Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Is it a bar code, a microchip, or your credit card? And who is The Beast? Listen as Keith explains who the Beast is, what the number of the Beast means and how you can recognize the Mark of The Beast.
After my recent article concerning the Mark of the Beast, I was asked several questions. One of them was about the date of the writing of John’s Revelation epistle. This article will attempt to address that question and make a case for the earlier date, previous to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, as opposed to the later date under the Emperor Domitian.
Why does this matter? Well, it only matters because if Revelation is about the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, then the case can be made (as I have done) that the letter was written to warn First Century Christians of that event and to identify The Beast (Nero) and to provide prophetic context for what was soon to take place.
If, however, if it can be shown that John wrote Revelation after the fall of Jerusalem, then it must be warning Christians in future days about events that have not yet happened.
Before I share my reasons for claiming the earlier date, let’s examine why some believe it was written after the reign of Nero. First, because there is conflicting testimony concerning when John was exiled to the island of Patmos (where he wrote the epistle). Some have said that he was exiled there by Domitian (who came after Nero) and was on the island between 81 AD and 96 AD. However, there are also many historical documents that contradict that claim and say that John was exiled during the reign of Nero (before AD 70).
The strongest evidence for a later date comes from Irenaeus (120-202 AD) who claimed that John wrote his Revelation under the reign of Domitian. However, Irenaeus had a pretty lousy track record for historical accuracy. For example, he also wrote that Jesus’ ministry lasted twenty years and that he was crucified at age 50. No one takes that claim seriously, so perhaps we shouldn’t take his word for the date of Revelation.
Here are 10 reasons why I believe we can confidently accept the early date of Revelation rather than the later date.
Reason 1: John Identifies Nero As The Current Emperor.
In Revelation 17:10 John says this: "They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while"
Here, John is attempting to identify the meaning of the 7 headed beast. He says that the seven heads are seven kings and then says that the previous five have died, and the sixth one is still living. If we start with Julius Caesar (the first Emperor of Rome) and start counting, we’ll find that the sixth Caesar – the one who is now ruling – is Nero.
Could it be any clearer than that? John himself tells us that the ruler of the Roman Empire at the time he is writing his epistle is the sixth Caesar and that was none other than Nero. [See more in my article “TheMark of The Beast Revealed”]
Reason 2: The Syriac New Testament.
One of the oldest known New Testament documents is from the second century and it is called The Syriac, or the Peshitto. In this early version if you turn to the Book of Revelation you’ll see this on the title page:
"Again the revelation which was upon the holy John the Evangelist from God when he was on the island of Patmos where he was thrown by the emperor Nero."
Since Nero ruled Rome from AD 54 to AD 68, John had to have written his epistle during this time period.
Reason 3: Jewish Persecution of Christians.
The New Testament reveals that, almost from the beginning, the Jewish rulers persecuted the early church. Paul, the Apostle, was himself a member of the group that went around arresting and harassing those who followed Jesus as Messiah. This persecution by Jews continued and intensified until something drastic happened: The Jewish Temple was destroyed, Jerusalem was ravaged and the Jewish system of religion was effectively dismantled.
Because John refers to Jewish persecution in Revelation as something that Christians were still enduring at the time of his writing, this means that the Temple was still standing and therefore we can date his Revelation as being written before AD 70.
Reason 4: Judaizers Within The Church.
According to John’s epistle, Judaizers were very active at the time of his writing.
“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Rev. 2:9)
“Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.” (Rev. 3:9)
This would have not been any issue if the Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed when John wrote his letter.
In addition, once Paul’s letters against Judaizers (Galatians, Romans, and Ephesians) were published and circulated throughout the early church (something that we can assume came after John’s Revelation letter), this activity would not have been so easily tolerated.
So, after Paul’s letters denouncing Judaizers this would not have been an issue. The fact that John addresses the issue means that Paul’s letters had not yet been written and ciruculated. Therefore, Revelation was written before Galatians, Romans and Ephesians, which means it was Pre-AD 70.
