Weekend in Hell

Weekend in Hell
Vol: 138 Issue: 30 Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Nicene Creed was adopted by the first ecumenical council, convened in Nicea under the Emperor Constantine.  It is also called the Apostle’s Creed by the Vatican, and is the basic statement of faith of the Roman Catholic Church.

According to the Apostles’ Creed, (the way I learned it fifty years ago), Jesus spent Easter Saturday in hell.

“And He descended into hell, and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.”

Did He really?  Or is that just Catholic tradition? More recent revisions of the Apostles’ Creed simply say He “descended to the dead.”

True enough, but that doesn’t mean much.  He was dead for three days.  He was buried. He “descended to the dead” could be said of every person who ever died, (including my late Uncle Eddie).

Did He descend to “the dead” or did He spend the weekend in hell?  Yesterday we discussed the Wednesday vs. Friday interpretation of the day of Crucifixion.

If the Crucifixion was on Friday and the Resurrection took place on Sunday, then Jesus rose on the third day.

If the Crucifixion occurred on Wednesday, then even allowing for the most liberal stretching of the fabric of time, if the Resurrection was on Sunday, Jesus rose very late on the fourth day or very early into the fifth day.

The interpretation that requires the fewest textual gymnastics to fit the time frame is that of reckoning Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Sunday being the third day.

I can’t fit Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday into three days unless I don’t count Wednesday and Sunday and even then, the Resurrection would have to fall on the Sabbath. Otherwise, Sunday would count – as the fourth day.

I submit that Friday to Sunday makes Sunday the third day.  Did He then descend into hell on Friday afternoon and stay there until Sunday morning?

First off, why is that important?

Every year at Easter, Jon Meacham (formerly of Newsweek, now with TIME) takes his best shot at Christianity.

This year, Meacham wrote TIME’s cover story about Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins under the headline, “Pastor Rob Bell: What if Hell Doesn’t Exist?”

For starters, if hell doesn’t exist, where did Jesus spend Easter weekend?  He couldn’t have been in Heaven.

On Resurrection Sunday, Mary Magdalene was weeping at the Lord’s grave when He called her name.  She would have rushed to embrace Him, but He stopped her, saying:

“Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.” (John 20:17)

If He had not yet ascended to the Father – and had to do so before He could meet with His brethren, and there is no hell, then where was He?  Like I said, it is an important question.

Even Jon Meacham understands the importance of the question to basic Christianity.  He notes in this year’s Easter hit piece:

“The traditionalist reaction is understandable, for Bell’s arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelation.”

Of course. Salvation is an ethical habit of mind! Not a faith based on Divine revelation.

“I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian,” Bell says. “Something new is in the air.”

Actually, it isn’t new.  Jesus outlined Bell’s new Christianity in Revelation 3:14-18.  Solomon outlined the root principle that attracted Jon Meacham to Bell’s book (and why he chose to highlight it at Easter) in Psalms 14:1 and 53:1.

If hell isn’t real, then the Easter story can’t be. Can it?

Assessment:

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

Where is ‘paradise’?  It isn’t Heaven – Heaven is the place of God’s abode and Jesus had not yet ascended to the Father by early Resurrection morning.

Did He go to the place of the dead? Of course. The place of the dead was hell. That’s where Paradise was.  Jesus had spoken of it previously when He told the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-30).

It wasn’t a parable or He would have said as much in His preface. Instead, He spoke in very definite terms, “there was certain rich man”.

Jesus said there was also a righteous beggar named Lazarus.  Then the Lord provides us with a word picture description of what happens when we die.

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.”

The Lord of glory confirms by this story, an important, eternal truth. When we die, our consciousness continues into either heaven or hell.  Hell is depicted as being buried alive in hot coals.

“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”

What follows is a picture of hell as it was when Jesus spent Easter weekend there.

“And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.”

Jesus descended into hell, the place of the dead, which was divided according to ultimate destination.

Abraham’s Bosom, or Paradise, was the abode of the righteous dead, like Abraham. The blood of bulls and rams was not enough to wash away the sins of the righteous, but it was enough to cover their sins until death and hell were conquered at the Cross.

Until then, those that believed God were imputed righteous, and awaited their redemption.

When Jesus descended into hell, He went to paradise where the Good Thief was.  And Abraham. And Lazarus.  And everybody else who trusted in the Lord for their eternal salvation until then.

“Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)” (Ephesians 4:8-10)

He “led captivity captive”.  Jesus descended into hell where He gathered the righteous dead from their captivity and then ascended unto His Father with His prize on Resurrection Sunday.

Hell was then given over to the rich man and the rest of the lost in the abode of the dead.

How important is this? It answers the question, “What happens when we die?” and it answers it from the perspective of the One Who knows best.

If the Bible is true and Jesus can be believed, then when a saved person closes his eyes in this life, he awakes fully conscious in the next – where he is whisked by the angels into heaven, since Paradise is now closed.

When a lost person dies, he awakes full conscious in hell, alone, nameless, and buried in hot coals where he awaits judgment at the Great White Throne and then eternity in the Lake of Fire, since hell itself is closed.

TIME’s Jon Meacham and guys like Rob Bell would like for there to be no hell for two reasons that are more-or-less universal.  The first is because they fear that’s where they are headed.  And the second is that they can’t believe a loving God would send them there.

My guess is that they are right on both counts.  And God isn’t the one that sends people to hell.  Jesus literally went to hell and back to procure for us a choice.  The offer of pardon is extended to “whosoever will”.

Hell is not dead.  It is very much in operation and growing larger by the day.  But God doesn’t send people to hell – they choose that for themselves.

It isn’t complicated. 

“For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” (Ezekiel 18:32)

There is a choice. But it is admittedly limited.  One can repent and trust Jesus or one can face God clothed in one’s own righteousness and see how things work out.

The choice, “hell does not exist” is not on the menu.  

Note from Jack:  We pray that you have a glorious, meaningful and peaceful Resurrection Sunday.  Please pray for our brothers and sisters under persecution for their faith around the world.   

He is Risen!  And with His stripes we are healed.

Glory to God! Maranatha!

This brief was originally published April 23, 2011.  We’ve recieved several questions about “Resurrection Weekend”. Thankfully, this brief gives several of the answers.

