Category Archive: Prophecy Studies

Oct 28

JUST 5 YEARS TILL ‘END TIMES’ COMMENCE?

Several years ago, Ludwig Schneider, a German-language scholar, discovered an amazing prophecy dating back to 1217 by a scholarly and highly respected rabbi by the name of Judah Ben Samuel.

He was quite famous in his time as the initiator of the Chassidic Ashkenaz, a movement of Jewish mysticism in Germany. He founded a yeshiva in Regensburg and secured many pupils. Legend has it that, as a young man, he was an excellent bowman but knew little or nothing about daily prayers. But once he got serious about his faith, legend has it that he performed many miracles. It is also reported that he was given a prophecy about the exact year of Israel’s rebirth as a nation and its redemption.

So renowned was his work, the Bishop of Salzburg asked him to serve as his personal seer.

Because most of his writings were published so long ago – before the invention of the printing press – and in German, few copies have survived. But Schneider has a copy of Judah Ben Samuel’s prophecy about the nation of Israel and the messianic era and has translated the highlights of it into English and other languages for the magazine Israel Today.

The prophecy involves the Jubilee Year cycle every 50 years. I should point out there’s much controversy about pinpointing Jubilee Years because they have been observed in Israel since ancient times, while no one is 100 percent certain about when they should occur on the modern Hebrew calendar.

However, in the year Judah Ben Samuel died in 1217, he prophesied that the Ottoman Turks would rule over the holy city of Jerusalem for eight Jubilees. Now, keep in mind, he made this prediction 300 years before the Turks seized control of Jerusalem in 1517. In fact, the Ottoman Empire, as it would become to be known, did not even really exist yet in 1217.

According to Judah Ben Samuel, 1217 was a Jubilee Year. If he was right, that would also make 1517 a Jubilee Year.

Exactly 400 years after the Ottoman Turks took control of Jerusalem in 1517, they were driven out of the city and the Holy Land in 1917 by the Allied forces under the command of Gen. George Allenby – on Hanukkah, by the way.

But it gets more interesting still.

The rabbi also prophesied that during the ninth Jubilee Jerusalem would be a “no-man’s land.” This is exactly what happened from 1917 to 1967, due to the fact that the Holy Land was placed under British Mandate in 1917 by the League of Nations and literally “belonged” to no nation. Even after Israel’s war of independence in 1948-49 Jerusalem was still divided by a strip of land running right through the heart of the city, with Jordan controlling the eastern part of the city and Israel controlling the western part of the city. That strip of land was considered and even called “no-man’s land” by both the Israelis and the Jordanians.

It was not until the Six Day War in 1967 when the entire west bank of the holy land was conquered by the Israeli army that the whole city of Jerusalem passed back into the possession of Israel. So once again the prophecy made by the rabbi 750 years previously was fulfilled to the letter.

It certainly would be significant if indeed both 1917 and 1967 were Jubilee years considering the significance of what happened in Jerusalem on those years. But it gets better.

The rabbi also prophesied that during the 10th Jubilee, Jerusalem would be under the control of the Jews and the Messianic “end times” would begin. The 10th Jubilee began in 1967 and will be concluded in – 2017.

What should we expect to happen in 2017? I will leave that to your imagination.

But one thing is certain: Judah Ben Samuel made some truly remarkable prophecies that came to pass. We’ll have to wait about four more years to see if his final prediction does as well.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4325

Oct 21

WHERE WORLD HISTORY ENDS

Greg Laurie… nough said!

What on earth is happening in the Middle East? It seems that all we hear about in the news from this region is another outburst of violence – or a threat of one.

In his address at the U.N. last month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened once again to eliminate Israel. Also in a recent speech, he spoke of some Islamic “messiah,” as well as a new world order.

As we look at the attacks on our embassies around the world, and specifically the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, it is now clear that the war on terror has not been won.

When Osama bin Laden was killed, we hoped that might be the end of it. But after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were murdered in Libya, there were people rioting in the streets and burning American flags. As they waited for their close-ups from the American media, they chanted together to the cameras, “Take a picture, Obama! We are all Osama!” That pretty much says it all. The message of Osama bin Laden and the terrorists appears to be alive and well.

And what about the so-called Arab Spring? What some thought might be a hopeful sign, perhaps a surge of democracy in the Middle East, has not turned out so well. So what is the explanation of all of this chaos and confusion? What in the world is happening?

The short answer is that Bible prophecy is being lived out in real time before our very eyes. The Bible has predicted the things that are happening in this part of the world. Scripture is very clear in pointing out that the end of the world will be centered in the Middle East. And it has all been foretold in the only book that accurately predicts the future: the Bible.

Thousands of years ago, Hebrew prophets predicted the Jewish people would be scattered across the earth and then later regathered. Jesus, in fact, gave a very specific prediction when he said the temple in Jerusalem that was being rebuilt by Herod at the time would not only be destroyed, but also would be dismantled, stone by stone (see Matthew 24:1).

Did that prediction reach fulfillment? Yes, it did. Because all historians agree that in A.D. 70, Titus and the Roman legions marched into Jerusalem, slaughtered thousands of Jews and dismantled the temple. Why did they dismantle it? Because there was gold in the temple, which had been burned, and they had to dismantle it to extract the melted gold. This fulfilled, to the letter, the prophecy of Christ. Also at this time, the Jews were scattered.

Fast-forward many years to the Holocaust, when Hitler sought to eradicate the Jewish people from the face of the earth. Thankfully, the United States, Great Britain and their allies stopped the Nazi war machine. And what happened in the aftermath of the Holocaust was nothing short of amazing. The Jewish people began to return to their homeland. And on May 14, 1948, a modern miracle happened. The state of Israel was officially declared.

Here was a nation that had been dispersed for centuries, and then it was regathered. This has never happened again in history. And this was a super-sign that started the prophetic clock ticking. The people of Israel were back in their homeland again.

But there was still a problem. Israel did not have control of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem plays a key role in the end-times scenario. Although they had declared their statehood, Jordan was still controlling the old city of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and most of the historic sites. Then the Six Day War broke out in 1967, in which Israel was attacked. No one expected her to survive. Not only did Israel survive the attack, but she won the war and gained back a lot of the things she had lost, including the old city. And for the first time in more than 2,000 years, the city of Jerusalem was under Jewish control.

Yet to this present day, Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Arab leaders worldwide insisting that Jerusalem and the entire West Bank are rightfully Palestinian territory and ultimately must be given back as a condition of peace.

Of course, I am going to side with God on this issue. God gave Jerusalem to Israel. He said to Abraham in Genesis 15:18, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates. …” (NKJV). He gave that land to Israel, and the Israelis are not going to give up the city of Jerusalem.

The Bible predicts that the city of Jerusalem will be at the epicenter of it all, and the attention of the planet will be directed toward Israel and toward the city of Jerusalem.

Is this happening now? Yes, it is. All of this is happening just as the Bible predicted it would.

So let’s go over the chronology of events the Bible has predicted: Israel will be scattered. Has this happened? Yes. Israel will be regathered after her people are scattered. Has this happened? Again, yes. Israel will regain the city of Jerusalem. Has this happened? Yes. Israel will be isolated from the other nations of the world and basically will stand alone. Has that happened? Not quite, but it appears to be moving in that direction. Lastly, Israel will be attacked. Has that happened? Not yet, and not on the scale the Bible predicts. This is still in the future, but perhaps the near future.

