Returning now to the story about the disobedient prophet, 1Ki 13:24-30 then says ... "And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcass was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcass. And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcass cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcass: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke unto him. And he spoke to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him. And he went and found his carcass cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcass: the lion had not eaten the carcass, nor torn the ass. And the prophet took up the carcass of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him. And he laid his carcass in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!"
In the context of these verses, the lion represents Satan and the antichrist (1Pe 5:8; Rev 13:2), and the reason that the lion left the ass alone, was because it had also been on a mission, which was to destroy the man of God!
But symbolically speaking, it also reveals the ass (Assyria), to be an ally of the lion (Satan, or the antichrist).
There are a few things which we can learn from the case of the old prophet in this story.
First of all, it's very clear that he hadn't intended for his lie to cause the death of the other, but the damage was done, and there was nothing he could do about it.
It seems that he'd just wanted to talk to another prophet, and had judged that the lie surely couldn't do much harm.
There are a lot of false prophets in the Church today, who are following their own human wisdom, and many of them honestly care about the welfare of their congregations, but when the antichrist confiscates their church records, then many will be betrayed by the earthly ignorance of those who had told them that everything would be alright.
Pro 22:3 says "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished." (also see Pro 28:12)
This story is meant to be a very serious warning to those of us who intend to remain hidden during the great tribulation, and tells us that we shouldn't turn aside from the commandment to stay silent at that time, no matter what happens.
Although both of these men hadn't intended any harm, they'd both shared one lethal fault.
Ignorance of the ways of God!
The old prophet had wrongly assumed that one little lie couldn't cause much damage, and the young prophet assumed that if the old man was really a prophet, then surely God might have simply changed His mind.
The message here is undeniable.
Even if an angel from Heaven should appear before you in shining glory during the great tribulation, and command you to reveal your Christian beliefs, then don't do it!
Or as 2Co 11:14 says ... "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." (also see Gal 1:8)
At this present time, we have no idea of the level of technology which the antichrist will be able to use to deceive us, except that it will be extremely convincing. (Mat 24:24; 2Th 2:9)
Yet again returning to the story, we see ... "And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spoke to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulcher wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones: For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass." (1Ki 13:31,32)
The words ... "lay my bones beside his bones", meant that the old prophet had come to accept the level of his own guilt in the matter, and was willing to share the responsibility for what had happened to the other, and what was sure to follow.
The last part of the statement ... "For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass", tells us something else.
The old man realized that there was no longer any prophet of the Lord left in the land, who would have been capable of carrying messages from God to Jeroboam. (There's a prophet mentioned in chapter 14, but he was old and blind.)
Job 33:22-24 tells us about what God does when anyone's soul is in danger ... "Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom."
Unfortunately, the young prophet had been that one man in a thousand, and Satan had gotten the better of him.
And finally in 1Ki 13:33,34, we see the evil which followed ... "After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth."
Without the young prophet around, there was nobody left to curtail the behaviour of Jeroboam and his family, until they became so wicked, that God had to utterly destroy them.
This is a lesson for the Church, because some of us must survive to the end of the great tribulation, so that a large portion of the rest of the world can finally be saved!
On the surface of things, it might look like God had lost that battle to Satan, but He's really good at making lemonade when He only has lemons to work with, and the mistakes of those two men were preserved in the scriptures for our instruction, and from that perspective, the young prophet didn't die in vain.
To be continued ...
Jesus said ... "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell, whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (Joh 3:8)
This suggests that we aren't meant to make it too easy for the powers of this world to trace our whereabouts, and it makes a lot of sense, when you consider that the world is our enemy.
There's a hauntingly similar connection to all of this, in a story from the Old Testament.
A man of God came out of the lands of Judah, to Bethel, and was given the task of delivering a message from God.
He was instructed as follows ... "Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest." (1Ki 13:17)
What this tells us, is that he was on an important mission from God, and that the devil was out to get him, so God gave him instructions to keep him safe.
Bread and water are both symbols of Jesus and the written word of God, and during the great tribulation, we'll be dwelling in a strange land, and surrounded by our enemies, and the commandment to abstain from bread and water would metaphorically seem to say that we shouldn't discuss either Jesus or the Bible with anyone during that time.
And then the words ... "nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest."
The reason he was told to return by a different route, was for the sake of making him more difficult to trace, and appears to relate to what Jesus said, as shown above in Joh 3:8, and by extension, it also refers to those of us who will take precautions to avoid capture during the great tribulation.
1Ki 13:10-14 then says ... "So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel. Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father. And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon, And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am."
The fact that the sons of the old prophet had seen which direction the man of God had taken, simply serves as a reminder that there are eyes everywhere in this world. (especially in the world of today.)
As I've already explained in Shadows of Bible Prophecy, the symbol of an ass stands for the Assyrian empire in it's various forms, and in this case creates a connection which further points towards the coming Islamic kingdom of the antichrist.
Remaining in context with everything else in this story though, the link between the old prophet and the ass, tells us that he'd been tainted by the kingdom which the ass represented.
But returning to the story again, the old prophet asked him to return home with him to have something to eat, and the man of God replied ... "I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. (1Ki 13:16,17)
So far, so good.
But then 1Ki 13:18 says ... "He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spoke unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him."
After he'd returned with the old prophet and eaten a meal, the word of the Lord came to him, and said ... "Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcass shall not come unto the sepulcher of thy fathers." (1Ki 13:21,22)
The old prophet then saddled an ass for the disobedient prophet to ride upon. (1Ki 13:23)
Because he'd disobeyed the commandment, there was now an existing connection between himself and the ass. (Assyria)
He'd betrayed the commandment, and would henceforth be travelling with the enemy!
To be continued ...
Because of the discomfort caused by the prophecies of the two witnesses, the antichrist will have to use his great intelligence and counterfeit miracles to gain the confidence of the world, and will be wary of openly attacking Christians after that first experience when the two witnesses spoke out against him.
