I enjoyed speaking and singing at Wall Highway Baptist Church in Madison, Alabama this past weekend. It was great to meet some new people and have an opportunity to talk about preparing to stand firm in the days leading up to the return of Christ. For those of you who were there, you know that we had a time of questions and answers with the questions being sent in by text. I answered a few questions on Sunday, but I would like to answer all of the questions that were submitted. I’ll answer a few today and finish up tomorrow.
The first question related to whether or not I thought Ebola and enteroviruses are end-time plagues. The Bible does talk about plagues during the last days. Consider the words of Luke 21:11, “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines…” It will always be easier to look back at events and see them as fulfillment of prophecy than to recognize it is a fulfillment as it is happening. At the same time, Jesus told us to be alert and watchful for the fulfillment of signs. I do believe that the increase of diseases and plagues is a fulfillment of prophecy. It is possible that a number of years from now when there are much greater plagues going on than Ebola, this current situation will not feel like a fulfillment of prophecy. It could be the “beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:8) with a growing intensity of plagues hitting us in the years ahead. It is also true that plagues have been a part of life from the beginning. I’m sure that when people were dying by the thousands from the plague known as Black Death in the 14th century, people could have easily thought it was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Actually, it is estimated that around 75 million people died throughout the world from the plague. It is difficult for us to say with certainty that Ebola is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, but I think we can say that if Christ’s return is to be in our lifetime, it is the beginning of birth pains. There is also another angle to be considered. Daniel prophesied that in the last days, a one-world government would be formed. I believe we will continue to see things happening in our world that will draw our nations together to form a dependence on one another. There will be a growing sense of unity and need for one another to solve our problems. It will make a global unification much more palatable to a world that once was consumed with nationalism.
The second question was about the blood moons. If you are not familiar with this topic, NASA has reported that there would be four lunar eclipses over a period of 15 months. These eclipses would make the moon appear to be red, like blood. These blood moons are taking place during Jewish holidays. Acts 2:20 quotes the prophet Joel predicting such a lunar eclipse in the last days before Christ’s Second Coming: “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” I believe John Hagee is a little off with his comments whereby he said that the blood moons are a sign that God is about to do something significant in Israel. He points to the 4 blood moons (tetrad) that happened in the 15th century as a sign for Israel, and there was a great persecution of the Jews in Spain in 1492. He said the next one highlighted Israel becoming a nation in 1948, and then the next tetrad was to highlight the Six-Day war in 1967. The only problem with this position is that the Four blood moon tetrad happened in 1493 and 1949 (a year after these events happened in Israel’s history). The four blood moon tetrad did coincide with the Six-Day war in 1967. In his video presentation about this topic, Hagee predicted the four blood moons in 2014 and 2015 point to the Battle of Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38-39. I would say that the blood moons are unusual and God may be using them as a sign, but I would be careful. If it were to be a sign, it seems like the tetrad would have happened before the event. Ezekiel 38-39 also indicates a few things will need to happen before this predicted war (Gog and Magog). For example, verse 8 of Ezek 38 says that Israel will be living securely at the time of this invasion. Since 1948, Israel’s borders have not been secure. It will take some time for this to happen. I believe we are seeing the beginning of it happening now, but Israel’s enemies (Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, etc.) will have to be minimized before this great battle will take place. It is difficult for me to see that happening in the next few months, though I am aware that it could happen. I do not have a problem with saying these blood moons could be a prophetic sign, but I do not believe we can say so with certainty. I say that also because there were four other four blood moons before 1492 that did not seem to have anything to do with Israel. Most people believe Israel will do something to protect themselves against Iran, and there is no doubt that this could lead to the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39 at some point in the future. I think we will also see the prophecy of Isaiah 17 (the destruction of Damascus) coming to pass in response to some of this unrest. Let’s be firm about what the Scripture does say, but let’s not jump into speculation and make it appear to be confident truth.
Would a cashless society move us more quickly to an economic climate conducive for the last days? The Bible prophecies that in the last days, our world will be joined together under one government. While it seems to me that a one-world government will not happen without some sort of global catastrophe, there are several additional things happening in our world today that will make this global unification possible. One thing of interest is the financial unrest being experienced around the world. In order for one man to rule the world, world economies must be unified. This means that there must be some sort of global currency that is accepted in every marketplace. A global currency will either be preceded by a global economic failure that happens instantly around the world, or it could happen gradually as a result of struggles within several key nations. The unification of global markets may seem to be a good solution to a widespread problem. Once key nations agree to a unified economy, the smaller nations will soon follow. I believe there was a time in our nation’s history when this unification would have been very difficult, but today this feat will not be as challenging. One difference is that fewer people carry cash in their pockets. Experts tells us that debit card usage has increased dramatically over recent years, and now people can even use their smart phones as a means of making purchases. There was a time when people carried a number of bills in their wallets, but now those days are slowly drawing to a close. While some people still use cash, many of us depend largely upon our debit cards. According to Retail Touchpoints, cash is no longer king in the marketplace and hasn’t been since June of 2012. J.P. Morgan is now announcing their plans to initiate a “mobile wallet” to their customers. A number of consumers use PayPal on a regular basis as their means for paying for items at the checkout register. Once our society has totally bought into a cashless existence, it will not matter to our citizens if we call our cash dollars or euros or whatever. One currency that is growing in popularity is the bitcoin. This is a virtual currency that is being recognized around the world, and it is easy to see how it could one day be the currency of choice. The Bible teaches that Jesus is returning for Christians in what we often refer to as the rapture. I do not know if the rapture will happen before this one-world government is finalized, but we can see evidence of it slowly taking shape. One evidence will be a global currency made much easier through a cashless society. Jesus said to be watchful; He is coming back. So, the next time you swipe your debit card or pay for your products with your PayPal account, just know we are one step closer to the return of Christ.
