Can We Be In the Tribulation Already?

Can We Be In the Tribulation Already?
Vol: 154 Issue: 23 Wednesday, July 23, 2014

According to Bible prophecy, the antichrist builds his government on three main pillars of power; a global government, a global economy and a global religious system. All three must exist and be functioning prior to his arrival on the scene, since his time frame is limited to just 2,520 days.

The prophet Daniel says that the antichrist will be a prince of the people who destroyed the city and sanctuary;

“. . . and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. . .” (Daniel 9:26)

That was accomplished by the Roman legions under the command of Titus in AD 70.

Daniel says this coming Roman ‘prince’ will confirm a seven-year covenant between Israel and ‘many’ that results an a period of peace and safety for the Jews of Israel.

Two things to note about this covenant. First, note the context. This is about Israel’s future. Not about the antichrist. In this context, he is a supporting player, not the object of the prophecy.

The fact the antichrist confirms a covenant ‘with many’ would be irrelevant if Israel were not the other principal to this covenant. An agreement in which Israel plays any lesser role cannot be Daniel’s covenant.

The second thing to note is that this covenant must already exist in some form. One cannot ‘confirm’ that which does not exist. This is not a newly-negotiated covenant cooked up by the antichrist to include Israel among the many.

It is a confirmation of a previously existing agreement. There is but one failed seven-year agreement involving Israel, the revived Roman empire and ‘many’.

That is the Oslo agreement, initially negotiated to run exactly seven years, negotiated between the State of Israel and Yasser Arafat on behalf of the Palestinian ‘people’ under the supervision of the Europeans.

The Oslo formula of ‘land for peace’ remains the foundation upon which any future agreement will be built. Every effort since has built on the efforts of Oslo.

Once Daniel’s covenant is confirmed, Temple worship will be restored, which requires Israel to somehow recover possession of Temple Mount. We know that it must be restored because mid-way through the Tribulation Period, the antichrist suspends Temple worship.

“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)

Any covenant negotiated with Israel that does not leave Israel in possession of Temple Mount and provides for the restoration of Temple worship is NOT the covenant of Daniel 9:27.

How can I say so with such confidence? Because the covenant of Daniel 9:27 is the one that starts the clock ticking.

From the signing of that confirmation of the covenant until the return of Christ at Armageddon is 2,520 literal days. If that covenant were already in place, then the antichrist would already be in power.

Except that at some point before he could BE the antichrist, he must first recover from a deadly head wound.

“And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.” (Revelation 13:3)

It is AFTER his deadly wound is healed, that John says;

“And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?”

So, the antichrist, having been healed from a deadly wound, is acclaimed by the whole world for this apparent miracle. John says that, AFTER this takes place;

“And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.”

Let’s stop there and summarize. First, the covenant, confirmed by a prince of Rome. Then the head wound. Then he is acclaimed as worthy of worship as a god.

Then he is given power to mesmerize the population with a supernaturally gifted ‘mouth speaking great things and blasphemies’ — and this power lasts for forty-two months (1,260 days or 3 1/2 years).

This is the first half of the Tribulation Period. If the antichrist were active and if we were now in the Tribulation, all this would already be in motion. None of it is as yet.

But let’s pretend that we’re in the Tribulation now. That means that within the next 1,260 days, a functioning global government capable of ordering mass executions for political purposes must be fully in power.

“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”

Notice this power isn’t given him over just Europeans. Or just over the nations around the Mediterranean.

It is over ALL ‘kindreds’ (families) tongues (languages) and nations (ethnicities)

Anybody care to guess what the word translated into English as ‘all’ means in the original Greek? (Give up? Ok. It means, ‘all’).

That power is, after forty-two months, fully developed and operational. Then, the second beast takes his place onstage.

“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.” (Revelation 13:11)

This second beast is a counterfeit prophet, one who has the appearance of Christianity, but who openly teaches the worship of the first beast (the antichrist).

“And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”

This second beast will be Satanically energized with supernatural powers.

“And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, “(Revelation 13:12-13)

Now, I want to stop here again. We are just now at the mid-point of the Tribulation — it started 3 1/2 years ago with the confirmation of the covenant with Israel and the healing of the first beast’s deadly wound.

What must also exist by this point?

Obviously, a global religious system, since there is a global religious leader with the power to condemn apostates to death. So if the Tribulation were to begin tomorrow, say, then within the next 42 months, a new system would have to replace both Christianity and Judaism.

According to the Bible, the persecution of Christians and Jews would be global, bloody and with the enthusiastic cooperation of the global population.

Like most of you, I can see all that coming. But it isn’t here.

The third pillar in the antichrist’s government is a global economy that is tied to both the global religious system and the global government. All three are administered by the same overall authority.

All three must not only exist, but they must be fully operational within three and one half years of the covenant that restores Temple worship to Israel.

Because three and one half years after Israel’s Temple worship is restored, it must then be taken away, signaling the onset of the “Great Tribulation” in which three quarters of mankind die from the plagues and judgments that fall upon an unrepentant human race.

Assessment:

There are some Christians who believe we are already in the early part of the Tribulation Period now.

For that to be true, then, Israel must be in a period of peace and safety right now.

The covenant must be in full force, the Jews of Israel must be in possession of the Temple Mount and the Jewish priests must now be offering legitimate sacrifices to God in a ritually cleansed Temple.

That means the ashes of a pure red heifer must already have been found and sprinkled to cleanse the Holy of Holies after two millennia of desecration.

Within the next forty-two months, the false prophet must convince everybody on earth except the Jews to worship the beast.

By the mid-point of the Tribulation, the global economy will be tied to a mark in the right hand or forehead without which no man could buy or sell.

So within 1260 days, all cash transactions must cease to exist.

Within forty-two months, all Christians and Jews the world over will be hunted down and ultimately executed if they refuse to take the Mark of the Beast.

Problem: Even with Satan’s enthusiastic cooperation, there isn’t enough time. You can’t get there from here.

The covenant has not been confirmed and Israel is not living in peace and safety. Temple worship has not been restored and al-Aqsa remains standing atop the Holy of Holies.

There is no functioning global religion. There is no functioning global religious authority. As long as there are Christians and Jews, there can NEVER be a universally acceptable global religious authority.

The global economy is outside of any one nation’s control, let alone the control of one man. Cash makes global control impossible. And a universal currency would take a lot longer than 42 months from now to implement.

