Students of eschatology know that in the end times, believers will be subject to an immense amount of persecution—the likes of which have never been seen before (and considering the historical severity of persecution—say, under Nero—that’s saying a lot).
It’s hard to imagine something like that happening in a “modern” and “educated” society like America, but it’s rapidly becoming less and less far-fetched.
Consider what’s happening with Chick-fil-A these days. Due to a simple statement of faith and personal beliefs, the masses are calling them bigots, discriminatory, and “hate chicken.” Some even have compared the business and President Dan Cathy to the KKK. It’s not just opinionated social media types, either. Politicians and celebrities are getting in on the Bible-hating fun, even going so far as to threaten zoning their cities to disallow the expansion of Chick-fil-A businesses.
What’s next, a lynching party organized on Facebook and Twitter?
As Moehler writes in his CNN opinion piece, this is an unmistakable sign that religious liberty is at stake here.
Even in the eyes of the worldly and secular, what did Cathy do that was wrong? All he did was state his opinion—which, oh by the way, has been the long-affirmed traditional view throughout human history: that marriage is between a man and a woman. And it’s not like he held a widely viewed press conference in front of the public to say this. He was speaking to a Baptist newspaper and a Christian radio station for goodness sakes.
Dan Cathy has never told his Chick-fil-A restaurants to forbid serving homosexuals, nor do they prohibit hiring such individuals. He was merely affirming his biblical views to a small audience interested in such things. Edit: His belief in coming judgment to America is merely echoing the lessons taught from Sodom and Gomorrah.
The attack on him and his business is far worse than any offense he may have made. People may not realize it, but they are essentially attacking the Bible and the Christian religion altogether. The Bible clearly states that marriage is between a man and a woman, and if you’re going to call that “hateful” and discriminate against those views, then you’re attacking religious freedom. Period.
Sure, there are so-called Christians out there who politely disagree with what the Bible says and go along with society, but these people are sadly mixed up. You can’t disagree with parts of the Bible or take some sections as true or untrue (context considered, of course). You take it whole or nothing at all. Either it was God-inspired or it wasn’t. And no amount of backwards hermeneutics and clever reasoning can steer away from the obvious truth.
This is partly what is meant in Revelation 3 when we are told that it’s better to be hot or cold rather than lukewarm. Take a stand for or against the Bible, but don’t insult God by calling him half-right or obsolete.
Now, imagine where it goes from here. It’s not hard to speculate on the clear direction of the tides.
Support for abortion (gross euphemism: “choice”) has grown steadily over the decades. Eventually, Christians who speak out against the killing of unborn children will be labeled as “anti-feminist” or tragically out-of-touch. (Oops, that’s already the case.)
Gay marriage is already tipping toward the majority. Marriage for all is somehow equated to human liberty and basic rights, and anyone opposed is compared to racists and bigots of the past. Everyone in this country is terrified of repeating mistakes in history (i.e., racial discrimination and slavery), so they fallaciously expand “tolerance” and inclusiveness to moral extremes. Cathy was not attacking any group of people; he was defending an institution.
Radical advances in science show that stem cell research can potentially save millions of lives. Christians who are opposed to using human life as test tube fillers are accused of holding back science and contributing to needless disease and death.
A novel chip implant can do away with all credit card fraud, medical history record issues and delays, and even keep the nation secure from outside terrorists and criminals. Christians who are opposed to getting this chip—for fear that it may be the Mark of the Beast foretold in Revelation—are suddenly outcasts and rebels who have something to hide. They are eyed suspiciously, and op-eds abound on CNN about how these troublesome kooks jeopardize the safety of us all.
The majority starts to grow to deafeningly loud numbers, and the voice of faithful Christians is drowned out. The mainstream’s “patience” with these unsavory citizens breaks and full-fledged persecution ensues, spurred by the liberal media. Most self-proclaimed Christians will fall away, telling themselves (with a modern spin and much rationalization): “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Revelation 13:4).