Pastor Behnam Irani’s days may be numbered. As an Iranian Christian pastor already imprisoned for his faith, he now faces the death penalty after recently being given the new charge of “spreading corruption on earth.” In 2011, he was sentenced to five years in prison for his Christian activities in Iran, but this new charge brings with it the sentence of death. It seems that these charges against Pastor Irani are consistent with the persecution other Christians are facing in the country since Hassan Rouhani became the new president in Iran. Christianity is growing significantly in Iran, and the radical, Muslim leader evidently feels threatened by the number of new Christian converts. Pastor Irani is already quite ill, but this new charge against him is very serious in this country where being a Christian is considered a threat by national leaders.
Once again, the persecution of Christians has found its way into the headlines of global news. How should we respond to this? It would be easy for us to think, “Well, that’s many miles away in an Islamic nation,” and excuse the thought from our minds. However, we must remember that Pastor Irani is a part of our spiritual family. The Bible says that when he suffers, we suffer with him (1 Cor. 12:26). It is also our responsibility to pray for Pastor Irani in his time of great need. We should pray for his strength and courage as well as for his witness as he continues to shine the light of Jesus even in the darkness of an Iranian prison.
As antagonism grows toward Christianity, one must wonder if this kind of persecution could ever come to the United States. While we see small examples of Christians being persecuted in our country, is it possible that we will one day see Christian leaders thrown into jail her in the U.S. for “spreading corruption on earth?” The Bible speaks of persecution of Christians in places like Matthew 5:10-12: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Notice in this passage, Jesus said “Blessed are you when…” He didn’t say, “if.” Jesus seemed to be telling the Church to expect persecution. Jesus also told us in Matthew 24 that persecution of Christians would become commonplace during the last days. Do you think we can expect to see Christians persecuted at a greater level in the days to come? How do you think the Church in America will respond to persecution? Share your thoughts below and pass this blog along to a friend for their comments by clicking on the appropriate social media button.
Where is all of this going? Our hearts are broken over the persecution of Christians in Iraq and the brutal murder of another journalist by the terrorist military group, ISIS. I have been watching world events for a while seeking to determine when biblical prophecy is being lived out before us, and I believe there is a connection between the persecution of our Kurdish brothers and sisters and prophecy about the last days. It is important to remember that Jesus said in Matthew 24 that some of the signs of his return would be like the “beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:8). This seems to indicate that some of the signs of Matthew 24 will start gradually and grow in intensity. With that in mind, I believe will see a growth in the persecution of Christians. Matthew 24:9 says, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” One need only be a little aware of what is going on in the world to know that many people hate Christians. I am not talking about the kind of feelings arrogant Christians stir up in people because of the unChristlike way they treat others. I am talking about the blatant persecution of people just because they are followers of Jesus.
We have seen a slow increase in persecution of believers in our own country, but of course it is nothing like the murders of Christians we see elsewhere. For example, I just heard a story about another complaint by an atheist group over a small cross that was included in a war memorial. An attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation (did you think you would ever see the day when a foundation like this was established?) has contacted the Indiana Department of Natural Resources stating the cross should not be erected in a State Park. She said, “The cross sends a message that the government only cares about the deaths of Christian soldiers.” This type of thing is getting ridiculous and in no way compares to the beheading of Christians in northern Iraq, but it is a small example of the growing animosity toward Christians.
The Church must prepare for the coming of Christ, and part of this preparation involves anticipating the signs that will take place before His return. Are we ready to take a stand for Christ, even if it means our death? The day is coming when it will not be acceptable to be a Christian. I would like to think this mentality will not fully take root until after the rapture, but we will surely see an increase in persecution in the days ahead. We must be prepared to live with grace and die with grace. This is one reason God told us to encourage one another “all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Christians in the United States have lived in a bubble for a long time, but the bubble is beginning to pop. There was a time when those who were persecuted for their faith seemed like a far off distant group of people, but with today’s news outlets and internet availability, realization of Christian persecution has become a much more common and personal thing. We have all been horrified by watching the unfolding drama in Iraq as the new ISIS group is killing Christians by the hundreds. The Guardian began a recent news article with this comment: “Isis’s persecution of Iraqi Christians, which has already forced tens of thousands of men, women and children to flee for their lives, is fast becoming a genocide.”
The persecution of Christians is not really new, but it seems to be growing. In my new book that is coming out this fall, I quote Italian Sociologist Massimo Introvigne where he said, “Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, with one Christian being killed out of religious discrimination every five minutes.” Even though in the past the persecution of Christians seemed to always happen in foreign lands, we are beginning to see hints of it in our own country. It has started as law suits or other legal threats, but the Bible says we can all expect persecution before the return of Christ. I believe Christians will be raptured before the tribulation, and people who are saved during the tribulation period will be severely persecuted. However, persecution will escalate to martyrdom during the tribulation period, but I am confident it will become more severe before the rapture.
We must pray for our brothers and sisters in other lands, and we must prepare to stand firm as our faith is challenged. We must also prepare our children to stand firm. It is easier to face persecution when we know that we are standing on the truth.