Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication (Part 1): Its Prophecy & Fulfillment

In just another nine days, we will be celebrating the Feast of Hanukkah, “the feast of lights” (beginning the evening of December 12 – 20).  Most erroneously believe that Hanukkah is just a “Jewish thing,” and that it has nothing to do with Christians.  But from the New Testament, we discover that as a Jew, Jesus also celebrated Hanukkah, “the feast of dedication” (John 10:22-23).  The meaning of Hanukkah was changed from “the feast of dedication” to “the feast of lights” after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.  There was a reason for this change, which I will discuss later in the series, but I want to take it back to its original meaning.

MY MOTIVE FOR THIS STUDY

My motive for doing this is not to make people “Jewish,” but it’s a study I did out of my love for Jesus.  I believe when you love someone, you want to know everything you can about that person, and this was a part of His life.  Therefore, out of my love for Him and my commitment to being His disciple, and to walk in all of His ways, I would like to present this 4-part study series on Hanukkah: the Bible’s prophecy concerning it and their historical fulfillment, what I believe it meant to Jesus, how Hanukkah is celebrated today, and the Gospel message that I see within the feast of Hanukkah.  This is the first part of that five-part study.

I would like to begin by looking at the Bible’s prophecy concerning Hanukkah and its historical fulfillment.  These prophecies are found in the book of Daniel, while Daniel and his people, the Jews, were still in exile in the land of Babylon.

A COMPARISON OF DREAMS

In Daniel 2, God gives Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, a dream regarding the kingdoms that would come after him, in the form of a statue of a man made from various metals.  These kingdoms are Babylon [the head of gold], the Medes & Persians [the chest and arms of silver], Greece [belly and thighs], Rome [two legs], and a future end-time global empire [feet of iron and clay].  As we can see, as we move down the statue, we not only move forward in time from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, but the quality of the metals go down as well.

In Daniel 7, Daniel likewise has a dream regarding the same empires, but in Daniel’s dream, they appear not as a statue of a man, but as wild beasts: Babylon [a lion with eagle’s wings], the Medes & Persians [a bear raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth], Greece [a four-headed leopard with wings], and Rome [a dreadful and terrifying beast with iron teeth].  However, after the fourth beast, it mentions, not a fifth beast but “another horn,” who had “the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts” and who pulled out “three horns” (Daniel 7:8).

There is a connection between Antiochus Epiphanes and the historical events of Hanukkah with end-time events, as we shall see.  In fact, Daniel 7 is important in understanding John’s vision in Revelation 13.  In Revelation 13:2, we read,

And the beast which I saw was like unto a LEOPARD, and his feet were as the feet of a BEAR, and his mouth as the mouth of a LION:…”  (Emphasis Mine)

Note these three beasts are the same three beasts [out of four] as mentioned in Daniel’s vision.  So just as each “beast” in Daniel 7 represents a kingdom that was led by a man, so this final “beast” in Revelation 13 will be a conglomeration of these previous three kingdoms that will likewise be led by a man.

SO WHY THE DIFFERENCE IN DREAMS?

I believe the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel present a look at the same kingdoms from two different perspectives.   First of all, God presented to Nebuchadnezzar a view of these kingdoms from an outward perspective.  From the viewpoint of people, these were wondrous kingdoms to behold; however, to Daniel, on the other hand, God gave a view of these same kingdoms from an inner perspective, looking at their heart and spirit, and from this perspective, they were “wild beasts.”

A SUBSEQUENT DREAM

Then in Daniel 8, Daniel is given a subsequent dream to his previous dream during the third year of the reign of Belshazzar, the king of Babylon. Daniel has a dream of two specific beasts: a ram with two horns (the Medes & Persians) and a male goat (Greece). In his dream, he sees the following:

And I saw him [the male goat] come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered the two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him.  So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. (Daniel 8:7)

This prophecy of “the male goat” is a perfect picture of Alexander the Great.  He conquered the empire of the Medes & Persians (the ram with the two horns) quickly, as well as all of the known world at that time.  He won battle after battle, war after war, with no one being able to stop him. But then in verse 8, the prophecy continues:

Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly.  But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns towards the four winds of heaven. (Daniel 8:8)

According to world history, Alexander the Great rose to great power, “magnifying himself exceedingly,” but then at the age of 33, on June 10, 323, B.C., he died suddenly. To this day, there is an ongoing debate among historians about how he died, theories include poison, murder, or a relapse of Malaria.  When asked, though, as he was dying, who would get his kingdom, he replied, “the strongest.”  As a result, his empire was fought over for forty years by his four generals (the “four conspicuous horns”).  But then continuing on in the prophecy, we learn the following:

From one of these, the small one, sprang a horn which grew to great size toward the south and east and toward the land of Splendor….It magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. (Daniel 8: 9, 11)

Then Daniel heard a voice in his vision ask, how long would this be allowed to happen, and the response was 2,300 evenings and mornings, and “then the holy place will be properly restored” (Daniel 8:14).  This prophecy of the “little horn” regards Antiochus Epiphanes and the events that the feast of Hanukkah commemorates.

HANUKKAH: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

The historical account of the war between Israel and the Seleucid Greeks is found in the book of I Maccabees.   Although this book is in the Catholic Bible, it is not in the Hebrew Tanakh or in the Protestant Christian Old Testament. So for the convenience of readers who are not familiar with the account, I have provided the following summary.

Approximately 148 years after the death of Alexander the Great is when the historical events that Hanukkah commemorates occurred.   It begins when Antiochus IV, “a sinful shoot,” became ruler of the Seleucid Greek dynasty in 175 B.C., a region which included Israel (I Maccabees 1:10-11). Afterward, there were some Jews who saw financial advantages to adopting a Hellenistic (or Greek) lifestyle, and so they abandoned God and His Torah (lit. “Teachings, Guidance, Instructions or Directives”).

In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow.   So this device pleased them well.  Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them licence to do after the ordinances of the heathen:   Whereupon they built a place of exercise at Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen:  And made themselves uncircumcised, and forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold to do mischief.   (I Maccabees 1:11-15)

It’s hard for me to imagine someone giving up intimacy with God for money and financial success, yet that is what this group of men did.  Notice that those who gave up the ways of God and His “holy covenant” are called “wicked men.”  If this is what these men are called in the 2nd century, B.C., then won’t God call likewise Christians and ministers who forsake the truth of Scripture, including His ways and commandments, for money and financial success today?

PLUNDERING JERUSALEM

After winning a battle against Egypt in 170 B.C., Antiochus turns his sights on Israel, particularly Jerusalem.  He plundered the city and the Temple, taking the holy items and the Temple treasures, “leaving the place a shambles” (I Maccabees 1:21-24).    And then two years later, he took the women and children as slaves, stole their cattle, and then burned the city (I Maccabees 1:32-33).

MANDATING A GREEK LIFESTYLE

Antiochus then issued a proclamation [law] that everyone was to adopt a Greek lifestyle, including the worship of the Greek gods [as well as himself as a god] (I Maccabees 1:41).   Due to his own “god complex,” he ascribed to himself the name “Epiphanes” (“god manifest”).

PERSECUTING TORAH-OBSERVANT JEWS

Antiochus also forbad the Jews from practicing any form of Judaism, such as prohibiting any of the following:

  1. Any form of Temple worship;
  2. All biblical feasts, including the weekly Sabbath; and
  3. All Torah study and observance, including the following of the dietary laws and circumcision of boys at eight days old.

Instead of obeying God and His Torah, they were to worship the Greek gods, eat unclean food, and sacrifice pigs on the altar.  Anyone found worshipping the God of Israel or keeping the Torah, or practicing any of its teachings, would be killed (I Maccabees 1:46-52).

INTENSIFYING THE PERSECUTION

On the 15th day of Chislev in 167 B.C., the statue of Zeus was erected above the altar, as well as other altars to him around the surrounding towns of Judah (I Maccabees 1:57-58).   In addition, any copies of the Torah that were found by the Greek soldiers were torn up and burned (I Maccabees 1:59).

KILLING WOMEN AND CHILDREN

Also, any woman who was found to have circumcised her baby boy was killed, along with her male infant, in accordance to the edict, and her dead baby was hung around her neck.  Also, any other member of the household who participated, along with the one who circumcised the infant, were killed as well (I Maccabees 1:60-61).

SOME ENDURE – SOME DO NOT

Although the persecution was intense, there were many who remained faithful to the God of Israel and His Torah; many chose to die rather than to profane God’s “holy covenant” (I Maccabees 1:62-63).  Unfortunately, though, there were also some who did not remain faithful but chose to abandon God and His Torah, rather than endure any further persecution.  They adopted the Greek lifestyle and began worshipping the various Greek gods.

MATTATHIAS AND HIS SON REVOLT

When Antiochus’s men came to the town of Modein to make the Jews there offer a sacrifice to the god Zeus, a priest by the name of Mattathias and his sons refused to participate.   Mattathias told them:

Even if every nation living in the king’s dominion obeys him [Antiochus], each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors.   Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law [Heb. Torah] and its observances.   As for the king’s orders, we will not follow them: we will not swerve from our religion either to the right or to the left.  (I Maccabees 2: 19-23)

Upon completing this statement, a Jew was going to betray God by offering a pig on the altar, but Mattathias killed the man and began a rebellion, killing as well the king’s men who were also there.   Then he ran through the town, rallying the people to join him in their fight against the Greeks.  They then took refuge in the hills (I Maccabees 2:25-28).

JUDAH ASSUMES COMMAND

After a year of fighting, Mattathias died in 167 B.C., but before he did, he placed his son Judah in charge of the war against the pagans (I Maccabees 2:66).   Judah was nicknamed “Maccabees” (“hammer”) because of how he “hammered” at the enemy in battle.   Eventually, after two more years, Judah and his troop won their battle against the Greeks.

A SHOCKING DISCOVERY!

Upon the Greeks’ final defeat in 165 B.C., Judah and his men went to Jerusalem to re-dedicate the Temple.  However, when they arrived,

they found the sanctuary [Temple] a wilderness, the altar desecrated, the gates burned down, and vegetation growing in the courts as it might in a wood or on some mountain, while the store rooms were in ruins.   They tore their garments and mourned bitterly, putting dust on their heads.  (I Maccabees 4:38-40)

CLEANSING THE TEMPLE

After a time of mourning, Judah selected priests who were faithful to God and blameless in their observance of the Torah to clean and purify the Temple, to remove the stones that had been used to construct the altar to Zeus, as well as the stones of the Temple altar that had been profaned by the blood of the pig that the Seleucid Greeks had offered on it (I Maccabees 4:42-45).

WHAT DO WE DO WITH THESE STONES?

Judah and his men were not sure what to do with the Temple altar stones once they had been removed, so they took them outside the Temple and set them in “a suitable place on the Temple hill to await the appearance of [the] prophet [i.e., the Messiah] who should give a ruling about them” (I Maccabees 4:46).

Could these be the same stones that Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) alluded to when He rode into Jerusalem, and when the religious leaders tried to get Him to silence the crowd, He told them, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:40)

REDEDICATING THE TEMPLE

Once the stones had been removed, they selected rocks that were naturally cut by the weather and sand, and built a new altar where the old one had once stood (I Maccabees 4:47).   They cleaned the Temple, replaced the vessels and items that had been stolen, and set up the items in the Temple as God had instructed in the Torah (I Maccabees 4:47-51).

INSTITUTING THE OBSERVANCE OF HANUKKAH

Then on the 25th day of Chislev (which occurs from mid-November to mid-December), in the year 165 B.C., they re-dedicated the Temple back to God and to His service.  They “made it a law that the days of dedication of the altar should be an annual celebration for eight days beginning on the 25th day of Chislev with ‘rejoicing and gladness’” (I Maccabees 4:52-61).

 

GOD FULFILLED HIS PROPHECY

Indeed, God did keep His prophetic word.  The “little horn” did rise to great power and for a time did gain power over the “land of Splendor” [Israel], but his time came to an end, and the Temple was, indeed, properly restored, as God promised.

If anything, the celebration of Hanukkah should remind us of the following:

  1. That our God is a faithful God who keeps His Word, even in the hardest of circumstances;
  2. The freedom to worship and honor the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by obeying His Torah from our hearts is something that must be fought for continually since today we see that freedom being slowly taken away from us.
  3. We must also remember that the Torah is not “bondage” or some “legalistic hardship,” as I hear mainstream Christianity teach, but it is a blessing from God that we have been given to teach us about God, Messiah, holiness, and what it means to be “the people of God.”

So during this Hanukkah season, let us strive to remember the faithfulness of our God and to hold on to the freedom that God has given to us to worship Him and to walk in all of His ways.

 

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“GOD IS HOLY, HOLY, HOLY:” BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

This is the first of a four-part study on “The Biblical Meaning of Holiness.”  In this study, we will first examine the holiness of God, and then look at holiness in terms of those things associated with God, and then what it means for us to be called to walk in holiness.  This series is not only important in understanding and knowing God, but also in understanding the calling that God has placed upon each of our lives.

