A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Eschatology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eschatology. Show all posts

December 12, 2021

How Much Longer, Lord?

I am prompted to write this today after receiving a comment on a post I wrote in 2014. It has reminded me just how much we are living in days that are eerily similar to the days of Noah. At the time, I wrote, "There are days I wake up and wonder, 'How much longer can this world survive?' And, what will our lives be like when everything is torn asunder?" That was seven years ago, and can anyone say we've earned a reprieve? Today, I would add, "God, how much longer until You remove the Restrainer's hand"? We know, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:6, that the Antichrist is being held in check until the time of his revealing (although at times, it feels as if he is unimpeded) .

Certainly, the political corruption has accelerated; and it looks as if the Enemy has been handed the reins of government. At the very least, it is more evident that our government is not "of the people" -- the divide between those who govern and the governed has become quite obvious. And speaking of "divided" ... the devil has done a pretty good job of employing division as one of his weapons to control the world. He began by dividing the angels in Heaven against God, and then was able to tempt Eve, then Adam, to an act that separated them from God and severed their relationship. Blessedly, Jesus has reconciled us to our Father, but the world still suffers division between nations, peoples, races, sexes, religions, classes of people, forms of government, and in regards to the abominable act of termination of life in the womb.

Wars and rumors of war have pretty much been a continuous state of affairs for the last 100+ years. From WWI, we have essentially seen war bleeding into war, and here we are in 2021, with the possibility of another World War staring us in the face. In 2014, I wrote, "But I'm also aware that the lust for oil is at the heart of many [of these] conflicts.  If you dig deep enough under the propaganda, you will usually find a trail that links you directly to a massive oil reserve.  This includes all the pseudo-scientific data on global warming (or is it cooling these days?); there is always someone, or a group of "someones", who have become millionaires by peddling their brand of "caring for the globe".  In the meantime, nations send thousands of their young men to die -- not really for patriotic and sovereign reasons, but as a strategic move on the chess board of oil consumption". And here, we find ourselves again discussing Russia and Ukraine, and now let's add NATO to the conversation [which can really be thought of as the UN]. Once again, it's all about the oil. Ukraine is rich in oil and Russia doesn't want NATO/UN controlling this important resource. 

I'm also pondering how much longer will the world survive when I look at the turmoil happening in the earth. From the La Palma volcano off the coast of Africa to the earthquake zone known as "the ring of fire" in the Pacific Ocean, it seems as if the world is ready to erupt. The monstrous storm that saw 24 tornadoes form in our heartland this past weekend  -- one of them was 200 miles wide! -- seem to forecast implosion and violent collapse. In addition, we have been subjected to a virus for two years that has disrupted our economy, our ability to grow crops and feed the nation, and cost millions their lives. This is not the plan God wants for mankind. I've said it before, and I will say it again ... Satan has known God's plan from the beginning: to dwell among His creation in personal relationship.  And it has been the Devil's desire to disrupt that relationship at all costs.  He knew God would eventually have to send His Son to redeem us from the ways that he, Satan, would introduce.  If he could disrupt the genealogy and eventual birth of God's perfect Offspring with his own corrupt line, then the world and its inhabitants would worship him, Satan. And it grieves my soul and spirit to clearly see those who have chosen to bow down in reverence to God's enemy. 

The days of Noah are here! Men have used their knowledge to partner with Satan to corrupt God's design and purpose for men. In Genesis 6, we saw the hybridization of fallen angels and human women. Today Artificial Intelligence has resulted in an agenda to create a hybrid man/computer. In both cases, it results in a form of mankind that will not be recognized by the Lord on Judgment Day. Once again, I fear we have given God reason to declare, "It [deeply] grieves Me [to see mankind’s sin] and I regret that I have made them." I fear we are nearing that day sooner than we think.

As I watched the latest space flight of Jeff Bezo's Blue Origin rocket blast off into space, all I could think of was that this was a modern-day version of the efforts of men to build a Tower of Babel. Two of the passengers onboard this "spaceship" each paid a reported $28 million [each] to power into the heavens in a bid to shatter the boundaries between Heaven and Earth. It is the arrogance of men who seek to be "God-like" that delivers them into the hands of the devil. We must ask ourselves, "Are Christians ready for the deception that is coming on the earth? After all, Adam and Eve knew God intimately; they walked in the Garden with Him --- and they still fell for the lies!  