Reason 5: The Existence of Jerusalem and the Temple.
In Revelation, Chapter 11, John is told to go and to “measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it.” (v. 1)
If the Temple had been destroyed, John could not have done this. Therefore, John’s Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Reason 6: Events To Come “Shortly” and “Soon”.
All throughout Revelation, John continues to remind his readers that the events he is foreshadowing in his letter will come to pass “shortly” or “soon” or “quickly”. If he meant that these events would happen more than 2,000 years later, he certainly could have said so. But he didn’t.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place..” (Rev. 1:1)
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. “ (Rev. 1:3)
“And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” (Rev. 22:10)
“He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20)
Reason 7: Christ Seen By “Those Who Pierced Him”.
To explain this reason (and the reference above from Rev. 22:20) it’s necessary to first explain what we mean by the “Coming” of Jesus, as opposed to the “Return of Christ” at the End of the World.
There are several references throughout the entire Bible to judgment events as “the coming of God”. For example, in the OT we find prophecies about God’s judgment against certain nations expressed this way:
“Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.” (Isaiah 19:1)
Did God actually ride on a cloud and attack Egypt? No. But the Assyrian army did attack Egypt in fulfillment of this prophecy around the 7th century BC.It’s in the same way that Jesus says that he will “come in the clouds” to bring judgment against Jerusalem for rejecting him and his gospel. For example, Jesus tells the High Priest that he will personally see Jesus coming on the clouds with power:
“Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)
This was a promise made to a certain man, Caiphas, the High Priest: “You will see the Son of Man…coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus also prophesied during his Olivet Discourse, (which is all about the destruction of the temple), the following:
“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” (Matt. 24:30)
So, having said all of that, let’s look at what John says in Revelation:
“BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” (Revelation 1:7)
Here, John says that the same people who crucified Christ will see him “coming in the clouds” which not only aligns with Jesus’ own words, but also points to a coming Judgment against Jerusalem by using the phrase “coming in the clouds” as a reference to those OT passages above.
Just for the record, “those who pierced him” were not alive in AD 96 when some believe John wrote Revelation. How do we know this? Because they were all killed in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. Therefore, “those who pierced him” were still alive before AD 70 and that means John had to have written his letter when they were still living.
Reason 8: John’s Condition In AD 96.
We know from the writings of Jerome (an early Church Father), that John the Apostle was seen in AD 96 and that he was quite frail, saying:
"…he was with difficulty carried to the church, and could speak only a few words to the people.”
However, if we read Revelation 10:11 John says:
“(I must) prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings."
If John wrote Revelation in AD 96, when we have an eyewitness who says he was barely able to walk or speak at that time, then how could John continue to speak to anyone in that condition?
However, if John wrote Revelation in AD 70, he had many years of life left to speak to many nations and kings about the Gospel of Jesus before AD 96.
Reason 9: Daniel’s Prophecy.
When the prophet Daniel was given his prophecy by the angel of God, he is told to "seal up the vision, for it is a long way off" (See Daniel 12:4). But the things he wrote about were only about 483 years away. Yet John is told “not to seal up the vsion”. Why? Because he is told his prophecy “concerns things which must shortly come to pass.” (See Rev. 22:10).
If the events in John’s prophecy were just a few years away (10 or 20 years time), then all of this would make sense. However, if Daniel’s prophecy was sealed because it was “a long way off” (483 years), it makes no sense that John’s prophecy was NOT sealed if it “must shortly come to pass” more than 2,000 years later?!
For this reason, I believe that John’s Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Reason 10: Only Seven Churches?
John’s letter begins with a series of specific messages given by Jesus to the Seven Churches in Asia Minor. If John’s epistle were written after AD 70, say in AD 96 as some suggest, there would have been many, many more churches in that region than just seven.
These are the ten best reasons for accepting the early date for the writing of John’s Revelation and for interpreting the events found in this epistle as being fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70.
Future articles will answer the following questions:
*What about the claim that apocalyptic events would be the worst that have ever been or ever would be again?
