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The Times of the Signs – Part Three By Ed Wood

By way of a review, here are the prophecies from the Olivet Discourse already occurring that we looked at in Part One of this series:

1) The appearance of False Prophets.

2) Wars and rumors of wars (The Twentieth Century was the worst so far.)

3) Famine.

4) Earthquakes.

5) Natural Disasters.

6) People getting worse.

7) Christians being persecuted.

8) The access and preaching of the Gospel to virtually every part of the world.

9) Strife among families.

The second article covered what we can expect before the Tribulation:

10) The Rapture

After the Rapture, the Tribulation will begin with the pouring out of God’s Judgments upon the earth as listed in the Book of Revelation. As conditions become increasingly worse for those not taken in the Rapture, it is likely that these desperate people will be looking for an “Answer Man” in much the same way the post World War 1 Germans ultimately chose Adolf Hitler. This next time, though, the range and demonic power of the future leader will reach beyond a single country. This “man of sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) will ultimately end up ruling the entire world. A major act of his will be the ratifying of a seven-year “covenant with many,” (Daniel 9:27). It will be a treaty he will also break after three and a half years.

The Great Tribulation Begins

THE ANTICHRIST MOVES INTO THE TEMPLE AND CLAIMS TO BE GOD

After the “son of perdition,” breaks the seven-year covenant “with many” he will move himself into the restored Jewish temple (Daniel 11:45) proclaiming the he is actually God in human form – the “messiah. He will be backed up in this outrageous lie by his henchman, the false prophet (Revelation 13:1-18). The “abomination of desolation” will set up in the temple and the last, worst years of the Tribulation period will begin.

The Jews, who have re-instituted the Mosaic system of the Old Testament in the rebuilt temple, will discover to their dismay that they have been betrayed and no doubt actively resist his claim of deity. Except for resistance from “the east,” the Antichrist would have probably moved immediately to crush the Jews with a Final Solution of his own (Daniel 11:44). The delay buys time for Israel to seek refuge in the wilderness at Petra and with the assistance of the descendants of Moab:

Isaiah {16:1-5} Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela* to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion. For it shall be, [that,] as a wandering bird cast out of  the nest, so the daughters of Moab shall be at the fords of Arnon. Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the Outcasts**; bewray*** not him that wandereth. Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler****: for the extortioner**** is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land. And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he***** shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness. *Petra, ** Israelite refugees, *** “betray”, **** The Antichrist, ***** Jesus – who has returned. (We will look at this in greater detail shortly.)

From the New Testament, we have what is appears to be Jesus’ warning to the Jews of when to make their move:

Matthew {24:15-21} When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 

Mark 13:14-19 gives us this same account but Luke’s version, though similar, has important differences:

Luke {21:20-24} And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

Note that the “abomination of desolation” is not mentioned and that the Israelites either be cut down with the sword or dispersed across the world while their territory is taken over by the Gentiles. This sounds much more like the account of the invasion of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D. and its aftermath. The temple at that time was also not desecrated by a false messiah and his image. Instead, it was totally destroyed.

Today, the Jews are still dispersed and until 1948 had no country to call their own. In Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts, Israel has to be a nation because this is a necessary precondition for the temple to exist once more because the Antichrist cannot defile it if it isn’t there.

THE END OF THE TRIBULATION

The last three and a half years will see an increase of the severity of the judgments being poured out upon the earth by God. The Antichrist has usurped the temple and is dealing with opposition from “the east.” During that time, it appears that not all the Jews have sought refuge in the wilderness, that some have managed to hang on in Jerusalem. Perhaps it will be the Israeli army supported by willing civilians. By the end of the Tribulation, the situation will become completely desperate as the Antichrist, with demonic help, gathers together troops from the rulers of the whole world, including those from the east who have now become his allies.

Revelation {16:12-14} And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs [come] out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, [which] go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Here is a description of the invasion of Jerusalem:

Zechariah {14:1-2} Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

The Antichrist’s victory would be inevitable except that:

Zechariah {14:3} Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.

Revelation {19:11-16} And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes [were] as a flame of fire, and on his head [were] many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on [his] vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Jesus will banish the Antichrist and the False Prophet to the lake of fire and slay their troops (Revelation 19:17-21). Satan will be locked away for 1000 years and Jesus will reclaim the temple and begin his millennial reign.

Now there will be signs immediately before these events and the return of Jesus.

11) SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS

Matthew {24:29} Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.

It is quite clear from this and from Mark 13:24-25 that the phenomena in the skies will be universal and terrifying to the people who have managed to survive up until this point.

The gospel of Luke provides another look into what is coming.

Luke {21:25-28} And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

Once again, Matthew’s and Mark’s versions seem to be totally directed to the time immediately preceding Jesus’ Second coming while the final sentence in Luke’s account suggests that there might be earlier indications as well. Let’s look at verses 27 and 28 again:

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”

It’s true that those survivors who come to accept Jesus during the seven years of tribulation can expect their “redemption” when they see the signs listed above, but could it also be a warning to believers before the Tribulation even begins?

Could they be for us?

We’ve already seen the reasons in our past articles why the Rapture and the Second Coming are two distinctly different events. Remember that the former requires no prior conditions and is therefore unable to be fixed in time, while the latter must occur at the end of the seven-year Tribulation. The unexpected nature of the Rapture is consistent with what Jesus said here:

Luke {13:34-37} [For the Son of man is] as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

We are directed to be on “watch” and that suggests that there will be specific things that will occur even prior to the Rapture.

What kinds of early signs might we expect?

We’ve seen that Matthew 24:29 and Mark 13:24-25 provide us with several specific ones prior to the Second Coming:

The sun and moon darkened (also indicated in Revelation 18:12)

Stars falling from the sky.

The first sounds very much like what is commonly called “nuclear winter,” where the smoke and material ejected into the atmosphere by even a limited nuclear exchange obscures the light coming in from luminous objects in space along with the tainting of the water. A catastrophic asteroid impact or a huge meteor storm (stars falling from the sky) would have very similar effects, differing only in that the fallout from the latter would not be radioactive. This account from Revelation gives us an accurate description of what the results of either of these catastrophes would be like:

Revelation {8:7-12} The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. and the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

Looking at Luke’s passage, we see many other signs in addition to those from the sky which already have an eerie ring of familiarity to our Twenty-First Century world. Nations are increasingly in distress, racial tension is at an all-time high, and our seas are literally roaring with more storms and, earthquakes, and the resulting tsunamis with every passing year.

What we have not seen yet are any pronounced signs in the heavens. If Luke’s account is telling us to expect them in our own time along with those that are already happening, these should show up next. Exactly what they will be is open to speculation, but I think when they do begin to occur, they will be unmistakable. They will indicate that our time to be gathered together in the clouds with Jesus will be very near  (1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)!

Those signs that will occur at the end of the seven years will followed by:

Matthew {24:30-31} And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The Bible does not tell us exactly what it will be, but it is clear that it will be so spectacular and unmistakable (Matthew 24:27) that the whole Earth will recognize it for what it is.

In Part Four of this series, we’ll look at what is to follow after Jesus comes back.

The Times of the Signs – Part Two – By Ed Wood

In Part One of our exploration of the prophecies Jesus gave in the Olivet Discourse, we discovered that one had been fulfilled, namely the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., and that the following are already under way:

1) The appearance of  False Prophets.

2) Wars (and rumors of wars) of which the Twentieth Century was the worst in that regard so far.

3) Famine.

4) Earthquakes.

5) Natural Disasters.

6) People getting worse.

7) Christians being persecuted.

8) The access and preaching of the Gospel to virtually every part of the world.

9) Strife among families.

We will now look at the next two events in the prophetic timeline.

The final prophecy to be fulfilled before the Tribulation begins.

THE RAPTURE

Matthew  {24:37-41} But as the days of Noe [were,] so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two [women shall be] grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (Jesus is the speaker.)

It’s likely that the people of Noah’s time, much like today, were becoming increasingly desensitized to the evil growing around them. Like now, they were also unaware that their own “End Times” would soon be upon them. Though the Bible doesn’t provide details of Noah’s interactions with the people around him, common sense dictates that they must have wondered about his seemingly irrational activity of building a huge ship in a place where none was obviously needed. As if that wasn’t enough, he eventually started collecting pairs of animals to load aboard. It seems reasonable to assume they asked him about all this. Obviously, they didn’t take him seriously or else they would have been making their own preparations to survive. It seems safe to assume that they regarded him as a raving lunatic.

