Author's posts

“Pure for God” Seal Found in Temple Mount Excavation

A rare seal certifying the ritual purity of an item to be used in the Second Temple in Jerusalem was discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority as part of excavations under the Robinson’s Arch right next to the Temple Mount.

A rare seal certifying the ritual purity of an item to be used in the Second Temple in Jerusalem was discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority as part of excavations under the Robinson’s Arch right next to the Temple Mount.

The find of the Aramaic inscription, “Pure for G-d”, occurred during an extensive sifting of soil removed from layers which were once part of a paved Herodian street serving as a main Jerusalem thoroughfare. The soil dates to the first century CE (late Second Temple period), just prior to – or maybe even during – the Maccabean rebellion celebrated during the holiday of Hanukkah.

The item is stamped with an Aramaic inscription consisting of two lines – in the upper line “דכא” (pure) and below it “ליה” (to G-d) – and is probably the kind of seal referred to in the Mishnah as a “seal (Tractate Shekalim 5:1-5), according to excavation directors and archaeologists Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that such an object or anything similar to it was discovered in an archaeological excavation and it constitutes direct archaeological evidence of the activity on the Temple Mount and the workings of the Temple during the Second Temple period”, Shukron and Reich said.

Jerusalem District Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch drew a connection between the find and Hanukkah. “It is written in the Gemara (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Shabbat 2:21) that the only cruse of oil that was discovered in the Temple after the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, “lay with the seal of the High Priest” – that is, the seal indicated that the oil is pure and can be used in the Temple. Remember, this cruse of oil was the basis for the miracle of Hanukkah that managed to keep the menorah lit for eight days”, Baruch noted.

Other items discovered in the excavation included oil lamps, ceramic cooking pots and Hasmonean coins dating to kings Alexander Jannaeus and John Hyrcanus.

The findings were presented Sunday at a press conference attended by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar at Ir David (the City of David).

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2867

The Vatican Wants to Lay its Hands on Jerusalem

Peace negotiations in the Middle East must tackle the issue of the status of the holy sites of Jerusalem”, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, declared several days ago in Rome.

The Vatican’s former foreign minister asked to place some Israeli holy places under Vatican authority, alluding to the Cenacle on Mount Zion and the garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

The first site also houses what is referred to as King David’s tomb. 

“There will not be peace if the question of the holy sites is not adequately resolved”, Tauran said. “The part of Jerusalem within the walls – with the holy sites of the three religions – is humanity’s heritage. The sacred and unique character of the area must be safeguarded and it can only be done with a special, internationally-guaranteed statute”.

The Israeli government and the Vatican are deadlocked in discussions over the status of the religious sites. Vatican officials are now reiterating their demand for control over the religious sites in the ancient and holy city founded by King David as the capital of ancient Israel and now the capital of the reestablished Jewish state.

Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, declared that Israel might consider giving the Vatican “a greater role” in operating the sites. In the last weeks, the Roman Catholic Church’s authorities increased their political initiatives for Catholic control over some sites in Jerusalem.

The Vatican’s former arcibishop in Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, just promoted an appeal to the European Union and United States to “stop the Hebraization of Jerusalem”.

Two weeks ago Msgr. David-Maria Jaeger, who was recently appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the Vatican’s highest court, talked in Washington about a current U.S. Supreme Court case over whether an American boy born in Jerusalem should add Israel after the name of the historic city on his U.S. passport. Jaeger said that the question about Jerusalem is not “whether it is the capital of Israel, it is a question of whether it is a part of a national territory”.

A few days earlier, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, gave a speech to greet the bishops of Europe and North America during their annual pilgrimage in Israel, in which Twal denounced “the Israeli right wing invading more and more of Jerusalem and trying to transform it into an only Hebrew-Jewish city, excluding the other faiths”.

Claudette Habesch, the Caritas general-secretary in Jerusalem, a Vatican NGO that works in social activities, just released an interview to Zenit news agency, in which he “christianized” the Palestinian Intifada against “what we call the Checkpoint of Humiliation”.

In September, Patriarch of Jerusalem Twal was at the White House for a meeting with the American administration as well as to support the PA statehood bid at the UN. Twal repeated Benedict XVI’s speech of May 13, 2009 in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, one of the most political speeches ever pronounced by Ratzinger during his pontificate. It was given in front of the most eloquent symbol of the conflict: the security wall between Israel and the PA areas.

On that day the Pope spoke specifically of an “independent Palestinian state”.

The Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican’s powerful agency for worldwide pilgrimages, just organized a “marathon for peace” in Jerusalem to protest against the security fence near Bethlehem and to support “Palestinian political rights”. The march began on the Mount of Olives, “where the Last Supper took place”.

On December 1st, several Christian and Muslim dignitaries met in Beit Sahour for a conference on “How to live together in a future Palestinian state?”. Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, also attended the event organized by Al-Liqa, a Vatican ecumenical center based in Bethlehem.

Sabbah said that “recourse to the UN for a Palestinian state is a step toward peace”. Last summer, Latin Patriarch Twal took part in a meeting in London with Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, in which the Vatican envoy denounced the “more than 550.000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank” and “the demography of Jerusalem changing rapidly with the sacred space being threatened”.

In 2006, then Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, negotiated to give away the “holy basin” to the Vatican.

At the time, President Moshe Katzav, in the face of increasing public pressure, was forced to deny any plans to sign away the King David’s complex in Jerusalem.