And something else about democracy which will probably work in our favour, is that people are expected to receive a fair trial before being condemned to death, which could be yet another reason why he'll resort to trickery to capture us.
Jesus said ... "Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth:, behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. (Mat 24:26)
The mention of the desert, and secret chambers, would seem to suggest that they'll try to lure us to out of the way places, so that nobody will hear what we have to say!
Otherwise the last words of any Christian would continue to do damage to his plans.
But if those of us who will remain silent aren't going to be any real threat to him, then why bother to catch any of us by trickery at all?
Why not just leave us entirely alone until the mark of the beast is put into effect?
Because chances are, that he won't be directly trying to catch those of us who are resolved to remain silent, but only the ones who don't know enough to avoid being caught, and that's because, if they aren't resolved to remain hidden, then they might also lack the resolve to remain silent, and he just isn't going to tolerate anyone who might potentially speak out against him at that time.
It'll just be his way of keeping his closest Islamic followers satisfied, and the situation under control, until he can finish off the rest of us later.
He'll be betting everything that God doesn't exist, while we'll be betting everything that He does!
To be continued ...
And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. (Rev 14:15,16)
The angel who comes out of the temple in these verses represents all of us who will successfully go into hiding during the great tribulation.
The primary meaning of "angel" in the bible means ("to bring tidings" a messenger), and the temple of God on earth, is of course, within Christians.
This means that we'll finally open our mouths with "tidings" to convert the world.
The communication which takes place between the angel, and Jesus (the one sitting on the cloud with a sickle), reveals an integral connection between the two, for the purpose of reaping the harvest (Christ in us), and although Jesus is the one shown putting in the sickle to reap the harvest through the Spirit of Christ, Christians will be the ones on the ground speaking the words of salvation, and converting the masses.
The mention of the angel speaking with a loud voice, tells us that the world is really going to hear those words.
Rev 14:17 then says ... "And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
In the same way that Christians are the temple of God on earth, the angels of heaven are God's temple in heaven.
You'll notice that this angel of verse 17 (which represents the angels of heaven), doesn't say anything, but the fact that he carries a sickle tells us that the angels of heaven will also take part in the harvest.
Jesus described the primary part they'll play when he said ... "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Mat 24:31)
Rev 14:18 continues with ... "And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe."
The angel emerging from the altar, is a symbolic connection to all of those who will be killed during the great tribulation (see Rev 6:9,10), and as those who'd been killed come back to life and rise up into the sky to meet the Lord, everyone who has blood guilt on their hands will be unable to convert to the faith, and therefore won't receive special protection from God, against the firestorm which will follow soon after.
That's why it says that the angel from the altar has power over fire.
But returning again to the angel with the sharp sickle who represents the angels of heaven, Rev 14:19 says ... "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God."
There's more complexity to the meaning of these verses, than is outwardly apparent, and which makes it difficult to explain, but I'll do my best.
First of all, we have to understand that there's an integral connection between the angel from the altar, and the angels of heaven with the sharp sickle, in much the same way that there was between the angel of Rev 14:15 and the one who sat on the cloud.
That connection is a bit easier to understand though, when we realize that as the Christians who'll be martyred during the great tribulation (angel of the altar) rise up to meet the Lord in the air, they'll also be fully fledged angels, and no longer in human form.
And that's where the wrath of God part comes into it, because it reveals the angel of the altar as also numbered among the angels of heaven, and therefore holding a sharp sickle of their own, which will be a sickle of vengeance, in reply to Rev 6:9,10.
During the one hour period before Jesus arrives in the sky above the earth, the martyrs of the great tribulation (angel of the altar), will rise from the dead and begin their ascent to meet the Lord in the air.
The great spectacle of the ascent of the angel of the altar, will draw out even the enemies of Christ to watch it. (Instead of perhaps trying to find an underground basement or shelter to hide in)
They'll be gathered by the spectacle, and bound by blood guilt to remain guilty, so that they'll be fully burnt by the fire when it arrives.
Taking into account everything I just said about the angel of the altar having a sickle of vengeance, and also being numbered among the angels of heaven, Rev 14:19 then says ... "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God."
Although many will emerge from the fire unscathed, the wicked will be gathered out in the open for the wrath of God!
Another piece of scripture which supports what I've been saying about that trial by fire, is Isa 43:1,2 which says ... "But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
To be continued ...
Have you ever tried to cut down a rose bush or bougainvillea?
If you're not careful enough, you can easily end up doing more damage to yourself, than to the bush, and before long, the enemies of the Lord will discover something similar for themselves.
In reference to the two witnesses, Rev 11:10 says ... "And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth."
The torment will originate from the prophecies given by the two witnesses, and although the world will be happy that they've gone, their testimony will continue to live on, even after they're dead. (see Heb 9:16,17)
After the law concerning the mark of the beast begins to come into effect, I believe that many of the world's population will hold back from receiving it until the last minute, because the prophecies of the two witnesses will put the fear of God into them, just enough to make them think ... "But what if they were right?"
The nature of the prophecies of the two witnesses is revealed in chapter 14 of the book of Revelation, which begins with ... "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Rev 14:6,7)
I explained before that the above verses appear to be referring to the 144,000 as angels in human form, and that still holds true, but one little detail which had escaped me at the time, is that Christian martyrs also fit the bill, and that's because they're resolved to give up their life for the gospel, shortly before they actually die.
Since God knows what's in our hearts, the martyr is recognised as an angel, the moment they willingly accept that they're going to have to die for the glory of God. (Luk 16:15; Act 15:8)
Rev 14:8 says ... "And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink, of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."
Rev 14:8 will be the first of two messages given by the martyrs of the two witnesses (comprising both Christians and Jews), and you should notice that it doesn't say that the angel speaks with a loud voice, because it's a rather innocuous statement which most people will probably choose to ignore.
But the third angel (specifically representing martyred Christians) is the prophecy which will really get their attention, as suggested by the words "saying with a loud voice".
