Jesus the Jew, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Great I AM

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As we say goodbye to November and head into December, our thoughts turn toward the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah (Festival of Lights), which starts Sunday night at sundown, and the Christian celebration of Christmas.

Let’s start with Jesus, as He is truly the center of all celebration.  But, beware Christians: Jesus doesn’t belong solely to us.  He is not a “Christian character,” but is the character who joins Jews and Gentiles together.  In fact, Jesus was Jewish! 

Our Christmas story bears that out.  For example: Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea and wise men from the East asked King Herod, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”  (Matthew 2:2)  We also know Jesus was circumcised as all Jewish boys were, His boyhood home was Nazareth, His family journeyed to Jerusalem for the feasts, and He observed Jewish traditions.

In fact, even Jewish philosopher-theologian-historian of religion, Rabbi Leo Buck, rejected Christianity, but had this to say about Jesus:

Most portrayers of the life of Jesus neglect to point out that Jesus is in every characteristic a genuinely Jewish character, that a man like him could have grown only in the soil of Judaism, only there and nowhere else. Jesus is a genuine Jewish personality, all his struggles and works, his bearing and feeling, his speech and silence, bear the stamp of a Jewish style, the mark of Jewish idealism, of the best that was and is in Judaism, but which then existed only in Judaism. He was a Jew among Jews; from no other people could a man like him have come forth, and in no other people could a man like him work; in no other people could he have found the apostles who believed in him.  (Jews for Jesus)

So, no doubt, Jesus was Jewish.  But was He Messiah?  Some believe Jesus was crucified because the Jews rejected Him as Messiah. But is that true?

Let’s see what Jesus said about Himself.  Here is a conversation, recorded in Matthew 16:13-17 (NLT):

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,”they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”

Not only did Jesus accept the title “Messiah, the Son of the living God” He also attributed that revelation to His Father in heaven.  Later, when He encountered a Samaritan woman at Sychar, He also declared Himself to be the Messiah (John 4:25-26).  Most telling, though, is the genealogy of Jesus, detailed in Matthew 1, where verse 16 identifies Jesus as the Messiah. 

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus was not crucified because He claimed to be Messiah.  That was not a problem for the Jewish people, as they were actually seeking a messiah.  He was crucified because He dared to utter a very simple phrase: “I AM.”  In a conversation with Jewish followers, Abraham was rightly venerated as the father of their faith.  What ensued was this:

“Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?”… Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
~John 8:53, 56-58

“I AM”…Jesus proclaimed His deity, making Himself equal with God.  Throughout Jewish history they were warned to have no other gods before the God of the universe.  The idea of a triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is blasphemous to Jewish ears, thus Jesus’ “I AM” proclamation was blasphemous.  So disturbed were they, that verse 59 tells us they picked up stones to throw at Him.

Claiming to be God set everything in motion for the crucifixion of the Great I AM.

Interestingly, in the last days, another will come on the scene, claiming to be messiah.  He will woo the Jewish people who are anxiously seeking their messiah, and they will embrace him.  He will allow the Jews to rebuild their temple on Temple Mount and will bring about a false peace.  But in the midst of it all, that one will be found to be the Antichrist when he also declares deity and demands to be worshiped in the Temple.  The Jewish people did not accept Jesus as equal to God, and will not accept any other as equal to God until their eyes are open and they acknowledge Jesus the Messiah, who comes in the Name of (and equal to) the Lord!  Then, they will acknowledge Jesus as One with God.

That is the One whose birth we celebrate each Christmas season!  Rejoice!  For the Great I AM is Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9:6)

PS: Stay tuned because Hanukkah starts tomorrow, and we’ll spend some time examining the Jewish festival of lights!

Rockets Rain Down on Israel

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IDF airstrike inside Gaza (Times of Israel photo)

Since Sunday night’s IDF special ops raid into the Gaza Strip, activity has ramped up in and around Gaza.  A top Hamas commander and several other terrorists were killed as a result of that mission, though it came at a cost.  Israeli sources have now confirmed that an IDF special ops officer was killed in that mission into the Strip on Sunday night, and another soldier was wounded.

Since then, Hamas has rained down at least 300 rockets on Israeli cities (perhaps the largest one day total ever), and the IDF has targeted over 70 Hamas and Islamic Jihad sites (backed by Iran) in the Gaza Strip.  Air raid sirens have gone off almost continually in cities throughout southern Israel and the Gaza Envelope (areas surrounding the Gaza Strip).  You will find a timeline and several videos here.

Meanwhile, other interesting things relative to the region are happening elsewhere.  During an official state visit to Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  It was the first meeting between Netanyahu and Putin since the Russian-made S-200 missile system (operated by Syrians, in Syria) shot down a Russian plane.  Israel was ultimately blamed for the incident.   Though no details of the meetings were reported, it is probable that Iranian influence in Syria and the region (including their backing of Hamas in Gaza) was a focal point in those conversations.

It is currently in the best interest of both Russia and Israel to cooperate at least to some degree militarily, in terms of not getting in each other’s way.  However, as we see events around the world, particularly in the Middle East, confirm Bible prophecy day-after-day, we know the stage is being set for end time events.  We see evidence suggesting the imminent destruction of Damascus (Isaiah 17:1), setting of the stage for the War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39), and the rise of the Antichrist out of Europe (Daniel 2, 7).

In fact, one cannot help but think the spirit of lawlessness, described in 2 Thessalonians 2, is already at work.  As I look at what’s happening in our world…and even America and evil things for which so many stand…I am reminded that our time is short.  What we see are signs of the tribulation,yet our rapture occurs before that terrible time of hell on earth.