What’s So Good About ”Good Friday”?

What’s So Good About ”Good Friday”?
Vol: 138 Issue: 29 Friday, March 29, 2013

According to Christian tradition, the Friday before Easter is called ”Good Friday” because it is the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. GOOD Friday?

The Crucifixion most probably did not actually take place on a Friday, anyway. The Scriptures make reference only to the ‘Sabbath’ and there were two Sabbath days during that particular Passover week.

But it is on Friday that the world remembers, whether it wants to or not, that a Man was crucified on a hill called Golgotha outside the walls of Jerusalem for the sins of mankind.

If the world wants to remember it as a Friday, at least it is taking note of the event. Arguing about whether or not it actually took place on Wednesday or Thursday seems irrelevant to the central point.

Particularly in light of the way it remembers that day, as “Good” Friday. But what is so good about it?

I can recall as a kid growing up in a Catholic school thinking it more than a little strange that all those nuns said they loved Jesus, but celebrated the day of His execution as a “Good” day.

Indeed, as a kid, I thought the designation “Good Friday” was evidence that they really didn’t LIKE Him very much, despite their protestations of love. My mother had passed away when I was only ten. I didn’t think that the day that she died was a ‘good’ day for me.

There are lots of possible reasons why the day of Jesus’ Crucifixion is designated “Good” in English. One is that the word ‘good’ was derived from the word “God”.

Our word ‘goodbye’ came from the phrase “God be with you,” so, according to that line of thinking, “Good Friday” would have originated from the phrase “God’s Friday.”

But I think it is less a case of the metamorphosis of language than it is an apt description of the Event that took place on that day just before the Passover two thousand years ago.

The execution of Jesus Christ was an event of incredible evil. He was guilty of no infraction, violated no laws, either Mosaic or Roman civil, and His betrayal was orchestrated, the Bible says, by Satan himself.

“And after the sop Satan entered into him [Judas]. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.” (John 13:27)

But while the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was an act of unspeakable evil, it was a necessary part of God’s Plan for the redemption of our sin debt.

And the manner in which He accomplished was a demonstration of His Power over good and evil, using pure evil to bring about pure good.

“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1st Corinthians 2:8)

But why was Good Friday necessary? We’ve gone over this before, but not in several years. Good Friday is the perfect day to revisit the topic. Why did Jesus have to die?

The Scripture says God’s Justice demands a sacrifice, but for most Christians contending with the skeptic, that answer is unsatisfactory.

The explanation that only a sinless man was qualified to take on the sins of the world makes sense, but it doesn’t answer the nuts-and-bolts question of why He had to die. Not fully.

The answer to the nuts-and-bolts legalities is found, not in the New Testament, but rather in the Old.

In Genesis Chapter 15, we find Abram questioning God’s promise that his seed will be numbered as the stars of heaven and that they would inherit the land to which God had led him.

Genesis 15:6 says,

“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

But Abram wanted a guarantee, nonetheless.

“And he [Abram] said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” (15:8)

It was then that God proposed a blood covenant after the manner of the Chaldeans.

“And he [God] said unto him, [Abram] Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

Abram knew what to do next. A Chaldean himself, this was something he was familiar with.

“And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.”

The blood covenant worked this way. The animals were slaughtered and cut up. The pieces were intermingled and then carefully arranged to form a kind of aisle through which the two parties to the covenant would walk together, hands joined.

The principle of a blood covenant, and the symbolism of the rended animal parts was clearly understood to Abram. Whoever broke the covenant would end up like those piles of animals.

A blood covenant was, by common custom, a joining of 2 or more persons, families, clans, tribes, or nations, where the participants agree to do or refrain from doing certain acts. More specifically, God had proposed a patriarchal covenant.

The patriarchal form of covenant is a self-imposed obligation of a superior party, to the benefit of an inferior party. In this form, the terms the parties use to refer to each other are: father and son.

God’s proposal included not only Abram, but extended to Abram’s seed forever.

(Galatians 3:29 makes plain that Christians are also “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”)

To summarize, Abram has just prepared a blood covenant between himself and God in which his seed would forever be bound to God as heirs. To be an heir, under the implied terms of the covenant, also required being faithful to the Father. Abram understood those terms and waited for God to appear.

Consider the picture. Abram waited, driving away the carrion eaters from his grisly creation, waiting for God Himself to come down, join hands with Abram and together, they would swear a blood oath. God would be the Father of Abram and his descendents, who would then be required behave as sons to keep that covenant.

Genesis 15:12 records that, as Abram waited for God, a deep sleep fell upon him. During that deep sleep;

“it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” (Genesis 15:17-18)

And there’s the key! While the covenant was between Abram and God, by passing through the aisle alone, God signed the contract — alone — for both sides, binding Himself to keeping both parts.

We know that Abram’s seed did NOT remain faithful to the covenant. And violating the blood covenant demanded that somebody had to die. That was what justice required.

The Apostle Paul was, before his conversion on the road to Damascus, a Pharisee, or a religous lawyer, one well qualified to explain the law of covenant oaths.

As Paul explains,

“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:7)

Further, that,

“they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (3:9)

And also,

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (3:11)

Of the covenant that God signed on behalf of Abraham, Paul explains;

“Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” (3:15)

The covenant could only be confirmed when the price demanded for its violation was paid in full.

When the Law was given to Moses four centuries later, it was assumed by the Jews that to break it was to break the Abrahamic Covenant, for which the penalty was death. Remember, somebody had to die.

But since it was God Who signed on behalf of Abraham, Paul pointed out the blood penalty required of the covenant was paid in full on Good Friday.

“And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” (Galatians 3:17)

Why did Jesus have to die? Because the covenant demanded satisfactory payment for its violation, and no one who had broken that covenant was qualified to stand in payment except those who signed it. Abram was long dead. And, in any case, it was God Who signed on behalf of Abram (and his seed).

It is for that reason that God stepped out of eternity and into space and time in the Person of Jesus Christ. To keep the provisions of the original covenant and be a true Son of Abraham, as it demanded.

Once having kept its terms on behalf of sinful humanity, it was incumbent upon Him to make payment, as justice demanded, for its violation by those on whose behalf the covenant was signed.

To be torn and rended like the animals that formed the corridor through which God alone passed.