That is not to say that the Rapture couldn’t take place tomorrow. The Rapture of the Church is an event INDEPENDENT of the Tribulation Period. They are not ‘bookends’.

The Rapture is the conclusion of the Age of Grace. It is when Jesus comes to retrieve His Bride from the earth. The Tribulation is the resumption of the Final Week of the Law. They are as separate as distinct as Pentecost is from the Destruction of the Temple forty years later.

Since the Holy Spirit indwells the Church, when the Bride is retrieved, His earthly ministry concludes, just as Jesus’ earthly ministry concluded at the Ascension.

Temple worship didn’t cease on the day the Church Age began — it continued another forty years before Titus.

The Rapture of the Church could take place tomorrow and the Tribulation Period could still be a decade or more into the future. Maybe two decades. However long it takes. The two are independent events.

That is why we, as Christians, are not charged with watching for the antichrist. We are given details concerning the coming of antichrist because, if we can hear his approaching footsteps, we can know that the time of our deliverance is even closer.

The signs of the times were given for the lost — the saved don’t need them — except as witnessing tools.

The Tribulation period is close. No doubt about it. What does it mean to the Church? It means the Rapture is closer.

“And when these things BEGIN to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh,” (Luke 21:28)

Jesus said.

At the beginning. Not at the end.

What ABOUT Alcohol?

What ABOUT Alcohol?
Vol: 154 Issue: 22 Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It has been accurately observed that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’ — a saying that has been reverberating in my mind since I decided to take on a question first raised in our members-only forum. The question was, basically, ”Is it a sin to have a drink with dinner?” But that is a question that begs a host of other questions be dealt with first.

Ask four Christians this question and you can expect four different answers, each with appropriate proof texts to support them. Hence the ‘fools rush in’ saying — there is no way I can approach this without jarring the preserves of at least three quarters of you and guaranteeing some spirited comments in response.

Paul writes to Timothy;

“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (1st Timothy 5:23)

But Paul’s admonition, taken in context, comes directly after a verse in which Paul tells Timothy,

“Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.” (5:22)

Does the act of drinking a glass of wine make one impure? Matthew records Jesus’ teaching on this subject, saying,

“And He called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. (Matthew: 15:10,11)

If that sounds unclear to you, it did to Peter, also.

“Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” (Matthew 15:15-18)

Jesus is specifically addressing eating without the ritual handwashing first — but that is an interpretation that, taken in its narrowest sense, seems a bit unsatisfactory.

In fact, interpreting Jesus’ comments ONLY in the context of eating with unwashed hands, it is medically incorrect. Jesus was talking about being SPIRITUALLY defiled when He said, “whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught . . .” since medically, eating with unwashed hands can cause all kinds of medical problems. And Jesus IS the Great Physician — He knows that.

That’s why He said, “to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. . .” (Matthew 15:20) He is speaking of ritual defilement.

Paul writes to the Corinthians,

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Proverbs 20:1 says,

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Proverbs 31:4-7 says,

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.”

While Christians are ‘kings and princes’ in the spiritual sense, Proverbs 31 refers to a king in the sense of political leadership. Those who are in a position to make judgments under the law.

Lemuel goes on, saying,

“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” (Proverbs 31:7)

Do Christians have terminal illnesses? Do Christians sometimes have heavy hearts? Do Christians sometimes get fed up with the misery of this life? Gets as clear as mud, doesn’t it?

There is a difference between having a drink at dinner and being an alcoholic.

“Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” (Proverbs 23:20-21)

Few would argue the simple truth of this passage — drunkards seldom become the pillars of society or achieve great personal success.

This is more a warning and a statement of fact than a doctrinal statement.

Proverbs 23:29-35 describes alcoholism as a disease of the spirit long before it was recognized by 20th century society.

“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I WILL SEEK IT YET AGAIN.”

Assessment:

Everything in Scripture regarding alcohol refers to excess. From that, most Christians interpret it as an absolute prohibition against even a single drink containing alcohol. For them, as individuals in their personal walk with the Lord, that interpretation is correct.

But I remember watching John Hagee one day on his TV program. He pointed out to his audience and thundered, “If you smoke, you are defiling the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” That got me to thinking.

Most Christians I know would agree with his statement. But then you consider John Hagee’s girth, and you have to ask yourself, what about gluttony?

“For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” (Proverbs 23:21)

Is being fat a sin? What if one is fat, but neither smokes nor drinks? What about the person in perfect health, who takes excellent care of his Temple, but also has a couple of glasses of wine with dinner? Is his sin greater, or lesser, or even sinful? Who gets to decide? Is it us?

We hear tons of sermons about the spiritual evils of smoking and drinking. Why don’t we hear sermons about gluttony? I’ve noticed that when it comes to besetting sins, folks tend to focus on the besetting sin that isn’t theirs.

A preacher who smokes doesn’t dwell much on the sinfulness of smoking, one who drinks doesn’t dwell much on the sinfulness of drinking, and one who is fat doesn’t dwell much on the sinfulness of gluttony.

(I personally know good, dedicated men of God who are faithful to their calling who fall into one or more of the three categories).

One can smoke or drink, more or less in secret, but a glutton has a hard time hiding his sin, even when wearing dark suits. And try and picture the audience out front — there are a lot of delinquents from their Weight Watchers meetings sitting out there listening. So it is seldom preached as being evidence of sin.

In point of fact, we tend to categorize what is sinful behavior based more on our culture than on our Scriptures.

Where I live, it is widely assumed that nobody who drinks or smokes is really saved. On the other hand, out in California, there are many Christians who get together over a bottle of wine, and many others who smoke cigarettes openly.

Both the Catholics and Jews use wine as part of their religious rituals, as do a number of Protestant denominations. Christians in the Middle East and in Europe smoke AND drink.

“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

The seventh, and most abominable, is ‘he that soweth discord among the brethren.’

Paul writes;

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:1-5)

Paul is specifically addressing keeping kosher eating habits or keeping feast days, but in general, he is referring to religious legalism.

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:17-19)

Jesus made each of us the way we are. Clearly, the Scriptures warn of the dangers of too much wine. It speaks of the penalty for defiling our body, which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It also says that if we defile our body, (the Temple) ‘him God will destroy’ (the body, or Temple, not one’s eternal salvation).