It’s really not that hard to imagine…nor is it as far away as we might hope.
This is a very good question that my wife raised after my last entry, and I’m sure I don’t fully understand it yet (does anybody?)…but I’ll take a stab at it for now.
*Disclaimer: When I say “speaks to you,” I’m referring to a literal and direct form of communication. The leading of the Holy Spirit is a separate and complex issue on its own, though I do touch upon it here.
All I can really do—since I’m limited in this kind of experience—is theorize and try to deduce truths from the scriptures and from my coursework. I’m basically using what I’ve read and observed in the Bible and trying to make reasonable assumptions for today. You can also take some of the things I wrote in my previous entry regarding demon deception and flip it around (for instance, God often tells people what they don’t want to hear or do, considering our naturally sinful flesh).
I’m going to try to limit it to three basic conclusions, and you can decide for yourself whether my reasoning is valid:
1. God speaks clearly and decisively.
If you think or feel you might have been told something from God but you’re not sure, then it wasn’t from God…at least by direct authoritative means.
When God speaks to someone on earth, whether personally (as a theophany…never directly in full glory) or through a messenger angel, the recipient of that communication is never left wondering what he or she was told. All we need to do is consult the Bible and we’ll see this demonstrated repeatedly.
A clear demonstration of this is found in 1 Samuel 3 where God is calling Samuel to be a prophet, but Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him from the other room. This shows us two things: 1) God can communicate in an audible voice with actual words; and less importantly, 2) His voice might not be as booming and distinctive as we assume (God doesn’t even need to sound the same every time; it’s not like He has a fixed set of vocal chords or anything…He probably just uses what is most effective in each situation).
Another famous example is when Paul (formerly Saul) met Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Acts 9:3-6: “As [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
I think it’s clear that when a communication is truly from God, we are left with more than feelings or urges. We are left with actual words, instructions, warnings, and awe. I like what Greg Koukl (str.org) said on one of his podcasts, and I’ll paraphrase: “If you’re going to say, ‘God told me,’ then you better be prepared to say something that is on the same level of authority as the Bible and God himself.” While it may be tempting, we should never use the phrase “God told me” lightly.
Now, this is not to discount the leading of the Holy Spirit for believers, which is also important and much more frequent. Sometimes, He can lead us strongly with convictions and desires, but this would generally be used for more localized purposes such as the direction of your own life. The Spirit might be leading us on the right path or growing us to become a stronger, more faithful person. To confirm answers to prayer, we will often get support and agreement from godly brothers and sisters who are not as clouded with emotional bias and tunnel vision.
But this does not seem to be the way that God uses people to command others with bold authority. You cannot use the leading of the Holy Spirit and accurately say, “God told me to tell people…” God knows our propensity to misjudge feelings and convictions, so He uses something more concrete when history is on the line.
What about an angel/messenger of God? Well again, there is no uncertainty. When people are approached by angels, they are usually in awe and fear, and again hear direct words.
Luke 2:9-10: “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Revelation 22:8: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.'”
These angelic examples bring us to the next point…
2. If your encounter was definitely supernatural, then consider whether it was truly a messenger of God or a demon.
If we encountered something supernatural, we would know it unmistakably. But is seeing a greater being necessarily a good thing? Is it a messenger of God or of Satan?
Notice how both angels responded to people’s fear and even worship. “Fear not” and “Worship God” were their reactions. They were delivering a message for God, and they did not want to intimidate or impose their superiority over people. They quickly turned away worship because they wanted all glory to go to God, not themselves.
Angels always deliver messages that are consistent with the Bible and further God’s glory, not any individual’s. Often, these messages concern a nation’s repentance or deliverance.
Contrast that with a very probable demonic encounter—one involving Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
To his credit, Muhammad actually suspected that he had been approached by a demon or even had been possessed, but he was given assurances from his wife and uncle that it was from God. This demon, posing as Gabriel, told Muhammad to recite: “In the name of thy Lord who created, Created man from a clot of blood.”