I know what the Bible says ... that judgment will begin in the House of the Lord. So I pray that the Church will awaken to the fact that God has put a mark on the foreheads of those of us who belong to Him in Spirit and Truth. There are some hard questions we need to consider ... Have we adequately sighed and groaned over the abominations that have happened on our watch? And have we done everything we could to stop them? Have we recognized our land is filled with the blood of innocent babies, and that injustice has been spreading like a fire out of control? Are we cognizant that the Lord sees it all, and He says the Day of the Lord will come when He will bring our deeds upon our heads? I am so grateful that the Prophets of old have declared that a remnant will be trained up for the Last Days to represent the holiness of God and proclaim His supremacy and glory! Although the gate is wide, the path is narrow, and we must guard the Lord's Truth in these Last Days so that as many as possible know the way into His Kingdom! 

So, yes, I see that the devil has sowed his wickedness in the world and men have succumbed to his temptations of power, influence and wealth. But I also know the promises of the One True God, my Lord and Savior, and the Creator of all things. Satan has built a highway to hell for those who seek their own glory, but Isaiah 35:8 tells us there will be a Highway of Holiness and only those who walk in the Way will travel it. The number may be small, but we will be mighty in the Lord's strength and power! So, while I look upon the world and it seems clothed in increasing darkness, I am able to perceive the Light of Heaven, which will soon shatter the darkness. Count your blessings that God has placed you here to be a part of His victory!

Psalm 14:2   The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand [or act wisely], who seek after God.

