (a town in Israel). Properly translated Armageddon means “Mountain of Megiddo”. It is the place where all the armies of the world will gather in a final battle to wipe Israel off the map.

The drying up of the Euphrates River will seem like a blessing to these armies. But their thinking will be ignorance. The reality will be that God is gathering all His enemies in one location so He can destroy them, which He does with another world-wide earthquake (the fifth in less than seven years) and hailstorm (Revelation 16:17-21). But notice that once again, people will blame God rather than taking responsibility for their own decisions and actions.

After seven terrible years God’s enemies are defeated and Jesus can come and judge people for their eternal destiny and rule the earth for 1,000 years. We’ll read about all this in the next few days.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Lies

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Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 6-7:14; Revelation 15:1-8; Psalm 143:1-12; Proverbs 30:24-28

Old Testament

Every being that God has or will create exists to serve Him. God employs angels, spirits, and humans to do His work (Zechariah 6:5). Angels in heaven got to initiate the seven trumpet judgements and, as we’ll read over the next few days, the seven bowl judgements also. God’s plan for all of His creation is not a life of idle laziness floating on clouds playing harps. God is a worker and we, too, are to be active by serving Him, albeit with necessary periods of rest.

An interesting prophecy about Jesus is recorded in Zechariah 6:12-13. In ancient Israel kings were forbidden to act as priests and priests were forbidden to act as kings. But Jesus is special. He is both king (governmental leader) and priest (spiritual leader).

Religions institute rituals under the misguided assumption that routinely performing certain functions pleases God. It does not. Rituals are created by man to please man – to make us feel better about ourselves. They don’t impress God at all (Zechariah 7:1-7). What pleases God is a constant lifestyle that demonstrates mercy and kindness and which does not take advantage of other people (Zechariah 7:8-10).

Notice that it is possible for a person to turn their own heart to stone when it comes to God (Zechariah 7:12). This happens by a series of steps. First they refuse to pay attention to God’s message. Then they turn away from God. Finally, they stop listening altogether (Zechariah 7:11). The decision to hate God is an intentional decision that is arrived at progressively.


New Testament

We read about the seventh trumpet judgement in Revelation 11. The events in Revelation 15 are the preparations for the final seven judgements upon the earth. In between God gave us a very vivid picture of what life on earth will be like during the reign of the antichrist. I think this literary break in the judgements holds an important lesson. God isn’t anxious to pour out these events. He is full of love for the people He created and does not want to see us suffer; He does not enjoy punishing people. Rather, He wants everyone to have a chance to come to know Him and choose an eternity with Him as opposed to one apart from Him.

Revelation 15:2 references those who were martyred during the Tribulation – those the antichrist kills because of their profession of faith in Jesus. The world will consider these people to be nuts… failures who died for believing an alleged fairy tale. But that is not how God views them Notice that He calls them “victorious”. When the Jews and the Romans nailed Jesus to the cross they thought they had won and He had lost. They mistakenly viewed Jesus as their enemy. Their real enemy was sin and Jesus proved His victory over sin by raising Himself from the grave three days later.

Events during the Tribulation will be similar. The antichrist will think he has “won” by killing Christians. But he will be wrong. Christians will not be enemies of the antichrist. Neither are Christians the enemy of the government today. As Paul told us in Ephesians 6:12, all people are in the same boat. Our battles are not amongst each other but against the evil spiritual forces that roam this planet dividing us.

When we approach life atheistically – disbelieving in God – we lose sight of the truth about what is going on here on earth and as a result we create all kinds of problems between people that don’t need to happen. Satan is a deceiver. His one-and-only tactic is to deceive people into believing lies. Lies about God. And lies about each other. If we believe lies we will have faulty information. And if we have faulty information we will make poor choices. And if we make poor choices we will have constant problems. I’d say we’ve fallen for Satan’s trick.

These Christians who are martyred during the Tribulation will receive a special eternal reward from God (Revelation 15:2). We also saw this in Revelation 14:13. Since they will face much more persecution than any of us, they will deserve this honor.

Heaven is a real place with real things, including a Temple (Revelation 15:5). The plans Moses was given for building the tabernacle (which later became the Temple) were based on this heavenly Temple (Exodus 25:8-9, Hebrews 8:5).

People have had plenty of time to repent and be saved. But they chose not to. After patiently waiting, God is now ready to initiate the final judgements on the earth (Revelation 15:5-8).


Psalms

Life could be so much better if we just trusted God and followed the path He has set out for us (Psalm 143:8). This is what He wants to do. He knows more than we do and desires to guide us on the right path.