Scripture specifically tells us that world history, as we know it, will culminate in this part of the world. Some people would assert that it is not important to study Bible prophecy, but I beg to differ. We must study Bible prophecy. The reason we should want to learn about the future is so we will be motivated to live rightly in the present.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4310

Oct 09

A Critique Of The Preterist Interpretation Of Daniel 2 & 7

Another Joel Richardson classic!

A Critique Of The Preterist Interpretation Of Daniel 2 & 7

10/07/2012

By Joel Richardson – “In the second chapter of the Book of the Prophet Daniel, we are introduced to King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a massive metallic statue:

“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.” —Daniel 2:31-33

The statue, we are then told, represents a series of historical kingdoms or empires. Daniel informs the king that the first component of the statue, that of gold, represents the historical Babylonian Empire, which Nebuchadnezzar ruled over. Scholars and commentators are in general agreement that the next three empires represented by the respective metals of silver, bronze, and Iron are the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires. Though this is the majority position, in my book, Mideast Beast, I demonstrate that the descriptions of the kingdom of Iron laid out within the text align perfectly with the historical Islamic Caliphate, and not with the Roman Empire. Though this view will likely be met with skepticism by those who have not yet considered the exegetical and historical arguments in support of this view, what is unarguable is that during the final days of the fourth kingdom of iron, a stone suddenly appears and strikes the feet of the statue, causing the entire statue to shatter:

As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. —Daniel 2:34

Commentators of all persuasions identify the stone as representing the Messianic Kingdom of God here on the earth. As the stone shatters the statue, the fragments are seen to blow away as dry chaff in the Autumn winds. The stone however, is seen to grow and spread, until it fills the entire earth:

Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. —Daniel 2:35

Later, in Daniel 7, we are given further details concerning the timing of this victory of the Kingdom of God over pagan earthly governments. There, we are told that it will come after a period of intense persecution, even near complete victory, by the final empire, against the saints:

“I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.” —Daniel 7:21-22

This is essential to note. The timing of the coming of the Messianic Kingdom of God is placed in the midst of an intense period of great persecution against ‘the saints of the Highest One’. It is not until after this period of great tribulation that the saints then come to possess the Kingdom of God.

The Futurist versus the Preterist Interpretation

Among Christian interpreters, there exists disagreement concerning the nature and timing of the stone striking the statue. Those who take the Futurist position understand this event to remain yet in the future. The feet of mixed iron and clay represent a secondary, distinct and final manifestation of the empire or iron—the final Antichrist empire—which will be utterly destroyed when Jesus returns. The stone, of course, represents the second coming of Jesus the Messiah, whose kingdom will then come to dominate the whole world.

Alternately, the Preterist interpretation sees the feet of mixed iron and clay to simply be one with the legs of iron. To the preterist, there exists no distinction between the legs of iron and the feet of mixed iron and mixed clay. The stone that strikes the feet represents the first coming of Jesus with his invisible, spiritual kingdom. Preterists would claim that the legs and feet represent the historical Roman Empire, which was conquered by the coming of the invisible Kingdom of God. Today, this spiritual kingdom is spreading throughout the earth.

The purpose of this article is to very briefly discuss some of the more obvious failures of the Preterist interpretation of Daniel 2 & 7.

The Five Components of the Statue

The first problem with the Preterist view of Daniel 2 is its inability to account for the two-fold division of the fourth kingdom between the legs and feet. Although the passage speaks of ‘four kingdoms’, when one analyzes the structure of the passage, the statue is seen to be divided into five distinct components. There is both a continuity and a division between the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay. Consider the following structure of the text translated literally, word for word, in exact order:

The Image Head Fine Gold Breast Arms Silver Belly Thigh Brass Legs Iron Feet Part Iron Part Clay. —Daniel 2:32,33

The following chart demonstrates the organization and structure of the passage, again with the words maintaining their exact order:

Body Part / Element
——————————
Head / Fine Gold
Breast Arms / Silver
Belly Thighs / Brass
Legs / Iron
Feet / Part Iron – Part Clay

Because the Preterist position is unable to satisfactorily account for the clear distinction between the legs of iron and the feet of mixed iron and clay, it is forced to argue that the feet merely represent a particular period within the broader historical Roman Empire. Some argue that the clay intermixed with the iron in the feet represents the mixture of Roman and Jewish-Herodian rule during the first century. This explanation however doesn’t represent the totality of the Roman Empire, but merely one very small segment of the broader empire. Nor does this view satisfactorily account for the sharp distinction between the legs and feet.

The Futurist view however, understands the feet of the statue as describing the broader final period of the fourth empire as defined by its revival in the last days. This latter days revival of the fourth kingdom is clearly articulated by John the Apostle in the Book of Revelation. There, John speaks of the final kingdom as suffering a fatal head wound and coming back to life’

I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast —Revelation 13:3

Later, the apostle also speaks of the same final ‘seventh’ empire, as being an empire which ‘was, and is not’ and finally reviving as an ‘eighth’:

The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. —Revelation 17:11

And so it is seen that only the Futurist position is able to reconcile Daniel’s prophecies with the Book of Revelation’s descriptions, accounting for both the continuity and the division of the last empire. The Preterist interpretation however offers only a strange and forced explanation, which does not sufficiently explain the distinction, nor can it define any period within the Roman Empire when any could say that it ‘was and is not’.

It should also be noted that the Preterist position here is forced to understand the seven heads of the Beast to represent specific historical Roman emperors, rather than as historical kingdoms, as is consistent with the motif of ‘mountain’ as found throughout the Bible. While virtually all Preterists attempt to identify the final seventh heads / mountain of Revelation 13 and 17 as referring to some series of historical Roman emperors, it seems as though no two Preterists can agree as to which seven these might be. Virtually every Preterist seems to have a different list of which Roman emperors they believe ‘fit’ the criteria of the prophecy. Futurists however, share general agreement that the seven heads of the beast represent a series of pan-historical, pan-Biblical pagan empires, beginning with Egypt, each which at one time, tried to destroy the Hebrew people and her connection to the promised land.

The Nature of the Destruction of the Statue

Some further insurmountable problems with the Preterist interpretation of Daniel 2 is that the text portrays the final kingdom, in fact, the whole statue, as being destroyed suddenly, immediately, and completely. No sooner does the Messianic rock strike the feet of the statue that it is shattered, and its residue is blown away. The Messianic Kingdom of God fills the whole world leaving no trace of the previous pagan kingdoms. All four of the kingdoms are destroyed ‘at the same time’ (Dan. 2:40, 44). When one compares the descriptions given concerning the end of this final pagan kingdom, in both Daniel 2 and 7, it is clear that the text emphasizes the finality and totality of the transition from pagan to Messianic rule. First, the establishment of the Kingdom of God is expressly placed within a particular timeframe. It is established ‘in the days of those kings’, a reference to the final period of the fourth kingdom:

“And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.” —Daniel 2:44

An essential portion of the above verse is often overlooked. We are informed that, unlike the other kingdoms mentioned within the passage, the Kingdom of God will not be left to others. This same theme is later expressed again in Daniel 7:

“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time. —Daniel 7:11-12

Many have misinterpreted this verse to mean that the other kingdoms in Daniel 7 are essentially contemporary empires or kingdoms that exist in their fullness during the time when the fourth kingdom is destroyed. This is not the meaning of this verse however. Instead, its point is to contrast the nature of the destruction of these previous empires. The other empires, unlike the final empire were given to other peoples, with much of their culture, languages and peoples having lived on in those empires that conquered them. This is not the case however with the fourth kingdom. It would first suffer an apparent death. Then, after having come back to life will suffer a final, devastating, immediate and ultimate blow. This is also seen to contrast sharply with the Messianic Kingdom of God, which will never be given to another people, but will last forever:

‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’ —Daniel 7:27

Yet history informs us quite clearly that the Roman Empire never met such a fate. In fact, the fate of the Roman Empire was precisely the exact opposite of the descriptions given within Daniel’s prophecy. Instead of meeting an immediate and decisive blow, the Roman Empire continued to exist and even grow for many years after the coming of Jesus in the first century. The Roman Empire, suffering from internal decay and external attacks, sputtered and crept along for another 1400 years after the coming of the Messiah. History informs us that it was not the influence of the Church that destroyed the Roman Empire, but moral decay within, and pagan forces from without. And all of this, over a very long and drawn out time-frame, at various times, in various places, long after the coming of Jesus.