April 26, 2019

Another Look At Eschatology -- Part 2

     I want to begin this second half of my theory on the Eschatology in Matthew 24 with this premise: I do not believe we should become too focused on when all the events Jesus references take place. It is enough to know that He announced there would be an end to old religious systems [that could not save mankind] and the beginning of a Kingdom of Heaven government on earth; a government that would not end.
     But most Christians are even unaware of this truth. So until His return, there will be a clash between the two systems -- religion vs Kingdom -- with the old system fighting for relevancy in the face of the re-establishment of God's original design for man on the earth. Yes, Jesus tells us not to be concerned about the day and the hour of His return, but He also tells us to stay awake and be ready for it, or like in the parable of the ten virgins, the foolish ones will find themselves shut out of the marriage feast.
     With all that in mind, let's go back to Matthew 24 and see how Jesus makes a transition from the things that would happen in the generation of the Disciples [to signal the beginning of the end of religious systems] to the actual time of His return when the last of the religious age will yield to the everlasting Kingdom of God on earth.
     So yesterday, we left Jesus prophesying that the old religious system is being replaced with a Kingdom model and its gospel "will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations" ... and then the end [of the religious system] would come. Notice that He doesn't give a timeline for how long that will take. And I would submit to you that the gospel of the Kingdom has not been preached throughout the world. In fact, it has not even been preached throughout the Western Church! (This is a topic that I will be exploring in my next post). There are still people who do not understand what Jesus inaugurated with His First Coming. Therefore, "the end" is not yet in sight.
     But I want to take a careful look at Matthew 24:15-28.  It is in these verses that Jesus makes His transition FROM prophesying to the Disciples' generation TO prophesying about His Second Coming. Note that He begins this passage by telling them that when they see "the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel", those that are in Judea must flee to the mountains because great tribulation is coming. He further states, "And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short."
     Now, I have sat in several Sunday School classes that have taught that this is concerning the future. So let's first look at the "abomination of desolation". If you are like me, you have likely been taught that there will be an event similar to the one in Daniel, Chapter 9, -- "and on the wings of abominations shall come one who makes desolate." The website, The Gospel Coalition, agrees with historians who say this references the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who ruled Palestine from 175-64 B.C. Antiochus treated Israel with such violence and contempt that they rebelled against him. When he came to suppress the rebellion, his forces entered the temple, stopped the regular sacrifices, set up an idol of [or altar for] Zeus, and apparently offered swine there as a sacrifice. This is an abomination because it is idolatry, and it brings desolation because it defiles the holy place at the heart of Israel.
     So, while I do not think Jesus is necessarily saying this specific abomination will be repeated, I do think we can surmise that here, as is often the case throughout the Bible, “abomination” refers to major covenant violations, especially idolatry. But I also think we should consider that He is still talking about this happening in the generation of the Disciples, and He could be prophesying about the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. And I will tell you that His comments that no humans would be saved unless the days were cut short certainly apply to the siege and destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
     Just read what it was like .... the Jews rose up in rebellion against Rome, which resulted in a campaign by Rome's leading general, Vespasian, to take care of "the Jewish problem". This was a continuation of the "wars and rumors of wars" prophecy Jesus had made earlier. Vespasian began his campaign in AD 67 in Galilee, where a young priest, Joseph, was in command. His army numbered more than 50,000 men. Vespasian took Sepphoris, Jotapata (where Joseph surrendered to the general and became the Roman scribe Josephus), and several other towns with brutal force. He also destroyed Gamla, where the Jewish Zealot movement began, putting 10,000 people to the sword. Most of the towns of the region were left as smoking ruins. Many men were executed, often crucified, and the women and children were sold into slavery. A few were saved for the games in the arena. Galilee was again Roman.
     When Vespasian became emperor after the death of Nero, he appointed his son, Titus, to continue his campaign against Jerusalem. The situation in Jerusalem was horrible. Several factions of Zealots converged on the city, having been defeated elsewhere. They blamed each other for their defeats. One group controlled the Temple Mount and appointed their own priest. When the Sadducee priests resisted, they were slaughtered along with 8,500 of their supporters. The sewers of the city ran with Jewish blood. Simon Bar Giora, another self-proclaimed messiah, entered the city and fought the Zealots. Confusion and terror reigned. Jerusalem was divided into three sections, each fighting the other as the Romans tightened the noose. Apparently, the Christian community, possibly remembering Jesus' words (Matthew 24:15-16), fled to the mountainous regions east of the country.
     In the spring of AD 70, Titus arrived outside Jerusalem. His army now numbered 80,000 or more. Titus breached the third wall near the end of May and slaughtered the people of that part of the city. Five days later, the second wall fell. Half of the city belonged to the Romans. In July, the Romans built a siege wall around the city to prevent escape and to starve the citizenry.
     People killed each other over scraps of food. Anyone suspected of contemplating surrender was killed. Because some Jews had swallowed gold coins before trying to escape, their fellow citizens began to disembowel those they caught, looking for money. In one night, 2,000 were ripped open. No one bothered to bury the dead. Many who did surrender were crucified just outside the walls so the hapless defenders could watch their agony. Josephus records that the Roman soldiers nailed people in various positions for their own amusement until they could not find enough crosses for the victims.
     The famine took its toll as well. Josephus reports that 600,000 bodies were thrown out of the city. On August 6, the sacrifices ceased in the Temple. The Temple itself was burned and destroyed on the ninth of the Jewish month of Av (the end of August), the same day it had been destroyed by the Babylonians more than 600 years before. It has never been rebuilt. All the citizens of the city were executed, sold into slavery, or saved for the games in the arena. The slaughter was beyond description. Infants were thrown to their deaths from the top of the city walls, and people were burned alive; the alleys of the city were choked with corpses. Eleven thousand prisoners died of starvation waiting for their execution. Josephus records that more than 1 million perished and nearly 100,000 were sold into slavery. The Jews' holy city was gone and their Temple destroyed. I don't know about you, but I think these events qualify as fulfillment of Jesus's prophecy that if the days had not been cut short, no one would have been saved. Therefore, it makes sense that this passage pertains to that time and that generation, not the future. 
     BUT, then Jesus does something curious. He again prophesies that "false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect."  It is here that I believe He transitions to the coming of the end of the age of religion [and the perpetuation of His Kingdom] and His Second Coming. He says, "do not believe" the false christs. We will see the sign of the coming of the Son of Man ... it will look like this ... as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west.
     Again, I want to make it clear that I do not put forth my opinion as a Biblical scholar. But I try to be like a good Berean and search the Scripture for truth. And I am certainly open to having my mind changed as the Holy Spirit reveals more of what I need to know. And you know what? We don't have to agree on the timeline of eschatology. Nor do we even need to consider the timeline, except for His admonition to "stay awake" and "be ready". So when Jesus says "after the Tribulation of those days", the Bible does not say which days it is. Therefore, we should consider His warning as if it could be any day.
     But He does state that the powers of the heavens will be shaken and there will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
     And, yes, only the Father knows when that will take place. But He gives us clear instructions ... He is setting His servants over His household until He returns. We are to feed the children of God until He returns. We are to preserve and extend His Kingdom to all the earth. That should be what we are all focused upon. And what does that look like? What is the good news of the Kingdom? Tune in for the next post!