*How do the events in Revelation compare to the actual, historical destruction of Jerusalem?
*If Revelation has already been fulfilled, then what is there left to look forward to?
Any other questions? Please let me know in the comments below.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Thursday, October 16, 2014
When it comes to the book of Revelation there are ultimately two camps: Futurists (who believe the book tells us something about future events that have not happened yet) and Preterists (who believe the book told First Century Christians about events that would “soon come to pass” in their lifetime).
I am not a Futurist. As such, I read the book of Revelation as a prophecy about events that have already taken place (from our perspective) and were fulfilled soon after John wrote them during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Because of my perspective, I do not believe that the “Mark of the Beast” has anything to do with current or future events. So, when friends of mine post links to Facebook about a new computer chip that allows people to store their medical records, or purchase products by placing the chip under a scanner, I do not equate this with the end of the world, the rise of the Anti-Christ, or the Mark of the Beast.
Since people seem to be very interested in this topic, I wanted to at least provide a different perspective to help balance things out a bit.
The Mark of the Beast
When John wrote the epistle of Revelation to the seven churches, he made it very clear – on numerous occasions – that the prophecies contained in his letter were to take place “soon”.
For example: In verse 1, John says: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place....”
In verse 3 he says: “.... and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”
John uses specific words in the Greek throughout his epistle which mean: “Shortly”, “Without delay”, “Soon”, “In a short time”, “Near”, “About to”, etc.
There can be little doubt, therefore, that the First Century Christians who received and read John’s letter understood at least one thing: They were reading about events that were about to happen very, very soon.
Keeping this in mind, let’s see if we can identify “The Beast” from Revelation. First, since John is writing to First Century Christians about events that were about to happen quickly, then we can be sure that “The Beast” was a contemporary of John.
Secondly, John describes this as either a person (Rev. 13:18), or as several people (Rev. 17:10), or as a government or kingdom (Rev. 17:9).
First Century Christians would have been very familiar with Old Testament references in Daniel to the Four Beasts (Dan. 7:17) which corresponded to Four Kingdoms or Empires. Therefore those readers would have known that John’s references to “The Beast” in his letters pointed to the Empire of their own day – The Roman Empire.
But what about the person who is referred to as “The Beast”?
Since the Apostle John was writing this letter from captivity on the Island of Patmos, he reverted to code which his readers (Jewish Christians) would understand easily but his captors (The Romans) would not. Note also that, as a prisoner of Rome, he wouldn’t want to come right out and write anything negative about the Emperor or the Government that held him captive – for obvious reasons. This is why, when he wants to let Christians know that “The Beast” is the Emperor Nero, he would say:
“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.” (Rev. 13:18)
The Hebrew spelling of “Nero Caesar” was NRWN QSR. Since Hebrew letters doubled as numbers it was a simple thing to take that name and add them together which adds up exactly to 666. [Example: N = 50 R = 200 W = 6 N =50 Q = 100 S = 60 R = 200]
One fascinating variant of this same passage notes that “Some manuscripts read: 616” rather than 666. Why? Because when Revelation was later copied into Latin the name Nero Caesar didn’t add up to 666, it added up to 616. So, to make it easier for those later Latin-speaking (non Hebrew reading) Christians to arrive at the same conclusion the number was changed to 616 in certain translations.
Want more proof? Ok. In Revelation 17:9-10 John tells us:
“Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.”
You’ve probably heard that the “seven mountains” correspond to the seven hills of Rome. However, did you know that the seven kings also point to Nero as “The Beast”? They do. Because John tells us that: “Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come and when he comes, he must remain a little while.”
According to Josephus, the Roman historian, Julius Caesar was the first king, followed by August, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius. The sixth king? That was Nero. So, he is the “one (who) is”.
The seventh king – the one who followed Nero – was Galba, and as John prophesied, he reigned for a short time (about seven months).
