“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

All Nature Sings

A bird sings. The little waves trickle against the bank of the James River. Another bird sings back. The crow caws to his little sea starling friends who are doing gymnastics in the air. The water gurgles back and forth, louder, softer, back and forth. A warbler bursts forth her song, then lets it die.

The ducks have the wide river all to themselves. One decides to leave his watery bed and fly over to four playmates. He skims along just above the cool surface and gleefully lands with a plunge. They receive him gladly. A little way from them are two ducks chasing each other in circles in a game of “Tag you’re it!”

The water swishes with a mind of its own. The grass sways, happy to be alive today. This is the day which the Lord hath made. Let all the world be happy and rejoice with it. Glory to God in the highest.

The human gets out his guitar. He is just overcome by the gentle beauty surrounding him. He cannot restrain himself. He must join with the rest of creation in praise to the Creator. So he softly strums and sings till his heart’s content.

The Earth is full of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Daniel’s Last Vision

This post is a follow-on to one dated April 14, entitled, Daniel’s Prophecies. I recommend reading that one first, in order to get a better foundation for Daniels last prophecy.

I’ve used a separate post just for this chapter because it is the longest of all the prophecies in the book of Daniel. Complex and detailed, chapter 11 requires special care. Remember that we noticed that each succeeding prophecy built on to the previous one, repeating and expanding the picture. The Holy Spirit wanted to make sure we would understand.

I must admit, I am neither a theologian nor a historian. Daniel’s last vision, chapter 11, covers a long period of time, from the Medo-Persian kings all the way down to the 2nd coming of Christ, over 2,500 years. I can’t even say I understand every point of the vision as they relate to historical events; enough information, however, is given to see the big picture and to define who is the evil character God meant it to expose. The Bible is written for the layman. Anyone who desires a right standing and acceptance with God, and leads others to the same, will understand the mysteries of the Bible; and those who rely only upon their genius will be left in constant confusion with the scriptures, especially Bible prophecies. “None of the wicked shall understand; but” “they that turn many to righteousness,” “shall understand.” Dan. 12:10,3,10.

At commencement of the vision, the angel, Gabriel gives Daniel easily verifiable events. The kings of Persia listed in verse 2 are: Cambysses, False Smerdis (Ahasuerus, [Ezra 4:6]), Darius the Great, and Xerxes. Then the mighty king of Greece is obviously Alexander the Great. Alexander’s power being broken due to his premature death, his 4 generals assumed control of the empire: Cassander ruled the lavish home base, from Macedonia to modern day Greece; Seleucus ruled the large area from the Middle East to India; Lysimachus reined from Bulgaria to Turkey; and Ptolemy governed Egypt. From this point onward in the prophecy, there arises a king of the south, a Ptolemaic king of the Egyptian quarter of the empire, and a king of the north, the Cassandrid king of the Macedonian part of the realm. The military play and counter play between the kings of the north and south continues even into the Roman Empire, which conquered the Cassandrid, Ptolemaic, and Seleucid parts of the Greek empire. Thus the Roman Caesars become the king of the north, while Egyptian Ptolemys continue as the king of the south. Romans as the king of the north, becomes apparent in verse 20, when it says, “Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom; but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.” This speaks of Caesar Augustus, the son of founding general, Julius Caesar, and his successor to the throne in Rome. Luke corroborates this in a little detail of his gospel account, “And it came to pass in those days [of Christs birth], that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” Lk. 2:1. See how beautifully the Bible aids the student in understanding its meaning! So, although we might have difficulty following all the specific kings of the north and the south, a third of the way through the prophecy, we can nail down where Gabriel was pointing in history.

The next verse says something very significant. “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the Prince of the covenant. And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people.” Dan.11:21-23. This sounds familiar to a previous vision of Daniel. If we lay this over chapter 7 and 8 we can begin to see the meaning. “Out of one of them [the 4 horns of the Greek empire] came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great.” “He shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many.” “I considered the horns, and behold there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots.” Dan. 8:9,25; Dan. 7:8. Initially, this little king of the north kind of sounds like an unimportant, self-inflated peek squeak. But when we realize it is the same power that greatly disturbed Daniel in his two previous visions, we must take this little power very seriously. It is described as small, not because it is insignificant, but because it is insidious, even pretended humble. Although it has great potential for evil, it doesn’t arrive as such at first. In order for this king of the north to take over, it must be enabled to sneak in, at first seemingly friendly and unnoticed, flattering its way in. Then, once in control, it dictates its will. But who can this odd king of Rome be?

Moving ahead quickly to verse 31 and 32 helps nail down another part of the vision. “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong.” Again, this sounds like chapter 8 language. “He magnified himself even to the Prince of the host and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down.” Dan. 8:11. So we see corroboration again, but still not quite the interpretation.

So, we drop down to verses 36 and 37, “The king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.” Now we can interpret the vision. Paul quotes from these verses in his letter to the Thessalonian Christians, “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day [of Christ’s return] 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.” 2Thess. 2:3, 4.