To make restitution on behalf of the seed of Abraham. You. Me. And everyone who ever broke its provision of faithfulness. All of us.

Jesus made that payment on our behalf. On the Cross, as He gave up the ghost, Jesus cried with a loud voice ‘it is finished’ (Tetelestai!) meaning, “paid in full.”

The terms of the violated Covenant were met, its price was paid by its Signer. God’s justice was fulfilled. That is why Jesus took on a human form and allowed Himself to be crucified by His own creation. That is the reason the Blood of Christ is so precious. Why nothing less would do.

Because justice demanded it. And because justice was satisfied, a lost sinner need only accept the Pardon obtained at the Cross as full payment for his sins to obtain eternal life. Because of Good Friday,

“Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord SHALL be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

Our sin debt was paid in full on Good Friday. The only thing now separating God from man is human pride. Accepting by faith the pardon obtained for us at the Cross is a humbling experience.

We’ve noted in the past that God’s way is not our way, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Indeed, God’s way is usually the exact opposite of human thinking. Christians obtain victory by surrendering. We obtain eternal life through the Death of Christ, but to achieve eternal life one has to first die.

“Good” Friday is the day that commemorates the greatest evil ever perpetrated in the history of mankind. But as it turned out, it was the worst day possible for the forces of evil. It marked the first introduction of pure good to this old world since the Fall of Man.

“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes WE are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Happy Easter season!


Originally Published: April 6, 2007

Today’s Featured Commentary: “Remembering Jack Kinsella”Alf Cengia

 

Who Are We? And What Are We Doing Here?

Who Are We? And What Are We Doing Here?
Vol: 138 Issue: 28 Thursday, March 28, 2013

It’s been awhile since we’ve discussed the OL’s mission statement and doctrinal position.  Since then, new members have joined, so for those of you to whom this is a review, please accept my apologies.

The Omega Letter IS a ministry, despite the fact we have refused 501(c)3 status.  To explain, 501(c)3 is the relevant IRS code that grants ministries tax-exempt status.  The government has the authority to censor what is published by those who accept the 501(c)3 exemption.

So we pay our taxes and the government has no input into our messages.

The mission of the Omega Letter is not directed primarily at leading the lost to Christ — at least, not directly through the website.

The majority of our members are assumed to be already saved believers who carry the message of the Gospel to the lost through their daily interaction with people they run across in the course of a day.

Our mission is to equip the saints out there who want to be fruitful for Christ with ammunition useful to their efforts.  We try and anticipate the difficult questions that come up from time to time when witnessing to a skeptic, and to provide explanations from Scripture that answer those questions.

We believe the Bible prophecy was given for two main purposes.  The first is to reassure the believer that God remains in control.  Bible prophecy has a record of 100% accuracy in all areas where it can be measured.

Since Bible prophecy has a proven 100% accuracy rate, we can be assured all Bible prophecy will be fulfilled in future with the same accuracy as it has been fulfilled in the past.

That assures the believer that, no matter how chaotic events appear to be, those events are completely in God’s Hands.  He knows what He is doing, and we can confidently apply the Scriptural promise,

“that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

The second reason is because,

“the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2nd Peter 3:9)

Bible prophecy for the last days was given as a tool for the Church to use as evidence that Jesus Christ is real and that He is God.  Only God can know the future.  Bible prophecy is the Signature of God Himself;

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. . .” (Isaiah 46:9)

When Jesus was explaining what the generation that would see His return would experience, He included a reminder for the Church, saying,

“Behold, I have told you before.” (Matthew 24:25)

He wanted to make sure we understood that when we witnessed what He described, that He;

“. . .told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” (John 14:29)

“. . .and that believing ye might have life through His Name.” (John 20:31)

We recognize that this generation is unique to the exclusion of all that came before . . . we live in an age of miracles.  For this generation, the miraculous is always just around the next corner.

My first computer cost $1700 twenty-two years ago.  It bears as much resemblance to the one in front of me at this moment, in technological terms, as a Civil War observation balloon bears to the space shuttle.

In this generation, we cracked the human genetic code.  We have duplicated the miracle of birth.  It is only a matter of time until science duplicates the miracle of life through human cloning.

In this generation, to the exclusion of all others, God has a lot of competition.  Moore’s Law of Computing says that computers will double in speed and capacity every 18 months. As computers get smarter, we get smarter. And we make ever more miraculous breakthroughs.

That some Bible prophecy was exclusively directed to the last generation where the miraculous would be routine is addressed by the revealing Angel in Daniel 12:4.

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”

The Books of Daniel and Revelation, once considered so mysterious that both Calvin and Luther omitted them from their commentaries on the Bible, were unsealed to this generation.

Today, the books Daniel and Revelation are the two most-written about Books in the Canon of Scripture.

Our mission is to use Bible prophecy to its intended purpose — to provide evidence that the Lord is both firmly in control of global events and preparing to return for His own.  We consciously avoid the sensational; the plain and unvarnished evidences abound — there is no need to reach beyond our grasp.

The mission of the Omega Letter is to equip an army of one-on-one evangelists to go out into their own communities, armed with the evidence that God provided to counter the arguments of the skeptics and lead them to Christ while there is still time.

Along the way, we try to both inform and encourage, since our principle weapon of war is information, and an army needs to keep up its morale.  It is for those reasons that the Omega Letter exists.

That the tactic is effective can be seen from the frequency and intensity of the enemy attacks over the years.  Those attacks serve both to encourage AND discourage me.

On the one hand, if we are under attack, it means we are having some effect against the enemy’s lines.  On the other, tactically speaking, an enemy generally will focus his attack in the weakest part of the opposing force’s lines.

Our weakness, as a force, is our fascination with the sensational.  We can get misdirected away from our primary mission as believers by the ‘gee whiz’ factor, lose sight of our objective, and fall into an enemy trap.

Any effective army issues uniform equipment so there is a benchmark standard to use as a basis for training.

The Omega Letter’s benchmark training equipment is the doctrine of soteriology (salvation) as understood from a Dispensational, pretribulational perspective.

We believe in eternal security, a pretrib Rapture, and that the antichrist will make his appearance only after the Restraining influence of the Holy Spirit (together with the believing Church) is taken ‘out of the way’. (2nd Thessalonians 2:7)

It is from those basic understandings that we try to carry out the Omega Letter’s training mission.  To be effective, we must be consistent in both our doctrine and its application to ultimate mission goal.