So what about today?

In the passage above, the Bible tells us that Jesus said the conditions at the end of the age would parallel those of Noah’s time, and, indeed, they are doing just that. The presence of evil is growing and, as was the case with the Flood, most of the world, even much of the modern church, doesn’t expect the return of Jesus for his followers, either. When it does happen, it’ll be just as big a surprise as the Flood. The only difference is that Noah’s society didn’t have time to speculate about the Deluge afterwards as today’s will after the Rapture.

Now the problem some have in accepting the passage above as a true Rapture verse is the 50/50 ratio of those taken and those left behind. I suggest that it might not refer to a literal 50% division, but may be a figure of speech to illustrate the point of people being taken away from their daily routines quite unexpectedly while the others left behind are totally baffled. This theme of  “unexpectedness” appears several times in Matthew, chapters 24 and 25.

If we consider that everything the Bible has to say is important, it follows that the more often something is repeated, the more we should pay attention. A good example of this occurred regarding Joseph’s interpretation of the repetitive aspects of pharaoh’s dream in Genesis, chapter 41.

Now let’s see what Paul describes in an unambiguous Rapture passage:

1 Corinthians {15:51-54} Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. 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.

Much has already been written about the Rapture, pro and con, some of the adherents to the latter doing so vehemently and, quite frankly, unpleasantly. Just to make it clear, I am of the former persuasion because only the occurrence of the the Rapture can reconcile the passages like those above which indicate an initial time when Jesus’ return coming as a complete surprise with believers being gathered to him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) which will mystify those left behind and a second which will be his unmistakable return that the whole world see and which will conclude the seventh year of the Tribulation:

Matthew {24:27} For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Jesus is the speaker.)

The specific timeline for Jesus’ Second Coming to Earth can be found in Daniel 9:24 – 27. The concluding verse reveals that the time of the Antichrist’s “covenant with many” would last one week (seven years), based on the 360 day length of a Jewish year. Though the entire Tribulation, which will certainly mark a dreadful time for the world, begins when the Antichrist ratifies his “covenant” and lasts seven years,  the final half will be even worse. It will finish when Jesus personally comes to put an end to the most horrific despot that has ever lived and destroy his armies at Armageddon (Daniel 7:11-14; Revelation 19:7-21).

From the halfway point, when the Antichrist abrogates the covenant, the exact time of the Second Coming of Jesus is given as 1260 days (symbolically described in Revelation 12:1-7. See also Genesis 37:1-9 which identifies the parties in the Revelation passage), which is also the amount of time Israel is given supernatural refuge by God in the wilderness after the treaty is broken.

We now have two definite markers in time for Jesus’ Second Coming. The Rapture has none. The only way to explain this is that they are two different events.

We also do not know is how soon after the Rapture the Tribulation will begin. It may follow closely, since the sudden and unexplained disappearance of millions of those who have accepted Jesus will send unprecedented shock waves across our planet. I have no doubt that Satan will exploit this time of global fear and confusion to bring his “man of sin” onto the world stage and ultimately into a position of authority that no other human being has ever attained before.

The Beginning of the Tribulation

Let’s look at a possible scenario of how these last seven years might begin.

The Rapture has come and gone, millions of people have vanished. Theories are rampant as to what has happened as the human race reels in fear. How will people react? Looking at post-World War 1 Germany may give us valuable insight into that question.

It was a time when that nation was a complete mess on every level. It’s economy was ruin, unemployment was high, and its people demoralized. Into this scene appeared a young, intense, charismatic man, whom some described as having literally a spellbinding effect on his associates and, ultimately, on the masses of Germans looking for someone who could give them the answers and a hope for the future that they could not find anywhere else.

I’m sure you already recognize this description of Adolf Hitler,  the German Chancellor whose wickedness cost the lives of millions in his mad dash for global domination.

History has shown that desperate people do desperate things and I believe that the Antichrist will come to power following this dark blueprint from the past. Since humanity never seems to learn from history, the Antichrist, like Hitler, will be welcomed with open arms.

Into the Dark Times

It may very well be that with the along with ascent of the Antichrist to power, people will buy into his promises that a golden age is just ahead. I expect he’ll come up with a multi-spectrumed plan to stabilize the global economy and to attempt to deal with the increasing distresses that Bible Prophecy has told us will characterize the Tribulation. Perhaps his most significant action will be his confirmation of a Middle East peace treaty which had already been mapped out before his ascent to world leadership. It will initially succeed where previous peace plans have failed. It will also start the seven-year  Tribulation countdown clock.

Paradoxically, despite an overall deterioration of conditions on Earth as God’s judgments are being poured out, the Middle East, Israel in particular, may experience relative “peace and safety” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) for the next three and a half years.

The reason the Antichrist gives his approval to this peace treaty may be twofold: First, to raise his stature in the eyes of the world. Second, to get as many Jews back to Israel so he can get most of them into one place for future extermination (Zechariah 14:1-2; Revelation 16:13-14).

The confirmed covenant may possibly include a provision that allows for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple on its original site, yet another powerful incentive to get the Jews to come home. That the temple must exist at some level of completion is a necessary element in the prophetic timeline and integral to the Antichrist’s plans when he goes there to declare himself “God” three and a half years later, as we will soon see.

Most people, excepting those who come to believe in Jesus after the Rapture, Jews and Gentiles alike, will apparently believe in this “Answer Man” so much that they’ll embrace his ultimate claims of deity without resistance. That will initiate the final three and a half year countdown when world conditions get a lot worse. As far as Israel goes, it, along with the Tribulation Christians, will become the prime targets of his retaliation.

Into the Darkest Times

THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION

Matthew {24:15, 21} When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)  . .  For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Jesus is the speaker.)

What is this “Abomination of Desolation?”

In order to set the stage for that, here is what must happen first:

Daniel {9:27} 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.

2 Thessalonians  {2:3-4} Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come,] except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition*; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. *The Antichrist

Without the temple being rebuilt, these prophecies could not be fulfilled because it is needed for the Mosaic system to be reinstituted – and then disrupted. The next prophecy after the Antichrist’s usurpation of the temple is the creation of the “Abomination of Desolation.”

Daniel actually mentions two instances of this taking place:

Daniel {8:13-14} Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain [saint] which spake, How long [shall be] the vision [concerning] the daily [sacrifice,] and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

This first incident involved the desecration of the temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168 B.C. At that time, he installed in it his own altar, a statue of Zeus with his face on it and offered up swine – an animal declared by God as unclean. Three years later,  the Maccabees successfully regained control of the temple and purified it. Chanukah annually celebrates this victory and the miracle of a one-day supply of sanctified lamp oil lasting instead for eight days.

Concerning the apparent discrepancy of the length of time noted by Daniel as being  twice as long as the actual length between the defilement (Kislev 25, 168 B.C.) and purification of the temple (Kislev 25, 165 B.C.),  according to the Zondervan Study Bible (copyright 2002), the term “days,” as used by Daniel, was actually the total of mornings and evenings. That brings us to 1150 twenty-four hour days, or about 3 years and two months. The extra two months are attributed to the interval between Antiochus’ removal of the Jewish altar and replacing it with his own.

Now here is the account of the future version, first from Daniel, then from Revelation:

Daniel 9:27 {9:27} 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. *The Antichrist. ** Note that the length of time Daniel gives for this second desecration is three and a half years. Here we  have one week equaling seven years, four months longer than the amount of time regarding the first “abomination” by Antiochus IV.

Revelation {13:14-15} And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by [the means of] those miracles which he* had power to do in the sight of the beast**; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.  *The False Prophet, the Antichrist’s second in command and spokesman. **Antichrist

Where Antiochus had placed an ordinary statue in the temple, the passage above indicates that his “abomination” will be animated somehow by the False Prophet. With the level of electronic technology available today, this does not at all sound far-fetched. There may be even more to it than mere technology, perhaps a supernatural component, at which we can only guess now. Whatever the nature of this “abomination” is, I suspect that most of the world will willingly worship it, especially after the miraculous “pseudo-resurrection” of the Antichrist himself by the devil himself (Revelation 13:3).