Paul thrilled to see the gospel being preached to the whole world, hearts being reconciled to God, lives being turned away from idolatry and promiscuity. But he mourned that the amazing revival he had been a part of would die out shortly after his death and after the death of Christ’s other apostles. He wrote, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work.” 2Thess. 2:7. Paul made his appeal before Caesar, and was subsequently tried and beheaded for treason against paganism, the official state religion of Rome. But before that occurred, on his last trip to his hearing in Rome, he gave a farewell address to the Ephesian believers, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Acts 20:28-31.

Very early in the history of Christianity, just after the apostles passed away, a great apostasy took hold of the church, and slowly, almost imperceptibly, moved it away from the path of purity and truth. John, the last of the apostles, observed it’s approach and wrote about a conflict within the early church. “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.” 1Jn.2:18,19. In the Revelation, John also recorded Christ saying to the churches of Ephesus and Smyrna, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not and hast found them liars....I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” Rev. 2:2,9,3. Paul also passed on to his successor, Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” And, “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; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” 2Tim.4:3,4; 1Tim. 4:1,2.

That small beginning of the apostasy grew until it involved the whole Christian church. With exception of a very small minority who protested but remained as private as possible, the wonderful revival from heaven died and the church became dominated by apostate leadership. The pope and the Church of Rome answers to that king of the north who desecrated God’s sanctuary, by subverting the original church whom Christ commissioned to make disciples of all nations, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matt. 28:19. The Church of Rome, as soon as it felt safe to do so, dared to “change times and laws,” (Dan. 7:25) by redesigning every truth handed to us from God in order to inculcate all the ancient pagan falsehoods and customs (Dan. 8:12), corrupting the work of Christ, our only Father and Priest in His heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 8:1,2), and changing of the day of His worship to the day for worshiping the Sun (Ex. 20:8-10). Even the Holy Spirit, the true Vicar of Christ (Jn.14:26), was supplanted by a corruptible man, and the knowledge of God’s great benevolence and His kindness toward us, disappeared from Christianity.

As the prophecy said, “When the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand: and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes.” Dan. 8:23-25.

(To be continued.)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Total Goodness of God

(This is a follow-on to the previous post entitled, My favorite subjectThe generosity of God. Please read first.)

“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God.” Rom. 11:22.

I love to think of God’s goodness, His wonderful ever-giving nature. He truly defines the word, generosity. He doesn’t begrudgingly give; it is His glory to pour blessing and understanding and forgiveness upon us.

Yet He has another aspect of His personality. He can’t allow for anything less than perfection. While it is His glory to forgive, it is also His glory to be perfect, and He leads the way, desiring all His children to follow suit, because He knows this is best for them and for the health of His kingdom. In the Navy, I heard the phrase used, “Good order and discipline.” That represented the best the military could expect from its sailors—people taking lawful orders and passing them down to their subordinates, working together like a well oiled machine; people who have trained their soul to be willing to give up their life for the survival of the crew, or to give up their life for the achievement of the ship’s mission—freedom for the world.

Good order and discipline portrays a beauty of a different kind than does the creativity and expression of an artist, or the benevolence of a pastor to his church flock. Discipline can be hard, even harsh, at times. It is firm and zealously ready to strike fear. But it is good, and it is beautiful. And we see it in God’s attributes. Jesus was not only the Lamb of God that would sacrifice Himself to save us, but He was also the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who would rule all nations with a rod of iron. We naturally recoil from that Lion part of Him. As His little children, our love and trust for Him start getting shaky. He knows this and does His best not to scare His children away. But He can’t help what He is. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Jn. 5:17. Jesus was saying, “My Father works like this, and I must do just like My Father.” Or if you prefer, “My Daddy works like this....”Jesus was tough, no doubt. He is as tough as His Father, and we have the privilege of having God display His royalty and aweful majesty toward the devil, in our behalf, right before us. But He is also gentle, for He never administers justice without mercy equally dominating His every word and act of discipline. “The Lord is a man of war,” but “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” Ex. 15:3; Ps. 18:35.

In Gods severity, we see His jealous love. We see His deepest desire for the welfare of His children. We see the other side of His personality, beside His mercy. He is not just one dimensional; He has a depth of character that we will rejoice to study for endless ages. We can trust His discipline.

That fullness of character revealed itself on the cross, there hammering the final blow to the nail in Satan’s coffin, while simultaneously falling under the blows of the people He came to save. And it had to be that way to let us see ourselves for what we are, and to let us see Him for what He is and what His Father's standard is. It also showed us how far He is willing to go to reclaim our hearts; Jesus would do what our condition demanded Him to endure. The cross of Christ, also, will be our study through endless ages.

Jesus did not suppress one word of truth, but He uttered it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact and thoughtful, kind attention in His intercourse with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not sensure human weakness. He spoke the truth, but always in love. He denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity; but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes.” Steps to Christ, p.12. A beautiful description of a heart settled on love.