It now appears that this option has once again surfaced. A major voice for the Vatican’s plan is Hanna Siniora, the elder statesman of Palestinian ‘peace’ activists, whose office is in the Vatican’s Tantur Institute for Ecumenical Studies in Jerusalem.

The site known as King David’s Tomb is the major target in the Vatican’s plan. It’s a complex of buildings of some 100,000 square feet where David and Solomon, and kings of Judea, are said to be buried, although this is disputed by historians.

The Upper Room, or Cenacle, as it is known, is on the second floor of the Crusader-era building. During his visit to Israel in 2000, Pope John Paul II held Mass there. The Roman Catholic Church has been fighting for more than 450 years to win back control over the sanctuary, which was seized from Franciscan monks during the Ottoman Empire’s rule around 1551.

The building was granted to the Diaspora Yeshiva over 40 years ago, and yeshiva heads fear that the Vatican wishes to turn it into a pilgrimage site for hundreds of thousands of Catholics and hold religious services there.

The Vatican wants Israel relinquishing sovereignty at the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. The Holy See uses the expression “Holy Basin”, which refers to the area of the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion and a variety of Christian holy sites which the administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton began reccomending be administered under a “special regime”.

The Obama plan also calls for resolving the two thorniest issues in the conflict by sharing Jerusalem and settling Arab refugees in Arab countries or a future Palestinian state, but not in Israel. According to Obama, the Old City of Jerusalem would be designated an “international zone”.

Israel’s President Shimon Peres, who has no authority, also agreed to hand over to the Vatican the sovereignty of the holy sites.

Any Vatican claim to a seat at the negotiating table is undermined by the complicity of the Vatican between 1948 and 1967. During the Jordanian occupation, Judaism’s holiest sites were desecrated and Jews were barred from visiting these shrines. The Jordanians built a hotel and a road through the Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives and they used the broken headstones to build the latrines in the construction of the Intercontintental Hotel, which likely rests on burial grounds.

As was its practice during the Holocaust under Pius XII, the Vatican then turned a deaf ear to these gross violations of Jewish human rights.

If Israel would cede Jewish sovereignty on the holy sites, it would mean returning to a time when Jerusalem was separated by a seven-kilometer wall, barbed wire, minefields and bunkers. A tourist visiting the holy city would have found signs warning “Danger – Frontier ahead!”, “Snipers nearby” and “shetah hahefker”, which in Hebrew means: No-Man’s Land. 

It would be Sarajevo, not the Holy City of Jerusalem. 

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2854

Jerusalem: A Cup of Trembling

A Cup of Trembling

By Jack Kelley

This is the word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord, Who stretches out the Heavens Who lays the foundations of the Earth, and Who forms the spirit of man within him declares, “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem.

On that day when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves” (Zech 12:1-3).

True, the ultimate fulfillment of this passage will come at the very end of the age, but a careful reading shows the progressive nature of the prophecy. First the surrounding nations will be sent reeling, with both Judah (West Bank) and Jerusalem besieged. Ultimately all the nations of the earth will be involved, and those who move against Jerusalem will wind up injuring themselves. And please don’t miss the way the Author identifies Himself: the One Who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth and forms man’s spirit within him. Not much doubt as to Who’s speaking, so we better pay attention.

When Will These Things Happen?

It’s safe to say that all the nations of the earth are troubled over Jerusalem today. They realize the ease with which the whole world could be drawn into a conflict in the Middle East. And almost all are already aligned against Jerusalem. Remember, the prophecy is initially focused on the surrounding peoples and indicates that Judah and Jerusalem will be besieged. The degree to which this part of the prophecy is already being fulfilled is frightening. Much of the land bordering Israel has become little more than an armed camp, filled with troops at the ready.

Hezbollah has been moving their rockets and missiles into position again with Lebanon’s full support, while steadily increasing their inventories of weaponry. Syria also has troops along Israel’s northern border as well as missiles set to fire upon Israeli cities. In the South Hamas and the PA are no less prepared. Recent reports confirm that large numbers of rockets and missiles from Libya have turned up in Gaza. Together, these next door neighbors claim that every city in Israel is now within missile range. In it’s headline report on Dec. 5, 2011 Debkafile assessed the likelihood of war in the Middle East, including an Israeli attack on Iran, to be very high between mid-December and mid-January. The US and Russia have both stationed powerful fleets in the Eastern Mediterranean against this possibility. There’s still time for diplomacy but for now no one believes a diplomatic solution will be forthcoming.

Psalm 83

As a result, this is beginning to look like a run-up to Psalm 83, a battle that’s never happened, but involves all of Israel’s next door neighbors in an effort to “destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more” (Psalm 83:4). The Psalmist pleads with God to pursue Israel’s neighbors with His tempest and terrify them with His storm so they will perish in disgrace (Psalm 83:15-17). I believe his prayer will be answered because this outcome is necessary to set the stage for Ezekiel 38-39.

Isaiah 17, An Oracle Against Damascus

We should also consider what could be a related prophecy from Isaiah 17. It was partially fulfilled in 732 BC when the Assyrians conquered Damascus (Aram). But never did Damascus cease to be inhabited as the prophecy requires (Isaiah 17:1). In fact to this day Damascus is described as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, over 5000 years and counting. The fortified city in vs. 3 was Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The Northern Kingdom consisted of the 10 tribes of Israel who rebelled in the religious upheaval that followed King Solomon’s death and was allied with Damascus against Assyria. Like Damascus it was defeated and its people carried off into captivity. Since Damascus was never destroyed and never ceased being inhabited, the world may have seen a partial fulfillment in history that points to a total fulfillment yet future to us.