Christo-paganism? Who Assumed Who?

Additionally, it can also be argued that instead of being entirely overwhelmed by the gospel, instead, the Roman Empire essentially incorporated and assumed Christianity into itself, resulting in a significant Roman-pagan influence within the culture, practices, traditions, and even to some measure, the liturgy and doctrines of Christianity. Though I reject the radical views on these matters as argued by Alexander Hislop and many after him, it must be admitted that the exchange between Roman and Christian culture was certainly not entirely one-way.

In keeping with the language of the passage, the Futurist interpretation looks forward to the time when Jesus will return to genuinely shatter the pagan governments, and ungodly systems of this world, resulting in the complete and utter victory of the very real and substantial Messianic Kingdom of God filling the whole earth, leaving no remnant of the former pagan influences.

The Timing of the Coming of the Kingdom: During Great Persecution

Earlier, we showed that the timing of the coming Messianic Kingdom is said to occur specifically during a time of unparalleled persecution by the final empire against the ‘saints of the Highest One’:

“I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.” —Daniel 7:21-22

The Preterist interpretation of these chapters cannot account for this clear statement concerning the timing of the coming of the Messianic Kingdom of God. When Jesus came the first time, it was not during a time of unparalleled persecution by the Romans against the Jewish peoples, nor did the Kingdom come later during Roman persecution against the Church. The Futurist position, on the other hand, in faithfulness to the text, looks forward to the time when the Messiah will deliver his people from out of a period of overwhelming persecution under the Antichrist, perhaps even in the near future.

Who Struck Who?

Another point that few Preterists seem to acknowledge is that unlike the descriptions of the prophecy, the Romans struck and killed Jesus, not the other way around. It will not be until Jesus returns that his victorious judgments will be executed against the pagan governments of the earth.

True Messianic Hope

In the perpetual cycle of increasingly frustrating and even outright depressing seasons of political elections, it is heartening to take note of the fact that when the Messiah comes, all corrupt, pagan, and ungodly politicians, governments and unrighteous leaders throughout the earth will be utterly, completely and finally judged and removed. Unlike the vague, partial, and perpetually drawn-out hope that is held-out by the Preterist vision of history (and the future), only Futurism provides us with a vision of the days to come that truly encourages our hearts with the incorruptible hope of a soon coming transition to truly righteous, humble and godly leadership throughout the whole earth. Maranatha! Source – Joel’s Trumpet.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4255

Sep 20

Gog of Magog and the Great Earthquake

September 18, 2012 in Updates

Joel Richardson

In several previous articles, I’ve set forth various reasons why we should recognize “Gog” of Ezekiel 38,39 to be one and the same with the Antichrist/Beast of other antichristic prophecies. I have also addressed and dispelled some of the most common arguments against this view. In this article, I will detail yet another significant reason why Gog must be the Antichrist and why the Battle of Gog of Magog can only conclude at the return of Jesus.

Among the many events that concludes the Battle of Gog and Magog, one major event is “a great earthquake” in the land of Israel. The earthquake will be so great that all creatures and mankind “who are on the face of the earth” will tremble in fear:

It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel… there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse and every wall will fall to the ground. —Ezekiel 38:18-20

Many seem to miss the fact that this earthquake will result in the mountains of Israel being “thrown down”. Beyond this, “every wall will fall to the ground”. We’ll come back to this issue of the mountains and walls collapsing, but first, let’s briefly consider a few other significant Biblical passages that also speak of:

1.) A massive eschatological invasion of Israel
2.) A divine deliverance
3.) A massive earthquake that brings the invasion to an end

In Isaiah 29, the LORD warns Jerusalem, called here “Ariel”, that He will bring armies against her:

Yet I will besiege Ariel; she will mourn and lament, she will be to me like an altar hearth. I will encamp against you all around; I will encircle you with towers and set up my siege works against you. —Isaiah 29:2-3

But though it is the LORD Himself who brings these armies against Ariel, He also promises to destroy them with both a personal visit, as well as with a mighty earthquake:

But your many enemies will become like fine dust, the ruthless hordes like blown chaff. Suddenly, in an instant, the LORD Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire. Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel, that attack her and her fortress and besiege her, will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night…. So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion. —Isaiah 29:5-8

In another famous end time passage, we see the same pattern again repeated. The LORD promises to gather the surrounding gentile nations against Jerusalem. And once again, he responds with a personal visit and a great earthquake.

I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it… Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. —Zechariah 14:2-5

So we see that the themes of invading hordes, a corresponding great earthquake and a divine deliverance of the people of Israel are commonly repeated themes among these passages that speak of the return of Jesus. It might be quite logical then, to assume that because Ezekiel’s oracle perfectly mirrors all of these elements, it is also speaking of the return of Jesus. Many argue however, that Ezekiel’s invasion, the mighty earthquake, and the accompanying deliverance, precede these other passages by several years.

But here is where the popular view runs into yet another insurmountable problem. For as we have already seen, the great earthquake of Ezekiel’s oracle results in all of the mountains in Israel being thrown down. But if this is the case, then how can it be that in the middle of the tribulation, Jesus warns the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea to flee to the mountains:

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. —Matthew 24:15-16

How can Jesus tell people to flee to mountains which, according to the popular view, no longer even exist? If Ezekiel’s prophecy is to have happened a few, or even several years prior, resulting in the mountains of Israel all falling down, how can Jesus still be speaking of near-by mountains, and telling his people to flee to them? For students of the Scriptures who take the words of the Bible literally, there are really only two options; either Ezekiel’s earthquake comes sometime after the middle of the tribulation, or Jesus didn’t know what He was talking about. I’m going with Ezekiel’s earthquake taking place at the conclusion of the tribulation.

But as much as this causes a insurmountable mountain of a problem for the popular view which tries to cast Gog and Antichrist as two different characters, there is yet another powerful passage in the Book of Revelation which speaks of the final conclusion of the Great Tribulation. Once again, there is the gathering of the gentiles, there is a great earthquake which results in the cities of the earth being destroyed, as well as the mountains being removed:

Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed… Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. —Revelation 16:16-20

In the following chart, consider the dramatic similarities between Ezekiel’s oracle and John’s description of the Battle of Armageddon:

 

Now, consider the following timelines, where the popular view is contrasted with what I refer to as “the consistent view”:

The Popular View

In the timeline above, the Battle of Gog of Magog concludes either just before or just after the beginning of the final seven years. The problem with this view should be clear. At the conclusion of the Battle of Gog of Magog, there is a massive earthquake whereby all of the mountains will be “thrown down” or “fall down”. If this is the case, how then could Jesus warn the inhabitants of Jerusalem, several years later, to flee to the mountains? This would be impossible. And how could another earthquake level the mountains a second time during the “great earthquake” that takes place at the return of Jesus? Obviously, the popular view has an insurmountable contradiction with Scripture on this point.