If we fear to look upon His readiness to deal justice and discipline, and opt to behold His mercy and friendliness only, we end up the big losers. We lose the ability to carry the cross; we become marshmallow Christians, spiritual Pillsbury Doughboys; our religion becomes hollow and tasteless, and thus we misrepresent His character to the world. We must view both, His generous and abundantly merciful nature, and His forthcoming trait to be disciplinary, as difficult as that may be to do. If we choose to accept Him as our Savior, we must take all of Him. We must take Him in the form He has revealed Himself. If we want Him as a merciful God only, we make Him a peer—our equal. He becomes our graven image, because we have carved Him into what we want Him to be; then we can deal with Him because we have the controls. But it’s a dead worship we give to Him. To accept Him with all that He is, is to lose the controls on Him and to allow His Spirit to reveal Him to us fully, and that will result in an electrifying worship of Him; it will wake up the lifeless soul! That will develop true trust in Him. If we will accept Him as He has revealed Himself, as the God in both New and Old Testaments, and wrestle with His law-making, discipline, and justice attribute, we will understand Him to be much greater than our peer. He will become our parent; and there is not a deeper love and kinship than to those who gave us life and protected us, and who sacrificed to prepare us to survive life. Jesus, our Father-FriendHis mercy will endure any misbehavior or rebellion that His children devise, and His generosity toward them is a well of water, springing up forever. He always has been, and always will be. We can trust a person like that.

And if we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen His majesty, The Father.

“Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Is. 9:6.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My favorite subject—the Generosity of God

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever…. As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” Ps. 103:8,9,13,1.

“I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,…shewing mercy unto thousands of [generations] of them that love Me.” Ex. 20:5,6. Part of one of the Ten Commandments, this is perpetually inscribed in stone. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” Heb. 13:8.

Grace: undeserving, unwarranted special favor; limitless love. Generosity and deserving have nothing to do with each other. Generosity is blind to anything in return, except love. It hopes for everything, it bears up under anything, endures all things. Generosity never fails. God is a source of love and giving who never can stop, because that is what He is. He is love. This is why the creation surrounding Him can never rest from saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” Rev. 4:8.

“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” Ex. 34:6,7.

Abundant: marked by great plenty; amply supplied; abounding. Abounding: to be present in great quantity; to become copiously supplied. Every one of us, good or bad, is copiously supplied; God never stops giving. That is what he is—the great gift Giver. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. Rom. 5:20. “He giveth more grace.” Jas. 4:6. “I came that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good Shepherd.” Jn. 10:10,11.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jn. 3:16.

“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood [our first birth], nor of the will of the flesh [by our own willpower], nor of the will of man [by anyone forcing us], but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth…, and of His fullness have we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, and grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Jn. 1:11-14,16,17. Grace for grace.” Its by beholding His grace that we become changed into the same image. (2Cor. 3:18.)

There is one addiction authorized in the Bible. “I beseech you brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.)” 1Cor. 16:15. That addiction is the very character of God. He is addicted to giving and serving. He cannot stop!

God does have His laws, He has requirements, but they, also, are good to us. Everything God does displays His character. An artist paints as a way to express her or himself. God creates for the same reason. Nature abounds with a multitude of species. And in every Tulip, every Redbud tree, every graceful deer, every powerful lion, is an expression of Himself and His giving nature. His laws are also an expression—an expression of His character—purity, and unchanging unselfish love. Without sin or Satan, His laws would have been able to keep us from ever leaving Him. (Gal. 3:21) They are ever only beneficial to us in every way. Of themselves they would have kept us drawn to Him. They tell of a wonderful Father who loves to be near us and serve us and desires us to love and serve each other.

“An enemy hath done this.” Matt. 13:28. But God has an enemy who works feverishly to subvert every good thing He has tried to do for us. God’s adversary takes everything our loving Father has done for us and used it all to turn us against Him. It’s the devil, not God, who says, “If you don’t do what I say, you’ll be sorry! I will make sure you suffer. I have my ways!” Its the devil who uses badgering, needling, torturing, while someone who knew the Lord says, “He will not always chide.” Ps. 103:9. The devil uses guilt, but the Lord promises to cast our sins into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:19). The devil loves to control and manipulate, but Jesus says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Jn. 8:36. The devil loves to discredit and to gossip; God says, “Come now, let us reason together, just you and Me. Is. 1:18. Satan loves revenge. Of Jesus it is written, “When He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously; who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” 1 Pet. 2:23,24.

“Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace.” Job 22:21. God agonizes when we don’t spend time with Him. He knows we endanger ourselves while we stay away. He yearns for our response to His constant care. He knows that if we will just come to Him, be near Him, and become acquainted with Him, we will love Him, and want to obey Him. Being near Him and spending time communing with Him is the big test. We can’t make ourselves sorry for sin. And He knows this perfectly well. “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. Rom. 2:4. He never coldly commands anything, especially, “Say you’re sorry!” He knows that can’t work, because He hasn’t made a single creature that operates that way. All His creation obey because their obedience is only a response to a love they see always freely flowing from Him. The gifts and invitation of God are without repentance. (Rom. 11:29).