THE FORGOTTEN CORE

Over the years, Christianity has so focused on “the love of God,” that they have forgotten “the holiness of God.”  God’s holiness is not just another quality or trait of God, like His love, His mercy, or His grace, but it is the ultimate expression of who He is, of His character and nature.  It is His essence, His very core of Being, it is what makes God “God,” and yet instead of realizing this and focusing on this, Christians are focusing on what they call “His love” to such an extent, that they are actually profaning Him by what they say, do, and allow within the church.

Christians say they want another move of God in America, but if they went back and looked at what was being preached and taught in America prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit first in Topeka, Kansas in 1901, and then on Azuza Street in Los Angeles, California, in 1904, they would find that what was being preached and focused on was the holiness of God, and us providing Him with a Holy Temple, a Holy environment, within our lives in order for Him to dwell, to move, and for Him to minister in and through us to those around us.  And if we want another move of God like that, we need to return to that message.  We need to return to the essence of God, which is that He is “holy, holy, holy.

GOD IS “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY”

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah has a vision of God in the Temple in Jerusalem.  It was “the year that king Uzziah died” (Isaiah 6:1).  In his vision, Isaiah saw the Lord

sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the Temple.  Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly.  And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory. (Isaiah 6:1-3)

The word “Seraphim” means “the burning ones.”  They burn with passion for God, and in their passionate love for Him, they cry out “Holy, holy, holy.”  Did you know that this word “holy” is the only word in all of the Bible that is used three times in succession to describe God?  Did you know that in Hebrew in order to emphasize something you repeat it?  And when a word is repeated three times in succession, it is being emphasized emphatically to the ultimate degree.  “God is love” (I John 4:8), but even more emphatically true than His love is that God is “holy, holy, holy.”

JOHN’S VISION OF GOD’S HOLINESS

In the book of Revelation, we see a New Testament version of what Isaiah saw and described.  In Revelation 4, John has a vision in which he is called up into heaven, and in this chapter, he describes what he sees:

And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, there were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.  And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast was like a calf, and the third beast has a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.  And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, which is, and is to come. (Revelation 4:6-8)

And it is this acknowledgement of the holiness of God that begins a crescendo of praise and worship of God to who He is, to His Majesty, His Power and Might.  For we read in the next three verses,

And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the four and twenty elders [dressed in white raiment with crowns of gold on their heads; see Revelation 4:4] fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:9-11)

When we hear or think about the holiness of God, does it provoke and draw from us worship and praise of our God, or do we emotionally and mentally run in fear of Him because He is “holy, holy, holy”?  Does the holiness of God draw us in worship, compel us to fall on our knees to praise, honor and glorify Him, or does His holiness fill us with fear as we think about the day when we will stand before Him, His Holy Presence?  What are we to think and how are we to respond to a Holy God?

“HOLY” – IT’S ENGLISH DEFINITION

But what does it mean to call God “holy”?  When we look at that word in the English, we gain some meaning, but as we shall see, it misses the essence of the word’s biblical meaning.   According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the English word “holy” means –

  • exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness;
  • Divine; and
  • devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity.

So when we read that “God is holy, holy, holy,” then in English we believe that the Bible is saying that God is “exalted” or “worthy” to the ultimate degree because He is “perfect in goodness and righteousness; that He is pure.”  But even though God is indeed “perfect in goodness and righteousness,” and He is pure, as well as “exalted” and “worthy,” this is not the essence of what the Bible means when it says that “God is holy.”

“HOLY” – ITS BIBLICAL DEFINITION

The word “holy” as it is used here in the Bible (both in Isaiah and in Revelation), the word “holy” is the English translation of the Hebrew word kadosh and the Greek word Hagios, which means “distinct, separate, set apart, other than, totally other,” or in other words, when we speak of the “holiness” of God, we are speaking of His transcendence, His distinctness, His otherness.  We can see God trying to get this idea across in the following passage:

To whom then will you liken God?  or what likeness will you compare to Him?… Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood from the foundation of the earth?  It is He that sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in: that brings the princes [“rulers of the earth”] to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth as vanity [“nothingness”]…To whom then will you liken Me, or is equal to Me? says the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:18, 21-23, 25).

This question is repeated again 6 chapters later,

To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we may be alike?  (Isaiah 46:5)

God here is saying that there is no one like Him, nothing in this world or universe like Him, there’s no other god like Him; He is unique, He is distinct, He is different, He is completely other than, and this is why He is called HaKadosh, “the Holy One.”

And because God is holy, He shows mercy like no other.  Because God is holy, He loves like no other.  Because God is holy, He is faithful like no other.  Because God is holy, He gives grace like no other.  And because God is holy, He is pure like no other, and because God is holy, He must judge sin.  God’s mercy, grace, and love flow out of the same essence as His need to judge sin.  And this is what many people do not understand.

SENNACHERIB’S BLASPHEMY AND INSULT

In Isaiah 36-37, there’s an account of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, coming against the city of Jerusalem to attack it and lay it in ruins during the reign of King Hezekiah.  Sennacherib sends Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem with a great army, and then he tries to do some psychological warfare by giving a message to King Hezekiah and to all the people in Jerusalem with the hopes on instilling fear in the people.   He gave them reasons to believe they’ were on their own with no one to rely on, but then he went so far as to say the following:

Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD [Heb. Y’hwah], saying, The LORD [Y’hwah] will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria…. Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, the LORD [Y’hwah] will deliver us.  Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?  Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad?  where are the gods of Sepharvaim?  and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?  Who are they among all of the gods of these lands, that have delivered  their land out of my hand, that the LORD [Y’hwah] should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand? (Isaiah 36:15, 18-20)

I put the literal transliteration of God’s covenant name that He gave to Moses {Heb. Mosheh] on Mount Sinai after the word “LORD” in brackets, because Y’hwah is one of the two names that God gave to Moses at the burning bush, and it is the one that’s used the most in the Scriptures.  It is used 6,000 times in the Scriptures.  Most translators transliterate the name as “Yahweh,” even though the vowel under the vahv (w) is a qamats (a) and not an “e.” In most Bibles it is translated as “LORD” in all capital letters.

Notice that Sennacherib through his servant Rabshakeh is trying to convince the people of Israel that they cannot depend on the LORD to deliver them from him, because Sennacherib is arguing here that the LORD is no different than any of the other gods of the various cities that Sennacherib has defeated.  He tries to argue here that if their gods could not deliver them out of Sennacherib’s hand, then the LORD will not be able to deliver them out of his hand either.

HEZEKIAH’S PRAYER

When Hezekiah is given the report of what Sennacherib said, he takes the report to the Temple, and he spreads it out before God, and prays,

O LORD [Y’hwah] of hosts, God of Israel, that dwells between the cherubims, You are the God, even You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: You have made heaven and earth.  Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which has sent to reproach the living God.  Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, and have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.  Now there, O LORD [Y’hwah] our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, even You only. (Isaiah 37:16-20)

Notice in this prayer, Hezekiah says that the kings of Assyria did, in fact, conquer the surrounding nations and threw their gods into the fire.  But why?  Because those gods, unlike the God of Israel were not actually gods at all, but were the creations of men.  However, their God was different.  Why?  Because out of all the man-made gods in the world, only Y’hwah, “the LORD” is the living God, and only He can truly save.

Y’HWAH’S RESPONSE

Then beginning in the next verse, Y’hwah, “the LORD” sends the prophet Isaiah with His response to Sennacherib, King of Assyria.  And this response is then taken out to the wall of the city, and it is read out to Sennacherib and his troops.

The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, and laughed you to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you. (Isaiah 37:22)

Sennacherib came with his mighty forces against Jerusalem, and he ridiculed both Hezekiah and Y’hwah, the God of Israel.  In response, God turns around and ridicules Sennacherib, and says that the people of Jerusalem despise you, laugh at you, and shakes her head at you.  Why?  We read the answer in the next verse:

Whom have you reproached and blasphemed?  And against whom have you exalted your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high?  Even against THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL.  (Isaiah 37:23)

What was Sennacherib’s “reproach and blasphemy”?  It was to say that Y’hwah, the Holy One of Israel, was not any different than any of the other gods that Sennacherib had defeated.  In essence, that Y’hwah is not “distinct,” “not separate,” “not other than or transcendent,” that is, not holy.  So to say that the Holy One of Israel is no different than any other god worshiped today in these other religions of the world is a “reproach” and “blasphemy” to Him, because in saying this, one is saying that God is not, in fact, holy.

THE RESULTS OF HIS BLASPHEMY?

What was the result of Sennacherib’s insult and blasphemy?  We read in Isaiah 37:36-37,

Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand [185,000]: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.  So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt [lived] in Nineveh.

Although Sennacherib came boasting of his glories and triumphs, and that Jerusalem was just going to be another victory to add to his list of victories, it was he, instead, who went home with a major defeat: 185,000 of his troop was killed by one angel in one evening.  And why did this happen?  Because Sennacherib insulted and blasphemed the holiness of God.

GOD IS UNIQUELY HOLY

God is “distinct, separate, other than, transcendent” from the things of this world.  There is no one like Him.  His holiness is unlike anyone’s or anything in this world, in this galaxy, or even in the universe, or in all of creation, whether in this physical universe or in the spiritual realm.

He exists outside of time, space, and matter.  He is not confined as we are to these things, because He created them, and the Creator is always greater than the creation.  God can view the past, the present, and the future all at the same time.  To Him, time is ever present, and therefore, He is the great “I AM.”  He created all things merely by speaking them into existence.  There was no conflict or struggle in bringing them into existence; He merely spoke the word, and they came into being.  For example, in Genesis 1, we read,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.  And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called “Night.”  And the evening and the morning were the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5)

And just as God created all things by speaking them into existence, we know if God speaks something, we know that it will happen.  Because God tells us in the Bible,

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways, says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I send it.  (Isaiah 55:8-11)

God is holy, and because God is holy, His words and ways are likewise holy.  It is not His deeds that make Him holy, rather He is holy, and as a result, all that He says and does is also holy.  We need to return to a biblical view of God, a clear view of the holiness and majesty of God.   And when we do, we will begin to see the move of God within our churches once more.

 

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The Mark of the Beast or the Mark of God: Which One Does Your Life Reflect?

“More Than One Mark?”

Although most people have heard of “the Mark of the Beast,” very few have heard of the Mark of God.  Yet both marks are discussed in the Bible, and both marks are placed on the forehead of the recipients before the outpouring of God’s judgment.  Although they have these similarities, they also have their differences: one is a mark given by the Anti-Messiah (or Anti-Christ), and the other is given by God.  So in this article, I want to first discuss “the Mark of the Beast” and then “the Mark of God,” as well as the attitudes that these two marks represent.

Book of Revelation – Introduction

The last book of the Bible is Revelation, an apocalyptic book written by the Apostle John (Heb. Yochanan) in 100 C.E., while he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos, an island for convicted prisoners, much like Alcatraz.  It was while on this island that John (Yochanan) received the various visions from God that make up the book of Revelation.  After writing each vision, it was smuggled out of the prison to the churches in Asia.  His visions were then put together to formulate the book of Revelation as we have it today.  John (Yochanan) was released and pastored in the church in Ephesus up until he died.  He would have seen the collection of his visions in this single book (or scroll) before he died.  Therefore, if the visions had been put into the wrong order or if something needed correction, he could have corrected it.  One of these visions dealt with the Beast and his mark:

And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, saved he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.  Here is wisdom.  Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six.” (Revelation 13:16-18)

There are those who speculate that the “mark of the Beast” prophesied by the Apostle John (Yochanan) in Revelation 13 is either here in the form of the new RFID microchip that’s being inserted into people or it’s right around the corner.  But why will so many people accept the mark?  I believe it’s because what it represents most people today have already accepted, including its attitudes towards life.  What does it represent?  What attitudes? What mindset do people have today that will make them susceptible to accepting this mark?

The Number of a Man

First of all, in interpreting this mark, we need to realize the significance of the number. The number specified by the prophecy for “the number of the beast” is 666.  Why the number 6, and why is there three of them?  According to the Bible, man (Heb. ‘adam) was created on the sixth day:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.  So God created man [Heb. ‘adam] in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them…And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.  And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-27, 31)

The number 6 then represents man (‘adam) because he was created on the sixth day.  But why is the number 6 repeated three times?  There are various views on this.  One view is that the number 3 represents God because in the Bible, God is a unique Oneness comprised of 3: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  So as a result of the number 3 representing God, many people have speculated that the number 6 is repeated three times because the Beast will proclaim himself to be a god.  Now there is New Testamental support for this, such as,

  • The Beast shall be worshipped.
    And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)
  • The Beast shall proclaim himself to be god.
    Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin (“the Beast”) be revealed, the son of perdition; who [continues to] oppose and [continues to] exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as god sits in the Temple of God, showing himself that he is god: (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Although this is a part of it, I believe that there is also something else that’s communicated by this mark.  It represents a personal value or belief of one’s complete and total independence from all things, including God, which I shall discuss  further, i.e., “a life that wants to live and do what it wants without God ruling and reigning over him or her.”