To see lost souls brought to Christ while there is still time.

Attempting to divine the date of the Rapture is not part of the Omega Letter’s mission to equip believers as effective last-days’ evangelists to the lost.  It is a distraction to that mission.

It does not provide evidence to the lost that Jesus is returning soon. It provides the lost with a date on the calendar as an excuse to put off their decision until then.

Divining the date of the Rapture is an exercise in the sensational that, even apart from my belief that the Bible prohibits date setting, is completely at odds with the purpose for which the Omega Letter exists.

As I noted, it is a distraction.  It weakens our lines and wastes valuable resources we could be marshalling against the enemy in the battle for the souls of the lost as the hours tick away.

Attempting to identify the antichrist does nothing to convince the lost that the Bible is true and that the Lord is returning.  It does nothing to provide answers to the skeptics that might lead them to salvation.  If anything, it gives them something to argue about.

And identifying the antichrist is not only fruitless to the mission, but contrary to the Word of God.  The Crown of Righteousness is reserved for those who love the Lord’s appearing, not the appearance of His enemy.

Speaking from the doctrinal position of the Omega Letter, the Church will not be here during the Tribulation, so there is no doctrinal reason to ‘prepare’ the Church to go through it.

But it serves as a distraction from our true mission of arming ourselves to meet the lost skeptic with information useful to the mission of winning his soul from the enemy for Christ.

Useless speculation weakens our battle lines and wastes valuable resources that we could be marshaling against the enemy in the war for the souls of the lost as the hours tick away.

When proved untrue, it destroys our credibility.  Sensationalism is not part of the whole armor of God.

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Ephesians 6:11-17 lists that armor as truth, righteousness, the preparation of the Gospel, faith, knowledge of our salvation, and the Word of God.

Divining the date of the Rapture and identifying the antichrist cannot possibly be argued into that list.  They are distractions from the battle and an obstacle to the successful prosecution of the Omega Letter’s mission — to lead souls to Christ through the use of the tools God gave this generation to that purpose.

“And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:8-10)

Note:  We are all missing Dad’s humor.  As I was digging around for just the right OL to send out this morning, I found this title.  This is a question my father would ask me when I would walk into a room looking a little dazed about why I was there.  It has been 2 weeks today since my Dad went home to recieve his crowns. Thanks for the outline, Dad. Originally published: January 16, 2009

The Logic of the Cross

The Logic of the Cross
Vol: 138 Issue: 27 Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Roughly one thousand, nine hundred and eighty years ago, a Jewish itinerant preacher was tried, convicted and executed by Roman decree, on charges of sedition against the state.

When He was arrested by the Roman authorities, His friends, fearing arrest themselves, left Him to face the music alone.  One of His closest and most loyal friends denied knowing Him on three separate occasions.  Once followed by thronging crowds, only His mother and a couple of friends stood by Him to the end.

And thus ends the story of Jesus of Nazareth, just another victim of Roman ‘justice’ like the thousands of other unnamed and forgotten Jewish rebels that shared a similar fate.

Or, at least, that is where is SHOULD have ended.

Historically speaking, at the time of His Death, Jesus Christ was just another rebel in a land teeming with rebels.  When He preached of the Kingdom of Heaven, his followers didn’t understand the term the way that we do.

The sages understood the time of the Judges, when Israel was ruled by Heaven through God’s appointed judges, as the Kingdom of Heaven He promised to restore.

Even His disciples didn’t understand what He was talking about until after they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

“When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

They, like the rest, expected an earthly Jewish kingdom ruled by Jews, restored to the glory it had at its peak under King David.

When their dreams of a restored Kingdom of Israel died on a Roman cross, the event was too insignificant to merit the attention of the historians of the time.  Only a few, like Tertius or Flavius Josephus mention it, and then, only in passing.

Crucifixion was common enough, but it was a grisly business, difficult to discuss without repulsing the reader.  Although Imperial Rome imposed it on hundreds of thousands during its reign, historians recorded few details of the process itself.

By either chance or design, death by crucifixion served to erase the condemned from memory.  It wasn’t talked about, so neither were its victims.

On Good Friday, 1980 years ago, it looked like Jesus Christ was on the fast track to historical irrelevance, just another voice of one crying out from the wilderness.

A voice seemingly silenced forever — by a death too gruesome to discuss in polite company.

Assessment:

Now, imagine you are one of His chosen disciples.  You have just seen all your hopes and dreams shattered by the Roman executioners.  Not only that, but you aren’t that proud of yourself, either.

For three years, you followed the Master.  You personally witnessed His miracles, from walking on water to feeding multiplied thousands with a young boy’s lunch to healing the sick and raising the dead.

You heard His wisdom; you felt His Power, witnessed His Transfiguration . . . and when the chips were down and it was time to take a stand, you folded up like a Wal Mart lawn chair.

You ran and hid like a coward, not daring to show your face for fear you’d share His fate.

(And you once had the nerve to ask Him if you could sit at His right Hand!)

He faced His enemies alone, without a friend to speak up for Him — including you, who promised NEVER to forsake Him.

On Good Friday, 1980 years ago, the last thing on any of their minds was writing a detailed record of their own failures.  They just wanted to put the entire sordid experience behind them and move on.

He had forsaken everything to teach and prepare them, and when the time came, they not only betrayed Him by deserting Him, they never had a chance to beg His forgiveness afterwards.

To those who loved Him best, Good Friday, 1980 years ago, was anything BUT ‘good’.

And it was the LAST story in the world they wanted to spread throughout the land.

“He made big promises, we made big promises, then He died and we all ran away and hid.”

If you were hiding somewhere in Jerusalem on Good Friday, 1980 years ago, that was your story.  Not a very inspiring story, if that was where it ended.

Every Easter, we are bombarded by secular apologists telling us that is where the story really DID end.

Jesus was dead; His followers were all in hiding, but while they were in hiding for their lives (and after seeing what happened to Jesus,) instead of fading quietly into the countryside, they entered into a conspiracy to perpetuate the same ‘myth’ that put Jesus on the Cross in the first place.

They made up the whole Resurrection story to keep the movement alive, and then legend took over, the argument goes.