So His big test to us comes with communion. Do we love to commune with Him? Do we desire a better communion with Him; do we find ourselves meditating on His character and talking about His love? “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, will 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. Matt. 7:21-23. Only those who spend the time getting to know God, becoming acquainted with a Father friend who will never fail us, will find the secret to life, and the secret to obedience.

“The Spirit and the bride say, Come. Let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” Rev. 22:17.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Daniel’s Prophecies

I want to present a study of the prophecies of Daniel. I’m sorry if it so lengthy, but initially it will be two parts and maybe later somewhat more in depth. So here we go.

Daniel, chapter 2—An overview of the future from 600 B.C. all the way down to Christ’s return. A dream to King Nebuchadnezzar, not to Daniel. It described the next four empires as metals that became increasingly inferior and less valuable, but also stronger and more destructive, as they moved down from the head to the legs of the image: gold, silver, brass, and iron— representing Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The image of a man was something the pagan king could identify with. The last part of the dream was of the feet and ten toes, which in a later dream of Daniel’s coincided with ten kings that conquered Rome. The iron and miry clay of the feet which can’t cleave to each other represent the Roman Empire after it divided. Every attempt to reunite Europe has failed. In the end of the dream, a stone, (which Christ represented to be Himself in so many ways, including the Ten Commandments written in stone), rough and falling from the sky, much like a meteor from space, hit the statue at its feet which obliterates it, and the stone became a great mountain that filled the whole earth.

God is so good to give us this special book of prophecies to warn of coming events and to let us know He is in charge of it all; and He is so wise a Master Teacher to begin with the simplest overview before moving on to more detailed dreams and visions.

Daniel, chapter seven—A continuation of prophecy from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The dreams and visions each repeat and amplify the information of the previous ones. Daniel dreams and sees a beach front in turmoil. The setting of blustery wind and wild waves indicates fear and terror. Out of the crashing waves walks a Babylonian lion with wings—an obvious representation of the current empire of his day. But presently the wings are removed and the lion’s heart is replaced by a weak man’s heart, and it is made to stand up like a man. Daniel had the gift of interpretation and knew this represented the weak King Belshazzar who had just assumed the throne of Babylon. Next a bear came out of the water. No explanation was given for which nation this could be, but it represents Medo-Persia which conquered Babylon. Next came a leopard with four heads and four wings, representing Greece and the rapidity with which it conquered Peria. Last of all came a monster that left a fearful memory forever in Daniel’s mind. No doubt God meant for it to do this. That last empire holds a great notoriety with God, and since Daniel wrote out the dream and we now have possession of it, we need also to view that final empire with fear and distrust. Ten horns sit atop this seven-headed monster with ten crowns, as John sees it later in Revelation 13; and it is simply a conglomeration of the preceding three animals. Now that Daniel’s attention is arrested with the horrendous scene, his focus moves to the horns. Three horns begin to move and give way for another 11th horn that starts out as a baby horn but grows so big it uproots the three horns in its way, and become bigger than the remaining seven. Then it develops a face of a man looking very proud, and speaking very boastfully and blasphemously to God. This little horn made war against God’s people and presumed to change times and laws which are God’s right alone. This power acted like it was God, standing in the place of the Almighty. It would rule for 1,260 prophetic days which translates to 1,260 actual years. But in the end, the judgment would be set up, that evil power would be sentenced and destroyed, and the people of the saints would regain God’s kingdom. One quality emphasized in the monster was that it devoured all its enemies and whatever was left over it stomped into the ground. No such hatefulness, bitterness, or control by force would be seen in any other animal representing a world power. This rabid, devil-possessed beast needed to be killed and put out of its misery.

Daniel, chapter 8—Now Daniel sees a vision. It’s the third year of the reign of Belshazzar and Babylon is about to become history. Daniel sees himself in Persia, at that time a part of the Babylonian empire, but soon to become the next world power. Thus the vision never even mentions Babylon. Daniel sees Medo-Persia, as a ram with two horns, conquering and pushing until it dominates the known world. After that he sees Greece speeding on collision course against Persia, to destroy it. Greece is represented by a unicorn goat that runs so fast that it flies through the air. That great horn represented Alexander the Great, who conquered the vast empire of Persia in just four years. Never stopping long enough to enjoy a victory, he drove his armies to the end of the civilization and then when there was nothing left to conquer, he drank himself to death. The goat lost that great horn, but after it fell, four smaller horns took its place, signifying Alexander’s four generals who carved up the Greek kingdom, and led the homesick soldiers back to Macedonia.

But then Daniel watches as an outgrowth of one of those horns, a little horn becomes larger than any other before it. It not only crosses the known world, but its growth sends it up into heaven and dares to stand up against God on His throne. God’s home is desecrated by this earthly power which even casts some of the stars of heaven to the earth. It received an army to flaunt rebellion against God. It cast the truth to the ground, and no one could stop it.