Here we have something that directly contradicts or adds to scripture. That is the first big clue. Nowhere does the Bible say we were created from a clot of blood, but rather from the dust of the ground.
Muhammad was left with great fear instead of being comforted and assured, as with angels. (Demons do not care about our well-being, but want to destroy us.) He also experienced numerous violent seizures when he would receive these visions, further supporting the fact that there was some level of possession going on. In the end, great glory wound up going to Muhammad on this earth as the revered leader of a new religion. Most prophets in the Bible, however, wound up being ridiculed, persecuted, and martyred.
3. Genuine spiritual encounters are rare today, but not impossible.
You may be thinking, “If this stuff is true, then we probably never hear directly from God!”
I would partially agree with that assessment. We still are in communication with Him through prayer and such, but the need for God to speak direct words to us is vastly reduced. The two biggest reasons for this are: 1) The Bible and 2) The Holy Spirit. God’s Word is now complete and we are given the information we need to live our lives according to His will. When a specific leading is needed, the Holy Spirit guides our lives as true believers in the right direction. The Holy Spirit came to us at Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, so functionally speaking, it’s primarily His time on earth now.
That being said, I do believe that God has more in store for us as far as communicating directly. We definitely know of at least two cases in the future when God will speak to people: the two prophets spoken of in Revelation during the Tribulation. They will receive precise instructions on what to preach and warn people about. Again, we see a clear purpose in history for doing so.
Some people—including pastors—claim that God has spoken to them and told them things. I won’t mention names, but certain big-name prophecy guys say this or at least strongly hint at it.
Yes, it’s possible that God can still speak directly to people for a greater purpose. But all it usually takes is one look at the track record of these “prophets” to dismantle their case. If they have proclaimed something in the name of God and have been wrong even ONCE, they are false plain and simple. “The rapture is coming on this date!…oh wait, nevermind, now it’s this date!” Write them off as prophets immediately, though they may still have some valid teachings to offer.
God is never wrong, and neither are His prophets if they have genuinely been chosen for that purpose.
Well, you have to at least give the guy credit for (finally) owning up to his mistakes. I really thought he was going to hold fast to his false convictions until the end…
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed when studying prophecy, it’s that coming to any certain conclusions is tough. I guess that’s how God constructed it so that while watchful believers would see prophecies come true and believe more firmly, the rest of world would not deliberately try to thwart His plans. Believers should also continue to live dutifully in this world (see 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12) and not sit around counting down or anything…as tempting as that can be. As long as God is our primary purpose in life, we aren’t called to stand on rooftops holding up signs reading: “Come take us away, Jesus!”
We are to study these things and prepare spiritually (and perhaps take some practical measures as well), but we are not to date-set or tell people precisely how things will come to pass. For instance, we may know that there will soon be one world currency, utilized through the “mark of the beast,” but we shouldn’t boldly proclaim the nitty-gritty details. We don’t know if it will be a “666” blazoned across people’s foreheads (most assuredly not) or some microchip implanted in people’s hands. It could be something else that we don’t know of yet. Speculating is fine as long as we don’t push one possible way as the only way.
The ultimate example of prophetic difficulties, of course, is Jesus Christ himself. He was prophesied numerous times in the Old Testament, and the Jewish people thought they had a firm grasp of what to expect. For instance, the Jews were sure that the Son of Man coming on the clouds to reign in Daniel 7:13-14 showed their Messiah as an all-powerful ruler on earth. The 12 disciples themselves thought they were following this very man who would rise to the very top and stay there forever.