Of this third angel, Rev 14:9-11 says ... "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever:, and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."
The next verses then say ... "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." (Rev 14:12,13)
The words ... "and their works do follow them", refers to the ongoing influence of their testimony to the world, in delaying the mark of the beast, and also binding the wicked with blood guilt.
The reference to the "patience of the saints" is linked to what Jesus said when He spoke of that time in Luk 21:18,19 ... "But there shall not a hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls.(also Rev 13:10)"
What this tells us, is that anyone who is taken captive during that time is expected to accept martydom, rather than to accept the mark, because it's a line in the sand which we mustn't cross.
Now some of you might just be thinking ... Why not deny Christ and accept the mark, knowing that God would understand that you're only pretending?
Because just receiving the mark and telling them that you're willing to convert to their belief, isn't going to be enough to satisfy them.
They'll have the antichrist guiding them, and you'll be added to their number, and won't be allowed to go free until you've proven that you're conversion is real, by doing something evil to another Christian.
Like I said, the antichrist will be no fool.
We can know this for sure, because it's symbolically implied by by the concept of being swept away by the flood, which will be a savage experience whereby anyone who's caught up in it, won't survive. (Remember Noah's ark)
But although martyrs will lose their material life on Earth, they won't lose their soul.
In my first book, Shadows of Bible Prophecy there's a timescale chart which shows a point in time about 45 days before the end of the great tribulation.
It marks the time when the last Christian who has failed to remain hidden will be captured, and after that, there will be complete silence from the Church. (The final fulfilment of the abomination of desolation. Dan 12:11)
Now continuing with Revelation, we see ... "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle." (Rev 14:14)
Most of us already know that the one who sits on the cloud in verse 14 is Jesus, but the meaning behind the rest of chapter 14 of Revelation, will have to wait till next week.
To be continued ...
Pro 15:1 says ... "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger."
There is no softer answer, than absolute silence!
It won't be long before the antichrist realises that those of us who have gone into hiding, will pose no real threat to his plans.
We'll be considered to be the most pathetic group of Christians in the world, because we aren't going to do anything until Jesus returns, and none of our enemies will believe that He's going to return for us at all.
From the perspective of the antichrist, ours will be a self defeating belief, which will keep us inactive until the law concerning the mark of the beast can be put into place, after which we'll either sign our loyalty over to him, or be doomed to starve. (i.e. unable to buy or sell [Rev 13:17])
He won't bother to expend much of his resources to find us, because he'll be much more interested in preparing the world to willingly accept the announcement, concerning the mark of the beast.
In the minds of our enemies, we'll be a bunch of fools, and as good as dead anyhow!
After all, why spend a hundred dollars on bait, if you only stand to catch minnows.
The antichrist is going to be brilliant, and there can be no faulting his logic on all of this, except for one thing ...
Jesus really is going to return!
It'll be that blind spot in his knowledge, which God has chosen to exploit, by instructing us to remain silent, thereby taking the heat off of us at that time, and contributing to our protection.
As it says in 1Co 3:19 ... "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness."
Yes, it's true that we'll be quietly standing still, but only to see the salvation of the Lord! (Exo 14:13)
In one of my books, I gave the meaning of these following verses ... "And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth." (Rev 12:15,16)
I explained that muslims (the flood) will be influenced by earthly forms of thinking, which will have the effect of interfering with Satan's plan to destroy the "woman", who represents true Israel, or the Christian Church.
Democracy is an earthly concept which is gradually taking hold of the world of today, and the reason verse 16 says "and the earth opened her mouth", is as follows ...
First of all, the meaning of the Greek word for "earth", doesn't just mean the planet we live on, but also includes the inhabitants of the world.
And secondly, "her" is used because the beast with a woman on it's back(Rev 17:3) is now spreading democracy around the world, and even after the fall of today's Babylon, the democratic systems will still remain mostly intact.
The inclusion of democracy as contributing to the enemy being swallowed up, sheds new light on the meaning of Dan 7:25, which says ... "And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws"
The Chaldean word used here for "think", means that he will hope to change the laws, but it doesn't say that he'll ultimately succeed.
What the whole verse implies, is that he'll try to change the democracies of the world, to remove the legal obstacles preventing him from finishing us off.
Dan 7:26 then says ... "But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end."
What judgement is this talking about?
If we take a closer look at the word used here for "sit", it is translated as ... "to sit or dwell", and what that tells us, is that the laws he wishes to change will be delayed, due to the indecision of the peoples of the world.
This would also seem to include the law concerning the final date when everyone will be expected to receive the mark of the beast, which will possibly be set for some time after the end of the great tribulation.
There's no reason for us to believe that they'll be in any hurry to find us though, because they'll believe that they've as good as won.
He'll want to convince the majority of the population of the world, to democratically support him in his desire to change the laws, but he won't get that support until it's too late to do us any real harm. Also, the mark of the beast would require the use of some kind of reader device, and for that reason, there will likely have to be a grace period given to businesses around the world, to phase out old technology and to bring in the new, and also to give the general population time to accept the changes.
But although there will be those who are quick to jump on board, I believe that much of the world's population will hold back from accepting the mark, for reasons which I intend to explain next week.
To be continued ...
History shows us that one of the greatest dangers to any particular group in society, usually happens at the point where there's a major political transition of power.
That's because violent individuals realize that they can take advantage of the chaos, to settle old scores.
To borrow a term from a famous historical figure, I'm pretty sure that the antichrist will think of his Islamic cohorts as "useful idiots", and while he's trying to restore order to the world during the five months of martial law, they'll be trying to do away with every Christian and Jew they can find, and for a while, I suspect that he won't have much choice but to go along with it.
All this really means though, is that he'll be a full blown sociopath (someone without a conscience), who will use Islam to gain power for his own purposes.
Although on the surface of things, it might look like he's an Islamist, he'll be an atheist who'll really just want to establish his own position as dictator of the world. (Dan 11:36,37)
But does all of this really tell us anything?