Nero, as the sixth king of Rome, was the first to persecute Christians in the First Century. He started persecuting them in November of 64 AD and ended on June 8, 68 AD when he killed himself. That was 42 months of persecution. Notice what John says about “The Beast”:
“And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months was given him." (Rev. 13:5)
Coincidence? I think not. Clearly John is going out of his way to let his readers know that “The Beast” had a name that, in the Hebrew, added up to a number (666) and that he was the sixth, and current king of Rome, and that his persecution would last exactly 42 months. What could be more clear than this?
Nero was also called “The Beast” by contemporary pagan writer Apollinius of Tyana, who said of Nero:
“In my travels…I have seen many wild beasts of Arabia and India; but this beast, that is commonly called a Tyrant, I know not how many heads it has, nor if it be crooked of claw, and armed with horrible fangs.... And of wild beasts you cannot say that they were ever known to eat their own mother, but Nero gorged himself on this diet."
Note that Nero murdered his own parents, and his brother, and his pregnant wife, in addition to several other family members.
We also have evidence from the Romans that Nero enjoyed dressing up as a wild beast and raping male and female prisoners.
Still not convinced? Consider that all of the earliest Church Fathers from Irenaeus in the First Century, all the way through to St. Beatus in the 8th century agreed that “The Beast” was Nero.
Buying and Selling?
Roman citizens were required to publicly claim allegiance to Caesar by burning incense in his honor and proclaiming that “Caesar is Lord”. Those who did this received a document that allowed them to buy and sell in the marketplace. Without it, no one could purchase anything. Therefore, the “Mark of the Beast” – or the document that showed your allegiance to Nero as Lord – was required to buy and sell if you lived during the time when John wrote his epistle to the seven churches.None of those Christians who read Revelation were confused about what John meant by this. It was already happening to them.
In Conclusion: The Mark of the Beast is not a microchip. It is not a bar code. It is not your credit card. The Beast was Emperor Nero. The Mark of the Beast was “the number of his name” which added up to 666. We're told that The Beast would reign in terror for 42 months and Nero's persecution of the Church lasted exactly 42 months.
Questions? Please let me know in the comments below.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Everyone seems to be talking about this "Blood Moon Prophecy" lately, but what are we to make of it?
What's it all about? Is there any truth to it? How can we know for sure?
Here's a handy guide for understanding what to believe about the Blood Moon Prophecy.
Number 1: Several christian pastors and authors have written books to suggest that a series of upcoming Tetrarchs (a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses on the Jewish Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles in 2014 and 2015) is an indication that "something" is about to happen in the Middle East.
Number 2: No one know what this "something" might be. But when something big or important happens (between now and the final of the four Blood Moons occurs in 2015) they'll let us know. (Or perhaps write another book?)
Number 3: The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar. This means that every Jewish Feast of Passover and Feast of Tabernacles takes place during a full moon. Therefore the fact that Passover and Tabernacles in 2014 and 2015 will coincide with a lunar eclipse isn’t so unusual.
Number 4: There have already been a total of 7 Tetrarchs (4 consecutive lunar eclipses on Passover and Tabernacle Feast days). Those were in: 162 AD, 795 AD, 842 AD, 860 AD, 1492 AD, 1948 AD, and 1967 AD.
Number 5: Nothing significant happened during any of those previous 7 Tetrarch events. The authors will try to connect events during 1492, 1948 and 1967 with the 4 Blood Moon eclipses, but the dates don't match up, and/or the eclipses weren't visible from the Middle East.
Number 6: No Blood Moon (or lunar eclipse) has ever been a sign of anything in Jewish history. Signs come before the events they are intended to foretell. Therefore if the event happens (like the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1478) and then 15 years later there’s a lunar eclipse during Passover, that lunar eclipse did not warn anyone of anything.
Number 7: There have been 55 Blood Moons since the First Century AD. None of them coincided with anything significant in Jewish or Christian history.
Number 8: Numerous and tragic events have taken place throughout Jewish history and none of them coincided with any Blood Moon, including when the Jews left Egypt, entered the Promised Land, were taken into Babylonian captivity, or Assyrian captivity, or returned from captivity, or when the Messiah was born, or died, or rose again.
