Category Archives: Prophecy

Peace with Ishmael

eyeseeyouAbraham is considered the father of the Arabs through Hagar, the mother of Ishmael.   Suicide bombings, honor killings, murder of innocent men, women and children…these people don’t think like we do!  We are all products of our belief system or worldview and those raised as radical Muslims are no exception.  Christian denominations debate and draw lines of fellowship but they are not shooting and bombing one another.  Sunnis hate the Shias and both of them hate us.  Why? I don’t know all the answers, but Genesis 16 predicted the nature of the progeny of Hagar (the Arabs, in whose culture Islam came to be):

“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers”
(Genesis 16:11,12)

That is why our nation-building adventures in the Middle East are so misguided and ill-advised.  The Arabs and those influenced by Arab culture will never be subjugated or altered by those from Western cultures, notably Christian cultures.[i]

We have no business putting our soldiers on the ground in any Islamic country.  Read your history!  It has never worked and never will.  Iraq is a prime example and Afghanistan will soon be.  When we leave one of these hell-holes they revert back to some sort of lawless wastelands of violence they were previously.

Now we are being tempted to intervene in yet another Middle Eastern conflict in Syria.  The carnage there horrifies the West.  As the self-appointed policemen of the world, we think, “We must do something to stop this!” But now, word has it that Syrian rebels slaughtered groups of Christians until stopped by the Syrian loyalists.  If that is true, do we want to help the rebels come to power?  Will the new boss be the same (or worse than) the old boss?

I recently asked a career military man what we should do in the Middle East and he immediately began discussing weapons systems and military strategy.  It was psychologist Abraham Maslow who wisely observed, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”  People cannot be changed without a change in worldview.  The only way I know to change a person’s worldview is to cease hammering and introduce them to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.  And, the only way I know to introduce people to Jesus Christ is to imitate Him.  And, the only way I know to imitate Him is to love our enemies.  And, the only way I know to love our enemies is to pray for them and do them good, not evil (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27; I Thessalonians 5:15).

If we spent as much time, resources and energy seeking to win the hearts and minds of our enemies as we have on violent “shock and awe;”…if we sent our young men and women on missions of peace instead of war, we would rob terrorists of their leverage.  I have to believe that we can overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Would that cost lives?  Without a doubt.  But they would be lives given in the only strategy that will ever be effective in bringing peace and stability to this dark, violent and troubled region.


[i] I am using “Christian” in the broadest sense of the term and as a social construct as much or more than a religious one.  “Us” are Christians and “them” are those under the influence of radical (violent) Islam.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Arabia, Arabs, Change Agent, Culture Wars, Current Events, History, Ishmael, Islam, Jesus Christ, Middle East, Prophecy, Religion, Scripture, Terrorism

Should Christians Support Israel?

Due to all the “saber-rattling” going on recently, plus calls to “Support Israel,” I thought it might be time to run this article again.  Israel bullies and blockades the Gaza Strip and Gaza responds by firing rockets into Israel.  I can see this going on forever with great loss of life.  But what really bothers me is that evangelical Christianity seems to be blind to both the realities of the sins of both sides and yet sides with Israel because of a major misinterpretation of prophecy and fulfillment.  Let me challenge you to take another look at the facts.  If, after reading this short treatise, you still disagree, please feel free to put it into words in the comment section of this blog.  But, be nice, or I will delete your comment.