This will begin the time at which things get indescribably worse.

The Times of the Signs – Part One – By Ed Wood

The phrase, “Signs of the Times,” is no doubt familiar to anyone who visits this blog, but can we turn this round and use the sequence of them to give us a clue as to how far along we are on the prophetic timeline?  Using the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21), let’s do a “status check” on the signs Jesus told us would be coming to the world after his Ascension.

Fulfilled

TEMPLE DESTROYED

This sign was completed within forty years of Jesus’ prediction when the Roman General Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. Though Jerusalem exists once again and is under Israeli jurisdiction, the Temple Mount is under control of the Muslim Waqf and the site is presently occupied by the Dome of the Rock and the Al – Aqsa Mosque.

In  Progress

FALSE PROPHETS

It’s important to bear in mind that “prophecy” is not limited to the disclosing of future events, but anything presented as being messages from God. Naturally, there are those who have taken it upon themselves to pass along lies in God’s name. They’ve been around a long time. The passage below from the Old Testament provides the way to recognize a false prophet :

Deuteronomy {13:1-3} If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and  giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

In Jesus’ time we have:

Matthew {7:15-20} Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither [can] a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Jesus is the speaker).

Many of the Epistles were written to combat false doctrine presented by lying prophets as well:

1 Timothy {4:1} Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.

1 John {2:18-19, 2:22-23} Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many  antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would [no doubt] have continued with us: but [they went out,] that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. . . . Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

That this kind of activity is increasing and is evident in the falling away of what comprises much of “organized religion” today. Much of Protestantism in the Western World has denied Jesus (sometimes, even his gender!) as the only means of salvation. Many have accepted homosexual lifestyles, even among their clergy which the Bible clearly opposes. These false teachings are nothing less than the “doctrines of devils” being promoted by lying prophets.

The worst of these deceivers appears at the end of the age during the Tribulation, namely the Antichrist and his henchman, the False Prophet:

Revelation {13:11-12} 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. 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. *The False Prophet (Revelation 19:20); **the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:2)

Multiple Signs – One Verse

Matthew {24:7} For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

WAR

The Twentieth Century was the deadliest in terms of casualties due to warfare, the First and Second World Wars alone accounting for millions. Along with these, there were more major military conflicts in that century than any which preceded it and the warlike tendencies of this past century appear  not to have abated in the Twenty-First.

Indeed, it will be a war of an unprecedented scale that if allowed to continue would very likely be the end of the human race entirely, were it not for the direct intervention of Jesus himself (Revelation 16:12-14; 19:11-21).

FAMINE

This is unmistakably increasing, especially in Third World countries as the result in overpopulation accompanied by a deterioration in the ability of the land itself to produce food. Part of the reason can be attributed to yet another sign, that of natural disasters, which we will shortly see. Even in the industrialized countries such as the U.S., though there are not the extremes of hunger of the magnitude we see in other parts of the world, a significant percentage of their populations go to bed hungry every day.

PESTILENCE

Disease is increasing across the world and there are many reasons. In no particular order, here are the main reasons, in my opinion. Poverty is getting worse world-wide which deprives people of healthy living conditions ans access to medical care. Pathogens are adapting and becoming resistant to pharmaceuticals that formerly were effective. The relative ease, speed, and modest cost of travel and transport has provided an accelerated mechanism for the transmission of diseases quicker and over wider areas than ever before.

EARTHQUAKES AND NATURAL DISASTERS

United States Geological Survey data clearly indicates that seismic activity has ramped up considerably since the turn of the century for reasons that are not understood. Accompanying these, hardly a day goes by when extreme weather stories do not appear in the news. This year (2019), vast areas of the United States alone have hit with major flooding and unusually powerful spring snowstorms. Formerly record breaking meteorological events have now become commonplace.

The Human Condition in the Last Days

PEOPLE GET WORSE

Look at how people are acting of the opening decades of this century and see if it squares up with what the Bible predicts. Ask yourself: Do these nearly 2000 year-old passages sound very familiar in our own time?

Matthew {24:12} And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Jesus is the speaker.)

2 Timothy {3:1-4} This know also, that in the last days perilous times  shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.

Let’s face it, unless you’ve been marooned on a desert island for the past half a century, you know that the answer is a definite “Yes!” It seems like every day we are encountering blatant examples of all of the above. The behavior ranges for the more subtle instances of people just looking for pleasure above all else to the extremes of sociopaths committing crimes on a frequency and magnitude hitherto unprecedented. It’s becoming increasingly easier to believe that the inmates are in firm control of the asylum.

CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED

Matthew {24:9-10} Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended,  and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (Jesus is the speaker.)

Jesus was the first to die for the truth that he was not only the Son of God, but God himself and he made it clear that those who also believed this would likewise subject to persecution – up to, and including death. Of all his original apostles, except for Judas Iscariot who betrayed him and subsequently committed suicide, only John died of natural causes at an advanced age.

In the intervening centuries, history records the many accounts of those persecuted even up to the point of death for their Christian beliefs. There are probably even more whose did so whose names are known to God alone. The persecution continues today, notable in atheistic and Muslim societies where proclaiming that one is a Christian will subject a person to prison or death.

It is certainly not limited to these extremes because even in a free nation like the United States, those who believe in Jesus are increasingly subject to discrimination. For example, in our public schools, Jesus and God have been effectively banned by the Supreme Court since 1963. That this obvious infringement on our First Amendment rights and freedoms has been allowed to stand for 56 years is, to me, even more distressing that this unjust ruling itself. Perhaps what it reveals is that in the United States, God’s opponents are more dedicated to their cause than those who call themselves followers of Christ.

Perhaps even more telling is that those who believe in the Jesus of Scripture often find themselves unwelcome in the congregations of most of the liberal denominations of the church today. It seems these organizations have an open mind toward just about everything except those things revealed as truth in the Bible and the people who maintain that Scripture alone is the ultimate authority.

GOSPEL PREACHED WORLDWIDE

Matthew {24:14} And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Jesus is the speaker.)

With the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the Fifteenth Century, the age began in which printed material could be mass-produced, ultimately making it affordable by the general public. (Interestingly, the Bible was the most notable product of his press.) From that beginning, the Bible remains the best-selling book in the world.

No longer limited to only a physical document, the Bible is now freely available in a multitude of languages on the Internet, accessible anywhere on the planet where one has a laptop, power supply, and a satellite link. We presently see Jesus’ words on this subject fulfilled on a level surpassing any other time in history. Yet, the dissemination of the Bible will go beyond technology into the supernatural during the Tribulation:

Revelation {14:6-7} And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

It seems that in our present time and the turbulent years of the Tribulation, God is still giving people the chance to make the choice of whether to accept or reject him. It certainly makes a defense of ignorance a lot less tenable, doesn’t it?

FAMILIES IN STRIFE

Mark {13:12} Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against [their] parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.

In totalitarian societies, the situation was (and remains) grim. For example, the betrayal of a family member to the Gestapo in Hitler’s Germany was considered the duty of a loyal citizen. This outrageous sort of practice continued in Soviet Russia and no doubt has been replicated in many authoritarian regimes past and present. There continue to be beheadings by those who have converted from Islam to Christianity, some betrayed by family members in fundamentalist Muslim nations where such conversions are considered a capital offense.

Free nations, such as the U.S., are not immune to family problems. Even in the instances where an intact family exists, too often economic necessity requires the income of both mother and father to support the household which leaves the rearing of the children, even in infancy, in the hands of a daycare center. Now this is not in any way meant to malign these dedicated and often underpaid individuals who provide this service, but one must wonder if anyone other than a parent can be as committed to the child’s best interests.

Complicating these matters is the growing number of  single-parent families where what should be a shared responsibility is now shouldered by only one person – a situation which is, at best, a lot tougher economically and emotionally on both parent and child.

Finally, in a direct threat to the traditional family, as I see it, is the legalization of “gay” marriage and allowing same-sex couples to adopt children, thus exposing them to a lifestyle which not only the Bible declares as objectively wrong, but, up until very recent times, so has secular society. As to where this will lead in the years ahead, one can only guess. My personal guess is that it will not lead to anything good.

