Days of Noah, Days of Lot

As Christians, we are called to “rightly divide” the Word of truth. This is hard to do if we won’t even rightly read it.

Stravinsky had the Rite of Spring, but American Christians have the Rite Of Fall. Every year, when the Jewish High Holy Days come around, with them comes inevitable end-times speculation. This September’s “sign in the heavens” is getting an awful lot of play, even in secular media. Despite our Lord’s teaching on the matter, Christians just can’t help themselves. Apocalyptic predictions, sometimes complete with actual date-setting, keep popping up with disturbing frequency.

Many of these embarrassing failures, which have been bringing discredit on the Church for decades, could have been avoided if people had simply read the Scripture passage in question in context and with honesty.

Believe me: I, too, am excited for the return of Christ. Who would not want to see Him? Who would not want to experience the fullness of Resurrection life, or see this old world, where we only see righteousness occasionally, become a world in which righteousness dwells? The return of Christ is our blessed hope. But it’s precisely for that reason, precisely because it is a hope to cherish, that we must not falsify it or pervert it by resorting to sensationalism, sloppiness, or scams. We need to have a love for the truth. Sometimes a dash of humility would serve us well, too.

In the midst of the recent natural disasters here in the US and Canada, one well-known preacher (don’t ask me who) noted how Jesus said the End of Days would be like the days of Noah and Lot — and, he added, Noah’s day was a flood of water and Lot’s day was fire… and we’re seeing floods and fires everywhere right now! He was suggesting to his audience that these hurricanes indicate we’re living in the Days of Noah.

Others say these “new days of Noah” means there will be Nephilim giants walking the Earth once again. Well, who knows? There could be. But will Jesus’ words about the days of Noah really support such a teaching?

What does Jesus actually say about the days of Noah and the days of Lot? You may be surprised to find out. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said,

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matt. 24:37-39, NKJV, emphasis added.)

And in Luke’s Gospel, the Lord said,

And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:26-30, NKJV, emphasis added.)

(By the way, where are all the other passages in the Bible about the famous “Days of Noah and Days of Lot?” Actually… there aren’t any!)

Here’s why you can’t take the Days of Noah and Lot passages and use them to assert whatever you like. As you can see from Christ’s own words, the point of these passages is not to make a general commentary on how wicked it will be at the end of the age. He didn’t even say that people will be committing the same sins at the end of the age as they were in Noah’s and Lot’s times.

In fact, Jesus explains exactly what He means in Matthew 24 when He uses the word FOR. What follows after the word “for” is His explanation of how the coming of the Son of Man will be similar to the Days of Noah. It is simply this: when the Day of the Lord comes, people will be living just as carelessly as they were when judgment came in Noah’s day.

The reference to Lot has the same purpose. Jesus joins these two references in order to show us God’s pattern of judgment: first, the removal of the righteous; then, God’s wrath outpoured on the same day. Jesus is only telling us what happens when He comes, not what happens before He comes. He was merely saying that people would be worldly and unconcerned when He came.

That being the case, if we are responsible teachers, we will not use the concept of “the Days of Noah and Lot” to create detailed doctrines about the last days, nor use it to paint every current event as some sort of vague fulfillment of prophecy. Such an approach can cause people to see end-times prophecy as something vague instead of something specific, as it is in many cases, and something which is all about how I see it, rather than how He said it.

Like the “Days of Noah and Lot” concept, which people seem to use however they like, the “sign” of September 23rd, supposedly found in Revelation 12, is lifted out of context in a most alarming way. I wonder if the people pushing this teaching even know that Revelation 12 deals with the War in Heaven and the persecution of believers by the Antichrist following the Abomination of Desolation? (In case you’ve been absorbed with politics this year and haven’t been keeping track, we aren’t quite there yet.)

These prophetic train wrecks are an ongoing problem, so how can we talk about prophecy in a way that honors God’s Word and keeps people from stumbling? I can suggest three things:

(1) First, let’s recover a love for the truth. If you insist that a certain heavenly sign has never happened before, but someone else proves that your “sign” actually happens every 12 years, will you yield or will you continue on? It is a sign of a collapsing society (Romans 1:31) as well as a sign of the end times (2 Timothy 3:3) that people would be implacable, i.e., unable to agree or come to peace about something.