Do Israelis have a divine right to what is now called Israel?  Who does the land occupied by the modern state of Israel belong to?  Should Christians support Israel’s right to exist as a divine right?  Are the Jews still God’s separate chosen people?  Consider the following points:

  1. The promise of the land of Palestine (Canaan) to the Jews has been fulfilled (Joshua 21:43-45; 23:14; Nehemiah 9:7,8).  The Jews received what they were promised in full.  The occupation of the land by modern Israel has nothing to do with God’s promises.  It has to do with modern Israel’s alliances and the fact that the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world can’t get along with each other and get their act together.
  2. The Jews were originally deported from the land for their disobedience just as God promised (Leviticus 26:33; Nehemiah 1:8,9 and many others).
  3. Any restoration to the land was predicated upon their returning to belief and obedience (Deuteronomy 30; Ezekiel 36:22-38; Nehemiah 1:8,9).  Most of those who now occupy Palestine are not believers and are certainly not obedient.  Many, in fact, are atheists.  How can modern Israel be the fulfillment of any promise of restoration?
  4. God has not rejected His people but only those who become believers in Messiah Christ are the “Israel of God” (Galatians 3:29; 6:15-17).
  5. Only those Jews who accept Jesus as Messiah can continue in covenant relationship with Yahweh (Romans 9-12) and receive any promise.
  6. Because Christ has fulfilled the Law of Moses, there is no longer a division between Jew and Gentile…we are one in Christ and Abraham’s spiritual offspring (Ephesians 2:11-22; Galatians 3:28,29).  So, who will be restored to the land?
  7. The Old Covenant given to the Jews alone has been superseded by a new covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13) made by God with all who believe.  Since there is no separation between ethnic Jews and believing Gentiles, who will receive the alleged promises of restoration to the land?

The truth is that modern unbelieving, disobedient Israel has no more right to the land that belonged to the Palestinians than European Americans have to the land that belonged to the Native Americans.  Throughout history, one group has driven out another and occupied their land.  If we are going to restore all of earth’s lands to those who originally possessed it, absolute turmoil will result.  Let me make a few alternative suggestions:

  1. Leave the Israelis alone.  They fought for the land they have and they won.  It is not the fulfillment of prophecy; it is the work of the United Nations and the spoils of war.
  2. Palestinians and Arabs, get your act together and be nice to your neighbors.  The world will be a much better place and nobody will have to blow up themselves and others.  You think God likes what you’re doing?  Neither do I.  And, while you’re at it, do something about this madman dictator of Iran.  He’s not helping your cause at all.
  3. Israelis, quit bullying the Palestinians and give them a homeland.  One of the reasons they hate you is your mistreatment of them.  They will probably never love you, but they might learn to abide you.  One thing for sure, killing children and leveling houses will not win you any points.
  4. Christians, you’re not helping anything with your misinterpretation of prophecy.  Instead of this ridiculous “Christians United for Israel,” and “Christian Zionism” put your efforts into preaching and modeling Christ to both Jews and Arabs.  Are you doing what Jesus would do?  I don’t think so either.  Start preaching the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give.  Instead of lobbying with the Jews, preach Christ to them.  And don’t you want the Arabs to be saved?  Well, you don’t act like it.
  5. How do we win them over?  By being salt and light and letting our good works toward these very needy people bring glory to god.  Guns, bombs and missiles will never accomplish anything but death and continued hatred and division and the loss of souls to the author of all that is ungodly.

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Filed under Christlikeness, Culture Wars, Current Events, History, Ignorance, Islam, Israel, Jesus Christ, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Prophecy, Terrorism

Who Owns Israel?

Due to all the “saber-rattling” going on recently, plus a post from the “Fellowship of Christians and Jews,” I thought it might be time to re-run this article.

Do Israelis have a divine right to what is now called Israel?  Who does the land occupied by the modern state of Israel belong to?  Should Christians support Israel’s right to exist as a divine right?  Are the Jews still God’s separate chosen people?  Consider the following points:

  1. The promise of the land of Palestine (Canaan) to the Jews has been fulfilled (Joshua 21:43-45; 23:14; Nehemiah 9:7,8).  The Jews received what they were promised in full.  The occupation of the land by modern Israel has nothing to do with God’s promises.  It has to do with modern Israel’s alliances and the fact that the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world can’t get along with each other and get their act together.
  2. The Jews were originally deported from the land for their disobedience just as God promised (Leviticus 26:33; Nehemiah 1:8,9).
  3. Any restoration to the land was predicated upon their returning to belief and obedience (Deuteronomy 30; Ezekiel 36:22-38; Nehemiah 1:8,9).  Most of those who now occupy Palestine are not believers and are certainly not obedient.  Many, in fact, are atheists.  How can modern Israel be the fulfillment of any promise of restoration?
  4. God has not rejected His people but only those who become believers in Messiah Christ are the “Israel of God” (Galatians 3:29; 6:15-17).
  5. Only those Jews who accept Jesus as Messiah can continue in covenant relationship with Yahweh (Romans 9-12) and receive any promise.
  6. Because Christ has fulfilled the Law of Moses, there is no longer a division between Jew and Gentile…we are one in Christ and Abraham’s spiritual offspring (Ephesians 2:11-22; Galatians 3:28,29).  So, who will be restored to the land?
  7. The Old Covenant given to the Jews alone has been superseded by a new covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13) made by God with all who believe.  Since there is no separation between ethnic Jews and believing Gentiles, who will receive the alleged promises of restoration to the land?

The truth is that modern unbelieving, disobedient Israel has no more right to the land that belonged to the Palestinians than European Americans have to the land that belonged to the Native Americans.  Throughout history, one group has driven out another and occupied their land.  If we are going to restore all of earth’s lands to those who originally possessed it, absolute turmoil will result.  Let me make a few alternative suggestions:

  1. Leave the Israelis alone.  They fought for the land they have and they won.  It is not the fulfillment of prophecy; it is the work of the United Nations and the spoils of war.
  2. Palestinians and Arabs, get your act together and be nice to your neighbors.  The world will be a much better place and nobody will have to blow up themselves and others.  You think God likes what you’re doing?  Neither do I.  And, while you’re at it, do something about this madman dictator of Iran.  He’s not helping your cause at all.
  3. Israelis, quit bullying the Palestinians and give them a homeland.  One of the reasons they hate you is your mistreatment of them.  They will probably never love you, but they might learn to abide you.  One thing for sure, killing children and leveling houses will not win you any points.
  4. Christians, you’re not helping anything with your misinterpretation of prophecy.  Instead of this ridiculous “Christians United for Israel,” and “Christian Zionism” put your efforts into preaching and modeling Christ to both Jews and Arabs.  Are you doing what Jesus would do?  I don’t think so either.  Start preaching the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give.  Instead of lobbying with the Jews, preach Christ to them.  And don’t you want the Arabs to be saved?  Well, you don’t act like it.

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Filed under Bigotry, Current Events, Islam, Israel, Jesus Christ, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Politics, Prophecy, Religion, Restoration, Scripture

Edification and the Holy Spirit

A reader responds to the blog on edification with concerns about gifts of the Holy Spirit (see also comments on that blog)  He writes, “… what about the unmentionable, controversial inclusion of…the Holy Spirit’s role in edification by the coveting of and inclusion of charismata in the assembly as stated by Paul in 1 Cor. 14:1-4?
“If the charismata have passed, as concluded by many, how is the church going to be edified, exhorted and consoled as Paul states in these verses and especially verse 3-4?  ‘But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and exhortation, and consolution. He that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.’”

Well it is not exactly “unmentionable,” since I did mention it.  Is it controversial?  Yes, because the problem has always been about authenticity.  Persons in the assembly believe they have a prophecy for the church.  How can their words be proven and accepted as genuine?  Is it even important to do so?  Can we not simply accept that God is speaking through a person and let it go at that?  The danger of doing so is seen in the many warnings about false prophets and the tremendous damage they can cause (Matthew 7:15; Mark 13:22; 2 Peter 2:1).  John cautions us: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

In the context of I Corinthians 14, the Sprit reveals through Paul how prophecy can be tested and proven genuine, “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (I Corinthians 14:24,25).  When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well and revealed facts about her life he could not have known naturally, she said, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet” (John 4:19).  Jesus was very specific, “Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly” (John 4:17,18).