Number 9: The Biblical references to a Blood Moon are all referring to events that are prophesied to take place before "The Day of the Lord" when "the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord" (Acts 2:20; Joel 2:31)
Number 10: Peter, in Acts 2:20 quotes the prophecy in Joel 2:31 - including the portion about the moon turning to blood and the day of the Lord - as proof that it had been fulfilled by the sending of the Holy Spirit during the Feast of Pentecost. (See Act 2:1-21)
IN CONCLUSION: The people telling you that the series of consecutive lunar eclipses taking place during the Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles in 2014 and 2015 are basing their claims on verses that the Bible itself says have already been fulfilled during Pentecost and random events from previous Tetrarchs that don't line up when you examine the facts.
I've written a much longer examination of the Blood Moon Hoax here>
Thursday, October 09, 2014
No doubt you’ve heard of the Blood Moon prophecies that many are saying point to the imminent return of Christ, or “something big about to happen” in the Middle East.
If not, here’s a quick overview: A Blood Moon is simply a lunar eclipse where the moon appears red in color due to the sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere and casting a red shadow on the moon’s surface. The significance that many Christians are getting excited about lately is that the Jewish Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles in 2014 and 2015 will coincide with a total of four Blood Moons. Some want us to see these lunar events as signs that God is doing something new, or about to shake things up in the Middle East.
Of course, these same people are also wanting us to buy their book on the subject. People like John Hagee and Mark Blitz, for example. But let’s examine their arguments and see if there’s anything to this hype.
First of all, the argument in favor of the legitimacy of these Blood Moon signs hinges on the supposition that previous Blood Moon events have proven to be signs of historic significance.
For example, they claim that there were four blood moons at Passover and Tabernacles in 1492 which coincided with the expulsion of Jews from Spain and the discovery of America by Columbus.
Then they say that there were four blood moons in 1948 which was a sign of the Israeli War of Independence, and that the four blood moons in 1967 was a sign of Israel’s military action to repossess the Old City of Jerusalem.
Sounds convincing? Well…not exactly.
First of all, the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar. That means that their feasts and festivals always coincide with full moon events. It also means that lunar eclipses – which only occur when the moon is full – are not rare events in Jewish history. We’ll examine this in more detail later, but first let’s examine those historic events in light of actual evidence.
The lunar eclipse in 1492 wasn’t a “sign” of the expulsion of Jews from Spain. Why? Because the Tribunal that expelled them was established November 1, 1478 which occurred 15 years before the lunar eclipse. Hardly a sign or a warning is it? Plus, the Alhambra Decree, which officially ordered of expulsion of Jews from Spain, was issued in January 1492, which was about 15 months before the lunar eclipse that year.
The 1948 eclipse is also not a sign of the Israeli war of independence. Why? Because that war began on May 15, 1948 and ended March 10, 1949. The first of the four lunar eclipses didn’t happen until just over a month after the war ended. Why would God give anyone a sign about something that had already taken place? That, by definition, is not a sign from God.
The 1967 eclipse is not a sign of Israeli forces taking possession of the Old City of Jerusalem. Why not? Because that took place on June 7, 1967 and the lunar eclipse took place 44 days before that day, and – most importantly – it was not visible from Jerusalem. The next set of blood moons followed over the next year and a half. Again, after the fact.
So, in what way are any of these “signs” of anything? It’s like someone shouting “Look out for that car!” an hour after your car accident. Most of these blood moon “signs” are not visible from Jerusalem, and/or occur long after the events have already taken place.
Let’s be clear, nothing can truly be considered “a sign from God” unless a prophet of God speaks a prophecy – in advance of the event – and then the sign is given as a proof.
Keep in mind: No prophecy preceded any of these events and no one gave these lunar eclipses and signs in advance as proofs. No one predicted that the Jews would be expelled from Spain before it happened, for example. So just because things happen we can’t run around looking for signs after the fact. It doesn’t work that way.