They were right…more or less. Jesus is certainly that “Son of Man” in Daniel 7. However, there was a wrinkle that no one really expected. They didn’t expect that Jesus would first be the suffering servant depicted in the Old Testament—see, for example, Isaiah 53 (they used to think that servant was symbolic for Israel, which actually doesn’t make a lot of sense if you read it with our present knowledge). So when Jesus was crucified and killed, the disciples were shocked and in disarray. They were so sure that Jesus would be a conquering hero, not a slain lamb. Only after seeing Jesus risen, post-crucifixion, did the disciples finally get it: Jesus would return as ruler of the world at his SECOND coming, after Daniel’s 70th prophetic week (see Daniel 9:24-27). Some of Jesus’ teachings, such as Matthew 24, only came into focus after the disciple’s shifted their expectations and were able to mold their ideas to the truth. Atheists, on the other hand, seem to fix their truths firm, and if something doesn’t conform to their thinking (or immediately “make sense”), they throw it out…but I digress.
I think a lot of present-day prophecy is like this. We come to conclusions, only to realize after the fact that there is something we didn’t take into consideration: an extra wrinkle or layer beyond the surface…
Don’t get me wrong, some signs are pretty blatant. While we need to be careful to avoid jumping to hasty conclusions—which I have admittedly done in the past somewhat—that doesn’t mean we should stop being watchful. Please don’t take the opposite extreme of living your life as the world does, thinking that nothing can be known or expected (see 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6). Take in what you hear with a grain of salt. Use discernment and prayerfully consider things. Sometimes our best efforts may not be good enough, but hopefully we’ll at least come close.
A few months ago, September seemed like it was shaping up to be a very important month. Now, it’s October, and not much has changed. What happened? Let’s dig in a little bit…
Israel and Palestine are still a ways off from a peace/sharing agreement.
We all knew that Palestine was going to submit its bid for statehood at the UN, which would end up splitting up Israel’s land (including Jerusalem…a big no-no in God’s eyes). We also heard about a rash of diplomatic efforts leading up to the general assembly, so it seemed possible that both sides could reach some sort of agreement. Both sides had something to lose, something to gain.
Instead, there seems to be a new deadline for a peace agreement between the two peoples: December 2012. Knowing the middle east, even that date might not mean much. Further delays are certainly possible. But that’s the latest information we have so far, and you can bet that they’re not going to rush to get peace talks finished far in advance. They will probably take as long as they can.
Remember that the peace agreement that starts the final seven-year period (Daniel’s “70th week”) must include some provision to share the holy grounds so that Israel can start rebuilding their temple.
Comet Elenin was a dud.
NASA told us that it was small and that it was pretty much fizzled out, but it still seemed possible. “Maybe there was something they didn’t account for.” It seemed that it got destroyed in transit. Whatever the case, there were no major earthquakes or natural disasters that seemed to correlate with the past alignments (Earth-Elenin-Sun). The coincidental timing around Rosh Hashanah ended up being just that: coincidental.
Rosh Hashanah and the “woman in the sky”
Considering that four of God’s redemptive acts matched up with the first four Jewish feasts, it seemed logical that the next major act of God would land at the same time as the fifth feast, Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets. In fact, Jesus’ second coming is often described as being accompanied with the sound of a trumpet.
To further add to the number of “coincidences” coming together, people talked about Revelation 12’s sign in the stars (if this is even a correct interpretation of the passage) happening this year during Rosh Hashanah. This doesn’t seem to happen often, so people started wondering if this was also significant.
Looking back, there are two major problems here:
1) I am still convinced that the next major redemptive move by God will happen during Rosh Hashanah (not sure which year, of course). But who’s to say that it has to be pre-Tribulation Rapture? Jesus’ second coming after the Great Tribulation (some people call it “post-trib rapture”) seems more probable as I study scripture and prophecy.
With a pre-trib view, the Rapture would probably fall during Rosh Hashanah (the fifth feast). The sixth feast, Yom Kippur, could represent the Tribulation, while the seventh and final feast could be either the millenial kingdom or the new heaven and new earth.