I, for one, would welcome genuine prophecy in the church.  In fact, I would welcome all authentic spiritual gifts.  How could I do otherwise?  None of us, however, should put the church in jeopardy by acceptance without testing.

In the meantime, let us strive to edify the church in word and deed.

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Filed under church, Holy Spirit, Prophecy, Scripture, Supernatural

REVELATION REVEALED

rome-in-ruins

A Quick Look at the Book of Revelation

A Mission Practicum lesson for students in Sunset International Bible Institute’s Adventures in Missions program

Dear Adventures in Missions student,

As you work among the people at your posting, you will occasionally encounter folks who base much of their doctrine on the book of Revelation. A good example is the popular series, Left Behind by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. They say their work offers a realistic picture of a future “rapture” based on a “true” interpretation of the book of Revelation…They believe that Revelation, must be taken literally. Those who don’t believe this are destined to be “left behind” when the “rapture” occurs. This is one of the several forms of “dispensationalism,” found among evangelical denominations.

Revelation is the only book of prophecy in the New Testament. It is a wondrous book full of essential teaching for followers of Christ. No book, however, has been more abused and misused. It has been used to teach and justify all sorts of doctrines. It is the foundation of many varieties of dispensationalism. It is a favorite source of proof texts for the teachings of Christadelphians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists and others.

In order to counter most of the mistaken teaching based on it, one should study and know the book. However, to be aware of some basic facts up front will be helpful in countering erroneous claims.

Purpose of the Book

John received his revelation from Christ and wrote it down around 75 A.D. (95 or 96 A.D. according to some authorities). He was apparently in exile on the Isle of Patmos (1:9). He was given this message of encouragement for the disciples of Christ. It is a promise that the real victory is in Christ and His church. No matter how bad things may get, if you are in Christ you are already the winner.

It is designed to show that even a powerful bully as big as Rome can be whipped and doomed to destruction. In the end, God will triumph and His Christ will reign supreme. It calls upon its readers to be faithful unto death, even death as martyrs.

While intended to hearten those under the thumb of Rome, the Spirit’s message is also relevant today. Like the disciples living in John’s day, we are called upon to choose the eternal over the temporal; resist temptation, refuse compromise with pagan secularism and let our Christ-like consciences be our guide. We are urged to have confidence in the ultimate victory of the kingdom of God…not only in the reign of someone like the emperor Vespasian, but also in the midst of the chaos of any age.

Theme of the Book

“Be Faithful and We Win”

Perhaps this can best be expressed in words found in the first three chapters, “Be faithful unto death, and you shall receive the crown of eternal life.” Not, “do all the right things,” not “keep all the rules,” not “always be successful,” not “always win,” but be faithful!

The crown of life belongs to the faithful. No one can take it away. For the faithful, victory is assured. It will be hard and painful, but after it’s over we win!

General Interpretation of Prophecy

Since Revelation is a book of prophecy, the correct methods of interpreting prophecy should be employed.

  1. Prophecy has a primary and secondary purpose.
    1. The primary purpose is to provide a word from God for the people of the time. This may or may not include future fulfillment (1 Peter 1:10-12).
    2. The secondary purpose is fulfillment of some future event or circumstance. The prophecy of Revelation fits these conditions.
  2. Prophecy is not a matter of private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20-21). What the Holy Spirit reveals the Holy Spirit interprets. Meanings not revealed in the text can only be deducted from other similar prophetic passages where the meaning is known or obvious. Private interpretation is, at best, merely guesswork. When it comes to guesswork, your guess is as good as mine.