Matthew 24:43-44      But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 

April 23, 2019

Another Look At Eschatology - Part 1


     About a month ago, I wrote a post about taking the Bible out of context and asked a couple of important questions ... Are we willing to read the Bible from the context of the New Testament writers? Or are we only willing to accept the doctrines we've been taught in our denominations or by modern-day writers and theologians? Because I have to tell you that I recently had to re-think my understanding when I decided to take another look at the eschatology of Matthew 24. 
     First, we need to come to an agreement on the term eschatology. The term comes from two Greek words meaning "last" (ἔσχατος) and "study" (-λογία). In short, it is the study of "end things". Webster's dictionary says eschatology means "the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind." The study of "end times" by the Christian community goes all the way back to the teachings of the Christian apologists, Justin Martyr (c. 100–165), Tertullian (c. 160–225), and Origen (c. 185–254). The Puritans in the 18th and 19th centuries, along with German scholars in the 20th century, brought us various theological belief systems regarding the Second Appearance of Christ on the earth. But I think it is safe to say that Matthew 24 has caught the attention of most Christians as the primary source for their interpretation of when the "End Times" occurs and what it will look like. But is the interpretation correct?
     I, for one, accepted the prominent theory that all of this chapter in Matthew foretells the signs we should be looking for; signs that will indicate that Jesus is about to return. But I was encouraged to read it again and take from it only the context within which Jesus is speaking. When I paid close attention to the actual verbiage and the grammatical tense of His Words, I realized that there were actually two timelines that Jesus discusses.
     The first happens in Matthew 24:1-14. The second timeline is from verse 15 to the end of the chapter. As I came to that understanding, I realized that much of what I had understood as the characteristics of the End Times was, if not flawed, at least only partially true. The Bible didn't support what I had been taught in Church; or what I had heard others speak; and especially what I, myself, tried to make it mean. Let me show you what I'm talking about....
     At the end of Chapter 23, Jesus is berating the religious leaders in Jerusalem, calling them a brood of vipers for what they will do to prophets and wise men He sends them. He curses them with the pronouncement that all the righteous blood shed upon the earth will come upon them. He asks how they will escape being sentenced to hell, and then makes the declaration that "all these things will come upon this generation".
     Now, if you are a 21st century Believer interested in eschatology and the End Times, I know you've been taught that "this generation" is a future proclamation for us. But that's not what Jesus is saying! In fact, His disciples came to Him on the Mount of Olives and ask Him, "When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
     We need to stop right here and get a couple of things clear. First, note that Scripture says end of the age! Many versions of the Bible (King James, Geneva Bible, Douay-Rheims) say "What will be the sign of the end of the world." That has led to a huge misconception of what Jesus is going to talk about and to whom He is speaking! Remember, the disciples have been with Him for nearly three years. He has told them of His coming death and resurrection, and He has also told them that there are some of them standing with Him "who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:28). Remember ... what has been His primary message? "The Kingdom of God has arrived!" and "I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent." The Disciples may not yet understand its full implication, but they are well immersed in His Kingdom message. And they have seen the Pharisees demand signs from heaven [in Matthew 16:1] and heard Jesus tell them, "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah". And we know that sign was given to them [in that generation] with the Lord's three days in the grave.
     So, let's return to Chapter 23 where Jesus berates the Pharisees. Among the seven "Woes!" that Jesus pronounces against them, He makes it clear that they will be judged for shutting the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For they neither enter themselves nor allow those who would enter to go in (Matthew 23:13). Jesus has been preaching the Kingdom of God for three years and they still don't get it! What they don't understand is that the old religious system is ending and the Age of the Kingdom is here! And, furthermore, all these things will come upon this generation ... not our generation or some future generation -- but the generation to whom He is talking!
     So, what does He actually tell the Disciples is coming? Their house will be left to them desolate ... there will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down ... many will come in His name, saying, 'I am the Christ', and will lead many astray ... wars and rumors of wars ...nation will rise against nation ... kingdom against kingdom ... famines and earthquakes in various places ...