Validating Prophecy

This is not unusual in Bible prophecy where the complete fulfillment of a passage may unfold over thousands of years. You receive an example of this in the mail every Christmas. It comes in the form of a Christmas card that says,

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6).

The passage goes on to explain that He will sit on David’s throne and reign in peace forever.

Only the first phrase of this passage has come to pass. The Child was born, the Son was given. The rest of the passage awaits His 2nd coming, but the fact that He was born confirms that the rest will take place as well. Partial fulfillment is the Lord’s way of validating End Times prophecies thousands of years in advance.

The Oracle against Damascus is a lot like the one against Babylon in Isaiah 13-14, where Babylon is also described as being so totally destroyed that it would never be inhabited again. For many years scholars believed this prophecy was fulfilled when the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon about 535 BC. It took the Gulf War to show us that Saddam Hussein had spent billions re-building Babylon, and to realize that Babylon was never destroyed in the manner the Bible describes. It has in fact been occupied almost continuously since its construction 2700 years ago. The City of Babylon will play a major role in world events at the end of the age before its final and total destruction, foretold in Rev. 18.

Back To Damascus

Admittedly the Oracle against Damascus in Isaiah 17 is somewhat more obscure. Scholars who place fulfillment of this passage in our time rely on four things:

  1. The phrase in vs. 1 “Damascus will no longer be a city”
  2. The multiple use of the phrase “in that day” through out the passage (vs. 4, 7, 9) which often hints of the end times
  3. Men will “Look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel,” see below,
  4. The mention of many nations in vs.12-14 would seem to include more than just Assyria.

Regarding point 3 there was a temporary revival in the southern kingdom under King Hezekiah that spared Jerusalem from the Assyrians, but nowhere is a revival in the northern kingdom or among the Arameans (Damascus was the capital of Aram) or Assyrians mentioned in history. And yet in Isaiah 19:23-25 Assyria is mentioned with Egypt and Israel as being called “My people, My handiwork, and My inheritance” by God in the millennium. This reconciliation with God is still in the future.

Soon And Very Soon

The USA and Europe have been warning Israel that an attack on Iran would not only result in a wider war in the Middle East, but would also deliver a severe blow to an already reeling world economy. Because of this US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said that Israel has to come to terms with a Nuclear Iran, an Islamized Middle East, and reliance on the US for protection.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said sometimes making a risky decision carries a heavy price, but the price for not making it would be heavier. Reliable observers interpret this to mean when the time comes to attack Iran, whatever repercussions it could cause will not be considered in light of the threat to Israel’s continued existence. We’ll soon know whether that time has come.

You can almost hear the Footsteps of the Messiah!

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2826

SCARY: Pope highlights Mary’s role as ‘woman of the apocalypse’

Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2011 / 04:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the biblical description of a “woman clothed with the sun” in his remarks at Rome’s Spanish Steps on the 2011 Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“What is the meaning of this image? It represents the Church and Our Lady at the same time,” the Pope told the crowd assembled before the nearby statue commemorating the 1854 definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. “Before all, the ‘woman’ of the apocalypse is Mary herself.”

The 12th chapter of the Biblical Apocalypse – also known as the Book of Revelation – describes the glorification and persecution of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

Though not named, this woman is described as the mother of the Messiah. In poetic language akin to the Bible’s other prophetic books, Saint John says she faced the threat of “a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,” and “fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.”

Pope Benedict, offering white roses in his traditional yearly act of Marian veneration, gave listeners his insight into the connection between the Virgin Mary and the Church – portrayed in the Apocalypse through the single image of the sun-clad woman.

“She appears ‘clothed in sunlight,’ that is, clothed in God,” observed the Pope. “The Virgin Mary is in fact completely surrounded by the light of God and lives in God …  The ‘Immaculate One’ reflects with all of her person the light of the ‘sun’ which is God.”

“Besides representing Our Lady, this sign personifies the Church, the Christian community of all times,” he continued.

The Church, he explained, is “pregnant, in the sense that she carries Christ” and “must give birth to him to the world.”

“This is the labor of the pilgrim Church on earth, that in the midst of the consolations of God and the persecutions of the world, she must bring Christ to men.”

Because the Church continues to bring Jesus into the world, Pope Benedict said, it “finds opposition in a ferocious adversary,” symbolized in scripture by the “dragon” that has “tried in vain to devour Jesus,” and now “directs his attacks against the woman – the Church – in the desert of the world.”

“But in every age the Church is supported by the light and the strength of God,” the Pope said. “She is nurtured in the desert with the bread of his word and the Holy Eucharist.”

“And in this way, in every tribulation, through all of the trials that she finds in the course of the ages and in the different parts of the world, the Church suffers persecution, but comes out the victor.”

Pope Benedict said the Church should not fear persecution, which is bound to arise, but will be defeated.

“The only pitfall of which the Church can and must be afraid is the sin of her members,” he warned, highlighting the key difference between the Church and the woman who is its prototype.

“While in fact Mary is immaculate – free from every stain of sin – the Church is holy, but at the same time marked by our sins.”