Scriptures make it clear that God understands the alcoholic, the habitual smoker, the glutton, and warns of the dangers that these excesses pose to the physical body, but Paul says the eternal consequences come from lack of faith that,

“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phillipians 1:6)

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5)

“Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:22-23)

Each of us is constructed with built-in strengths and weaknesses, but each of us also has a unique relationship with our Savior.

It is a personal relationship, one between the individual and God, Who is the Author of both our strengths and weaknesses. He put them there. He understands them.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthinans 12:9)

“And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

“All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.” (1 John 5:17)

“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

Sin is what humans do. Forgive is what God does. That’s why we have a Savior.

So where am I going with this? Is it a sin for a Christian to have a drink with dinner, or to have a smoke afterwards? It would seem no more a sin than to eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger, brimming with fat, covered with a ‘cheese-food product that MAY contain cheese’ — as it says on the ingredients label.

Asking the Lord to bless a McDonald’s cheeseburger ‘as nourishment to our bodies’ is no less than asking God to perform a miracle and transform it into a health food that will edify the Temple of God. Is that a sin?

Weighing 300 pounds, is that a greater sin than drinking or smoking? The winebibber and glutton are always linked in Scripture as being equals. For one Christian to condemn another based on whether he smokes or drinks requires us to point an equally condemning finger at every overweight person with an eating disorder as being equally sinful.

Or not to point fingers at all.

Paul says that ‘all things are lawful’ to a Christian, and he says, ‘Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.’

“And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:21-25)

“There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:12)

As I noted, this is a very difficult question. I did my best to let Scripture provide the answers, but only answer of which I am certain is that our relationship with Christ is personal — each of us comes to Him and is received by faith, not works.

The sinfulness of a drink with dinner is an issue between the individual and the Lord. To some, it is. To others, it is not. ‘Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.’ It is not a very satisfactory, black and white answer. But it is the only answer that fits the Scripture.

To answer otherwise is to plead guilty to that seventh abomination before the Lord: ‘he that soweth discord among the brethren.’

Featured Commentary: Redemption, by the Book ~ Wendy Wippel

”Lest Thou Be Like Him”

”Lest Thou Be Like Him”
Vol: 154 Issue: 21 Monday, July 21, 2014

I was once talking to a guy about the state of affairs this world finds itself in and of course, we eventually got around to the Bible.

“What?” my friend exclaimed. “You’re kidding!”   He looked at me as if I had just admitted I’d been abducted by aliens.

(Or, more accurately, the way I would have looked at a guy who said he was abducted by aliens.  In this case, had I claimed an alien abduction, he probably would have wanted to know all the details.)

But when I admitted to believing the Bible,  he really did think I was kidding.   (Billy isn’t actually a friend exactly, but rather, the twenty-something son of a friend.  I was having a coffee with him while waiting for his dad to come home when the discussion began.)

Our discussion started over politics and economics.  Billy had been reading about the Federal Reserve, the Money Trust, and how government works and decided that capitalism is evil and that he is a Marxist/socialist.

He had lots and lots of information, but no context in which to understand it.  I was trying to put it into context when the Bible came up.

Suddenly, Billy was not only an economist and politician, now he was also an authority on the Bible.

“How can you believe the Bible when it is filled with errors?” he asked me.  “Everybody knows it’s just a book written by men.   It’s been changed and edited more times than you can count.”

Billy had obviously never heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The Dead Sea Scrolls refers to the collective discovery at Qumron in 1947 of documents and artifacts hidden in caves by the Essenes who had a settlement nearby.

The Essenes were a sect of Jewish zealots that appeared in Jewish history about the 2nd century before Christ through to the 7th decade of the 1st century AD.

The Essenes were the third largest sect at the time after the Pharisees and Sadducees. It is widely believed that John the Baptist was a member of the Essenes.

Essenes lived in various cities but congregated in communal life dedicated to asceticism, voluntary poverty, and abstinence from worldly pleasures.

Josephus records that Essenes existed in large numbers, and thousands lived throughout Judæa. When the Jewish Uprising began in AD 66, many of the Essenes fled to Qumron near the Dead Sea in the Judean wilderness.

The settlement at Qumron was sacked by the Romans in AD 68.  Knowing the Romans were coming, they hid their scriptures and their artifacts in the surrounding caves before being massacred.

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls was found a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah dating to about 100 years before Christ, or about 500 years after Isaiah penned it.

Isaiah is one of the Major Prophets of the Old Testament.  He prophesied the coming of the Messiah, His virgin birth, even His suffering and death.

The Book of Isaiah reaches beyond the First Advent all the way through to the Millennial Reign.

The Qumron copy is, according to the scholars that have examined it, essentially identical to the modern Book of Isaiah, a fact made that much more remarkable, given that many of Isaiah’s prophecies are in the process of fulfillment in this generation.

Only people who know nothing of either history or Scripture could argue that it is riddled with errors.  It has proved itself accurate in every case where there is comparative evidence.

Even more astonishing is the fact that not one single word of Scripture has ever been conclusively disproved.   Why is that ‘even more astonishing’?

Think about it.  In every generation in Church Age history,  believers and skeptics have debated and argued and parsed pretty much every jot and tittle recorded.

Proving Scripture false has been the Holy Grail of critical philosophy since the very first philosopher that learned of the Bible’s self-proclaimed inerrancy.

The name of philosopher, historian, doubter or skeptic that conclusively disproved a single claim of Scripture would be as famous as Moses the Lawgiver. Can you name this famous thinker?

Neither can anyone else.

Assessment:

My friend’s son was ready for me with a list of perceived errors and contradictions to support his position that the Bible is an ancient book of myths.

He began his argument where most skeptics do, assuming the Bible is myth until proved true is as flawed as assuming someone is guilty until proved innocent.

If one applied that same reasoning across-the-board, then one would have to assume traffic signs were not telling the truth until proved true.  If the sign says ‘sharp curve ahead’ it is a good idea to believe it.

What about the labels on cans and packages?  We don’t assume that the label that says ‘peas’ is false until we open the can to prove it true.   

There are signs on the doors to washrooms designating men’s and women’s facilities.  Who assumes the signs are lying until after they check for themselves?  

Who assumes that the historical account of the Lincoln administration is false until proven otherwise?   Or the historical account of the life and times of George Washington?