Conclusion

Of all the signs given here, one has been fulfilled, the others are already in progress. Now where do we stand in the prophetic timeline at this point? I believe we’ve arrived at the point where NO additional prophecies, except the Rapture, need to be fulfilled before the Tribulation period begins. The signs that remain will only come to pass until the last seven years of this age have begun. We’ll look at them in the second part of this article. Now, more than ever, let’s remember the words Jesus told his disciples concerning the Last Days:

And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” Mark 13:37

Real Christianity – By Jack Kinsella

My dear friend Jack Kinsella, now in Heaven, wrote the following article in 2004. Like all of his writings, they are timeless and right on the mark, Biblically speaking.

The article speaks to me, personally, as a Christian, and I hope it will do so to you, also.

–Terry

For most Christians, there are two kinds of Christianity.  There is the kind of Christianity everybody else should embody — and there is the kind of Christian that they are.

Generally speaking, one bears little or no resemblance to the other.

The kind of Christianity we expect from other Christians is one of sinless perfection; a person who explodes into profanity when he hits his finger with a hammer is not a ‘real Christian’ or he would have been able to check his language.

A Christian who drinks or goes out for a drink in a restaurant or bar isn’t a real Christian.  Christians don’t drink.  A Christian who is going through a divorce isn’t a real Christian.  A real Christian would tough it out, remembering Christ’s admonition about divorce.

A Christian who still smokes isn’t a real Christian.  A real Christian would have been delivered from that nasty habit by the saving power of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

There are Christians who think other Christians shouldn’t have a weight problem — ‘gluttony’ is one of the few besetting sins actually named in Scripture, together with drunkeness and adultery.

(In general, other fat Christians don’t see obesity as a sin — it is a ‘disease’ or it ‘runs in the family’ or it just isn’t as bad as smoking or drinking.)

Still, a fat Christian going through a divorce, who turns to the bottle to drown his sorrows isn’t a real Christian.

Real Christians are never out of fellowship with the Father.  If they are, then they are ‘lost’.  That begs the question, were they ever ‘found’ in the first place?

There are two sides the question of eternal security.  One school of thought is that one can lose one’s salvation through sin and must be reborn again.

The other school of thought says ‘once saved, always saved’.  The latter view says that if someone continues to sin after salvation, then they probably weren’t really saved in the first place.

A quick look at the former view and how that stacks up to Scripture: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27)

Those who believe one can lose one’s salvation through wilfull sin point to this verse, focusing on the “if they sin wilfully” part as evidence that it IS possible to ‘fall away’ and be condemned to ‘certain’ ‘judgment and fiery indignation’ in hell.

But Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

The other side points out that it is ‘impossible for those who were once enlightened’ TO fall away.  Both miss the message.

What this Scripture teaches is that it is impossible, if one DID ‘fall away’ to ‘renew them again to repentance’, since that would mean crucifying’ to themselves the Son of God afresh,’ putting Him ‘to an open shame’.

Renewing AGAIN to repentance would mean that the first Sacrifice was insufficient, and His Power to save is subordinate to our power to sin.

As Hebrews 10:10-11 tells us, “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right Hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool.”

Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe, assumed the form of sinful man so that He could pay the penalty for sin forever.  On the Cross, He was reviled, beaten, crucified naked, and bore in His Body the sins of all mankind on their behalf.

If His one sacrifice for sins was ‘forever’ but was insufficient to keep those Whom He had saved, then His shame at the Cross is not over.  He must continually be ‘sacrificed’ for sin.

Moreover, if it is impossible, having once been saved, to be renewed unto repentance, then the lost Christian is in much worse condition than the lost sinner.  The lost sinner still has a chance to be saved.

The lost Christian is, on the authority of Scripture, lost forever.

He had his chance, he blew it, and now there remains ‘no more sacrifice for sins’.

He might as well continue in sin for all he is worth. He has no hope of further redemption.  Or Hebrews 6:4-6 is meaningless.

Something cannot be simultaneously possible and impossible — things that are different are NOT the same.

Assessment:

Often, I am accused of preaching a ‘license to sin’ — usually by the ‘temporary security’ crowd, but also sometimes by those who believe their eternal security is eternal and cannot be lost.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  There is no ‘license’ to sin, and all sin will be judged by God.  But that doesn’t mean Christians DON’T sin.

Now the questions grow more confusing.  If a Christian can sin his way out of being saved, which sin is the one that constitutes ‘falling away’?  Is it murder?  Rape?  Lustful thoughts?  Drinking?  Smoking?  Drug abuse?

I know of Christians who became addicted to prescription drugs.  Are they lost?  At what point did they slide across the line?  When they doubled up their Valium prescription, or when they started buying them on the street?  Should Christians even TAKE Valium?

Is taking a prescription tranquilizer the start of the slide — or evidence the slide has already occurred?  Is your doctor contributing to your sin by practicing medicine?  Should you avoid doctors?  Or just ignore their advice?  Why even go SEE a doctor?

What IS sin?  James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

If a Christian ‘knoweth to do good’ but doesn’t do it, Scripture says that to him, that is sin.  Christians, therefore, either ALWAYS do good, or they sin.

Do you know anybody who ALWAYS does good?  Do you?

If not, then are you lost, condemned forever to hell, since you blew your only chance? (Hebrews 6:4-6)

There are two kinds of Christianity, as I noted at the outset.  The kind of Christian you expect your pastor to be, and the kind of Christian that YOU know you are — while despairing your shortcomings.

But only one of them is real.

Your pastor will NEVER live up to the standard of Christianity you expect of him.  You just don’t know his secret sins.  But you can bet they exist..

Just like yours do.

How many sins does it take to get out of fellowship with God?  The answer is one.

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)

How much obedience does it take to get right with God?  The obedience of One is sufficient to make us righteous, if we trust Him for our salvation.

Of the two kinds of Christianity, there is only one that is real.

Yours.

Not your pastor’s — or your perception of your pastor, or his perception of you.  Or your Christian friends who continually point out your need to ‘put away your besetting sins’.  They have their own.

(How many of them are walking advertisements for the sin of gluttony?  Do they have a ‘license’ for that sin that you don’t have for yours?  Is John Hagee forever lost?  Sure, he can lose weight.  And YOU can quit smoking, drinking, or whatever.  But he is still fat, and you still smoke)

There is no ‘license’ to sin.  There is only sin.  Our natural state is that of a sinner.  Evil is the absence of good.  Note that the default position in this world is that there is first evil.  Evil is dispelled by good — not the other way around.

Consider a totally dark room.  Darkness is the absence of light.  The default is darkness, not light.  It takes energy to make light to dispell the darkness.

Absent the energy given off by light, it remains dark, and not the other way around.

You cannot shine a beam of darkness into a lighted room.

Jesus said that we are ‘children of the light’ that is, we are energized by the inherent goodness of His indwelling Holy Spirit.  His Presence in the life of a believer dispells the darkness by shining through the clear Light of truth.

It is that Light that exposes the darkness of sin — a lost person sees sin as his natural and inevitable state — how many times has somebody told you that they actually would RATHER go to hell where he will feel comfortable around his friends?

On the other hand, a saved person, indwelt by the Light, wants nothing more than to be in the Presence of Christ for eternity.  Even as he struggles with his sin nature.

The worst thing about hell to a Christian isn’t the torment so much as the eternal separation from Christ — “Having once tasted the heavenly gift” — the writer of Hebrews puts it.

Sin has consequences — their is no ‘license to sin’ in Scripture.  Smokers get lung cancer.  Alcoholics get liver disease.  Drug abusers overdose.  Divorce brings its own misery.  Getting saved eternally doesn’t mean you are exempt from the earthly consequences of your sinful actions.

There is only one REAL Christianity.  And it isn’t your pastor’s, or that person who seems to have conquered sin in their life, or Bill Graham’s kind of Christianity, or Hal Lindsey’s or mine.

There is only one kind of REAL Christianity.

Yours.

You know whether or not you sincerely try to do good, whether you always make it or not.  So does the One Who went to the Cross for you because He KNEW you wouldn’t always make it.  That’s why He did it.

Your relationship with Jesus is unique; it isn’t like anybody else’s. Jesus saves us individually.  He loves us individually.  He answers our individual prayers.