In fact, it tells us something quite important, namely that he'll really be following his own agenda, while making it look like he's doing everything in his power to find us.
Establishing a level of peace and stability in the world, will be one of his most important goals, because he'll want as many people as possible to love and worship him, and if we can just manage to survive the onslaught against us up to the middle of the great tribulation, then we'll have a much better chance of making it to the end, because he'll know that one of the biggest mistakes most dictators make, is to cause their subjects to fear them too much, which eventually leads to a backlash, and ends in their own destruction!
Their paranoia forces them towards ever greater cruelty, until they finally go too far.
But in the ways of earthly wisdom, the antichrist will be the wisest man who has ever lived!
There's a pretty good example of what I mean by over doing it, in 1Ki 12:1-20, where a young man named Rehoboam inherited the kingdom of Israel from his father.
A man named Jeroboam, and all of the congregation of Israel came to him and said ... "Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee." (1Ki 12:4)
Rehoboam sent them away for a few days, so that he could consult with his father's wise men, and they said ... "If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever." (1Ki 12:7)
But he didn't like that advice, so he then consulted with the young men he'd grown up with (his buddies), and asked them what they thought he should do, and their advice was that he should tell them ... "whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions" (1Ki 12:11)
I'm sure that you can guess who's advice he decided to take (1Ki 12:13,14), and not only did he have to flee for his life, but soon afterwards, Israel crowned Jeroboam king in his place! (1Ki 12:20)
The antichrist will be far too intelligent to make that kind of mistake, and will also be fully aware of the importance of not offending the democracies of the world.
After all, the citizens of any democratic country, don't take kindly to the sound of jackboots on their front porch, in the middle of the night.
Once he's gained control of the world, he'll really want to hold onto it, and that's one of the reasons why he'll resort to trickery to draw Christians out into the open, during the latter half of the great tribulation, so that he can continue to appear to be a benevolent leader to everyone else, and the rest of the population just isn't going to care if a few Christians go missing.
To be continued ...
God warned Noah and his family to build the ark, a long time (up to a hundred years), before the flood began, because He knew that they'd need plenty of time to achieve such a monumental task.
I think that it's safe to assume that Noah wasn't an ark builder to begin with, and that he would have received inspirational wisdom from God, as they progressed with the work.
In much the same way, I believe that God is giving the Church of today plenty of time to adapt, and to obtain the wisdom necessary to survive the great tribulation, and there's a lot of work to be done.
First of all, the shepherds of God's flock need to fully understand and accept the responsibilty which falls upon them.
The leaders of the Christian Church are right on the front lines of the battle between God and Satan, in much the same way that Jesus and the apostles were, and if they're registered with the world system as a Christian church around the time of the great tribulation, it'll be impossible for those leaders to hide themselves, or to prevent the tribulation of those members of God's flock, entrusted to their care.
Many who leave it till the last minute to listen to the warnings I've been giving you, are going to find that it's just too late.
That's because, in our everyday lives most of us tend to leave a trail which could be used by our enemies to determine where we've been and to track us down.
A few of the things that they might be able to use against us, are as follows ...
1) Telephone records, which would also include text messages. (These are kept by telephone companies, and could easily lead them back to you from your local church, or somebody you know.)
We also have to remember that there are already super computers which monitor telephone conversations for key words, and if you happen to say any of those words, then it'll be red flagged and traceable to your phone.
2) The internet and any other electronic media used for conversations.
3) Church records stored on computer hard drives. (Even in the world of today, there's software capable of restoring information which has been deleted from a hard drive.)
If at all possible, I think that it would be more advisable for church groups to avoid keeping records of any kind, concerning their congregations.
But from everything I've learned, I believe that God is giving us plenty of time (most likely a couple of decades or more), to make the necessary adjustments to our way of life, so as to avoid being caught by those methods.
If all of this sounds like a bit too much, then just ask yourself this ... What would have happened if Noah had been too lazy to build the ark in accordance with the instructions he'd been given?
For instance, at some point, he might have had trouble obtaining all of that gopher wood, and decided instead to substitute something else in it's place.
If he'd done that, then what do you think would have happened?
So other than looking forward to martyrdom (or worse), if we're willing to take the threat seriously enough as the time of the great tribulation approaches, then it would surely be prudent to find a more undetectable way for congregations to meet, until the day arrives when we'll need to disappear.
For instance, church leaders might instead choose to get a job like the apostle Paul, and to remain unregistered as a religious group, while using the homes of different congregation members as meeting places from week to week.
Any Church leaders who are willing to take those kinds of precautions, might also manage to survive the great tribulation themselves, and to take part in the harvest. (It would still be advisable though, to thoroughly destroy any records concerning their flock, the moment the antichrist is revealed to the world.)
During the great tribulation, all of us who are still alive will need to disappear from sight, and the above mentioned kinds of precautions, should make it easier to do so.
There's a chance that some of us will even choose to go underground before the antichrist first appears, because 2Ti 3:1 says ... "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come."
And also ... "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." (2Ti 3:13)
Both of these verses seem to imply that our lives might be under threat, even before the great tribulation begins.
Unfortunately, a lot of people aren't going to take these warnings seriously, because Jesus specified that "many" would be betrayed.
Although it sounds like a lot for us to take into account, I believe that it's up to us to do our very best to comply with God's will, and to hope and pray for His help and guidance along the way. (see Jas 1:5)
It's perfectly in line with the will of God, that there will be those of us who are meant to survive to the end, and it means that we can also expect His help to achieve it, but anyone who resists the truth, can expect problems. (I intend to address the subject of going into hiding, in greater detail towards the end of this series.)
To be continued ...
Amo 5:20 says ... "Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?
As if in reply to Amo 5:20, Isa 50:10 says ... "Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God."
No matter how dark it gets, we can always depend upon God for guidance and help, but we need to be attentive enough to receive that guidance when it is given. (Although it's quite possible that the warnings I've been giving you are all the guidance you will ever need, we're still expected to remain alert and to keep watch.)