I asked Billy if he believed in the theory of evolution.  “Of course,” he said, as if I had asked him an inordinately stupid question.

So he automatically trusts the premise that the story of a frog turning into a beautiful princess is true, given the addition of uncountable billions of years.   But the fact the Bible has withstood thousands of years of constant attack by the best minds of every previous generation he found unconvincing.

If one wants to find contradictions and errors in Scripture, one can find them, even when they aren’t there. Billy was ready with his list, probably gleaned from some atheist website.

“Where did Cain get his wife?” is the kind of stuff atheists think is just dazzling.  Given the extended life-spans of the time, the solution to this so-called ‘problem’ is childishly simple.   

First off, the Bible doesn’t say how old Cain was.  He could have been fifty years old or five hundred. The Bible isn’t the only ancient record of extended lifespans – ancient Greek and Egyptian sources also reference humans who lived hundreds of years.

Obviously, since the human race began with a single pair, he could only have married a close relative.   This isn’t complicated.  

Cain could have married a sister, a niece, a cousin, a second-cousin, third-cousin, grand-niece – such was not forbidden until the giving of the Law of Moses some 3400 years later.

That is pretty much the template for all so-called Bible ‘contradictions’ or ‘errors’.  The error isn’t in the Scripture, it is the result of an assumption by the reader.

In this case, the assumption that Cain and Abel were Adam’s only children.  Genesis 5:4 says that Adam “begat sons and daughters.”

There are thousands of similar ‘errors’ in Scripture that aren’t errors at all.  But if one begins from the premise that the Bible is ‘riddled with errors’, then error is what one will find.

But it isn’t because the errors are in the Scripture. The errors are in the heart.

In my discussion with Billy, I forgot that basic truth and instead, fell into the trap of debating the truth of Scripture with a determined skeptic.

Grant Jeffrey once told me privately (using an analogy I now claim as my own) that “debating the Scriptures with a skeptic is like debating the circumference of the earth with a member of the Flat Earth Society.”

It’s a brilliant analogy (which is why I stole it).  If you believe the earth is flat, then your argument rests on the fact the earth doesn’t have a circumference.  So before one can even begin to discuss the earth’s circumference, one must first establish that it exists.   

That is the same difficulty with debating Scripture with a skeptic.   The skeptic is not constrained to facts in making his argument.  The believer is.   The skeptic can quote any authority with equal gravity – the believer must stick with the Bible.

The believer must first prove the earth is round – the skeptic is under no such limitations.   One can produce a globe, but the skeptic is free to counterclaim that just because the globe is round doesn’t necessarily mean the earth is.

The next thing you know, you’ve fallen into a carefully laid enemy trap.   But don’t count on God to get you out of something that you got yourself into by ignoring His Word.

For most believers, how to deal with a determined skeptic is something of a mystery. The gift of grace unto salvation is a gift beyond measure; it is a pearl of incalculable value.

In addition, it is our Great Commission.    It is our responsibility to share it — not to compel somebody to accept it.

I should try reading Scripture more and debating it less.  If I had, I would have taken the time to study the Great Commission in context.   When Jesus sent out His disciples, two by two, it was with the following instructions.

“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” (Matthew 10:14)

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)

I ignored that advice.   Soon, I was as frustrated with Billy as I would have been debating with a flat-earther.  Before I knew it, I was sputtering like a tea-kettle – and making just as much sense.

I finally stormed out before I said something I couldn’t take back.  Nice witness.

The truth of Scripture is proved by the truth of Scripture.

The Scriptures also say,

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like him.”  (Proverbs 26:4)

I sure proved the truth of that one.

Featured Commentary: Divergent Doctrines; Part III ~ Pete Garcia

Religion and Salvation

Religion and Salvation
Vol: 154 Issue: 19 Saturday, July 19, 2014

At Babel, God deliberately confused the languages of men and dispersed them into different nations. The purpose, according to Genesis, was to prevent them from all coming under the authority of a single dictator, as happened under Nimrod.

“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Genesis 11:6)

Denominationalism is the spiritual equivalent, ensuring that one powerful leader couldn’t take over Christianity and lead the true Church into error, as the Bible says the antichrist will during the Tribulation Period.

There is an effort by some world church denominations to reverse the process and bring all denominations together under the banner of ‘ecumenism’ but, because the separation is Divinely ordained, it has been unable to attract those denominations that most closely follow the Bible.

The World Council of Religious leaders is such an organization.  Formed at the Millennium World Peace Summit in 2002, The World Council adopted its own charter outlining how they can play an active role in global government:

“The World Council of Religious Leaders aims to serve as a model and guide for the creation of a community of world religions. It seeks to inspire women and men of all faiths in the pursuit of peace and mutual understanding. It will undertake initiatives that will assist the United Nations and its agencies by providing the spiritual resources of the world’s religious traditions in the prevention, resolution and healing of conflicts, and in addressing global social and environmental problems.”

Jesus Himself addressed denominationalism, writing to the seven Churches in the first three chapters of Revelation. Each of these churches is different, both in their doctrine and in the emphasis they place on it.

Thus, we have the Church of Ephesus ‘hating the deeds of the Nicolaitanes’ (a separate status for clergy and ‘laity’) whereas the Church of Pergamos is depicted as holding to “the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.” (Revelation 2:6,15

It isn’t the denominationalism that Jesus ‘hated’ but the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, who developed a complicated hierarchy of bishops, priests, and ‘laity’ to oversee a Grand Church, as opposed to the Biblical model of local church self-government. 

Theoretically, Christian denominations share the same basic statement of faith, that of the sin nature, the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, the Power of the Shed Blood of Christ to cover sin, the free offer of salvation to all who trust Jesus’ sacrifice, and who share the belief that salvation is the product of a relationship with Christ, not a relationship with a church.

How can you tell if you are a member of a Christian denomination or a form of ‘Christian religion’? There are eight sure signs, any of which should make a Bible-believing Christian sit up and take notice. 

‘Religion’ can be defined as man’s way of making himself acceptable to God, whereas Christianity is God’s way of making man acceptable to Himself through a personal relationship. 

The first sign that a denomination has gone ‘religious’ is the denial of the true nature of God.

The Unitarians deny the Triune nature of the Godhead, for example. Many allegedly ‘Christian religions’ deny the Deity of Christ, commonly claiming that Christ as God was not an early Church teaching.  