He walks with us as individuals, He talks with us as individuals.  His Spirit indwells us individually, and guides us through our individual trials and tribulations.

Paul wrote to the Phillipians; “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (2:12)

“Work out your OWN salvation” with the Individual with Whom you have a personal relationship.  Through His Spirit, Jesus will guide you into all truth, but it takes time.

For some, it takes more time than others. Like the fat guy who criticizes you for smoking — he clearly hasn’t gotten it yet.

He misses the fact that when he points a finger at you, there are three pointing back at him.

Jesus was crucified, arms outstretched and palms up.

The biggest besetting sin of all is the one that keeps you from doing ‘good’.  In this life, the Scripture says that the only time we do good is when we obey God’s will.

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

Our purpose in this life is to lead others to Christ — according to God’s will that none should perish.

Be grateful that He accounted you worthy of salvation.  Put your life and your sin nature in His nail-scarred Hands.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

You will never be ‘good enough’ — but He is.

Trust Him to make the changes in your life that He sees fit.  Know that you are a work in progress and that your life is ordered according to a Divine Plan — one God has for YOU.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you WILL PERFORM IT until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6)

The only REAL Christianity is the kind that brings victory, not defeat.  Leave defeat in the world it was designed for.

Pray instead that God will, “Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His Sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:21)

That is NOT a license to sin.  It is a license to persevere, getting back up when you fall, doing God’s Will — despite the trials of this world — none of which are news to Jesus.

Don’t let the enemy steal your victory.

It came at too high a Price.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on November 14, 2004

If There is No God . . . Part Two – By Ed Wood

 

Suppose your friend remains unconvinced by the arguments we examined in the first article that the odds that life could have come into existence by chance are so fleetingly small as to be impossible. Now what? Let’s therefore regroup and come at the problem from another direction.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that there is no God and see what that premise does to the things most people take for granted in everyday life.

I went to college way back in the 1970’s majoring in Earth Science, a time still characterized by the uncertainty and turmoil of the decade preceding it. Though the unrest was on the wane, it was still a time of questioning many pillars of our society such as how the government was being run, capitalism in general, and whether or not God was dead or even if he ever existed at all.

I remember as if it were yesterday when an upperclassman told me in my first freshman weeks something to the effect of, “By the time you’re done here, you won’t believe in God.” I disagreed with him but I can’t for the life of me remember whether I made a good case for my point of view or not. As it turned out, college did not turn me into an atheist and I’m hoping that over the course of the intervening decades I can better defend my beliefs.

Where Science Leaves Off

I’ve always been fascinated by science, ever since the day my mother had sent away for a map of the solar system back in 1959 (I know the date because I discovered its copyright year on the Internet). The sun, planets, and other celestial objects were presented in full, vivid color, and totally captured my attention. From there I went on to getting books on astronomy and the other sciences, an activity that has lasted up through today! Truth is, not being the scholarly type by nature, science is about the only subject I consistently “aced” in school.

I came to appreciate the ability of science to explain how things were put together and how they work, from atoms to stars, single cells to people. I’ve also learned its limitations, the things it couldn’t explain. There are two categories of the latter: things presently unknown which the future likely would resolve and those that are unquantifiable that which will forever lie outside its grasp. Let’s take a look at some of those of those “immeasurables.”

A Pound of Trust

Ever trust anyone or anything? At some point in your life you must have, though a lot of people would strongly deny they ever did. Here are some simple examples: When you go to the grocery store every week and buy a can of soup, aren’t you trusting that what’s inside isn’t actually a lethal poison?

How about when you got into your car to go to the store in the first place? Didn’t you trust that your vehicle was designed in such a way that it would get you there without falling apart en route? Or that the guy with the red light wasn’t going to T-bone you when you drove through the intersection when you had the green?

Admittedly, it gets more complicated when it comes to trusting in any kind of relationship because you’ve probably noticed by now that no one is perfect – including the owner of the face that looks back at you in the mirror every day. Unless you have some level of trust, life pretty much becomes impossible. You might not realize it, but you trusted the total strangers who filled the soup can and those who designed and assembled your car.

Trust is not something science can handle because it can’t be measured or seen. Show me a pound of trust, or any other emotion, for that matter, but it exists all the same. Science is even more at a loss to demonstrate where it came from in the first place.

It’s time now to explore some other “immeasurables” in the context of a universe with or without God.

Why Get Upset?

Unless someone is a sociopath, just about everyone in every culture has a capacity for outrage under some pretty universal circumstances. For example, harm coming to a family member or friend at the hands of someone else. Little kids getting horrible diseases and having to suffer through no fault of their own. Watching a hardened criminal get released on a technicality to commit crimes again. Grappling with someone close to us dying. I’m sure you can make your own list.

The question here is, what is it that gets us so upset about these things? Is it just a matter of self-interest in hoping that the bad things we see happening to others won’t happen to us or is there something more that we can’t quite put our fingers on but is an integral part of our natures? If it is, why is it so?

Putting God into the picture makes the answer a lot easier because we who believe humans are made in his image. The Bible shows us the same sorts of things also outrage God. The evidence of this lies in what Jesus did when he was here. He cured the sick, stood up for the downtrodden, raised the dead, and finally in the greatest of all miracles, was raised from death himself. God makes the concepts of “good” and “evil” genuine because he was the one who defined them in the first place.

Removing God from the equation nullifies everything the Bible teaches as well as the reason we should be indignant about anything because from the atheistic point of view whatever happens is nothing more than a roll of the dice.

Isn’t it therefore interesting that most atheists will still be just as upset over the same things that believers are? Their problem is, unlike those who accept the existence of God, they have no logical reason for their dismay because whatever happens is all the product of random chance.

Morality

One’s point of view regarding the existence of God means everything when it comes to good or evil, right or wrong. For the believer, God is the ultimate lawgiver who defined these things in absolute terms even before he made the universe. These standards are clearly seen in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), Jesus’ summary of the moral law expressed in the Commandments (Matthew 22:34-40), and his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7). Since believers accept that God made the absolutes of the physical laws on which the cosmos operates, absolutes of morality are certainly consistent with his character.

But what do we have if there is no God?

In this case, the concepts of right or wrong are totally in the eye of the beholder. The problem is that if everyone freely “did their own thing,” no stable society could ever exist. Since it was necessary for people to be able to live together cooperatively, they had to come up with some rules to make it possible, some means of governing. Across the span of history right into the present, we see all manner of variations of government ranging from reasonably free kinds where its citizens have a voice in how they are governed to rigid autocracies like North Korea where only the voice of the guy on top matters.

For a country like the United States which was founded by men who believed in God (despite what the modern historical revisionists would have you believe) many of the biblical principles of right and wrong found expression in its original founding principles and laws, a legacy which reaches up into the present, yet is no doubt under challenge in our present times. Even so, we are still a lot better off than those atheistic dictatorships where one man and his underlings call the shots. One need look no further than Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or Kim’s North Korea to find examples of a state-defined morality those of us in free countries find totally repulsive.

If God does not exist, however, none of these systems or societies is better or worse than any other in absolute terms because right and wrong are defined by whatever the respective society says they are. If one decides that killing some of its residents simply because they are of a certain ethnic group is okay while another society finds this abhorrent, so what? Nothing is intrinsically evil or good because there is no ultimate “Lawgiver” to define these terms in the first place.

Despite this, I would wager to say that most people, even atheists, function as if there really are some kind of universal standards that operate at a level beyond civil law and at times supersede it. That was certainly Dr. Martin Luther King’s premise in his letter from a Birmingham jail in 1963:

“One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’ ”

As we all well know, his premise was based entirely on his belief in God who defined what was just and unjust in absolute terms right from the start – or, in our case, before the universe ever came to exist.

But Dr. King is only right if his premise of God’s existence is correct. Otherwise, his views on racism being evil are nothing more than his personal opinions, not better or worse than the opinions of a leader of the KKK or neo-Nazi group.

To sum it up, a believer in God can logically argue what is right and wrong based on his or her premise that he established the standards. An atheist lacking this basic premise cannot logically claim anything being intrinsically good or bad, even though most of them go through life acting as if this is the case.

Explaining Awe

Ever watch a particularly striking sunrise or sunset? Or see the arch of a rainbow in the summer sky after a thunderstorm? Or gaze up into a perfectly clear night at a sky speckled with thousands of stars?