If the story really DID end at Golgotha, would YOU want to face the same risk that you had just abandoned your best Friend to His Death in order to avoid?  Well, would you?

Would anybody?

IF it ended at Golgotha, then what changed every single one of the cowards who fled Jesus on that day to later face death unflinchingly rather than deny Him a second time?

Moreover, what made these guys, who were so self-centered they used to argue over who would sit at His right Hand in some misty, undefined future kingdom, choose to disclose the details of their greatest moment of personal failure, weaving those unflattering self-revelatory details into the fabric of what they already KNEW a monstrous lie?

Since most of it was a lie anyway, why be so brutally hard on themselves?

The Archbishop of Canterbury is on record as doubting the Resurrection as an actual historical event.  This defies logic.  If the Resurrection wasn’t an historical event, then it ended at Golgotha — and the Apostles knew it.

Every single event from the Cross forward was a lie, and the New Testament record of their zeal to propagate that lie is equally unreliable.  THIS is the argument put forth every Easter by the secularists as the epitome of ‘rational thought.’

No logical alternative explanation for why the Apostles chose death over denial of what they KNEW, by definition, was a myth.  To plug THAT hole, critics say the story was ‘harmonized’ later as the Bible was being assembled by the Nicean Council.

But nobody ever goes back to Good Friday, 1980 years ago, where they claim it all ended, to explain with any degree of credibility, why it didn’t.  Because if Jesus was not raised on the first day of the week, where He subsequently appeared to more than five hundred witnesses (1st Corinthians 15:6) then it SHOULD have.

Christianity SHOULD have died with Jesus, and on Good Friday 1980 years ago, to all intents and purposes, it did.

And it would have STAYED dead, but Christianity was raised with Jesus Christ on the third day, and today, it is real enough to have the secularists jumping through logical hoops every Easter season trying to prove its all a myth.

For those who demand empirical evidence of the Resurrection, the existence of the question is all the evidence logic demands.

Had it really ended on Good Friday, 1980 years ago at the Cross, nobody would be asking the question in the first place.

When Jesus appeared to John on the Island of Patmos, He identified himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning AND the end.

The logic of Christianity is that it began where it ended — without the Cross, there could be no Resurrection. And without the Resurrection, there is no reason to remember the Cross.

To the secularist, this is an unacceptable conundrum, despite the fact his best alternative explanation leaves him with no reason for Christianity to exist for him to question.

It is a logical circle from which he can’t escape, because he can’t see he’s inside the circle.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 2:14)

As foolish as his argument is, he can’t see it for the foolishness of his own wisdom.

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (1st Corinthians 3:19)

So every year, the annual bombardment of articles questioning the ‘truth’ of the Resurrection continues without their ever seeing the answer is contained inside the very question they are so focused on.

It is as baffling to the natural mind as is the reason we Christians call this upcoming Friday, “Good Friday”.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1st Corinthians 1:18)

Note: This brief was originally published March 21, 2008.  This piece is a wonderful example of the timelessness of many of the briefings produced in the past 12 years.  The only update required was that, “1975 years ago” was changed to “1980 years ago”.

‘Tis the season to be armed with “the logic of the cross”.

The Attack on the USS Liberty

The Attack on the USS Liberty
Vol: 138 Issue: 26 Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In early June of 1967, at the onset of the Six Day War, the Pentagon sent the USS Liberty from Spain into international waters off the coast of Gaza to monitor the progress of Israel’s attack on the Arab states.  The Liberty was a lightly armed surveillance ship.

Only hours after the Liberty arrived it was spotted by the Israeli military.  The IDF sent out reconnaissance planes to identify the ship.

A few hours later more planes came.  These were Israeli Mirage III fighters, armed with rockets and machine guns.  The fighters then opened fire on the defenseless ship with rockets and machine guns.

A few minutes later a second wave of planes streaked overhead, French-built Mystere jets, which not only pelted the ship with gunfire but also with napalm bomblets, coating the deck with the flaming jelly.  By now, the Liberty was on fire and dozens were wounded and killed.

The Liberty’s radio team tried to issue a distress call, but discovered the frequencies had been jammed by the Israeli planes with what one communications specialist called “a buzzsaw sound.”  Finally, an open channel was found and the Liberty got out a message it was under attack to the USS America, the Sixth Fleet’s large aircraft carrier.

Two F-4s left the carrier to come to the Liberty’s aid.  Apparently, the jets were armed only with nuclear weapons.  When word reached the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara became irate and ordered the jets to return.

Following the Israeli fighter jet attack, three Israeli attack boats approached the Liberty.  Two torpedoes were launched at the Liberty.  One tore a 40-foot wide hole in the hull, killing more than a dozen American sailors.

After more than two hours of unremitting assault, the Israelis abruptly halted their attack.  One of the torpedo boats approached the Liberty.  An officer asked in English over a bullhorn: “Do you need any help?” The Liberty’s wounded commander replied with an unprintable expletive.

Within three weeks, the Navy put out a 700-page report, exonerating the Israelis, claiming the attack had been accidental and that the Israelis had pulled back as soon as they realized their mistake.

Assessment:

For forty years, the attack on the USS Liberty has been surrounded by myth and conspiracy, with the most popular theory stating the Israeli attack had been deliberate and that the Israelis knew they were attacking Americans.

This theory raises a lot of unanswerable questions.  The most obvious, (and most often ignored), is also the most obvious one: Why?

Why would Israel repeatedly attack a ship belonging to Israel’s closest ally at the very moment it was going into a war in which it needed all the friends it could get?  Especially since the only friend it had in that war was the United States?

Yesterday, the State Department hosted a conference on the 1967 war, including the Liberty incident, to mark the release of a new volume of historical papers from the Johnson Administration.

The 542 declassified documents, roughly 1100 pages in length, were culled from the archives of the White House, State Department, Pentagon and various intelligence agencies.  They cover May through November 1967.

Along with the release of the documents, the historian for the top-secret National Security Agency said Monday he believed available evidence “strongly suggested” Israel did not know it was bombarding an American ship.

The US Navy reached that same conclusion in 1967, but the explanation was widely rejected by the conspiracist view as being ‘a coverup’.

Adding to the question, “Why would Israel attack a US ship” we can add the question, “Why would the US Navy want to cover it up?”