In the case of Samson and Delilah, all Samson had to do was to keep his mouth shut concerning his secret, and it would have preserved his life, and there was enough guidance coming his way from God, that he should have been aware of the likely danger of divulging it.
The world thinks of us Christians as fools, but we're going to need to be much wiser than they are, if we want to survive the great tribulation, and to serve God in the greatest harvest of all time.
Jesus also said ... "Behold, I send you forth, as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Mat 10:16)
Since a wolf is primarily a symbol of a false teacher, then what He was really telling us, is that we need to be wise enough to discern the difference between those leaders of the Church who are walking in the Spirit, from those who are not!
As an example of what I mean, 1Ti 6:3-5 says ... "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself." (also see 2Th 3:6)
Other than the really obvious parts of that statement, we should especially pay particular attention to the final words ... "supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself"
That warning came from the apostle Paul, and we should also become more familiar with any similar guidelines in the scriptures concerning the leaders of the church, and how they are supposed to behave themselves.
If you're thinking that you could probably throw a dart out the window, and hit someone less materialistic than the leaders of the church you currently attend, then you might just want to consider finding another place of worship!
It's very important that we shouldn't leave a traceable trail which will lead the enemies of Christ back to us, and next week I intend to continue the explanation as to how it might be achieved.
To be continued ...
Although the rapture is just a myth, it's really ironic that some of us will already know how to vanish from the face of the Earth when the time comes, by leaning upon the wisdom which comes from above.
But probably the greatest threat to our lives at that time, will come from a direction which many of us wouldn't normally consider to be likely.
Jesus said ... "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." (Joh 10:11)
Unfortunately the same can't be said for every leader of the Church.
Just before He was taken captive by His enemies, Jesus said ... "All ye shall be offended because of me, this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." (Mat 26:31)
In keeping with the principle of smiting the shepherd, the first to come under attack from the antichrist, will be the leaders of the Church, and those who are unworthy of that office will betray their entire congregations, rather than to accept martyrdom.
If anyone thinks that I'm exaggerating, then just consider this.
During the Rwanda massacre of 1994, somewhere between 800,000 to a million people were murdered, and many of them (including children), appear to have been betrayed by their own pastors, ministers and priests.
And the craziest thing of all, is that those terrible betrayals were committed for no better reason, than to gain political advantage for themselves in their own respective churches.
Africa is a volatile place, and Rwanda was an extreme example, but the beginning of the great tribulation is described as, Mat 24:9 says ... "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake."
Even if you aren't directly betrayed by the leaders of your church, it's manifestly obvious that the antichrist's cronies will only have to commandeer the Church records in order to find their way back to you.
So what can we possibly hope to do about it, without forsaking fellowship?
To be continued ...
I said earlier that I'd reveal a subtle mystery, and here it comes ...
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up, at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." (Joh 6:53-55)
In this statement, the words which most likely offended his disciples were the references to drinking His blood, because even if they were capable of understanding the part about eating His flesh, there are strict taboos in the Hebrew religion against drinking the blood of any animal, and that's probably why they found it so hard to understand, because even in the story of the first passover in Egypt, the Israelites didn't drink the blood of the sacrificial lamb. (see Gen 9:4;Joh 7:37;1Co 10:4;1Co 12:13)
As it turned out though, His words served the purpose of separating most of the wheat from the chaff amongst His disciples, leaving only the twelve apostles. (Joh 6:67-70)
Jesus was completely fluent in both the literal and symbolic languages of the scriptures, so what this shows us, is that He was in the process of creating a new metaphor, whereby the drinking of his blood would be completely acceptable, since the Old Testament was about to be done away with.
So when is it okay to drink the blood of a man?
When that blood is just a metaphor!
The beginnings of the symbolic connection between blood and wine can be found in two Old Testament verses ...
Gen 49:11 says ... "Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes"
Then Isa 49:26 which says ... "And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine"
At the last supper, Jesus passed around wine and said ... "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luk 22:20)
Most of us are familiar with the Eucharist, which is a Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper by consecrating bread and wine, representing the body and blood of Christ.
Although there's nothing wrong with taking part in the Eucharist as an act of acceptance and faith, Jesus wasn't telling us to immitate the last supper at all, because the real key in those words was the connection between the wine in His cup, His own blood, and the New Testament itself.
At an earlier time He'd also said ... "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."(Joh 6:45)
This shows us how important it is to read the New Testament, and whenever you do, you're eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ.
In Gen 9:4, God said ... "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."
From this we can see that God created a symbol, whereby the blood of any creature represented it's life, and that in turn reminds us of Joh 14:6, which says ... "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
So if we wish to take eternal life into ourselves, then it only stands to reason that we need to consume the blood (life) of the living word of God.
Although as far as I can recall, there aren't any other direct connections between the New Testament and the concept of drinking the blood of Christ, there are however, a couple of clever symbolic connections which support what I'm saying here.
The first great miracle our Lord performed, when He turned water into wine, was essentially saying the same thing.
The conversion of water(symbolic of the water of the word) into wine (symbolic of blood) immediately established a permanent connection between the two, so that drinking in the water of the word would afterwards be synonymous with also drinking the blood of Christ.
We normally think of Jesus transforming water into wine, but the deeper metaphorical meaning was that He transformed water into blood!
And there's yet another powerful verse which creates a close connection between water and blood.
Shortly after Jesus died on the cross, Joh 19:34 says ... "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water."
This meant that His word would flow out to the world as the result of His sacrifice, as represented by both blood and water, and is also therefore indirectly linked to something else He once said ... "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (Joh 12:24)
As many of you will already know, the symbol of the sacrificial lamb represented by Jesus, really originated with the story of Abraham.
In Gen 22:7,8 we see ... "And Isaac spoke unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together."
Of course, Abraham already knew that his son was going to be the lamb for the sacrifice, and it was just a shadow likeness of how God would later sacrifice His own son.