The Consistent View

 

Now consider the alternative consistent view. Here, we see that because Gog of Magog and the Battle of Armageddon are seen as concluding at the same time, at the return of Jesus, there is no contradiction concerning the mountains being leveled. Neither is there any contradiction with the commandment of Jesus to flee to the mountains at the mid-point of the tribulation.

The conclusion is simple. Ezekiel was simply speaking of the same invasion, great earthquake and divine intervention that all of the other prophets were speaking of. Divorcing Ezekiel’s prophesied invasion from Isaiah’s, Zechariah’s and John the Apostle’s prophesied invasion simply cannot be reconciled with Scripture.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4162

Sep 13

The Battle of Gog of Magog & the Return of Jesus

 

Joel Richardson

The Book of Revelation, chapter 19, contains what is perhaps the most famous Biblical passage concerning the return of Jesus. There, Jesus the Messiah is seen to burst forth from heaven, riding on a white horse with the armies of heaven following Him. But as powerful and as well known as this prophetic portrayal of the return of Jesus is, few are aware of the fact that the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39, most often known as the Battle of Gog of Magog, also concludes with the return of Jesus. In fact, it can be said that Ezekiel 38 and 39 is in fact, the Armageddon of the Old Testament.

Although many popular interpreters have wrongly understood this passage to conclude several years before the return of Jesus, any honest assessment of the text simply does not allow for this. But among the many reasons to reject a pre-Day of the LORD conclusion of this prophecy, one of the simplest, is because it concludes with the LORD actually physically present in the land of Israel.

That’s right, Ezekiel reveals that at the conclusion of Gog’s invasion, Jesus the Messiah is physically present on the ground, in the land. Consider the following passage:

“For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, on that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence” —Ezekiel 38:19–20

According to this text, the Lord Himself says that throughout the earth, both people and animals will “quake at [His] presence.” The word used for presence here is the Hebrew word paneh. Paneh is a reference to the actual face of someone or something. When God says that the people of the earth will quake at His paneh, He is saying that they will be terrified because of His actual physical presence, on the ground, in the land of Israel (see also: Zechariah 14:2-5, Isaiah 29:2-8, Revelation 16:16-20).

Concerning the word paneh, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “The presence (face) of Jehovah is Jehovah in his own personal presence.” The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words says, “In the OT, being in God’s or another’s presence is indicated by a preposition (l) prefixed to the Hebrew word panim (‘face’). The thought is to be ‘before the face of the person.” Paneh is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the actual presence of God. Jacob, for instance, after wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, referred to seeing God face-to-face:

“So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face [paneh] to face [paneh], and yet my life has been delivered’” —Genesis 32:30

It is also interesting to note that in place of the Hebrew paneh, the Septuagint used the Greek word prosopon. Prosopon is one of two words commonly used in the New Testament to refer to actual presence. The other word is parousia, which is commonly associated with the Second Coming. To convey actual presence, between parousia and prosopon, prosopon is the more powerful term. While parousia most often implies coming, prosopon implies actual face-to-face presence. As Jesus is coming on the clouds, this is His parousia, but once He has actually arrived, then the word prosopon is used.

An excellent example of the New Testament usage of prosopon is a scene where the righteous are actually looking upon the face of God in the eternal city:

“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face [prosopon], and his name will be on their foreheads” —Revelation 22:4

Ezekiel’s description of people quaking in fear of God’s face reveals that at the conclusion of the Battle of Gog and Magog, Jesus the Messiah, God incarnate, is physically present on the earth, in the land of Israel.

The Holy One in Israel

Further evidence for the physical presence of Jesus at the conclusion of this battle is seen in the following verse:

“And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.” — Ezekiel 39:7

This is the only time that the phrase “the LORD, the Holy One in Israel” is used in the whole Bible. It is the Hebrew YHVH qadowsh baYisra’el. A similar phrase, “the Holy One of Israel” (qadowsh Yisra’el), is used thirty-one times in Scripture (e.g., Isaiah 12:6; 43:3; 55:5; 60:9, etc.). But here in Ezekiel, the Lord is not merely the Holy One of Israel; He is actually present in the land and on the ground! While the popular position holds that this passage concludes several years before the return of Jesus, this verse makes this an absolute impossibility.

Other biblical commentators have also taken special note of God’s presence in Ezekiel’s oracle as evidence that it is a parallel to the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 19. Apologist Dave Hunt for instance has stated:

“There is no doubt, from both Zechariah 12 and Revelation 1 and 19, that this personal coming of Yahweh to rescue His people and to destroy Antichrist and his armies takes place at Armageddon. It is significant, then, that similar language concerning the personal presence of God is found in Ezekiel 38 and 39, thus identifying the event described there as Armageddon also.”

Hunt’s observations are correct. But while most conservative, premillennialist, futurist interpreters who take Scripture at face value and use a literalist heremeutic will interpret the entirety of this passage in a literal fashion, when it comes to these two texts which show that God is actually present and in the land, many suddenly switch to an allegorical and non-literalist interpretation, without any justification for doing so.

If one uses a consistent literal method to interpret Ezekiel 38 and 39, then one must acknowledge that it concludes with the return of Jesus the Messiah. And as I have said before, if this is the case, within the world of Biblical prophecy, this absolutely changes everything. It is high time for the Church to begin wrestling with the implications.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4136

Sep 01

Ezekiel, Magog And The Scythians

By Joel Richardson – “The prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39, often referred to as the Battle of Gog and Magog is hands-down, one of the most influential end-time prophecies in all of Scripture. But it is also arguably one of the most misinterpreted prophecies. In previous articles, I’ve explained that while many prophecy teachers claim that Ezekiel is speaking of a Russia-led invasion of Israel, the historical record and modern scholarship show that it is in fact a Turkish-led invasion. As previously discussed, the popular but faulty line of reasoning many follow to conclude a Russian-led invasion is as follows:

  1. Magog and the Scythians are one and the same.
  2. The Scythians lived in Russia.
  3. Gog, the leader of Ezekiel’s invasion, comes from      Magog.
  4. Thus Ezekiel’s prophesied invasion is led by a      leader from Russia.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that history tells us that the Scythians were a nomadic migratory people who rarely stayed in one place for very long. The question is not if the Scythians ever lived in the region that has become modern-day Russia, but rather, where did the Magog/Scythian people live specifically in Ezekiel’s day? We are not concerned with where the Scythians lived several hundred or even thousands of years after Ezekiel. Our only concern is to discover where they lived during Ezekiel’s day. Lets review a small sampling of historical sources to see where they placed the Magog/Scythian people during Ezekiel’s day.

Herodotus (484–425 B.C.)

Herodotus, the Greek historian, lived roughly 150 years after Ezekiel. In his day, he placed the homeland of the Scythians in the region extending from eastern Europe to Moldova and the Ukraine. According to Dr. Michael Kulikowski, department head of History at Pennsylvania State University, ‘Herodotus’ Scythians were to be found in a bit of modern Bulgaria and Romania, and across the grasslands of Moldova and Ukraine’ but not Russia. Another essential point is that while Herodotus also discusses Meshech and Tubal, two of the regions that Magog is ruler over, and placed them squarely in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey).