(2) Second, let’s resist sensationalism. Our manner of presenting sober truths could really stand to be, well, a little more sober. We need to break away from breathlessly excited prophecy teaching that comes complete with terrifying bumper music. If this seems unfair, then forgive me, but some of us are old enough to remember more prophecy crazes than we care to. I can remember people speculating that Sadat might rise from death after his assassination to become the Antichrist. More than 35 years later, half of you are reading this and saying, “Who was Sadat?” — and that’s precisely my point!

(3) Finally, let’s take to heart again James’s warning that not many should be teachers. (James 3:1) This truth needs to give us pause. There is no ministry, with the possible exception of prophecy, that has more potential for destruction when misused than the ministry of teaching. However, the Internet now insures that anyone who wants a platform can have one. This is a blessing, but it creates incredible spiritual risks for the Body of Christ. Another danger is the sheer amount of Bible teaching material available online. Using modern computer searching and other functionalities, people can find and save colossal amounts of information without getting at the same time a real, holistic knowledge of Scripture, the wisdom to use it, or the skill to convey it to others. I contrast this with the example of the Apostle Paul, who had a clear conscience because over the span of three years, he had declared to the elders of the Church at Ephesus what he called “the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:25-28)

May the Lord help us to be faithful in handling His Word.

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Victory is Assured

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In an article entitle History in Maps, Philip Jenkins takes a look at the phenomenal spread of Christianity in Africa over the last 100 years. I don’t know if there’s been anything like it in history. Surely it has come at a great cost in tears and blood. But the victory of God is assured. Jesus said that the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness, and then the end will come.

The religion which opposes the Gospel in Africa teaches that the end of days will not come until the last Jew is slain – a message of death! But the Christ of the Gospel says the end of days won’t come until every nation has had the opportunity to hear how God became a man (became a Jew, in fact!) to die on our behalf – a message of life!

The victory of the Gospel is assured, as we used to sing:

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!

[Image Credit: Martin 23230 under CC BY-SA 3.0]

Do Evangelicals support Israel because they want Jews dead?

 

Why do Evangelicals support Israel? I was happy to see an article in the Washington Examiner asserting that Christians support Israel because of God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants, and not because of some twisted desire to see Jews slain or something similar.

Straight to the point is David Brog, a director of Christians United For Israel, and himself a Jew who does not believe in Jesus:

“Any one who says that evangelical support for Israel is all about somehow speeding the end times, bringing Jesus back, [and killing or converting Jews] … any one who does that is showing their own ignorance.”

Whatever your position, I encourage you to read the article and Brog’s comments carefully. As the tweet above shows, we commonly hear the complaint that Christians support Israel or Jews in general because we want them to die. Which, of course, makes no sense whatsoever.

This is a slander which does indeed show a frightful ignorance of what the New Testament teaches: that the coming Antichrist will persecute Jews and all who “have the testimony of Jesus Christ,” a phrase which refers to people who profess faith in Jesus as the Son of God. This takes place during the three-and-a-half years before Christ’s return to Earth.

And the dragon was enraged with the woman [Israel], and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 12:17)

In other words, we are in this thing together.

As Brog correctly says, Christians do not believe that we can force God’s hand or by human agency set end times events in motion. (Again, Brog is Jewish!) Jesus said that the timing of the Kingdom is a matter which belongs to the mind and purpose of God alone.

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. (Acts 1:6-7)

The malicious statements about Christian Zionists and all Evangelicals that we see on TV and social media are nothing more than politically-motivated fabrications. They are poisonous nuggets of propaganda meant to advance the goals of the secular Left and fundamentalist Islam, two hateful forces which are very strange bedfellows indeed, and who can only unite around their anti-Semitism and antichrist spirit. (Woe to the world when they finally fall out!)

In order to demonstrate true love for Israel, and for Muslims, too, let us be prepared to counter this flood of lies with the truth spoken in Christian love and longsuffering.