The newly released documents reveal several previously unknown facts.  Among them was evidence Navy mistakenly sent the Liberty too close to the war zone.  It also failed to notify Israel of the ship’s presence in the area.

The only conspiracist argument that seemingly answered the ‘why’ question was that the Liberty was spying on Israel, and Israel tried to destroy it to keep whatever the Liberty found out a secret.

But since most of the Liberty’s crew survived, as did the ship itself, if the US had found out anything damaging about Israel, it seems logical that we’d know what it was.  Nobody, not even the crew, produced any evidence that Liberty’s mission was to spy on the Israelis.  It was assumed to be true since it provided a partial answer to the ‘why’ questions.

While the newly released documents don’t tell us what the Liberty WAS doing in the area, they do reveal that the bulk of linguists on board spoke Arabic or Russian and the ship had no Hebrew translators to monitor Israeli communications in real time.  That would seem odd if the mission was to spy on Israel.

On the other hand, the event has to be seen in its historical context.  The Russians were involved in arming the Arabs — the Cold War was at its height, and the Six Days War could conceivably have been the spark that launched a nuclear world war with the Russians.  Having Russian and Arabic translators aboard fits the known historical scenario.

A total absence of Hebrew translators doesn’t lend itself to the theory the Liberty was spying on Israel, especially when factoring in the historical context.

The most significant documents, transcripts of tapes of communications between an Israeli air controller and helicopter pilots sent to rescue the wounded from the attack, were released last July.

Those intercepts showed that the Israeli rescue pilots first identified the ship as Egyptian and gradually realized, after spotting a US flag, that the ship was American.

“A CIA memo of June 13 reported they had no intercepts from the attacking planes and torpedo boats, but that the helicopter pilots’ communication left little doubt that the Israelis had failed to identify the Liberty as a US ship,” said Harriet Schwar, editor of the newly released volume.

“A follow-up CIA memo on June 21st noted that the Liberty had been identified prior to the attacks but concluded that the Israelis were not aware at the time of the attack that they were attacking a US ship. It concluded that the attack was not made in malice, but was by mistake, representing gross negligence. The Defense Intelligence Agency reached a similar conclusion,” Schwar added.

David Hatch, the National Security Agency Historian, said of the intercepted communications of the rescue pilots: “While falling short of proof, the intercepts to me suggest strongly the Israeli attackers did not know they were aiming deadly fire at a vessel belonging to the United States. The intercepted communications between the air controller at Hatzor and helicopters dispatched in the wake of the attack show a progressive reversal of perception on their part.”

There is also the sequence of events to consider.  Earlier in the morning of June 8, the Israelis had surveyed and identified a ship in the area as the USS Liberty.  A neutral green marker was placed on a model to represent the Liberty’s position.

Two hours later, the new documents reveal, the marker was removed since it was assumed that the ship’s position would have changed by then and a new senior Israeli official came on duty who was not informed of the Liberty’s presence in the area.

The removal of the marker, a miscalculation of the speed at which the Liberty was traveling that would have indicated it was not a warship, and a breakdown in communication between the Israeli Navy and Army were all clearly Israeli errors that contributed to orders to attack the ship.

In addition, there remains no credible motive for the Israelis to attack a United States vessel.  As previously noted, Israel didn’t have a lot of friends apart from the US.  It would have been an act of insanity for them to attack the US deliberately.

I receive a lot of emails from folks who have read the dozens of books put out over the years citing a conspiracy and questioning our support of Israel.  Most of those letters also express sympathy and support for the plight of the Palestinians.  As if Israel were responsible for Arafat’s failed leadership.

Was the 1967 Israeli attack on a US warship a deliberate and calculated act?  If one is prepared to accept the evidence contained in the newly released documents, then clearly, it was not.  It was a mistake. No other explanation makes sense.

But to those who claim a US-Israeli coverup, no amount of documentary evidence will change their minds.  By definition, if it was covered up, then the documents MUST be faked.

But a knowing and deliberate Israeli attack on the US in the midst of a war in which Israel fought alone against the combined armies of the Arab world would be more than senseless; it would be a waste of much-needed ammunition.

Such an attack would place Israel’s most valuable alliance at risk.  It would serve no discernible purpose, given Israel’s situation at the time.  There is no answer to the question ‘why would they do that?’.  It makes no sense.

There IS, however, a discernible purpose in alleging the attack was deliberate.  It provides a good reason to hate Israel.

The mere fact that, forty years later, the conspiracist theory is the one most widely accepted is proof of the accuracy of Bible prophecy.

It also explains what the ‘Chosen People’ were chosen FOR.  As an example to the heathen nations of the existence of God.  Which also makes them a prime target for those who refuse to acknowledge Him and an excuse for hating anyone who does.

“Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations,” says 2nd Chronicles 7:20.

Psalms 44:14, written at a time of Israel’s greatest prosperity but speaking prophetically, says,

“Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people.”

For two thousand years, the Jews have been hated and rejected by every nation in which they sought refuge.  ‘The wandering Jew’ is a ‘proverb and a byword among all nations’, exactly as foretold by the Hebrew prophets.

The Jews were chosen by God to be the people from whom He would send His Redeemer, Jesus, but paradoxically, the Jews were also blinded to that fact by God Himself.  Paul says it was for us, so that salvation could be open to ALL mankind, Jew or Gentile.

Romans 11:25 says,

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

After all, had the Jews accepted Jesus as Messiah at the First Advent, Daniel’s 70th Week would have been fulfilled 2000 years ago.  There would have been no Church Age, nor a reason FOR a Church Age.

Daniel’s 70th Week is called by Jeremiah “the time of Jacob’s Trouble.”  It is during this period that Israel suffers the greatest period of antisemitism in its long and miserable history.

The antichrist pulls out all the stops in his effort to finish the job Hitler started.  Zechariah says that in the last days, Israel will have no friends at all. Zechariah 12:3 says that, by the end of the Tribulation Period, ALL the people of the world would be gathered against Israel and Jerusalem.

Did the Israelis deliberately attack the USS Liberty?  There is no discernible reason why they would, neither is there any credible evidence that indicates that they did.  But it does provide one more reason to hate Israel.  And one more bit of proof that any excuse will do.