As we see these things, we must be alert,  be about our Father’s business (as Jesus was in Luke 2:41-51), be watchmen on the wall (Ezekiel 33:1-6, Isaiah 62:6-7), sound the alarm (Joel 2:1, Jeremiah 4:5-6), and be ambassadors of Christ while still on this earth (2 Corinthians 5:20).

How are we doing?

PS: For a timely commentary on why Gaza is such a problem, check back later today.  Blessings!

Signs of the Times: Weather Events

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As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 
~Matthew 24:3, 7

It’s a common question: What are the signs of the last days?

Unfortunately, some so-called “prophecy experts” sensationalize various natural events (such as blood moons) as signs of the times by taking isolated Scripture out of context.  Jesus Himself simplified things for His disciples, however, when they uttered the same common question regarding the last days.

Jesus warned of false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, nations and kingdoms rising against one another, and famines and earthquakes.

Here, we spend considerable time discussing world events such as wars and rumors of wars, as well as the rise of the false prophet and the Antichrist.  Today, let’s focus on the weather events that Jesus referred to: earthquakes.

Over the past years, the frequency and severity of earthquakes around the world have shot off the charts.  Here are some statistics:

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    Earthquakes by Decade

    In a recent 48-hour period, 69 earthquakes hit the Pacific “ring of fire.”

  • 16 of those measured at least 4.5 of the Richter scale.
  • Five of the 69 hit the island-nation of Fiji.
  • An 8.2 magnitude earthquake hit in the Pacific Ocean, fortunately deep enough (over 300 miles) not to cause a tsunami.
  • Experts believe an earthquake of at least 8 on the Richter scale is imminent in California.
  • Related image

    Volcanoes by Decade

    The Pacific “ring of fire” contains 452 volcanoes, which are also highly impacted by tectonic shifts brought about by earthquakes.

Indeed, the earth is shaking like never before in history.  Interestingly, God warned (through the prophet Haggai) He would one day shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.  He went on to say He will shake the nations and will fill His house with glory (Haggai 2:6-7).  It is a warning that we are living in the last days.

But, be encouraged.  Prophecy is not to scare, but to prepare.  The earth might shake, but we (believers) shall not be shaken!

I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
~Psalm 16:8

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
~Psalm 55:22

My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken…
He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
~Psalm 62:1-2, 6

Lift up your heads, dear friends!  Our redemption is drawing near.

Signs and Instructions

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Pull up a chair and get your Bible ready, study friends!  We’re diving into it today.

We have spent almost 11 weeks studying Israel, the covenants, end times and Jesus’ return.  But I want to make one thing clear before we make practical application today.  Roughly 25-35% of the Bible is prophetic (depending upon what Bible expert you ask!)  But we must not focus there while ignoring the rest.  All of God’s Word teaches us how to live, and that is critical.  If Israel and/or prophecy become the only focus, we will be lop-sided Christians!  Know and understand the place of Israel and prophecy in the context of all of Scripture.

Now, let’s make our way toward practical application of that idea!  We’ll consider the signs of the end, then look to “non-prophetic” passages to help us understand how to live.

Here are some signs of the times:

  • Re-birth of Israel.  (Ezekiel 36-37)  Israel cannot invite their King home if there is no home to invite Him to! This is the key prophecy of Jesus’ return, and it occurred May 14, 1948.
  • Godlessness around the world.  (2 Timothy 3:1-5)  In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul provided a very long list of moral failures that would occur in the last days.  Take a look at that list and decide for yourself whether or not those verses describe today’s culture.
  • Related imageTremendous increase in natural disasters. (Matthew 24:7)  Worldwide natural disasters have more than doubled since 1980.  Moreover, the intensity of storms and the resulting damage has increased far more.
  • Wars and rumors of war.  (Matthew 24:6)  War has been constant in our world for decades, but nuclear capabilities have risen to a level making those threats of war much more apocalyptic.
  • Russia, Iran, Turkey in coalition.  (Ezekiel 38)  The stage is set for the war of Gog and Magog as described by Ezekiel.  Russia, Iran and Turkey are undeniably identified as the primary players (along with other minor players) in the northern invasion.  Each of those nations now hold military positions on Israel’s border with Syria.
  • Signs of the rise of the false prophet and Antichrist are all over.  Though we (Christians) will be raptured prior to the Antichrist being revealed, we see false prophet and Antichrist-like figures in the world today.

The signs are everywhere! So, what instructions are we given?  Now is the time to open God’s Word, so crack open the Book and let’s take a look!

  • 1 John 2:15-18.  We are not to love this world or the things of it.  Those who please God will live forever.  The last hour is here and the Antichrist is coming.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.  We are all running a race, and we must run to win.  To compete, we must persevere and not give up.  We discipline ourselves so we will not be disqualified.
  • Hebrews 12:1-2.  We must lay aside every encumbrance (sin) that entangles us and keeps us from running the race to win.  When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, we are guided rightly.

Finally, let’s consider Luke 19:11-13:

While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’”

Friends, the kingdom of God is about to appear.  Jesus told a parable that mirrored Himself when He described a nobleman going to a distant country.  He has gone to the heavenly kingdom to prepare a place for us!  But, just as the nobleman in the parable, Jesus left us here, with His resources, to do His business until He returns!

Again, I say: We must be about our Father’s business in these days until He returns.  The time is now…we have no time to delay.  Are you doing business with the resources He left you?

That is my prayer for all of us (myself included!)  As we do His business, let’s be faithful watchmen who shout the warnings to those around us!

We’re nearing the end of the study, but we’re not there yet!  So, I’ll see you tomorrow!