A Belief in Human Diplomacy

Another possible interpretation of the number 666 is the belief in human diplomacy.  For example, the number 666 could be looked at as “man” (the first 6) and man (the last 6) being brought together into unity by man (the middle 6).”  The idea of the Beast (or Anti-Christ) rising up through the power of diplomacy is also attested to in Scripture:

And I saw, and behold, a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. (Revelation 6:2)

Notice that although the rider has “a bow,” there’s no mention of any weaponry.  Also the “crown was given to him,” he did not acquire it through warfare.  As a result, the traditional interpretation of this prophecy is that this rider on the “white horse” is the Anti-Christ, who will rise to power through diplomacy, for through it he will go “forth conquering, and to conquer.”  He is also the first of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

In fact, this ideal of approaching all issues and problems with diplomacy fits in perfectly with the mentality of most of the world today,  People are tired of warfare and feel that peaceful diplomacy is how issues and problems should be handled.  It should be remembered though that the “Anti-Christ” is a false “Substitute Messiah/Christ,” and just as Jesus (the real Messiah/Christ) is called in the prophets Sar Shalom (“the Prince of Peace”), so this false substitute will likewise portray himself as “a man of peace.”

Although there are many people in the world today who have not physically received the “Mark of the Beast” in their forehead or in their right hand, they have accepted and are living right now His attitudes and beliefs in their day-to-day lives.  Consequently, when the Mark does become available, people will not have to be forced to take it because it will represent a mindset and belief system that they already embrace.

What is this “Beastly Belief System”?

These are attitudes and beliefs that many people in the world today, including the majority of Americans, embrace as their ideals in life.  The one consistency we see in all of these attitudes and beliefs is that they exclude God and His Son, the Messiah Jesus  (Heb. Yeshua).

“This is my life; I’ll live it my way.”

As I mentioned above, this belief asserts that the individual is master over his or her own life, and is, therefore, free to choose how to live that life: what to believe, say, eat, what career to choose, who to sleep with, marry, etc.  This attitude and belief is seen reflected in songs like “I Did It My Way,” or even TV commercials that encourage people to “Have It Your Way.”  When I was teaching college English, I read many essays, written by students, men and women, who made assertions like this concerning their lives, including students who said they were Christians, but argued, for example, that abortion was a woman’s right because “It’s her body, she can decide what she wants to do with it, and no one else should be able to tell her to do otherwise.”

The problem with this attitude and belief is that it is in direct opposition to what is taught in the Scriptures.  The Bible teaches us that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to die for us, and that through His death, He “redeemed” (or “bought” or “purchased”) us with His own blood, and He freed us from the slavery of sin and death, so that we could be “servants of righteousness,” freely serving God now as part of His Kingdom.

But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.  For just as you presented your members (your body) as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification….But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.  (Romans 6:17-19, 22)

When the Messiah (Christ) died upon the cross, He shed His own blood for our redemption.  The word “redeemed” means “to purchase back.”  The idea that Messiah’s death was the price paid to “buy” or “purchase” us is seen in several places in the New Testament:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN?  FOR YOU HAVE BEEN BOUGHT WITH A PRICE; therefore glorify God in your body. (I Corinthians 6:19-20; emphasis mine)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, EVEN DENYING THE MASTER WHO BOUGHT THEM, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned. (2 Peter 2:1-2; emphasis mine)

Worthy are Thou [Jesus/Yeshua] to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou was slain, and DID PURCHASE FOR GOD WITH THY BLOOD Men [and women] from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9; emphasis mine)

So what’s my point?  In a monarchy or kingdom, the King owns everything within His Kingdom.  Throughout the Bible, God is seen as “the King of all Kings.”  So when we give our lives to Messiah (Christ), we are not only acknowledging Him as our “King,” but we are giving Him complete and total ownership over our lives.  At that point, we are no longer the “owner” of our lives, He is.

We can see this same attitude over and over again throughout Scripture.   For example, we see this attitude in the young Jewish virgin girl, name Mary (Heb. Mir’yam), Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) mother, when visited by the angel Gabriel.  After receiving the news that she was going to conceive and give birth to a son, and she was to name Him “Jesus” (Heb. Yeshua) and further prophecies regarding His coming rule and reign upon the earth, she responded by saying,

Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)

The term “bondslave” here in the New American Standard is translated in the King James Version as “handmaiden,” but the Greek word doulos means “slave.”  In John MacArthur’s book Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity In Christ, he notes the following:

Whenever it [the Greek word doulos] is used, both in the New Testament and in secular Greek literature, it always and only means slave. (16)

Interestingly, he also notes that the word “slave” (Gk. doulos) “appears 124 times in the original [Greek] text” (15).  But “in almost every English version – going back to both the King James Version and the Geneva Bible that predated it,” the word “slave” has been translated as “servant” due to “the stigmas attached to slavery in Western society” (17).  So in Mar’s response, she is acknowledging God as her “Master,” and she is agreeing to do what He has said.

Slavery in ancient Israel and in the first century, C.E., was not like it was in America.  In fact, if the Colonists had actually followed the Bible, there never would have been slavery in the United States.  Biblical slavery was designed so people could pay off their debts.  They didn’t have welfare or food stamps back then.  So, for example,  Jacob wanted Rachel to be his wife, but he did not have the money to pay for the dowry, so he indentured himself (or became Laban’s slave) for a period of 7 years, so that he could work to pay off the price of the dowry.   This is how it worked in the ancient world.  Both sides agreed to the terms, and once the debt (or amount) had been paid and the terms satisfied, then the individual was allowed to go free.  America, though, violated this model over and over again.

On the other hand, there were slaves who were treated and cared for better being someone’s slave than they would be as a “free man.”  So in response, the person would choose to be that person’s slave for life.  This is what was known as a “bondslave.”  How one became a “bondslave” is described in Exodus 21:5-6,

And if the servant [slave] shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.  Then his master shall bring him unto the judges, he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him forever.

So in the ancient world, the wearing of an ear-ring identified one as a “bondslave.” Even the word “Lord,” I discovered has “slave connotations.”  Like most people today, I have used the word “Lord” in reference to Messiah [Christ] the majority of my life, but I used it just thinking that it meant “God.”  I used it that way because I heard other people use it and how they used it.  But the word “Lord” actually means “Master” or “Owner.”  God is called “Lord,” because He created all things; therefore, He owns everything that He created.  Just like any artist today, if they create something, they own what they created.   But man and woman sinned, and by so doing, they rejected Him and His claim of ownership.  And when they did this, they did not gain the freedom that they believed they would, but they were enslaved instead to sin and to the kingdom of darkness.

This is why Messiah (Christ) came to die for us, so He could free us from sin, and bring us back into fellowship with God and to be a part of His kingdom.  By His suffering and death on the cross,  Messiah (Christ) redeemed or “purchased us” for Himself.  So when we acknowledge what Messiah has done and we give our lives to Him, and we accept Him as our “Lord” and “Savior,” we are giving Him the “ownership rights” to our lives; and therefore,  we do not belong to ourselves.  We now belong to God.  He now becomes the rightful Owner and Master of our lives, not us.  Consequently, to say “This is My life, and I will do what I want with it” is a clear denial and recognition of God’s right of ownership.  It is a belief or attitude that’s clearly represented by the Mark of the Beast.

The belief that I am to be self-sufficient and take care of myself.   This is also a belief that runs contrary to Scripture, because it excludes God and His Son, the Messiah Jesus (Heb. Yeshua).  It is the belief that “I don’t need anyone else to help me, I can do it myself.” In America, this belief is looked upon as an ideal, something to strive for.  We in America have been taught by our society and culture that this is what it means to be an adult.  However, when we look to Messiah (Christ) as our model, we find a very different ideal. Jesus (Yeshua) never went about doing His own will, but the will of His Father (God):

I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  (John 5:30)

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (John 6:38).

For example, Jesus (Yeshua) sought only to do the Father’s will, not His own, in regard to what He said and taught, His doctrine, which was given to Him by the Father:

My doctrine is not Mine, but His [God’s] that sent Me.  (John 7:16)

For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak.  (John 12:49-50)

If a man love Me [Jesus], he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loves Me not keeps not My sayings [or teachings]: and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me.  (John 14:23-24)

So over and over again, we see in the Gospels that Jesus (Yeshua) lived a life that was completely dependent upon God in every way: what He said and what He did.  And sometimes this was a struggle for Him.  This is most clearly evident in His prayer while in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Father, if You be willing, remove this cup [His upcoming passion] from Me; nevertheless NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE.   And there appeared an angel to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.  (Luke 22:42-44; Emphasis Mine)

Even though Jesus (Yeshua) suffered great agony here in the Garden, He still submitted Himself to the will of the Father.  Paul highlights this in his epistle to the church at Philippi:

HE [Jesus/Yeshua] HUMBLED HIMSELF, and BECAME OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH,  EVEN THE DEATH OF THE CROSS.  Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus [Yeshua] every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [Yeshua HaMoshiakh] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:8-11; Emphasis Mine)

Jesus (Yeshua) lived His life totally dependent and obedient to God in all things, and as a result, God rewarded Him by elevating Him to the second highest position of authority in all of creation.  Only God the Father is higher in authority than He is now.  Consequently, Jesus (Yeshua) is our role model on how we are to live our lives.  We must ask ourselves each day: Are we seeking to be dependent upon God?  Are we obeying God in all things?  Do we seek His will in all that He taught from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21?  Or are we seeking to do our will instead?  Who do we see on the throne of our lives whenever we need to make a decision?

The belief that we can fix whatever problems arise ourselves.  Again, when we seek to fix our own problems, instead of looking to God and the leading of His Spirit, we are leaving Him out of our lives, and by so doing, we are embracing the attitudes and beliefs of the Beast.  Am I saying that it is wrong to fix problems that arise?  No, I am saying that it is wrong when we try to do it on our own and leave God and Jesus (Yeshua) out of it.  We must learn to work WITH the Lord to get things done, not APART from Him.  You may think your way will work best, but He may have a much better way, if we would only listen to Him.

The belief that with diplomacy and compassion we can solve any conflict peacefully, whether at the local, national, and international levels.  Again, am I saying that diplomacy is wrong?  No, but even in diplomacy, we should seek the mind and will of God in a matter.  God has insights into situations that we just do not have.  He does not just look on the surface of the situation like we do; instead, He can see into the very hearts and thoughts of all those involved.  He can also see the past, the present, and the future all at the same time, we cannot.   Therefore, it is to our benefit to seek His wisdom and counsel in any matter.

The belief that with the right time and technology, we can make this into a better world.  This is a belief held by many, and although science has discovered and invented many wonderful things, God is the one who gave us the capability to make such discoveries and inventions.  But He also gave us a free will, so we may choose what to do with that capability, either to use it to do good or to do evil.  Science has been used to do good, such as to create medicines to heal, but it has also been used to do evil, such as create weapons of mass destruction, like chemical weapons or the atomic bomb.

Why are these the attitudes that make one susceptible to receiving the “Mark of the Beast”?  Because God and Jesus (Yeshua) are not a part of any of them; it is the attitude that people can face issues, problems, and fix their own lives without God and His Son.

FOR THOSE WHO ACCEPT THE MARK OF THE BEAST

But what will happen to those who do accept “the Mark” and “worship the Beast”?  The Bible tells us,

  • He (or she) will experience the wrath of God.
    And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If any man [or woman] worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation;…” (Revelation 14: 9-10a)
  • He (or she) will be eternally tormented with fire and brimstone in the Lake of Fire.
    “…and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name.”  (Revelation 14: 10b-11)

Obviously, the “Mark of the Beast” is something we want to avoid at all cost to not suffer the wrath of God, as well as experience the “Second Death,” which is to be eternally tormented in the Lake of Fire, which burns with “fire and brimstone” forever and ever.  But what about the other mark?  What is it about?

THE MARK OF GOD OR “ANOTHER MARK”?

The first time the Bible mentions God placing a “mark” on someone is in the book of Genesis.  In Genesis 4, Cain, the eldest son of Adam and Eve (Heb. Chavah), kills his younger Abel out of anger and jealousy.  As punishment for this crime, God tells Cain,

And now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened her mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand; when you till the ground, it shall not from here on yield to you her strength, a fugitive and a vagabond shall you be in the earth. (Genesis 4:11-12)

In response to his punishment, Cain tells the LORD:

Behold, You have driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from Your face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that everyone that finds me shall kill me. (Genesis 4:13-14)

In response to this concern, the LORD tells Cain,

Therefore whosoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.  And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.  (Genesis 4:15)

What was this “mark”?  Do we know what it looked like?  No, the Bible does not tell us.  What I am calling “the Mark of God” is placed on a person to keep them from experiencing God’s judgment and destruction.  Although the “mark of Cain” and the “mark of God” is put on someone’s forehead to keep them from being killed or destroyed, the “mark of God” is put on someone to prevent them from experiencing God’s judgment; whereas, Cain received his “mark” while under God’s judgment.

THE MARK OF GOD – TEFILLIN (PHYLACTERIES)?

