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Why there was no fall Rapture

October 3, 2011 2 comments

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.

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Palestinians in the Old Testament

September 28, 2011 2 comments

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.

What is the purpose of the specific instructions given in Exodus 25-30?

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s easy to get just a little bit bored reading these chapters, I’ll admit. But at the same time, it leads me to realize a few things that can be practically applied today. Of course, the original intent was simply to provide instructions to these Jews, but anything spoken from God is important as it sheds light on who He is.

Just in case you’re not familiar with this passage, here’s a sample excerpt that captures its essence:

Exodus 25:10-16:

10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.”

While I’m reading it, here are some things that came to mind:

– When God gives us orders to do something, He wants it done HIS way, not ours. God trumps human logic and planning.

– God delights in total obedience and is aware of when we cut corners. I can imagine some of the Jews grumbling in their hearts, like, “Do we really need to use our purple fabrics? Why not our brown?” (Purple was rare and expensive in those days.)

– The construction of these things, like the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle, is probably considered ideal in some way. Whether it’s for durability or other purposes, God knows what He’s doing. One explicit example is Exodus 28:32: “32 It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear.” (Another example is the exact dimensions of Noah’s Ark, which modern builders know today to be ideal dimensions for a boat that size.)

– At times, God mentions specific materials like “pure gold.” Obviously, this was considered a precious metal even back then, so part of His instructions involve giving up material wealth sacrificially. Impure gold or overlaying just the outside with gold would have been displeasing to God.

– Symbolism matters, it’s not just a literary device. For example, the use of the lampstands in Exodus 25:31 is later reiterated thousands of years later in Revelation as a symbol of the church.

– As these Jews were building these things, I can imagine them diligently and continually referring back to the instructions, taking painstaking care to follow God’s words precisely. I think this was God’s intentional way of providing opportunities for obedience (and therefore, opportunities for blessing to be poured out). If there are fewer instructions, then there is less reward in store for obedience.

I’m sure there’s deeper commentary on these types of passages, but I’m just sharing the thoughts that came to my mind.

Palestine’s bid to become an independent state this month

September 7, 2011 1 comment

Apparently, there is going to be a UN meeting later this month, and one of the big topics is going to be whether or not to recognize the official statehood of Palestine. Now, for people who are keeping an eye on end times prophecy, this is significant. This potentially relates to a peace agreement between Palestine and Israel (and a subsequent sharing of the holy land).

A number of articles from an Israeli news site helps paint a better picture of the situation. The U.S. stands firm as Israel’s biggest ally, but also wants peace between Israel and Palestine. The U.S., under Obama, also intends to veto Palestine’s bid to become an independent state…but there are indications it may waver on that IF Palestine plays nice.

Let’s add up the pieces. Here are some relevant quotes from a few articles:

9-23-10 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3958822,00.html)

“The Israeli-Palestinian peace process may be stalling, but US President Barack Obama says he remains firmly committed to resolving the Mideast conflict.”

Obama: “If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to co-existence. The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.”

It seems that Obama is implying that Palestinians must make peace with Israel. If an agreement is reached, then they might be able to become their own state. Seems like a conditional statement with possibility…Obama not only wants peace, but he also sees the benefit of Palestine becoming a state as well (“sovereign and stable neighbors”).

Obama said that peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but added that “each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well. Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine – one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity. And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means – including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.”

9-4-11 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4117811,00.html)

“The Palestinians are going to the UN Security Council to ask for recognition for the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders… and there is no turning back or other choice than this one,” said leading Palestinian official Nabil Shaath.

Washington has said it will veto any Palestinian bid, but has made it clear it would prefer that the issue does not reach a vote at the Security Council.

The U.S. currently intends to veto Palestine’s bid to become a state, but Palestine will not stop trying. It will not be deterred. In 2010, Obama made statements implying that the U.S. veto might not be absolute under certain conditions.

9-7-11 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4119156,00.html and http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4119088,00.html)

The United States is showing “disdain” for Arabs by trying to prevent the Palestinians from gaining United Nations, a senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

The U.S. might not want to show “disdain” for anybody and try to work toward some middle ground.

Arguing that the two-decade old peace process has run out of gas, the Palestinians are seeking an upgrade in their diplomatic standing at the United Nations. They are presenting the move as a step towards leveling the playing field with Israel.

Palestine says that they want to upgrade their diplomatic standing at the UN in order to be equal in status to Israel. Perhaps as equals, it is implied, the peace process can be rejuvenated.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, opposes the Palestinian UN initiative on the grounds that it is unhelpful to its Middle East diplomacy, which is still focused on bringing about a resumption of face-to-face peace talks.

US opposition in the Security Council will thwart any Palestinian bid for full UN membership, although the Palestinians could still secure an upgrade in their status to a “non-member state” by presenting a General Assembly resolution.

Apparently, the U.S. has the power to stop Palestine from getting full UN membership. This means Palestine might want to concede certain things to the U.S. On the other hand, Obama badly wants peace between Israel and Palestine. So perhaps the U.S. has to concede a little to Palestine as well.

It’s possible—though by no means certain—that Obama could agree to NOT veto Palestine’s bid IF (and only if) Palestine agrees to make peace with Israel. Or, Palestine could go through with it, and Israel has promised to “respond” in this scenario. Various sources have indicated that Israel is preparing for war, so we could be seeing a war that precedes the peace agreement.