Here’s another point: Tetrads (or the occurrence of four consecutive lunar eclipses) are very common. They are not rare. They happen very, very often, in fact. Over the last 4,000 years there have been numerous lunar tetrads (or Blood Moons) on record, and between 1999 BC and today there have been 111 Blood Moons.
Do you know what significant events coincided with all of those? Nothing. Because they happen all the time and are therefore not “signs” of anything happening in the world.
It would be like pointing to the migration of Canada Geese as a sign of some political shift in China. The two events are not related, and one of those events (the migration of Canada Geese) happens every year about the same time, regardless of what’s happening in Chinese politics.
Of the 55 Blood Moons that have occurred since the First Century AD, there have been 7 which coincided with Jewish Holy Days, and none of them were seen as signs of anything significant at the time.
To put everything in another perspective, here are some very significant events in the history of the nation of Israel which DID NOT coincide with any Blood Moon signs.
There were no Blood Moons during:1446 BC (Israel left Egypt in the Exodus)
1406 BC (Joshua entered Canaan)
723 BC (Ten northern tribes went into Assyrian Captivity)
587 BC (Judah went into Babylonian captivity)
538 BC (Cyrus proclaims the Jews could return to Canaan)
533 BC (Jews began return from Babylon and arrived in Jerusalem)
1-2 BC (Jesus was born)
33 AD (Jesus was crucified) *Solar, but not lunar eclipse
70 AD (Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed by Romans)
135 AD (Hadrian renamed the city of Jerusalem, killed many Jews and expelled the rest)
1943 AD (Hitler killed 6 million Jews during the Holocaust)
Put another way, here are four more examples of when Tetrarchs (or a series of four Blood Moons) fell on all four Jewish feast days:162 AD
Guess what significant historic events happened during these Blood Moons?
Wrong! Nothing happened. This is why authors like Hagee and Blitz totally ignore these, because they can't point to anything that seems to support their bogus theory.
THE LUNAR CALENDAR
Statistically, speaking, since Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles always happen on full moons, and take place on the 15th day of two different months within the year, there is a 1-in-6 chance that an eclipse will occur in at least one of these festivals annually.
In the twentieth century, 37 of the 230 lunar eclipses fell on either Passover and Feast of Tabernacles, which is mildly fascinating, but completely irrelevant to anyone interested in Biblical prophecy.
So, in conclusion, don’t waste your time – or your money – on anything related to this Blood Moon hoax. It’s designed to stir up fear, and loosen your wallet. Nothing more.
Jesus will return, but as He told us, “No man knows the day, or the hour, not even the angels in heaven, but my Father only.” (Mt. 24:36)
Now, what if something significant DOES happen between now and the end of these four Blood Moon signs that are still forthcoming? Well, things happen all the time. My point is that if anything does happen in the world, we cannot point to the Blood Moons as any sort of prophetic sign.
Enjoy the lunar eclipse. Take good pictures. Marvel at God’s creation. But don’t give in to the fear and the hype.
The Blood Moons are not signs of anything other than the Glory of God as the Heavens declare His majesty and pour fourth speech all day long.
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
One of the more beautiful things God has done for me through my blog is to connect me with a dear brother in Christ who lives and serves people in India. His name is Vilbert Vallance. He works as a chaplain at the Baptist Hospital in Bangalore. We correspond back and forth pretty often, and most of the time his testimony of selflessness and humility brings me to my knees in awe. I am very thankful that the Lord brought Vilbert into my life.
Recently, he sent me an email about a visit he made with one of his patients to a Roman Catholic care center for those with mental disabilities. What he shared with me was so profound, and so moving, I had to share it with you.
Here’s what Vilbert shared:
“This evening I went along with a patient (and) other nursing staff to visit a Roman Catholic centre which provides care for people with mental disability. (We gathered) in a large community hall for Lord’s Supper (they call it a Holy Communion).
“When we got there, service had already started. Most of the people were in wheel chairs, others were crawling on the floor barely able to move or speak. (There were) involuntary movements of their bodies and on top of it uncontrollable noises and gestures. This kind of situation in our churches would be most unwelcomed, I thought.