While sinless herself, Mary remains in solidarity with the Church struggling against sin.
 
“That is why the people of God, pilgrims in time, turn to their heavenly mother and ask for her help,” explained Pope Benedict.

He stressed the world’s need for the hope brought by the “woman clothed with the sun” – “especially in this difficult moment for Italy, for Europe and for different parts of the world.”

“May Mary help us to see that there is a light beyond the veil of fog that appears to envelop reality,” he declared.

“For this also we, especially on this day, never cease to ask with filial trust for her help: ‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.’”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2823

‘Real’ Christian Churches in US Forced to Go Underground Soon?

Christian churches in America will soon be forced to go underground if they want to stay true to their beliefs and to God, a conservative broadcast commentator warned.

Longstreet, a 30-year veteran of the broadcasting business, recently explained his opinion on the Right Side News, first clarifying that only “real” Christian churches will have to do as he predicted.

“In the past three decades, or so, many of the mainline Christian churches have slipped away from their foundation on the Holy Scriptures and adopted more and more secular tenets and leftist, politically correct, philosophy until they have become only a shadow of the true followers of Christ,” he penned on Tuesday.

“In my opinion, those denominations can no longer claim to be ‘Christian’ churches simply because – they are not.”

A few years ago, the U.S. Army veteran had left his own denomination for the same reasons, seeing that it had chosen to forsake the tenets of the Bible and the Good News of the Gospel.

Though he admitted that he was in no way a “better Christian than any other follower of Christ,” he believed that many of the mainline denominations in America today were nothing more than social clubs with franchises nationwide.

“Their pastors ‘preach’ feel good ‘sermonettes’ about the environment and things like ‘social justice.’ In my opinion, that is not the mission of a church that purports to follow Christ. In fact, Christ, Himself, spelled out the mission of the church in what we refer to as The Great Commission.”

The Great Commission stated in Matthew 28:18-20 reads: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

That commission from Christ is the sole reason why the church exists today, Longstreet stressed.

“To fulfill that mission the church must stand firmly upon the foundation of the Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Christ. That means insisting that the standard(s) set by Christ are, and remain, the guiding force behind everything the church does … that means pastors are compelled to preach that those things the Scripture marks as sin are duly, and publicly, noted from their pulpits as SIN. If a church is reluctant to do this, or refuses to do this, then, in my opinion, that church is not a Christian church.”

The conservative commentator lamented that in America, pastors were afraid of preaching from the Scriptures, worried about the consequences – lawsuits, slander, or even embarrassment.

“It is a very real threat, especially to the evangelical church in America,” he added. “As a result, those churches which hold true to the Gospel, now feel that they must consider meeting in secret for Bible classes, for worship services, or other Bible centric gatherings.”

Even the government in America has criminalized biblical preaching and prevented thousands of churches and clergymen from practicing their faith without threat of penalty from the authorities, he charged.

“The Christian Church, I believe will be driven underground in America, as it has been in other nations around the globe. Otherwise, it will cease to exist in this land many firmly believe was founded by Christians,” Longstreet concluded.

“As much as it pains me to say this – America is no longer a Christian nation. At least, America’s government no longer governs by men and women who base their convictions on the Judeo-Christian code of laws and beliefs.”

Kevin Lewis, associate professor of Theology and Law at Biola University, shared some of Longstreet’s concerns.

“Today, the term evangelical is diluted,” Lewis told The Christian Post. “We now have ‘Liberal-Evangelicals,’ ‘Neo-Evangelicals,’ and ‘Post-Conservative Evangelicals,’ which are simply not with the classic evangelicals on doctrinal and cultural issues.”

Though there were still many women and men faithfully serving the Lord, they were in the minority.

Nonetheless, the Biola professor saw the decline of true Christianity and growing persecution of the church as an opportunity.

“Given past salvation history, I believe we will see more lost battles. But we also know that when the enemy actually touches the church, the people of God will awaken from their happy, evangelical slumber and seek new leadership. The current leadership is simply not doing the job necessary to win; and past leadership has failed.”

For Lewis, the “increased slouching toward Gomorrah in the church and culture” was a reflection of poor leadership from the evangelical Protestant church.

“I think the coming attacks will produce a search for new leadership. And it will then be the time for the unapologetic, biblically centered leaders to arise and take charge, both in the church and state.”

To remain “above” ground in America, the Protestant church needs to equip and train a new generation of Christian leaders in every sector of life, from the field of medicine to law.

“The Protestant church has lost the concept of ‘vocation’ and how it applies to each believer,” Lewis explained to CP. “I think there are many people called to be ‘Christian’ lawyers, judges, politicians, police officers, soldiers, medical doctors, etc. As such, as in the past, pastors and church leaders need to seek them out and train them if we want them to lead the government and culture. It is truly that simple.”

Though the Church had done this in the past, they are not doing it now, he noted.

“I believe it is our task to equip that new generation of Christian leadership to be the true biblically centered, scholastic activist leaders God requires. To do that, we need the majority of churches to enthusiastically return to biblical Protestant orthodoxy, which views all of life as ‘Christian,’ not simply the work inside the walls of the church.”

“While the outlook may appear bleak to some apart from divine intervention, there is certainly a way to fix the problem,” Lewis encouraged.

He believes God will spare this generation if Christians take immediate, radical and biblical steps. Those steps include repentance, leadership training and activism – essentially returning to “unapologetic biblical excellence.”