Then as an interlude to the vision, one of the angels asks the angel Gabriel how long this desecration of God’s sanctuary would last. Gabriel’s answer: after 2,300 days or 2,300 real years, then the sanctuary would be cleansed from the defilement of this corrupting power. Then the interpretation came to Daniel that Persia would reign, and then Greece. Although unnamed in the prophecy, Rome would conquer Greece, and then, picking back up with the prophecy, when the worst rebellion against God finally covered the Roman Empire, a king understanding satanic things would stand up and control the world. By the end of the vision Daniel was completely bewildered and exhausted. Gabriel told him to shut up the vision and keep it secret because it would cover a long period, all the way down to the time of the end.

Daniel, chapter 9—This chapter opens with Daniel determined to beseech God, as a result of learning of a prophecy God had given Jeremiah. It is the first year of the Medo-Persian Empire and God’s people have been subjugated for 70 years. God’s promise was to send Israel into captivity for 70 years because of their continued flagrant disobedience to him. Now that time period was finished. The recent vision of the desecrated and destroyed heavenly sanctuary added to Daniel’s burden for the earthly temple that lay in ruins—that building and its sacrificial system that had been a reminder of God’s continuous mercy and love toward sinful man.

So Daniel prays and he prays. His words are all about his sinfulness and that of his people. They also recount God’s past goodness to them and of His righteousness for punishing them. You find no self-justification in that genuine prayer. This isn’t one of Daniel’s daily approaching to God. The reality of the written promise from God to his people has gotten hold of him and he can’t stop praying. On and on Daniel prays, all day long. At last, at the time of the evening sacrifice, he feels a friendly hand on his shoulder. The angel Gabriel whom he had seen in the vision a few years previous is now talking to him. He has come to answer Daniel’s pleas. Not by a promise that providence was already at work, although it was; Cyrus, the Great, was just about to decree that Jews could be free to leave. No, Gabriel came to give Daniel another prophecy that had hope for the temple buried deep within it.

As Israel sent spies into Canaan for 40 days and then wandered outside Canaan for 40 years because of unbelief, likewise, the Jews had spent 70 literal years in captivity, and now, Gabriel announced a probationary period for Judah of 70 prophetic weeks, to see if the captivity had taught them the big lessons of faith and dependence that God had intended for them.

At the end of the 490 actual years Messiah would arrive. More accurately, on the start of the 69th prophetic week, Messiah would be anointed by the Holy Spirit, without measure, to preach the gospel. Half way into that prophetic week Messiah would be killed and the sacrificial system would be fulfilled and made obsolete. Then, because God knew the hearts of the Jews, the prophecy ended on a negative note with the earthly sanctuary being destroyed and the Jewish nation desolated and scattered around the Roman Empire. The prophecy had a starting point—at the command to rebuild Jerusalem. At the third and final offer by the Persian Empire in 457 B.C. the Jews left Babylon under Ezra and Nehemiah, and rebuilt Jerusalems walls and the temple. 483 years later, in the fall of A.D. 27, Jesus of Nazareth was baptized and prepared for His ministry. A.D. 31, in the middle of the prophetic week, 3 ½ years later, Jesus offered up His life to save our lost human race, on the eve of the Passover. But although the Jews took the life of Messiah, He still granted them the final 3 ½ years of the probationary period. When they stoned Stephen, they proved they would never repent and salvage their covenant with God. Shortly afterwards, Saul of Tarsus was converted and Gods everlasting covenant o the world was given to the Gentiles to carry forward and to protect.

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus warned of the coming storm on the Jews, “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies then know that the desolation thereof is nigh...for these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Luke 21:20, 22. These words of Jesus were in answer to Gabriel’s message that because of, “the overspreading of abomination [of the Jews], He [Messiah] shall make it [the old covenant] desolate, even until the consummation, and that [the judgment upon them due to a failed probation] shall be poured upon the desolate [the unrepentant Jews.] Dan. 9:27.

(To be continued.) I hope this was easy enough to follow.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Babylon the Great, Fallen

When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 1Thess. 5:3.

As I look around, while I stay with my sister in her Washington, DC suburbia home, I see construction abounding. Cranes have moved from the inner city and commercially oriented Arlington to her once largely single-family home residential town, and way beyond, in all directions. They tower above the low landscape, a symbol of the progress of human endeavor. They also fitly symbolize the same progress happening throughout the country and around the world. Millions of people flowing from the countryside into the cities for their share of success in this life.

Materialism, the curse of the family unit, is taking over; pastoral patriarchy is stepping aside for the fast-paced, city life. Babylon is rising from the ashes. The thirst for wealth and possessions, the competition for promotion, the forgetfulness of God, all displace the self-sacrificing love required to lay a solid emotional foundation and build up a strong family. American families are in havoc, even if they look healthy. Where is the deep-seated trust that strengthens a society and a nation, far beyond the casual imitation represented on the television? Where is the consecrated sentiments that say, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:...where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me?” Ruth 1:16,17.

