Sunday, September 1, 2019

“THE 6TH TRUMPET IS JUST ABOUT TO SOUND”

This astounding statement caught my attention and was something I was simply not aware of. I heard that the 6th Trumpet of Revelation 9:13-21 was likely to be blown at any moment, certainly within the year. This statement also suggested the troubling thought that I must have missed the sounding of the first 5 trumpets of Revelation 8 and 9. So, was this new news that God had just now revealed? I heard this pronouncement as I was watching a You Tube video of the Jim Bakker show on which he had Irvin Baxter. Irvin Baxter was the one who said that the 6th trumpet, in which one-third of mankind is killed, could happen at any day, and actually might even be underway as he spoke. (Keep in mind that this show aired in 2017 and ISIS and other terrorist groups were waging war in the middle-east including the area around the Tigris-Euphrates region). It appears now, in the light of several passing years, that the 6th Trumpet never did blow or perhaps it is a very long blast that is ongoing. Unless the news channels missed it, 1/3 of mankind (that is; around 2½ billion people) have not recently perished.

Jim Bakker’s enlightened response to this declaration by Baxter was “wow”. Well, enlightened is probably not the right word to use; but by saying “wow”, Jim Bakker, before his TV audience, was giving validity to Baxter’s statement. Baxter then went on to explain that he had come to his truly marvelous view when he came to realize that the 3rd Trumpet (where something like a burning mountain hit the fresh waters of the earth and made them “bitter”; that is, poisonous) was the destruction of the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in April of 1986. He arrived at this, he said, when he learned that the Russian word for Chernobyl was “wormwood”, thus connecting this with the 3rd Trumpet judgment. (According to Wikipedia, however, and other sources the word “Chernobyl” is the common mugwort (Artemisia) plant and is used for medicinal purposes and for tea. No mention of it being poisonous). So Baxter, tying in his flawed definition of Chernobyl with the biblical word “wormwood”, concluded that the meltdown at this nuclear plant in the 1980s was the 3rd Trumpet judgment. This then led him to reach back to the 2nd Trumpet and conclude that this was the Second World War. The reasoning behind this was that in that judgment 1/3 of the ships on the sea were destroyed. He allegedly found out that 1/3 of the ships in the world at that time were destroyed. He did not, however, expound on the point of Revelation 8:8-9 that one third of the oceans became blood, nor that one third of the sea creatures died (neither of which happened in WW2).

The 5th Trumpet, where the locust-like creatures come out of the smoke of the bottomless pit and torment men for 5 months, was related to the Gulf War. He arrived at this amazing conclusion by noting that hundreds of oil wells were set afire and caused sky-darkening smoke to engulf the land, just like the smoke coming out of the bottomless pit. He also observed that the locusts had breastplates of steel and the faces of men which were the war planes (and their pilots) that were part of the Gulf War. The “clincher” for him was the fact that the king of the bottomless pit was called “destroyer”. This, said Baxter, is the meaning of the name Saddam. (Again, Wikipedia disagrees and says that in Arabic the name means “one who confronts”). All of this was then used to validate the likelihood that we are in, or soon shall be, the 6th Trumpet. What was particularly sad in all this was that Jim Bakker and his female colleague on the TV set, simply smiled, nodded in agreement, grunted approvingly, but never challenged these far-fetched interpretations. After all, if God had led Irvin Baxter to these interpretation, who were they to challenge their validity (Jim Bakker is clearly not from Berea. See Acts 17:11).

Our Response? Irvin Baxter reflects the “classic post-tribulational” view which sees the tribulation as beginning at the first coming of Christ and continuing on to His second coming. Therefore, the church has been in the tribulation for some 2,000 years. This leads to the “historical approach” to the Book of Revelation, where the events given by the Apostle John are to be found somewhere during the history of the church; that is, since the first century.

The great danger, as illustrated by Baxter’s quirky interpretations, is that the interpreter becomes the final authority instead of the Scriptures themselves being the final authority. This is no small issue and people listening to folks like Baxter, need to recognize what is going on. He is becoming the final authority. In fact, this almost irrational subjectivity of historicism finally has led many in the past few decades to abandon it as an approach to biblical prophecy. It was always interesting to observe how historicists were sure that their approach was correct but simply could not agree with one another as to what specifically was being fulfilled. So six historicists could have seven interpretations of the same event given in Revelation. Back to Baxter and Bakker. In this case, for example, why can’t the 5th Trumpet be referencing the war in Viet Nam, where there were lots of planes, napalm, death and destruction. And why couldn’t Pol Pot or Mao being the destroyer?

Another observation is the random selectivity in Baxter’s (and others) use of Scripture. He did not, for example, discuss the fact that mankind would be affected for 5 months by the locust-like creatures; nor that they had tails like that of scorpions. Or, when talking about the 2nd Trumpet, there was not a word about 1/3 of the waters becoming blood. But this kind of selectivity is not what a good expositor of the scriptures does. It is not only bad exegesis, but it is also a dishonest handling of God’s Word. There is no place for this kind of approach to the bible, especially when there is a large number of people that are likely being influenced by it.

Yet another observation we should make is the ignoring of established meanings for the symbols and terms used in Revelation. For example, in the 5th Trumpet, the bottomless pit is mentioned. This has an established meaning and is not a reference to Kuwait and Iraq. Revelation borrows heavily from the Old Testament (especially the prophets) and the names and symbols found in Revelation have meanings that are already established. No interpreter has the authority to change the meaning from those established in the OT.