We’re now in the homestretch. We’ve been reading the Bible for 51 weeks. Just one week to go.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

Foreshadowing of Current Events

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Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 4-5:11; Revelation 14:1-20; Psalm 142:1-7; Proverbs 30:21-23

Old Testament

Anything of significance does not occur by human power and might. It only happens by the power of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Just like the lamp stands in Zechariah’s vision were continuously supplied with oil by being connected to olive trees (Zechariah 4:2-3, 12) we must be plugged into God continuously for our “light” to shine. We may be busy. We may accomplish a lot. We may even be named Time’s Person of the Year or win a Nobel Prize. But none of that means anything. The only things that means anything are those things that further God’s kingdom.

But every great work starts with a baby step. And it is here that many never get out of the starting gate. We all dream big. But few of us are willing to start small (Zechariah 4:10). God will bless the little things we do if they are done in faith. For it is only from small, sometimes difficult beginnings, that big victories can be achieved.


New Testament

The 144,000 whom we met back in Revelation 7 make another appearance in our passage today. These 144,000 were Jews who came to faith in Jesus during the Tribulation. At this point in our story we are now more than half-way through these seven years and the antichrist has slaughtered many Christians. But these 144,000 have been supernaturally protected by God.

God had put a mark on their foreheads identifying them as His (Revelation 7:3, 14:1). Satan imitates this “feature” by marking his followers with the number 666 as we read yesterday. But God’s mark has another significance.

While man devises all kinds of categories for the human race based on skin color, ethnicity, sexuality, age, gender, etc., God only sees two categories: those who don’t belong to Him and those who do. We all start off as the former. We are born separated from God due to sin. Life is the opportunity to chose to become the latter.

God has given people the responsibility to tell others how they can be saved and go to heaven. In Revelation 14:6-7 we see the only place in the New Testament where we see an angel spreading the Good News. This may be due to the fact that there are very few people alive on earth at this point and even fewer who believe in God. Not to mention that admitting one’s faith will be very dangerous during this time.

A second angel brings news of the fall of Babylon (Revelation 14:8). Since Babylon has not existed for centuries it is safe to conclude that this ancient city will once again become the seat of power on the earth since it cannot “fall” without first rising again. We’ll read more about Babylon in a couple of days.

Yesterday we read about the mark of the beast – the number 666 – that people will be required to have tattooed on their hand or forehead in order to participate in the world’s economy. Taking this number, and thereby identifying oneself with the antichrist – will be an irreversible decision (Revelation 14:9-10). Anyone who does so may not think much of it – they will see it as a “no brainer” in order to spare their life. But essentially they will be rejecting God who will in turn reject them forever (Revelation 14:10-11). Not a wise decision.

God does not rush to judgement. He is extremely patient, giving every person a chance to repent. He waits until just the right moment (Revelation 14:15). But when that moment comes, His judgement will be quick as a sharp sickle and as thorough as a winepress (Revelation 14:18-20).

At the end of Revelation 13 it appeared that Satan and the antichrist had victory within their grasp. But in today’s passage we see that God had everything under control the whole time. We already know the outcome of the future. God wins. Sadly, just like Satan is deluded into thinking he can beat God, too many people think the same. They think they will be able to talk God out of punishment as if He were a human whose arm could be twisted. Or they think God will change His mind or countenance their good deeds, if they have any.

But God means what He says and says what He means. That is why He has warned us about what is to come. The foreshadowing of current events make it not unreasonable to think that all this could happen in our lifetime.


Psalms

God wants to hear from us when we are troubled, even if we just want to vent or whine (Psalm 142:1-7). There are times when we feel all alone (Psalm 142:4) and sometimes life can seem like a prison (Psalm 142:7). God is with us during these times and wants to hear from us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

The Antichrist & Satan

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Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 2-3:10; Revelation 13:1-18; Psalm 141:1-10; Proverbs 30:18-20

Old Testament

Zechariah’s writings are dated after King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return home from captivity after Persia had conquered Babylon. But many of the Jews decided to remain in Babylon because they were more comfortable there. Certainly most of them had been born and raised in that environment and knew nothing about Israel, the land of their ancestors. So God has to encourage them to leave (Zechariah 2:6).

In addition to its literal existence, throughout the Bible Israel also symbolically represents God’s presence. The Gentile nations, therefore, represent, the world. Most people have to be encouraged to leave the comfort of the world and start a relationship with God. We don’t want to do it. I went into Christianity kicking and screaming after spending well over a decade as a devout atheist.

But the benefits of becoming one of God’s children are many including complete protection (Zechariah 2:8-9). God promises to destroy any nation that harms Israel. And He will defend any and all of His children (born-again believers) against our enemies as well. There is no amount of intelligence… there is no large enough caliber… there is nothing better to protect us than God Himself.

There is an interesting scene depicted in Zechariah 3 today. In it we see Satan pointing out to God the flaws of a man named Joshua (Zechariah 3:1). Right now, in heaven, Satan is explaining all your faults to God. If you are not a born-again believer then Satan’s accusations are 100% true. But if you are, like this man Joshua was, then God will reject those accusations (Zechariah 3:2). Through Jesus’ death we can have complete forgiveness of sins. Once you are born again God will never ever ever hold any of your sins against you.