With a post-trib view, the second coming of Jesus Christ—which happens at the end of the Great Tribulation—could happen during Rosh Hashanah. Then, the millenial kingdom would be established, after which there is one final uprising from Satan and people on earth. This could be on Yom Kippur. Finally, when Satan is forever defeated and the new heaven/earth is established forever, that could be the seventh and final feast.
2) If you take Revelation to be chronological overall, which I do, the “woman clothed with the sun” sign this year didn’t really make sense. Why would something that appears in chapter 12 take place now? As I understand it, chapter 11 or so is the halfway point of the seven years, so the woman sign should be approximately 3.5 years after the peace agreement.
Here’s a breakdown of what time period the chapters might represent:
Chapter 1: The past
Chapters 2-3: The present (e.g., American Christianity—and others like it—may be represented by the church of Laodicea)
Chapters 4-5: Some people think the Rapture takes place here, while others think these chapters simply show God and the angels preparing for what’s to come.
Chapter 6-19: The seven-year period, also known as the Tribulation (though really, the “Great” Tribulation is probably only the last 3.5 years).
Chapter 20: After Jesus is victorious, the millenial kingdom is established.
Chapter 21: New heaven and new earth
By the way, the next time this sign in the sky will coincide with Rosh Hashanah? 2017, though it’s not even certain whether this is significant. There’s nothing in the Bible to indicate that this takes place during the Feast of Trumpets.
“This generation will not pass away”
While it’s true that fig trees are sometimes a metaphor for Israel in certain parts of the Bible (e.g., Jeremiah 24), it’s not clear that this applies to the Olivet Discourse, as found in passages like Matthew 24:34. Judging from the structure of the language, it’s not even apparent that Jesus is including the fig tree as part of His end time prophecies. It could simply be an analogy of watching for signs. Therefore, it’s not on solid ground to assume any sort of 70-year window after Israel was established as a nation in 1948.
So when will it happen?
Date setting is probably just a recipe for disappointment (or from the outside, mockery), so it’s imperative that we not get too attached to any particular timeframe. I need to keep myself in check as well! Personally, I’m kind of happy that it didn’t happen already. I want to do so much more for God’s kingdom before I leave, and if it had happened, I wouldn’t have much to show for my life. Perhaps more people can be saved during the wait.
It is important to be spiritually ready at all times and to keep an eye on current events. The only thing we can watch for, really, is the peace agreement. Whether that will indeed take place next year in December (I will refrain from drawing any connections with the whole Mayan calendar/2012 theory) is impossible to determine.
What is clear, however, is that things seem to be accelerating at a rapid rate. Various economies and governments are crumbling before our eyes, and everything seems to be moving toward a world government. Certain nations, like China, have already suggested that we move to one world currency. We have the technology in place to implement a worldwide tracking and commerce system. Peace seems somewhat possible between Israel and Palestine, and groups are ready to rebuild the Jewish temple.
The table is set, we’re just waiting for the steak.
Before I get into scripture, here is some background information.
Modern day Palestinians can be traced back to the ancient Canaanites and Philistines, the two ancient enemies of God’s chosen people. Though these two people groups were originally separate nations, they eventually came in close proximity to each other, assimilating around the area of modern Israel, west of the Jordan River (though back then, it was called the Land of Canaan and it was much larger).
God made a covenant with Abraham as early as Genesis 15 to give his seed the Promised Land of Canaan for their own. It wouldn’t happen for generations, but the stage was set. Moses led the Israelites (so named after Jacob, also called Israel) out of enslavement in Egypt toward the Promised Land, but because of an act of disobedience, was never allowed to enter. A successor, Joshua, would lead the Jews into the land to conquer and claim it for their own.
However, God gave specific instructions to the Jews that they were to destroy the inhabitants of the land completely, including all of their religious altars. Not one stone was to be left standing. (Not that God needs to justify His commands to us, but the reason for these instructions was that God knew the Jews would be prone to compromise and temptation to worship the other gods and idols.)