Pliny The Elder (d. A.D. 79)

Pliny the Elder, a first-century Roman military commander, author, naturalist and philosopher, referred to the Turkish city of Hieropolis as the heartland of Magog. Hierapolis was an ancient Greco-Roman city in Phyrgia near Laodicea. Hieropolis was also known as Scythopolis, (City of Scythes) which the peoples of that day referred to as Magog. One would think that this would be crucial information to consider and mention, yet in the numerous popular books and treatments of Gog and Magog I’ve reviewed in my studies, I have never once seen this important historical reference cited.

Hippolytus (d. 235)

Roughly a hundred years after Pliny, Hippolytus, one of the most important Christian theologians of the early third century, spoke of Magog. In his work known as ‘The Chronicon,’ Hippolytus also connected Magog to Asia Minor – modern-day Turkey. One would also think this to be a crucial reference to cite. Hippolytus is one of the most prolific early Christian writers concerning the last days. Yet again, in the many popular works arguing for a Russian Magog correlation, I have never once seen it mentioned.

Maimonides (d.1205)

Maimonides, also known as Rambam, the revered Jewish sage, in ‘Hichot Terumot,’ also identified Magog as being in the modern nation of Turkey.

John Wesley (1755)

In fact, this connection between modern-day Turkey and Magog was well-known among Christian theologians for centuries. In his ‘Explanatory Notes’ on Ezekiel 38 and 39, John Wesley says the following:

Magog is, at least, part of Scythia, and comprehends Syria, in which was Hierapolis taken by the Scythians, and called of them Scythopolis. It is that country, which now is in subjection to the Turks, and may be extended thro’ Asia minor, the countries of Sarmatia, and many others, under more than one in succession of time. And in the last time under some one active and daring prince, all their power will be stirred up against Christians.

Modern scholarship

It is because of this fact, ignored by virtually all modern-day popular prophecy teachers, that the homeland of the Scythians during Ezekiel’s day was in western Asia Minor, that so many modern scholar place Magog in Asia Minor or specifically in the ancient Kingdom of Lydia (Western Turkey). In a previous article, I re-created maps from several of the best modern-day Bible atlases, showing how they each placed Magog in the region of modern-day Turkey.

  1. 8th century B.C.: Scythians migrate south out of      the Caucasus.
  2. 7th century B.C.: Scythians invade Asia Minor.
  3. 7th century B.C. (in Ezekiel’s day), Scythians      founded Scythopolis near Laodicea.
  4. Late 6th century B.C.: Scythians driven into      Europe by the Persians.
  5. 4th-3rd centuries B.C.: Scythians spread north to      European and Russian Steppes.

Through consulting a wide range of ancient sources, including Assyrian records, scholars today acknowledge that before Ezekiel’s day, the Scythians had pushed down out of the Caucasus and invaded Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey. There they dominated and settled the city of Hierapolis, also known as Scythopolis, in the western Anatolian Kingdom of Lydia, which was for many years known as Magog. Sometime after Ezekiel’s day, a Persian invasion pushed the Scythians out of Asia Minor, west and north into Europe around the Black Sea. Eventually they would reach Russia. But this was hundreds of years after Ezekiel’s day.

In conclusion, Ezekiel spoke of a Turkish-led invasion of Israel. Genuine students of the Scriptures who make it their goal to always seek truth, even when it is in conflict with their own traditions, will recognize the flaws with this view. It is imperative that students of the Bible take the time to study Ezekiel’s prophecy. In my newest book, ‘Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist,’ not only do we examine many essential, but often-ignored historical, geographical and exegetical elements of the passage, but even more importantly, its application and relevance for the Church and the world today.

As the days the prophets warned us of draw ever closer, it is imperative that every Christian believer pay careful attention to the roadmap and many prophetic warnings so clearly laid out before us. The Lord has given us this roadmap; it is our duty as his students of the Scriptures not only to make ourselves aware of it, but most importantly, to follow it.” Source – WND.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4090

Aug 11

Ethiopia And Sudan In Bible Prophecy

By Joel Richardson – “Open up nearly any English translation of the Bible and you will find numerous references to ‘Ethiopia.’ Many of these references place Ethiopia in a negative light. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, for example, we find a prophetic oracle against Ethiopia, Egypt, Arabia, Libya and Turkey (Lud):

“A sword will come upon Egypt, and anguish will be in Ethiopia; when the slain fall in Egypt, they take away her wealth, And her foundations are torn down. Ethiopia, Put, Lud, all Arabia, Libya and the people of the land that is in league will fall with them by the sword.” (Ezekiel 30: 4-5)

Later in the infamous Gog of Magog oracle of Ezekiel 38 and 39, Ethiopia is included among the alliance of nations that are prophesied to invade the nation of Israel:

“Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; Persia, Ethiopia and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet.’” (Ezekiel 38: 3-5)

All of the nations of Ezekiel’s Gog oracle are destroyed. Is Ethiopia thus destined to be decimated by God?

Far from it. The truth is that the modern-day nation of Ethiopia is largely unrelated to the Ethiopia mentioned by Ezekiel. The translation of ‘Cush’ as ‘Ethiopia’ is actually quite misleading. Yet as a result of this widely used, but faulty translation, the poor Ethiopian people today, one of the most ancient, noble and largely Christian cultures in the earth, have gotten a seriously bad rap.

How did this confusion come about? The Hebrew word translated as Ethiopia is ‘Cush.’ Cush was the son of Ham and grandson of Noah. Many of Cush’s descendants settled in the region of southern Egypt, from Aswan to the place where the Nile River meets the Blue and White Nile rivers. The confusion comes from the historical name swap between Ethiopia and Abyssinia. The region the Bible refers to as Cush became known as Nubia, which the Greeks called Aithiopia. But today this region is southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. On the other hand, the ancient region of Abyssinia was much more southeast. This is where modern Ethiopia is now located. In others words, ancient Abyssinia is modern Ethiopia and ancient Aithiopia is modern-day North Sudan.

Because of this confusion, many students of prophecy are awaiting the Christian majority nation of Ethiopia to join with the Islamic alliance described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 [ICA: See related article here]. But a correct understanding of the name Cush points us to North Sudan, not Ethiopia.

Modern Day North Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and surrounding nations. The grey oval around the three Nile rivers represents ancient Cush, which most Bibles translate as “Ethiopia.” The Green nations of Ethiopia and Eritrea were called Abyssinia in ancient times and do not correlate to the biblical Cush.

But the judgment prophecies of Ezekiel concerning Cush/Ethiopia do not merely point us to the Sudan in general, but specifically North Sudan. From the perspective of biblical prophecy, this is all very significant. The recent cessation of South Sudan is a significant development, bringing greater clarity to Ezekiel’s prophecies. The biblical region of Cush was centered at Meroe where the Nile river meets the White Nile and the Blue Nile, roughly 75 miles northeast of the city of Khartoum, the capital city of North Sudan. Today, an ideological and military Islamist alliance is already forming against Israel, which includes the Islamic nation of North Sudan and Libya. These two nations represent the southern branch of Ezekiel’s Gog alliance.

But while North Sudan is well-known as an Islamist stronghold, South Sudan has a significant Christian population. And beyond having a large Christian population, like Ethiopia, South Sudan also has a large number of believers whose faith has many distinctly Messianic-Jewish characteristics. Many of these Christian groups trace their roots back to the early Messianic Jewish communities. And many of these Messianic believers are also supporters of Israel who would have no part in an invasion of the Jewish state.