New Testament

Our passage in Revelation covers a lot of ground today with some very detailed prophecy about the antichrist.

The antichrist will be empowered by Satan (Revelation 13:2). During this time period – the Tribulation – God is bringing an end to the world and He will use Satan’s evil as well as the evil of human beings to bring much of it about. As such some pretty miraculous things are going to happen. We’ve already read many of these.

But one of the most miraculous will be that the antichrist will be killed. He will suffer some sort of fatal head wound (perhaps from a gun shot). But God will allow Satan to resurrect the antichrist back to life (Revelation 13:3). As a result the entire world will consider the antichrist to be a god and will worship him and Satan (Revelation 3:4).

For the next 3.5 years (42 months) the antichrist will wage a war of words against God (Revelation 13:6) and also a real war against those who believe in God (Revelation 13:7). Notice that he will be “allowed” to do these things. Nothing happens on this planet without God allowing it to happen. God doesn’t make everything happen – human beings make decisions that are the cause of much of what goes on. But God uses these decisions to bring about His purposes. And His main purpose is to draw people away from the world and towards Him.

Notice that the antichrist will rule over every nation and will be worshipped by every single person on earth (Revelation 13:7-8). Anyone who was not on the antichrist’s side to start with will be after his death and resurrection. Sadly, all these people will not be going to heaven (Revelation 13:8b) because they chose to worship a human being rather than the true God who created them and loves them.

The antichrist will not work alone. He will have a promoter who, like the antichrist, will seem benign at first but will also be empowered by Satan (Revelation 13:11). He will have the full authority to force people to worship the antichrist (Revelation 13:12). People will have a choice. They can either do as they are told – worship the antichrist (and live) – or they can remain faithful to God (and be killed) What a horrible time this will be!

Bible prophecy is very specific and measurable. This was one of the major factors that convinced me that it was true. No other alleged holy text has even one specific prophecy about the future. That is because they were authored by men while the Bible was authored by God. The passages we’ve been reading about the end times are incredibly specific and can be easily verified in time.

One of the more specific is that the antichrist’s promoter will force people to make and worship a statue of the antichrist (Revelation 13:14). In addition, Satan will give the promoter the supernatural ability to give the statue the power to speak, which it will. It will sentence to death anyone who does not worship it (Revelation 13:15). If the people who wrote the Bible were making this up, they sure had a lot of guts to put these types of predictions into it. But they are in here because God knows the future and He wants us to know that He knows the future.

But the prophecies don’t stop there. This promoter will require everyone to take a mark on their hand or forehead. This mark will be a sign of allegiance to the antichrist and without it no one will be able to buy anything or sell anything (Revelation 13:16-17). In other words, no one will be allowed make a living or hold a job or purchase anything – a home, food, water – without being a follower of the antichrist and by association, Satan.

Is this too far-fetched to believe? I don’t think so.

  • In 2012 the mayors of Boston and Chicago forbade Chick-fil-A from opening any stores in their cities because the owner is a Christian who opposes gay-marriage
  • A&E TV just fired one of their major stars from Duck Dynasty – a huge revenue source for the network – for his beliefs on the same issue
  • Christian photographers have been sued by homosexuals for refusing to take pictures at their wedding
  • Christian bakers who have refused to bake wedding cakes for same-sex weddings have been told they must do so by our judicial system
  • The city of San Antonio has barred anyone who does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle from serving on the city council

Clearly the idea of controlling economic opportunity based on one’s beliefs is already happening to some extent. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that the events of Revelation 13 will come true relatively soon – perhaps in our lifetime.

Even those who are not familiar with the Bible are familiar with the number of the antichrist: 666 (Revelation 13:18). In both Hebrew and Greek (the original languages the Old Testament and New Testament were written in, respectively) letters were used for numbers based on their position in the alphabet (in English, for example, A=1, B=2 … Z=26). Each person’s name could be represented by a number and, in fact, many ancient artifacts reference people by numbers. What God is apparently telling us here is that the antichrist’s name will be equivalent to the number 666, perhaps in Greek or Hebrew.

This is all pretty serious stuff. I hope any of you who haven’t already done so will consider repenting of your sins and accepting God’s offer of complete and unconditional forgiveness through His Son, Jesus. This way you can avoid all these terrible events that will come upon the earth. Notice that much of them, including everything we read in today’s passage, are caused by man’s pride and evil nature. Nothing we read about today was inflicted by God. God simply let it all play out. The end times are characterized by God leaving people to their own innate desires.

Don’t forget… we still have 7 judgements from God that haven’t happened yet. And they’re all worse than the one’s we’ve seen so far.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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