Another “mark” given by God to His people are the Tefillin, usually translated as “phylacteries” in the New Testament.  In his book, To Be A Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin defines tefillin as,

The tefillin (translated as phylacteries) consist of two small black boxes, containing small scrolls of parchment upon which are written four biblical passages.  They are: Exodus 13:1-10 (“Consecrate every first born to Me…”); Exodus 13:11-16 (“When the Lord will bring you into the land…”); Deut. 6:4-9 (“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One…”); and Deut. 11:13-21 (“If you will diligently obey my commandments…”).  (145)

After providing this definition, Rabbi Donin then goes on to explain,

  • Each of the black boxes comes with leather straps (Hebrew: retzuot) so designed as to enable one to be bound upon the hand and for the other to be worn above the forehead. (145)

As Orthodox Jews, Jesus and His disciples would have also worn tefillin during prayer.  One of the criticisms that Jesus had of the Pharisees dealt with tefillin (or phylacteries).

But all their works they do for to be seen of men.  They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.  (Matthew 23:5)

The criticism was not that they wore tefillin (phylacteries), since Jesus and His disciples did as well, but that they widened the size of the tefillin, in order to make it more noticeable that they were wearing them, that they may “be seen of men.”

Although the tefillin are not referred to as “a mark,” they do relate.  God commands His people to wear tefillin on the hand [usually left hand] and on the forehead.  Why the “left hand,” I believe it is because it is closest to the heart, indicating that our obedience to God must come from the heart.  But as we read, the “mark of the Beast” is on the “right hand” and “forehead,” the mirrored opposite of what God has commanded in His Word.  But why the “right hand”?  Because it is furthest from the heart.  So in commanding the “mark of the Beast,” Satan is trying to provide His own corrupt imitation of God’s command concerning the Tefillin.

THE MARK OF GOD IN EZEKIEL

However, in the book of Ezekiel, we are presented with “The mark of God,” a “mark” that God is using to distinguish and separate those people who are truly His and those who are not, thereby preventing His people from experiencing His judgment and wrath:

Then the glory of God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been, to the threshold of the Temple.  And He called to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case.  And the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”  (Ezekiel 9:3-4)

In this passage, we can see that God instructs an angel to go and place a mark on all those that “sigh and groan over all the abominations (sins) which are being committed in the midst” of the city.  And as we will see, this mark is to designate who is to be saved.

But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity, and do not spare.  Utterly slay [kill] old men, young men, maidens [young girls], little children, and women, but do not touch any man [or person] on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary [Temple].”  So they started with the elders who were before the Temple.  And He said to them, “Defile the Temple and fill the courts with the slain.  Go out!”  Thus they went out and struck down the people in the city. ” (Ezekiel 9:5-7)

Those who do not have this “mark” (what I am calling “the Mark of God”) are destroyed, regardless of their age, group or gender.  Ezekiel then cries out to God in utter horror:

Then it came about as they were striking and I alone was left, that I fell on my face and cried out saying, “Alas, LORD God! Are You destroying the whole remnant of Israel by pouring out Your wrath [anger] on Jerusalem?” (Ezekiel 9:6)

God then responds to Ezekiel:

Then He said to me, “The iniquity [sin] of the house of Israel and Judah is very, very great, and the land is filled with blood, and the city is full of perversion; for they say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see!’  But as for Me, My eye will have no pity nor shall I spare, but I shall bring their conduct upon their heads.” (Ezekiel 9:8-10)

Did this horrific thing actually happen?  Indeed, it did.  I believe this is a vision of what Ezekiel saw of Babylon coming against Jerusalem and utterly decimating the city in 586 B.C.E.  In fact, in the very next verse, we read,

Then behold, the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case reported, saying, “I have done just as You have commanded me.” (Ezekiel 9:11)

God’s judgment was poured down upon all the city, except for those who mourned over the sinful acts that was going on around them.  I believe that this destruction is also a picture of the destruction and judgment that is coming upon all nations at the end of time when God’s wrath will be poured out on all nations.

In the  book of Revelation, there is a parallel passage in which destruction is again about ready to be poured out, but this time on all the nations, and God again sends His angels out to put a mark of the foreheads of those who are God’s people:

And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”  (Revelation 7:1-3)

And earlier in the book, there is a scene where Jesus (Yeshua) promises to write upon those who overcome:

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the Temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.  (Revelation 3:12)

Could these two passages in Revelation be referring to the same “seal”?  Could this “seal” be the same “mark” that was placed on the foreheads of the ancient Israelites that marked them for salvation?  Those in Ezekiel who received this mark were “saved,” while everyone else was destroyed.

WE ARE GIVEN A CHOICE

From the very beginning of creation, humanity has (and continues to be given) a choice between two options: obedience to God or disobedience to God.  For example, we read about these choices:

OBEDIENCE TO GOD

DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD

The Tree of Life The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
The way that led away from Sodom The way that led towards Sodom
The Commandments, blessings and life Sin, cursings and death
Serving YHVH, the true God Serving Ba’al, the false god.
Entering the Narrow gate/way Entering the Broad gate/way
living the crucified life not living the crucified life
Led by the Spirit Led by the Flesh
Being Spiritually-minded Being Carnally-minded
Living in subjection to the Law of God not living in subjection to the Law of God
Doing what pleases God Not doing what pleases God

These are just some of the choices we see discussed within the Bible, but the ultimate decision that each of us must make that’s also in the Bible is in regards to the person of the Messiah Jesus (Heb. Yeshua).  To accept Him as our Lord, Savior, and King, OR do we reject Him as our Lord, Savior and King?  This is not just a one-time decision, but it is a DAILY decision that we must make and live out each and every day.

ONE FINAL CHOICE

But there is coming to humanity, ONE FINAL CHOICE.  Do we choose to follow God and the Messiah Jesus (Yeshua) OR do we choose to follow the Beast and receive His mark?  When that day does arrive, what “mark” will your life reflect?  What “mark” does your life reflect today?  Does your life reflect the “mark of God,” the beliefs and values of God and His Word?  Are you sighing and mourning over the sins and abominations that you witness around you each and every day?

Or does your life reflect the “mark of the Beast”?  Do you seek to live independently from God?  Do you choose what you think is best, rather than God, and do you follow the popular saying, “If it feels good, do it”?  And not only do you engage in sins condemned by God, but do you also give your approval to those who do them as well?  For the Scriptures teach, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them”  (Romans 1:32).

IT’S TIME TO DECIDE

The time of the Lord’s coming is quickly coming upon us.  We do not want to wait until it is too late.  We need to accept Jesus as our Lord, Savior and King, and begin working with Him to get our life right with God.  But how do we know that we’ve been legitimately saved and we’re on the “narrow road” that leads to eternal life?

I believe a sign that we have truly chosen and made God and His Son Jesus Christ (Heb. Yeshua HaMoshiakh) as Lord, Savior and King over our lives is that we share His heart in sighing and mourning over the sins and abominations we see committed around us each and every day.  And by sincerely daily following Jesus (Yeshua) and His teachings found throughout the whole Bible, God will bless us as Jesus (Yeshua) promised by saving us from the coming judgment and destruction, the “Second Death” (Revelation 20:11-15), for “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

 

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What is a “Whole Bible Perspective”?

WHAT IS A “WHOLE BIBLE PERSPECTIVE”?  For us in this ministry, it means two things:

  • We believe that the whole Bible is for all believers throughout time; and
  • We believe that in order to study any subject or topic or idea in Scripture, we have to look at what the whole Bible has to say about it from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.
There are many ministers who consult only the New Testament, for the most part, in regard to doctrine.   As a result, their doctrines are based on only 27 of the 66 books of the Bible (less than 1/2!)  How accurate can one be when one is looking at less than 1/2 of the material involved?
           And I’ve even heard a couple of well-known ministers say on television that only what is from the book of Acts to the book of Revelation is for believers today, and that it is wrong for any believer to go back to the Old Testament for their moral compass, or even to look to the the teachings of Jesus Himself, since they claim that Jesus was still teaching “under the law.”  I was in complete shock!  I couldn’t believe that any minister would have the audacity to say what I had just heard.
          As Christians, we need to hold on to “a whole Bible perspective” if we want to understand all that God has to say about something, and not just “partial knowledge and understanding.” Since “partial knowledge” oftentimes results in misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and error.

MY SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATION

My foundational Scripture for this approach is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. This epistle is extremely important because it was the last one that Paul ever wrote before his execution in Rome. It was, therefore, written after Galatians, Romans, and all his other epistles (or letters). This passage reads as follows:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
The above passage is from the King James Version, but I like the way the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament translates the same passage:
Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for discipline which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, to every good work fully fitted.

THREE IMPORTANT ELEMENTS

There are three important elements to this passage:
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” To begin with, the word “All”  (KJV) can mean “all, each, or every.”
It does not simply mean “all” in a general sense, but “each” and “every” Scripture that we have in the Bible has been “given” to us “by inspiration of God.” (so both the King James and the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament are correct in their translations).
           The phrase “inspiration of God” (KJV) is the English translation of the Greek compound word, theopneustos, which means “God-breathed” or “God-en-spirited.”  Unlike songs, poems, novels, or any other form of art, which are “inspired” from things people see or experience, every verse of the Bible is “breathed out” and “en-spirited” by God Himself, so as the writer of Hebrews says,
For living [is] the word of God and efficient, and sharper than every two-edged sword, even penetrating to [the] division both of soul and spirit. of both joints and marrows, and [is] a discerner of [the] thoughts and intents of [the] heart. (Hebrews 4:12, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament)
The Word of God is alive.  Why?  Because God and His word are one. If we reject His Word, the Bible, then we reject God. And as a Christian, whatever portion of the Bible that you reject as “not for today” is a part of God that you reject and are not allowing into your life. I believe we want as much of God as we can get into our lives, so I accept all of Scripture to be for me and for all believers.
  • [All Scripture] “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:…” Although the phrase “All Scripture” is not physically right before this portion of the verse, it is clear that grammatically speaking it was meant to be applied to this part.
Did you notice that Paul didn’t say, “All Scripture used to be profitable, but now that Jesus died and resurrected, only certain parts are.” No, he didn’t. Because that was not what Paul believed or practiced. Unfortunately though, due to many Christians taking Paul out of his historical, cultural and even religious context, this is the idea that many Christians now believe and teach. But as we can see, such a position opposes this portion of 2 Timothy 3:16.
So not only is “All Scripture God-breathed,” but “All Scripture is also profitable” for the following four things. [The following definitions all come from the “Lexical Aids to the New Testament” found in the back of The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible]:
a. “FOR DOCTRINE” (Gk. Didaskalia, Strong’s #1319).  This word means “that which is taught, teaching, instruction, doctrine. It refers not only to that which is taught, but also to the teacher’s authority behind the teaching” (1705). The teacher, of course, in this case is God Himself, and He stands as the authority behind His teachings, doctrines, in His Word, the Bible.
b. “FOR REPROOF” (Gk. Elegchos, Strong’s #1650).  This word literally means in English to “to prove again.”  In the Greek culture of the 1st century, C.E., it was used as a legal term, and it is only used in 2 Timothy 3:16 and Hebrews 11:1.
          It means “conviction,” but “it implies not merely the charge on the basis of which one is convicted, but also the manifestation of the truth of that charge.” Of course, in a court case, on what basis do we “convict” and “manifest the truth”? Evidence. Consequently, the logical inference here is that Scripture functions as “evidence” to convince us of the truth, as well as the “evidence” needed to “convict” us if we are not living in accordance to its teachings. This is brought out in the rest of the definition.
         “The results to be reaped from that charge and the acknowledgement, (if not outwardly, yet inwardly) of its truth on the part of the accused are referred to as well. (1712)
c. “FOR CORRECTION” (Gk. Epanorthosis, Strong’s #1882).  Do you notice the base “orthosis,” meaning “to correct” or “straighten,” from which we get the word “orthopedic”? This word means “to set right again, correct. The correction or amendment of what is wrong in a man’s [or woman’s] life. (1715)
         Obviously, those who say that ALL parts of the Bible cannot be used for correction or for our moral compass are in direct contradiction to this part of 2 Timothy 3:16.
d. “FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.” There are two terms in this phrase that we need to look at: “instruction” and “righteousness.”
1). INSTRUCTION. (Gk. Paideia, Strong’s #3809). Originally, this was a term used in regard to the “instruction of children. It evolved to mean chastening [disciplining] because all effectual instruction for the sinful children of men includes and implies chastening [disciplining] and correction.” (1744)
2). RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Gk. Dikaiosune, Strong’s #1343). The word “righteousness” in the New Testament is used in two different ways: it refers to “positional righteousness,” what God declares us to be as a result of what Christ [Messiah] did for us by dying on the cross in our stead and through His resurrection, but on another level, this word “righteousness” refers to our “experiential righteousness” which describes our faithful obedience to God and to His Word, including His commandments. 
          We know this because the opposite of dikaiosune is anomia, “lawlessness,” or what I John 3:4 translates as “the transgression of the law.”  So if dikaiosune is the opposite of “transgressing the law,” then it should be understood to mean “living in obedience to the law.”
         Let me explain the differences between these two uses this way. While the Israelites [Jews] were still slaves in Egypt, God declared that the Promised Land [what is now called Israel] was theirs [they had positional occupation of the land], but they were still slaves in Egypt.