We also should note that numbers, as used in Revelation, are used in the normal way numbers are used; that is, they are normal quantitative indicators. They are not used symbolically. For example, 7 churches means 7 churches. 1/3 of the oceans becoming blood means just that. But Baxter and others, in promoting their historicism, only use numbers in their normal way when it is convenient. So 5 months of locust activity, or 1/3 of the waters becoming blood, or 200,000,000 men being involved in the 6th Trumpet judgment are simply ignored. (ISIS had some thousands fighting for them, but not 200,000,000. Again, this is not an acceptable way to approach the Scriptures. In fact, it is just plain deceptive.

The growing lack of discernment in the church today is tragic. If watching Jim Bakker and his colleague suggests anything, it is that Christians today will believe most anything, as long as the “teacher” indicates that they received their view from God Himself. This, of course, is not a new phenomenon, which becomes obvious when we note Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 13 where these faithful prophets of God exposed the methods and messages of the false prophets in the nation of Israel. But as 2 Peter 2:1 declares, just as Israel was infected with false prophets, so the church faces that same thing with false teachers who will come in with their erroneous doctrines and lead God’s people away from the truth of God.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

SO WHERE IS HE?

This is a revised version of the question found in 2 Peter 3, where the “mockers” statement is recorded: “where is the promise of His coming?” And while Peter recorded this question over 1900 years ago, the question, in varying forms, still is being asked today. But we should also note that sometimes it is not being asked because some see the whole question as irrelevant.

But for those who really wonder why the Lord has not yet brought about end time events, this is a matter of real concern that often troubles them. We wonder how long God will put up with the open rebellion against Him and His standards, and the continual evil of mankind. This has been an ongoing concern for God’s people over the millennia. But we do well to remember some points, including those key points made by Peter in 2 Peter 3. Peter said to his readers that he was “stirring up your pure minds by way of reminder” (2 Peter 3:1; 1:13). So let us allow our minds to be stirred up on some essential points.

(1) Those questioning the reality and imminence of the Lord’s coming are unbiblical in their thinking and living. Peter identifies these detractors as “mockers”. Such a person has a willful contempt for God and His truth. They ridicule things that are sacred and of great importance. The Lord’s coming is a clear reminder that Jesus is the returning King of kings and that He will dramatically change the world when He returns. This goes against the self-indulgent thinking and living of these mockers who “walk after their own lusts.” These have an emphasis on a one world viewpoint which focuses on living for self, wealth and pleasure in this life. But this kind of life would be ended by Christ’s coming which is why it is a topic they mock. Pastors who will not teach their people about the Lord’s return may not exactly fit the “mocker” but they clearly are promoting a one world view, which is an unbiblical world view. They may not be with the mockers, but they are living next door.

(2) All that is necessary for the end time events to begin are in place today. As we look carefully at the details about the end of times given by the OT prophets and the NT apostles, we find nothing of major import that needs to take place. The stage is set. The issue is simply about when the curtain is going to come up and the “play” begins. Only the Lord God knows when (not if) that will occur.

(3) God is always “on time” and so the end times will not come too late nor will they arrive too soon. One of the important truths that we can learn about Jesus first coming to the earth was that it took place at exactly the right moment. So says the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4 when he informed us that “when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” We have to believe that Jesus’ birth was not off by a couple of decades. God’s timing is always impeccable. So it will be with the imminent rapture, tribulation and Second Coming. Exactly on time.

Peter states that God is sovereign over time. God made time for mankind and for the earth, but He is not bound by it (2 Peter 3:8-9). God may use a thousand years to do what we think He might do in a day, and vice versa. God cannot be charged with “slowness/slackness”, as if He is just “hanging out” with no real purpose in His actions. What appears to us as God being a little slow in these matters is really an issue of patience. As we view some of God’s past judgment activities, we observe that He pronounced judgment (e.g. on Nineveh) and then “delayed” that judgment giving people a chance to repent and turn to Him; the One who delights in mercy rather than judgment.

(4) It is God’s mercy towards unbelievers which is factored in. The seeming “delaying” by God is indeed because He is patient towards unbelievers and desires that they turn to Him. (3:9). Peter had used an example of the Flood of Noah (1 Peter 3:20) to illustrate the patience of God towards the godless. But it was sad that during those 120 years no one took advantage of the offer to avoid judgment. These did not turn to the Lord God and experience His temporal salvation in the Ark, nor His eternal salvation which is given to those who trust in Him. But nevertheless, God does patiently seek the salvation of people and this is what accounts for the “delay”.

(5) His return is something that He gave His word would take place. He did “promise” (3:4, 13) that He would come again and make all things right. Peter emphasizes that the Day of the Lord “will come” (3:10). For the believer, there is no doubt that these events will take place. The Day of the Lord (that time of special Divine intervention in this world) is going to be fulfilled to the very letter. The question has always been “when” it will take place. We need to remind ourselves that we simply do not know enough to declare that right now is the perfect time for His coming. There are so many factors involved that we just don’t know about.