Not that those already so inclined really need one.

This brief was Originally Published January 13, 2004.  With Israel constantly under the world’s microscope it is good to revisit this topic to be ready with the facts of such a tragic event.

Today’s Featured Commentary
“The Offensive Cross”Wendy Wippel

Washed In the Blood

Washed In the Blood
Vol: 138 Issue: 25 Monday, March 25, 2013

Today begins the Passover season which runs for seven days, ending this year on April 2nd.

Technically, Passover actually began yesterday.  The Jewish calendar begins at sundown, rather than sunrise, meaning that Thursday begins Wednesday night.  So Passover starts twenty-four times around the world as each time zone views its sunset.

The Passover story is well known to Christians, primarily as a Jewish holiday.  But the Jewish Passover is an integral part of the Christian story.  Without Passover, there could be no salvation for the Gentiles.

At Passover, Jews are asked to see the story as if each of them had been there that night in Egypt.  Traditional foods are prepared in advance according to the Haggadah or story of the Exodus.

With the Haggadah as a guide, Passover has been and is celebrated in pretty much the same manner down through the ages and in every land and every nation.

Seder customs include drinking of four cups of wine, eating matza (unleavened bread) and partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate.

The four cups of wine are obligatory; representing four expressions of God’s will: “I will bring out”; “I will deliver”; “I will take”; and, “I will Redeem”.

It is also symbolic of the four world ages: this present world, the Messianic Age, the world at the resurrection, and the world to come. (See 2nd Peter 3:10-12)

The four expressions of God’s will find an equal place within Christianity. “I will bring out” (Romans 8:29) “I will deliver” (Galatians 1:4) “I will take” (Romans 11:27) and, “I will Redeem” (Galatians 3:13)

Christians also know of four ‘worlds’ this one which we are ‘in’ but not ‘of’ the Messianic (Kingdom) Age, the general resurrection of the dead at the Great White Throne and the new heavens and the new earth.

At the Passover Seder, the youngest present asks the question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  This is so important that if no children are present, the responsibility falls to the wife or other participants.  If a man is alone at Seder, he is obligated to ask the question of himself.

The Passover involves the retelling of the ten plagues God sent upon Pharoh, including the last and most terrible, the sending of the Angel of Death.

God told the Jews to smear the blood of a lamb above the doorposts of their homes, which would cause the Angel of Death to ‘pass over’ those homes which were under Divine protection.

For centuries, the Jewish Passover concluded with the words, “Next year, in Jerusalem!” symbolizing the Jewish love for the City of God and their longing for the restoration of Temple sacrifice.

Washed In the Blood of the Lamb?

There is a traditional Christian hymn whose chorus goes like this:

“Are you washed in the blood, / In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? / Are your garments spotless? / Are they white as snow? / Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?’

We’ve not discussed what that really means in some time now, and there is no better time to discuss it than at Passover.  Everything about our understanding of our salvation has its roots in the Jewish sacrificial lamb.

During the days of Temple worship, a family would offer a Passover lamb for sacrifice at the Temple as covering for the sins of that family.  That ritual teaches us much about the love of our Heavenly Father and what the sacrifice of the Lamb of God really means.

Some weeks before Passover, the head of the household would cull out the most perfect lamb in his flock.  To be acceptable, the lamb could not be purchased.  It had to be raised by the family.

The lamb would be brought into the household as a pet.  The kids would play with it, wash and groom it, grow attached to it, and even name it, making it a part of the family.  It was a necessary element of the sacrifice that the family had to grow to love that particular lamb.

At the Temple, the head of the household would certify the lamb met all the conditions before accepting it as a sacrifice.  The lamb would have a placard put around its neck identifying the sinner for whom it was about to die.

Here’s where this gets hard.  The head of the household, (to whom the lamb was a beloved pet) didn’t get to just leave the lamb there and go home, like a person dropping off a sick pet at the vets to be euthanized.  (Or even one who comforts the pet while the vet does it.)

It’s YOUR sin.  It’s YOUR sacrifice.  So YOU do it.

The priest would carefully instruct you in the most humane way to conduct the sacrifice, but you had to do it.  You would be taught how to gently squeeze off the lamb’s jugular with thumb and forefinger until the lamb would pass out.

Open your mind!  See this picture!

The lamb falls asleep against the sinner’s breast like the beloved pet that it has become.  Once the lamb was unconscious, the penitent, still holding the lamb’s throat, would be instructed on how to insert the knife, nick the jugular and hold the lamb over the laver to catch its blood for the sacrifice.

As the blood flowed, it would flow OVER the penitent’s hands and arms, staining him with the sacrificial blood.

The lamb’s innocent little heart would continue to pump out the blood, which would continue to stain the head of the household until it had pumped its last and the little lamb was dead.

The priest would hold up the now-dead lamb before the Lord, read the name of the family as it appeared on the placard around its neck, and declare the lamb’s ‘sins’ before the Lord.

“This lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the Kinsella family,” the priest might intone.

The family’s beloved pet lamb was dead, its blood was sprinkled over the mercy seat of the Ark, and the sins of the family were covered for another year.

The lamb bore the placard naming the family of sinners.  The sinners bore the stains of the blood of the lamb.

The Lamb of God

I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:20-21)

In Judea in AD 33, Latin was the language of business, as English is today.  But most people grew up speaking Greek, which was the lingua franca, or the common language of the empire, a holdover from the days of Alexander the Great.

The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Torah, was so translated because more Jews spoke Greek than Hebrew.

So there was Latin and Greek, and finally, the language of the Jews at the time, which was Aramaic.

It wasn’t the Jews who drove the nails.  It was the Romans.  While the people cheered in Aramaic and Greek.

All present had to participate.  Had they not, then there could have been no Crucifixion, no Resurrection, no redemption.  It was for the SINS of all mankind — all mankind was represented there.

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Assessment:

Above the Cross, Pilate order the following inscription in ALL THREE languages:

“This is Jesus.  King of the Jews.”

Jesus bore the name of the ‘family’ for which His blood was shed — it was the Family of Man.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

God identified His Lamb Whom He loved, and inscribed the sin for which He died, as a substitutionary sacrifice for all mankind.

Remember, it couldn’t be just any Lamb, but it had to be God’s Lamb.