While this may seem a bit academic, there are actually a few essential lessons here. First, it is imperative to accurately understand what nations and regions the ancient names in Scripture are pointing us to. Beyond this, an accurate understanding of what the prophets are actually saying helps the church as we seek to join with the Lord’s purposes. Understanding these prophecies will help Christians determine where to allocate their time, resources, energy and money. Where we direct our intercessory prayers and which missionaries and ministries we choose to support should all be influenced by what we believe the Lord is doing today in the earth. It is imperative that the church aligns its purposes with what the Lord is doing in the earth now.

Today the new nation of South Sudan is deeply in need of prayer, rebuilding and overcoming the effects of war. Beyond this, the ravaging effects of decades of United Nations miseducation has devastated families and actually ruined the faith of tens of thousands. Meanwhile, both South Sudan and Ethiopia are at the front lines of the radical Islamic agenda to exterminate the ancient African Christian communities. While some students of prophecy today, due to the outdated and misleading translations found in most Bibles, are simply sitting back waiting for Ethiopia and South Sudan to join a forthcoming anti-Zionist, Islamist invasion of Israel, those who know the truth will understand that now is the moment for the global church to rise up and stand with these beautiful shining gems that are the Christian communities of South Sudan and Ethiopia.” Source – WND.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3980

Aug 08

The Crown of Righteousness

 

In many churches, those members who study Bible prophecy are relegated to the lunatic fringe or dismissed out-of-hand for wasting their time trying to divine the future.

The Bible says that there are other rewards, or crowns, set aside for those that dedicate themselves to Christ in a number of different theological disciplines.

Not so. Christians that study prophecy are not trying to “divine the future” – they are earning the “Crown of Righteousness” promised to all those that love His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)

The Judgment Seat of Christ is the place where all of the deeds that individuals have done after they have become Christians are revealed and examined to determine whether they be good works or whether they be bad.

Let me emphasize that the word “bad” refers not to sin, but to deeds that are worthless according to His purpose.  Whether or not they were sin is irrelevant – all sin is forgiven at the Cross — but every deed has consequences.

The Bema Seat evaluation, therefore, is based upon whether the works that have been done are worthwhile or whether they are worthless.

The Greek word translated as the ‘judgment seat’ of Christ is the Greek word ‘bema’.  During the Greek Olympics of Paul’s day, the judge would sit on the ‘Bema Seat’ situated along the finish line.  His judgment was to determine who won the gold, who won the silver, who won the bronze, who came in fourth, fifth, etc.

Note that the only ones judged at the Bema Seat are those who cross the finish line.

The Bema Seat is reserved for believers — those who successfully completed the ‘race’ and specifically to determine their running order and to award their prizes.  Unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne.

Scripture teaches that after these works are judged, rewards will be given if the works are worthy. There will be no rewards if the works were unworthy — but that is not the same thing as being condemned.  

“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire.” (1st Corinthians 3:15)

Salvation is based on whether or not you trust that Jesus Christ made full payment for your sins, as He promised He would.  While we will stand before the Judge as judicially ‘righteous’ — that righteousness is Christ’s alone.

But it is freely offered to whosoever will accept it by faith.

Once we stand before the Bema Seat, our rewards are determined — not our punishment.  Our punishment, although richly deserved, has already been borne by our Savior.  Now, we are judged according to our works on behalf of the kingdom.

There are those who argue, “You know, I don’t think we ought to talk about our rewards.  We ought to serve the Lord just because we love Him.”

I agree.  We ought to serve Him because we love Him, but we have every right and reason in the world to strive to warn our rewards.

Our rewards are based on our works – but not our salvation.

“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” (2 Corinthians 3:14)

First, let’s look at the different crowns available to the believer.  There is the ‘incorruptible crown’ — what one might term a crown of self-denial. 1st Corinthians 9:24-27 teaches:

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

Not everybody will receive the crown of self-denial.  Each of us is gifted with certain strengths according to some predetermined purpose of God.  In other words, some things are harder for some than they are for others — according to God’s purposes — not our own.

We are judged according to how hard we try.

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (1st Corinthians 12:4-7)

There is also the Crown of Rejoicing — the ‘Soul Winner’s Crown’.

 “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord.” Note that Paul is addressing people as a ‘crown’. He is saying to those whom Paul has led to Christ, “You are my joy now and you will be my crown by and by.” (Philippians 4:1)

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”

Translated literally, it reads, “are not even you, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ when we stand before Him?”

“One of these days,” the Apostle says, “we are all going to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, you Philippians, and you Thessalonians, are all going to be elements of my crown.”

It is difficult for us to think of people in terms of a crown, but Paul emphasizes that the Philippians and the Thessalonians, among others, are the crown which he expects as an award to him at the Judgment Seat of Christ.”

James 1:12 identifies the ‘Crown of Life’: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.”

Notice the word “temptation.”  That is a broad word.  Sometimes it means a solicitation to evil–that is, you are tempted to commit murder, or you are tempted to commit adultery.  It is a solicitation to evil.  Sometimes it is a reference to a test that God permits you to go through as a kind of ‘refinement by fire’.

The Lord Himself also speaks of the Crown of Life reward, promising: “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

‘Faithful unto death’ is not a condition of salvation — salvation comes by grace through faith in the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice for sin at the Cross.  Keep in mind that the only ones that will stand before the Bema Seat are ALREADY saved by grace.

The Crown of Endurance won’t be given to every believer — the Scriptures say of even those who receive NO crowns, as previously noted, “he shall suffer loss: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire.”

There is the Crown of Glory — the crown of the ‘undershepherd’ or the ‘pastor’s crown’.

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1st Peter 5:1-4)

Not every pastor or undershepherd will receive this crown, either. There are those who will fail the test of ‘willing service’ or those who set themselves up as ‘lords over God’s heritage’ instead of being examples to their flocks, or those who fail to feed their charges with God’s Word.

Finally, there is the Crown of Righteousness.

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2nd Timothy 1:8)

Those who study prophecy, those who dedicate themselves as watchmen on the wall, ready to give the warning of His soon appearing, will receive the Crown of Righteousness from the Righteous Judge at the Bema Seat.

Literally, the Crown of Righteousness means ‘a crown for doing right.’ Paul is saying, “I have loved the appearing of the Lord.  Because I have loved the appearing of the Lord, I have fought a good fight; I have finished the course; I have kept the faith.”

Note what Paul did NOT say.  He did NOT say, “If you keep the faith, you will receive the Crown of Righteousness.”  Instead, he says, “If you love His appearing, you will.”

Personally, I am not certain that I will receive the crown of self-denial.  I am not too sure that I keep my body under control enough to deserve this reward.

I am not too sure I will win the soul winner’s crown, although it is one I really, really hope to earn.

I am not sure that I will get the Crown of Glory — as an undershepherd, I have many shortcomings.

I pray for the Crown of Life for enduring life’s trials — but I am not certain that I have endured them with the long-suffering love of Christ as I should.

So I am not sure about that one, either.

But I am hopeful of the Crown of Righteousness — it is the easiest one to get.  My righteousness is not my own, but that of Christ’s, and my love of His soon appearing is an all-consuming passion.

The point to it all is this: We will all one day stand before the Bema Seat — but the Bema Seat is where we are judged for our rewards.

Whether or not I receive all — or even any — of the rewards that are available to me as a believer, I have the certain assurance that, even if I suffer loss, I will still enter heaven, even if it is ‘as if by fire’.

And so will all those who have trusted Jesus for their salvation.

“Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s.”

