Category: Theology

What is the Biblical Definition of Love?

What is the Biblical Definition of Love?

One of the exciting parts of high school life is filling out slum books and answering questions such as “What is love?” It was quite interesting to read different answers.

But if you are looking for the best definition and illustration of love, you may want to open your Bible to John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Love of God

We see in this text a perfect example of a “cause and effect” relationship, wherein one event causes another to happen. It is a combination of action and reaction.

A cause is something that produces an event; an effect is what results from the event. In this case, the cause is God’s love and the effect is Him sending His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world.

God created man out of love and it is also out of love that God chose to save man from eternal condemnation. You see, there was no need for God to create man; God did not need man.

The Biblical Definition of Love

This is exactly why Hillsong’s “What a Beautiful Name” isn’t theologically sound. There is a phrase that says, “You did not want heaven without us, so Jesus, You brought heaven down.” This is a complete fallacy and has no biblical standing at all.

The Triune God is complete within Himself. In the community of the Trinity, there is a perfect love relationship, unity, and fellowship. So, why did God create man? It’s because God is love.

God created man to be the object of His love, the apple of His eyes, and the joy of His heart.

Love: God’s Motivation

In the story of creation, we read that before God created man, He prepared everything first. God made sure that the environment was comfortable and convenient for man and the only thing left for man to do was to take care of the rest of God’s creation (Genesis 2:8-15).

God planted Adam in the beautiful Garden of Eden and gave him full dominion over everything else. And when God saw that Adam needed a “suitable partner,” He immediately put him into a deep sleep, took out one of his ribs, and created a woman out of it (Genesis 2:21-23).

Again, God did this out of love. Adam didn’t have to ask. God determined that man needed a “suitable partner” and immediately took action (Genesis 2:18).

But after everything that God did for man, what did man do? He willfully and deliberately disobeyed God. Yet, because God is love, merciful, and gracious, He still chose to forgive man.

We know the rest of the story. Man got caught up in this cycle of rebellion and repentance. And throughout history, we see God’s love for His people manifested over and over and over again.

God was in no way morally obligated to save man (human beings, male and female). But He did it out of love. We must understand that God is not full of love; He is love.

Love is God’s character; it’s one of the things that make Him God. God’s love motivated Him to give His Son for the world.

Lord's Guidance Christian Jewelry and Apparel

Mutual Love Between the Father and the Son

For us to understand the depths of God’s love for us and the world, we must first realize how much the Father loves the Son.

John repeatedly emphasizes the mutual love between the Father and the Son in several passages (John 3:35; John 10:17; John 14:312; John 17:24), revealing an intimate relationship; an affection expressed in self-giving sacrifice. To save the world He so loved; God was willing to endure the pain of losing His Son.

Parents, can you bear to see your only child getting punished for somebody else’s fault? Let alone see your child suffer and die knowing that he/ she hasn’t done anything wrong?

Can you punish your only child for his schoolmates’ sin? I don’t think so! It is the instinct of parents to protect their children at all costs.

Years ago, a story broke about a mother who was willing to go to prison for her son’s crime. Accordingly, a young man accidentally killed their neighbor after a heated argument. He went home and told his mother what had happened. When the police got to the crime scene, they found the mother with the murder weapon.

If our earthly parents will do everything for their children, how much more our heavenly Father. Imagine the pain that the Father experienced at the sight of the suffering and death of His Son that He, the Father Himself, inflicted.

At the cross on Calvary, God poured out His wrath upon His Son (the cup). God watched as Jesus suffered and died to satisfy God’s justice. We must never forget that God is love but He is also just.

For Whom Did Jesus Die?

Going back to our text, we see that the object of God’s love is the “world.” But who or what embodies the “world?” There are different interpretations from Bible teachers, scholars, and denominations. Some argue that God’s special love is only for Israel. Others say it’s for the church and still, others believe it is for the elect.

But several passages tell us that Jesus sacrificed Himself for everyone. He shed His blood not just for some special groups of people but for all as we read in passages such as 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:9 and Galatians 3:28.

However, let us be careful not to get sucked into the assumption that because God gave His Son for the world then everyone is automatically saved. This just means that salvation became available to anyone.

If we read John 3:17, God’s purpose in sending His Son was not to condemn; the world was already in a state of condemnation as a result of man’s sin.

The great news is, God provided the gift of salvation for all and it’s free. All we have to do is choose to either receive or reject it. One must believe and continues to believe in the Son of God to avail of the gift of eternal life.

The Wholeness of God

The Father Gave His Begotten Son

I cannot overemphasize the biblical truth that God’s love caused Him to sacrifice His only begotten Son. But let us look more closely at what the term “begotten Son” means and what is its significance.

If you are reading from a modern Bible translation such as the NIV, NASB, ESV, etc., the phrase used is “one and only Son,” which was especially appropriate for a particularly beloved child, normally, an only child.

Interestingly, this same phrase was used to highlight Abraham’s obedience to God when asked to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering unto the Lord on the altar he was asked to build at Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:15-16). But before Abraham could slay his son, the Angel of the Lord stopped him and provided a ram instead.

The story of Abraham and Isaac was a foreshadowing of what was to take place at Calvary many years later. God provided a ram for Moses to sacrifice in the place of Isaac but He provided His only Son as an atoning sacrifice for all (1 John 2:2).

People say “I love you,” all the time but oftentimes they don’t mean it. Actions speak louder than words, right? Well, God did not stop at the words, “I love you.” He demonstrated His love by sending His only Son to suffer and die for us. And He did it while we were still in our sins (Romans 5:8).

This is the biblical definition of love – sacrifice.

The Justice of God

I would like to pick up where I left off on the justice of God because this is where many Christians struggle and sometimes stumble.

We understand pretty well the phrase, “God is love.” We all agree that God loves us so much; He loves us unconditionally and He sacrificed His only begotten Son to save us from destruction out of His great love.

But when we read that Jesus had to suffer and die to satisfy God’s justice, we can’t seem to comprehend why. Most people think that the suffering and death of Jesus Christ were inflicted upon Him by Satan.

Of course not! Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? To appease God’s wrath and satisfy God’s justice. What do you mean?

God is Just

Let me say it again, God is love but He is also just. There was no way God would just sit back and let the sinner go unpunished. Man sinned and he needed to pay. Sins have consequences.

It’s like when you commit a crime, you have to pay the penalty. You go on trial and when convicted you’ll be sentenced according to the heinousness of your crime.

The punishment for man’s sin (rebellion against God) is eternal condemnation, i.e., death or separation from God (Romans 6:23). But because God is love, He wasn’t going to let man be condemned forever. So, He came up with a solution – He sent His Son to pay the penalty instead.

The Father Crushed His Son

Isaiah 53:10 says, “It pleased the Lord to crush Him…” Crushed who? His Son! How did the Father crush the Son? By pouring out the fullness of His wrath upon Jesus.

What was Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? For the Father to take the “cup” away from Him (Mark 14:36). But what’s in the cup? The wrath of God. When the cup was poured out on Jesus, He took upon Himself the sins of the world and the punishment from God. And when Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) the penalty was paid in full.

The Bible tells us that during those three hours that Jesus hung on the cross, there was darkness all over the land (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44-46), which tells us how horrible Jesus’ death was that God had to conceal it from the people.

Conclusion

Are you still in search of true love? Look no further. Come to Christ in repentance and receive His gift of eternal life. God sacrificed His one and only Son so that you and I could enjoy eternal life with Him.

“This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

But just like any other lover, God desires for us to love Him back. And if you truly love the Lord, you are to love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You are also to love others as yourself (Mark 12:28-31).

These two are better known as God’s Greatest Commandments.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.


How to Discern the Signs of the Times

How to Discern the Signs of the Times

How important is it to discern the signs of the times? Many people today react negatively to any mention of the signs of the end times. They say it is foolish and unwarranted to look for or even talk about trends and developments that point toward the end times scenario portrayed in Scripture.

Is this negative outlook justified? In Matthew 16:1-3, Jesus sternly rebuked the religious leaders of His day for their blindness to the sign of the times of His first coming.

Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus demanding that He show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove His authority, He replied, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the time” (Matthew 16:1-3).

Biblical Signs of the End of Days

Signs of the times, or the end of days, are visible events, sometimes miraculous or otherwise unexplainable, that point to something beyond themselves. Many signs were predicted by Jesus and the prophets throughout Scripture.

Signs are important; they help us know what to look for and what to pay attention to. When we read Bible prophecy, we can look for these “signs of the times” that show us what to be on the lookout for, much like a road sign points to what’s coming.

Jesus used the term “signs of the times” to verify His first coming. He fulfilled Old Testament prophecies and performed the miracles of the Messiah right before the eyes of many people, yet they were blind to the clear confirmation of His identity.

Signs that we are living in the end times

Despite being shown signs to look for, the people didn’t pay attention. Jesus fulfilled 109 prophecies during His life on earth, and He indicted the Jewish leaders for missing these signs of His first coming.

Most people of that day missed the clear signs – Jesus’ visible miracles that confirmed the invisible truth that He was God. Those were the signs that verified His first coming, but what about the Second Coming? Have we been given any signs? What can we be looking for and paying attention to?

Signs for Jesus’ Second Coming

Luke recorded Jesus saying, “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea, and the waves roaring” (Luke 21:25). Here, Jesus clearly referred to “signs” that will portend His second coming back to earth.

In Matthew 24:3, when Jesus’s disciples asked Him, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t worry about the signs of the end of the age.” He didn’t also say, “I’m not going to tell you, it’s none of your business.”

Instead, Jesus outlined several general and specific signs of the end of the age (Matthew 24:4-31). Since Jesus gave us signs like these, we should be careful not to ignore them and scoff at them. We need to listen to what Jesus was saying.

After listing some of the main signs, Jesus concluded with the parable of the fig tree in Matthew 24:32-33. Many believe that the fig tree refers to the nation of Israel since fig trees represented Israel in the Old Testament. However, Jesus was probably using a natural illustration that anyone could relate to.

Just as the blossoming of the fig tree indicates that summer is near, so the fulfillment of the signs predicted in Matthew 24:4-31 will show that Jesus’ second coming is near. We do not scoff at the signs of spring but look for them with anticipation. It should be the same with Jesus’ return. We should look forward to it.

5 Signs of the End Times

Biblical prophecy doesn’t predict every insignificant ripple in our world today, but it does reveal the main currents and trends. Several key signs appear to be flashing in today’s headlines.

While many signs could be listed, here are five significant signs of the times that every believer should be aware of.

1. The Regathering of the Jewish People

The number one sign is the regathering of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland. The Bible predicts over and over again that the Jews must be back in their homeland for the events of the end times to unfold (Jeremiah 30:1-5; Ezekiel 34:11-24; Ezekiel 37:1-28; Zechariah 10:6-10).

It is the most prophesied event in the end-time passages in the Bible, and for that reason, it is often called the “super sign” of the end times. Almost all the key events of the end times hinge on the existence of the nation of Israel.

In 1948 when the nation of Israel was re-established, only 6 percent of the Jews in the world were in Israel. Today, the statistic stands at almost 40 percent. The Jews have returned and continue to come home to their land – just as the ancient prophets predicted.

By the year 2030, it is estimated that half of the Jews worldwide will live in the land. This sign should be like a flashing red light to all who know the prophetic Scriptures.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.


2. Surging Apostasy

A second sign of the end times is surging apostasy, that is, a departure from the truth, both doctrinally and morally (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-9, 13; Jude 1:1-16). This apostasy foreshadows the final falling away that will break out as the end times begin to unfold (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3).

This current age will climax with a monumental falling away, both doctrinally and morally. While the church today may not be experiencing a full-blown apostasy on 2 Thessalonians, many within the church appear to be on the leading edge of it.

The book of Jude, which describes and denounces apostasy, also describes our modern world to a tee. Jude is the final book before Revelation and some have called it the preface to the book of Revelation. It portrays the conditions that will prevail before the events of Revelation are unleashed.

Deepening apostasy is a sign of the end times.

3. The Coming Middle East Peace

The third sign is the worldwide clamoring for peace in the Middle East. The one huge issue in our world today that often overshadows all others is the ongoing hostilities in the Middle East.

The Middle East peace process is a key sign of the end times because the signing of a peace treaty between the Antichrist (the leader of the Western Confederacy) and the nation of Israel signals the beginning of the 7-year Tribulation (Daniel 9:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).

The current yearning for peace in the Middle East is setting the stage for the final covenant of peace between the Antichrist and Israel predicted in the Bible.

4. Reuniting of the Roman Empire

The fourth sign of the end times is the rebirth of the Roman Empire. As the end times begin to unfold, global alliances will emerge as nations scramble for political power and dwindling economic resources.

Out of this quickly shifting situation, a coalition of nations, headed by ten leaders, will emerge to protect the interests of the West. This alliance will reconstitute the Roman Empire. This “Group of Ten” I first mentioned in Daniel 2:41-44, where it is symbolized as ten toes on a great statue.

In Daniel 7:7 and Daniel 7:24 this same ruling oligarchy of ten leaders is symbolized by ten horns on a beast that represents the last world empire – the Roman Empire in its final form.

Its final leader, the Antichrist, will eventually be able to seize control of the ten leaders and consolidate power very much as the Roman Empire did in the past (Daniel 7:8).

5. Globalism

A fifth key sign of the times is globalism. Ever since Genesis 10–11 when Satan ruled the world through one man named Nimrod, Satan’s goal has been to get the world together again so he can rule it all.

World history bears out this pattern. It’s the record of one person after another trying to rule the world. Many of the power-hungry rulers who have cruelly subjugated nations under their feet have been energized by Satan to foster his goal of globalization.

For the first time in history since Genesis 11 and the tower of Babel, globalization is within man’s (and Satan’s) reach. It is most significant that in the twenty-first century, not only does a need for world government exists, but the technology for establishing such a government is now in our hands.

5 Signs of the End Times

Today the electronic media, especially the use of television via satellite, is a tremendous tool that allows instant communication around the world. Access to the internet and satellite cell phones reach around the globe. The capacity for missile warfare also makes world rule possible.

In terms of economics, the Bible predicts that the world ruler will have absolute control of the economy, and no one will be able to buy and sell without his permission (Revelation 13:17). Today, electronic fund transfers, electronic banking, and debit and credit cards make this literally possible for the first time in world history.

The necessary ingredients for a world government are present for the first time in the history of civilization. The time may not be far away when such a government – foretold in Scripture long before one was possible – will have its accurate and complete fulfillment.

The Final Act

Sometimes life feels like entering a dark theatre and realizing you are coming in near the end of a play with several acts. We didn’t write it. We didn’t ask to be thrust into the play. Yet we can be certain this drama is nearing the last and final act.

Even though we didn’t see the beginning of the play, we can look back and see and see its plot and direction. But even then, how can we be sure when the next act will start?

The biblical prophets talked a lot about the last act. What we can do is look for the events that set it up. If those events occur, we can be fairly certain the final act is just ahead. When the curtain comes down on the current scene, will the next act be the last?

But more importantly, will we be wise enough to see it coming? Will we be ready? The only way we can be ready is if we can discern the signs of the times and know something about the last and final act.


Note: This article is taken from Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book “The End, A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days.”

Recommended Resource: Bible Prophecy Answer Book: Everything You Need to Know About the End Times by Ron Rhodes

What Does the Bible Say About the Church?

What Does the Bible Say About the Church?

There are a lot of misconceptions about the church that continue up until today. Thus, a biblical study of the church is absolutely necessary to clear them up. What does the Bible have to say about the church?

Meaning of the Word “Church”

Our English word for church is derived from the Greek adjective kuriakos, meaning, “that which belongs to the Lord.” We find this word used in the first chapter of the book of Revelation. It reads:

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10).

In the context of the passage, the Lord’s Day means, “the day belonging to the Lord.” This fits well with the meaning of the term church. The church then can be defined as the company of people who profess allegiance to Jesus Christ as their Savior – they belong to the Lord.

The Church is the Ekklesia

The usual Greek word translated as “church” in the New Testament is “ekklesia.” The word comes from the Greek preposition ek meaning, “out of” and from the verb kaleo meaning, “to call.”

So, the church is a “called out group of people” or a group of “assembled people” and “ecclesiology” means a “study of the church.”

Church: Group of Believers in Jesus

Ekklesia in the New Testament

The word ekklesia is only used three times in the gospels and over one hundred times in the remainder of the New Testament. The gospel references are all found in Matthew. The first is Jesus’ response to Peter where He said the following:

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The word ekklesia is used here in its technical sense. It refers to those people who believe in Jesus as their Savior. In this context, it speaks of something that is yet to occur – the building of the church.

The word ekklesia is also used twice in Matthew 18:17. It says, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

But in this instance, the word is used in a non-technical sense of Jewish assembly.

The word “church” is used only once in the gospels in the technical sense of Christian believers. In that passage, it is predicting the building of the church. Therefore, the church of Jesus Christ is still something that will be organized in the future.

The Church Doctrine Revealed by Paul

It was the Apostle Paul who revealed the doctrine of the church. He testified that God gave him that responsibility. He wrote the following to the Colossians:

“The mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them, God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).

The church is a mystery or a “sacred secret” that the Apostle Paul was given the privilege of explaining to the world.

Ways the Word Church is Used in Scripture

In the New Testament, the word church is applied in several ways concerning believers.

A Group of Christians in a City

Acts 11:22 speaks of the church in the city of Jerusalem. We read:

“Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.”

Acts 13:1 also talks about the church in Antioch: “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”

There was a church in Jerusalem as well as one in Antioch.

Christians in Jerusalem

A Particular Congregation of Believers

Paul spoke of a single congregation that met in a house. He wrote the following to the Romans.

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise, greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ” (Romans 16:3-5).

Paul expressed the same idea when he wrote to the church in Corinth. He said, “And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:35).

Therefore, the church can be a single group of Christians who meet.

The Entire Group of Believers on Earth

At times, the word church refers to all the believers on the earth. Paul used the term in this sense when he wrote this to the Ephesians: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).

Different Usages in the NT

The word ekklesia is not always used in the New Testament of a group of believers in Jesus. The martyr Stephen spoke of the church or assembly in the wilderness.

“This is he who was in the congregation (ekklesia) in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us” (Acts 7:38).

In this particular context, ekklesia is used in reference to the nation of Israel.

An Assembly of People

The word is also used of an angry mob. We read of this usage in Acts 19:32.

“Some, therefore, cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”

It can also refer to a mere gathering of people as we read in Acts 19:39.

“But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly.”

Thus, depending upon the context, ekklesia can refer to the assembling of Israel, an unruly mob, or some secular group assembling together.

Singular and Plural Usage

We should also note that the term translated church is used in both the singular and the plural. When the church of a city or town is mentioned the word is used in the singular. When a country or nation is spoken of the word is used in the plural.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.


The Modern Uses of the Word Church

Today, when the word church is used several things come to mind. Indeed, the term is used in at least five different ways. They include the following.

Building where Believers Gather

First, church commonly refers to the building where Christians assemble; for example, the church on Main Street. To many people, this is the first thing that is thought of when the term church is used.

Group of Local People

Second, the word refers to the local group of people that meets together. Rather than merely referring to the building or physical structure it refers to the people who meet in the building.

Christian Denomination

Third, the church is a reference to a particular Christian denomination such as the Baptist Church or the Presbyterian Church.

All Believers in Jesus

Fourth, the term is also used of all believers who profess faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, it refers to the universal church.

State Church

Finally, the term is used of a state church such as the Church of England. Therefore, according to popular usage, the word church is used in several ways.

Conclusion

Notice that the biblical usage of the term church is not exactly the same as the modern usage. Therefore, we must understand the nature of the church from a biblical perspective.


Note: This article is an excerpt taken from Don Stewart’s book on the Church.

The 144,000 in Revelation 7

The 144,000 in Revelation 7

In the study of end times prophecy, there are several key players whose identities are critical to understanding what’s happening. God highlights these players and provides important information about them.

One set of key actors in the end times is a mysterious group of 144,000 people who faithfully serve the Lord. They are listed in Revelation 7:1-8 and discussed again in Revelation 14:1-5.

The 144,000 have been the subject of considerable speculation. Who is this congregation of God’s people?

Identity of the 144,000

The most common view is that the 144,000 in the book of Revelation represent the church of Jesus Christ, which is understood as the true, spiritual Israel. The problem with this view is that the word Israel is never used for the church in the New Testament.

Also, it is interesting that Jews and Gentiles are clearly distinguished from one another in Revelation 7. The 144,00 Jews are listed in Revelation 7:1-8 while Revelation 7:9-17 presents an innumerable host of “every nation and tribe and people and language. Merging these two groups does not do justice to the distinction that Revelation 7 makes.

Who, then, are these 144,000 servants of God?

The Identity of the 144,000 in Revelation

If the Scriptures are interpreted literally, then the 144,000 are a literal group of 144,000 Jewish men – 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel – raised up by God during the Tribulation to serve Him.

They are not spiritual Israel (the church), but actual Israel. As John F. Walvoord says, “Israel’s tribes are still in existence, and God certainly knows who they are.”

Characteristics of the 144,000

Revelation 7:1-8 and Revelation 14:1-5 highlight six main characteristics that provide insight into the identity and ministry of these 144,000 servants of God.

1. Purchased

The 144,000 “had been purchased from the earth” (Revelation 14:3, NASB). The word purchased means to “redeem or pay the price for something.” The precious blood of Christ redeemed or purchased these servants of God. They have been bought at a price and they belong to the Lord as His special possession.

2. Prepared

The 144,000 are prepared for God’s service by being given His seal (Revelation 7:3-4).

During the Tribulation, the followers of the Beast will bear his mark on their right hand or forehead (Revelation 13:16). During this same time, the Lord will identify His people by placing a seal of ownership on their foreheads (Revelation 14:1).

It is important to note that Revelation 7 and 13 use two different Greek words distinguishing these marks from each other. In Revelation 7, God seals the 144,000 on their foreheads. The word used there, sphragizo, symbolizes the spiritual sealing mentioned throughout the New Testament (John 3:33; 6:27; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).

But in Revelation 13 where followers of the Antichrist are given a mark, the word charagma is used, which refers to a literal brand, tattoo, or etching.

The seal of the 144,000 sets them apart and prepares them for God’s service.

3. Protected

God’s seal not only prepares the 144,000 for service, but it also protects them. The seal is God’s pledge of security. God seals the 144,000 before allowing the four angels to bring their judgment on the earth (Revelation 7:1-3). The 144,000 will be protected from the wrath of God and Satan during the Tribulation (Revelation 9:4).

In Revelation 14:1-5, John sees the 144,000 at the end of the Tribulation standing triumphantly on Mount Zion – the city of Jerusalem. Notice he doesn’t see 143,999. Rather, all 144,000 have been divinely preserved by the Lord. Not one has been overlooked.

God will preserve and protect His sealed servants for seven years through the horror of the Tribulation. His pledge of security will be fulfilled.


4. Pure

The 144,000 are pure virgins who have not defiled themselves with women (Revelation 14:4). Many interpret this figuratively – meaning they are spiritually undefiled and pure, separated from the corruption and pollution of false religion.

However, Scripture’s explicit statement that they are not defiled with women suggests that they are male, celibate servants of God. In light of the pressures of the Tribulation period, they are called by God to abstain from normal married life and devote themselves totally to the Lord’s service (1 Corinthians 7:29-35).

5. Persistent

The 144,000 persevere in their service for the Lord even under the direst circumstances.

During the terrible days of the Tribulation they constantly “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Revelation 14:4). Jesus is the Lamb, but He is also the Shepherd. He knows the way, and the 144,000 follow Him wherever He leads.

6. Preachers

These Jewish servants fearlessly proclaim the gospel of Christ during the Tribulation period. There appears to be a cause-and-effect relationship in Revelation 7 between the 144,000 in verses 1-8 and the innumerable crowd of Gentile believers in verses 9-17.

The ministry of the 144,000 brings about salvation for millions of people. They will be the greatest evangelists the world has ever seen. These sealed servants of God will fulfill Matthew 24:14. Revelation 7 provides a panorama of God’s saving work during the Tribulation.

The 144,000 reveal God’s passion to save people even in the middle of the unspeakable judgment of the Tribulation. To the very end, the Savior will graciously continue “to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10).

Why are the 144,000 Important?

The 144,000 are important for three reasons.

First, they reveal God’s faithfulness to His promises. God seals them in Revelation 7 and keeps them to the end of the Tribulation. They make it all the way through under God’s protecting hand. God keeps His promises.

Second, we learn that even in judgment, God is merciful. God will use the 144,000 as messengers of mercy during the Tribulation. Every judgment of God beginning with Noah all the way to the Tribulation, including the judgment of God’s own Son on the cross, reveals God’s mercy.

Third, these Jewish witnesses will help fulfill the prophecy Jesus gave in Matthew 24:14. The 144,000 will spread the good news all over the globe during the Tribulation, and the end won’t come until they’re finished.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Reference Material: The End, A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Dr. Mark Hitchcock

The End by Mark HitchcockThe end times have seen a great amount of interest within the last two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive overview of biblical prophecy and eschatology for more than five decades. Mark Hitchcock’s book is a comprehensive resource for the twenty-first century.

The End will do for eschatology what Randy Alcorn’s Heaven did for people’s understanding of heaven. It will provide a solid biblical foundation for Christians to explore the essential truths around this topic―the end of the world.

Finding Hope Amidst Difficult Times

Finding Hope Amidst Difficult Times

The year 2020 could well go down in history as one of the most challenging years we all had to face as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. But we cannot and should not lose hope. Amidst trials and in difficult times, there is hope. Christians can enjoy living in victory even when all hope seems to be lost.

In this post are some principles God has laid out in His Word that every believer in Jesus should apply if they expect to live victoriously this new year 2021 and onward.

The Babylonian Captivity

The Babylonian Captivity, also known as the Babylonian Exile, is a period in biblical history that highlights the restoration of the nation of Israel. But while in exile, it is apparent that the Jews were on the verge of losing hope. Will they ever get out from this ordeal and safely go back to their land?

Considering that when King Nebuchadnezzar II took the Jews captive, Babylon was an up and coming world superpower. How could the Jews be confident that God was up to the job of delivering them from the hands of the Babylonians?

Babylonian Exile
Photo Credits: Ancient Pages

In chapter 3 of Isaiah, we read God reminding the Jewish exiles about who He is and what He is capable of doing for them. We read the following in Isaiah 43:16-19 (NIV):

This is what the Lord says – He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Biblical Principles for a Victorious Life

In the passage quoted above, God, through the prophet Isaiah, gave four instructions to the nation of Israel.

1. Remember God’s Great Works in the Past.

Verses 16-17 looks back to what God did for Israel when He brought them out of the land of Egypt through the wilderness to Canaan (Exodus 14). God parted the Red Sea so they could cross and escape the Egyptian armies.

Isaiah powerfully brings up these images when he writes of the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements of these enemies of God’s people, and how they shall lay there and never to rise again, extinguished and snuffed out or quenched.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:21-22).

Just as God overwhelmed the Egyptian armies, He would also judge the Babylonians.

2. Forget the Past.

Notice that there is an instructive switch between verses 16-17 and verse 18. In Isaiah 43:16-17, Israel is told to look to the past by remembering the great things God did for them at the Red Sea. But in Isaiah 43:18 they are told, “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old.” Why?

It is important to note that God had performed many miracles for Israel – probably one of the most memorable was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt by their miraculous passage through the Red Sea on dry ground!

But now, God was saying, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Is God contradicting Himself? No, not at all! Rather, God is telling the Jews, “That’s nothing compared to what I am about to do.”

No matter how great the miracle God performed to get their forefathers out of Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land, God wants this generation of Jews to focus on the new work He will do for them.

God promises that He is going to do greater things for them; much more than what He had done in the past. He tells them to forget the past because if they are stuck in the wonders and miracles of God in the past, they will never be able to move forward to the new things God has in store for them.

3. Keep in Step with God.

After reminding the Jews of His mighty works in the past and instructing them not to get stuck in those wonders, God then assures them the deliverance they have been hoping for.

God says this in Isaiah 43:19a, “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?”

God is moving on – He is doing a new thing – bigger and better than ever before. Past blessings are for a time gone by. God promises a new blessing for a new day!

Staying stuck in the past can keep the nation of Israel (and us) from the new things God wants to do. God will do a new thing that is in no way inferior to what He has done in the past. God will do a new thing that is in no way inferior to the things of old.

God can do new wonders; He is creative and He is always doing something new.

4. Trust that God Can and Will Do the Impossible.

Between Babylon and Israel lay hundreds of miles of wilderness. But God assures His people that they had nothing to fear because God would make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19b)

They can be confident that the same power that made dry land in the waters can produce waters even in the driest land.

Application for Believers Today

How do Christians apply these four principles? We must take God’s word at face value.

God is also telling us today to forget the former things and not dwell on the past. Yes, we must remember the past in terms of God’s great work. It is to our benefit to often remember what God did to the nation of Israel. Remembering God’s faithfulness gives us hope and assurance that we can trust God to work on our behalf

We can always count on God and we can be confident that He will make good His promises because He is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). If God kept His covenant with Israel, He will surely keep His covenant with us. God is immutable; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Yes, we are to thank God for past revivals, answered prayers, and blessings. The downside is those past blessings can hold us back because we expect the same thing over and over again.

We must forsake and forget the past, with all its discouragement, failures, sin, and defeat, and move on to what God has for us in the future. Past sins and failures can hold us back too!

The Example of Simon Peter

Do you ever feel like you have let God down in some way? You may have stumbled and failed Him a couple of times and now you feel like you’re no longer worthy of another chance. You fear that God cannot use you again.

If there’s somebody who has gone this path and was restored, it’s Simon Peter. Among all those who followed our Lord closely, I find Peter’s story quite fascinating.

Consider the following about Peter:

  • He alone got to experience walking on water with Jesus (Matthew 14:28-29).
  • He was one of the three disciples to witness the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13).
  • It was Peter who confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-20).
  • It was Peter who cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest and he did it in an attempt to prevent the arrest of Jesus (John 18:10).
  • But more than all these, Peter promised Jesus that he will never forsake Him even though it will cost him his life (Matthew 26:35).

But on the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter swallowed his words because he denied Jesus, not just once but three times at the time that Jesus needed him the most. He must have felt terrible when he realized what he has done.

But after the resurrection Jesus reinstated him at the lake of Tiberius in Galilee (John 21:15-19) and a few days later on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached probably the most powerful gospel sermon resulting in the 3000 souls that were saved and added to the Church (Acts 2:14-36).

Christian Jewelry and Wall Decors - Lord's Guidance

When All Hope Seems Lost

You may have experienced a lot of heartaches and pain, trials, and difficulties in the past year. But God promises to do something great in your life.

You may have lost a loved one and up to now you still don’t understand why you had to go through all that. Maybe you got heartbroken last year or in the previous years and you are still unable to move on.

This year, give your heart to Jesus and rest assured that He will never break it; He will never disappoint you and He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Today, God is telling us to forget the past – blessings, and failures – because the past will fade into insignificance compared with what God is doing, and going to do.

Trust God At All Times

As we look forward to the future, God wants us to trust Him completely, regardless of the circumstances we are facing. Let us not make the common mistake of worrying about the details or obstacles for the fulfillment of God’s promise. We do not have to worry about it at all.

God has all the resources needed. We may not have a perfect picture of what God is about to do but we can be certain that He will bring them to fruition. He is the Lord, the God of all flesh; nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:27). Things may be impossible from a human perspective but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

By the way, trying to lend God a helping hand never works so don’t even try. In Genesis 12:1-3 God promises to make Abraham’s children into a great nation. There’s just one problem – his wife could not have children, and they were both advanced in years!

What did Abraham do? He tried to help God out only to realize later on that it was a big mistake (Genesis 16:1-16). Then as now, meddling in God’s business only ends in disaster.

Conclusion

Indeed, we can always find hope in the Lord even in difficult times.

But we need to get our focus off the past: the good, the bad, and the ugly. These are nothing compared to what God is about to do! God is doing something new. His laws and principles never change – but His blessings are new every morning.

Are we ready for it? Are we in step with the Holy Spirit? We can be amid a blessing and not see it.

By the way, let us be reminded that whatever new and great things we will receive, it’s all God’s work – it’s not of us! We may have labored in the fields sowing and reaping but it is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).

So we must always humble ourselves before God – realizing that it is not because of anything we have done – but it is only by the grace of God. We must ensure that God gets the glory for it all.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.


Does Religiosity Equal Christianity

Does Religiosity Equal Christianity

Do you know that one major reason why people are hesitant to become Christians is the notion that they have to be religious? This has negative connotations for most people. But does one need to be religious to be a Christian? Does religiosity equal Christianity?

First of all, we need to understand that Christianity is NOT a religion in the same way Islam or Hinduism is. Rather, it is a relationship with the living God.

In this short post, we will look at two important points that need to be made in dealing with this issue.

Religiosity vs. Christianity

One of the things that differentiate religion from Christianity is that the former consists of rules and rituals – things that people must do and other things they must not do. However, Christianity, though it has rules to follow, is basically a relationship between man (humanity) and the Creator.

When one becomes a Christian, he or she enters into a personal relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus.

Christ Himself said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

To become a Christian is a personal matter; it is a personal decision made by the sinner when he acknowledges his need for God. This is then followed by a desire to know God’s laws and precepts and to obey them (Psalm 119:33).

Christianity is not merely a set of laws and rules. It is a relationship between the living God and those who believe in Him. Thus, at its heart, Christianity is relational.

What is True Religion?

The Bible Condemns Empty Religiosity

The Bible strongly condemns religion that is without any genuine substance. We read so many instances where Jesus condemned the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 23:2, 3, 27, 28).

If religiosity equals true Christianity, Jesus would not have strong words for the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were strictly living according to the Mosaic Law. By doing so, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy.

Does this mean religion is not important? Some argue that without religion, it would be impossible to practice what God in His written Word has instructed us to do. This is where we need to distinguish between empty and genuine religion.

Scripture informs us what true religion should be and that is living out what you believe. James wrote, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is not religiosity; a Christian is not someone religious. A Christian is one who has a pers0nal relationship with the living God through Christ.

Conclusion

Religion is not attractive to most people because it conjures up the idea of several rules and rituals that one must strictly adhere to. Often times, people follow these rules without any sense of personal satisfaction or fulfillment.

In that sense of the word, Christianity is not a religion.

Don’t be religious; be a Christian, a Christ-follower who has a loving relationship with the Creator.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.


Was Jesus the Predicted Messiah?

Was Jesus the Predicted Messiah?

Was Jesus the predicted Messiah? Although the Bible gives so many predictions about the coming Messiah that were fulfilled by our Lord Jesus, the Jews did not accept Him. As a matter of fact, they are still awaiting the coming of the Messiah.

Are there More than One Messiah?

When Diocletian was abdicated as emperor of Rome, a war of succession between Maxentius and Constantine became inevitable. Maxentius held possession of Rome, but Constantine invaded from Gaul in 312 AD.

In preparation for battle on the Tiber River, Maxentius consulted the Sibylline books for prophetic insight. The relevant oracle declared, “On that day the enemy of Rome will perish.”

Maxentius went into battle confident that Constantine’s doom was at hand. However, he perished in battle, thus identifying who “the enemy of Rome” was. The prophecy was going to be fulfilled one way or the other; its intentional vagueness guaranteed that.

Jesus Fulfilled Messianic Prophecies

Aren’t the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah equally general so that any number of Jewish males could claim to fulfill them after rising to prominence as a spiritual leader?

While that is true about many of the messianic prophecies taken in isolation, there are more than three hundred separate predictions about the messiah in the pages of the Old Testament. Taken together, they form an imposing barrier to accidental fulfillment or fulfillment-after-the-fact.

300 Prophecies, Only One Messiah

Think of each of the three hundred messianic prophecies as a filter that strains out everyone who does not meet its requirements and you will realize how unlikely it is that anyone but the actual Messiah would pass through all three hundred filters.

If you try to calculate the odds of someone accidentally satisfying three hundred separate personal descriptions, you end up with something like one out of a number with 125 zeros after it – an incomprehensibly unlikely eventuality.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.


The Messiah would descend from Eve (Genesis 3:16), Judah (Isaiah 46:10), and David (2 Samuel 7:14). He would be virgin-born (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9).

He would die with sinners but be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9, 12). None of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20) during a violent death in which His hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16) so that He cried out to God (Psalm 22:1).

While He died, onlookers would divide His clothes (Psalm 22:18). He came to save Gentiles as well as Jews (Isaiah 49:6). He rose from the dead (Psalm 16:10).

Jesus, the Promised Messiah

Was Jesus the predicted Messiah? Yes! But the prophecies say more about Him than that. He shared the divine nature as God’s Son (Psalm 2:7) and human nature as the Son of Man (Genesis 3:16).

As God’s Suffering Servant, He fulfilled Israel’s destiny by keeping the righteous standards of the Law of Moses (Isaiah 49:1-3). He established God’s new covenant with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 26:28).

He is the destiny and focal point of history (Colossians 1:16). We wait for His return to establish justice and righteousness in the millennial kingdom (Malachi 4:1-3; Revelation 19:11–20:4).


Note: Excerpt taken from the NKJV Prophecy Study Bible under the section Evidences.

 

What is the Battle of Gog and Magog?

What is the Battle of Gog and Magog?

Since winning the Six-Day War in June 1967, the nation of Israel has grown into a world military power and has proven its ability to defend itself. But according to the Bible, the greatest threat to modern Israel’s continued existence has yet to happen.

This is when Israel will be attacked by a coalition of nations from every direction. The prophet Ezekiel describes this invasion, known as the Battle of Gog and Magog, in Ezekiel 38-39. This coalition of invading nations will be motivated by a seething desire to eradicate Israel, enrich themselves, and entangle Israel’s allies in the war.

Participants of the Ezekiel 38-39 War

The prophecy of the Battle of Gog and Magog begins with a list of ten proper names in Ezekiel 38:1-7.

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, 3
and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.’”

4 “I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. 5
Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops–many people are with you.”

7 “Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them.”

Note: Italics added for emphasis

Gog

While the other nine proper names in Ezekiel 38:1-7 are specific geographical locations, the name Gog, which occurs eleven times in Ezekiel 38-39, is clearly an individual who heads the coalition of invaders.  He is also directly addressed by God several times (Ezekiel 38:14; 39:1) and is called a prince (Ezekiel 38:2; 39:1).

Ezekiel may have used ancient names familiar to the people of his day and these names have changed many times throughout history, but the geographical territory remains the same. Regardless of what names they may carry at the time of this invasion, a literal interpretation holds that these specific geographical areas will be involved.

Let’s take a look at each of these ancient locations and examine them and then we will identify the modern counterpart.

Magog

The Jewish historian Josephus said the land of Magog was inhabited by ancient Scythians. The Scythians were northern nomadic tribes who inhabited the territory from Central Asia across the southern steppes of modern Russia.

Magog today probably represents nations from the former Soviet Union: Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Afghanistan could also be part of this territory.

Rosh

Bible scholars have often identified Rosh with Russia. But this conclusion has not been unanimous.

The word rosh in Hebrew simply means “head, top, summit, or chief.” It is a very common word used in all Semitic languages. Although most Bible translations translate rosh as a common noun – “chief,” the Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible, and New American Standard Bible all translate Rosh as a proper name indicating a geographical location.

Several arguments support taking Rosh as a proper name but the most impressive evidence is simply that this translation in this context is the most natural. G. A. Cooke translates Ezekiel 38:2, “the chief of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.” He calls this “the most natural way” of rendering the Hebrews.

After establishing that Rosh should be translated as a proper name for a geographical area, the question now is where is Rosh? The great Hebrew scholar Wilhelm Gesenius noted that Rosh is “undoubtedly the Russians.”

Ezekiel 38-39 emphasizes repeatedly that at least part of this invading force will come from the “remote parts of the north” (Ezekiel 38:6, 15; 39:2). The Bible usually provides directions about Israel, which, on God’s compass, is the center of the earth (Ezekiel 38:12).

If you draw a line directly north from Israel, the land that is most remote or distant to the north is Russia.

Meshech and Tubal

Meshech and Tubal are normally mentioned together in Scripture. Aside from Ezekiel 38:2, Meshech and Tubal are mentioned two other times in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:13; 32:26).

In Ezekiel 27:13, they are mentioned as trading partners with ancient Tyre. It is highly unlikely that ancient Tyre (modern Lebanon) was trading with Moscow and the Siberian city of Tobolsk. The preferred identification is that Meshech and Tubal are the ancient Moschoi and Tibarenoi in Greek writings or Tabal and Musku in Assyrian inscriptions.

These ancient locations are in present-day Turkey.

What is the Battle of Gog and Magog
Photo Credits: Pinterest/Revelation Bible

Persia

 The words Persia, Persian, and Persians are found thirty-five times in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 38:5, Persia is best understood as modern-day Iran. The land of Persia became the modern nation of Iran in March 1935, and then the name was changed to the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.

Libya (Put)

Some ancient sources indicate that Put or Phut was a North African nation. The New Living Translation documents this identification in footnotes for several passages, including Isaiah 66:19; Jeremiah 46:9; and Ezekiel 27:10; 38:5.

From the Babylonian Chronicles, tablets that recorded ancient Babylonian history, it appears that Put was the “distant” land to the west of Egypt, which would be modern-day Libya and could possibly include nations further west such as modern-day Algeria and Tunisia.

The Septuagint renders the word Put as Libues.

Ethiopia (Cush)

Modern versions often translate the Hebrew word Cush in Ezekiel 38:5 as “Ethiopia.” Ancient Cush was called Kusu by the Assyrians and Babylonians, Kos or Kas by the Egyptians, and Nubia by the Greeks.

Secular history locates Cush directly south of ancient Egypt, extending south past the modern city of Khartoum, which is the capital of modern Sudan. Thus, modern Sudan inhabits the ancient land of Cush.

Gomer

Gomer has often been identified by Bible teachers as Germany, or more particularly East Germany before the fall of Communism. This identification is superficial and not the literal meaning of the word in its cultural and historic context.

Gomer is probably a reference to the ancient Cimmerians or Kimmerioi. Ancient history identifies biblical Gomer with the Akkadian Gi-mir-ra-a and the Armenian Gamir. Beginning in the eighth century BC, the Cimmerians occupied territory is what is now modern Turkey.

Josephus noted that the Gomerites were identified with the Galatians who inhabited what today is central Turkey.

Beth-Togarmah

The Hebrew word beth means “house,” so Beth-Togarmah means the “house of Togarmah.” Ezekiel 27:14 mentions Togarmah as a nation that traded horses and mules with ancient Tyre.

Ezekiel 38:6 states that the armies of Beth-Togarmah will join in, too, from the distant north. Ancient Togarmah was also known as Til-garamu (Assyrian) or Tegarma (Hittite), and its territory is in modern Turkey, north of Israel.

Based on these identifications, Ezekiel 38-39 predicts an invasion of the land of Israel in the last days by a vast confederation of nations from north of the Black and Caspian Seas, extending to modern Iran in the east, as far as modern Libya to the west, and Sudan in the south.

Therefore, Russia will have at least five key allies: Turkey, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and the Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union.

Timing of the Battle

The battle of Gog and Magog will occur in the future, in the end times, but when in the future? While there is a general agreement about many of the details in Ezekiel 38-39, the timing of battle is the most debated issue. Scholars have located the battle at almost every major point in the end times from the Rapture all the way to the end of the Millennium.

Some believe the battle will take place before the Rapture; others believe it will occur between the Rapture and the Tribulation; others believe it will take place in conjunction with the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Great Tribulation. Some believe it occurs at the end of the Millennium since Revelation 20:8 refers to Gog and Magog. Others maintain that it will unfold in phases throughout the Tribulation.

Thankfully, we are not left to our own speculation in timing the events of Ezekiel 38-39. The passage gives us clues that suggest when this battle will take place. One of which is when Israel is at peace (Ezekiel 38:11).

Daniel 9:27 tells us that there’s coming a time when Israel will sign a peace treaty with the Antichrist, which will guarantee protection for the Jewish people and Israel will be able to relax. This is the first half of the Tribulation or what’s called Daniel’s seventieth week.

This peacetime moment in Israel’s history fits the prophetic scenario perfectly. With these guarantees of secure borders and international peace, Israel will turn her energies toward increasing wealth rather than defense. But the peace treaty will be shattered less than four years later.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.


The Purpose of the Ezekiel 38-39 War

What is the purpose of this invasion? The passage gives both the human and the divine purposes for the invasion.

The invaders will have four main goals: the land, money, total destruction of Israel, and power. First, the invading forces will desire to acquire more territory (Ezekiel 38:8). Any military invasion of this magnitude and scope always includes land.

Then there’s money. The invaders will come to plunder Israel and amass wealth (Ezekiel 38:12). One might wonder, “What wealth does Israel have?” No one knows for sure what this will entail, but discoveries of vast gas reserves off the coast of Israel could be part of the equation as oil becomes more scarce in the future, triggering energy wars. Make no mistake – greed will be a key motive behind the Gog invasion.

The third is racism. The invading horde will come to destroy the people of Israel and wipe them off the face of the earth (Ezekiel 38:10, 16). This is in keeping with the hatred we see for the Jewish people in Israel’s neighbors today.

Fourth is power. These nations will use this attack to challenge the Antichrist, who will be Israel’s ally as a result of the peace treaty (Daniel 9:27). Their attack on Israel will also be an attack against the Western confederacy, attempting to draw it into an open confrontation.

Finally, while the invaders will have their evil intent, God will also have His own motivation. He says that through this attack He will be sanctified in the eyes of the nations: “You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes” (Ezekiel 38:16).

Result of the War

When the forces invade Israel, there will be no stopping them. They will be bent on war and destruction. The timing will seem perfect, and the invaders will not back down. It will look like the biggest mismatch in history. The Arab invasion of Israel in 1967 and 1973 will pale in comparison. The Jewish people will be unable to overcome their enemies by their own strength and ingenuity. Gog and his army will cover Israel like a cloud. It will look like Israel is finished.

However, God will come to the rescue of His people and will quickly annihilate the invaders by supernatural means (Ezekiel 38:18-22).

Ezekiel 38-39 describes what we might call “One-Day-War” or even the “One-Hour-War” or “When Gog Meets God.” God will mount up in His fury to destroy these godless invaders.

This coalition of nations will brashly swoop down on Israel to take her land, but the only piece of land they will claim in Israel will be their burial plots (Ezekiel 39:12). They will set out to bury Israel, but God will bury them.

The Prophetic Significance

Is the world stage being set for the fulfillment of this incredible prophecy? Many major developments point toward the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, but three key elements stand out.

First, the Jewish people are back in their land, fulfilling the major pre-condition for this invasion. Second, the nations predicted in Ezekiel 38 all have the will and desire to wipe out the Jewish people and these nations are forming alliances with one another.

Third, according to Ezekiel 39:2, 4, Israel will possess the “mountains of Israel” when this invasion occurs. God tells the future invaders: “I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel.”

“You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.”

The famous Six-Day-War in Israel in 1967 helped set the stage to fulfill this prophecy. Before the Six-Day-war the mountains of Israel were in the hands of the Jordanian Arabs, except for a small strip of West Jerusalem.

Only since that war have the mountains of Israel been in Israel. Thus many pieces of the prophetic puzzle are already in place for the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Conclusion

Events in the Middle East today strikingly foreshadow this coming invasion. The continued unrest and smoldering hatred for Israel are necessary ingredients for what the Bible predicts.

Nations are rising and falling. The world is focused on the Middle East. Israel is in the crosshairs. No one knows when the Lord will come or how much time remains before the Battle of Gog and Magog plunges the Middle East into war.

There will undoubtedly be many twists and turns, some expected and others we could never imagine in today’s climate. But God’s Word is clear – when the world stage is set, this invasion will occur right on time in the unfolding of God’s end-times script.


Note: This article is taken from Dr. Mark Hitchcock’s book The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days.

Should Christians Do Yoga Exercise?

Should Christians Do Yoga Exercise?

The growing popularity of yoga in western culture has raised concerns and stirred some debates as to whether Christians should be practicing it. Is yoga demonic? Is it okay for Christians to stretch their bodies while meditating on God’s Word? What does the Bible say about yoga?

The Origin of Yoga

Yoga originated in ancient India thousands of years ago. The word “yoga” means “to unify, yoke, or join together.” It comes from the ancient Sanskrit root word “yug” which means “to unify.”

While many people in modern times think of yoga as just a physical practice to help them become physically healthier, yoga is deeply spiritual. The goal is to attain wisdom, ultimate knowledge, and freedom by losing one’s sense of self and uniting your soul with the universal consciousness.

Transcendental Meditation

Yoga practice is a form of Transcendental Meditation (TM) popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late 1960s. It came about as a result of his diagnosis of the human predicament that we who were actually part (or extension) of the infinite Brahman were unaware of the fact due to our ignorance and preoccupation with ordinary things.

To find our union with the Infinite, we needed to transcend the ordinary by the practice of the appropriate meditation. This was the classical pantheistic teaching of the early guru Sankara (A.D. 788-820).

However, Yogi suggested a very practical and down-to-earth way of meditation that needed any sophistication and practically no knowledge of Hinduism or speculative philosophy. In his prayer hall (asham) in northern India, he would assign a monosyllabic word to each of the devotees in the language with which they were comfortable.

Yoga is Transcendental Meditation

Each devotee would have to repeat the assigned word audibly as a chant during all of one’s waking moments. One could change over to a silent mode as long as the preoccupation was with that one word. After a few days, when the conscious mind was preoccupied with the word, the devotee was advised to expel the thought of that word so that the mind would become theoretically blank.

In that moment of blackness, one could suddenly have inward enlightenment that one was an extension of Brahman. It was at this point that one would have transcended the transient to find the inward liberation that is the longing of the human heart.

A moment’s reflection would show that the meditation recommended by Maharishi Yogi involves an emptying of the mind. He argued that the clutter in our human minds came in the way of true knowledge of the Infinite.

The Teaching Behind Yoga

The term yoga is comprehensively and somewhat interchangeably to describe certain physical and mental techniques and exercises that facilitate the realization of the union of the finite with the infinite. Note that union is not achieved – it need not be because it is a reality rather than achieving a union that is not there, to begin with.

To bring about this self-realization, a series of physical and meditation techniques are proposed. These are by no means uniform or similar and in fact can be quite diverse, depending on the particular school of yoga.

The techniques are inaugurated in the form of physical exercises, although in some cases they may involve worship of the sun or the lotus form, the flower being the abode of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. These worship forms depend on the theological preferences of the Hindu school advocating yoga.

Yoga Advances Into the Western Culture

As previously stated, yoga is a practice in the East but somehow found its way to the West. In order not to offend Western sensibilities, yoga these days is purveyed without any theological overtones but only as a series of physical exercises, and in most cases, these exercises can have beneficial physical effects.

Yoga teachers often encourage their students to meditate – without necessarily telling them what to meditate on or how to do it. They may even tell Christian students to meditate on Jesus Christ! The idea, of course, is that one thinks about and reflects on the subject of meditation which is in itself is of no great concern.

However, as one advances in the yoga course, one is often called on to be increasingly involved in a meditation that entails vacating the mind.

Should Christians Do Yoga Exercise

Why Christians Should Not Do Yoga

Christians who think that yoga practice is nothing more than physical exercises should think twice about doing it as it has a spiritual aspect to it. It’s worth repeating that yoga involves totally emptying the mind during meditation.

This is dangerous because a demonic dimension may arise out of content-less meditation.

In a teaching recorded by Matthew, Jesus seems to be alluding to a situation in which the evil spirit has gone out of a person only to return and find “the house empty, swept, and put in order” (Matthew 12:43-45). This could be the state of a person whose mind is inactive in the passive sense after having been vacated of all other entities.

In earlier times, the idle mind is said to be the “devil’s workshop” because yoga and other forms of transcendental meditation are not anchored on objective truth. There is room not only for error but also for the occult. The devil delights to oppress (and even possess) the empty mind of the unbeliever where there is no seeking after the God of truth.

We will also do well to remember that meditation in this sense is “looking inward” to self rather than “looking outward” to God. It’s because the metaphysical teaching behind this meditation is that we are extensions of the Infinite Reality of Brahman. We are encouraged to look inward to realize this “truth” that we are part of the Infinite.

Let’s not forget that the sin of the “morning star” was that he would “make himself like the Most High (Isaiah 14:12-14). This attempt at self-realization as part of the Infinite is the subtlest form of idolatry and thus an inevitable port of entry or the work of the devil.

In contrast, the Triune God of the Christian faith is capable of eternal communication. He is a God who creates by speaking, so much so that the universe can be believed to be real and objective, just as a spoken word is.

This God has created us capable of thinking and speaking. To belittle the faculty of thinking is to despise our created being. However, the response to wrong meditation is not “no” meditation, but the right meditation.

The Bible enjoins us to meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 1:2) and to “think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).

Conclusion

Christians in the West tend to play straight into the jaws of the New Age and other Eastern religious philosophies and practices. This is because these religions and practices seem to offer a quick-fix relief to the stress-filled lifestyles of the twenty-first century. Yoga stretching exercises are also very useful to help people stay healthy.

So, should Christians practice yoga? The simple answer is “no.” A Christian cannot do yoga exercises without getting caught up in the spiritual and religious aspects of it. Yoga is more than just physical exercise. Keep in mind that the point of yoga practice is to unite oneself with the Infinite.

The Bible exhorts us to meditate not on nothing by vacating our minds. Rather, we are to meditate on the Word of God, his Law, precepts, and goodness (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 97).


Reference: Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith
General Editors: Ravi Zacharias & Norman Geisler

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure by Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray

Encounter Jesus Like Never Before through Eastern Eyes

Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History’s Most Influential Figure by Ravi Zacharias and Abdu MurrayThroughout these pages, Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray invite readers to rediscover the cultural insights we often miss when we ignore the Eastern context of the Bible.

They offer a refreshing picture of Jesus, one that appeals to Eastern readers and can penetrate the hearts and imaginations of postmodern Westerners.

In Seeing Jesus from the East, Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray show us why a broader view of Jesus is needed – one that recognizes the uniquely Eastern ways of thinking and communicating found in the pages of the Bible.

Zacharias and Murray capture a revitalized gospel message, presenting it through this Eastern lens and revealing its power afresh to Western hearts and minds.

Incorporating story, vivid imagery, and the concepts of honor and shame, sacrifice, and rewards, Seeing Jesus from the East calls believers and skeptics, both Eastern and Western, to a fresh encounter with the living and boundless Jesus.

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

We learn from Scripture that water baptism is an important act of obedience on the part of every believer in Jesus in response to the Lord’s command. However, let me emphasize that baptism does not save as some Christians teach. One does not need to be baptized to be saved. We are saved by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In other words, water baptism is not a requirement for salvation and anyone who teaches otherwise is gravely mistaken. We submit for water baptism for several reasons that include us publicly declaring our faith in the Lord Jesus and to identify with His death, burial, and resurrection.

But why did the Lord Jesus have to undergo water baptism before beginning His earthly ministry? What is the significance of this act on His part?

The Baptism of Jesus

The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist was one of the highlights of the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Although gospel authors Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ baptism, Matthew gives us a more detailed description by first introducing John the Baptist as the one prophesied by Isaiah as the forerunner of the Messiah.

Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The Baptism of Jesus Matthew 3:16-17 (NKJV)

Here is the story of Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him, and after getting a little resistance from the “baptizer,” Jesus is baptized. Immediately after getting up out of the water, we then have the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven on Jesus and a voice from heaven confirming the person and work of Jesus.

The Necessity of Jesus’ Baptism

John’s response to Jesus’ coming to him for baptism seems to indicate that John did not only know something about Jesus, but he also knew that baptism did not apply to Him (Matthew 3:14).

John had been preaching baptism unto repentance (Matthew 3:11). As the people listened and were convicted of their sins, they repented and were baptized as a witness to and sign of their inner purification.

But when Jesus came to John, he tried to stop him from being baptized because, at that moment, John was looking into the face of the Messiah – the “Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and “the man whose sandals he is unworthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11).

In response, Jesus said, “it was fitting for them in order to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Notice that the Lord used the word “us” – “it is fitting for us.” It was something that both the Sinless one (Jesus) and the sinner (John) had to do to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was not acting alone; He was acting with John to fulfill God’s plan.

Lord's Guidance Christian Jewelry and Apparel

Jesus’ Baptism Confirmed John’s Ministry

John grew up to be a very special man. But who would have thought that God would use a “wilderness man” to Christ’s forerunner? He was very different from the other people who lived in his time. John was a Nazarite from birth who was filled by the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).

He chose to live in the desert, wore camel’s hair, and ate locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:3-4). He was very different. After all, who else was preaching in the wilderness? Most people preached in the temple where all the people were. But John was preaching out in the desert.

Perhaps, one could say that John’s mission was to introduce Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. John the Baptist was specially chosen by God. In describing John’s appearance, Matthew links him with Elijah (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3). Why Elijah? Why not Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or the other prophets? It’s because Malachi prophesied that like John, Elijah was a kind of “wilderness man,” a man who lived on the run (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

John the Baptist

When John the Baptist was first introduced in Matthew’s gospel, his message was an announcement that the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:2). He was warning the Jewish leaders including the most zealous religious group, the Pharisees, that the King was soon to appear and will bring judgment.

Although John was careful to distinguish his ministry from that of the coming Messiah (Matthew 3:3, 11-12), his preaching was not only the warning of impending judgment; more importantly, it was a call to action. His message was intended to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, and for the message of salvation, that would be proclaimed after the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

Through John’s ministry, Jesus was introduced by God as the promised and long-awaited Messiah. By asking John to baptize Him, Jesus showed approval of his baptism, confirmed his ministry, and bore witness to it that it was indeed from heaven approved by God.

John played a vital role in the commencement of Jesus’ earthly ministry as he called upon men to prepare for His coming.

Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant

John initially refused to baptize Jesus but Jesus knew that it was His Father’s will for Him to undergo water baptism. Jesus was baptized not because he was a repentant sinner; His baptism identified Himself with tax collectors and sinners, the very people He came to save.

The word “righteousness” as used in the gospel of Matthew draws its meaning from the Old Testament. A full study of righteousness will lead to a meaning for the word as that which “conforms to the standard” which would mean doing the will of God.

To say that Jesus had to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness does not mean Jesus had been unrighteous. It simply means that He is committing Himself to do God’s will for Him, which is to conform to the standard which is the will of God.

The Suffering Servant Isaiah 53

God’s will for Christ was laid out centuries before He came in the book of Isaiah 53. The prophet Isaiah announced that the Suffering Servant was to be “numbered with the transgressors, would bear the sin of many, and make intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

Through His baptism, Jesus began to be identified with sinners. Isaiah further described the Messiah as “God’s righteous Servant who shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). The Father’s statement in Matthew 3:17 saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” also relates Jesus Christ to the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:10).

Well, it’s not that the Father took delight in His Son’s pain but the suffering and death of the Messiah were in fulfillment of God’s plan to make salvation available to everyone who believes (John 3:16). Jesus began to fulfill His work as the Suffering Servant at His baptism where He would identify with sinners, take their sins upon Himself, and justify them through His suffering and death.

Jesus’ water baptism was a picture of His future baptism on the cross. He was rejected and made to suffer and die but He is also seen to come forth in victory.

Conclusion

The baptism of Jesus Christ is not to be identified as one of repentance or as one similar to Christian baptism. Jesus’ baptism was unique, an initiatory right, setting Him apart to His role as a Prophet, Priest, and King, and anticipating His suffering and death on the cross.

No other, before or after, can share this baptism.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.