“If not, our children and children’s children will face persecution in America as Christians do in the U.K. and Canada.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2812

Are We Missing the Signs?

Read this really great article from Greg Laurie of Harvest Chapel in So Cal. He is absolutely right. Keep looking up!

Christmas is coming, and I think you would be hard-pressed not to know that right now. There are signs all around us that Christmas is here. And when did that start? August? The decorations are up in the malls. Colorful lights are strung on homes. There are the endless ads on TV, along with the specials the networks roll out every year, like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Then there is the Christmas music playing everywhere you go.

There is a lot of excitement and anticipation as Christmas approaches. When the first Christmas came, however, people pretty much missed it. Of course, there were no telltale signs like twinkling lights on houses. There were no Christmas songs written quite yet. There were no sales at the downtown market. Children did not find it hard to sleep the night before Christmas, because, for all practical purposes, it was a night like any other night.

But the first Christmas was not without its own signals and signs dating back a few centuries. The Hebrew prophets had predicted the Messiah was coming. And they were very specific in pointing out that the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, would be born of a virgin and would be born in the little village of Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem …,” the prophet said, “Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2 NKJV).

On the first Christmas when Christ was born, it was pretty much business as usual. Things had been bleak for the Jewish people for some time. There had been an icy silence from heaven. Four hundred years had passed, and there had not been a single prophet to speak for God. There had been no miracles performed. No angelic appearances. And then they were under the tyranny of Rome. They were an occupied territory. The Promised Land had foreign intruders ruling over it. Things were very dark. It was time for the Messiah.

Then the closing line of Luke’s first chapter speaks of the arrival of Jesus: “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace” (Luke 1:78–79).

Before the sunrise had been the long-lasting dark. But for the faithful, bright flashes were appearing, telling them that the sun was rising.

Angels were busy getting things ready. The angel Gabriel had appeared to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, and also to Mary. An angel also appeared to Joseph, relaying the message that Mary’s child was supernaturally conceived in her womb and was the very Son of God.

And of course, we know the rest of the story. Joseph and Mary arrived in Nazareth, but they were turned away by the innkeeper. So God in human form came to us, born in a place where animals were kept.

The Messiah had come, but so many missed it: the innkeeper, the people of Bethlehem, the scholars, King Herod, and all of Rome. A handful of people got it, and they were ready. And while the first Christmas went largely unnoticed, it would be difficult to miss the Christmases of today.

So here is something to consider: Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth again. The Bible is emphatic about this. And just as there were many prophecies pointing to his first arrival that were fulfilled exactly, there are many prophecies that speak of his return again to the earth. And we have never been closer to his return than we are at this very moment.

A question for us to consider today is this: Have we done more to prepare for the celebration of a past event than we have for a future one? In other words, we may be ready for Christmas, but are we ready for the return of Christ?

The stakes are higher for this preparation. But some of us know more about preparing for Christmas than we do about preparing for Christ’s return. So what should we be doing?

We should be watching for him. The Bible says that “[Christ] will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28 NIV). Jesus said, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28 NKJV).

We should be ready to go. We need to be prepared. We need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. So to be ready for his return is to be engaged in activities that you would not be ashamed of if Christ were to come back at that very moment. An interesting question to ask yourself periodically is, This place that I am about to go, this thing that I am ready to do, would I be ashamed or embarrassed to be doing such a thing if Jesus were to come back? If the answer is yes, then don’t do it.

We should be anxiously awaiting His return. Have you ever anxiously awaited someone’s arrival? You look through the window and see them coming. Then you open the door before they can even knock. That is how we should be when we think of Christ’s return. We should be looking forward to it with anxious excitement.

We should be working. If watching is the evidence of faith, then working is the evidence of faith in action. Watching for Christ’s return will help us prepare our own lives. But working will assure that we bring others with us when he returns.

Most people missed it when Jesus came the first time. So let’s not miss it when he comes again. Are you ready?

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2809

Christianity is the Most Persecuted Religion

Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”

By Milena Faustova – “Christian believers all over the world have found themselves in jeopardy amid massive attacks on Christians and Christianity in the Middle East, North and South Africa and South East Asia. Unless appropriate measures are taken, the Christian civilization will vanish completely, warn the participants in the International Conference on the Freedom of Religion and Discrimination against Christians, which is currently under way in Moscow. The religious forum has brought together representatives of Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic communities and religious experts from Russia and countries of the near and far abroad.

About 100 million Christians worldwide are suffering persecution and thousands die in religious conflicts. The biggest number of persecutions against Christians is taking place in the countries of Africa and the Middle East, said Metropolitan Hilarion, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church’s Foreign Relations Department:

‘In Libya, Christians have been leaving the country en masse following the toppling of Gaddafi’s regime and the coming to power of the National Transitional Council. According to the Open Doors human rights watchdog, 75 percent of Christians have left Libya. Tunisia’s government advocated the principle of religious tolerance before the revolution. Right after the revolution, Christians in Tunisia began to come under frequent attacks and a number of Christian churches were seized and turned into mosques.’

Anti-Christian sentiment has become strong in Egypt, which reports new victims among Christians regularly, and in Iraq. Christian believers come under fierce attacks in Algeria, Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and the Philippines…

The mounting anti-Christian moods were also evoked by a greater role of Islamic radicalism, aggressive missionary work by representatives of different non-Christian sects, and distortions of Christian teachings.”