(6) We are to use this time prior to His return to be actively engaged in living for Him. This really is Peter’s emphasis in 3:11-14. When Peter says in 3:11, “what sort of people” we should be; he is not really asking a question. It is really an explanation of how we are to live. We are not to be just marking time waiting for Jesus to come. Our lives are to be characterized by many realities (3:11). First, we are to be characterized by HOLY LIVING. Our lives are to be increasingly separated from sin and separated unto the Lord. We are to work at staying away from spiritual contaminants and work at daily “abiding” in Christ (John 15). Second, our lives are to be involved in SERVING GOD. We are to approach each day with the dominating thought of how can I honor and serve Christ today? It is not a matter of being famous or doing great things. It is all about being faithful to Him as we go about our daily living. Third, we are to be LOOKING FOR His return, which has the idea of intently focusing on and being earnestly desiring something. We should be looking for Jesus, which is our desire to see Him, not just to be delivered out of the mess this world is in. Adding to all this, the Apostle states (3:12, 14) we are to diligently work at (1) living in PEACE. This has to do with our being in harmonious relationships with Christ and with others. (2) WITHOUT SPOT and BLAMELESS is his reminder that we need to keep short accounts with God on the matter of sin in our lives; taking hold of 1 John 1:9. These things are important for life today but also are critical for that time when we appear before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ (3:14, “be found in Him”).

Very interesting is Peter’s statement that by living in faithful obedience to the Lord we can “hasten” the coming of the Lord (3:12). He indicates that if we are so concerned about the Lord coming soon, we can “move along” His coming. How? Isn’t the future under God’s total control? Indeed the future is totally under God’s control. But God’s sovereign choice apparently includes what we do or don’t do. In some way our obedient service for Him has been factored in to the events of the end times. This seems to be something like our prayers. In ways unknown to us, the Sovereign God factors in our prayers in what He does or does not do. And so, Peter informs us that our godly, obedient lives in some way “moves along” the Lord’s return. That is something worth thinking about!

So while it is vital to look towards the heavens and long for the Lord’s return, it is so important to daily be living holy lives and obediently serving Him; whether it be by our praying, peacefully living with family, friends and folks in our church, or maybe seeking to venture out into new areas to share the truth of God’s great love through Jesus Christ. We have many things that we can do, and maybe, little time to do it in.


Monday, July 1, 2019

IS PSALM 83 A PROPHECY OF A FUTURE MIDDLE-EAST WAR?

There is today an ongoing discussion revolving around Psalm 83 and whether it is prophetic of some future battle. Many are saying that it is prophetic of a yet future battle, while others say it is not a prophecy. Book and articles have been written and many Christian talk shows have focused on this psalm. The internet is filled with people teaching on Psalm 83. It should be noted that some good people can be found on both sides of this discussion.

The Basic Idea of the Psalm 83 Battle
In Psalm 83, 10 names are mentioned which align themselves against Israel, and declare that they will “wipe out” Israel as a nation and that “the name of Israel will be remembered no more” (Psa. 83:4). The observation is made by those who see this psalm as prophetic that this is what we see today in the middle-east. They also state that the author of the Psalm, Asaph, is called a “seer” (prophet) in 2 Chronicles 29:30 which would qualify this psalm as prophetic, a prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled.

The total removal of Israel from the Land is clearly the goal today of the Palestinians and other Arab nations; and this, it is said, shows the imminence of the Psalm 83 battle. The cry to “drive Israel into the sea” is heard today but it should be noted that this is hardly a new idea. This same spirit predominated the wars in 1948, 1967 and all the rest of the Arab-Israeli conflicts. This is also found frequently in the Prophets. For example, Ezekiel says that the descendants of Ishmael and Esau have an “everlasting enmity” against Israel (Ezek. 35:5), and that because of their anger and envy they will attempt to take Israel’s land through violence and bloodshed (35:10-12; 36:5). Ezekiel sounds very up to date. The fact that this antagonism is “everlasting” lets us know that this attitude is not going away, and will not until the messianic (millennial) age comes with the return of King Jesus. Then He will severely judge all the rebellious gentiles nations (Psa. 2), including those mentioned in Psalm 83.

Concerning the alignment of 10, it is stated that this alignment never had an historical fulfillment, and so, awaits a coming day. Generally, the idea is that this battle of the 10 versus Israel is imminent and will occur just before the Gog/Magog battle discussed by Ezekiel (Ezek. 38-39). In Psalm 83, God is asked by Asaph to show His strength and thoroughly defeat this group of Arabs. Supporters of this view say that God will answer Asaph’s request and He will defeat these 10, thus giving Israel a time of peace; the kind of peace that is mentioned as Israel’s situation in Ezekiel 39:8 and 11. However, this newly achieved peace will be short lived as the defeated Arab nations will call on Russia and other Islamic nations to come and destroy Israel, and thus, the launching of the battle of Gog/Magog. So, it is conjectured that the Psalm 83 battle will likely be located somewhere around the Rapture event, probably just after that event. No dogmatic position is taken on the timing, but it is seen as “soon”.

The Alignment of 10 in Psalm 83
The following is the list of 10 given by Asaph in 83:6-8. All of these are mentioned in the OT prophets as peoples that will eventually be judged by God.