The Red Heifer and the End of the Age

Red_Angus_Heifer

I’ve recently finished a stretch where I’ve been teaching on the end times for about nine months. I always think that the one who teaches learns more than those who hear him, and this was no exception. It was a wonderful experience to talk about the basics of eschatology (the doctrine of “last things”) and then go through the Book of Revelation verse by verse.

Because of all this, I’ve been interested to see stories popping up about the discovery and raising of a pure red heifer, and Christians and Jews speculating about its prophetic significance.

What is the red heifer and does it mean anything for us? This is one of the most complicated and mysterious subjects in all of Jewish religious law – actually, it is possibly the most mysterious. In a nutshell, the Old Testament required (Numbers 19) that the ashes of a red heifer be used in the purification of the Temple. The Israeli organization known as The Temple Institute, like many others, considers the sacrifice of a red heifer to be necessary in order to erect a Third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

Watch the brief YouTube video above and understand that The Temple Institute now believes that a pure red heifer has been found which could possibly be used for that purpose, allowing the Temple to finally be rebuilt after more than 19 centuries. These Orthodox Jews believe that after the Temple will be rebuilt the Messianic Era will soon follow.

Many Bible-believing Christians also think there will be a Third Temple, but believe that its rebuilding is a more ominous sign. Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24 that the coming Antichrist will defile this Third Temple and that this event (the “abomination of desolation”) will begin the time of persecution and terror called the Great Tribulation. The Apostle Paul also taught (2 Thessalonians 2) that the Man of Lawlessness will stand in the Temple area and assert that he is above all gods. From the perspective of the Christian Scriptures, the rebuilding of the Temple is a sign of impending tribulation – even while it is a necessary prophetic precondition to the return of Jesus Christ to the Earth.

None of this means that “the end is near” in the sense that it is going to happen this year, or this decade. What it does mean is that there are people who are seriously preparing in practical (not just spiritual) ways to build a Third Temple. They are committed to making this a reality. And they will do so when conditions are right. Once this occurs, the world will truly be on borrowed time.

Our forebears in the faith would be amazed to see in our day the rebirth of Israel and the conquest of Jerusalem by the Jews – as well as the prophesied alignment of anti-Semitic nations ringing that tiny country. The Third Temple is coming, likely sooner rather than later. Are we asleep to these prophetic realities or are we considering the lateness of the hour?

Following The Lamb Wherever He Goes

Young Lambs

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders:and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. (Revelation 14:1-5 KJV)

Many people have argued about identity of the 144,000, but it will be of more profit to us if we simply seek to emulate them in their devotion to Christ. Although we are introduced to them earlier in Revelation, here in Chapter 14 it seems we see them at the completion of their ministry, as they receive their reward from the Lord.

This special group of believers is rewarded for their faithfulness with very high privileges. First, they are given the right to worship God with a special song which only they are allowed to learn and, apparently, play.  Second, they are invited to follow the Lamb wherever he goes. Think of that! Wherever Jesus goes, these loyal followers who will be there with him. They are His personal companions.  Third, they are described as being “before the throne of God.”  They have a special place of closeness to God’s throne.  John connects this to the fact that there is no deceit in their mouths.

I believe this is a reference to Psalm 15. In the Old Testament, people knew that you could only stand before God if you had clean lips. (We recall that Isaiah had to have his lips cleansed when he was taken up to the third heaven.) Psalm 15 goes like this:

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. (Psalms 15:1-5 KJV)

The 144,000 display the kind of holy living that God seeks from his people. We see in them a quality of character radically different from that of the Beast-followers in the chapters preceding.

While followers of the Beast bear his hideous name or mark on their forehead, these men have the name of their Father. It may be invisible to us, but God can see that they are completely devoted to Him.

While followers of the Beast blaspheme God, these render Him pure worship, and they sing Him a new song.

While followers of the Beast have no “love of the truth” so as to be saved, the 144,000 have no deceit in their mouths.

The followers of the Beast reject God and fall away in the Great Apostasy, but these men follow the Lamb wherever He goes. And what a beautiful description of Christian living that is.