After Isaac was bound and laid upon the altar, Gen 22:10-12 then says ... "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."
When Isaac rose up from the altar unharmed, it was a metaphor of the resurrection of Christ, because he'd survived what had appeared to be certain death, in much the same way that the prophet Daniel was lifted up alive from the lions den. (Dan 6:23)
Gen 22:13 continues with ... "And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son."
I've explained elsewhere that the ram mentioned here, represents the final destruction of the enemies of God.
The lamb represented by Isaac however, never actually died at all, and it all fell upon the ram, so the moral of the story is about spiritual life and death, rather than the mere life or death of our physical form.
The apostle Peter once said of this ... "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." (1Pe 3:18-20)
Jesus appeared to be dead to the world, in that he'd been layed to rest in his sepulcher, but his Spirit was alive and actively preaching the gospel to those who'd died during the great flood.
He never really died in the fullest sense of the word, because nobody can kill the Spirit of God.
So He was both dead and alive at the same time!
To be continued ...
Continuing now with the passover, Exo 12:11 says ... "And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD's passover."
Although this conjures up an absurd image of people sitting around fully dressed with nowhere to go, it really represents an important part of walking by faith.
Namely, the willingness to stay still, and to trust in God.
Just waiting in their houses for the destroyer to pass over them, was very similar to when they later stood helplessly at the edge of the Red sea, with the Egyptians closing in from behind.
They wanted to run away, but there was nowhere to go.
And then just before parting the sea, Moses uttered those memorable words ... "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." (Exo 14:13,14)
All of this was just another way of saying that we're saved by grace alone, and not by our own works!
Exo 12:15 then says ... "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses:, for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day, until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel."
I believe that the seven days mentioned here represents the seven days of creation, since the final culmination of those days is the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the unleavened bread stands for the ongoing suffering of God's faithful followers from the beginning of time. (i.e. the bread of affliction [Deu 16:3])
As for the bitter herbs mentioned in Exo 12:8, bitterness is something which many Christians will have to deal with, and it will even cause some to abandon the faith.
To be continued ...
The last supper happened at the time of the passover feast of unleavened bread, and is thereby linked to the first passover in ancient Egypt. (Exo 12:1-23)
Concerning that first passover, Exo 12:1,2 says ... "And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you."
Although it isn't immediately obvious, the passover was a symbolic representation of the Christian walk of faith, and the words "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months" stood for a new beginning (i.e. being born again).
In Exo 12:3-8, God then commanded ... "Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep, it up until the fourteenth, day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it."
You'll notice here, that the lamb in question was meant to be consumed by the Israelites in their dwellings, and that's where Jesus originally obtained the purely figurative concept, that others needed to eat His flesh.
I'm sure that some of you might be thinking ... "But they didn't drink the blood, because it was sprinkled on the door posts of the house."
There really is an answer to that, but it's probably one of the most subtle mysteries in the Bible, and I intend to explain it later on.
Returning now to the subject at hand though, Joh 1:29 says ... "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
It's clear from this, that John the baptist was already fully aware of the symbolic connections, linking the passover lamb to Jesus.
Exo 12:9 also tells us that the lamb was not meant to be boiled, but had to be roasted with fire, and that then tells us that it was also meant to be a burnt offering to God.
The people who consumed the lamb were acting by faith, and were thereby made part of the sacrifice themselves, and that's just another way of saying "Christ in us".
Further evidence that the lamb was also a burnt offering, is shown by Exo 12:10, which says ... "And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire."
All of this is also symbolic of the fiery trial which will be experienced by every Christian, although for many of us, that fiery trial might only consist of having to endure to the end!. (1Pe 1:7 ; 1Pe 4:12)
To be continued ...
In the Gospel according to John, there's an account of the time when Jesus said ... "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up, at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." (Joh 6:53-55)
A little earlier in this story, Jesus also referred to Himself as the true bread which came down from heaven. (Joh 6:35)
Our Lord was no giggling guru, and everything He had to say, had a definite meaning behind it!
The affect it had, is shown in Joh 6:60 which says ... "Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?"
And then Joh 6:66 says ... "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
But were the statements made by Jesus, really so difficult to understand?
As I've previously mentioned, every notable symbol in the Bible originates from somewhere else in the scriptures, and these verses are no exception.
Probably the first of these would be ... "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God." (Gen 14:18)
In "Shadows of Bible Prophecy" I explained how Melchizedek was really just a shadow likeness of Jesus, and by extension, the words ... "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine" can therefore be seen as a revelation that Jesus would be a bearer of sustenance for others.
But the mention of bread and wine also draws a connection to the last supper, when Jesus said ... "This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luk 22:19,20)
To be continued ...
Rom 12:3 says ... "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
All of this shows us that it's probably wiser to patiently wait upon the Lord, so that He can provide you with the faith you need, rather than to lightly assume that your faith is already strong enough to claim whatever you want.
Another reason why someone could wait for years without receiving a healing, is because it might be a trial from God, since suffering isn't exactly unusual in the Christian faith. (Act 14:22 ; 1Pe 1:7 ; 1Pe 4:12)
This possibility is further supported by certain instances in the scriptures, whereby people were first expected to fulfill some kind of task, or to travel to another place before a healing would occur.
That sort of thing happened in the life of Jesus a number of times, but as an example, I prefer to use the story of Naaman the Syrian.
2Ki 5:1 tells us that Naaman was "captain of the host of the king of Syria", but was also a leper.
After it came to Naaman's attention that there was a prophet of Israel living in Samaria who could heal him, 2Ki 5:9 says ... "So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha." (Elisha was the name of the prophet)
The story then continues ... "And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean." (2Ki 5:10)
2Ki 5:11,12 then says ... "But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage."
His comment, ... "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?", tells us that Naaman was viewing the situation from a purely materialistic perspective, whereas the trip to the Jordan river represented the spiritual path he really needed to travel.