They still had to get Pharaoh to let them go, to leave Egypt, make it across the desert and the Red Sea, receive God’s commandments, learn to do battle and to follow God’s instructions, cross the Jordan River, and still invade the land, and take occupation of it.   Did God tell them in Egypt about all that they would have to go through to get to occupy the land?  No, but if they had never left Egypt and did all these things, they would not have gained the land, even though God had declared it to be theirs.  Even though God declared it to be theirs, they still had to walk out and get what God had declared was theirs.

           In like manner, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, by shedding His blood and dying in our place, and by rising again on the 3rd day as He promised, we have been made “positionally righteous” with God. And now that God has declared us “to be righteous” in Christ, we still need to walk that out in our day-to-day lives by submitting to the Lordship of Christ [Messiah] and by walking in obedience to God’s Word, including His commandments, and by daily following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  God has “positionally” declared us to be “righteous,” but we still have to walk it out and “be righteous” in our day-to-day lives.
          Let me give you an example of each from the book of Romans, For example, in Romans 5:19, Paul writes,
For as by one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
In this verse, Paul is describing our “positional righteousness” that we gain through Christ. But now contrast this with Romans 6:13,
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
In this verse, Paul is discussing our “experiential righteousness,” how we are to live out day-by-day what God has declared us to be.   Let’s look at another example of “experiential righteousness” in I John 2:29,
If you know that He [Christ/Messiah] is righteous, you know that everyone that [continues to] do righteousness is born of Him.
John here is looking at our “experiential righteousness,” on how we live each and every day.  He is saying that since we know that Jesus “is righteous,” then we should follow His example and live like He did.  Because if we are truly “born of Him” then we will live righteous [or obedient] lives to God and to His Word.
          So in looking at 2 Timothy 3:16,  is the passage speaking about our “positional righteousness” or our “experiential righteousness”?
          Since the word “righteousness” is being paired with “instruction,” meaning “instruction, discipline, and correction,” then it seems rather obvious then that Paul is talking about “All Scripture” being used in regard to our “experiential righteousness,” rather than, in this case, the “righteousness” we have in Christ positionally.
  • Finally, the last element of this passage is “that the man of God may be perfect [or complete], thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Let’s think about this. If we are not being taught all of Scripture, then there are parts of the Word, which God intended for us to know and experience, that we are not receiving, and therefore, we are not being adequately prepared, trained, or made complete or “fully fitted” for all that God desires for us to know and to do, i.e. every “good work.”
          So we have a choice. We can continue with this “tradition” – that the Old Testament, or even God’s commandments, are not for believers today – which contradicts Paul’s statement here, or we can decide to adopt a “Whole Bible Perspective,” which embraces all that God teaches. 
          Which one will you choose to do? In my own experience, I have found a deeper, richer experience with God and His Word when I adopted a “Whole Bible Perspective,” rather than a “Partial Bible Perspective.”  I pray that you will follow my example and do likewise.

The Woman in Travail: A Deeper Look at Revelation 12

There’s much discussion that’s going around online and in many Christian groups about the coming constellation event, called “The Revelation 12 Sign,” that’s supposed to occur on September 23, 2017, in little more than a week.  There are various views being presented as to the meaning of this constellation event.  And, of course, there are a number of skeptics who are sounding their objections to the pro-theorists.  Although the focus of many is on the stars, they are missing the hidden prophetic meaning of Revelation 12, an important message for Israel and all believers in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).

MISINTERPRETATIONS ABOUND

There have been many misinterpretations about Revelation 12 throughout the centuries, and that is certainly true today.  Some have interpreted the “woman” in Revelation 12 as the Church; some have seen it as Mary, the mother of Jesus; and, of course, you have “end-time teachers” who are now claiming it to be the constellation Virgo.  All of these interpretations are in error for the same reason, they ignore what God taught about the “”woman in travail” within the Old Testament (Heb. Tanakh), specifically within the writing of the Prophets.

WHAT IS A “PRE-TRIB RAPTURE”?

Many believe in what is known as the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” [also called “Pre-Trib Rapture”] when Messiah will return in a secret catching away of believers, both those who have died and the living, before the tribulation begins.  The “tribulation” is a 7-year period when God’s judgments are poured out upon it.  However, in my research as you will see, almost all references point to a post-tribulation resurrection, with a couple of references suggesting a mid-tribulation rapture.

THE DANGER OF THIS POSITION

But it should be noted that the word “tribulation” does not mean “wrath” but “persecution.”  And there are millions of Christians in the world today who are already facing persecution, torture and death.  Consequently, I could not find any real biblical support for the idea of a “Pre-Tribulation rapture.”  But I do believe that this idea is a dangerous one, for it sets Christians up with the expectation that they will avoid persecution, leaving them unprepared for the possibility.  People don’t take the time to study and memorize Scripture, spend the needed time in prayer, or whatever else they need to do to prepare for this time.  Instead, they believe they will be “taken up” before all this happens, leaving them unprepared and in shock when this time of persecution comes upon them as many Christians oversees experienced.  Instead, the best mentality a Christian should have to be prepared for whatever happens.

A WHOLE BIBLE OR PARTIAL ONE?

Another point before getting into this study is that many Christians are not living their lives reading and studying all of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but only a partial one, based on the erroneous belief that the Old Testament (what Jews call the Hebrew Scriptures or Tanakh), or more often the Law (the commandments given to Moses) were “done away with,” “annulled,” or “set aside,” even though more than 80% of the New Testament actually comes from the Old Testament.  If we say that the Old Testament is “no longer valid for people today,” then more than 80% of the New Testament is likewise invalid.

For example, if before the Civil War, I created an entire economy on Confederate money, then when the south lost the war, then that entire economy that I created is no longer any good.  Why?  Because I based it on confederate money, and if the confederate money no longer has any value (which it doesn’t), then that economy no longer has any value either.  In the same way, if the Old Testament is no longer valid for anyone, then over 80% of the New Testament is likewise invalid, since over 80% of the New Testament is based upon the laws and teachings of the Old Testament.  Consequently, for anyone to teach that any part of the Bible is no longer valid is destroying the authority of all of Scripture.

Understanding that all of the Bible is relevant for one’s study is especially important when looking at biblical prophecy.  Too many people think that the only relevant material is in the New Testament.  which is not true.  There’s actually more material in regard to the “last days” and “the day of the Lord” in the Old Testament than there is in the New Testament.  Consequently, Christians greatly limit themselves and their understanding by merely spending time reading and studying the New Testament.  And this is true regarding almost all of the images that we find in the book of Revelation, including the “woman in travail.”

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” –  A COMMON IMAGE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

To begin, it should be noted that within the writings of the Old Testament, the image of “a woman in travail” is used 18 times.  It is used once by the psalmist, 6 times by Isaiah, 8 times by Jeremiah, once by Hosea, and 2 times by Micah.  Of course, the problem with these supposed “end-time teachers” is that they haven’t searched the Old Testament Scriptures, for if they had, they would not have been looking up to the constellations for answers; they would be pointing them to the Scriptures themselves.

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” – AN IMAGE OF SUDDEN CALAMITY AND PAIN

Throughout the Old Testament, the phrase “a woman in travail” (KJV) or “a woman in labor” (newer translations) is often used to symbolize sudden calamity, destruction, pain, and anguish coming upon individuals or a nation.  It is in the psalms that we first see this used,

God is known in her [Jerusalem’s] palaces for a refuge.  For lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together.  They saw it, and so they marveled; they were troubled, and hasted away.  Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  You break the ships of Tarshish [Tarsus] with an east wind.  (Psalm 48:3-7; Emphasis Mine)

What is it that causes these kings to marvel and respond in fear?  The answer to that question gets thrown off by the use of the word “it,” but in the Hebrew, the word “it” is the word “Him,” meaning God.  It is how God has protected and blessed the city of Jerusalem at this time that has the surrounding non-Jewish kings in awe.  And when God destroys the “ships of Tarshish” to protect Jerusalem from invasion, fear and pain takes ahold of these kings, “as of a woman in travail.”

In other words, the phrase “a woman in travail” is being used here in Scripture as a simile, a figure of speech, that’s used by the writer to describe two unlike things using “like” or “as,” and in this case, the two unlike things are the fear and pain felt by the kings, and “a woman in travail.”  Although newer translations use the phrase “a woman in labor,” they could have communicated the idea of “travail” better, if they would’ve used the phrase “a woman in hard labor” instead.  Particularly, since the Early Modern English idea of “travail” would’ve been understood to mean “hard and intense pain and anguish,” much like a woman experiences when she has entered into “hard labor.”

The Old Testament Hebrew prophets likewise used this same literary device in the same way within their writings.  For instance, in this same passage from the prophet Isaiah, he is describing his own feelings when hearing about the fall and destruction of Babylon:

Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold of me, as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL: I was bowed down at the hearing of it, I was dismayed at the seeing of it.  My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.” (Isaiah 21:3-4, King James Version; Emphasis Mine)

Here is the same verse from the New American Standard Bible (a newer translation):

For this reason my loins are full of anguish; pains have seized me like the pains of A WOMAN IN LABOR.  I am so bewildered I cannot hear, so terrified I cannot see.  My mind reels, horror overwhelms me; the twilight I longed for has been turned for me into trembling. (Isaiah 21:3-4; Emphasis Mine)

I included the newer translation to prove that “a woman in travail” and “a woman in labor” are indeed interchangeable.  And although younger people today may not recognize the image of “a woman in travail,” they do understand the image of “a woman in hard labor.”  Here is another example from the prophet Jeremiah.  In this passage, he is describing those in Damascus when it was being attacked:

Damascus waxed feeble, and turns to flee, and fear has seized on her: anguish and sorrows have taken her, as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  (Jeremiah 49:24; Emphasis Mine)

Finally, here is another example from the book of Jeremiah describing the king of Babylon when he heard of the attack that was happening to his city:

The king of Babylon has heard the report of them and his hands waxed feeble: anguish took hold of him, and pains as of A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  (Jeremiah 50:43; Emphasis Mine)

As can be seen in these examples, the use of the phrase “a woman in travail” is used as a descriptive simile in each of the above examples.  When it is used in this way, it is not to be taken literally to refer to an actual woman in labor, but it’s used as a descriptive phrase to try and emphatically describe some event or personal trauma.

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” – AN IMAGE ASSOCIATED WITH “THE DAY OF THE LORD”

But the image of “a woman in travail/hard labor” is also used by several prophets in conjunction with “the day of the LORD,” a day in which God pours out His judgment upon a nation.  For example, in describing God’s judgment against Babylon, by having this empire destroyed by the Medes in the future, the prophet Isaiah writes,

Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.  There shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt: they shall be in pain as A WOMAN THAT TRAVAILETH [A WOMAN THAT’S IN HARD LABOR]; they shall be amazed [shocked] at one another; their face shall be as flames.  Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both in wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.  (Isaiah 13:6-9; Emphasis Mine)

Here we can clearly see the image of “a woman that travaileth” [or is in hard labor] within the context of “the day of the LORD.”  A day in which God pours out His anger and judgment upon a people and nation for their rejection of Him and His commandments.  For example, we see this also used by Jeremiah in his prophecy about Jerusalem’s coming destruction by the Babylonians (an event that happened in 586 B.C.E.):

For I have heard a voice as of A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL [Hard Labor], and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me!  for my soul is wearied because of murderers. (Jeremiah 4:31; Emphasis Mine).

Although the phrase “the day of the LORD” is not explicitly stated here, it is there by inference since the context deals with the coming judgment of Jerusalem by God, because the Israelites [the Jewish people] had turned away from Him and His commandments to worship false gods and to participate in those religions.

Here are some other references to the phrase “a woman in travail” being used by the prophet Jeremiah, in regard to God pouring out His judgment upon the people or nation:

We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish has taken hold of us, and pain, as of A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL. (Jeremiah 6:24; Emphasis Mine)

What will you say when He shall punish you?  For you have taught them to be captains, and as chief over you: shall not sorrows take you, as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL  And if you say in your heart, why have these things come upon me?  For the greatness of your iniquity are your skirts discovered, and your heels made bare. (Jeremiah 13:21-22; Emphasis Mine)

In each of these passages by Jeremiah, the use of the phrase “a woman in travail [or hard labor]” is used as a simile, a literary device, to describe the sudden pain, anguish, calamity and turmoil that a person or nation feels when the day of God’s judgment (“the day of the LORD”) suddenly happens to them.  Hosea and Micah likewise used this phrase the same way in their prophecies as well:

The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is rid.  The sorrows of A TRAVAILING WOMAN shall come upon him.  (Hosea 13:12; Emphasis Mine)

Now why do you cry out loud?  Is there no king in you?  Is your counselor perished?  For pains have taken you as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL.  For now shall you go forth out of the city, and you shall dwell in the field, and you shall go even to Babylon; there shall you be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem you from the hand of your enemies. (Micah 4:9-10; Emphasis Mine)

In fact, so horrible and dreadful is God’s judgment on people that He pronounces a “woe” (a judgment) upon anyone who wishes for that day to happen:

Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord, says therefore; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the hasbandman [farmer] to mourning, and such as are skillful of lamentation to wailing.  And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through you, says the LORD.  WOE UNTO YOU THAT DESIRE THE DAY OF THE LORD!  to what end is it for you?  THE DAY OF THE LORD is darkness, and not light.  As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.  Shall not THE DAY OF THE LORD be darkness, and not light?  even very dark, and no brightness in it? (Amos 5:16-20)

Because God is the ultimate expression of holiness, He must judge sin.  And although “the day of the LORD” does come for people and nations, it is not something that we are to desire or to wish upon anyone.  As we have seen, the phrase of “a woman in travail” may be used to speak of a time of calamity, destruction, pain and anguish, but it can also be used to denote a time of God’s judgment upon a people.  The question is how do we understand its use in Revelation 12?