     I, for one, have mistakenly interpreted that to be a dual prophecy. Here's how my thinking went: Obviously, the statement made to the Pharisees that their house would be left desolate, combined with Jesus's declaration to the Disciples that not one stone would be left upon another, refers to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and the destruction of the old religious order.
     But Jesus actually says in 24:8, [about those things just mentioned] ... This is how the first contractions and birth pains of the new age will begin!” He is speaking of the new age of the Kingdom that He has brought with Him! And, in fact, these were signs that did occur in that generation. I did some research and found this article that lists the revolts and rebellions that happened in the First Century, and during the lives of the Disciples. The wars and rumors of wars prophecy came true! There were 50,000 slain in Mesopotamia; 20,000 butchered in Caesarea; 10,000 in 50 AD during Passover; 50,000 killed in Alexandria in 66 AD; 20,000 died in Syria; and within one-and-a-half years, four Roman emperors were killed. 
     Jesus's prophecies of famines and earthquakes in that generation is supported by Scripture. Acts 11:28 tells us that a prophet named Agabus "stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius)." This famine actually took place in Syria between 46 and 47 AD. Again, it happened in that generation. Of course, there is the earthquake that took place at Jesus's crucifixion, as well as the earthquake in 62 AD that destroyed the city of Pompeii, and may have been a contributing factor to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
     But look what else He says will be coming in that generation... In Matthew 24:9-13, Jesus says,  "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved."
     Well, we certainly know that the Disciples [in that generation] suffered persecution and all but John were put to death for their faith in Jesus. They did endure to the end of their lives and their salvation is assured. And most of us are familiar with the story in Acts 8:9-11 which tells us of Simon, a great magician, who astounded the people of Samaria with his astonishing displays of magic arts. I don't know for sure, but I imagine they closely resembled the acts of Jesus (healing the sick and casting out demons). The Bible tells us, "Everyone, from the least to the greatest among them, was dazzled by his sorcery, saying, 'This man is the greatest wizard of all! The divine power of God walks among us!' "
     But Simon wasn't the only one. Acts 5:36-37 also tell us of a man named Theudas "who rose up claiming to be somebody", and of another man who rose up, Judas the Galilean, "who got people to follow him in a revolt". History also records the names of Simon Bar Giora and Simon Bar Kochba as self-declared Messiahs. But when we let Scripture interpret Scripture, we see that the Bible attests to Jesus's prophecies of "the things" that would come upon that generation.
     As I re-read and studied the Bible, I saw what was right in front of my eyes all these years but I was too blind to see it. The English Standard Version actually tells us that Matthew 24:3-14 are Signs of the End of the Age. But all my previous understanding had come from teachings that said it was the "end of the world". And so I interpreted the signs of false prophets, wars, famines, earthquakes etc. to be something that those in the generation of Jesus's return would recognize. But that is not reading the Bible in context! Jesus clearly was talking to the Disciples and their generation!
    But I do not want to end this Part 1 without mentioning the last sign Jesus gives. This sign leads us into Part 2 of my Eschatology theory. In verse 14, Jesus says, And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
     Here Jesus is still talking about the end of the religious system. But, folks, we still have the religious system with us. Our present-day religious system doesn't recognize that the Kingdom of God is on earth. It doesn't embrace healing and casting out demons as assignments for followers of Jesus. It doesn't acknowledge our power and authority to take back dominion of the earth. It elevates the Gospel of Salvation above the Gospel of the Kingdom. I want you to consider this ... Jesus's mission wasn't to get you to Heaven. It was to get you to bring Heaven down to earth! It was to establish territory for the Kingdom of God and to leave us as ambassadors representing our King.
     Once the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, then the centuries-old religious system will end and the Everlasting Age of the Kingdom will endure! In the rest of Chapter 24, Jesus begins to speak of how that will come about with the Coming of the Son of Man. So, stay tuned for the rest of the story!

 Isaiah 29:13    These people honor me with their words while their hearts run far away from me! Their worship is nothing more than a charade! For they continue to insist that their man-made traditions are equal to the instructions of God.