How did it make you feel?

If you’re like most of us you experienced a sense of awe, even if you know the science behind what you were seeing. There is just “something” about experiencing such things that touches one in a way that words cannot describe. We don’t know if other creatures we consider to have a reasonably high order of intelligence are also capable of feeling what we call “awe,” but we know for certain that we can.

Why do we have this ability? It certainly isn’t required to help us find food, shelter, or to procreate. Could it be related to the universal tendency of humans throughout history to develop some kind of religion which goes beyond just an attempt to understand or perhaps even control aspects of nature that are at the time unexplainable and uncontrollable?

It seems that for some reason we humans seem to have wired into our being some kind of impulse to seek out something much greater than ourselves. I might be wrong but I’m of the opinion that it takes a real struggle for someone to turn into an atheist because they have to make a concerted effort to go against this basic drive all humans seem to have.

Perhaps the best evidence of that is just how vehemently atheists defend their point of view when challenged by someone who does believe in God. Why is that? After all, if God doesn’t exist, aren’t they making much ado over . . . nothing? Seems like an atheist has to work awfully hard at denying God, as if trying to shut out a persistent inner voice that keeps telling them that they are completely wrong! (See 1 Kings 19:9-12)

Bigger than Us

According to Genesis, the first two people knew right from the start that there was “someone” else besides themselves who was much greater than they were. It is likely in their sinless beginning that this relationship with God was on a level far beyond any which was possible after separation caused by the Fall, although there are many incidents of “close encounters” of various kinds afterward throughout the Bible (e.g. Genesis 28:10-17; 18:1; Exodus 3:1-4:16; Ezekiel 1:26-28). When Jesus came to live among us, mortal humans once again could talk to God face to face but even then only Peter, James, and John, got to behold the merest a glimpse of his true glory (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8 ).

However, for most of history since the expulsion from Eden, our knowledge of the one True God has been limited (1 Corinthians 13:11-12) which led to just about every society developing some kind of religion. The earliest were usually some kind of nature worship. In the midst of something like a powerful storm, a total solar eclipse, or the aurora borealis (or australis in the southern hemisphere), this is perfectly understandable. Most of the things in the natural world are much bigger than we are and still remain beyond our ability to control even with the technology of the Twenty-first Century. Nature-religions such as Wicca still exist today and are even finding “scientific” incarnations in the more extreme elements of the environmental movement.

Generally, though, many cultures moved from worship of nature to the “deities” they believed to be controlling it. Only comparatively recently has the idea of “one God” become predominant, with variations amongst them. The one true God has repeatedly made himself known directly across early history to men such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, to name but a few, right up into modern times, most clearly as Jesus of Nazareth, the record of these encounters faithfully preserved across the millennia in what we now call the Bible.

If we accept the existence of God as revealed in this Bible, then it makes a lot of sense that he would instill a trait to seek him out in every human who has ever lived. Unfortunately this quest has all too often led to what in some cases have become bloody confrontations among peoples of varying views across the ages, right up to the present.

Even conflicts which are not overtly termed as “religious wars” have religious underpinnings. In the Twentieth Century, World Wars 1 and 2, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War were between free societies based on Judeo-Christian principles against those in which the “state” (or its respective leader) was the object of worship, as was the Cold War of the century just past.

Today, the increasing rise of Islamic terrorism against Jews and Christians is a particularly ugly, escalating and clearly religious conflict, though it seems that the politicians and media just aren’t seeing it in these terms. I have no doubt the inability to see this reality is but one component of our age that will ultimately bring about the war of Armageddon as the Antichrist tries to take over the world claiming to be “God” and demanding worship as such. With that in mind, it’s time to consider what may be the most important question of all.

A Plan for Humanity?

From the perspective of the pure evolutionist, humans, whales, trees, or algae evolve only in response to their respective environments. If they fail to adapt successfully, they become extinct. There’s no “plan” for any of them, no predetermined destiny. If something ends up going extinct, then it either failed to adapt or was at the wrong place at the wrong time like the dinosaurs when the asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago and killed off most of them.

If it happens again while we’re still here, we could share their fate. We could even do it to ourselves in a global nuclear war or in developing and turning loose a lethal virus into the environment. An Armageddon is now a real possibility. But if the atheists are right, it doesn’t matter because nothing – including us – has any real purpose anyway. We’re only here as the product of totally random chance

Yet if one instead subscribes to a universe designed and run by God, then humans were created in his image and he has an overall plan for them. Many religions of the world have their own concepts of where we will eventually end up, but for our purposes, we’ll stick to the one that the Bible reveals since it is, in my opinion, reliable to a much higher degree than any of its competitors (a vast subject of study and commentary in itself). That plan is to bring those who believe in him into his presence for all eternity by the atoning sacrifice of his Son Jesus and to one day recreate the entire universe and come to dwell among us in the New Jerusalem on a new Earth.

Without God, there is no plan. On an individual level, once one takes his or her last breath, as far as they are concerned, it’s the end of the line. As a species, our future would continue to unfold in a random manner until it ceases to exist just like the countless other species that came before us Barring divine intervention even if we manage to hang on for a long haul, our sun’s increasing output will one day make life on Earth impossible, evaporating our oceans and turning our planet into a second Venus. But it gets worse because billions of years from now the sun will expand into a red giant and swallow up Mercury, Venus, and possibly Earth itself.

We might be smart enough by then to figure out how to make a mass exodus to Mars to escape the solar fires, but even that will be temporary. Presupposing we did manage to survive the flames, the sun will eventually contract and cool off. The problem will then become one of dealing with the intense cold instead of the searing heat.

If we are then advanced enough technologically to travel to another star system to escape our dead one, it will only delay the inevitable once again because no star lasts forever, nor will the universe itself. There are even some theories that matter itself will be torn apart as the fabric of space continues to expand leaving only an unimaginably cold, dark, nothingness behind.

Just as death is an inescapable fact of life for the individual, so it will be eventually be for everything if there is no God to intervene. (Personally, I like the ending of Revelation 21 and 22 a whole lot better!)

Conclusion

I hope this article and its predecessor have provided something for both believers and non-believers to ponder and hopefully discuss, should the opportunity arise. If you, like me, are a believer, then you have real reason to hope for the future. Perhaps the arguments here may help in convincing others that our hope is a genuine one and one in which they, too, can share.

If There is No God . . . Part One – By Ed Wood

It’s probably safe to say that 40 years ago most Americans took the existence of God as a given, and even more than that most of them believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Of that majority, most of them were Christians, and of this set, going to church on Sunday was just what one did on a Sunday morning. Fast forward to the second decade of the Twenty-first Century and all of the above are in a dwindling minority. With the denigrating assaults both subtle and overt from those who claim God doesn’t exist, those of us who remain have every reason to feel like a threatened species. Furthermore, those of us who consider ourselves Christians and still believe in the authority of the Bible can probably be categorized as positively endangered. (It certainly feels that way at any rate.) To quote Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a changin.’” To quote yours truly, “They are changin’ all right, but not for the better!”

If you’re reading this article, odds are you are a member of the last group I mentioned and the odds are also good you know at least a few people who think all this stuff about God is a lot of nonsense. The intent here is to give you some questions and thoughts you might bring up the next time the topic of whether there is a God or not comes up in the conversation.

Let’s start by defining two important terms. First, we have “atheists,” which adamantly claim that there is no God. Second, we have “agnostics” which aren’t sure there is one. Either way, these are the people you might want to discuss some of the things we’ll explore together, bearing in mind that what you see here is by no means comprehensive. That’s another way of saying that you should feel free to add topics of your own.

With this introduction now presented, let’s begin!

A Universe Tuned for Life

Before we look into some of the intricacies of life itself, it would probably be a good idea to see what kind of conditions have to exist for any reasonable amount of time. By the way, I’m only going to deal with carbon-based life mainly because it’s the only kind we know definitely exists. Given, there might be some exotic forms based on other elements out there somewhere, but until we find an example of it, anything we say in this regard would be pure speculation.