We will be persecuted for our faith even here in America. It may or may not physical violence but I am attaching a second story out of New York City that sets the precedent that we can no longer have churches renting schools to hold service in! Keep praying and keep looking up!

Court: NYC Can Ban Churches From School Buildings

Dec 5, 2011

By Todd Starnes/TWITTER

The Supreme Court has rejected an evangelical church’s plea to overturn New York City’s ban on renting public schools for religious worship services. That means the city now has a green light to begin evicting congregations who pay rent to use public school buildings for church services.

“The Department was quite properly concerned about having any school in this diverse city identified with one particular religious belief or practice,” said Jane Gordon, senior counsel for the New York City Law Dept. “”The Court of Appeals correctly upheld the Department of Education’s policy not to allow the City’s public schools to be used as houses of worship.  This case has been litigated for 16 years, and we’re gratified that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear it.  We view this as a victory for the City’s school children and their families.”

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case leaves in place a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the city’s policy.

The court case involved the Bronx Household of Faith – a church that paid weekly rent to hold worship services at a public school since 2002. The church, along with five dozen other congregations, was allowed to continue worshipping at public schools pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

It’s a sad day for religious liberty,” said Jordan Lorence, the church’s attorney and senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “Churches and religious other groups should be allowed to meet in public buildings on the same terms as other community groups and they’re being denied that in New York City.”

Churches will have to vacate public schools on Feb. 12, 2012.

“What’s odd about this is that of the top 50 school districts in the nation, New York City is the only school district that has a policy banning worship services,” he told Fox News & Commentary. “It does not show respect for religious liberty.”

The immediate impact means dozens of Christian churches will have to find a new place to hold services.

“A lot of churches are going to be homeless,” said George Russ, executive director of the New York Metropolitan Baptist Association. He said about seven of the 220 Southern Baptist churches in the city will be impacted by the decision.

Russ said churches will be scrambling to rent hotel space, banquet halls and movie theatres.

“It’s going to be a lot more money,” he said.

“The odd thing is these guys have blessed the schools they’ve been in,” Russ said. “They all have good relationships with the schools they’ve been in. They’ve purchased furniture for the teacher’s lounge they’ve given video equipment to the schools. They’ve done so many thank-you kinds of projects.”

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that allowing churches to use schools resulted in an “unintended bias in favor of Christian religions” – since most Christian churches worship on Sunday. 

“Jews and Muslims generally cannot use school facilities for their services because the facilities are often unavailable on the days that their religions principally prescribe for services,” Judge Pierre Leval declared. “At least one request(ed) to hold Jewish services (in a school building used for Christian services on Sundays) was denied because the building was unavailable on Saturdays. This contributes to a perception of public schools as Christian churches, but not synagogues or mosques.” 

Judge Leval also took issue with the evangelical church’s membership. “Bronx Household acknowledges that it excludes persons not baptized, as well as persons who have been excommunicated or who advocate the Islamic religion, from full participation in its services.” Leval wrote. 

But it all boiled down to a key point, the judges decided. “In the end, we think the board could have reasonably concluded that what the public would see, were the Board not to exclude religious worship services, is public schools, which serve on Sundays as state-sponsored Christian churches,” Leval wrote. 

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2790

What comes next after economy falls

The economic crisis across Europe has made it clear that the European Union isn’t meeting today’s economic realities, a condition that promises to have a global impact on other economies, including that of the United States, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The economic crisis is growing worse as central European bank lending to such countries as Italy, Greece and Spain now has dwindled to a trickle because investors are backing away from funding the region’s lenders.

There isn’t enough capital on hand to finance debt which is due to mature next year. Analysts believe there need to be dramatic changes in the structure of the EU if it is to survive.

They add that the EU is at the stage now where it needs to change to a more centralized parliament representing the respective members, who will have to give up some national sovereignty to create what amounts to a United States of Europe.

“The old EU is finished,” said one informed regional observer. “The 27-member bloc has never been as unpopular as it is today.”

As it now stands, the old EU is made up of countries whose parliaments can dictate the limits of their participation. They’ve seen how some countries in southern Europe with fewer resources and spiraling debt are forcing the more productive countries of northern Europe to help bail out the less fortunate ones, without any requirement for the southern countries to implement belt-tightening measures needed to help themselves recover from their own economic downturn.

As a consequence, the richer, northern countries such as Germany are dictating terms to such southern countries as Greece and Italy on belt-tightening measures needed to receive further bailout money.

Given the level of interdependence by countries now, it is too late to recede to a more isolated position. In fact, these experts say the thinking is toward “more Europe” with expanded powers and a “real government.” These analysts say that Europe today is where the U.S. was as a confederation prior to 1787 when the U.S. Constitution gave the U.S. a federal system.

Then, the confederation was comprised of 13 sovereign states with a Congress having certain powers in foreign affairs, to borrow money, deliver mail and control Indian affairs.

However, Congress then didn’t have the power to enforce its requests to states for money or troops until the 13 states ratified the U.S. Constitution.

Various analysts’ views are reflected in the concept put forward by Charles Grant of the Center for European Reform. He envisions a democratically united Europe in which citizens of the various countries vote directly for European commissioners, much like the U.S. does now in electing its representatives for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2759

Demonic Plan: Has it Been Hiding in Plain Sight?