(1) EDOM - Jordan (southern part) 
(2) ISHMAELITES - Father of Arabs generally 
(3) MOAB - Jordan (central part) 
(4) HAGRITES - Egypt 
(5) GEBAL - Lebanon 
(6) AMMON - Jordan (northern part) 
(7) AMALEK - Sinai area (Egypt) 
(8) PHILISTIA - Gaza area 
(9) TYRE - Lebanon 
(10) ASSYRIA - Parts of Syria and Iraq


While it is always challenging to line up the ancient names with the modern boundaries, the above list generally gives the areas involved with the alignment of 10. Whether it is in Old Testament times or today, these basic groups have had an “everlasting” animosity towards the people of Israel.

Evaluating Psalm 83 as a Prophecy
In evaluating Psalm 83 as a prophecy of a future battle that is to take place, a number of points can be made.

First, assuming for a moment that Psalm 83 is a prophecy, it seems accurate to conclude that there is no OT historical fulfillment of such a battle. As Dr. Merrill Unger states: “there is no such comprehensive anti-Israel alliance…mentioned in the OT.” (Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, p. 867). These various nations being the subject of coming judgment is found numerous times in the OT prophets, but not packaged as they are here. So Unger and others are likely correct that there is no historical fulfillment when this group of 10 was defeated.

Second, the critical issue is whether or not Psalm 83 is really a prophecy at all. This, of course, goes to the heart of the matter. Psalm 83 is a “lament” psalm, one of many in the Psalter. A lament psalm centers on the sad situation that the psalmist sees and contains a request for God to do something about it; and they always include a confession of trust in the Lord. Psalm 83 contains all of these elements. Asaph complains to the Lord that Judah is in a terrible situation as there is hatred for Israel in the people all around Israel. They want to remove Israel from the land, and so Asaph asks God to deal with this situation; which is typical of a “lament psalm.” But what this Psalm does not include are the tell-tale phrases such as “in the latter days”, or “in those days”, which would immediately point to a prophetic element. There is a request for God to deal severely with these peoples, but it is not framed as a prophecy; that is, that in the last days Jehovah will deal forcefully with these people. Now it is often pointed out that Asaph is called a “seer”; that is a prophet. While that is what 2 Chronicles states, this does not automatically mean that the psalms of Asaph were prophecies or contained prophetic elements. In fact, it is hard to locate that element in his writings. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel are all seen as prophets, but, obviously, that does not mean that everything they wrote was prophetic. Much of what they wrote were exhortations to Israel to return back to faithful obedience to the Law or a record of certain historical incidents. When they spoke prophetically, it was very clear that the matters being spoken of were indeed prophesies. Psalm 83 simply lacks that kind of clarity. And this compels me to say that Psalm 83 is not prophetic.

A third observation has to do with what this view has spawned, which is date setting and colorful prophetic speculations. Dozens and dozens of preachers and teachers, using Psalm 83, speak of this battle taking place “soon” and specifically state that it will most likely take place during this calendar year. While spectacular interpretations garner a lot of attention, they also diminish biblical prophecy when such events do not take place. A lack of solid exegesis of the text of scripture almost always produces this phenomenon.

Fourth, the case for Psalm 83 being the forerunner of the Gog/Magog battle is built on the point that Israel needs to have a time of peace in order for the setting to be right for the Gog/Magog battle. Psalm 83 is said to be that which produces a moment of peace and sets the stage for the Ezekiel 38-39 battle. But is that really true? Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum has a significant contribution to make about the word “securely” found in Ezekiel 39:8. He notes that the Hebrew word batach means “security”. “This is not the security due to a state of peace, but a security due to confidence in their own strength.” (“Footsteps of the Messiah”, p. 121). So the need for “peace” in Israel in order for Gog/Magog to take place is not what is required by the Ezekiel text. And this would remove the need for a preliminary battle of some sort.

For those who insist that this is a prophecy, there is something else to consider. And that something is the 1967 war. Michael Oren in his excellent book “Six Days of War”, speaks of the tremendous impact that this short war had on the world. He stated, “Rarely in modern times has so short and localized a conflict had such prolonged, global consequences.” (Oren, xii). This war made the modern Middle East what it is today. The days that led up to the war, and in the first two days of the war, various Arab leaders were once again making their intentions clear. “Our goal is clear---to wipe Israel off the face of the map. We will, God willing, meet in Tel Aviv and Haifa.” “We have decided that this battle will be one for the final liberation from imperialism and Zionism…We shall meet in Tel Aviv.” (Oren, p. 164, 195)

In great detail Michael Oren shows the participation and military movements of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and even Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In other words, all of the people mentioned in Psalm 83 are covered geographically in the 1967 war.

So for those who are firmly convinced that Psalm 83 speaks of a future conflict, perhaps they should consider that that war has already taken place and it is not a war that is yet future, nor is it connected to the Gog/Magog battle. It is clear that all of the Israel-haters will be dealt with finally and severely when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth and defeats the enemies of Israel in connection with the tribulation. It is during this coming 7 year period that the “everlasting” hatred for Israel will be taken care of once and for all.

Concluding Thoughts
Because of the lack of compelling textual evidence that Psalm 83 itself is prophetic, it would seem best to not view it as the prophecy of some battle that has not yet taken place. The evidence that Psalm 83 is actually prophesying a coming battle and that this battle prepares the world for the Gog/Magog battle is very weak. It is best to view it as a lament psalm which asks the Lord God to intervene and to deliver them from a difficult situation, which He ultimately will do.