“Thou art My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

This was no humane kosher sacrifice, but a bloody, vicious, violent, painful, tortured and shameful execution at the hands of the very family the Lamb loved so deeply and Who asks only our trust in return.

When Caiphas objected, asking the inscription be changed to say, “This is Jesus, who CLAIMED to be King of the Jews,” Pilate rebuffed him, saying, “What I have written, I have written.”

For that was the charge against Him for which He was crucified.  For the sins of the Jews as their King.  For the sins of the Romans as their occupier.  And for the sins of mankind as they stood by as spectators.  And for you.  And for me.

Jesus is their King, and ours.  And God’s Lamb.

Are your garments spotless?  Are they white as snow?

Are YOU washed in the Blood of the Lamb?

Why is this day different than all other days?

Because it is the day that we learn just how much God loves us.  How much He loves YOU.

At the Passover, God set in motion the sequence of events that would culminate twelve centuries later with the sacrifice of the Pascal Lamb for all mankind.

And for you.  As if you were the only sinner who ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ was sacrificed for YOUR sins.

That is the God Whom we serve.  And that is the weight of our sin before Him.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Amazing love! How can it be? That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!

Maranatha!

Originally published: April 9, 2009

Today’s Featured Commentary
“The Spirit and the Bride” – Pete Garcia 

Going North and South at the Same Time

Going North and South at the Same Time
Vol: 138 Issue: 23 Saturday, March 23, 2013

Whenever something happens in the world that lines up with Bible prophecy, well-meaning believers close ranks together, announce, ”This is it!” and start proclaiming ”the end is at hand!”

When the end doesn’t come on schedule, they are discouraged.  And worse, those with whom they shared their insights are now confirmed scoffers.  Not to mention the damage the disappointment wreaks on the believer himself, especially a new believer.

Teaching Bible prophecy is fraught with risks; conditional statements become part of one’s resume, whether intended or not.  For twenty-five years, for example, Hal Lindsey has been bombarded with criticism for claiming the Lord would return in 1988.

Fact is, that isn’t what Hal either said or intended.  Hal was discussing the developing EU at the time that Greece became the 10th member.  Hal said that, according to the Bible, the revived Roman Empire would consist of ten nations in Western Europe.

IF, Hal said, this WERE the final form of the Roman Empire, that would mean the Lord’s return would be seven years later.  Seven years after 1981 (when Greece joined) would be 1988.  Ergo, the canard, “Hal Lindsey is a false prophet” developed legs, (much to Hal’s later astonishment.)

Over the past few months, the development of the Iranian-Russian nuclear crisis has had many prophecy-watchers (myself included) very excited at the potential ramifications.

The prophet Ezekiel outlined a coming war between Israel and a confederation of Islamic states, led by Persia and headed by Russia, that would culminate on the mountains of Israel with the defeat of the forces of Gog-Magog.

Iran is Persia, the Russian Federation corresponds to Gog-Magog, the entire Islamic world is gearing up for war with Israel and a war with Iran over its Russian nuclear program is all but assured. “This is it! The end is near!”

But what if it isn’t?  Will you lose your faith?

Assessment:

In a real sense, Bible prophecy is something like a road map.  When one uses a road map, one needs two critical pieces of information in order for it to be useful.  One needs to know one’s starting point and one’s destination.  Armed with those two pieces of information, a glance at the map provides a good indication of where one is at any point along the trip.

Ever notice when on a road trip that sometimes the roads merge?  One can be traveling on a south-bound highway that merges for a time with a west-bound highway.

There are a few places where a north-bound and south-bound highway merge briefly, especially around construction sites.  According to the highway signs, one gets the curious sense of traveling north and south at the same time.

I recall a road trip I took cross-country shortly after buying a car that had a compass built-in to the rear view mirror.  The highway signs said I was going west, I was headed west to California, but about half the time, the compass was telling me I was also heading either north or south — and a couple of times, east.

Compass headings and road signs notwithstanding, eventually, I arrived at precisely the place on the West Coast I had planned.  Sometimes I was headed north, sometimes south, and even occasionally east, but I knew I was trending to the west.

Stay with me, here.

We know the direction we are heading, but just about the time we are sure we are headed west, the compass says we are going north or south.  We are going around a mountain or some other obstacle, but we know that, once we’ve detoured around that unseen ‘bump in the road’ we will resume our original course.

Bible prophecy for the last days is like that.  The bulk of the major events prophesied for the last generation are focused on the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” during the Tribulation Period.  From where we sit, it appears to be just over the horizon.

We know it is fast approaching — it says so on the road map, when suddenly, the compass shifts and we are heading south for a time.  Does that mean the map is wrong?  Or are we misreading our current location?  The answer won’t come for certain until we reach our destination.  But until we arrive, we trust the road map’s general sense of direction.

Bible prophecy maps out the last days in a similar fashion; we know where we are going, but sometimes, the compass and the road map don’t seem to line up.  But instead of recognizing that we are going around an obstacle, some believers put their faith in the compass instead of the road map.

Are you with me now?

The Bible’s map is not only crystal clear about the ultimate destination, but it also provides road signs to let us know we are headed in the right general direction.  Just as a west-bound road trip TRENDS west, but doesn’t always travel due west, Bible prophecy outlines trends; wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences, etc., that serve as mile markers to tell us we are approaching our destination.  But from time to time, we find ourselves being detoured.

Seeing a sign that says “Los Angeles, 385 miles” means you are almost there, but it doesn’t mean you can take the next exit.  Neither are you close enough to predict your exact time of arrival.  There are still plenty of potential detours and traffic hazards along the way.

The Bible’s outline of future history continues to unfold as predicted, but that is not to say there won’t be a few more detours as we go around unseen obstacles along the way.

You have to trust the road map, not your sense of direction, your compass, or a road sign.  Or nobody else will trust you when you are giving THEM directions.

We are close to our destination.  All the Bible’s road signs say we are close.  The Bible’s road map says we are close.

Jesus said we would know when it was near, even at the doors.  But that isn’t the same as being able to predict exactly when we will arrive at our destination.  Jesus has scouted the road ahead, He knows where the detours are.  We don’t.

It is enough for us to know that our map is accurate, even when it looks like we are going north and south at the same time.

Originally Published: January 4, 2006

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