REVELATION 12:1-2

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pain to be delivered.

Unlike many of today’s “end-time teachers,” who do not look to the Old Testament in order to understand this prophecy, they come up with all types of “off-the-wall” speculations about what this means.  I even read one Christian’s interpretation that the woman was Mary and the child Jesus.  However, as we have clearly seen, “a woman in travail [or hard labor]” is a repeated image that’s used as a simile to describe some sudden calamity, destruction, or pain and anguish falling upon a people or nation.  So in light of this vision, the two questions we need to ask is:

  • What people or nation is being represented here?
  •  Is this calamity and destruction the result of God’s judgment or does it have another source?

If we examine verse 1, we are given in the vision the needed details we need to identify the nation as Israel.  John is not viewing a constellation, but he is alluding again to the Old Testament, as he does so often, specifically, in this case, to the second dream of Joseph.

ABOUT JOSEPH AND HIS DREAM

Because of Joseph’s obedience and loyalty to his father, Jacob gave him “a coat of many colors” (Genesis 37:3), and this coat indicated to the rest of the family that Jacob had chosen Joseph, over his older brothers, to lead the family after Jacob’s death.  This, of course, caused a lot of animosity between Joseph and his brothers.  But it is only after Joseph received this coat, this image of leadership, that Joseph begins to have these strange dreams regarding his future.  The dream dealing with the sun, moon, and stars was the second dream that Joseph shared with his father and brothers.

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.”  And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed?  Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow down ourselves to you to the earth?”  (Genesis 37:9-10)

Now some may say, “But Joseph’s dream only contained 11 stars, not 12.”  This is true, but the 12th star was Joseph himself, and in many places of the Old Testament, the people and nation of Israel are portrayed as a virgin woman, such as in the following passages:

The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up. (Amos 5:2)

Again, I will build thee, and you shall be built, O virgin of Israel: you shall be adorned with your tabrets, and shall go forth in the dances of them that make merry.  (Jeremiah 31:4)

Consequently here, John is not seeing a vision of the constellation Virgo, as being taught by many “end-time teachers,” but his vision concerns a coming calamity, destruction, pain and anguish to the people and nation of Israel.

HIDDEN MESSAGE #1: THERE IS COMING A DAY OF CALAMITY AND ANGUISH COMING TO THE PEOPLE AND NATION OF ISRAEL.

There is coming to the people and nation of Israel in these final days, a time of great calamity, anguish, pain, and horror.  Some may believe that the Holocaust that Jews in Europe experienced under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime was the fulfillment of this, and I wish with all that’s in me that this was true, but it is not.  There is another Holocaust coming, but this time it will not be confined to Europe, but it will be global in scope.  For example, the prophet Isaiah writes,

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again THE SECOND TIME to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left,…and He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah FROM THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH. (Isaiah 11:11a, 12; Emphasis Mine)

The signs of this are all around the world.  The growing anti-Semiticism in Europe with the Neo-Natzi Movment, the Middle East among the radical Muslims, and signs of it have been appearing in the United States as well.  This unfortunately will continue to increase, until another Holocaust occurs.  I am sure many are asking, “Why?  Why would this happen again to the Jewish people, particularly since their hearts cry regarding the last Holocaust is “NEVER AGAIN!”?

The unfortunate reality is that there is a dark entity that hates anything that represents God and the Scriptures.  And the people of Israel (the Jewish people) were chosen by God to represent Him and His Torah, and it is for that reason that this dark entity hates everything there is about the Jew.  It is he that has been flaming the fires of hatred against the Jewish people, and he will not rest until every Jew has been destroyed.  And it is this dark entity that John identifies in the next two verses of Revelation 12.

REVELATION 12:3.

And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.

THE GREAT RED DRAGON

Prior to the woman [Israel] giving “birth,” another sign appears in heaven.  This one, though, is of “a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.”  Now there are some “end-time teachers” who are trying to say that the constellation Draco is the “great red dragon” here.  However, John, just 6 verses later, identifies the “dragon” as “Satan:”

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world:… (Revelation 12:9a)

Obviously, then, the “great red dragon” that John sees in verse 3 cannot be the constellation Draco.

REVELATION 12:4.

And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth.  And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

This is where the constellation argument falls apart.  How would Draco, a constellation, throw a third of the stars to the earth?  Obviously, it couldn’t.  Therefore, this “great red dragon” could not be possibly the constellation Draco, but as John states, it is a picture of Satan.  His tail sweeping down the “third of the stars” has been traditionally interpreted and taught by most Christians as referring to the third of angels (i.e., “the stars of heaven”) that fell when they joined Satan in an open rebellion against God, and as a result, they were cast out of heaven unto the earth.  These “fallen angels” are what later became known as “demons.” But as we see in this part of the vision, the dragon (Satan) is standing before the woman (Israel), who is “about to give birth,” so that he might “devour her child.”

WHO IS “THE MALE CHILD”?

So who is this “child” that the people and nation of Israel is going to give birth to, that Satan, the “great red dragon,” wants “to devour” and destroy?  An indication of the identity of “the male child” is seen in verse 5.

REVELATION 12:5.

And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

Because the “male child” here is described as being a “male,” who is “to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” and someone who “was caught up to God and to His throne,” the automatic assumption of most Christians is that the “male child” here refers to Jesus Christ.  And on the surface, this seems logical.  However, when we compare Revelation 12 with Isaiah 26, we see some very interesting commonalities between the two passages.

ISAIAH 26 AND REVELATION 12

When we compare these two prophetic passages, the common elements that we see are a travailing woman, the mention of a child, and a resurrection.

Isaiah 26:17-21 Revelation 12:1-2, 5-6
  And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.
A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL

Like a woman with child, that draws near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and cries out of her pains; so have we been in Your sight, O LORD.

And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
THE MENTION OF A CHILD

We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.

And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron:
THE MENTION OF A RESURRECTION

Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

And her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne.

As we can see, there are definite parallels between these two passages.  In both passages, the woman (Israel) is in great travail, as if “we have been with child,” but in the Isaiah 26 passage, Israel was not able to bring forth any deliverance on their own, but in the Revelation 12 passage, we see Israel bringing forth “the male child.”  But right after their discussion of not being successful in bringing forth deliverance to the world, there is a description of the resurrection of the dead, which interestingly corresponds with the birth of the “male child” being “caught up unto God, and to His throne.”

This provokes some really interesting questions, particularly when we consider the following two verses, Isaiah 26:20-21, with Revelation 12:6.

Come, My people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you: hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty (1260) days.
For, behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.

In both Isaiah 26:20 and Revelation 12:6, there is a hiding away of God’s people for a time, before “the LORD comes out to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity” (Isaiah 26:21).  I believe it would be rather naïve of anyone to say that these similarities are “merely coincidence.”  Instead, John, who grew up and lived his life as an Orthodox Jew (an Orthodox Jew who had found his Messiah), would have drawn heavily upon the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., “the Old Testament”).  And we indeed see an abundance of evidence of this in his gospel, his first epistle, and especially in the book of Revelation.  And so it is not surprising for God to reveal the future to John using the same or similar images, and their associated meanings, as we see within the writings of the Old Testament Prophets.

REVELATION 11 AND REVELATION 12

Consequently, what we see is that the time of Israel’s coming suffering precedes the resurrection of the dead.  Therefore, is this coming constellation event a sign regarding the rapture of the church?  No, it is not.  What we do see in the birth of the “male child” is that it occurs just after the mid=point of the 7-year period.

Ministry and death of the Two Witnesses (1260 days; or 3.45 years).   These two witnesses minister for the first half of the Tribulation. (Revelation 11)
The sounding of the 7th Trumpet (“the last trump”).  After the sounding of the 7th trumpet, we find the 24 elders in heaven, praising God, and then saying, “And the nations were angry, and Your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Your name, small and great; and should destroy them which destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:17-18).
The Birth of the “Male Child” (Revelation 12:5).  After this is exclaimed by the 24 elders, there is the “woman in travail” and the “birth of the male child.”
The Woman (Israel) Hidden for 1260 days (or 3.45 years),  It is after the “male child’s birth” that the woman is pursued by Satan and she is hidden for 1260 days (or 3.45 years).

I’ve discovered that although John wrote down the visions in the order he received them, they are not in the order in which they will occur.  For example, as we can see from these two chapters, the ministry length of the two witnesses will be about 3.5 years and the time length that the woman is hidden is about 3.5 years.  If you add them together , you get approximately 7 years, yet chapter 11 happens midway into the book.  Also, the opening of the first seal, and the coming of the first rider on a white horse (Revelation 6:1-2) corresponds to the rise of the Beast and his false prophet in Revelation 13.

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” –  “A TIME OF JACOB’S TROUBLE”

So as we can see in our discussion so far, the “woman in travail” does not refer to the Church, nor does it refer to Mary, but it refers to the people and the nation of Israel suddenly and unexpectedly experiencing a time of great calamity, suffering, pain, and anguish.  This perfectly describes a period known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble.”

And these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and the concerning Judah.  For thus says the LORD, We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.  Ask now, and see whether a man does travail with child?  Wherefore  do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL, and all faces are turned pale?  Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even THE TIME OF JACOB’S TROUBLE; but He saved them from it.  (Jeremiah 30:4-7; Emphasis Mine)

Here we see in Jeremiah’s prophecy, the image of “a woman in travail” used to describe “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” the last half of this 7 year period.  I believe that the hiding of the woman for 1260 days is God’s way of telling the Jewish people that during this coming time, He will keep His promise that He made to them through the prophet Jeremiah.

“A WOMAN IN TRAVAIL” & “THE MAN CHILD” IN ISAIAH 66

A final point I want to discuss is that not only is “the woman in travail” discussed within the ancient Hebrew prophets, but in the book of Isaiah, so is her male child.  For example, consider Isaiah 66:5-9,

Hear the word of the LORD, you that tremble at His word; your brothers that hated you, that cast you out for My name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.  A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that renders recompense to His enemies.  Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a MAN CHILD.  Who has heard of such a thing?  Who has seen such things?  Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?  For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.  Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth?  says the LORD:  shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? says your God. (Isaiah 66:5-9)

So as we can see hear, both Isaiah 66 and Revelation 12 refer to a woman in travail and to the birth of a “man child.”

And what is the context of Isaiah 66 and the birth of the “man child”?  God’s final judgment upon the nations of the world; that is, “the day of the LORD.”  The exact same theme and context as John’s visions in the book of Revelation, including the vision of “the woman in travail.”

THE MAN CHILD – ONE BIRTH OR TWO?

However, although the two passages deal with the same theme, the same time period, and use the same terms, there is a difference between the “man child” of Isaiah 66 and the “male child” of Revelation 12:  the timing of the man child’s birth.  In Isaiah 66, the “man child” is born BEFORE “she travailed,” BEFORE “her pain came” (Isaiah 66:7).  However, the “male child” of Revelation 12 is born DURING her time of pain and travail (Revelation 12:2, 5).  This conflict in timing seems to suggest the possibility of two separate births: one before the “travail” and one during the “travail.”

WHAT WE HAVE SO FAR

So in summary, Isaiah 26 indicates that the time that the “woman” is “in travail” occurs right before the resurrection, God’s people being hidden for “a little moment,” and the LORD coming “out of His place” to “punish” the nations of the world for “their iniquity.”  Isaiah 66 seems to indicate the possibility of two “births” from the nation and people of Israel: the first being the “man child” before “the time of travail,” and then of “her children” during the time of the travail.  All three references – Isaiah 26, Isaiah 66, and Revelation 12 – all indicate Israel being in a time of “travail” (suffering, calamity and pain) when “a child” is born.  Only the Isaiah 66 text indicates a miraculous birth of a “man child” that will occur BEFORE the time of “travail.”

THE MAN CHILD – SAME NATION, TWO DIFFERENT BIRTHS

So although Isaiah 66 indicates two births, one of the “man child” BEFORE the indignation, God’s judgment being poured out on the nations of the world, and the birth of “her children,” which occurs during her travail (or hard labor), I believe that the “man child” of Isaiah 66 and the “male child” of Revelation 12 represents parts of the same people or nation.

First of all, the inference of Isaiah 66 is that just as “the woman in travail” represents a nation, so does the “man child” (or “male child”) represent “a nation.”  For example,

Who has heard such a thing?  Who has seen such things?  Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day?  or shall A NATION BE BORN at once?  For as Zion travailed, she brought forth HER CHILDREN. (Isaiah 66:8)

This “man child” of Isaiah 66 is “a nation” who will be born at one time from the people and nation of Israel [“Zion”], BEFORE the nation of Israel undergoes a time of extreme calamity, anguish, destruction and pain.  This “nation” (or “man child”) will be born in “the last days” when God is “judging the nations.”

