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!

Why DOES Israel Matter?

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Pull up a chair and hang out for a bit.  This week we are concluding our study, Why Israel Matters and we have covered lots of ground.  So, we’re pulling it all together this week.

Early in the study we discussed some reasons Israel matters.  Do you remember some of those reasons?  Let’s jog the memory.  Israel matters in many ways, including:

  • Socially.  The desire of Israelis to make the world a better place (tikkun olam) is demonstrated in the way they treat other nations.  Often first on scene for natural disasters around the world, a leader in helping third world nations provide food and water for their citizens and sending aid into places like Syria are common for the Jewish state.
  • Geopolitically.  Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, guaranteeing freedoms not possible in other lands in the region.  She is a city on a hill, shining brightly in a dark area.
  • Intellectually.  The “Innovation Nation” is a world leader in medical, agricultural and technological advancements.  The genius of that tiny country impacts the entire world.
  • Militarily.  The IDF (Israel Defense Force) is one of the world’s elite militaries.  Couple their innovation and technological prowess with the commitment of young men and women who clearly understand what they are fighting for and you have the most dominate military in the region.

We’ve discussed those and other reasons why Israel matters.  However, perhaps the most significant reason is because Israel was chosen by God to carry out a unique role in history.  In Genesis 12:3, God promises to bless Abraham and make him and his descendants a great nation.  Beyond that, He vowed that all the people of the earth will be blessed through Abraham.  That blessing is salvation, the greatest blessing ever conceived!

Our Father in heaven knew what it would take to implement that blessing, and it came in the form of a triumvirate of covenants, all of which must be in play in order to obtain salvation:

  • Abrahamic Covenant: the covenant of decision.  God decided before the foundations of the earth that He would devise a way that would allow every person to obtain the blessing of salvation.
  • Mosaic Covenant: the covenant of instruction.  Because the world failed (and still does) to see the need for salvation, God gave the law to Moses.  It’s purpose was to serve as a tutor, to show us our need for redemption.
  • New Covenant: the covenant of ability. God had to design a way in which we could enter into the blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant.  Thus, He sent His Son to die for our sins and resurrect to give us new life.  That is the essence of the New Covenant.

All matter, and all are essential.  Just like a 3-legged stool, if you remove any of the three, God’s blessing of salvation falls short!

To add excitement to the mix, the New Covenant has a reward!  One day, Jesus the King will return to earth to rule and reign in righteousness.  All Israel will have been saved during the tribulation and they, along with all believers in Jesus the Messiah will reign with Him during the Millennial Kingdom.  Here is how Revelation 19:11-16 describes that coming:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

At Jesus’ first coming, the Jews were looking for a conquering king…one who would save them from the oppression of Roman rule.  Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey was symbolic of a king coming in peace, thus they did not recognize Him as Messiah.  The next time He comes, He will be that conquering king, and they will surely recognize Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Hasten the day, Lord Jesus!

We’re not done, my friends, so come back tomorrow as we continue our study together.  See you then!

Week 11 – Looking for the Blessed Hope

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Welcome to our last week of Why Israel Matters, study friends!  You probably noticed this week’s session is entitled Looking for the Blessed Hope.  For me, it seems it always comes back to that!  So, not only is that the name of this blog, but our study culminates with the same thought: we are to live well as we look for the return of our Blessed Hope…King Jesus.

Over the past two weeks our focus was on bringing the King home (though we know this world is not our home!)  Indeed, Jesus will return to culminate each of the three great covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic and New), initiating the Davidic Covenant.  Let’s begin this week’s study with a look at Hebrew 8, where the writer describes a “better ministry/covenant.”  Primarily, that “better covenant” refers to the New Covenant, which was better than the Mosaic covenant of law.  Consider these things:

  • According to verse 1, where is the High Priest seated now?  Given that, who do you believe the High Priest is?
  • Verses 4-5 indicate that priests on earth “serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.”  I think of the covenants and of the Jewish feasts…all are copies and shadows of the heavenly things.  Jesus left this earth to go prepare a place for us.  A place filled with SUBSTANCE, not SHADOW!
  • Take careful note of the promises of God in verses 7-12.  What are some of those promises?

Now, while thinking of those promises, consider what the prophet wrote in Ezekiel 36:24-27:

For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

God is serious about His covenants with His people!  Today, the Jews are restored physically to their land (though many have yet to return home).  But one day, they will be restored spiritually.  Oh what a day it will be!  That will happen when the eyes of the Jewish people are finally opened, they recognize their Messiah, all Israel is saved and they invite their King to return!

I want to share a new release from Aaron Shust, who debuted this song at an ICEJ celebration of the opening of the US Embassy in May.  I think it will set the tone for us to close out our study this week.  Please listen carefully to the words, and perhaps even go back an look up the verses at a later time.  Enjoy!

Preparation of a Kingdom

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In His covenant with Abraham, God promised land and descendants…a kingdom.  He gave Abraham and His descendants the land of Canaan (Israel today), establishing “headquarters” for the earthly kingdom.  But a new kingdom is being developed!  This kingdom is a worldwide family made up of those who receive the Messiah.  (Jews and Gentiles)  In this kingdom, there is no distinction.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
~Galatians 3:26-29

This is the Millennial Kingdom…the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant!  It will be established when Jesus returns physically to this earth.  But remember, He must be invited back!  Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 23:37-39:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

But interestingly, did you know Jesus heard that invitation previously?  Mark 11:9-10 records His triumphant entry into Jerusalem a few days prior, when the people welcomed Him with the very words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

That was the first preparation for the Kingdom.  A practice run, perhaps.  But what it tells us is the Jewish people have been looking for the King and the Kingdom since the time of Jesus!  This is a long pursuit because they saw but didn’t believe.  Next time, they will see and believe!

As for the timing of the King’s return, we must remember there are two “finish lines.”  Spiritual Israel looks to the rapture, when those who have put their trust in Jesus are snatched away to meet Him in the air.  For unbelieving (natural) Israel, the earthly “finish line” is the glorious appearing of Jesus when He physically sets foot on the Mount of Olives and sets up His Millennial Kingdom.  The Second Coming is actually 1 event in 2 phases (rapture, glorious appearing).

Oh, what glorious days those will be (with a 7 year tribulation period in between).  To see the Lord and to be with Him for all eternity is the only thing worth living for!  I hope you are living to see that day!

Tomorrow’s focus will be on the immanency of Christ’s return, including a special surprise I want to share with you.  Come back tomorrow for the excitement!