Ours is a civilization of half-heartedness, a proud, “moral” society. We’ve tasted the wares of success and now it controls us. The good life has an unflinching grip on our hearts, displacing the deepest need for love. Our desires are a function of selfishness: I demand that money because I am entitled to it; I deserve to be treated good; what’s mine is mine because I worked hard for it; I demand my rights, because it’s only fair; “spoil yourself for once!” Humility and self-sacrifice give way to a looming image of self, rising to take its place.

“Thy riches, and thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy mariners, and thy pilots, thy calkers, and the occupiers of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war, that are in thee, and in all thy company which is in the midst of thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin. The suburbs shall shake at the sound of the cry of thy pilots.” Ez. 27:27,28.

So, the day comes and hastens quickly, when this sprawling Babylon all crumbles to the ground. Not because of small scale terrorism, but because the Lord cries, “It is enough!” Long will He have worked to get humanity’s attention. Great will have been the effort to bring them to confession and broken heartedness and surrender to Him. “How can I let thee go? How can I give thee up? Why will you die?” has gripped His heart and motivated all His discipline toward a race ruining itself.

But He will do nothing until He has made a final call to escape her destruction. “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.” Rev. 18:1-5.

Not until the very last honest soul detaches his loyalty and leaves her, will her destruction fall. Then with the fierceness of a sudden, torrential downpour Jesus will come and bring an end to Satan’s daring Him to demolish this place. He will utterly destroy the wicked, not because of Satan’s dare, but because they wholly refuse to hear His call and be prepared for the kingdom to come. Sin must come to an end. Yet it is a strange act for the Lord to do this, because it is out of His normal character, that of mercy that endures forever, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Nevertheless, the day of destruction comes upon the world like a thief in the night.

“And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent.” Rev. 16:21. Jesus returns to save His people whose lives at that time are endangered by the wicked. As He approaches, myriads of meteors and meteorites, in that asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, will be corralled and pushed ahead of His heavenly retinue. For many years, loose, very large cosmic debris have been on collision courses with our planet, but all have mysteriously barely missed us. They should have already damaged Earth long ago were it not for God’s protection. Yet the generations living on Earth care not, nor thank God and return to Him, even though they know how close those meteors have come to us. Now they have gone beyond the point of God’s mercy by determining the death of Christ’s servants who gave the last message of the good news of His coming kingdom and provided the invitation to repentance necessary to receive it.

That day will be like none anyone can imagine. Satan himself will fear for his existence. No amount of ballistic missiles can stand off the armory from space, and stop its devastation. Millions of burning balls of magma pound the earth. Like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, all the skyscrapers reap a destruction that 9/11 gave only the smallest taste. Mansions and wealthy homes, magnet schools and university complexes, crowded streets and lots full of expensive new cars, shopping centers and malls, everything is pummeled to the ground in searing heat. The largest mega-bombs that pounded Afghanistan don’t compare to the noise and quaking of each screaming stone from the sky; nuclear detonations don’t compare to the force and heat generated. People run for protection into the basements of buildings, only to be entombed. Caves are not even safe, for many meteors in space are the size of mountains, some the size of states. There will be no safety for those who have shaken their fist at God and flipped Him off.

“Turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemning them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.” 2 Pet.2:6. Today we can see the remains of those cities at the base of Mt. Masada, in Israel. Their heaps of what once were walls have a layered, convoluted look, as the intense heating of the brimstone coagulated and quasi-liquefied the stone buildings. Today the ashy powder of those walls, pock-marked with still-existent sulfur pellets, testifies of the coming destruction.

“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: 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.” Matt. 24:29-31. Among the falling flames of burning asteriods, Jesus’ brilliant angels swoop down to gather His people. Many of the wicked are death-stricken at the sight of the army of heaven about which they had jeered and ridiculed.

“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2Pet. 3:10-13.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Knocking on doors

If someone needed a brief synopsis on the Bible, what would you say that would describe its core intent? Would you try to outline 27 fundamental beliefs? Would you tell them about the signs of the times and the present ramp-up to install the second papacy? Would you tell them the latest breaking news on the healthy vegetarian lifestyle or the recent results from the health study from Loma Linda? Should they hear of the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments, especially the 4th? Would you simply quote John 3:16 and expect them to understand its depth?

Or would it depend on the situation? Where is the person coming from when he or she made the request? Was the request audible or a need understood by the direction of a conversation? Maybe they want to read the Bible but don’t know where to start. What could you say that would peak their interest and point them in the right direction? One friend of mine believed he should read the Bible like any other book; he started with Genesis and ended around the middle of Ezekiel! Last I heard, he never finished.

I enjoy going door to door with a friend to pass out tracts. It’s really an exciting adventure. You never know who you will meet. A lot of people say, “No thank you.” Some people are actually rude—but I expect that. Some people will talk. And talking is really what I’m after anyway. Even 5 minutes can provide a chance to at least communicate that there are people who love the Bible and love to share it, and who refuse to be offensive to people. As soon as they hint that the conversation is over, it’s a quick “Good-bye,” from me, and “have a nice day! Thanks for your insight.” Or maybe a quick prayer for a loved one, if they would like.