We should be a little concerned with the many preachers and teachers who are declaring boldly that Psalm 83 will be fulfilled “soon”, or that it is in this calendar year that it will come to pass. What if the year 2023 comes around and Psalm 83 is not “fulfilled”? It would diminish biblical prophecy in the minds of a multitude of people, Christian and non-Christian alike. The view that biblical prophecy is “irrelevant” or “nonsense” would once again be reinforced.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

WILL WE BE MARRIED IN HEAVEN?

This question has often been asked by married people. Some are hopeful that such will be the case, while others are fearful that they might be eternally saddled with their spouse. My wife has asked me that question on a number of occasions (though I am not sure if she likes the idea of us being forever married or not!). As part of being human, God has created us to have many kinds of social relationships, so this is really a pretty good question. But maybe we should rephrase the question and ask “will we be married in eternity?” In approaching an answer to this personal and practical question, there are a number of things that should be factored in. There are four preliminary observations that I would like to make.

#1 - There are three distinct phases in the future life of the believer. • Death or Rapture---As we presently live our lives, we know that eternity lies ahead of us. Life on this earth for the believer in Jesus will end in death, or hopefully, the rapture event (that sudden, supernatural removal of the Christian to be with Jesus Christ). In either case, the believer will be in heaven. If it is the rapture that removes us, then a resurrection body will be received at that moment. If it is death, then we are taken into the Lord’s presence in heaven, but there is no resurrection body received. That body is received at the rapture. The point is that between now and the future kingdoms of God (millennial and eternal) there is a time of transition about which we know very little, and that includes the matter of marriage.

  • The Millennial (Messianic) Kingdom---The 1,000 year of Jesus Christ on this present earth will be a kingdom rule that will include people in their physical bodies. Many or all of these will be married and this allows them to reproduce, thus populating the messianic age. These have made it alive through the time of tribulation and marriage will be part of their experience in Christ’ kingdom. An example is seen in Ezekiel 44:22 where priests, who serve in the Millennial Temple, are given guidelines about their marriages. But in the Millennial Kingdom, there will be believers from all the ages who have now been resurrected and who will have resurrection bodies. There is no mention of a marriage relationships of these who are in resurrection bodies. However, in the Millennial kingdom, there are males who have resurrection bodies, such as King David and the 12 apostles (Ezek. 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Jer. 30:9; Matt. 19:28). So males do exist (suggesting females will also). And we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection body, though different in many ways, is the same body. If there are males, then it is highly likely there are also females.
  •  The Eternal Kingdom of God--- This phase of the future kingdom of God is spent on the earth, which is why God will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 22:1). It is stated that God will “come down” to the earth and dwell among His people. It is intriguing to think about what life will be like in that setting. A critical word that this verse uses is the word “new” (kainos). God is going to make all things “new” (21:5), including the “new” earth (22:1). The word carries with it the idea of something that is “fresh” but not strangely different. This would tell us that the new, eternal phase of the kingdom of God is most likely a fresh version of the old creation. This would take us back to Genesis 2 where man, woman and marriage were all part of the original idea of God.

#2 - The idea that everyone in the future kingdoms will be similar or identical in nature or form (homogeneous) is simply not true. There is a prevailing thought (even among some theologians) that all people will be the same. We are just part of the glorified glob of saved humanity that will forever be the same and do the same things forever. We will be sort of like chocolate chip cookies produced and packaged in a factory; all look alike with the identical shape, color and even with the same number of chips. But that is not true. As an example, in the eternal kingdom of God, on the new earth, there will be both kings and nations (Rev. 21:24-26). This simple statement reveals that there will be differing ranks/status among people, and also that the human race will be subdivided into kingdoms. One has to wonder if there are kings, could there not be (as is normally the case) queens as well? And isn’t it logical that these nations will be further subdivided into tribes, clans and families?

#3 - Genesis 1 and 2 revealed God’s “very good” plan for this earth.
Whenever we interpret the Book of Revelation, we must keep in mind God’s original plan in the creation recorded in Genesis. This “plan A” was declared by God Himself to be very good, and Revelation is seen as God restoring (and even upgrading) the original plan. And in the original creation, social relationships, such as marriage, were part of human experience.
A problem we face is that Adam and Eve sinned too quickly and so we don’t know what an expanding unfallen human race would have looked like. If sin had not entered into the human experience, then the human race would have multiplied into great numbers, and divisions of some sort would have naturally come about; such as, families, clans, tribes and nations.

#4 - Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:30 does not exclude the idea of marriage.
The cynical Sadducees had presented Jesus with their cutesy question about a woman who legitimately married 7 brothers, according to the levirate marriage law. No child was born was born after the first brother married the woman, and, therefore the Law, stated that the close relative should step in and marry the woman and raise up offspring (to be credited to the dead brothers’ account). In their story, she ended up marrying all 7 brothers with no children ever being produced. And so they wanted to know who, of the seven brothers, would have her as a wife in the resurrection. Jesus rebuked their ignorance and stated that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.” The life in eternity indeed will be different in many ways, and the lack of reproduction is one of those differences. In the eternal kingdom, since there is no death, there will be no need or place for procreation. (Otherwise we might find the human race going through the Adam/Eve failure again). Procreation, which was designed for the first creation, in the marriage relationship, will not be part of the resurrection life which is the focus of His answer. Jesus is not declaring that there will not be close, loving, personal relationships in the future kingdom. Procreation will not be part of resurrection life which is not the same thing as saying that marriage will not be part of resurrection life.