A second warning sign is the emphasis on salvation by works.

Although many denominations include the idea that God’s grace is important in the role of salvation, the leader normally emphasizes the idea that salvation ultimately comes through one’s own efforts — as defined by ‘the church’.

This imparts power to the denomination, since it changes salvation from a gift to wages, and gives the religious hierarchy the authority to act as paymaster.

The third sign is that of exclusive truth.

Denominations tend to universally identify themselves as the ‘one true church’ to the exclusion of all others. They will agree that some other denominations have some truth, but teach that full truth has somehow been lost and can now only be found in their ‘one true church’.

Fourth, religions prefer an authoritative leadership.

In some denominations, that authority is carried to the extent that they claim to speak directly for God. This is the ultimate result of the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes that Jesus twice said He ‘hated’.

The authoritative leadership of the Pharisees and Sadducees came under withering condemnation by the Lord during His earthly ministry.

Religions and Christian ‘religious’ denominations both tend to follow the letter of the law — but as theyinterpret it, rather than observing the spirit in which it was intended.

We’ll explain the difference between the ‘letter of the law’ and the ‘spirit of the law’ using a secular example that is in all the headlines today.

The ‘spirit’ of the graduated income tax law was to ensure, (in theory, at least) that all citizens pay their fair share of the tax burden. This is the ostensible claim of the Occupy Wall Street movement — except they define “fair” by placing most of the tax burden on the 1% to pay for the benefits of the 99%.  

The spirit of the law is that it calls for shared sacrifice. The letter of the law exempts nearly half of American citizens from any federal tax burden at all. 

Fifth, religions also tend to impose their own form of taxation as a condition of salvation.

Some religions equate tithing with salvation or staying in a right relationship with God. The Bible imposes no such burden.

The Pharisee tithed, loudly and with great pomp and circumstance. The widow, on the other hand, gave two ‘mites’ — the smallest coin values of Jesus’ day. Jesus condemned the Pharisee, and commended the widow.

Giving is prompted by the Holy Spirit, Whose ministry the true Church belongs to in the first place. ‘Giving til it hurts’ is a man-made doctrine with an obvious goal that has nothing to do with the things of the Spirit.

A sixth warning sign of a denomination going ‘religious’ is the threat of loss of salvation.  Salvation is conditional on Church membership. If you aren’t a member of the proper denomination, you can’t be saved. 

One group with such a belief is the Boston Church of Christ, also known as the International Churches of Christ. The leaders of the ICC teach that there should only be one church in any particular city, which they say is the New Testament model.

If you leave to attend another, you leave your salvation behind at the door.

Seventh, religions also tend to heap to themselves extra-Biblical authority.

The ex-cathedra teachings of the Roman Catholic Popes are given equal weight with Scriptures, and in the case of conflict, are considered superior.

The same principle applies to Catholic Church dogma. Catholics are taught that when dogma and the Scriptures conflict, Church teachings and tradition are to be given superior weight.  

According to Catholic dogma, there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church and one’s salvation within the Church is dependent on observing Church law on sacraments, mass attendance, holy days of obligation, etc. 

Finally, the eighth sign of Christianity being perverted into a religion is the offer of unique truths never before revealed.

The idea that a hidden mystery or new truth is available only through a particular church should be taken as a strong sign that this group is a counterfeit Christian religion.

God has very clearly shown His truth through the pages of the Bible. A new doctrine, new truth, or special word from God suggests that God left something out of Scripture.

For example, that very doctrine — that God left something out — is the foundation of Mormon teaching. The LDS teaches that God forgot to mention Jesus’ coming to the New World to preach to the “Indians” (who were really the “Lost Tribes of Israel.”) 

But Scripture says of itself that it is complete, so by its nature, if it is some ‘new’ doctrine or truth, it is contradictory with the revealed Word of God.  And things that are different CANNOT be the same. 

Salvation is not the product of religion — indeed, religion is an obstacle to salvation. Salvation comes by trusting in the Shed Blood of Christ as full payment for all sins. 

Conversely, religion offers salvation in exchange for putting your trust into that particular religious system.

Salvation is part of an direct and individual relationship with Christ. Religion offers salvation as part of a corporate system of conditions and works. 

That is not to say that Christians shouldn’t attend church — I don’t want to send the wrong message. It is important to meet regularly with like-minded believers and we are told in Scripture not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. 

But church is NOT religion. It is an expression of corporate worship by individual believers. The person who thinks membership with a church makes one a Christian is as deluded as a person who thinks standing in a parking lot makes one a car. 

The Bible teaches that all men are sinners, and all men require salvation to enjoy fellowship with God. (Romans 3:23Romans 6:23)

There is only one way to be saved during the Church Age, and that is by accepting the free gift of pardon procured at the Cross and offered freely to all men through Jesus Christ. (John 3:365:2414:6)

That the gift of salvation is offered freely to all men is the expressed Will of God, as recorded in 2nd Peter 3:9.

It doesn’t matter how bad a sinner one is, Jesus offers salvation to even the worst sinners. Wrote the Apostle Paul,

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” (1st Timothy 1:15-16)

Paraphrased into modern vernacular, Paul’s statement boils down to, “If Jesus saved me, He’ll save anybody!” All anyone need do is ask. 

Finally, the Bible assures us that once we are right with God, no religion or system has any claim to our eternal salvation. 

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Religion offers bondage — Christianity offers freedom.  Even today, they aren’t that hard to tell apart. 

The Who’s Who of Gog-Magog

The Who’s Who of Gog-Magog
Vol: 154 Issue: 18 Friday, July 18, 2014

According to the prophet Ezekiel, there will arise in the last days, a massive military and political alliance more-or-less formally known as the ‘Gog-Magog Alliance.’

“Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him . . .” (Ezekiel 38:2)

According to Ezekiel, Gog and Magog will lead an alliance of nations in the last days in a disastrous [for them] invasion against the reborn nation of Israel.

In Ezekiel 38:3, Ezekiel clearly identifies Gog as a person, rather than a place; “the prince of Meshech and Tubal.”

The Scofield Reference Bible’s notes to Ezekiel claim that “Meshech” is a Hebrew form of Moscow, and that “Tubal” represents the Siberian capital Tobolsk.

That interpretation would make Gog both a ‘place’ — the Russian Federation of Nations — AND a ‘person’ — in the sense of a federated Russian leadership.

