Israel in Prophecy

We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about moving the U. S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Does this issue have anything to do with Bible prophecy?

Without a doubt, Israel will play an important role in the last days, and it will eventually serve as the capital city of the world (Zechariah 14:9-11). Anything that happens in our world that keeps Jerusalem on the forefront of our minds could be considered prophetic. If we move our embassy to Jerusalem, we are certainly drawing attention to the city that will one day be center of the world, it it’s not already.

Scholars have differed over the meaning of the word Jerusalem, but it seems to mean “City of Peace.” Israel has not lived up to her name, but the Bible says that in the last days, Israel will experience peace for a season. Ezekiel was led by God to tell us that during a time of peace for Israel, their defenses will be down. It is during this time that the 5-nation coalition, along with Russia, will attack Israel in a battle the Bible calls the Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39).

So, what can we watch for in the news regarding Israel? We will see continued attention placed upon Jerusalem, and we will eventually see a period of peace for the Jewish people. It is hard for us to imagine peace for Israel right now with all of the tension in the Middle East. It leads me to wonder what will happen so that Israel will have peace. It could be a treaty with the Palestinians and the destruction of Hamas and other factions. Regardless of how it happens, Jerusalem will finally live up to her name – at least for a season.

What about Russia? What role does Russia play in the last days? I’ll write about that next. In the meantime, keep your eyes on Israel. God is moving us toward an amazing conclusion.

When Evil Prevails

terror

 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:10-13

 

We all stand in shock at the terrorist attacks in France yesterday. While acts of terrorism are becoming normal in our global culture, it still amazes me that people can go into a theater and start shooting innocent people in the name of their god. I could share my political opinions or even comment on what I think world leaders should do in response to this act of terror, but I prefer to address a deeper issue. We must realize that what we are watching is simply spiritual warfare. The god of this world is wreaking havoc on our world, and we are moving ever closer to the end of time that was prophesied throughout Scripture. Jesus said in Matthew 24 that perilous times would come before His return.

How do we respond to this? Our first obvious response is prayer for those who have been personally impacted by this devastation and for our leaders as they consider a proper response. Secondly, we should not be surprised. God told us in His word that calamity would come and evil would show its ugly head. We must remind ourselves that terrorists are not really our main enemy. Even ISIS is not our ultimate enemy. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood. The god of this world is our enemy. There is a spiritual battle that is being waged, and ISIS is but a pawn in the hands of the master deceiver.  There are certainly things that our national leaders must do to stop evil in its tracks, and it is my prayer that our president and other political leaders will have the substance needed to take bold stands against this global evil. However, we must see the bigger picture.

Real spiritual battle takes place in other ways. For starters, it begins on our knees. This terrorist attack should call believers to a time of great prayer. Ephesians 6:10 commands us to “be strong in the Lord.” I wrote about this passage in my book Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days, and I find that it has special relevance today.  Any preparation we take for spiritual conflict is built upon us yielding to the power and presence of Christ in us. Then the Ephesians 6 passage continues by telling us to take some steps in our preparation: put on the full armor of God. I urge you to consider the teaching of this passage in light of the spiritual conflict that is going on in our world. The Church of the Lord Jesus must prepare spiritually for what is going on around us. Do not be surprised by terror and persecution; be equipped. God is on His throne, and He will guide you to find strength and hope in the days to come. If you are strong in the Lord and equipped with His spiritual armor, you will be ready for whatever we will face in the days to come.

I have lowered the cost of the digital version of Immovable in hopes that it will be a guide and an encouragement for you during this time. Take steps toward preparing yourselves for the spiritual conflict that will only increase before the return of Christ. Study Ephesians 6:10-18 and Matthew 24 in light of what is going on in our world today. The Bible is clear that God will ultimately win this conflict, so we do not face these battles with hopelessness. We have great hope in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray as never before, prepare for what is to come, engage our enemy on spiritual grounds, and comfort those who hurt. Trust that our faithful God, our Leader in battle, will prevail in the days to come.

Is it the Forerunner of the Mark of the Beast?

microchipBrace yourself. I anticipated this last year when our beloved Heidi was picked up by the pound (she is our Jack Russell terrier not my daughter). When I paid the fine, the “dog catcher’s assistant” informed me that they had inserted a microchip into her body for future tracking. I think what they meant was they did it so they would know who to come after if she got out again. Anyway, I began thinking about how this technology is not far from moving from dogs to humans. I imagined how the concept would be sold to the public. Consider how easy shopping would be if every time you put something in your buggy, it was put into your “cart” for checkout. You wouldn’t even have to pay at the cashier because once you walk out the door of the grocery store, the money is transferred from your bank account to the grocery store’s account. Sounds helpful doesn’t it?

A new Swedish innovation has been unveiled that some people are touting as the next technological move that will sweep the globe. The innovation is not really new because Fido may already have one (or in my case, Heidi). People are actually having microchips inserted into their hands to do things such as unlock the doors to their home or office or to store passwords to certain accounts.  The author of the article I read said, “Swedish entrepreneur Hannes Sjoblad, who started the “biohacking” industry in his homeland, thinks it’s only a matter of time before people use chips to ride public transportation, pay for groceries and track fitness.” I try not to be an alarmist when it comes to last days kinds of issues, but can you see where this is going? The book of Revelation tells of a mark the Antichrist will require people to have during the Tribulation Period: And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:16-17). I remember when I first learned of this when I was a teenager, I couldn’t imagine anyone being willing to have this done. Now, I can see how it will be slipped into our culture as a great, technological advance that will make our lives better. If you think about it, that’s how debit cards became in vogue. One author wrote about this new microchip: “We foresee a future in which everyone will have an implanted chip that will benefit our personal lives as well.”

Jesus said, “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come” (Mark 13:33). I’m sharing this article not because I believe the Tribulation Period will start next week, but because Jesus told us to “keep on the alert.” As the return of Christ gets closer every day (though we don’t know exactly when He is coming), we must be diligent in sharing the gospel and be prepared for increased spiritual conflict. I offer a guide on how to prepare to stand firm during this time in my newest book, Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days.” Jesus is coming again, and the signs are all pointing to it. Don’t let anyone convince you that he knows the date, but just know that Christ is coming again. Will you be ready?

New Terror Threat Could Mean More Persecution of Christians

Alshabaab

New reports have come out this morning about heightened alerts of terror attacks in the United States in response to a new threat by an Al Qaeda linked group. A video has surfaced where a leader of Al Shabaab, is calling for attacks on shopping malls in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. This is the same group that was responsible for an attack on a shopping mall in Kenya where 67 people were killed. Witnesses said that gunmen in the Kenyan mall would ask the hostages questions to determine whether or not they were Christians. If the hostages were Christians and would not denounce their faith, they were killed. This type of persecution is typical for Christians living in the last days. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him for signs of His Second Coming, He told them that the persecution of Christians would be one evidence that His return was soon coming. He said in Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” He said in the next verse, “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” I think it is clear that as the return of Christ draws closer, it will not be popular to be a Christian and standing for Christ will be costly. There will be many church attenders and “religious” people who deny faith in Christ in response to this persecution.

Mark 13:32-33  says, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.” While Jesus said we do not know the day or hour of His return, He also told us to keep alert and to take heed. He is basically saying, “I have told you the signs that will come before My return so watch the news and read the papers. Be aware of what is going on and ready for My return.” While we do not know the exact date of Christ’s return, and it could still be some years off in the future, there are signs happening all around us that reveal His return could certainly be soon. Let’s pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted all over the earth. Let’s spread the good news of the gospel. Our days may indeed be short and Christ’s return could very well be soon.

Last Days Questions – Part 2

lastdaysI recently had the privilege of speaking at Wall Highway Baptist Church in Madison, Alabama about preparing to stand firm in the days leading up to the return of Christ. A number of questions were sent to me in response to the message. I answered a few in my last blog post, here’s a few more.

Someone asked whether or not the United States was mentioned in the Bible in regard to the last days. There really is no definite reference to the US in Scripture, or specifically Bible prophecy. Ezekiel 38:13 has a subtle mention of what appears to be the colonies of Great Britain, which obviously could be a small reference to the US: “Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all her villages will say to you, “Have you come to plunder? Have you gathered your hordes to loot, to carry off silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods and to seize much plunder?” The word “villages” literally means lion cubs. With a little imagination, you could say that Tarshish refers to Great Britain and the lion cubs are all of the British colonies. I think this is a bit of a stretch. Others have tried to use various passages to refer to the US, but the bottom line is that the United States does not seem to find a place in Bible prophecy. I believe that is because the United States will be of little consequence in the world by the time the Tribulation Period starts. It pains me to say that, but there really is not another explanation. It could happen through economic failure or terrorist attack. It could happen through a merging of nations (there has been talk of merging the countries of North America into one nation). Regardless of the reason, the Bible does not specifically mention the US in prophecy.

Someone else asked, “If all these things (deception, falling away, etc) are supposed to happen, how then should we pray?” In my book. Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days, I describe the various pieces of spiritual armor and their connection to things that will be happening in the last days. Prayer is a vital part of putting each piece of armor in place. I encourage people to take each principle represented by the armor (truth, righteousness, salvation, peace, faith, hearing the Word of God) and pray over that principle. For example, you could say, “Lord, thank you for your truth that is sharper than a two-edged sword. As I go through my day today, please allow your truth to open up my heart and my mind so I can see myself as you see me. Penetrate even to the dividing soul and spirit as you help me discern my motives and actions today. Help me to act on the truth and apply the truth. As I am confronted with the lies of the evil one today, help me to stand firm on the truth of your word. Please protect me from deception, and help me to proclaim your truth today through my actions and my words.”

I think we should also pray for the church today because the church is under great attack. The spiritual battle will affect churches, pastors, and missionaries. Pray for God’s protection and strength. Also pray for our children. Satan wants our children, and we must fight for their souls and their hearts. Pray that God will prepare us for difficult days that will include economic struggle, persecution, and heartache. Ask God to help us be prepared for the unparalleled opportunities we will face as His return draws near. We must be sharing our faith and proclaiming the good news.

Someone else asked, “How would it change your approach if rapture involved evil leaving and us ruling on earth?” The Bible does say that we will reign with Jesus during the Millennial reign of Christ, but it also says that God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth before that time. I do not believe this will happen just because God is angry. I believe it is in part because God is offering one final opportunity for salvation for those who are unbelievers. Some people believe that things will continue to get better and better, and we will be ushered into the Millennial Reign, but I do not believe the Bible teaches that, and our experience certainly discounts that. I do not believe we can watch hundreds of Christians being murdered by ISIS and think that things are getting better. I could sit and imagine how my approach would be different, but I believe the Bible does not indicate that evil will be raptured. 1 Thess 4:16-18 is very clear that Christians will be raptured.

Someone asked if I think the Antichrist is alive today. I believe the rapture could happen in my lifetime, and if it does, then the Antichrist would be alive today. He may be a little boy being raised in some Arabic community, or he might be a young man serving in some minor political office. It is only conjecture because we do not know when Christ will return. If you believe in an imminent return of Jesus, then you would have to believe the Antichrist is alive. I think the rapture could be any day. I think things are going to have to get worse before the Tribulation Period begins, but this could happen quickly. I do believe the Antichrist could be alive today.

Questions regarding the Last Days

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.

ebolaThe 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 Blood_moonseclipses 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.

Cashless Society and the Last Days

bitcoinWould 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.

Growing Antagonism Toward Christianity

IraniPastor 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.

Christian Persecution

NewsweekWhere 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.”

 

Christian Persecution – A Sign of the Times

imagesGW8KHBMRChristians 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.