SOME POINTS TO CONSIDER IN ANSWERING THE QUESTION

First, the redeemed human race will not be one uniform whole. We will not be just a large mass of sameness. The fact that there are kings and nations in the final, eternal phase of God’s kingdom informs us that we will be divided into national groups. Within nations there is always further subdivisions; into tribes or clans or families. This raises the prospect that marriage might well be part of those subdivisions. If so, the loving, close relationship that God originally intended could well be part of the scene, apart from the aspect of reproduction. Remember that jealousy, selfishness and anger which damage and destroy marriages today will not be part of human experience there. So for those who live in dread that they might be married to a substandard spouse, you need to reflect on the fact that sin and the flesh will no longer be part of human life. Then and now are not the same.

Second, God designed marriage, before the Fall, as part of His “very good” plan in Genesis, designed to better the lives of unfallen Adam and unfallen Eve. And, apart from the need for procreation, why could this not be included in His design for mankind in the future? Surely there will be some sort of close, personal relationships provided for mankind.

Third, getting back to the Sadducees for a moment. Their ridiculous question does raise the matter of the complexities produced by divorce and by death. Numerous questions come to mind, such as what happens if a person has had more than one spouse? I can’t answer that because I have no idea. But not being able to answer this question does not mean that God cannot answer it. Just like we wonder what happens at the resurrection to physical bodies that no longer exist (completely disintegrated in the ground, or eaten by a school of piranhas, or totally burned up). What will happen to these folks at the time of resurrection? I can’t answer that one either, but my guess is that God can and will. No one misses out on the resurrection. And, by the way, remember Jesus did rebuke those Sadducees for their real ignorance on the matter of the power of God. And we might add, the wisdom of God. Because we can’t explain something does not automatically mean that God is stumped by it as well.

And fourth, the Apostle Paul’s extended discussion of the resurrection body, in 1 Corinthians 15, informs us that it will be the same body (male and female too?) and yet there will be some differences….same but changed. Luke 24, gives us some descriptions of the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus, which confirms what Paul is teaching. So there seems to be a lot of significant carryovers into the resurrection body which we will dwell in for all eternity.

And so, while we can’t give a definitive answer to the question, “will we be married in heaven?”, we can say that close, loving, social relationships were always a part of God’s plan for His people. And this we believe will very much be part of life in the future, forever kingdom of our good God. I do think we will be thrilled and amazed by what He has prepared for we who are His children, born into His family by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s gonna be good!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

REAL AUTHORITY---NOT IN MOSCOW, OR D.C.

As we watch leaders and nations vying for position and power, we can sometimes feel overwhelmed and powerless, forgetting that the real authority in this world resides at the Throne. It is valuable for us to periodically remind ourselves that all power in the world and universe is found with the Lord God. I believe we often will forget this basic truth as we watch arrogant men strut around making claims, issuing threats and seeking to impress with their positions of power. We fail to remember that the authority they have is delegated, limited and it is very temporary.

In the marvelous heavenly scene, recorded by the Apostle John in Revelation 4 and 5, we are ushered into the place where authority is centered. There we observe the transference of ruling authority from the Father to the Lion-Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. Final authority has always resided at the throne of God. And in this scene, preparation is being made to take back the planet from the “god of this world” and his minions. At first, when the call goes out “who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” there is a stony silence in the universe. John is grieved because this signals the status quo; that is, Satan and his people will continue their cruel rule of the earth. But then, the electrifying word goes out: “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” qualifies, and, therefore, He can take the book out of the hand of the One on the throne. This gives Him the authority to deal with Satan and those men who have been given authority by him. But when the Lion-Lamb takes the scroll, the heavenly scene then changes dramatically and there is immediate praise and singing from an untold multitude of angels and men. This event signals the soon termination earth’s domination by the Devil and his malevolent forces.

This transference of authority from the Father to the Son is something that is seen in other places in the Bible. Daniel 7 records the same scene though using different imagery. There the Ancient of Days is seen giving ruling authority to the Son of Man. But the result is the same: dominion and power are His. In John 5, Jesus boldly declared that all authority to judge and to give life was granted to Him. In Luke 19, as Jesus headed to Jerusalem for the last time with His disciples, He informed them that (like the nobleman in His parable) He would not be establishing His messianic reign at that time but needed to go into the “far country” (heaven) to receive ruling authority. And then, when He received that authority He would return back to the earth and would deal with His servants, and then to deal severely and finally with those who would not acknowledge His right to rule.

All of these scriptures align perfectly with Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 where the Son is seen sitting in a place of honor at the right hand of the Father. He sits until His enemies are defeated totally, and then He returns and rules over the entire earth, not only as the King of Israel but as the King of all the gentile nations. His power will be absolute. The authority of the final, forever kingdom of God will never be usurped. There will be no creaturely coups.

The King has yet to return in power and glory and set all things right. But He will. And we who believe in Him and follow Him need to keep this future reality in mind. Presently, we may not be possessors of any sort of great authority, but we do have the power to obey. In His perfect timing, Jesus Himself will handle the Evil One and all of his forces, both demons and evil people. He is neither impressed nor is He intimidated by boastful Satan or strutting people. But, as He instructed His followers in Luke 19, we are to energetically be doing His will in the time that we have. We serve the One and only, King of kings, with whom resides all authority in this universe. So whatever, happens in Washington DC or the world, it surely is important for us to focus on the fact that we belong to the One who possesses all authority.