“And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” (2 Corinthians 3:22,23)

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3965

Aug 07

The mystery of the skeletons and the fall of Jerusalem

An archaeological scandal stirs Jerusalem this week: Who were the thousands of people whose skeletons were filmed by journalist Benny Liss at the foot of the eastern wall on Temple Mount? Were they victims of a Second Temple-era massacre or simply corpses buried in a Byzantine gravesite?

Nadav Shragai

The Gate of Mercy, near the cave in which the skeletal remains were found.

Like something out of a horror movie: a still image from Benny Liss’ chilling film.

The winter of 1995-6 was a hard one for Jerusalem, particularly for archaeologists. Rabbi David Schmidl and his organization, Atra Kadisha, were terrorizing the Antiquities Authority. In Jaffa, a ritual Pulsa di Nura curse was cast on three Antiquities Authority employees who participated in a salvage excavation — part of the early stages of the construction of the Andromeda Hill housing project — in which many graves had been discovered. In Jerusalem’s Mamilla region archaeologists were still licking their wounds from their battles with the ultra-Orthodox over the burial caves that had been found there.

But Amir Drori, the director-general of the Antiquities Authority at the time, was not about to compromise with Schmidl and his team.

Maybe that is why, when the Ophel Archaeological Park was about to be built, and the fate of the burial caves on the eastern slopes of the Temple Mount — most of which are from the Byzantine era — had to be decided, the high-ranking personnel of the Antiquities Authority chose one of the coldest, rainiest nights of February to visit the site, and did so only after midnight.

In the area that stretches between the eastern wall of the Temple Mount and the channel of Nahal Kidron there is a Muslim cemetery right up against the wall of the Temple Mount. But it was the haredim, not the Muslims, whom the archaeologists feared. The Antiquities Authority officials who visited the slope at the foot of the wall on the Temple Mount that night were Drori (who has since passed away), Gideon Avni (the district archaeologist of Jerusalem) and Boaz Zissu (then the director of the unit in charge of preventing the theft of antiquities).

Benny Liss, the archaeological affairs reporter at Channel One, who had close ties with the Antiquities Authority, joined the group. They entered some of the caves that night, along with Liss and a small team. It appears that an agreement had been reached that the reporter would be allowed to tag along solely for documentation purposes, and not for release to the media.

Last weekend, three days before the fast of Tisha B’Av, Liss, now retired, dropped an archaeological bombshell. For the first time, at a conference given by Megalim, the City of David Institute for Jerusalem Studies, he showed the footage that he had filmed in those caves that night. Along with the shocking images of skeletons he filmed, came Liss’ own theory, that the skeletons belonged to the 6,000 people who had been killed on the Temple Mount during the destruction of Jerusalem, as described by first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. The audience was in shock.

On Sunday, the main points of Liss’ theory were printed on the news pages of Israel Hayom. Since then, the foreign and local media have had Liss’ phone ringing off the hook. I went back to him as well, and together we watched the film again.

Laid out in an orderly fashion

First, here is a clear, succinct description of the footage. Night. Darkness. Liss holds a flashlight. The cameraman holds a lamp. The lighting is not optimal, but they make do. Liss goes down the stairs into the cave, the photographer following him. The floor of the cave is covered with skeletons, bones and fragments of bones. There is also a bit of carbonized material there. Some of the skeletons are not intact. One is missing a leg. Two of them look like they were laid there in a more orderly manner instead of merely thrown inside.

The images are reminiscent of a large mass grave. Thousands upon thousands of bones, if not more. Liss recalls: “It was very disturbing.”

“I wanted to see how deep the bones went. I lay on top of them and put my arm in as far as it would go, until my shoulder was also inside. I didn’t reach the bottom,” he says. The last images in the film are of Liss and his cameraman leaving the cave, breathing heavily and reciting the blessing: “Blessed is He who raises the dead.” Cut.

Liss offers a theory, “not a scientific statement,” he says. Unlike the adjacent burial caves, there are no Christian symbols, such as crosses, or accessories or sandals in this cave. The cave, which is near the Golden Gate, was the ideal place for the Romans, who stayed on the Temple Mount for a month after destroying the temple, to bury the thousands of corpses. The corpses could not be removed west of the area of the Western Wall because that was the way to the upper city, which the Romans had not yet occupied. They could not go north because that was the way they had come to conquer the city. Nor could they go south to the built-up area of the Hulda Gate, which was the entrance to the Temple — that was not proper. For the Romans, the caves to the east, near the Golden Gate, which were much lower down at the time, were a natural solution.

Liss relies on Josephus’ shocking description of the events and also on the research done by historian Nathan Shor, who documented the literature of travelers to the Land of Israel. Shor’s research cites evidence that Jews were among those buried on the slope that Liss and his associates visited that night. Shor quotes the account of an unnamed Jew, a student of Nahmanides, who wrote about the discovery of Jewish graves on the slope facing the Mount of Olives, at the foot of the city wall. He also quotes a similar account by an Italian monk, Niccolo da Poggibonsi, but relies mostly on the description of the region given by Rabbi Yitzhak ben Meir Latif, who was born in Italy in the second half of the 15th century. Latif reports that the Muslims took the Jewish cemetery beside the Golden Gate from the Jewish community and pushed the Jews to the lower slope that was closest to the Mount of Olives.

Retracing past excavations

Dr. Dotan Goren of Bar-Ilan University, who documented the Jewish efforts to buy land in the holy sites in Jerusalem and its environs during the Ottoman era, gathered quite a few accounts of ancient Jewish burial sites there. Liss believes that the cemetery that was taken from the Jews was the continuation of the Jewish settlement that existed there and of the disorderly burial that the Romans gave the Jews who had been killed during the destruction.

The big problem for Liss, and also for the archaeologists with whom we spoke this week, is that the burial cave was never sampled. The bones and any other findings that may be there were never dated. The cave was sealed by officials of the Antiquities Authority as quickly as it had been opened because the people in charge of the Ophel promenade project had promised that the caves would not be disturbed during the construction of the promenade and the improvement of the road nearby.

The attempt to retrace earlier archaeological excavations did not help to solve the mystery either. In 1869, Charles Warren, the well-known archaeologist, excavated, by means of shafts and tunnels, the lower portion of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. Robert Hamilton, the British archaeologist, dug there in 1935 and discovered graves from the Byzantine era. In 1995, Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron excavated as part of the development of the Ophel road. Their dig uncovered findings that hint at dwellings, evidently Jewish ones, that existed in the area in Second Temple times. It also documented about 25 Byzantine burial caves along the length of the eastern slope.

Even the many renowned Israeli archaeologists whom we contacted kept their statements vague. They all spoke of the need to take samples from the cave before drawing any conclusions, and said that the footage was not enough. Professor Dan Bahat raised the possibility that the skeletons could be the remains of Christians massacred by the Persians in 614 C.E. Dr. Gabriel Barkai mentioned Muslim group burials in the area. Hillel Geva, the director of the Israel Exploration Society and the archaeologist of the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, mentioned the possibility that the remains might belong to victims of an earthquake or an epidemic. He also mentioned the massacre of the Christians by the Persians. Everybody said that all options were open, including the option that Liss mentioned.

But Liss found himself in an impossible situation this week. Everyone wanted to know what had brought him to the cave, and he told a different story to each person who asked him. He wanted to protect his sources.

That is, until I reached Boaz Zissu, then an employee of the Antiquities Authority and now Professor Boaz Zissu of the Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University. He also co-wrote, together with Professor Amos Kloner, a book titled “The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period.” Zissu was able to shed some light on the mystery for me.