To the best of our knowledge all carbon-based life needs liquid water somewhere along the line. Water is about the closest thing to a universal solvent that we know. From its simplest to its most advanced forms, water plays a vital role somewhere along the line. Whether immersed in it or carrying around its own personal supply, only liquid water allows the incredibly complex biochemistry of life to take place. Even in creatures or plants which can survive extended periods of inactivity on times of drought, they all had to have water with which to start out and to recover their activity and ability to procreate.

Interestingly, the Bible itself alludes to the importance of water in the creation:

Genesis {1:1-2} In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

 2 Peter {3:5} 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.

Our astronomers looking into the heavens have seen the presence of water in primarily its gaseous and solid forms not only in many of the worlds and satellites orbiting them in our own solar system, but many light years off into deep space in interstellar clouds. Finding it in its liquid state, the prime requirement of life, is comparatively rare and fleeting, Earth being the only exception with its vast quantities, and, not so coincidentally, Earth being the only place where life is known to exist.

There’s a good reason for water being rarely found in its liquid form anywhere but here because it requires a very narrow temperature range and certain density of atmosphere to exist. Under the pressure of one Earth atmosphere, liquid water exists only in a range of 100° Celsius or 180° Fahrenheit. It is possible to raise the boiling point past 212° F. by boosting the atmospheric pressure, but at a certain point things just get far too hot for the organic molecules life requires to stay intact. Lowering the pressure in turn lowers the boiling point, but the limit here is that going too low brings it below the freezing point. This is the condition we have with Mars today where the atmosphere is too far thin for liquid water to persist on the surface.

However, considering that temperatures in the universe range from just above -273° C (-459.4° F) in certain interstellar clouds to many millions of degrees (the temperature scale in these extremes no longer being significant) within the interiors of stars and their outer coronas, finding the “Goldilocks” conditions where the environment is “just right” for life is a rare thing, indeed..

But there’s more! If any of the fundamental physical laws of the universe were just slightly different than they are now, “rare” would easily become altogether “impossible.” Against an infinite amount of possibilities, the laws which govern the operation of the universe are “just right” to permit the existence of life.

In another fascinating example of the Bible being far ahead of its time, Isaiah (circa Eighth Century B.C.) recognized this very thing:

Isaiah {45:18} For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I [am] the LORD; and [there is] none else.

Oh, well, maybe it’s just luck that our universe “just happens” to be one in which life can exist at all someplace within it, after all. But can luck accommodate what we will look at next?

Abiogenesis – Life from Lifelessness

According to modern science, the fact that life arose on Earth is the result of the chance meetings of atoms and molecules at the right place at the right time. Now there are 92 naturally occurring elements available to create chemical compounds and of them only hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorous are needed to build the molecules on which life as we know it depends.

Well, if we assume there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy each with at least one planet where liquid water is possible, and 100 billion galaxies in our universe, plus some 13.7 billion years of time, it seems the abiogenesis people have a lot going for them. That sure is a lot of time and places for atoms to form all kinds of molecules. Is even that all enough?

All life on earth depends on molecules of RNA and DNA to exist and reproduce. These, in turn are made of proteins which are in turn made of amino acids. There are some 300 of these amino acids, twenty of which are needed to build the proteins. There are two types of these, left and right-handed, based on how their molecules are formed and as far as we know, only the former are used. Next step is to get the correct ones into the right order to makes the proteins which in turn also have to be the right ones in the right order to make the RNA and DNA needed for life. Again, these two very complex molecules are just components.   A lot more is needed to make even the very simplest form of life – and don’t forget that liquid water, either!

If this all sounds complicated, it is, especially to a layperson such as myself. I’ve have read various  estimates that life occurred by “accident” would take a lot more time than the universe has existed for everything to come together in the right order for life to come to exist. Perhaps even more convincing than this is there is not a single bit of evidence of life ever arising from inanimate sources, not one, even when attempts are made to do it artificially in the lab. And here’s the kicker – if some scientist ever did succeed, the premise that mere random events could create life are shot to pieces because it required the scientist’s active intelligent intervention to make I happen!

Here’s something you can try on an agnostic or atheistic acquaintance. Next time he or she is over at your house and asks you where you got your TV, stereo, or computer, tell them these things spontaneously came into existence in your back yard out of the mulch pile. If they don’t believe you, you might then ask them how then they can believe life which is, as we have seen is immeasurably more complicated, could come to exist in the same manner.

Really, could we be that lucky?

A Controversy

Let’s take on the subject of evolution verses creationism, because I believe there are elements of both that play into the story of how our universe came to be.

I agree with the Creationist view that God is in fact the Creator of everything just as the Bible claims. Furthermore, I believe he still is actively directing its course across the ages and will continue to do so until the end of time as we know it.

To my mind, part of that direction incorporates what we call evolution. The essential truth of this theory is that life adapts to changing circumstances in varying degrees. The evidence of this seems beyond contradiction as we look at how life adapts to fill in virtually all of Earth’s multiplicity of biomes from its frozen polar regions, to the steaming tropics and scorching deserts, and even to the depth of the sea near geothermal vents where water temperatures soar beyond water’s boiling point with only the immense pressure of the overlying ocean keeping the water in a liquid form.

This evidence appears in the Bible itself in Genesis 3:17-19 where life changed markedly to a changing Earth which was a direct consequence of Adam and Eve’s rebellion in allowing Satan into our world and his subsequent actions to corrupt the perfection Earth and universe formerly had. Weeds sprang into being where none had ever exited before and some animals became carnivorous, not to mention that humans and every living thing becoming subject to age and death.

Another characteristic of evolution is to cause a diversification of species. This is clearly evident in that for most any species of plant or animal we can imagine, there are many different variations. For example, there isn’t a single kind of bird. There are crows, woodpeckers, ostriches, hummingbirds, etc. Same goes for just about everything else. Perhaps this characteristic to create such diversity over time explains how Moses could fit all the land species of his era into the Ark, something that would clearly be impossible to do today.

Perhaps the biggest bone of contention between pure evolutionist and creationist thought is the controversy over the origin of human beings. The former insists that humans are nothing more than very sophisticated ape-relatives (making us being a monkey’s uncle a real possibility?)  while the latter maintains God created us independently from the very soil of the ground itself. Though our genetic makeup is indeed very close to that of the primates, there has never been found in the fossil evidence the proverbial missing link which would establish that ancestral connection. Never!

The sharing of similar physical characteristics between humans and primates seems perfectly reasonable in that a bipedal humanoid form with hands which had opposable thumbs works out very well to the surrounding environment, so that’s what God used in both cases.

But it doesn’t end there, as we’ll see next.

No Intelligence Required

Survival for plants is a pretty straight-forward affair. Provide liquid water, the necessary elements from the soil, sunlight (for most plants), and a method of reproduction, and you’re in business. For animals, you again need liquid water, a method to reproduce, and plants, other animals or both and the basic needs for species survival are met.

Of course to achieve these ends for animals requires one more condition: being able to avoid being eaten by other animals and being able to outrun any other animals you might want to eat if you happen to be a omnivore or carnivore. Bottom line it need not take a lot of smarts to do any of these things as the life comprising most of Earth’s readily proves. Viruses and bacteria are not at all Mensa candidates and do very well, right?

This being said, the question for strict evolutionists becomes: “Why intelligence?” The routine answer is that our pre-human ancestors being physically weaker probably slower than the animals they wanted to eat or that wanted to eat them caused them to become smart enough to plan strategies and weapons to overcome this disadvantage. But why go to all that trouble when they could have just “evolved” to become stronger and faster with a lot less effort?

The truth is, the major reason the human race is in such a precarious spot today is because of our supposedly evolution-derived high intelligence. If the direction of said evolution is to increase the odds of the survival of a species, how can this be explained?

In my view, the reason our unique intelligence exists is that for some reason God wanted us to have it. Contrary to the evolutionist view, it did not slowly come to pass as humans developed from an off-shoot of a common ancestor shared with the apes, but was present in the very first people God created, as the book of Genesis tells us.

Conclusion

In this article we’ve endeavored to take a look at the reasons that the creation of the universe, our world and all the life upon it requires a lot more than just random chance to the end that should this subject come up with an acquaintance who adheres to a “no God” creation you’ll have some points to make that might just cause them to consider the weakness of their position.