We can see here that Naaman had expected the prophet to jump to attention, and to put on a show for him, and his pride was threatening to get in the way of his healing.
But then 2Ki 5:13,14 says ... "And his servants came near, and spoke unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."
By taking the advice of his lowly servants, it's clear that Naaman wasn't above humbly acknowledging the truth after he'd heard it, and his eventual acceptance of the conditions given by the prophet, tells us that he'd also repented.
The words "and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child" is a symbolic connection to the culmination of the Christian walk of faith, which is to become like a little child. (Mar 10:15)
The act of Naaman travelling to the Jordan river, symbolically stands for the Christian walk of faith, and that in turn, tells us that some of us within the faith will have to learn to humble ourselves and to wait upon God, before receiving what we asked for."
Someone recently told a member of my family that they knew people who had "claimed" a healing from God, but after years of waiting, still hadn't received it, and I can think of a few possible reasons for this.
First of all, it's not much good claiming something from God if you don't really believe it. (Jas 1:6,7)
Also, according to the scriptures, healing is a gift which usually happens immediately, so behaving as if you've been healed before it actually happens, comes awfully close to lying to the Holy Ghost. (See Act 5:1-10 for an extreme example.)
In this story from acts, Ananias, and Sapphira his wife actually conspired to lie to God, so they really didn't have any excuse for their actions, but most of us make these kinds of mistakes purely out of ignorance, and God is very forgiving in such instances.
Luk 12:48 says of this ... "But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes."
To claim something up front, before you've even received it, really smacks of high mindedness, which Paul referred to in 1Co 4:8 as ... "Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God, ye did reign, that we also might reign with you."
But despite what I've said so far, the great mercy and forgiveness of God's grace towards believers, is further shown in the life of Abraham.
If we look at the promise to Abraham's wife, we see ... "And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. (Gen 18:10-15)
Although Abraham and Sarah are held up by the New Testament as examples of faithfulness, she laughed derisively when she overheard the promise.
But despite her initial reaction to what she'd heard, her fear at being discovered implies that she really did believe in God in her heart.
Yet again though, it appears to be a transgression of Jas 1:6,7, and Abraham and Sarah might have had some difficulty believing in the promise, except for one thing.
Right after the promise had been given, the two angels then went on to pass judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham was allowed to know about it. (Gen 18:16-21)
After seeing fire raining down from the heavens upon those cities, both Abraham and his wife would have been even more convinced that God's promise to them would be fulfilled.
So God didn't just give them the promise, but also gave them enough evidence to reinforce their faith, in much the same way that Jesus did for doubting Thomas!
To be continued ...
In some ways, faith and hope are really just two sides of the same coin.
In reference to Abraham, Rom 4:18-22 says, ... "Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
And being not weak, in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
The term, ... "Who against hope believed in hope", tells us that Abraham had the same kind of doubts in his mind as the rest of us might have, but chose to think with his heart, and to trust in God anyhow.
The statement that he was "strong in faith" therefore goes hand in hand with the comment that he "believed in hope".
On one occasion, a desperate man approached Jesus on behalf of his son, who was possessed by a devil, and the Lord said to him, ... "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth". (Mar 9:23)
Mar 9:24 then says, ... "And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief".
Although he obviously doubted the conviction of how strong his faith really was, he approached Jesus with a heart full of hope, and was even honest enough to ask the Lord to help him to believe.
Jas 1:5-7 says, ... "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord".
According to this excerpt from James, the man shouldn't have received what he'd asked for, but his plea had touched the Lord's heart, and Jesus gave it to him anyhow.
So it was really the hope which the man had in Jesus Himself, which counted the most!
Also, although it's true that most of us don't have the faith whereby we can instantly expect to receive what we asked for, we do however have enough faith, to wait in hope for God's help.
Heb 11:6 says, ... "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him".
Patiently hoping for God's deliverance, certainly fits the description of diligently seeking Him, and we can eventually expect His help, because we know in our heart that God really loves us.
That's what Rom 5:5 means by ... "And hope maketh not ashamed".
What I'm saying here concerning hope, is further supported by an experience of the Lord's disciples when they found that they couldn't cast out a particular devil.
Mat 17:19-21 says, ... "Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting."
Prayer and fasting is just a way by which you can obtain something from God, by approaching Him with a hopeful and seriously sober mind.
Luk 18:1-8 says ... "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while:, but afterward, he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily".
The first statement here, ... "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint", was just the Lord's way of telling us to hopefully wait upon God, and to never give up.
The unjust judge in this parable responded because he realized that the woman's continual efforts to gain his help, would eventually wear him down, so his reasons were really just selfish.
But we can expect God to respond, because we are His children, and he cares about us! (Mat 7:7-11)
To be continued ...
In ancient times, sailors used the stars of the heavens to find their way home, and the 144,000 as new angels (stars are symbolic of angels), will provide the same service to the Church.
But if you think I'm giving a bit too much credit to the 144,000, then just let me put things back into a proper perspective.
Gen 1:16 says, ... "And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also".
The greater light mentioned here stands for the sun (Jesus), while the lesser light to rule the night stands for the moon. (The Christian Church in general)
You should also notice that the mention of stars here (symbolic of the 144,000) is little more than an afterthought, which tells us that the Church itself is still greater than any particular group of Christians in the body of Christ.
At any given time, there are many individuals within the Church, who seek to serve the Lord in whatever way they can.
Nonetheless, the 144,000 will fulfill their purpose of helping others to draw nearer to God.
To be continued ...
The sheer weight of experiential knowledge with which Jesus blessed the apostles, was a one time deal which has never quite been repeated again.
There have only ever been twelve accepted apostles, and there will never be any more of them!
But what about Rev 4:4, which says, ... "And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold."
Those twenty four elders represent the twelve original forefathers of old Israel, as well as the twelve apostles of Christ, as the chief representatives of God's two witnesses. (I've already explained who the two witnesses are, elsewhere.)