“I was there that night,” he said. “Even though I didn’t go inside the cave that Liss and his crew documented, I went into one that was nearby. With us in there were people from the Antiquities Authority, including the late director-general, Amir Drori, the district archaeologist, Gideon Avni, and others. After studying still photographs from Liss’ film and comparing them to other photographs from that night, Zissu said that Liss’ film showed that the cave was a Byzantine burial site.

“What shows this clearly is the double trough where the skeletons and bones are placed,” Zissu said. “Also, the entrance shafts to the caves that I remember from that area were covered by stone slabs, which is characteristic of Byzantine burials.”

Which cave are we talking about?

Zissu also relies on Gideon Avni’s doctoral thesis, which was published in 1997, about a year after that night. In his thesis, Avni writes that at the junction of the Ophel highway (on the basis of conversations with Reich and Shukron), there was “a series of hewn burial caves, extremely crowded together. These included caves built of a single hewn room with curved walls and flat areas, and more complex caves that had several rooms and flat areas. Large accumulations of bones were found in each of the flat areas. Many glass vessels from the Byzantine era were also found in some of the caves.”

But the last word in this mystery-filled debate has not yet been uttered. Liss insists that the cave that he documented was higher up, near the wall. Zissu is talking about a few meters above the road, much lower down. Liss insists that in the cave he filmed there were no Christian symbols. Also, it was not a hewn cave but rather a natural one, unlike the nearby caves that he documented, which were lower down.

He also mentions the carbon remnants, which he says may hint that the skeletons do in fact belong to the victims of the massacre on the Temple Mount, and bones with cuts or other kinds of damage that could be evidence of wounds sustained in battle.

Officials of the Antiquities Authority say that they know nothing of this issue and would be happy to receive information from Liss about it.

One of Avni’s successors at the Antiquities Authority says that he heard about a large burial cave in the region that has never been investigated.

One way or another, the chances that the cave that Liss documented, with its thousands of skeletons, will be opened anytime soon, are slim. The cave is below the Muslim cemetery, which spreads out over a large area below the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. Only recently, the Temple Mount Rescue Committee won its battle to prevent the cemetery’s expansion southward, into uninhabited areas.

The Muslims will firmly oppose anyone who dares to approach their territory to try to solve the mystery, so Schmidl and his colleagues in Atra Kadisha can relax.

The story also shows us how little we know about Jerusalem in ancient times. It also shows the major archaeological role that the Temple Mount itself, which has never been excavated due to Muslim opposition, could play in drawing up a more precise map of Jerusalem’s past.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3956

Aug 04

The Daniel 11 Prophecy And The Antichrist

Interesting article for study from Joel Richardson. Keep looking up!

The Daniel 11 Prophecy And The Antichrist

08/02/2012

By Joel Richardson – “Among the many prominent end-time passages of the Bible, one of the clearest passages that proves the Antichrist and his coming armies will arise from the Middle East, is Daniel 11. In this chapter, a prophecy is given that begins with the historical Medo-Persian empire and concludes with the death of the Antichrist.

A large portion of Daniel’s prophecy (vv. 20-34) is focused upon the historical conflict between the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of the Seleucid Kingdom, who is called ‘the King of the North’ and King Ptolemy VI, the king of the Ptolemaic Kingdom who is called ‘the King of the South.’

The Seleucid Kingdom in the north included the region of modern-day Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and even Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Ptolemaic Kingdom in the south ruled Egypt and portions of modern-day Libya and Sudan.

All scholars agree that Antiochus IV Epiphanes, in the north, is perhaps the most significant type of the Antichrist in the whole Bible.

In the later portion of Daniel’s prophecy, the historical events and wars that took place between Antiochus IV in the north and Ptolemy VI in the south bleed into a powerful end-time prophecy concerning the Antichrist (the King of the North) and Egypt (the King of the South). In fact, this chapter is among one of the clearest ‘slam dunks’ for the view that the Antichrist will come forward out of the Middle East and not a revived Roman or European kingdom.

Recognizing the highly problematic nature of this passage for the European-centered view, however, some teachers, in more modern times, have developed a view which holds that the King of the North is not a reference to the Antichrist, but instead is his enemy. Careful consideration of the text, however, reveals that this view simply doesn’t make any sense, as it turns the flow of the entire prophecy completely on its head, casting Antiochus IV as both a type of the Antichrist in verses 20-34, and then suddenly as a type of the Antichrist’s greatest enemy in verses 40-45. This view also takes the flow of the entire chapter, wherein the King of the North and the King of the South are historical enemies, and suddenly casts them as allies. This view fundamentally violates the clear flow of the entire prophecy in multiple ways.

But despite the popularity of this modern interpretation, a survey of views on this passage, from the very earliest days of the church until modern times, shows that the vast majority of responsible interpreters throughout church history have always understood the last-days King of the North to be a reference to the Antichrist. Consider the following brief summary of Christian leaders and theologians, from the earliest centuries of Christianity to modern times, who have affirmed the notion that Daniel’s ‘King of the North’ is none other than the Middle Eastern Antichrist:

Hippolytus of Rome (170–235), one of the most important theologians of the second and third centuries. According to tradition, Hippolytus was a disciple of Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle who wrote extensively about the end times.

Victorinus (d. 333), an early Christian bishop and martyr. His commentary on the book of Revelation is the oldest complete commentary on Revelation in our possession.

Lactantius (240–320), a well-known early Christian apologist in the third and fourth centuries.

Jerome (347–420), the renowned Latin theologian and historian of the fourth and fifth centuries.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393–457), the highly influential author, theologian and bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria, in the fifth century.

S.P. Tregelles (1813–1875), an English biblical scholar, textual critic and theologian. Tregelles is most well-known for translating Wilhelm Gesenius’ famous Hebrew Chaldee lexicon into English.

C.F. Keil (1813–1890), the celebrated German Hebraist and commentator who co-authored a commentary on the Old Testament with Frederick Delitzsch.

Clarence Larkin (1850–1924), an American Baptist pastor, Bible teacher and author of the classic work on dispensational eschatology, ‘Dispensational Truth.’

Arthur W. Pink (1886–1952), an English evangelist and biblical scholar well-known for his book ‘The Antichrist.’

G.H. Lang (1874–1958), one of the foremost dispensational premillennialist biblical scholars of his day.

F.F. Bruce (1910–1990), another biblical scholar of the highest calibre who needs no introduction.

Edward J. Young, (1907–1968), former professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Gleason L. Archer Jr. (1916–2004), another well-known and deeply respected biblical scholar and theologian, known as one of the chief proponents of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

Steven R. Miller Ph.D., professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, author of the New American Commentary on the Book of Daniel.

John Goldingay, Ph.D., professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, author of the Word Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel.

Of course, this is only a partial list. Many other pastors, teachers, commentators, scholars and prophecy students alike could certainly be cited.

Some may be surprised to learn that so many highly respected Christian luminaries from across the centuries have supported this Middle Eastern view of the Antichrist. But while numerous Christian theologians and teachers have understood and recognized various elements of the Islamic Antichrist theory, never before in history has this view of prophecy ever been so thoroughly and systematically developed as it is today. In my new book, ‘Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist,’ I make every effort to present to the reader a careful and balanced articulation of this deeply relevant prophetic view in a scholarly yet very readable fashion. It is essential that all true Bereans and students of prophecy take the time to consider what so many other great Christian leaders and theologians of both ancient and modern times have recognized from Scripture.” Source – WND.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3818

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