There has been a demonic plan set way back in time by Satan to stop the Messiah. This goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15 prophecy of the emnity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.

But it has always been God’s plan that would win in the end and trump the Evil One’s pplan. Keep looking up!

With all the hype about the ancient Mayan calendar suggesting the demise of human civilization taking place in 2012, an American author wants everyone to know that other calendars predict the same outcome, and he claims a demonic plot bringing about the end date could be hiding in plain sight inside the U.S. Capitol and your wallet right now.

Tom Horn, a Bible-believing Christian and author of “Apollyon Rising 2012,” says he never actually had an interest in the Mayan calendar, which comes to a cyclical end on Dec. 21, 2012. But then he became aware of numerous unrelated calendars and prophecies spanning many centuries, all predicting the end of the current human age at next year’s winter solstice.

“I started finding that it wasn’t just the Maya,” Horn told WND, noting prognostications from Jewish mystics, as well as the ancient Chinese, Hindus, Cherokee Indians, and even artwork among famous American symbols that all point to the same time frame.

Despite not having telescopes, the Mayan people of Central America were extremely accurate observers of celestial movements, with the zenith of their civilization occurring between A.D. 250 and 900.

“The Maya understood this procession of the equinox, basically not to end, but to roll over, to start over,” in December 2012, Horn explained.

He says their prophets coupled that date “with prophecies of unrest on Earth after which a new form of man appears on Earth, plus the return of their dragon god, a flying serpent who has the power of air.”

“The Aztec saw the same thing, a flying serpent, Quetzalcoatl,” Horn said, adding, “their calendar ends in 2012.”

He says the Kali Yuga calendar of the Hindus forecasts global changes around 2012, and China’s “Book of Changes,” also known as the “I-Ching,” predicts the end for the same year.

Horn says 38 years ago, when scientists Terrence and Dennis McKenna created a stock-market-like linear graph based on the “I-Ching,” the timeline abruptly plunged off the graph into infinity on precisely Dec. 21, 2012.

“This finding is all the more astonishing given that McKenna’s research was published in 1973 independent of any knowledge of the ending date in the Mayan calendar,” Horn noted.

Meanwhile, the Zohar, a collection of books in the mystical Jewish Kabbalah that first debuted in Spain in the 13th century, talks about the coming of the Messiah at the same general time the other calendars forecast the end.

It predicts in late 2012, “All the kings of the world will assemble in the great city of Rome, and the Holy One will shower on them fire and hail and meteoric stones until they are all destroyed, with the exception of those who will not yet have arrived there. These will commence anew to make other wars. From that time the Mashiach (Messiah) will begin to declare himself, and round him there will be gathered many nations and many hosts from the uttermost ends of the Earth.”

Horn says, “Given the rejection of Jesus by orthodox Jews as Messiah, this coming could herald the coming of Antichrist in 2012.”

What’s perhaps most fascinating is Horn’s discussion of what could be the mother of all conspiracy theories, dating back to the Bible’s Book of Genesis, involving Noah’s great grandson Nimrod, who not only built the famous Tower of Babel, but is the “mighty hunter” who scholars believe became worshipped as the sun god, with names such as Osiris in Egypt and Apollo in Greece.

Horn says from deepest antiquity, a plot involving pagan sun-worshippers, America’s Founding Fathers, Masons and Freemasons has apparently been in the works, culminating in the end time with the return or resurrection of an evil, supernatural being. That character may actually be pictured as the all-seeing eye on top of the uncapped pyramid on the Great Seal of the United States, found on the back of a $1 bill.

Others have speculated the eye on top of the pyramid could be a representation of Jesus Christ, since the Bible notes, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” (Psalm 118:22 New International Version).

The date at the base of the pyramid is 1776, which is not only the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, but also the beginning of a new Mayan “katun,” a time period of 19.7 years. If each of the 13 levels of the pyramid on the Great Seal represents one of these time periods, the top level would mark the year 2012.

The Latin phrase “Novus ordo seclorum” is part of the American seal, and translates to “New order of the ages,” which some fear is what many U.S. presidents, including George Herbert Walker Bush, allude to when they use the phrase, “New World Order.”

Other strange connections to the United States include the Frieze of American History, a painted panorama at the U.S. Capitol.

Among the artwork is “Cortez and Montezuma at Mexican Temple” by Italian artist Constantino Brumidi.

Montezuma is shown gesturing to the sacred fire with a serpent wrapped around it. According to the Aztec calendar, the fire is predicted to burn out on Dec. 21, 2012.

It depicts Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez, the conqueror of Mexico, entering the Aztec temple in 1519. He’s welcomed by Emperor Montezuma II, who thought Cortez was a god.

“Montezuma’s hand is pointing directly down at the sacred fire, which, in point of fact, goes out … Dec. 21, 2012, the end of the calendar,” Horn noted.

Also featured in the frieze is the Aztec calendar stone, and the sun god Tonatiuh, to whom pagan priests had 80,000 people sacrificed in the year of 1487 alone.

“Hiding in plain sight is the god who demands human sacrifice,” said Horn.

He says another high-profile piece that may hold end-time clues is the famous painting in the Rotunda of the Capitol, titled “The Apotheosis of George Washington.” The word “apotheosis” means to deify or elevate to divine status, and Washington is depicted being resurrected and becoming divine.