I believe the crux of the whole Bible is in what Paul said, “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” 2 Cor. 5:21, 19. Connected with that are short excerpts from Isaiah 53, and Philippians 2:5-9 and then the Gospels if there is time. Always sensitive about information overload, the whole idea is to say something effective and to leave them with something to think about later. The cross is what the Bible is all about. Seeing the cross is what salvation is all about, whether they see Jesus there while we talk or later when the Spirit reminds them of it at the most opportune moment.

All we need is a few Bible verses and lots of love.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The New Earth

My sister’s house burned. While insurance details get ironed out, she and her husband and kids live in a rental. The rented house is nice. It has Daffodils across the whole front and 2 large Forsythia bushes in the back yard. But its not home. It’s not where she spent 18 years after marrying and 15 years before that, (since the house that burned was the one we all grew up in and she later bought.) My sister has much invested in the old house, in the way of memories, and anxiously awaits the return. The pure white Dogwoods and flourescent Red Bud trees, the Magnolia and Azaleas her hands have planted or tended to; the birds, the squirrels, the bees that entertain; the distant view of massive oaks towering above the other trees across the way; her kitchen and living spaces and bedrooms, all adapted to her personality and to that of her little family—everything is so much better than where she is now.

But even though she can’t have her home at the present, at least she has her family. She is happy that they are safe and comfortable and happy. She didn’t have to move alone; they all swarmed together. The family unit is intact and still surrounding her. She can cope without her things so long as she has the people she loves the most.

We have a home in a far country. It is ours and it is beautiful. The flowers perfume the air; the colors vividly compete for their inspection at every turn. Warbled songs fill the ears and the fruit surpasses anything in this land. And a river runs through it all. But we can’t have it—not yet; and we are to blame for that. Our lack of appreciation for the Designer of that distant home plays heavily in our eviction. Yet He is preparing a place for us, even as He is preparing us to receive it.

But He has given us our family. While we wait to have our nice home back, which I’ve heard is just heavenly, we have our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers in the faith. We can function as a unit, we can swarm together. While others fight when they are forced into close quarters, we love to have it so. And we love to sing the old song:

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

As the days of a tree

The promise is: “as the days of a tree will be the days of My people.” On the new Earth after the mighty conflict of the ages is past, we will live out our long lives in incomprehensible peace and happiness in the light of God’s love.

So how long do trees live? The giant Sequoias live up in the 3,000 years of age. But the oldest recorded trees are of the species Pinus Longaeva, the Bristlecone Pine of the White Mountains and Great Basin in western USA. The oldest known individual Bristlecone is the infamous "Currey Tree" of eastern Nevada at 4,844 years old. This tree, which I believe was seeded probably at the recession of the flood waters in Noah’s day, has never died, in spite of worldwide disease, decay, and death.

The New Earth won’t have anything like death. There will be no reason for anything to die—which really is a mystery to scientists, even in a world of decay and renewal. God knew that in order for us to be able to conceive of a new birth in faith and reconciliation to Him, we needed to see it advertised all over nature—in spite of Satan’s claim that he was the new sheriff in town on Earth. We needed to see regeneration come up out of degeneration, and our Redeemer has never failed to feed that knowledge to us, even ever so subconsciously. Unbeknown to His adversary surrounded by His works, Satan was set up for failure from the very beginning.

In that renewed Earth we will not need to witness the lessons of decay and death because we will have learned all our lessons of trusting God. Sin, temptation, and fallen natures will all be behind us, cast into the depths of the sea and forgotten. The scars on Jesus head, hands, and feet, will be the only reminders of the Great Controversy. So trees, then, will grow through all eternity, but not squatty and half-alive like the Currey Tree. Century after century, the new Earth trees will get taller and taller, more and more majestic. But for now the Pinus Longaeva fits for a symbol of human longevity in eternity, although I believe the scriptures was speaking of the forests of the more magnificent Cedars of Lebanon, which were like our great Sequoias.

The prophecy goes on to say that we will build houses and inhabit them. Could that mean death to a billion trees? No, not at all. Remember the annual Feast of Tabernacles? God directed Israel to break off the lower branches and cut off bows of bigger trees to build their little temporary huts while they traveled to the sanctuary. Imagine the decimation of forests if they had cut down trees year after year. Instead, they were in essence pruning the trees of Israel, making them healthier, which made them grow even better. Over time those trees became gargantuan and strong.

My brother-in-law did this to a tree in his yard. My family grew up in the house which he and my sister bought from my parents after us kids moved on. A prickly Oak tree was a tangle of bows and branches and smaller limbs. At a young age, I challenged myself to climb every tree in our yard. We had Maples all around, and tall Elms in the back whose lowest bows were 30-40 feet above the ground. I somehow mastered every tree—all, except that prickly Oak tree. I just couldn’t get through the tangled mess. Later, my brother-in-law cut off all those unsightly lower branches that had created the tangle because they hung down and could snag people’s head. After that, the tree began to grow tall quicker than it had before because now more of the vital force stayed in the trunk and pushed up the tree’s top. Now it is a gigantic and handsome tree, truly majestic.