But not only will this “man child” nation be born in the last days BEFORE the days of Israel’s travail, but its birth will shock and surprise many people.  It will leave them reeling with wonder and questions.  Some might think that Jesus here is the “man child” referred here, but Israel was in travail from the persecution and abuse of Rome.  It did not happen BEFORE the travail.

Another reason why this “man child” could not be Jesus is because just 8 verses later in verse 15, we read,

For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.  For by fire and by His sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. (Isaiah 66:15-16)

Obviously Jesus cannot be the “man child” of verse 7 or part of “the children” of verse 8, if He is the one coming with fire and with His chariots to bring God’s judgment upon the nations.  Obviously, then, He cannot be the “male child” of Revelation 12 for the same reason.  He cannot be born and bringing judgment at the same time.  This is also confirmed by the prophecy of Micah 5:

But you,  Beth-lehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel. (Micah 5:2)

Anyone having read the New Testament recognizes that this prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  However, what should interest us in this study is the two verses that follows this prophecy:

Therefore will He give them up, UNTIL THE TIME that SHE WHO TRAVAILS HAS BROUGHT FORTH; then the remnant of His brothers shall return unto the children of Israel.  And He shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; and they shall abide: for now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth.  (Micah 5:3-4; Emphasis Mine)

Notice that it will be when “she who travails brings forth” when Messiah will return to His people.  Others might believe that Israel becoming a nation on May 14, 1948, would be the fulfillment of this prophecy concerning the “man child” in Isaiah 66, but again the time sequence is wrong.  Israel became a nation as a result of Israel’s travail in Europe, not BEFORE it happened.

THE MAN CHILD – A NATION WHO WILL RULE WITH A ROD OF IRON?

Another clue to the identity of the “man/male child” is found in Revelation 12, the “male child” will “rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne” (Revelation 12:5).  It is this description that prompts most Christians to identify the “male child” as Jesus.  Because as the Messiah, He “will rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9) and who else but Him has been “caught up to God and to His throne”?

THE MAN CHILD – THE OVERCOMING BELIEVERS

in Revelation 2, Jesus promises something to two churches out of the seven that’s relevant to end-time prophecy.  The first church was the church of Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29),

And he that overcomes, and keeps My works unto the end, to him will I give power [or authority] over the nations: and he shall rule [or shepherd] them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father. (Revelation 2:26-27)

I have heard ministers quote this verse and say that it applies to all Christians; however, that ignores the context of the statement.  These seven churches, in Revelation 2-3 represent the types of churches that will exist in each period of history until Christ’s return.  Even though each type of church will exist in each period of time, there will be one type of church that will dominate in a particular period.  For example, I believe in the United States right now, the dominate church that we see is the “Laodicean Church”  (Revelation 3:14-22).

Jesus did not give this promise to all the 7 churches,  but only to those who “overcome” and “keep [His] works unto the end.”  The word “keep” here has a much broader meaning than what we see in the English.  It means “to keep, to watch, to maintain, and to observe or practice.”  Consequently, those who will be given the authority over the nations to “rule them with a rod of iron” are those who continue keeping, maintaining, and observing and practicing “His works unto the end.”  Merely calling oneself a “Christian” or even calling Jesus “Lord” does not automatically entitle one to this promise.  For Jesus taught the people who followed Him [and continue to follow Him]:

Not everyone that says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? and in Your name have cast out devils? and in Your name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity (or lawlessness). (Matthew 7:  21-23)

As He taught [and continues to teach through the Scriptures], merely calling Jesus “Lord,” even if it is done emphatically, is not enough to get one into heaven.  In Luke’s gospel, Jesus likewise asks the question, “And why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and don’t do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)  Biblical “faith” or “believing” includes obedience, not merely accepting something to be true.  Consequently, it is my belief, based on the textual evidence of Scripture, that only those believers in Jesus (Yeshua) who are faithfully serving Him, keeping all the commandments of God, including those in the Old Testament and who continue to keep, observe and practice “His works” will comprise “the man child” of Isaiah 66.   For as we noted in this passage, the prophesied “man child” is “a nation” of people, not one individual.

When this happens it will wake up those who are left, and if they remain faithful to Jesus during this time, they will make up the “male child” of Revelation 12.

AN ANCIENT EXTRA-BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN SOURCE

The Didache, also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” dated from about 75- 150 C.E., is one of the oldest Christian writings, if not the oldest.  Now I am not trying to suggest that it is divinely inspired, but it does give us a non-biblical view of how those who lived during this time understood the end-time event of Christ’s return and the resurrection of the dead:

For in the last days the false prophets and corruptors will abound, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate.  For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another.  And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and “will perform signs and wonders,” and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before.  Then all mankind will come to the fiery test, and “many will fall away” and perish, but “those who endure” in their faith “will be saved” by the accursed one himself.  And then there shall appear the signs of the truth: first the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet, and third, the resurrection of the dead – but not of all, rather, as it has been said, “The Lord will come, and all his saints with him.”  Then the world “will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.” (Lightfoot and Harmer, Trans., The Apostolic Fathers 2nd ed.,p. 158)

Obviously, this late 1st century to mid-2nd century view of the believers of that time believed that Christ’s return and the “resurrection of the dead” would occur at the end of the tribulation period, rather than “before the tribulation” (Pre-Tribulation or “Pre-Trib”), as is commonly taught by many churches and ministers today.  I have heard many ministers and evangelists claim that the 1st century church believed in a “Pre-Tribulation rapture;” however, the teaching of the Didache calls this teaching into question.

CONCLUSION

I have much more research on this topic, which I am presently putting together in a book form.  I think this study that I have presented here clearly demonstrates that there’s a lot more material and depth to this topic than what is normally presented or discussed in most churches or Christian groups.  But by the same token, it also opens the doors to many more questions about this as well.

I hope you enjoy what I have put together and presented here, and I pray that it will prompt you to do your own study of the Scriptures, regarding this and other topics as well.

 

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The 12 Things the Old Testament Teaches Us about God’s Grace (Part 1)

GRACE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT?

Did you know that the theological concept and spiritual reality of grace is, in fact,  in the Old Testament?  Contrary to what most Christians have been taught, God’s grace is not a New Testament revelation, but it is God’s modus operandi (“method of operation”) throughout all Scripture.  Some may ask, “Then why don’t we see the word ‘grace’ in the Old Testament?” There are a couple of places where the word “grace” does appear (e.g., Genesis 6:8; Ruth 2:2); these are the English translations of the Hebrew word chen. However, chen is not dominantly used in the Old Testament, as we see “grace” used dominantly in the New Testament.   But there is another word that’s dominantly used in the Old Testament that also means “grace,” but in our English Bibles, it is usually translated in other ways.

A LESSON IN HEBREW

Many years ago, I learned an important lesson about the Hebrew language.  Many of the Hebrew words have various levels of implied meanings that Hebrew speakers and readers understood, but was not understood to Greek speakers of the Second Temple period.  For example, let’s compare Deuteronomy 6:4-5 with the quotation of it in the New Testament:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Mark 12: 29-30

“Hear, O Israel  The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!  And you shall love the LORD your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might.” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is One LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and with all of your strength.”

Obviously, there are two main differences between these two texts.  The first one is the translation of the Hebrew YHVH echad (“the LORD is one”) where the Hebrew word ‘echad (“one”) is obviously last in the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 6:4, but in the Greek version, the word “one” comes before the word “LORD.”  Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) would have spoken this verse in Hebrew, so Mark here is translating what Jesus (Yeshua) said in Hebrew into Greek for His Roman audience.  The change from “the LORD is one” to “One LORD” by Mark would’ve been to emphasize and reiterate to his Roman readers the belief in one God, particularly since Roman culture was polytheistic, meaning it believed in many gods and goddesses.

The other difference is the inclusion of the phrase “with all of your mind” in the Greek New Testament, which is not stated here in the original Hebrew text.  Hebrew speakers, then and now, understand both the Hebrew word Lev (“heart”) and nephesh (“soul”) also include the mind.  Therefore, the command to love God “with all of your mind” was understood by Hebrew speakers, but what was implied and understood for them needed to be made explicit for the Greek speakers and readers.  This is why we find this phrase in the New Testament, but not in the Deuteronomy text.  And just like the phrase “with all of your mind,” the concept of grace is also an implied and understood concept within the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament.

CHESED – THE HEBREW EQUIVALENT

Many years ago, God placed this study of grace in the Old Testament [Heb. Tanakh] upon my heart, and as I was going through the various references, God revealed to me that the Hebrew word chesed was the Hebrew equivalent of the New Testament word charis, or “grace.”  I then wrote down what I learned about grace from these Scriptures, although I never published this study.  Then, a number of years later, I heard Joseph Prince on TBN discussing a trip he had made to Israel, and while he was there, he discovered that a group of Jewish scholars is currently translating the Greek New Testament into Hebrew, and he asked one of the scholars involved in the project, “What Hebrew word are you using to translate the word grace?”  And the scholar responded, “chesed.”  This again confirmed in my heart what God had previously revealed to me.

Therefore, the Old Testament (or Hebrew) word for “grace” is the word chesed.  We have not realized this before, because for a variety of reasons, which would take more room than I have here to discuss them all.  But one reason, obviously, is the fact that rather than using the word “grace,” a variety of other words have been used to translate this Hebrew word chesed into English instead.  For example, “love,” “steadfast love,” “mercy,” “lovingkindness,” “merciful kindness,” “goodness,” “mercies,” and “merciful.”  For example, I remember a chorus we used to sing in church while I was growing up.  It begins with the following lines:

Thy lovingkindness is better than life,
Thy lovingkindness is better than life.

My lips shall praise Thee, thus will I bless Thee.
I will lift up my hands unto Thy name.

This song is based on Psalm 63:3, and in this verse, the English word “lovingkindness” is the translation of the Hebrew word chesed.  We could translate this as “love and grace,” and we would have a fuller grasp of what the psalmist meant by the word chesed in this verse.  Note: I’ve even explained this to congregations, and then had them re-sing the song using “love and grace,” rather than “lovingkindness.”

This word chesed is so abundantly full of different meanings and levels of meanings that scholars have filled volumes of studies and books trying to determine the best way to translate this one Hebrew word.  But two Greek words that are definitely used as expressions of this one Hebrew word are agape (“love”) and charis (“grace”).  This is why we find “love and grace” paired up so often in the New Testament.  So although the Hebrew word chesed includes God’s abounding, extravagant, steadfast love, it also includes His unmerited favor and grace, as modern Jewish scholarship has determined and that God revealed to me many years ago.

WHAT DOES THE OLD TESTAMENT TEACH ABOUT IT?

Chesed is abundantly used in the Old Testament [Heb. Tanakh], just as charis (“grace”) is abundantly used in the New Testament, but what do we learn about chesed, God’s grace, in the Old Testament?  In this article, I want to discuss twelve (12) things that I discovered was taught in the Old Testament regarding God’s chesed (His “grace”) and some sample passages where it is used.  In this first part, I will present the first six (6) things, and then in part 2, I will present the last six (6).

Chesed is one of God’s major attributes.

God’s chesed – His grace – is one of God’s major attributes throughout the Old Testament [Heb. Tanakh] Scriptures.  For example:

And the LORD passed by before him [Moses], and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness [Heb. chesed, “grace”] and truth, keeping mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”] for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and unto the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7)

In this passage, we learn that God is abundant in chesed (“grace”) and He keeps chesed (His “grace”) for thousands.  In this passage, we can see the use of the word chesed (“grace”* in connection to God’s “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”  Doesn’t the New Testament also teach grace in connection to “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”?  Doesn’t this indicate a God who is consistent in His approach to sin, rather than one that changes? How about this next reference in Psalm 32:10?

          Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusts in the LORD, mercy
          [Heb. chesed, “grace”] shall compass him about.

Isn’t this also a consistent image of grace that we are taught within the New Testament that God surrounds those who put their trust in Him with His grace?  Or how about the following:

How excellent is Thy lovingkindness [Heb. chesed, “grace”], O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings. (Psalm 36:7)

Isn’t this a beautiful image of God’s chesed, His grace?  It is due to His chesed (“grace”) that “the children of men put their trust” in God.  And how true that is throughout the Scriptures!  And I just love the image of “the shadow of Thy wings.”  Anyone familiar with the tallith (Jewish prayer shawl) knows that the corners of it are referred to as “the wings.”  This verse gives us of an image of a loving Father who is bending over and embracing His child, and as He does, His prayer shawl is covering the child there in His arms.  The child is hidden and protected “under the shadow of [the Father’s] wings.”  And there are so more beautiful verses like this, about God’s grace being one of His traits.  I’ll include one more just to prove my point.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”].  He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger forever.  He has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”] toward them that fear Him. So far as is the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:  8-12)

From this passage, we learn that God is “plenteous” or “abundant” in chesed (“grace”), and that as a result, “He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities,” and that His chesed [“grace”] is so great toward those who fear Him that He removes their sin from them as far as “the east is from the west.”  Isn’t this the same thing we are taught about God’s grace in the New Testament?