In Psalm 2, the Father speaks:

“He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them (the rebellious kings of the earth). Then He will speak to them in His anger, and terrify them in His fury: But as for me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

And then the Son speaks: “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘Thou are My Son, today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.”

How helpful it is to focus on these ultimate realities.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What Exactly Happens to Us at Death?

This question seems to be one that we should be able to answer quickly and easily. “We believers go to be with Jesus” is the expected (and correct) answer. However, recently I have had several people probe the matter a little further, wanting to know what does or does not take place when one dies. So, I thought it might be good for us to freshen up our thinking on the subject.

First, we need to remind ourselves of the biblical view of death. Though death is both real and inevitable, it is unnatural. When God created His “very good” creation, death was not a part of it. The sin of Adam and Eve brought death into the world, according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12. But death was never intended to be part of the human experience, and this is why, eventually, death will be finally conquered and completely banished from the new creation (1 Cor. 15:26).

In the Bible, there are three kinds of death (Eph. 2:1; Rev. 20:14; Gen. 35:18-19). Death basically means “separation”. Death does not mean non-existence nor does it mean annihilation. Of the three kinds of death, first, there is spiritual death (the separation of a person from God---a condition that we are all born into); the second death (the eternal separation of a person from God in the “lake of fire”---which will be the terrible experience of all who do not receive God’s gift of eternal life); and then there is physical death
(the separation of the material part of man from the immaterial part---something that all will experience unless the Rapture takes place first).

And while all these forms of death are very important, the people who talked with me were particularly focused on the matter of what happens at the moment of physical death. The Bible is abundantly clear that at physical death we do not become angels; nor are we reincarnated, coming back as a German Shepherd or even as a German. We do not change who we are when we die physically.

The Bible is also clear on the matter that at death a person is in a conscious state. There is no such thing as “soul sleep”, a doctrine promoted by the Seventh-Day Adventists and a few others. What is less clear, however, is whether or not a person, in their conscious condition, has a temporary body or not. (We are speaking about the time of physical death which takes place before the time of resurrection). We don’t know for sure if the immaterial part of a person is housed in some sort of material body. The best we can offer is the presence of the Old Testament hero Moses at the “transfiguration” of Christ. He appeared in bodily form even though this appearance was chronologically prior to Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Jesus was the very first person resurrected; that is, the body was changed in such a way as allowing it to live forever. While a few like Lazarus were raised from the dead, they were still in their earthly bodies and not in a resurrection bodies. All like Lazarus, died again. So, based on Moses, perhaps we do not exist in spirit form but have some sort of “clothing” for our immaterial parts. It would not, of course, be a problem for the Creator to call such bodies into existence.

But once again, the question. “What exactly happens when we die physically?” In answering this, there are some great truths for us to hold onto. First, believers in Christ are guaranteed that nothing, including death, will ever separate them from the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:38-39). This all-inclusive statement by the Apostle Paul gives us an incredible level of comfort. We will NEVER be separated from Him and that includes at the moment of death. Second, believers in Christ never need to fear what happens at the moment of death. Death is not some long foreboding tunnel we must with fear travel through. There is no valley of the shadow of death for the follower of Jesus. In the NT, physical death for the believer is put in very non-frightening terms, such as “sleep” (Note 1 Thess. 4:13-15). Death for the believer is never framed in terms that are dreadful or frightening. Third, and of greatest important, is that the NT Scriptures assure believers in Christ that death brings them immediately into the glorious presence of Jesus Himself. There are two passages that are grammatically and theologically powerful (2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23). In these scriptures, the Apostle Paul declares, without any reservation, that believers can only be in one of two places. They are either here on earth or they are with the Lord in heaven. We are either here or we are there. There is no third option. This absolutely rules out the Roman Catholic doctrine of “purgatory” as a stopping off point on one’s travels to heaven. The moment a believing person takes their last breath here on earth, they are with the Savior. They exhale here and inhale there. And again, these verses rule out other options, such as the Adventist’s idea of “soul sleep” (where the believer goes out of existence until the time of future resurrection).

So the precise, strong grammar that is used in Philippians and 2 Corinthians limits the options to two. And, they also include the point that there is no time lapse between physical death and being with Jesus. Death brings a believer instantly into the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So while none of us reading this article has experienced death, and therefore, we have no personal experience in the matter, we can with absolute certainty know what takes place when a believer dies. This truth is not our wishful thinking, but it is our living, resurrected Savior who is the

Monday, March 4, 2019

SALVATION IN THE COMING TIME OF TRIBULATION

This past couple of weeks I had the opportunity of teaching the books of Daniel and Revelation to a fine group of students at the Jackson Hole Bible College. Like many believers, they really didn’t understand at first that the purpose of the coming period of tribulation is to save people; first Israel, but also multitudes of gentiles. God doesn’t need 7 years to judge people, but time is needed for the gospel to be given out and for people to ponder and respond. Salvation is God’s great desire. In Psalm 2, after clearly warning the unbelieving kings of the earth about their judgment, the Psalmist encourages them to avoid that by turning to the Lord.