These overcoming saints live a life of personal holiness. During the trumpet judgments of Revelation, people refuse to repent of sins such as murder, theft, and sexual immorality – but these men refuse to defile themselves while sin is raging all around them.

What a beautiful contrast between two groups of people, and what a wonderful testimony to the grace of God. These men’s lives show us that even in the darkest days of history, His power can keep us close to Him, and keep us holy.

Indeed, if they did not follow Him wherever He went in the days of Tribulation to come, they would never have been rewarded by being welcomed to follow Him wherever He goes in the Age To Come.

Reasons Why People Don’t Study Prophecy, Part 1

I’ve started teaching a course in our church called “Things To Come,” concerning Bible prophecy. From time to time I hope to put up some excerpts from the class and related thoughts. One of the things we explored in our opening night was why people don’t study prophecy. Certainly one question I think we’ve all heard is this:

Why should I worry about prophecy? After all, isn’t it all going to just pan out?

Sometimes people say they’re not really worried about what’s going to happen in the end times because it’s all going to pan out. In other words, God will take care of it – and there’s nothing we can do about it – so let’s not worry.

Perhaps this viewpoint makes a little sense. After all, we do want to confidently place our futures in the hands of God. I can certainly sound as if I’m full of faith when I say, “Don’t worry, it’s all going to pan out!,” but if we examine this little catchphrase, we’ll see it lose its veneer of wisdom. 

First, We are always counseled to be students of the Word. The Bible teaches us that people who look into the Word, study it, and pray about its meaning, are honorable and wise – no matter what the subject. We have no license not to know, so to speak. Paul considered it a pastoral duty to give the flock the whole counsel of God.

Second, we must take stock of the fact that the return of Jesus and the end of the age is a major theme of Scripture. In my opinion, it is not an understandable oversight but rather a true dishonoring of the Word of God to say that there are whole passages, even entire books of the Bible that we can just ignore and not worry about. As much as 20% of the Bible deals with the Second Coming and the future. So how can you even say you know the Bible if you’re ignorant about these matters?

Third, the Bible does not teach fatalism. Fatalism says that whatever is going to happen is going to happen. That is not a biblical way of looking at the world. The Bible everywhere shows us a God who is very much interested in our lives and very much active in history. It’s important that we know what the prophetic Scriptures say.

It’s vital that we listen to the warnings that the Bible gives about the end times. This is a matter of gravest importance for our spiritual health. Many Christians believe (and will tell anyone with a set of ears) that we are living in the last days. But let me ask you this: if you really believe that we are living in the last days, don’t you think you should know what the Bible has to say to that group of people who find themselves alive in the last days?

Think of how foolish it would sound if we actually verbalized a willfully ignorant attitude about last days living:

“Well, I know that I live in a very special time of history, and I know that the Bible has a lot to say about that time period, but I’m not really interested in the specific warnings and teachings God gave to the people who find themselves alive during those days.”

The fact that the Bible has many specific warnings for people who live in the last days is not meant to frighten us… rather, it’s a sign of God’s love and care for us. It’s a sign of Christ’s care for his church, and we do well to heed those warnings. We should be thanking God for taking care of His people and giving us the warnings and the spiritual nourishment that we will need to live during the last days.

Let’s acknowledge that when we say “It’ll all just pan out!” we’ve disclosed an attitude of the heart unworthy of a Christian people.

For the last time…

Barack Obama is not the Antichrist.

Since the alleged White House shooter seems to have thought he was, I thought I’d point that out.

I know that my small contribution to public discourse won’t stop Christians from being painted again as nutjobs, but I thought I’d just throw that out there.

It’d be a good thing if everyone stopped guessing about who the Antichrist is  – especially since the Scripture does not guarantee that any of us will know who he is until he is manifested as the Antichrist. (You can read Matthew 24 and 2 Thessalonians 2 and see if you can figure out what I’m talking about. This is just a blog, not a full-fledged Bible study.)

The lion’s share of American Christians do not even believe they will still be on this earth when the Man of Sin is manifested. So why are they bothering to try to figure out who he is?

To sell books?