Symbolic Language

The language is primarily symbolic. There are colors, numbers, metals, jewels, beasts, bowls, scrolls, seals and scenes. It is bad exegesis to draw literal conclusions from symbolic passages or vice versa. For example:

    1. When God reminds Moses, “I bore you on eagle’s wings, and brought you to Myself (Exodus 19:4)…no one believes that actual eagle wings were employed.
    2. Jesus spoke of the temple and meant His body (John 2:20-22).
    3. When John referred to the religious leaders as “vipers,” he didn’t mean real ones! But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7)?

One of the basic characteristics of those of the dispensationalist persuasion is their insistence upon literal interpretation. Right in the middle of a symbolic passage such as Revelation 20 with an abyss, chain, beast, earth with four corners, and Gog and Magog, the thousand years is made literal and becomes the basis for millennialism.

Imminent Application

Revelation 1:1-3 — The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

22:6 — And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place

22:10 — And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.”

While it is a book of prophecy, the fulfillments were to “shortly come to pass,” and “near.” (1:1-3; 22:10) In the Greek it reads, “…things which are taking place shortly.” This means speed, quickness or haste. Notice the emphatic “must…” Conclusion: the book of revelation cannot be applied to some undefined time two thousand years in the future and still make sense.

The Matter of Relevance

As with all books of prophecy, it was initially and primarily written to believers of its day. It was initially relevant to those under Roman rule. Otherwise it would be totally irrelevant in its own time. While the lessons of the book apply to every generation, we have no Holy Spirit application referring to people and times of the future.

To sum up, these are the characteristics of the book of Revelation which should keep it from being misused and abused:

1. Written to the people living during the time of the Roman emperor Vespasian. It will find its primary relevance to those of that era – not over 2,000 years later.

2. Written in symbolic (apocalyptic) language using colors, numbers, animals, and other objects and scenes which should not be interpreted literally.

3. It is a book of prophecy and thus not open to “private interpretation.” Some meanings are explained in context; others are matters of opinion and, therefore, should not form the basis of doctrine.

4. The time frame in which the prophecy would be fulfilled is imminent at the time of its writing. It is “soon.” The time is “near.”

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Is Christianity the Cause of Wars?

It gets very old hearing that Christianity is the cause of wars.  If we define Christianity as any group of people who claim to follow Christ, the accusation may be true.  But if we are talking about the actual followers of Christ the claim can never be true.

To follow Christ, the Prince of Peace, is to walk in His footsteps.  It is to apply His teachings and the teachings of His apostles to every aspect of our lives.  There is no excuse for the crusades and other political wars fought in the guise of Christianity by the ignorant and misguided.  The Kingdom of God is enlarged by persuasion, not coercion.  Christ-followers pray for their enemies and win them over by love, respect and service.

I am tempted to belabor this point with a bunch of scripture quotations (the source or our worldview as Christ-followers) but nearly everyone has access to the New Testament and can do their own searching.

You’ll find a lot of fighting in the Old Testament.  These incidents, however, fall into the category of God-sanctioned punishment, defense and survival.  Often, Israel was punished for disobedience (idolatry, debauchery, injustice, etc.) by infidel armies from surrounding nations.  They were preceded by prophetic warnings.  As they conquered Canaan, they were the instrument of punishment (Leviticus 18:24-28).

Don’t make the mistake of buying-in to the rant of those who parrot the nonsense they hear elsewhere.  The teachings of Christ and His apostles comprise the only hope for peace in this fallen, war-torn world.

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Filed under Atheism/Theism, Christlikeness, conversion, Culture Wars, discipleship, Good & Evil, Ignorance, Infidelity, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, morality, Peace, Politics, Prophecy, Religion, Respect, Theism

The Absurdity of Atheism

Further to our discussion on my previous post, I recommend an article by Fred Klett on Mike Ratliff’s blog. Check it out. mikeratliff.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/the-absurdity-of-atheism/

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism/Theism, Culture Wars, Good & Evil, Jesus Christ, Meaning of Life, morality, Preaching/Teaching, Prophecy, Religion, Salvation, Science, Supernatural, Theism