“As I sat on the floor it was difficult to know whether anyone is listening to the priest, BUT when the priest held the bread and uttered the words (in our language), "The Broken God for Broken People”, there was a complete silence. To me the priest’s words were so peculiar to that situation. (We) all felt something very difficult.
“Even though I have attended and participated in Lords Supper in many churches (before), that service sharing broken bread with broken people made a profound impression in me.
“As I was returning home, leaving that person, I was thinking of my own brokenness. I said, “Lord, you have embarrassed all of the disabled, including me, which is not physical, but you know it Lord,” I prayed.
“I had such a wonderful time.”
What a powerful picture of God’s love and mercy towards all of us! How beautiful to reflect on our own disabilities, and how we are all connected to one another’s brokenness and desperation.
Thank you, Jesus, for being the broken God for broken people like us. We are all broken. Only your broken body can make us whole again, as we find ourselves in you.
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Believe it or not, some Christians keep a list of people who can be righteously hated and even put to death, in spite of Jesus’ commands to love our enemies and bless those who hate us.
Usually those who fall into this exceptional category are criminals, terrorists, enemies of the state, homosexuals, and abortionists.
Frankly, many Christians have their own private list of who can be/should be put to death. It might be a an ex-spouse, a person who abused them in the past, a drunk driver who took away their loved one, or the umpire who blew the call that ended their team’s chances at a national championship.
It should be obvious to anyone who knows the Gospel of Christ that there are no exemptions when it comes to the commands to love our enemies, bless those who hate us, and do good to those who seek to harm us. None whatsoever.
That means God loves all the same people that you really hate. He loves those people you wish were dead. He loves those people that hurt you, and ripped you off. He loves everyone in prison, no matter what they did to get there. He loves the people who got away with murder, and the people who helped them get away with it.Now, that doesn’t mean that God loves what they did, or what they do. Far from it. In fact, it’s because he “so loved the world” that he sent Jesus in the first place. Because he saw how horrific we all were without His love, and he sent Jesus to show us what it really looks like – and feels like – to receive that love. He sent Jesus to transform us through His love, and to rescue us from the penalty of a life without His love.
This means that those terrorists you’d like to see burned alive are within reach of God’s grace. Why destroy them before they have an opportunity to know Christ who can transform their hearts?
It reminds me of Jesus’ own disciples who asked “Shall we call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” in reference to a Samaritan village that refused to have Jesus travel through it on his way to Jerusalem. The response Jesus gave to these disciples is the same as what he would say to Christians today who yearn to rain down destruction on anyone: “You do not know what kind of Spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (John 9:54-56)
Loving our enemies is hard, of course. Our old nature is quick to crave violence and retribution. But Jesus has given us a new nature and a new spirit.
If we really hope to love our enemies, we have to first admit that we do not have access to this kind of love. This sort of unconditional love is just not in us by nature. The closest we can ever come is the love a parent has for a child. But even that example (as profound as it may be) falls short of the extravagant love that God wants to fill us with.
God’s love just “is”. It’s not dependent upon anything the person does, or does not do. And that’s why Jesus can tell us that, if we are abiding in Him, and if He is alive in us, then we will be connected to the constant, eternal flow of Divine Love that flows from the heart of the Trinity and outward into every corner of the Universe. We become conduits of His endless love and therefore everyone around us becomes illuminated in the light of His unconditional love.
And if we are indeed carriers of Christ-like love, then we cannot shoot anyone in the face. We cannot even wish that anyone were dead. We cannot cheer when someone receives the harsh judgment we believe they deserve.Even God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked.
“As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)
Jesus leaves us no wiggle room here. He loves everyone, and He commands us to love everyone as well.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:43-48)
Those people you hate? God loves them and He commands you to love them, too.
To be a follower of Jesus is to obey His commands. If we struggle with those commands, we must throw ourselves at His feet and beg Him for the grace to love as He loves, forgive as He forgives, and serve others as He serves us.
Love is our tattoo. Love is our song. Love is how Jesus knows that we belong to Him.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)