The Interlinear Bible (Hebrew – Greek – English) renders that verse as:

“Son of man, set your face toward Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; and prophesy concerning him.”

(In Hebrew, the word ‘Rosh’ meant, ‘chief prince’, or, the ‘chief of the chief princes.’)

Magog was a son of Japeth, who, together with his brothers Tubal, Meshech, and Togarmah (Genesis 10:2-3) settled what is modern-day Russia and the southern steppes of the Caucasus mountains.

And Ezekiel identifies ‘Gog’ as coming from the north of Israel. Following the compass due north from Jerusalem will take you through the center of Moscow.

The army of Gog and Magog primarily includes people from the nations of Gog, Gomer, Tubal, Meshech, and the house of Togarmah from the “north parts.” They will be joined by Persians from the East, Put from the West, Cushites from the South, and others.

“Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee. . . ” (Ezekiel 38:5-6)

“Gomer” is mentioned in Genesis as well as Ezekiel. The Jewish-turned-Roman historian Flavius Josephus identified Gomer with the Galatians.

“For Gomer founded those whom the Greeks now call Galatians, [Galls,] but were then called Gomerites.” (Antiquities of the Jews, I:6.)

Ancient Galatia was an area in the highlands of central Anatolia (now Turkey). Galatia was bounded on the north by Bithynia and Paphlagonia, on the east by Pontus, on the south by Lycaonia and Cappadocia, and on the west by the remainder of Phrygia, the eastern part of which the Gauls had invaded.

The modern capital of Turkey, Ankara, is part of ancient Galatia.

Historically, ‘Gomer’ is also linked to the ancient Cimmerians. The Cimmerians eventually settled the regions north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea, in what is now parts of Russia and the Ukraine.

The Cimmerians are believed to have migrated north from the region now called Azebaijan around the time of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

Both the ancient Cimmerians and the Gomerites spoke a form of the Thracian or Persian language.

Tubal was another son of Japheth who settled the area. Josephus wrote:

“Tobal gave rise to the Thobeles, who are now called Iberes”.

Josephus’ ‘Iberes’ settled in the area of the former Soviet state of Georgia.

Ezekiel begins his listing of Gog-Magog’s allies with Persia, or modern day Iran. Iran’s allies, according to Ezekiel, include “Ethiopia” and “Libya.”

Of the Libya of Ezekiel’s day, Josephus writes:

“Phut also was the founder of Libya to the south and called the inhabitants Phutites, from himself.”

(Some versions of Scripture render ‘Libya’ (as does the KJV) whereas others render it ‘Put’ — a grandson of Noah.)

Put settled an area that included most of North Africa including Libya and parts of modern Egypt.

“Ethiopia” (also rendered by some versions as ‘Cush’) was a civilization centered in the North African region of Nubia, located in what is today southern Egypt and northern Sudan.

Cush was another grandson of Noah, and the father of Nimrod. Josephus gives an account of the nation of Cush, who is the son of Ham and the grandson of Noah.

“For of the four sons of Ham, time has not at all hurt the name of Chus; for the Ethiopians, over whom he reigned, are even at this day, both by themselves and by all men in Asia, called Chusites.” (Antiquities of the Jews I:6.)

In the 5th century AD the Himyarites, in the south of Arabia, were styled by Syrian writers as Cushaeans and Ethiopians, and it is certain that the present-day areas of Yemen and Eritrea were both ruled together by one dynasty at that time.

The African ‘Kush’ covered Upper Egypt, and extended southwards from the First Cataract. In addition, the Cushitic peoples, who live around the Horn of Africa and today comprise the Somali, Afar, Oromo and several other tribes, are popularly asserted to be the offspring of the Biblical Cush.

That the Biblical term was also applied to parts of Arabia is suggested by Genesis, where Cush is the eponymous father of certain tribal and ethnic designations that tend to point to Arabia.

Babylonian inscriptions mention the Kashshi or Kassites, and it was once held that this signified a possible explanation of Cush, the ancestor of Nimrod in Genesis chapter 8.

The rhetorical question, “Can the Cushite change his skin?” in Jeremiah 13:23 implies people of a notably different skin color from the Israelites, most probably an African race.

Also, the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament, made by Greek-speaking Jews between 250 BC and 100 BC, uniformly translates Cush as “Ethiopia”.

Assessment:

So, this is what we know. We know that Ezekiel predicts that, ‘in the latter days’ the chief of chief princes of an alliance called Gog-Magog will arise from a location to the uttermost north of Israel.

We know that due north of the city of Jerusalem on the same longitude is the modern city of Moscow.

We know that Gog will be reluctantly drawn into a conflict with Israel. Ezekiel says Gog will be ‘drawn’ as if he ‘had hooks in his jaws’ into this conflict.

The Gog Magog alliance includes modern Russia, the Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, North Africa, and the Middle East extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.

We also know that the target of the Gog Magog Alliance is the restored nation of Israel. And finally, we know the time frame. Ezekiel says it will take place ‘in the latter days’. Here is something else we know. Ezekiel’s alignment of nations was never possible in previous generations.

To begin with, Ezekiel’s scenario demands the existence of Israel,

“the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations . . ” (Ezekiel 38:8-9)

From Ezekiel’s day until May 14, 1948, there was no place on earth called ‘Israel’. Prior to 1948, Russia had little interest in the Middle East. The Middle East had been part of the Islamic Ottoman Empire since the time of Columbus.

Ezekiel lived one thousand years before Mohammed introduced Islam to the world. Ezekiel lived twenty-five hundred years before David ben-Gurion announced the rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948.

The fulfillment of Ezekiel’s Gog-Magog prophecy depends entirely on the simultaneous development of two concurrent events; the rebirth of Israel and the rebirth of Mohammedan-style radical Islam.

Look at Ezekiel’s main protagonists. There are three.

The first is Gog and Magog, the modern Russian federation. Gog and Magog’s participation in the invasion force, according to Ezekiel, comes as a result of God’s promise to,

“turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth. . .” (Ezekiel 38:4)

I’ve often pondered the phrase, ‘turn thee back’ (Hebrew ‘paqad’ or ‘call to remembrance’). I recall writing a piece for This Week in Bible Prophecy in 1992. The story was about the new Russian parliament suddenly breaking mid-session to rush out to the halls of the Duma where newly-admitted Western missionaries were handing out free New Testaments.