If any of this happens, then that could be it. Either rapture will come upon us, or we will be entering into the final seven-year period.

Just something to keep an eye on…

* * *

UPDATE (as of 9/7/11): More articles

Poll: Majority expects Palestine to win UN bidhttp://www.turkishweekly.net/news/122813/poll-majority-expects-palestine-to-win-un-bid.html

A majority of Palestinians want to resume negotiations with Israel before the UN meeting later this month.

If it’s looking more and more like Palestine has international support, Israel may be forced to negotiate and make “painful concessions” (as Benjamin Netanyahu said a few months ago) ahead of time.

China Supports Palestinian UN Bidhttp://www.turkishweekly.net/news/122884/china-supports-palestinian-un-bid.html

See the last paragraph. Apparently, two senior U.S. envoys flew in on Tuesday (9/6/11) to try to get Israel and Palestine to resume their peace talks before the UN meeting.

Random thoughts: Cool stuff in the Bible plus an illustration of salvation

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Just wanted to share some stuff that I found/learned/thought of.

First off, an interesting quote from Mark Twain about the Jewish people from 1898:

"The Greeks and the Romans...are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out...the Jews saw them all, survived them all...all things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces passed, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"

The secret, Mr. Twain, is that they are God’s chosen race of people. They will never be wiped out—all the Holocausts and persecution in the world won’t overcome God’s ultimate plan for them. That’s why.

Anyhow, I learned some cool things about end times prophecy again. In Daniel 7, I always wondered what the four beasts could mean or represent. They include the lion with eagles’ wings, a bear, a four-headed leopard, and a beast with 10 horns.

Some people interpret these symbols in light of other scripture, but I tend to believe it cannot be done this way because in Daniel 12:9, God clearly tells him that the meaning of these visions cannot be known until the time of the end. Well, many people think we’re now in the time of the end (or approaching it), which means we should have a better understanding of the vision than was possible thousands of years ago.

One interpretation is that the lion represents England. Why? Because their national symbol is a lion, which represents royalty/monarchy. But why the eagle’s wings? Well, perhaps they represent another country whose symbol is an eagle. That would be, of course, the United States. Notice that in verse 4, the wings of the eagle are torn off and lifted off the ground, given an independent mind of its own. This could represent America breaking off from England and declaring its independence as a country. Another cool thing? This is in Daniel chapter 7 verse 4. It just happens to coincide with our U.S. Independence Day, 7/4.

The bear represents Russia, while the four-headed leopard represents Germany (which is in its Fourth Reich…also notice how it too has wings, but Daniel deliberately doesn’t mention an eagle or specific bird). The beast with 10 horns? Tough to say, but perhaps it’s something like the EU or UN. Tellingly, the little horn that speaks from it represents the Antichrist, which means that he will come from this symbolic beast. At least the other countries mentioned are in the clear somewhat.

Also, I thought it was fascinating how almost 2,000 years ago, John foresaw the Jewish temple being shared with foreigners to the land, or Gentiles. In Revelation 11, God instructs him to measure the temple of God and the altar, but he’s told to exclude the outer court. Why? Because “it has been given over to the Gentiles” (non-Jew) or “the nations.” In modern terms, we know that the Jewish people will eventually be able to rebuild their temple during the end times, but they will have to share the holy land with Gentiles; that is, the Muslims/Palestinians. Bill Clinton, during his presidency, worked to make peace in the Middle East by having them agree to share the land rather than fight over it. It has been an urgent, ongoing process ever since. I thought it was pretty cool how John saw it around 95 AD!

Finally, I was thinking in the shower (the best place to think) about a picture of salvation, and it’s kind of like this.

We’ve been falling in a bottomless pit since we were born into this world of sin. We just keep falling and falling. But next to us in this pit is a rope for us to grab. If we grab hold of it, we can start climbing upward and be saved from whatever lies at the bottom of the pit (if there even is an end to it…probably just a pit of fire). The problem is, there is a limited amount of time to grab the rope. Eventually, it will run out and the chance to grab it will be no more.

But why doesn’t everyone grab hold of it? Because many would rather fall. They reason to themselves, “I don’t even know where the rope leads. Who knows if it can even save me? So I might as well just enjoy the fall.” Others think, “I DO want to be saved! But grabbing that rope is going to hurt my hands…it’s going to burn for a while. And I don’t want to spend my life climbing and struggling. Maybe it’s just easier and more pleasant to just free fall and hope for the best.” Some people who are falling try to grab onto other things to save them or to bring them “meaning in life,” but they don’t realize right away that those things are falling right alongside them. They are not secure.

Now true, grabbing onto the rope might mean some initial pain and adjustment. Fighting gravity isn’t easy, and it might require you to give up some of the ease of life. But eventually, you’ll be glad you did, and what’s better is that the Holy Spirit is like a floating platform for your feet; He never allows you to fall, and He actually assists you in climbing upward, so it’s not nearly as hard as you once thought it would be.

One day, Jesus is going to come for us. He’s going to come on a helicopter (haha) and attach the rope to it from the top, then take us off to heaven. Whether you just grabbed on recently or if you’ve been climbing for years, we will all be saved. The people left falling in the pit will regret not grabbing on when they had the chance.

Once we get to heaven, God will hand out eternal rewards and mansions. The best selections will go to those who had climbed the highest and earned the greatest reward, while those who barely got in will wait patiently at the back of the line. But everyone will be glad and rejoice in the end, for all eternity.