We need to realize that God does not change (Malachi 3:6).  He is eternally the same, and His grace is also the same in both the Old Testament {Heb. Tanakh] and the New Testament.  This doctrine that God’s grace is a New Testament revelation is obviously not the case and needs to be corrected.

God’s chesed Is eternal

Besides God being “abundant in chesed,” It is also eternal, for God Himself is eternal.  For example,

For the LORD is good; His mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”] is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)

If God’s chesed – His “grace” – is eternal, then how could His grace have begun in the New Testament?  Obviously, it didn’t.  The problem has been our lack of understanding of grace as an expression of God’s chesed.  Let’s look at a few more examples.

For the mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”] of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children. (Psalm 103:17)

O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good: for His mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”] endureth forever.  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy….Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness [Heb. chesed, “grace”], and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107: 1, 2, 8, 9)

God’s chesed (“grace”) is “from everlasting to everlasting,” it is eternal, it “endureth forever.”  Did you catch the rest of the verse?  It says,

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy…Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!

Have you experienced His grace and His redemption?  Are you sharing what God has done for you with others?  Are you praising Him for His chesed, His “grace” and “goodness?  Has his chesed, His “grace,” satisfied your “longing soul and [filled your] hungry soul with goodness”?  Again and again, we see a consistent presentation of God’s grace in both Testaments.  It has been the same since the beginning of time and it will continue into eternity.

Our relationship with God is based on His chesed.

O continue Thy lovingkindness [Heb. chesed, “grace”] to those who know Thee, and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart. (Psalm 36:10)

We can see here that God’s chesed, His grace, is “to those who know Thee.”  The word “know” here does not mean “know about God,” but rather it means “to know intimately, in an intimate relationship”; consequently, then, God’s grace is the basis of our relationship with Him.

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness [Heb. chesed, “grace”] toward those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103: 10-12)

Again, we can see that because of His chesed, His “grace,” God does not deal with us according to our sins or iniquities, but He removes “our transgressions [far] from us,” “as far as the east is from the west.”

Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness [Heb. chesed, “grace”] in the morning; for in Thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto Thee. (Psalm 143:8)

In this verse, hearing or experiencing God’s chesed, His grace, is so desirable that the psalmist prays to “hear” it “in the morning,” and that God would cause him “to know the way wherein [he] should walk….”  why?  Because he lifts “up [his] soul unto [God].”  His great enjoyment of God’s chesed, His grace, then, can be seen to be what motivates Him to respond to God in praise and in worship.

The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”].

Finally, we read that God takes pleasure in them that “fear Him,” and “that hope in His” chesed, His grace.  Do you “fear Him”?  Are you hoping “in His grace”?  Let’s walk in the truth of the whole Word of God, not just in certain parts here and there.

God’s chesed is the basis of His salvation or deliverance.

The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”], forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.  Pardon, I [Moses] beseech Thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of Thy mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”], and as Thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.  (Numbers 14:18-19)

Notice in this passage that Moses is interceding for the people and nation of Israel, and he is appealing – not to the people’s obedience to the Torah – but to the “great mercy” or the great chesed (“grace”) of God, since it is by His grace that He forgives our “iniquity and transgression.”  Also, notice that Moses was well aware that the only reason that Israel had not been totally destroyed by God so far was because of God’s “mercy” (chesed; His “grace”), and not because they did anything to deserve God’s blessings or because of any “righteousness” of their own, but all because of His “mercy,” His chesed.

Even later in Israel’s history, the psalmist, King David, understands and trusts in the chesed (“grace”) of God.  In this psalm, David is praising God for His salvation, for God saving him from those who wanted him dead.

Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that troubled me rejoice when I am moved.  But I have trusted in your mercy [Heb. chesed, “grace”]; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. (Psalm 13:4-5)

David trusted in God’s “mercy” (chesed; His “grace,”) and God saved him from his enemies and those that wished to see him harmed.   Again, we see God’s interaction with humanity is based on His grace, just as it is within the New Testament.  Our God does not change.  In Malachi 3:6, God says, “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”  It is because God does not change that Israel still exists, and that God has not destroyed them due to their sins.  Our God, indeed, is mighty to save, and He is great in His chesed (“grace”).

Not only is our relationship to God based on His chesed (“grace”), but God wants to see chesed (“grace”) developed within His people as well.

Finally, the Old Testament teaches us that we are to demonstrate chesed (“grace”) in our lives as well.  By doing so, we are imitating God.  Just as a Father (or parent) wants to see his child imitate him, so God wants His children to imitate Him as well.  And one way we can do this is by learning to show grace, chesed, not only to one another, but also back to God Himself.  For example, consider the following passages:

The merciful [Heb. chesed] man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself bad.  (Proverbs 11:17)

What is desirable in a man is his kindness (Heb. chesed, His “grace”), and it is better to be a poor man than a liar. (Proverbs 19:22)

He who pursues righteousness and loyalty (Heb. chesed, “grace”) finds life, righteousness and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)

As we can see in these passages, chesed (“grace”) is a trait that God wants to see developed within His people.  In fact, God says that the one who pursues “righteousness and loyalty (or chesed/ “grace”) will find life, righteousness and honor.”  Indeed, a wonderful promise of God for His people.  Let’s look a few more references.

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness (Heb. chesed; “grace”); break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you. (Hosea 10:12)

How we sown into the lives of people “with a view to righteousness”?  Are we breaking up the “fallow ground” of our hearts?  Are we seeking the LORD?  God promises that those who so will “reap in accordance with kindness or chesed (“grace”).  How long are we to do this?  Until He comes, and then He will “rain righteousness on you.”  Let’s look at one more reference.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness [Heb. chesed; “grace”] and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

In this summary statement by the prophet Micah of what God expects of His people, he mentions three things: “to do justice, to love kindness [chesed; “grace”], and to walk humbly with your God.”  Do you love chesed (“grace”)?  Is it a trait that you are developing within your heart and life?  Are you being an imitator of God and His ways? God expects more from us than just us receiving His grace, His chesed, but He also expects to be imitators of Him by developing God’s chesed within ourselves, and then showing it to others.

Grace – A Whole Bible Revelation

So is “Grace” a New Testament revelation?  No, it isn’t.  As we have seen in the first half of this study, we see the same things taught about God’s grace in the Old Testament (Heb. Tanakh) as we do in the New Testament.  Just as it is taught in Malachi 3:6, “For I, the LORD, do not change.”  We need to change our understanding of the Scriptures.  We need to quit teaching that “Grace is a New Testament revelation,” and begin to teach the truth of the Scriptures, “Grace is the way of God, from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelation.”  God has not changed in His person, and He has not changed in His approach to us.  The same God we see in the Old Testament is the very same God we see in the New Testament.  He is the same God of love and grace. The whole Bible bears witness and testimony to this wonderful truth!  Let’s quit preaching a divided revelation, but the truth of the one revelation that’s taught to all of us throughout the pages of the Bible.

 

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Tisha B’Av: My Own Meditative Thoughts

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.  Let us lift up our
heart with our hands unto God in the heavens
” — Lamentations 3:40-41.

ABOUT TISHA B’AV

Tonight begins Tisha B’Av (9th of Av) on the Hebrew calendar, and it lasts until tomorrow evening (from the evening of July 31 to the evening of August 1).  Tisha B’Av is a time of mourning, fasting, prayer, in which a number of different tragedies that happened to the Jewish people are remembered, including the two destructions of their Holy Temple in Jerusalem: Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians and Herod’s Temple in 70 A.D.  by the Romans.

During this time of fasting and mourning, it’s customary to read the biblical book of Lamentations, in which the prophet Jeremiah writes regarding the destruction of Israel’s first Temple, built by King Solomon, by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.  In addition, while mourning these various tragedies, it is customary to do the following:

  • to abstain from eating or drinking
  • to abstain from wearing any leather footwear
  • to abstain from bathing or washing oneself
  • to abstain from swimming
  • to abstain from applying ointments or creams
  • to abstain from engaging in any marital relations or any form of intimacy
  • to abstain from sending gifts
  • to abstain from engaging in outings, trips, or similar pleasurable activities
  • to abstain from wearing fine, festive clothing

It should be remembered that this is a day of mourning for the loss of not only God’s two temples that once stood in Jerusalem, but also for the loss of many lives over the years that had been killed on this day as well.

However, as a modern-day disciple of Yeshua/Jesus who believes that all Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament) is for believers today, I have to call into question the traditional practice of not bathing or washing, as well as not using ointments or creams, because Yeshua/Jesus taught us in the “Sermon on the Mount,”

Moreover when you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; that you appear not unto men to fast, but unto your Father which is in secret; and your Father, which sees in secret, shall reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16-18)

Am I saying that Jewish people today are making a show by fasting and mourning?  No, absolutely not! But there were some during Yeshua’s/Jesus’ day who would overdo it simply so that they could gain people’s pity or attention, and make them feel sorry for them.  We are not to use opportunities like Tisha B’Av to gain outward attention for ourselves by trying to look hungry, unkept, or pathetic to others.   Again, I am not saying that Jewish people are doing this; I am merely noting that some people may use occasions like this for that purpose, and this is NOT something that any Christian should do since it clearly violates Yeshua’s/Jesus’ teaching on fasting.  In accordance with His teaching, then, we should outwardly look like we are not fasting, and then what we do in secret to our Heavenly Father will be honored and rewarded by Him.

However, I do believe that we should join and support Israel in this fast and time of mourning.  In Romans 12:15, we are told –

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep (or mourn) with them that weep (or mourn).

In joining Israel in this fast and time of mourning, we will be showing them that they are not alone, that they do have Christian friends in the United States who care for them and support them.  We should also remember the Israelis who have been recently shot or knifed by radical Muslims, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for those Israeli families, who had loved ones who were wounded or killed.

My Own Thoughts

As a Christian, I am fully aware of atrocities that have been done to the Jewish people in the name of Messiah/Christ over the centuries, and I plan to use part of this time to ask God’s forgiveness for these criminal acts against the Jewish people by Christians, Early Church Fathers, Reformers (such as Martin Luther), and even Christians in our day.  Yeshua/ Jesus never told anyone to verbally and/or physically attack others, including the Jewish people, much less cause them any type or form of harm.  Instead, He taught us to –

You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love them which love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the publicans (sinners) do the same?  And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others?  Do not even the publicans (sinners) do so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Yes, there are some Jews who do hate Jesus and Christians, but a lot of that, I believe, is in response to the persecution, torture, and killing of Jews that’s happened over the centuries by Christians (e.g., pograms, inquisition, holocaust).   But many evangelical Christians today are trying to show their love and support of Israel to demonstrate the true heart of Yeshua/Jesus for His people, a heart of passionate love and concern for them.  Some Jews are still skeptical about this change in attitude, while others are willing to openly accept these new found Christian friends.  Personally, I believe we should pray for all Jews, those who have accepted Yeshua/Jesus and those who have not.  We should also pray for all rabbis (whether they are believers or not) that God would bless their lives and ministries, and that God would reveal Himself to them and to the members of their congregations in miraculous ways, leaving no doubt to anyone that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one and only true and living God.

Last year, my wife and I went to Jerusalem for three months, and while we were there, we met many Jews, as well as a Bedouin family, who all treated us quite kindly and did not mistreat us in any way.  We left there having gained some new insights on the land and the issues there, as well as having made some special Jewish friends.

But in looking at what’s happening around the world, there are reports of great persecution going on against Christians by radical Muslims.  They are being beaten, tortured, raped, and some beheaded and some crucified for their faith.  Yeshua/Jesus did not teach us to respond to persecution with anger and violence, but with love and prayer.  We are not to respond to hatred with hatred, nor respond to their violence with violence.  Just as Yeshua/Jesus told Shi’mon Peter,  “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

We should also use this time to pray for the living Temple of God, the Body of Messiah.  We should not only pray for those who are enduring persecution right now around the world for their faith in Messiah, but we should also pray for the body of Messiah here in America.  The Enemy is attempting to use politics and racism to bring division and hatred into God’s Temple, among His people.  We need to remember that we are first and foremost citizens of God’s Kingdom and secondly citizens of the United States.

As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we follow the laws and teachings of God first and foremost, and then the laws of the United States second.  This priority is crucial because whatever we identify as our first and primary citizenship will be where we derive our values and beliefs.  If God’s Kingdom is first and foremost in our lives, then we derive our values and beliefs from that Kingdom, but if the United States is where we identify our citizenship first and foremost, then we will derive our values and beliefs from there.  And right now, in the United States, there are many values and beliefs which are in complete opposition to those of the Kingdom.  It is my continual prayer that I may “seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), rather than the values and beliefs I see currently all around me in our culture today.

In conclusion, I would like you to join me in praying for Israel, the Jewish people, the rabbinical community, the radical Muslims who are persecuting Jews and Christians, the persecuted Church and their families, as well as the Church here in America during Tisha B’Av.  I believe this time can bring about true breakthroughs and blessings in the lives of the people we pray for, as well as in our own lives, if we are willing to reach out in love and prayer for these various issues and groups in the name of our beloved Master, Lord and Savior, the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus. Amen.

 

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Proclaiming the Messiah & His Kingdom to a Hurting World