Having just emerged from a lifetime of godless Communism, Russians were eager to hear the Word of God and Christian missionaries were welcomed with open arms.

For several years, Russians were offered this ‘call to remembrance’ of Scripture before former KGB operative Vladimir Putin slammed the door shut on foreign missionaries. The Russian Orthodox Church — which was heavily inflitrated by the KGB during the Communist era — the only legal Christian religion in Russia.

The ‘call to remembrance’ was over. When Moscow later entered into its nuclear agreement with Iran, the hook was set.

The second of Ezekiel’s protagonists is the alliance itself.

Look at the list carefully. Every single nation and region named as Gog-Magog allies is part of the Islamic world. Every single one of them.

Islamic North Africa, [Ethiopia and Libya] including the Sudan, whose Islamic government is currently conducted genocide against its Christian population.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the heart and soul of radical Wahabbist jihadist Islam.

Turkey, (ruled by the Islamic Party), together with most of the Russian Republic’s Islamic ‘stans’.

Persia, or modern Iran, the ‘hook’ in Gog’s jaw. Iran’s nuclear program was built by, overseen, guarded and maintained by Russian scientists, technicians and military forces. Iran’s leader has made it something of a habit to mention the destruction of Israel in every speech.

That brings us to the third protagonist in Ezekiel’s scenario — Israel.

According to Ezekiel, the entire invasion force is assembled to one purpose. The destruction of Israel. Israel has but two choices facing it.

Israel can gamble that the rest of the world will restrain Iran’s mad mullahs from pulling the nuclear trigger against them. Or Israel can act militarily to remove the threat itself.

A third possibility, although not among Israel’s choices, is that the United States will act to remove Iran’s nuclear facilities before Israel faces the point of no return. The possibility the US will act in time is just that — a possibility.

Israel’s entire existence has been a gamble, but gambling that the world will protect them from Iran is an unacceptable bet. Gambling on US intervention is a long shot, but the odds are within acceptable ranges, so Israel can afford to sit tight for the time being.

But Israel will only gamble with its existence for so long before it is forced to push all its chips into the middle and take out Iran’s Russian-built, Russian-staffed and Russian-guarded nuclear facilities.

Setting the hook in Gog’s jaw and bringing all three protagonists together ‘against the mountains of Israel’ exactly as Ezekiel predicted would take place ‘in the latter days’.

Featured Commentary: On Spurning God’s Word ~ Alf Cengia

What Makes Them So ANGRY?

What Makes Them So ANGRY?
Vol: 154 Issue: 17 Thursday, July 17, 2014

A good friend and OL member from Illinois emailed me in regard to a recent column by me examining the doctrine of eternal security.

My friend had reposted “License To Sin” at another forum whereupon one of the forum members came down on him for posting a column on eternal security.  Part of the comments, (with names redacted), went like this:

“I will NEVER be part of a theology that excuses “continued” sin in “believers” lives – making them feel comfortable and “justified” (I can’t help it)  to continue in their sin,  only to  discover one day He never knew them.”

“Bro B—, can I now please ask that you give me your assurance that you will stop posting OSAS justifying messaged here at the group, as I would hate for Bro B— to have to put you on moderate.”

Uh-oh. The missive was signed, “in Christian love.”  (Sigh. Aren’t they all?)

His question to me, however, wasn’t about the theology or the doctrine.  It was about the animosity it engendered.

“Why is there this hostility to believing that “we can’t be taken out of the Father’s Hand”?

This is a question that deserves a broader hearing, since it cuts a wider swath than just the issue of eternal security.  One encounters the same kind of hostility in discussions about the Rapture, pretribulationism, Dispensationalism and so on.

These are some of the things that mature Christians hesitate to discuss unless they are sure they are discussing it with like-minded believers.  Our own forums have from time to time become battle zones over some of these same doctrinal issues. 

More than one OL member has broken fellowship with us following a debate over eternal security or pretribulationism.  I am almost always blindsided by how quickly the debate turns nasty.

While I was answering my friend’s email, the Lord showed me why.   

I thought it worth sharing.

Assessment:

Since the topic at hand is eternal security, we’ll stick with that, but you will see how it applies to pretrib Rapture doctrine as well.  

When I said a minute ago that the Lord showed me why it turns nasty, it wasn’t hyperbole.   I found the answer was given specifically by Jesus, beginning with Matthew 20:1.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.  And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.”

There are several important points made here.  The first is that this is a parable about heaven.   The second is that the laborers had agreed with the householder about their wages.

“And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.”

Let’s stop here and digest what we have so far.  In the West we divide the 24 hour day at noon and midnight.

The Jews reckoned time using a 30 day lunar calendar and a twenty-four hour day divided as it says in Genesis 1:5.

“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

So the Jews divided their twenty-four hour day more logically.  The day begins at morning and ends at dark.  So the first hour of the day would be from 6 until 7 – that was about the time the first laborers were hired for a penny.

The “third hour” was 9 am.  The householder didn’t set an exact wage, but instead promised to do right by them for going to work.   Then he went out at the sixth hour (noon) and again at the ninth hour (3 pm) and hired more workers under the same contract conditions.

Finally, it says that he even hired workers at the eleventh hour (5 pm) and sent them out to work.   

“So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.”

So they were paid in the reverse order from their hire.  The last ones to work (for only an hour) were paid.

“And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.”

These guys put in a twelve hour day, whereas the last ones hired worked for only an hour.  So the guys that worked longer complained.

“Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”  (Matthew 20:12)

These guys were mad.  No two ways about it.  And I can’t blame them. If it was me that had worked my butt off in the field for twelve long, hot hours, I would expect better than the guys who barely worked up a sweat.

“But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?  Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.”

And here is the answer to the question at hand. 

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

Do you see it now?  The main objection to eternal security is always that it is license to sin. There are those people on this earth that, for one reason or another, don’t have the same struggle with sin that others do.

They don’t think so, but that proves the point. Nobody knows how heavy somebody else’s burdens are.  There are some Christians that have no problem with habitual sin – they easily gave up smoking or drinking or cussing. . .   or insert your besetting sin here.

I know that to be true because there are also non-Christians like that. There are non-Christians that successfully quit smoking or drinking or cussing — and they managed to do it without relying on God or the Holy Spirit.  That is just a fact.