Now it is very true that the Scriptures inform us that this age will climax with a chamber of horrors commonly known as the Tribulation. This seven year period of time will bring an unprecedented time of trouble for the whole world. (Note particularly Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1; Joel 2:2). There never has been, nor will there ever be a time like it. .

Tribulation Terror


Most people, even those who are not believers in the Bible, have some knowledge of “Armageddon” and realize that the Bible talks about the earth ending with great catastrophes. While many predictions concerning the end of the world has come and gone, still many movies are made and TV shows created which have end times destruction as a theme. But even these miss what the Bible says. 

God’s wrath will be poured out in a most powerful way during those seven years. In giving us the basics of the judgments of God’s wrath, the Apostle John records, in Revelation, that there will be 19 specific judgments. These judgments are said to be “birth pains” indicating that after they begin they will grow worse and worse and closer together as the seven years proceed along. This lets us know several basic points: (1) that the majority of judgments take place in the latter part of the Tribulation, and that (2) the last judgments will be worse than the initial ones. These 19 judgments will devastate the world. Body counts are given for 2 of the 19 judgments (the 4th Seal and the 6th Trumpet). In these two judgments, 50% of the population of the earth dies. But when we look closely at the rest of the judgments, it is quite clear that the death toll far exceed 50%. We are probably not too far off by saying that 80-85% will perish. So if the Tribulation begins with the population of the earth being 7 billion, then those that die under the wrath of God will be around 6 billion. All that in 7 years. .

But death will also come at the hand of Satan. Satan will use the Great Harlot (Rev. 17) and the Antichrist (Rev. 13) to shed the blood of millions of God’s people. This incredible loss of human life coupled with unprecedented earthquakes (two of them that move the entire crust of the earth), burning of earth, destruction of the oceans and fresh water sources will make this the worst period in all of human history. It is no wonder that Jesus observed that unless God had limited this time to just 7 years no human being would be left standing (Matt. 24:22). .

Tribulation Salvation
In spite of all this mayhem and destruction, judgment is really not the main reason for the Tribulation period. If all God wanted to do was judge evil men and nations, then he could do it in 7 minutes (such as with Sodom and Gomorrah). He would not need 7 years but could get His point across much quicker. But salvation of people is God’s great purpose and that does take some time. The gospel must be proclaimed and men hear it and then chose to respond to Jesus Christ or not.

(1) Saving Israel. In His covenant promises to Abraham (and Abraham’s descendants) God declared that He would bring Israel into the New Covenant. The New Covenant deals with salvation and the forgiveness of sins. In all the centuries since Jesus came and died on the Cross, the nation of Israel has never turned to Him. And yet Jesus was abundantly clear when He declared that He would not return to the earth again (the 2nd Coming) until Israel turned to Him in faith (Matt. 23:39). Saving Israel is God’s first and primary order of business in the Tribulation. And He will accomplish this great goal as these Scriptures state with clarity. .

“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in: and thus ALL ISRAEL will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’ ‘And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’” Romans 11:25-27

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people (Israel) and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.” Daniel 9:24

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you...I will put My spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” Ezekiel 36:25
Israel begins the Tribulation as an unbelieving nation, but that rapidly begins to change, probably as the 144,000 Jewish evangelists begin to make an impact. Jesus said that about half way through the Tribulation, Israel would begin to be persecuted “on account of My name” (Matt. 24:9). Now Israel has been and continues to be persecuted by the gentile nations, but not because she has identified with the Lord Jesus Christ! The 144,000 (Rev. 7) along with the “two witnesses” (Rev. 11) apparently have a huge impact on the nation of Israel, so that by the end of the Tribulation “all” Israel has come to faith in Christ. With the salvation of Israel, the Great King Jesus can now return. But before He does there are many more that need saving. This will be the ultimate fulfillment of Genesis 12:3---“in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” .

(2) Saving gentiles. In the Old Testament, it was always God’s plan to reach the gentile nations through Israel. The Israelites were to be a light to the gentiles. Unfortunately they behaved badly and never really were that light bringing the knowledge of the Lord Jehovah to the nations. But that changes dramatically in the Tribulation. They will be a beacon light in that terribly dark period of time. According to Revelation 7:9-14, millions upon millions from every nation will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It is important to observe that these people (of Rev. 7) were saved during the Tribulation period and not during the ages of the church or some other time. And while they died for their faith, the number of them runs in the millions. .

Some Concluding Thoughts
This short study should remind us that the Lord delights in saving people and is committed to doing that. Judgment is not what He delights in, but rather the regeneration of lost people. The Tribulation, while having terrible judgments, is primarily a time for salvation. God will fulfill His commitment to save Israel, and Israel in turn will be the ones who spread the truth of God which results in so many gentiles coming to know Jesus. (It is likely that with all of the outpouring of the supernatural that there will be no atheists or agnostics during the Tribulation. The issue is whether you will side with Jesus or with Satan/Antichrist). .

I asked the students at Jackson Hole Bible College to tell me what impacted them the most in our study of Revelation. It was encouraging that many of them stated that this study of future things prodded them to want to share the gospel of Christ with others. Today God wants us to share the Good News about Jesus. And perhaps our obedience in this matter, will cause some in the Tribulation to come to Christ. Imagine if you shared the gospel with a person on Wednesday (and there is no response) and then the Rapture takes place on Thursday. The seed we planted could still bear fruit in those days of the Tribulation. God simply loves to save people.