At no time in the Old Testament scriptures is the number 24 used to represent the foundation of God's kingdom, but there's more than ample evidence connected to the number 12. (see Exo 28:21; Jos 4:3; 1Ki 18:31)
The same thing can be said for the New Testament. (Mat 10:1,2; Mat 19:28; Rev 21:14) (Especially notice that there are only twelve foundation stones to new Jerusalem, representing only twelve apostles.)
At the end of one of His parables, the Lord once asked a very strange question ... "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luk 18:8)
I suspect that He already knew the answer to that, but posed the question for our sakes, so that we would one day consider what He'd meant.
When we consider that Jesus had all of the time He needed to observe the faithless behaviour of the human race, then what He was indirectly saying was, ... "Since I'm not going to be present in the end of days, and the apostles will be long dead, then how will the Church gain enough experience in the things of God, in order to survive to the end?"
The Church needs deeper experiences from God, in order to get closer to God, which is further explained in Rom 5:1-5, which says, ... "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein, we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
Waiting on God puts us on the path to more spiritual experiences, which in turn, leads to a more lively hope in God.
So what's the problem?
The simple fact that we're still living in the spiritually bankrupt night time, which Jesus spoke of in Joh 9:4 as, "the night cometh, when no man can work."
It's clear from all of this that the Church of our time is in dire need of a helpful and present guiding light, but since the end of that statement from Joh 9:4 says ... "when no man can work", then what possible answer can there be?
It's found in Rev 7:4, in the description given of the twelve times twelve thousand individuals, who will make up the 144,000.
As I explained in "Shadows of Bible Prophecy", one of the primary purposes of the 144,000 is to teach, and since they aren't really men at all, but newly created angels of God, then the comment "when no man can work" doesn't really apply to them.
I intend to explain more on this subject next week though.
To be continued ...
The apostles had great faith because of the experiences they had while following the Lord around, and also because they were witnesses to His resurrection.
Although they lived in relative poverty compared to the world we now live in, they were specially blessed by the presence of the Lord, and later went on to inspire others.
They were truly richer in Spirit. (Mat 5:3)
The more time they spent with Jesus, the stronger their faith became.
But relatively speaking, we now live in barren times!
Luk 6:24 says ... "But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation."
What this means in practical terms, is that a rich person will naturally first go to the bank whenever a need arises, but anyone who is poor has little choice but to turn to God.
The more often they turn to God, the more experiences they will have of His presence in their lives, and the stronger their faith will become!
The relationship between the experiences of the apostles, and the level of their faith, is undeniable when we consider the case of doubting Thomas.
At face value, it might appear that the reason he doubted, was because he was the only apostle who wasn't present when Jesus appeared to them after He had risen. (Joh 20:24)
However, the real reason was because he was just one of those people who refuses to believe something, unless they can see it with their own eyes.
He then said ... "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Eight days later, the Lord reappeared before them again, and said to Thomas ... "Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing." (Joh 20:27)
If Jesus hadn't allowed Thomas that experience, then he never would have gone on to become an effective apostle.
Joh 20:30 then goes on to say ... "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book"
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To be continued ...
A while ago, I saw a program about the apostle John, which claimed that he was a frail old man fleeing from the Romans, and living in caves when he wrote the book of Revelation. (Revelation is believed to have been written about sixty years after the crucifixion)
The program claimed that he was obviously delirious at the time when he wrote the book, but anyone who has read my work about Revelation should realize how false those claims are.
It's seems to me that a lot of ignorant documentaries are solely created to fill an hour of television time, for the purpose of making a quick buck.
They're created from an earthly perspective, and therefore can't take into account that when the flesh gets weaker, the Spirit gets stronger within us.
It seems much more likely to me, that by the time he wrote the book of Revelation, John would have been a spiritual dynamo!
This is further supported by historical claims that he actually lived to a ripe old age of something approaching one hundred and twenty years, which is symbolically supported by the words of Christ concerning John, when He said ... "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (Joh 21:22).
Clearly, Jesus was saying that He could keep John alive until the second coming, if He wished.
But why John?
I suspect that he must have had a terrible time until Jesus came into his life, and the extent of his gratitude towards the Lord for giving his life meaning was shown at the last supper ... "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved." (Joh 13:23)
Although it isn't directly stated anywhere that John was the one who leaned on Jesus, the fact that he didn't mention who it was, combined with the tone of the statement, indirectly implies that John was referring to himself.
It's also conspicuously absent from the other three versions of the gospel. (Probably because John was the only one who considered it to be important enough to mention.)
Here was a young man who kept his heart on his sleeve, and must have been very close to the Lord.
As a metaphor, I'd have to say that the life of John stood for a symbol of long life, and that all we really need to do is to open our heart to God, to find a place of special protection.
You might remember that I once said that it's easier to destroy, than it is to create.
A good example of this was the sin committed by Adam and Eve, resulting in a domino effect which extended out to every other natural human being who would ever live, and binding the world under the power of sin.
Maybe we should call it the Humpty Dumpty effect.
Satan, Philosophers, humanists, false religions and all of the kings of the world, and all of their horses, haven't been able to remove the destructive effects of sin, which ultimately results in the collapse of any kingdom.
But then, Rom 5:15-17 says ... "For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the, judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man's offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."
So God didn't need to use all of the powers of this world, and the angels of Heaven to undo the damage, but instead chose to accomplish it with just one man.
Just another case of God mocking the world through imitation, and by doing the impossible!
Comparing the exploits of Samson to Jesus reveals something very interesting.
When Samson stretched out his arms between the pillars of the Philistine temple, he brought down the power of the enemies of his own time, but when Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross, He completely destroyed the power of the kingdoms of Satan.
The same can be seen in the comparison between Solomon and Jesus.
Whereas Solomon only managed to fullfill half of the requirements of his mother's prophecy, our Lord managed to resist alcohol as well as the temptations of women.
The only fair conclusion we can draw from this, is that Jesus was stronger than Samson, and wiser than Solomon.