So as we will traverse eternity, and keep pruning our trees for wood to build with, those trees will just become more and more glorious to behold, and a glory to God, as they should. And we too will continue to mature and bring glory to God. We will all be happy, forever very happy.

“They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of My people, and Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.” Is. 65:21-23.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Propitiation—the Mighty Argument of the Cross

“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Heb. 9:27.

Really, not often does the Bible refer to the final judgment. It is alluded to with the worldwide flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah. Other than that, I find only about 3 dozen verses referring to it. Out of the thousands of verses of the Bible, 3 dozen is not many. Yet it is central in our thinking as if the whole Bible constantly reminds us about it. Why this discrepancy? It is because pagan kings and priests used it to frighten their people into submission, a practice adopted by Christianity in the Dark Ages. It is also because we tend to focus on the negative things about God, whom we’re convinced is our number one enemy. But although it is mentioned sparingly in the Bible, the few times that it is written at the inspiration of God is enough to let us know He is serious about it.

But the judgment is not the topic of this post today. I want to talk about the Great Propitiation—that is, the great solution to the final judgment. Not what, since the beginning of human history, the whole world did ignorantly in their animal and human sacrifices, but the true sacrifice of God, which all the corrupted sacrificial systems attempted to look forward to at least at their beginning.

God in ChristFather and Son, suffering together—in order to reconcile man back to the Father. (2Cor. 5:19). Theme for the most profound meditation! Our study throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity! “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.” 2Cor. 5:21. In the course of making Christ to be sin, the King of love must abhor His only begotten Son and ignore Him until His Son’s life was snuffed out. “He hath put Him to grief,” contain the ancient and mysterious words that foretell this magnificent event of the ages. (Is. 53:10) The Son, to whom the Spirit of comfort and peace was given without measure, must have that Spirit completely removed. “It was the burden of sin, the sense of its terrible enormity, of its separation of the soul from God—it was this that broke the heart of the Son of God.” Steps to Christ, p.13. To a depth of despair never known even by the most destitute sinner controlled by the devil, Christ, the Son of God, knew complete and absolute separation from His beloved Father, Him who alone gave purpose to Christ, and the source of all His life and lovethe Great Propitiationwhen Christ satisfied the Father’s demands of punishment for a broken law of perfect righteousness and perfect love, broken by His children—a law God’s most precious creation had repudiated to His face!

A mutual appreciation of love, a bond of trust unfathomable by finite creatures, was brought to an end when the Father slowly separated from His Son and Jesus’ life was crushed out from Gethsemane to the cross. The Father died with His Son, Both paid the price for our sin. Perhaps the best illustration of the bond between them that came to an end reveals itself in the tremendous power released by the splitting of an atom’s nucleus. When the infinite Ones do anything, it is incomprehensible to us, even in the attachment of love, especially that love which exists between Them.

Do we really understand the Propitiation? Or is it just the canned cliché, “Jesus died for my sins!” That’s OK for the littlest ones to begin learning of Christ’s death; but Youth Leaders, are you going to lead your charge into a deeper understanding of this galactic event? Pastors, the older crowd needs to study this also. Have you known confusion of face? Have you known hopelessness? Rather, do we recognize its perpetual intrusion? It holds us captives; confusion possesses us. Who walks with God? Who among us walks by faith, like Enoch and the other great people of the Bible? How many have that calm, trusting, consistent obedience in every situation? How many of us know constant connection with God? Or, how many of us like Peter, think that we are doing pretty good? But then the smallest test reveals that, when we thought our faith was firm, we were really running on our own steam. God laid on Jesus the separation of us all, and now He has earned the right to meet us in our helplessness and to teach us the lesson over and over again, of how to walk by faith.

“A seed shall serve Him: it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this.” Ps. 22:30,31. Forever that theme will be our song, shouldn’t it be our study and meditation now?

It is the full and complete separation known at the final judgment of the wicked, that Christ felt that day at Calvary, a gulf of despair that none need experience except those for whom it is prepared—the devil and his angels. (Matt. 25:41.) Christ experienced that bottomless chasm of hopeless desperation and painful anxiety so that we would not have to. He laid down His eternal life, so willingly in our place, with His character so infinitely pure and free from all taint of sin and rebellion, that God accepted His self-sacrifice. His death passed the test that would forever silence any question of God’s innocence in the false charges brought against Him by Lucifer. The Father’s kingdom is secure, His creation can forever regain the depth of trust they had in Him before this rebellion began. And the redeemed of Earth, of all creation, will trust in Him the deepest, having been caught in the middle of the foray, but having been saved from the worst of Satan’s cunning and vengefulness.

Christ’s death having passed the test, there was absolutely no argument to leave Him separated from His Father. His resurrection signaled the complete victory over His adversary; and in His continued faith through that dark separation and in His resurrection, resides the promise of our resurrection also, if we, through His grace, will learn continued faith, even through the dark times.

“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1Jn.2:1,2.

“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God: to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Rom 3:24-26.

“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” —Protestant reformer, Lefevre.