To be sure, some will never be convinced, but it is possible that it might just cause a few to consider the possibility that you might be onto something here. If that does happen, you will have at least opened a door that they considered walking through before and beginning a journey that might just one day lead them into the gates of heaven itself!

Next time, we’ll explore how the some of the very basic premises of our society are affected if one subtracts God from the equation.

Stay tuned!

Thy Kingdom Come . . . . By Ed Wood

Matthew {6:9-13} After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (The speaker here is Jesus.)

It is probably safe to say that all Christians, and perhaps a large number of non-Christians as well, recognize the words above which have since become known universally known as the “Lord’s Prayer.” In this article we’ll focus specifically on the ones which concern God’s coming kingdom. Strangely enough, Christians don’t entirely agree on when it will come, or how it will come, or even what it is! Let’s see if we can sort out some of these mysteries.

Let’s see first if there is an equivalence between the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven. In the following passage, Jesus relates how one must enter the former and some of those who will be there:

Luke {13:24-30} Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all [ye] workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you [yourselves] thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and [from] the west, and from the north, and [from] the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

Concerning the manner of entering the kingdom of heaven we have Jesus saying:

Matthew {7:21-23; 8:11} Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity . . . And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

With these passages, it appears that the kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven are clearly one and the same. Let’s see now if we can determine whether this kingdom already exists or is something yet to come. From the Old Testament we have:

Genesis {28:10-12} And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and [put] them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

Ezekiel {1:1} Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth [month,] in the fifth [day] of the month, as I [was] among the captives by the river of Chebar, [that] the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.

Daniel {7:9} I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment [was] white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne [was like] the fiery flame, [and] his wheels [as] burning fire.

Luke {2:13} And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  (This is a verse from the account of the appearance of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds who were tending their flocks in the night.)

This evidence clearly shows this magnificent kingdom is already in existence “someplace” in a realm quite distinct from our own. However, from what we see below, it also appears to be closer than we might think:

Matthew {3:1-2} In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew {4:17} From that time* Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. *The time after John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod..

Matthew {10:5-7} These twelve* Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into [any] city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. *The twelve apostles

Matthew {12:27} And if I * by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast [them] out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. *Jesus

 “The kingdom of heaven is at hand . . . the kingdom of heaven is come unto you.” From what Jesus said and did above, something of God’s kingdom is already here, ushered in by the Lord himself. Yet one must remember that the Bible has to be taken in its entire context, not just by selected passages. What then, are we to make of this?

Revelation {21:1-5} And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

Clearly the kind of world we are living in now is nothing if not a direct opposite of what God’s kingdom is like. The explanation for this seeming contradiction might be resolved in the verses below:

Matthew {13:31-32} Another parable put he* forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.. *Jesus.

With this passage, we introduce the added element of time. Just like the grain of mustard seed in the parable above, I believe that though Jesus initiated the coming of the kingdom of God during his First Advent, it will only arrive upon Earth in its full maturity after the conclusion of the Millennium with all the characteristics described in the Revelation account.

In the three years of his public ministry, Jesus gave other tantalizing “previews” of this kingdom by his words and deeds. Some appear in the Beatitudes (Matthew chapters 5-7) and show us quite profoundly just how different the standards of this kingdom are compared to those upon which the world has operated ever since Adam and Eve lost Eden. Jesus also healed the incurable, somehow multiplied a few fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands, calmed a raging storm in the Sea of Galilee, and brought the dead back to life just by his word. These actions demonstrated that he had truly initiated the kingdom of God on Earth.

Two Conflicting Kingdom Views

There are two primary differences of thought about the nature of this kingdom in the present world. One says the full benefits of the kingdom are already available while the other maintains that while began with the arrival of Jesus, we do not have access to all of them yet. So, which one is right? The answer is obvious enough, found just by looking at the world around us.

We certainly do not see the paradise described in Revelation, but a sin-damaged planet that’s getting worse by the hour. Even so, it is not totally divorced from God’s Presence or influence. Perhaps the best way to look at it is how things were during Jesus’ ministry. To be sure, the world was far from an idyllic place while he walked among us that first time, but as we have seen he did introduce aspects of the kingdom of heaven into our world. Yes, it’s true that there were miraculous events recorded in the Bible prior to Jesus’ life, but with the arrival of God in human form, the veil was drawn back more than ever before. His teachings, miracles, and, most of all, his resurrection and ascension were unmistakable revelations of a coming age will be totally different from the one we and our ancestors have experienced since the Fall.

At this point, I think we can agree that the kingdom of God, though initiated nearly 2000 years ago has yet to arrive in its completeness. The next logical question we should address is how that’s going to happen. Again, there are two basic and opposite views.

How the Kingdom of God Will Arrive:  Two More Conflicting Views

The first is called “dominionism” and its adherents claim that the church will slowly transform this world into the kingdom. Once that’s done, Jesus will return to rule and that will be that. Think of it as culminating into a universal Christian theocracy, if you will.

Dominionism, whether overtly expressed or not, has influenced much of the modern church today. For example, from the Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church we have in this prayer for peace:

O Almighty God, kindle, we beseech thee, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with thy wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquillity thy dominion may increase till the earth is filled with the knowledge of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (BCP page 207).

The petition in the prayer is for God to guide those who lead the nations with the “wisdom” to “in tranquility” turn our troubled planet into a utopia Of course, anyone who is familiar with Bible prophecy is keenly aware that the Last Days will be characterized by anything but tranquility. All human government falls far short of God’s standards, even the best of them. In his God’s eyes they all look “beastly” (Daniel, chapter 7). The worst “beast government” of all will be controlled by the worst beast of all, the Antichrist (Daniel, chapter 7; Revelation, chapter 13).

Here’s a thought: If Christians are to ultimately take over the world, what does the condition of Twenty-first Century Earth say about the kind of job they’ve been doing for the last 2000 years? Shouldn’t things be a whole lot better by now if Christians are supposed to be moving humanity toward utopia through their own efforts?

A final proof of the error of the dominionist viewpoint is that the Bible tells us unambiguously that believers (or saints) will most certainly not prevail by their own methods to establish the kingdom of God on Earth:

Daniel {7:21} I beheld, and the same horn* made war with the saints, and prevailed against them. *The Antichrist.

Revelation {13:6-7} And he* opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 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. *The beast, referring to the Antichrist.

The rule of the Antichrist, aided and abetted by a second beast known as the false prophet (Revelation 13:11-18), will only end by the return of Jesus, not by anything even the saints of that day can do:

Revelation {19:19-20} And I saw the beast*, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet** that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. *The Antichrist ** The second beast.

Interestingly, this idea of a world take-over by some type of human government is not a new idea, nor is it limited to dominionism. It has parallels to the Islamic belief that it a Muslim theocracy will one day rule the world under the “mahdi.” It can also be found in Hitler’s assertion that his Third Reich would rule the planet for a thousand years and Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s claim that Communism would one day “bury us” (the capitalist countries comprising the free world) in a speech he gave in the 1960’s.

I think what we see here is Satan’s tendency to repeat one of his strategies with only the details and faces being changed. It seems safe to conclude therefore that Dominionism is nothing but a rehashing of an old tactic that has failed every time throughout history because it is nothing more than a lie. The devil is merely exploiting once again the classic human inability to learn much from history.

The alternative to this, for lack of a specific name, we can call “Anti-dominionism” and define it as the course of history being totally under God’s control with the ultimate result of “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). It is only into this new reality, free from the sin that poisoned our universe in the dim past, that God’s Kingdom will finally at long last arrive and only at his direction and timing, not ours!

Concluding Thoughts

Does this mean that we as believers are to just sit back placidly and wait for it to happen? I think not because Jesus said:

Luke {12:35-37} Let your loins be girded about, and [your] lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed [are] those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.

Matthew {28:19-20} Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world.

We are to be watching continuously for his return and to be getting out his message while we watch because it is only by the truth that we can stand against the evil that is growing exponentially in our End-Times World. By doing so we will add to the count of citizens who will enter that promised kingdom of God and live forever where:

Revelation {21:4} God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

From all indications, the time is short, maybe even shorter than we can imagine. So, we would be wise to remember Paul’s words as he quoted Isaiah (Isaiah 49:8):

2 Corinthians 6:2} For he* saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation. *God

It’s time to get busy, don’t you think?

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