The U.S. Capitol Rotunda features “The Apotheosis of George Washington,” with America’s first president becoming glorified as a god, along with numerous pagan gods.

But Horn notes in “Apollyon Rising 2012”:

Those who believe the United States was founded on Christianity and visit the Capitol for the first time will be surprised by the stark contrast to historic Christian artwork of the ascension of Jesus Christ compared to the “heaven” George Washington rises into from within the energized Capitol Dome/womb of Isis. It is not occupied by angels, but with devils and pagan deities important to Masonic belief. These include Hermes, Neptune, Venus (Isis), Ceres, Minerva, and Vulcan (Satan), of course, the son of Jupiter and Juno to which human sacrifices are made.

Horn says the symbolism in the painting associated with the deeply rooted idea that chosen humans are selected by supernatural forces, and their earthly kingdoms are formed and guided by these pagan gods.

Washington was himself a Mason, and, according to the book “The Age of Washington” by George W. Nordham, the president was dressed in Masonic attire as he laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 18, 1793.

When it comes to biblical references to the end, a central theme is that Jesus Christ will be returning to Earth in what is often referred to as the “Second Coming” to administer the kingdom of God. While Scripture does not provide a specific date for “the day of the Lord” as it’s often called, it does suggest everyone be ready at all times, because His return would come suddenly, like “a thief in the night,” and Jesus Himself warned to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44 New King James Version)

The 24th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew features Jesus answering his apostles’ questions about signs of His coming and the end of the current age, and Jesus provides a laundry list of events including wars and rumors of wars, false Christs, famines, pestilences, earthquakes and great tribulation, with many believers being slain.

Jesus noted, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14 King James Version)

He also said: “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about – the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills.” (Matthew 24:15-16 New Living Translation)

This reference to the “Holy Place” has many believing that a new temple of God will have to be constructed in Jerusalem before Jesus’ return.

Some Christians, such as Noel Hornor of the Good News Magazine, think the 2012 prognostications are the result of misplaced fears and reliance on pagan systems rather than the Bible itself.

Hornor writes: “Yes, Dec. 21, 2012, will come and go, Dec. 22 will arrive, and the Earth will go on. And so will new theories regarding new exact dates for the end of the world. The cry has been shouted by strident voices for millennia, and you can be sure it will continue.”

As for Tom Horn, he says he never places any pagan prophecy ahead of the Bible, but just wonders why so many different and unrelated civilizations talk about the end of days in December 2012.

“I would not say that I’m yet convinced that 2012 will be anything more than the next Y2K,” he said, referring to the misplaced hysteria about the world coming to an end when 1999 turned into 2000.

“It’s very easy to take extraordinary circumstances to interpret in Bible prophecy, and then it doesn’t develop. There were lots of reasons to believe Hitler was the Antichrist. He wasn’t. He was an antichrist, but not the Antichrist.”

“All I can do is bring to the surface the good research,” Horn concluded. “I’m kind of holding back, leaning today that 2012 isn’t going to mean anything. But in the back of my mind, I can’t forget all these cultures.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2748

Ancient Jewish Messiah Prohecy that You did not Know

While this is not Scripture, it is interesting to note that the Jewish rabbis thought these times would be important to the coming of Messiah. Keep looking up!

Jews familiar with an ancient compilationof Aggadic exegesis called Yalkut Shimoni noticed in recent weeks that current tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia matches a prophecy it contains regarding the year in which the Messiah – the King who redeems Israel and the world – is to appear.

In particular, the recently revealed Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. and subsequent reports that the Arab nations are pressuring the West to attack Iran, appear to fit the sequence of events predicted in the Yalkut Shimoni.

In to the part of the book dealing with the Book of Isaiah, the following passage appears:

“Rabbi Yitzchak said: ‘In the year in which the Messiah-King appears, all the nations of the world are provoking each other. The King of Persia provokes an Arab king and the Arab king turns to Aram for advice. And the King of Persia goes back and destroys the entire world. And all the nations of the world are in panic and distress and they fall upon their faces and are seized with pains like those of a woman giving birth, and Israel are in panic and distress and asking ‘where shall we go? Where shall we go?,’ and He says to them ‘my sons, do not fear; all that I have done, I have done only for you. Why are you afraid? Do not fear, your time of redemption has come, and the final redemption is not like the first redemption, because the first redemption was followed by sorrow and servitude under other kingdoms, but the final redemption is not followed by sorrow and servitude under other kingdoms.”

Persia is currently known as Iran, and an Arab king – or the Arab king – can be reasonably understood, in modern eyes, as referring to the king of [Saudi] Arabia, the Arab homeland.

This passage is relatively well-known and oft-quoted, and some modern versions of it substitute “Edom” for “Aram.” Ancient Jewish references to “Edom” are nowadays generally seen as referring to Europe or the West. “Aram” refers to a part of ancient Mesopotamia, roughly congruent to the northern part of modern Iraq and eastern Syria. The instability in precisely this area is reportedly what most concerns the Saudis, as a U.S. pullout from Iraq looms and Syria’s pro-Iranian regime teeters.

The prophecy bodes ill for much of the world, which, if Rabbi Yitzchak’s quote is to be taken literally, is to be destroyed by Iran before the Messiah steps in.

The identity of the compiler of Yalkut Shimoni is not known with certainty but a copy of it is known to have existed 700 years ago, in 1310 CE. The works it quotes are even older, and go back to early Talmudic times.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=2744