In Judges 1, you see that instead of completely destroying the peoples of Canaan, they decided to simply subjugate them into slave labor.
That context in mind, here is Judges 2:
1Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 3So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” 4As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.
Later on in the same chapter, we see the resulting unfaithfulness of the Jews’ disobedience:
12 And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. 13They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.
God knew this would happen. The sad thing is, the Jews had multiple other opportunities to turn from idolatry and religious assimilation, but they kept failing over and over. It became a cycle of being oppressed by the people of the land, crying out to God for deliverance, God obliging, thankfulness and revival, then complacency and a turning back to idolatry. Each time, God would delay more and more in delivering the Jews, as His patience started to wear thin.
Fast forward thousands of years to 1967. Instead of Canaanites and Philistines, you have the Palestinians in the rightful land of the Jews, Israel. Instead of Baal or Dagon worship, you have a huge Muslim mosque (for Allah) being a “snare” to the Jewish people.
After the six-day war, the Jews had successfully defeated the Palestinians. As one man went to blow up the Muslim mosque with dynamite (think “altars” from Judges 2), a general who was afraid of inciting more violence stopped him. Rather than more fighting, he reasoned, why not make concessions to coexist with some semblance of peace? You can bet God was not pleased.
To this day, the Palestinians (and their supporters) are thorns in Israel’s side. Their mosque and their god, Allah, keeps the Jews without a holy temple at all. Eventually, all the nations of the world (except maybe the U.S.? *fingers crossed) will turn against Israel until the final battle of Armageddon—which will start somewhere at the Euphrates River. God will no longer hold back and will finally come to save His people one last time for good. All of Israel’s enemies will be vanquished. But it could have happened a lot sooner with far less oppression and suffering if the Jews had been obedient in the first place.
A lot of people are just living their lives as if they have a long, stable, and controllable future ahead of them. They seem to think that their spiritual relationship with God is one of those controllable variables—that they can fit Him neatly into their plans once it’s convenient or “the right time.” Rather than sensing any urgency in getting right with God, they reason, “Oh, I’ll take care of that right after I have kids…right after this promotion…once I send the kids off to college…once my 401(k) is nice and cushy…”
But what does the Bible say?
James 4:13-15: “13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
But of course as Americans, we don’t like the idea that anyone else is in control of our lives other than ourselves.
Well, this is a myth. We are not our own. And financially speaking, our economy and currency are largely in others’ hands as well: namely, China.
http://www.zerohedge.com/print/437859 (thanks bro for the link!)
If at any point China decides to dump the dollar—as some recent signs would indicate—then we could be in for an economic downward spiral. Hyperinflation, to unprecedented levels, could result and it seems imminent.
“If for some reason [China selling off their U.S. investment] the reserves of dollars held overseas by investors and creditors were to come flooding back into the U.S., we would see a hyperinflationary spiral more destructive than any in recorded history. As the supply of dollars around the globe increases exponentially, so too must foreign demand, otherwise, the debt machine short-circuits, and newly impoverished Americans will be using Ben Franklins for sod in their adobe huts. As I will show, demand for dollars is not increasing to match supply, but is indeed stalled, ready to crumble.”
Reminds me of a verse in Revelation, speaking of hyperinflation in the end times in a way that John could understand. I don’t even think they had the concept of hyperinflation in those days, so he had to describe it the best way he knew how…
Revelation 6:5-6 says: “5When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”” (A whole day’s wages for a quart of wheat…)
So the practical application, I guess, would be to get right with God immediately. Stop waiting around as if the world works on your timetable and your meticulous planning. Work and money is important, of course, but it’s a distant secondary priority to your walk with God.
Irvin Baxter supports post-tribulation rapture and a 3.5-year tribulation:
Debate between pre-tribulation and post-tribulation theologians: