The End from the Beginning

The End from the Beginning
Vol: 161 Issue: 28 Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Book of Daniel is among the most controversial books in the Bible, dividing scholars over whether it was actually written by the Prophet Daniel or if it was a late forgery.

In the third-century a heretic named Porphyry declared Daniel was written by Judas Macabeus around the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, around 170-163 BC — about four hundred years after Daniel.

The main reason for rejecting Daniel is his incredibly accurate prophecy regarding the four world empires that were to come.

It takes a dedicated critic to deny Daniel’s authorship.  Daniel predicted the rise of Alexander the Great and his Greek empire, which defeated and replaced the Persian Empire in 334 BC.  

Under Alexander, all subjects of his empire had to use Greek as their working language. 

In obedience to that law, a group of rabbis and Jewish sages undertook to translate the Jewish Scriptures into Greek.  Their final work, the Septuagint, translated in the 3rd century BC, and well before Macabeus, included the Book of Daniel.

There are lots of other examples that shatter the contention that Daniel is a forgery, but the most compelling evidence favoring Daniel’s authenticity is Christianity.  Sir Isaac Newton argued that Christianity itself rests on Daniel’s authenticity. 

Why? Because of the testimony of Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14.  The Lord Jesus Christ referred to the Book of Daniel and He called Daniel a Prophet.  If Daniel was a forgery or a mythical character, then Jesus didn’t know that. 

If Jesus didn’t know that, then He could not have been the Son of God. If Jesus was not the Son of God, then He was not qualified to pay your sin debt, your faith is in vain and you remain yet dead in your sins.

It is therefore not possible to reject the historicity and authenticity of Daniel without necessarily rejecting the entire Bible, including the New Testament.  Which is, of course, the position taken by Daniel’s critics.

But apart from the obvious problems already articulated, there is one more logic problem associated with dating Daniel to the Maccabean Period.  Even if that could explain Daniel’s incredible accuracy in predicting the fall of Babylon and the rise and fall of the Persian and Greek Empires, the Roman Empire was yet future.

Daniel had more to say about the rise and fall and rise again of the Roman Empire than he did of any other world empire — and even late-dating Daniel doesn’t explain the prophetic accuracy of the book that bears his name.  In 170-163 BC, Judea was under Greek, not Roman rule.

The Roman Republic had not yet become the Roman Empire when Daniel’s critics claim the Book of Daniel was written.  So even if it was written by Judas Maccabeus, (it wasn’t) the critics are still left scratching their heads, since even with the later date, most of Daniel’s prophecy was yet future.  

It is a ridiculous, desperate effort by those who just can’t accept the supernatural explanation to find one that they can — even if their preferred explanation is even less defensible. 

To accept Daniel at face value is to admit that God exists, since if Daniel is the actual author of the Book, then no other possible explanation makes sense.

Assessment:

“. . . For 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 46:9-10)

In Daniel’s day, Rome was not yet even a republic, let alone an empire.  The city of Rome was founded by Romulus at just about the same time that Daniel was interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. 

The king had dreamed a dream that he couldn’t remember, but it greatly troubled him.  Eventually, Daniel was summoned to both reveal what the dream was and interpret it. 

The king dreamed of a statue, or image of a man with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, two legs of iron and ten toes of iron mixed with clay.

THIS is the dream that confounds Daniel’s critics.  By the time of the Maccabean Period, the empire of Babylon had already been defeated by Persia, which had been already defeated by Greece, which was already beginning to show signs of crumbling.  

The two legs of iron, signifying Rome, were still future.  By the fourth century, the Roman Empire grew too large to be administered from Rome and so the Empire was divided into the Western, Roman Empire and the Eastern Byzantine Empire, with its capital at Constantinople. 

Rome was conquered by the barbarians in 476 AD. Rome’s political destruction was complete – a deadly wound directly to one of the heads of the empire, fulfilling the Apostle John’s prediction of 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)

The Prophet Daniel predicts that the final form of the revived Roman Empire will be a confederation of ten kingdoms that were part of the two legs of iron. With the revival of the Roman Empire, that deadly wound is healed.

“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.” (Revelation 13:12)

It is at this point that interpreters and Bible critics and Bible teachers and students of Bible prophecy branch out into all kinds of areas. Some are convinced the deadly wound signifies a failed assassination attempt against the antichrist. 

Others focus their attention on the identity of the first beast, or the system overseen by the second beast, or are mesmerized by the concept of the Mark of the Beast and how it will be administered.

All these things are unknown and, I believe, unknowable, until the time appointed.

And all the speculation, (since it is all different and things that are different cannot be the same), throws out the baby with the bath water, can’t see the forest for the trees, is missing a piece of the puzzle, is out wandering in the desert, not to mention all the other metaphors I can’t think of.  

If you back up to the point before the speculation begins, THAT is where the real meat is to be found.

At the time the Prophet Daniel was telling Nebuchadnezzar that the as-yet future Roman Empire would remain a force until it is abolished by Jesus Christ in the final hours of human government, an unwashed peasant named Romulus was founding a settlement along the Tiber River, declaring himself king. 

Twenty-six hundred years after Daniel and sixteen hundred years after the barbarians entered the gates of Rome,  the European Union declared itself the revival of the Roman Empire.  

Whether it currently consists of ten nations or twenty-seven at this particular point in history is largely irrelevant. History is still unfolding. In the end, it will be fulfilled precisely as prophesied.

Isaiah 46:10 teaches us that prophecy starts at the end and works back to the beginning.

In 1948, for the first time since Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem (and Daniel) the nation of Israel was revived and restored to the same piece of real estate from which they had been ejected by the Romans in AD 70.

For a nation of antiquity to be conquered, scattered and then restored in such a manner had no equal in history.   But this event was more than an historical first — it was the direct and unambiguous fulfillment of Bible prophecy for the last days.

At the exact same point in history, the six nations of the Benelux formed a cooperative economic union that marked the beginning of the revival of the Roman Empire.  The revival of an historical empire such as we’ve witnessed in our generation is also an event without equal in the annals of history.

To assume both events happened at exactly the same point in history — by coincidence — takes a faith greater than I can muster up.

The world is in a state of chaos and confusion unlike anything in living memory — for the first time in the history of mankind, mankind faces an existential threat of extinction at his own hand. 

Uncertainty and fear color every waking moment as we wonder if our world will look the same in the morning as it did when we went to bed the night before.

Our systems and infrastructure are in shambles, people are rioting in the streets, the economy is in the tank and everywhere one turns, they are talking about a New World Order.  

There is no need to speculate.  Just look at what is out there in the open.

If you know Jesus Christ (and He knows you) than what is unfolding in our world is proof positive that the world is wrong, God is not dead, Jesus Christ remains on the throne and remains intimately involved in the affairs of men. 

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Everything is unfolding according to Plan and what remains unfulfilled will be fulfilled in this generation just as literally as those that have already been fulfilled.  So we have nothing to fear.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. . . And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” (John 14:27,29)

It IS coming to pass.  And I believe. 

Marantha!

Originally Published: November 7, 2011

Quite the Mysterion

Quite the Mysterion
Vol: 161 Issue: 27 Friday, February 27, 2015

Of all the things that are certain about life, the most certain thing of all is that none of us will get out of it alive.   But what about the Rapture, you ask?

Those alive at the Rapture do not experience physical death, but by every standard of measure we have for physical life, they don’t arrive in heaven any more alive than do saints who died in the fifth century.

In his first letter to the Church at Corinth, Paul writes;

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

There is a lot of information packed into those few words.  First, the use of the word mystery (mysterion). It means, a ‘hidden thing’ or ‘hidden purpose or counsel of God.’ 

Paul chose that word carefully to make an impact upon his audience. Words have a dictionary meaning but could mean something entirely different within the cultural context.  

Suppose you are some future historian trying to translate ancient 21st English.  How would you translate the following two sentences?

  1. She wore a gay smile as they danced across the ballroom. 
  2. Everyone at the dance was gay.

In the Greek of Paul’s day, mysterion was primarily understood to mean a religious secret confided only to the initiated and withheld from ordinary mortals. Such secret religious sects were typical of the ancients, both Roman and Greek.

In English, it doesn’t carry quite the same primary meaning.  We hear ‘mystery’ and we think of whodunits or unexplained events.   A mysterion was a revelation – a secret revealed by God to special initiates who would ‘get’ it.  

Contextually then, we would understand a mysterion as someone who had been ‘read into’ a secret, like a 33rd degree Mason or a high-level Homeland Security agent.  

It is important to understand what mystery means in context, since it is only used about eighteen times in the King James Bible.  It doesn’t mean it is too complicated for you to understand.  It doesn’t mean that is hidden from you.  

Whenever you see it, you need to recognize that you are being “read into” some top secret counsel of God — completely unintelligible to anyone other than those to whom it is intended.

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:” (1 Corinithians 2:7)

The mystery isn’t ‘mysterious’ at all.  What is a mystery is that even today, only those that have been ‘read into’ the mystery can understand it. Unless someone has been “read into it” by the Holy Spirit, one can explain it until one is blue in the face and they can’t get it.

“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.”(1 Corinthians 2:14)

If that is true, then shouldn’t it follow that as soon as someone is saved, he should be able to understand every doctrine in the Bible?   Nope. 

God doesn’t read every Christian into every mystery, either.  That is what makes it a mysterion – a mystery is a revelation to the initiated – not everybody is initiated to the same level.  We are all individual persons and our God is an individual God.  

Saved individuals have a unique relationship with an individual God.  My relationship with God is no more like your relationship with God than my relationship with one of my sons is like my relationship with the other.

Each of us is an individual with an individual relationship.  Each of us understands the other slightly differently.  Do you see what I mean? 

I “get” one of them more than I do the other, but that is because we are all real individuals.

If everybody ‘got’ God the same, I’d have to question whether He was real.  Even if everybody is ‘read into’ the ‘mysterion’ the same way – not everybody ‘gets’ it the same way — because it is all real.

I could say the same thing to all my kids and I’d be lucky if half of them ‘got it’ the way I meant it. And I can explain a particular doctrine to some Christians until I was blue in the face and they’d still miss the point.

“Behold, I read you into a secret; we shall not all sleep (koimao) but we shall all be changed.”

This is the second remarkable statement – we shall not all sleep.  The word koimao means literally, ‘to be put to sleep’.  It is a verb – metaphorically; it can mean “to die” —but in the sense of cause and effect; the cause is God did it, the effect is you died.

“Behold, I read you into a secret, we shall not all be put to sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

In English, when we read of being changed, that can mean pretty much anything from a new haircut to a new attitude.

The word “changed” as used here is from the Greek word “allasso” which primarily means “exchanged” or “transformed”  into something that was not present previously.  It means to ‘exchange one thing for another’.

“Behold, I read you into a secret, we shall not all be put to sleep, but we shall all exchange one thing for another.”

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthinans 15:51-54)

Assessment:

Not every Christian has been ‘read into’ every mysterion — just like not every person knows the Whole Counsel of God.  It’s all there in the pages of the Bible. All of us have access to it. 

But none of us are capable of being “read into” the whole Counsel of God.   That’s how God made us.  It doesn’t necessarily make one person wrong and the other right.  It puts that person where God wants them to make the point He wants made.

“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ;

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:  (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Not everybody is “read in” the same way.  

When, exactly, DO we all come in the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, a perfect man unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ? 

There is no unity of faith in the here & now.  Nobody has attained that level of perfection since Christ.  Who could be measured against the stature of the fullness of Christ?  Nobody. 

Until that Day when we are changed. At the last trump. 

“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

But not everybody agrees on what the last trump means, or what it means for the Lord to descend from Heaven, or what it means for the dead in Christ to rise first or for those who are alive and remain to be caught up.

The Prophet Daniel proclaimed to Nebuchadnezzar, “But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets.”  Nowhere does it say that everyone gets them the same. 

There are those that are convinced that the Rapture will take place at some precise point within the Tribulation – the breaking of the Sixth Seal, or somewhere at the mid-point or even at the end.  

For those folks, it seems critically important that they convince others to prepare to avoid the judgment of God that is to come upon the earth during the Tribulation.  To my way of thinking, that is the most mysterious line of reasoning of all.

Avoiding God’s judgment?  Is that even possible?

I believe that the Rapture must precede the Tribulation, since it is a period of judgment for sin in which the Church has no part.  Either Christians are declared judicially innocent by virtue of the Blood of Christ or they are not.

If they are judicially innocent, then God cannot justly impose judgment on them.  So the Church cannot be justly judged for the sins of the world after Jesus has already paid the penalty due.   

That is why Paul concludes the Rapture passage in 1 Thessalonians with this note of encouragement:

“Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.”

Not everybody has been read into every secret the same way. Every person is an individual with an individual relationship with an individual God.  It is by our disagreements that we demonstrate the
http://www.omegaletter.com/admin/tinymce/themes/advanced/langs/en.js
reality and the individuality and personality of the living God.   

The Lord works in mysterious ways. That’s what makes Him God.

Originally Published: February 3, 2011

Featured Commentary: Rhyming Jewish History ~ Alf Cengia

Drowning the Seed

Drowning the Seed
Vol: 161 Issue: 26 Thursday, February 26, 2015

I believe that the Bible calls us to be witnesses of Christ, and that there is no more perfect expression of God’s will in the life of a Christian than when he works to lead others to Christ.

That said, what does one do, as one of our readers related recently in one of our forums, when somebody is clearly not interested in hearing the Gospel?

The forum comment describes an experience we’ve all shared in some variation. You strike up a conversation, and somehow, Jesus comes up in the discussion.

Your conversation suddenly stalls, and when you try to revive it, you meet a wall of stony silence.

Eventually, you come to recognize the signals and past experience tells you its time to say something cheery and take your leave.

But then it bothers you all the way home. . . “why didn’t I press the issue? Am I a coward for Christ? Jesus endured the collective hatred of the human race. Am I so weak I can’t bear a little rejection?”

You are convinced you failed Him. You had a chance to share the Gospel, and you blew it.

Maybe if you had tried a little harder, they might have listened. But no, you were too chicken!

It isn’t like you don’t know what is at stake — especially if you have been an OL member for any length of time at all.

You know that every person you meet is destined to spend eternity somewhere. You already know that they will either spend eternity in the joyful presence of Christ.

Or they will spend a Christ less eternity alone, tormented by the punishments of hell and their memory of rejecting their chance to escape it.

You know it because I remind you of it every chance that I get to do so. The redemption of a single sinner is worth the whole world, the Scriptures say. When one sinner repents, the angels rejoice.

Nothing in our walk though this world is of greater eternal value than leading a lost sinner to Christ.

But instead of pressing the issue, you walked away.

Knowing all that you know, you gave up without a fight. What kind of soldier are you?

Assessment:

If that is your story, or you have one like it, then the answer is, a smart one. A smart soldier would not press a battle against the odds — just so he could say he was in the fight.

Once you’ve used up all your resources in an unwise and ill-prepared assault, then those resources are no longer available to be deployed elsewhere where they can be of greater tactical value.

You offered Jesus, the offer was rejected. But in making the offer, you planted a seed. What you do next will affect the probability that your seed will take root.

You can continue to pour water on it until it drowns. Or you can plant it, give it as much water as conditions demand, give it a chance to germinate, and let nature take its course.

Planting the Gospel is sometimes like that. You plant it by sharing the Gospel, but sometimes, like planting in saturated ground, you can overwater and drown the seed.

Sometimes, just planting the seed is all that is necessary, and then its time to let the Holy Spirit take care of the nurturing.

Instead of drowning the seed in your eagerness to get it to take root, sometimes its better to let it germinate, even if it means somebody else will get to reap the harvest.

If your concern is for the health of the seed rather than your profit from the harvest, then it is not such a big deal if somebody else gets to harvest it.

Should you have pressed that person who clearly didn’t want to be pressed?

Ask yourself how you react when a salesman keeps pestering you after you tell him you’ll think about it.

Not only won’t you buy from that salesman, odds are that you won’t buy that brand, either, even though the salesman had nothing to do with the quality of the product.

Jesus knows whether or not you’ve done the job He sent you to do. How does He tell us to handle rejection? Does He tell us to press the issue until it comes to blows?

No. He says:

“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)

“And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5)

“He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me.” (Luke 10:16)

When Paul and Barnabas attempted to preach the Gospel, “the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.”

Paul and Barnabas did their best. They preached the Word, the offered the salvation of Christ, and the Word was rejected. What did they do next?

“[T]hey shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.” (Acts 13:50-51)

“And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.” (Acts 18:5)

Notice that Paul and Timothy were moved by the Holy Spirit to witness to the Macedonians. Notice also what happened when the Macedonians didn’t want to hear it.

“And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:6)

This was the Apostle Paul, and the Bible says it was the Holy Spirit moved him to preach. But the Macedonians were free to choose.

Paul and Timothy didn’t browbeat them, but rather, Paul said, “I’ve done what the Lord sent me to do. From here on out, it is up to you.”

Paul was not a bad Christian. He wasn’t weak, he wasn’t wishy-washy, he wasn’t uncaring. Paul was God’s chosen evangelist to the Gentiles.

But Paul understood that the seeds he planted would grow unto the Lord, or they would NOT grow unto the Lord.

There is an old saying to the effect that “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”

And if you try, you’ll probably drown the horse.

It wasn’t up to Paul to do more than the task that God put before him. Neither is it up to you.

It is our duty and our solemn responsibility to make sure everyone we meet has a chance to choose whom they will serve in this life and where they will spend eternity.

But it is not up to us to make the choice for them. Or to feel responsible when they choose badly. It’s not we that we failed Him.

The seed we plant may not germinate for decades, but that’s up to God, not us. That’s where the ‘trust’ part takes over.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

Don’t beat yourself up. Your job is to take the stand as a witness. It’s up to the Holy Spirit to obtain a conviction.

“Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it.” (1st Thessalonians 5:24)

There are times when its our job to plant the seeds, then get out of the way and let Him take it from there.

Originally Published: February 27, 2008

Would a Loving God Send People to Hell?

Would a Loving God Send People to Hell?
Vol: 161 Issue: 25 Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Generally speaking, that is the first objection the world raises when introduced to the God of the Bible as He reveals Himself to man.

If God TRULY ‘so loved the world that He sent His only begotton Son’ to save us from hell, then why did He create Hell in the first place? And having created it, why did He create man and then allow him to sin?

To the atheist or the skeptic, these seem to be logical, valid questions, but the questions are based on false assumptions about the God of Scripture. For example, “could God create a rock so big He can’t lift it?”

It seems logical at first glance. But what the question is really asking is, “if God is so all powerful that He is powerful enough to fail?”

The first false assumption about God is that, because God loves us so much, He ought to let us do what we want. But the permissive kind of love they ascribe to a ‘loving’ God, when applied to children, doesn’t produce loving children. It produces spoiled brats.

In addition, God’s moral laws have a purpose, as evidenced by the precision with which He put together the universe. The laws that govern the physical universe are so precise that we can calculate the positions of planets, stars, and galaxies thousands to millions of years into the future.

Would a God of this kind of precision design moral laws that are random or changing? God’s moral laws keep order in society the way the physical laws keep order in the universe. But the main purpose of God’s moral laws are to teach us what God requires for us to enter into His kingdom.

It is our obvious failure to keep these moral laws that leads humans to seek redemption and salvation in the first place. We can’t help it. Even an atheist, if he is honest, will admit that at some time in his life, he did or said something he was sorry for. Humans are built that way.

So why doesn’t God make everyone into perfect beings and allow them all into heaven? It would actually be more cruel if God were to do this, since many people prefer hell to the alternative (complete submission to God).

All the people who end up going to hell will have done so because they actually prefer hell to being forced into the presence of God for all eternity. It is their choice to make, and many make it with eyes wide open. People like to live in their favorite sins and answer to no one else.

They know that if they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior that God will want them to change their lives and they might have to give up some of their autonomy. We’ve all witnessed to somebody at some time who said something like, “I’ve a window seat reserved in hell” or, “I don’t mind going to hell. All my friends will be there.”

Clearly, God isn’t SENDING them to hell. On the contrary, He provided a way for man to avoid hell, but He also gave man free will to choose. Being compelled to worship God isn’t worship. Since God created spiritual beings for the purpose of expressing love, those beings must have complete free will in order to express that love.

Of course, free will allows for the possibility of those beings rejecting God and His plans. The skeptic and atheist argue that God will just let them into heaven because they have behaved about as good, and maybe even better, compared to the rest of the people on earth.

But to God, any sin excludes entrance into heaven. The next argument the skeptic will present is that God isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that only some people will get to go to heaven, while the rest will go to hell.

The answer to this one is easy. They are right. If God were fair, EVERYBODY would go to hell. Nobody can live a sinless life, even after they are saved and their sins are washed away.

Therefore, God has made a provision to erase all sins that we have committed in this life and to perfect us so that we cannot sin in the next life. That provision for sin is through the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus took the punishment that we deserve and gives us the reward that we do not deserve – eternal life. That is mercy, not fairness.

In accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, all our sins are erased, and Jesus works to change us into His image. On the other hand, ‘fairness’ demands all who have sinned and come short of the glory of God be judged according to their works. Instead of fairness, God extends mercy to those who ask for it.

It is the atheist and the skeptic who will experience God’s ‘fairness’ when they stand before Him. I’d rather stand before a merciful Judge than a ‘fair’ one, anytime.

The skeptic and the atheist scoff at the nature of salvation, saying anything that is ‘free’ is worth what you pay for it. While salvation is a gift of grace and not of works, one can’t exactly say that salvation is free. There is a cost.

It will cost you your sin. It will cost you your pride. It will cost you your sense of self, or your selfishness. None of these character traits exist in heaven.

But the skeptic or atheist who prefers to hang onto these traits can choose to go to where these traits DO exist. Every human was created in God’s Image, with an eternal, spiritual component. We will all spend eternity somewhere. If not heaven, there is only one choice remaining. That is hell.

Does a loving God send people to hell? No. People CHOOSE hell. What a loving God does is provide a choice. The atheist or skeptic can choose to stand before a fair God, or a merciful One. In either case, they can’t blame God then for the consequences of choices that they make now.

God allows each of us to choose, but as to the question at hand, “Does a loving God send people to hell?”, God answers it directly:

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezekiel 18:32)

Originally Published: May 11, 2004

Featured Commentary: High Places ~ Lea Sylvester

The Days of Noah

The Days of Noah
Vol: 161 Issue: 24 Tuesday, February 24, 2015

According to the Book of Genesis, there was an antediluvian (pre-Flood) race of beings that existed on the earth that the KJV calls ‘giants’ that the Hebrew sages dubbed “the Nephilim”.

The Nephilim were the children born to the daughters of men and the “sons of God.” As to the identity of the ‘sons of God’ — if you ask four Christian theologians that question you’ll get five different answers.

(And about the only thing they’ll agree on is that the other three guys are wrong).

Instead of filling in the blanks on stuff we don’t know with stuff we guess about, let’s tick off the things we DO know about the players involved.

The sons of God are clearly distinguished from the daughters of men, raising two possible conclusions.

The first is that the ‘sons of God’ were simply good and righteous men so labeled to distinguish them from the earthy, less righteous among them. That doesn’t seem to make much sense, given that God singled out Noah — specifically because of his righteousness — yet Genesis didn’t label him a ‘son of God.’

Only six verses after singling out the ‘sons of God’ for special mention, Genesis says simply that Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” because he was “a just man and perfect in his generations.”

If being righteous justified the label, ‘sons of God’ then Noah certainly would seem to qualify.

Focus instead on the phrase, ‘perfect in his generations’. Noah was a ‘just’ man, not a perfect one. But in his ‘generations’ — his genealogy — he was ‘perfect’ ie., untainted.

Untainted by what?

The phrase “sons of God” used in Genesis 6 is “bene elohim”, which used apparently only three other times in Scripture and in each of the other cases it is found in the book of Job which is accepted as one of the most ancient books written. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7.

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.”

“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.”

“When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

In each of these examples, the “sons of God” were the angels..

The only logical conclusion is that the ‘sons of God’ were not righteous men, or even men at all.

And their offspring, the ‘giants’ or Nephilim were a hybrid race formed out of two distinct but sexually compatible beings.

Assessment:

“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:37)

“They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. ” (Luke 17:27)

To get a look at that distant, future, generation who would witness the return of Christ, Jesus tells us to look to that distant, past generation that experienced the judgment of the Great Flood.

“Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:29)

Let’s connect some more dots. Genesis Chapter 6 describes the most direct and unfettered contact between human beings in general and the spirit world recorded in the entire Bible — other than the Book of the Revelation’s description of the Tribulation Period.

Additionally, Genesis tells us that “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

It can be argued that television is imagination in a box. There, we vicariously live out all our dreams and fantasies. Somewhere on the cable dial, there is something for the imagination of everybody’s heart. . .

So take a look at what is the imagination of the thoughts of THIS generation’s heart. It won’t take long. Pick up your remote and scroll through the cable listings. (I’ll wait.)

Popular culture today is full of the use of spirit guides, alien encounters, and open satanic worship.

A similar, but seldom-noted parallel between the unholy offspring of Genesis 6 and this generation is DNA and cloning research. In Genesis chapter 2, God promises a Redeemer who would be of the ‘seed of a woman’.

Satan therefore set out to pollute the human bloodline to prevent this prophecy from being fulfilled. The corruption of the human race was the main reason for the Flood. And we are in the process of corrupting it again — as it was in the days of Noah.

The term ‘strange flesh’ means to go after an unnatural sexual union. In any case, the parallel between Sodom and this generation’s moral code is self-evident.

Jesus uses the story of the evacuation of Lot’s family before judging Sodom and Gomorrah to illustrate the Rapture of the Church — before the judgment of the Tribulation Period.

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts. And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. ” (2 Peter 3:2-3)

I love this argument for its utter stupidity. The Lord hasn’t come back, which somehow proves He won’t come back. Peter doesn’t call it ‘stupid’, he calls it ‘willing ignorance’ but it means the same thing.

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”

About the only thing in modern culture that raises eyebrows is Biblical Christianity.

While other Christians scoff, or argue that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s Plan, that they’ve been hearing ‘for ages’ that the Lord is coming back, or that prophecy was all fulfilled back in AD 70, keep this thought in mind.

God has chosen a few out of this generation to be the watchmen on the wall. Most churches have their ‘prophecy nuts’. Recognize what that term really describes.

It describes a relative handful of Christians — out of this vast, unique generation — who have been specifically and directly chosen by God to give the warning of His soon return.

And out of all the generations of Christians — from the Resurrection of Christ and down through the centuries — out of all the nations on all the continents, right down to all the people in your church, He chose . . . you.

“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. ” (2nd Peter 3:17-18)

Wow.

Originally Published: January 14, 2009

Featured Commentary: Wanna Be a Watchman? ~ Wendy Wippel 

The Third Way

The Third Way
Vol: 161 Issue: 23 Monday, February 23, 2015

I watched a six-part BBC WWII documentary I had never seen before called, “The Nazis – A Warning From History.”  In the first place, I didn’t know there was a WWII documentary I’ve never seen before.

Secondarily, every one I’ve seen used essentially the same stock footage, which necessarily forces the filmmaker to focus on the events for which there is the most video footage.

We’ve all seen the same five seconds of D-Day footage where six guys are charging up from the shoreline when one of them goes down.  The next scene always shows a Canadian landing craft landing at Bernières-sur-Mer on Juno Beach.

The fact is that there is very little surviving video of the D-Day landings.  AP photographer Joe Rosenthal (who later shot the iconic picture of the Marines planting the flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima) put the film aboard an LST headed back to the armada to pick up more troops.

The LST was hit by a German shell and the photographic record of the landings at Normandy were sent to the bottom of the English Channel.   Similar accidents of war destroyed other photographic battle records.

So what is usually discussed in these documentaries are the events for which there is the most spectacular footage to show over it.

What made this particular documentary series unique was that it was made almost entirely using captured German footage.  Uniquely, instead of beginning with the invasion of Poland in 1939, this documentary begins with the surrender of Germany in 1918.

On November 11, 1918 (and to the great surprise of the German front-line troops) the war abruptly ended in an armistice.  The Germans on the front lines weren’t losing ground – some German forces were forced to surrender from positions behind enemy lines.

They wondered why the war had ended so quickly and why they had to vacate their hard-won positions in such a hurry.  They didn’t feel defeated.

The myth grew among the average German soldiers that they had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the Marxists and Leftist Jews that had protested the war back home.

They took their bitterness back to the newly democratized Germany with them.  The Kaiser was deposed and his government replaced by a parliamentary constitutional republic officially called Deutsches Reich, better known to history as the Weimar Republic.

Thanks to Germany’s defeat and the crippling reparations demanded by the Versailles Treaty, the country polarized along the lines of left and right.  On the Left were the Communists and on the Right were the disaffected veterans.

The Weimar government, unable to meet the war reparations payments, began printing money to deal with the crisis, using the freshly printed marks to repay war loans and reparations.  In 1914 the papiermark was trading at 4.2 to the dollar.

By August, 1923 one dollar was equal to one million papiermarks.

Suppose you had saved up for retirement all your life and you were five years away from retirement.  You have a nice little retirement nest egg – you lived frugally and made some smart investments.   Let’s say you’ve accumulated a million dollars and you’re fifty-five.

If you were a German living 100 years ago in 1910, by the time you retired in 1920, your million-dollar retirement money is worthless.   By November 1923, the papiermark is replaced by the rentenmark.

The value of the rentenmark was pegged at 4.2 to the dollar, just like the million papiermarks were when you were saving them for retirement.   Now you are sixty-eight and need to exchange your million papiermarks in for rentenmarks so you can retire.

One million papiermarks will buy one billionth of ONE rentenmark which, by 1923, was trading at one trillion to one.  Remember, one rentenmark is worth about 23 cents.

Politics was totally polarized – on one side were the radicals, led by the Marxists and Communists, on the other were the conservatives led by the disaffected veterans who supported President Von Hindenburg.

Into the middle of this arose a young unknown, a charismatic politician who promised “hope and change” and promised to fundamentally transform the government.  Neither liberal nor conservative, he introduced a Third Way, national socialism.

In 1923, he published his political manifesto, Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) that, in retrospect, causes historians to wonder why nobody saw what was coming.

Assessment:

The BBC documentary was published in 1997 using video interview clips from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s from surviving Nazis then well into their eighties.

So the context offered by this documentary is unique in that it offers the actual perspective of the time, rather than an historian’s opinion on the historical perspective.

At the time the documentary was released, Bill Clinton was president. The budget deficit was balanced and the US had actually begun paying down the national debt.  The Cold War was over. We won.

Nobody suspected in 1997 what the next decade would bring.  Anymore than anybody could foresee from 1910 what conditions would be just thirteen years later.

What struck me about the documentary was how closely it tracked with our past thirteen years.  It was spooky.   Nobody could have known when they were translating Hitler’s early speeches that the words “hope” and “change” and “fundamental transformation” would soon become part of the American political lexicon.

I was particularly stunned by a 1928 political speeches in which Hitler apologized to his supporters because change wasn’t coming as fast as he had promised, exhorted them not to give up hope and repeated his promise that the fundamental transformation of the German nation was just around the corner.

It was creepy. Here is one example from a Hitler speech:

“Our opponents accuse National Socialism and me in particular of being intolerant and quarrelsome. They say we don’t want to work with other parties. They say the National Socialists are not Germans at all because they refuse to work with other parties.  .  . I have to admit one thing – these gentlemen are quite right – we are intolerant.  I have given myself one goal, to sweep these parties from Germany.”   

Replace “National Socialist” with “Democrat”, “German” with “American,” and Hitler’s political antagonists with the Tea Party, and one has all the elements of an Obama stump speech.

The documentary also focused its attention on other less-commonly examined themes, such as the kinds of men Hitler surrounded himself with and those whom he appointed to various jobs.

As I watched, I kept thinking of Obama’s stable of unelected political ‘czars’ that he’s used to circumvent the Constitution’s ‘advice and consent’ requirements.

There is some kind of rule about comparing anybody to the Nazis – something to the effect that making such a comparison dilutes the singularly evil character of the Nazi era.

Ordinarily, I would agree.  There is no historical comparison between Hitler and the Nazis and anybody else — yet.    But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be – but if nobody dares to compare, then nobody will see the next one coming until he is here.

That is the titular purpose for the documentary — it is “a warning from history.”  To hear a warning, you have to listen and then watch for the signs.

“Hope and change” isn’t a new political slogan.  And the “fundamental transformation” of a nation is not a new political goal.  It’s all been done before.

And according to the Bible, it will all be done again.

I don’t know if Obama is just another fascist dictator wannabe or if he is the real deal, and neither does anybody else, yet.   Until Hitler became Hitler, even Hitler wasn’t “Hitler”  — yet.  He was just another politician with an agenda..

By 1937 all the signs were in place that were necessary to foresee the coming cataclysm, but had Hitler been hit by lightning, run over by a truck or otherwise swept from office prior to 1937, Hitler would probably have gone down in history as one of Germany’s greatest leaders.

What we do know is that the Bible predicts that during the last days, a mysterious and charismatic leader will suddenly arise from obscurity,  will seize the reins of power by popular acclamation, and will unleash one of the most vicious periods of war, poverty, famine and persecution the world has ever seen.

The other thing we do know is that nobody listens to warnings from history.

Originally Published: August 16, 2010

Featured Commentary: Suffer the Children: Part II ~ Pete Garcia

The ‘Defeated’ Christian

The ‘Defeated’ Christian
Vol: 161 Issue: 21 Saturday, February 21, 2015

You’ve all seen him. The defeated Christian. The guy who tries and tries, but after being saved for thirty years, he still hasn’t quit smoking. Instead, he hides his cigarettes before coming to church and won’t get too close when shaking your hand for fear you’ll smell the smoke on him.

Or the Christian who you know is saved, but he just can’t quite give up the bottle. Or the Christian who got saved, but doesn’t go to church, because he just doesn’t think he fits in with the rest of the crowd?

Or won’t go because he thinks that everybody at church is a big hypocrite? That defeated Christian who knows that even though he is saved, it just didn’t seem to ‘take’ like it seemed to with everybody else, so he’d just as soon not be reminded of it all the time by being around those to whom it did.

Especially since, if he were to mention it, somebody would point out it was either because of some unconfessed sin, or maybe they just weren’t all that sincere when they first accepted Christ.

Why is it that some Christians get saved, and immediately become a new creature, where others get saved, and look remarkably like the old one?

Don’t tell me you don’t know somebody like that. Maybe you even ARE somebody like that. And it’s hard . . . so hard to keep trying and trying when it seems to come so easy to everybody else. It’s enough to make anybody give up.

I’m going to leave the usual beaten path, now, to address an issue that comes up fairly regularly in our forums. Those of you who have no besetting sin, no secret sin in your heart that only you and God (and the enemy) know of, go make yourself a nice cup of coffee. The rest isn’t for you.

Now, for the honest readers . . . Why does God deliver some people from booze, cigarettes, pot . . . fill in your besetting sin here _______?

The answer? I don’t know. Disappointed? Don’t be. Sometimes He just doesn’t. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a Christian. It doesn’t mean you aren’t saved. It doesn’t mean God has abandoned you. It only means you feel defeated. You still have that sin.

Now, how come you feel defeated? Is it your weakness? God’s? Haven’t you been to Him with this? How come it’s still an issue in your life? You KNOW God is real, or else you wouldn’t be subscribing to the Omega Letter. What’s WRONG WITH YOU?

Nothing.

Welcome to the Church of the Walking Wounded. That’s why so many people find fellowship on the internet they don’t find in church. No guilt. Nobody can see you sneaking that cigarette or that beer.

You come looking for God, and looking for that forgiveness you keep hearing about, but never find in church.

Instead, you learn that if you smoke, (or whatever) you are defiling the temple of the Holy Spirit and you must give that up first to find fellowship. Except you have been trying for years and just can’t quite make it.

You sit there in the pew, thinking about the cigarette you are going to have on the way home, and you feel ashamed, guilty. Why even go back to church? You hypocrite!

You are taught that God forgave you at the Cross, but now you are on your own. All these sins you now know about yourself are left for you to deal with on your own. Only NOW you know what they are.

So every time you sneak that cigarette, you feel guilty. “Fred got saved and within a week, he cut out smoking, he cut out drinking and he cut out cursing.”

(You think to yourself, “Sure. And for entertainment, Fred is cutting out paper dolls,” – but then there you go – you sinned again!)

This is a very difficult subject – I am approaching it with much fear and trepidation. There will immediately be those who will jump on me for preaching a license to sin. I am not. Before you jump on me, read it again first, please.

Sin is the disease of the human race. No human being is exempt from it. The Apostle Paul, speaking of sin, said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Creative hyperbole? Or do you believe every Word of God is true?

The Apostle Paul was, according to God’s Word, chief among sinners. He must have had a difficult time being chief among sinners and chief among the Apostles, but that’s what the Bible says.

It must have bothered him, like it bothers you. (Those not getting coffee right now) Knowing what is right, but succumbing to temptation to do the wrong thing. Over and over.

Paul writes, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Romans 7:14-15,17)

Maybe Paul isn’t speaking to you, but he is playing MY theme song. “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Romans 7:22,23)

Does this sound to you like a guy who was having an easy time of it? Why didn’t he just do what the pastor tells you? “Just take it to the Lord and He’ll take care of it.”

Ever do that and then He didn’t? So you found some good reason why not, or instead just figured you weren’t worthy? Or maybe that He cared more about Fred the King of the Paper Dolls?

Paul wrote of, “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” (2 Corinthians 12:7) Now, I’ve heard this verse exegeted many times.

To listen to the theories, Paul must have fallen into a thorn BUSH. I’ve heard Paul had a speech impediment, that it was his failing eyesight, that he was unattractive to look at, even one argument that he had halitosis!

What does the Bible say Paul’s thorn in the flesh was? Everybody looks for something specific to make sense of the verse. They are looking for some physical flaw that Paul thought would hamper his effectiveness for God. In so doing, they miss the forest for the trees.

The Apostle Paul, the ‘chief among sinners’, specifically said that his thorn was a ‘messenger from Satan’ sent to ‘buffet’ him. Paul’s thorn was his SIN. that kept him from being ‘exalted above all measure.’ “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8)

Stay with me here and see the picture. Here’s poor Paul, knowing the task the Lord has set before him, knowing that he is ‘chief among sinners’ and knowing his weakness for whatever that sin might have been.

So he takes it to Jesus, (just like you did) sincerely expecting Him to handle it for him, just like the pastor told you He would for you.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (v.9)

The Bible says that we are sold unto sin. That it is our natural state. That the most unnatural thing a man could do is NOT sin. You are saved, you believe, yet you wrestle with your besetting sins.

Every time you whip one down, a new one crops up that you have to deal with. It’s a never ending battle and you are losing. How can this be?

How can you be sincere, be sincerely saved, and still battle with sins that don’t seem to bother other Christians?

There is only one logical answer. It is so simple you are going to immediately say, “I knew that.” But you probably really didn’t.

Jesus did it all. Really. ALL. The most simple of principles, yet most preaching is based on the deception that He didn’t. Instead, most are taught in principle, that Jesus got the ball rolling at the Cross, but now that you are saved, whether or not you fail or succeed in beating back your sin nature is up to you.

Therefore, when constantly confronted with your sin and how bad it is, it is much easier to give up and not go face the weekly confrontation. You are defeated.

Rather than being free, you are in bondage to your guilt. How many people do you know who went to the altar call on Sunday who weren’t guilt-ridden by Wednesday?

Salvation is either a gift of grace through faith or it is a product of faith plus good works.

Moses had faith and good works. So did Abraham. So did David. But without the Savior, they would be dead in their sins.

The bondage of sin to a Christian is the weight of the guilt of that sin that keeps him from seeking God’s face. Jesus set us free from the bondage of sin. Is this a license to sin? As Paul said, “God forbid.”

“All things”, Paul said, “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) Interesting word, ‘expedient’. Means, “Appropriate to a purpose.”

The reality is, we are humans. Even after we become new creatures in Christ, we coinhabit the castle of flesh with the old man.

You will have your battles, but your defeat only comes when you give up. Following Paul’s lamentations about his struggle with the flesh and the duality of man, Paul writes, beginning with Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

This verse also tends to get spiritualized out of context. I’ve heard it argued that if you sin, then you are walking after the flesh, rather than after the Spirit.

I put it to you: Did you ever, since you were saved, commit a sin and not care, not feel any responsibility before God? Well, then, Who are you walking after? The irresponsible flesh? Or the living Spirit?

It isn’t sin that defeats the Christian.

It isn’t that you still haven’t quit smoking, or whatever else it might be that you think is defeating you. Sin is what humans do. Forgive is what God does.

It’s GUILT that keeps you defeated, and keeps you from the Throne. It keeps you from telling people about Jesus. It keeps you beaten down.

It is incumbent upon a Christian to try and live a more Christ-like life, but the dichotomy is that the Bible says it is impossible.

If we COULD live a sin free life, then why was a Savior necessary? And what was Paul rambling on about when he talked about the ‘good that he would’ and so forth?

If there were a formula that involved accepting Christ and THEN living a sinless life, then why did He need to go to the Cross at all?

Why not just make the revised Ten Commandments read, ‘Accept Christ and don’t sin” and THEN you can go to heaven? The answer is obvious. Nobody would be there.

We are living in the last days. There is no time to bandage the walking wounded, the battle has been joined. Every soldier is desperately needed on the line.

A soldier on the line does his best, and that is all anyone can ask. Especially the One Who really KNOWS that you are doing the best you can.

And He not only understands, He made you to a specific purpose, which is why all things were lawful to Paul, but not all things were expedient.

What may appear as defeat to you from your vantage point in the action may actually be a tactical victory somewhere else up the line. Only our General knows, and He says, ‘Trust Me’.

Take heart! Don’t let the fact you are a sinner steal your victory. The only prerequisite for being a Christian is that you must be a sinner first. God has a plan for your life, and He has somebody for you to talk to.

That appointment is so important to God that He has arranged your whole life until now — just so you would be available to keep it when that appointment comes due.

Will you be there to keep it? Or will you be licking your wounds in defeat off in a corner somewhere? We’re running out of time, and the enemy’s sole focus for your life is to keep you defeated and ineffective as the hours tick down to the Final Confrontation.

“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 Corinthians 12:9)

The rest of you can come back from the kitchen now.

Originally Published: June 14, 2003