Why is it sometimes easy for an unsaved sinner to accomplish what a saved Christian still struggles with?  The answer is obvious to almost anybody except some Christians. Because it is easier for some people than it is for others because that is how they are built.

It isn’t an excuse. It is an observable fact.  Some people quit smoking the day they get saved, some saved people continue to smoke for years.  

Some unsaved people quit smoking the day they decide it’s unpopular, too expensive, too unhealthy or too stinky.     

So you are the kind of Christian that started working at the first hour, and you see some alleged “Christian” who is still struggling to get started at the eleventh hour, long after your besetting sins are behind you.  

And then some joker like me comes along and says that guy is just as saved as you are.   

That makes them mad.  Just like when they object to the Rapture as a Great Escape.  It isn’t fair.

“Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”

Or put another way,

“I will NEVER be part of a theology that excuses “continued” sin in “believers” lives – making them feel comfortable and “justified” ( I can’t help it)  to continue in their sin,  only to  discover one day He never knew them. . . .  In Christian love . . .”

Of course.

Featured Commentary: Anti-Semitism on the Rise ~ J.L. Robb

Islam’s Split Personality

Islam’s Split Personality
Vol: 154 Issue: 16 Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Since September 11, there has been a concerted effort to present a new and improved Islam to the world. The moderate Muslim activists in the West avoid referring to teachings that may offend the Western citizen, such as the Islamic code of punishment.

They stress that they believe in Moses and Jesus. They refrain from calling Jews and Christians “infidels”, “Zionists” or “Crusaders”.

They use the term “Sunday School” in place of “Friday Class”, and they end their speeches with the Christian expression “may God bless you”.

Islam has two streams of theological thought; those based on Mohammed’s sayings in Mecca and those penned from Medina. Both eventually were brought together in the Koran, but reflect two entirely different worldviews.

The Meccan view is the ‘universalist’ view that holds that Islam, Christianity and Judaism all worship the same Deity and that we are all “People of the Book.”

The Medina view is the warlike, conquering Islam that is reflected in the Koran by verses such as, “O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.” [Sura 5.51]

Historians agree that there is a big difference between Mohammed’s religious teachings from Mecca and his teachings after his migration to Medina.

In Mecca Mohammed was weak, struggling to be accepted, often mocked at and ridiculed. He tried to appeal to the people of Mecca by being compassionate and loving. His teachings condemned violence, injustice, neglect of the poor.

However, after he moved to Medina and his followers grew in strength and number, he became a relentless warrior, intent on spreading his religion by the sword.

This change in Mohammed’s personality becomes apparent by comparing the Meccan and the Medinan suras. The following are some additional examples:

In Sura 73:10 God tells Mohammed to be patient with his opponents “Be patient with what they say, and part from them courteously.”

In Sura 2:191 God orders him to kill his opponents “Kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from wherever they drove you out…”

In Sura 2:256 Allah tells Mohammed not to impose Islam by force “There is no compulsion in religion.”

In verse 193 God tells him to kill whoever rejects Islam “Fight (kill) them until there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s.”

In Sura 29:46 Allah tells Mohammed to speak nicely to people of the Book (Christians and Jews) “Argue with people of the Book, other then evil doers, only by means of what are better! and say, we believe in what has been sent down to us and sent down to you. Our God is the same as your God, and we are surrendered to him.”

Then in Sura 9:29 Allah tells him to fight the people of the Book, “Fight those who do not believe in God and the last day…and fight People of the Book, who do not accept the religion of truth (Islam) until they pay tribute by hand, being inferior.”

To justify this sudden change in the Koran’s mood from peaceful to militant, conciliatory to confrontational, Mohammed claimed that it was Allah who told him so.

History demonstrates that what actually happened was that Mohammed grew strong in Medina — strong enough to move from being conciliatory in his religious approach to jihad.

Those who claim to be moderate followers of Islam are those who follow the Meccan Mohammed. The militants follow the Mohammed of Medina.

Islam teaches love, temperance and moderation. It’s easy enough to prove. Just read the Koran. However, since few ever will, the American face of moderate Islam will read it to you, as is evidently the case with the Bush administration.

But the same Koran teaches jihad, death and destruction out of the same pages, and while the American face of moderate Islam will never read those to you, the militant Islamist reads them every single day.

Verses like the following:

Men are superior to women (Sura 2:228).

Women have half the rights of men: in court witness (Sura 2:282) and in inheritance (Sura 4:11).

A man may punish his wife by beating her (Sura 4:34).

A man may marry up to four wives at the same time (Sura 4:3).

A wife is a sex object for her husband (Sura 2:223).

Muslims must fight until their opponents submit to Islam (Sura 9:29).

A Muslim must not take a Jew or a a Christian for a friend (Sura 5:51).

A Muslim apostate must be killed (Sura 9:12).

Stealing is punished by the amputation of the hands (Sura 5:38).

Adultery is punished by public flogging (Sura 24:2).

Resisting Islam is punished by death, crucifixion or the cutting off of the hands and feet (Sura 5:33).

Fate decides everyone’s eternal destination (Sura 17:13).

Every Muslim will pass through Hell (Sura 19:71).

Heaven in Islam is the place where a Muslim will be reclining, eating meats and delicious fruits, drinking exquisite wines, and engaging in sex with virgins (Sura 55:54- 56) & (Sura 52:17,19).

You might notice I didn’t include a lot of the ‘moderate’ verses ‘proving’ the Koran presents Islam as a religion of peace and love.

That isn’t because they aren’t there. But they are rendered meaningless by the verses that teach the opposite.

Islamic apologists point to the warlike nature of the Old Testament and the seeming contradiction presented by the Prince of Peace in the New Testament.

But the Koran isn’t two separate religions based on two separate Dispensations of God, clearly divided by 400 years of silence followed by the fulfillment of the Old Testament in the life of Jesus Christ.

One has to be an Islamic scholar to separate the Meccan verses from the Medinan verses to know whether Allah wants them to be friends with Christians and Jews or to crucify them.

It is that split personality within Islam that separates the moderates from the militants. We are told that the moderates are in the majority, but all the evidence seems to indicate the exact opposite.

In any case, there are approaching two billion Muslims in the world — that is two thousand million, to put it more descriptively. If even ten percent of Islam follows the Mohammed of Medina, that’s 100 million militant Muslims.

That’s a lot, no matter how you interpret it.