Bible Prophecy Crash Course

Part 1: Can the Bible be trusted? Our present world situation. Are you a scoffer? Has God replaced Israel with the church? Distinguishing features of the people of Israel.

Part 2: The root cause of anti-semitism. The German-American National Alliance and The Long Island Express. The Madrid Peace Process and The Perfect Storm. Record breaking natural disasters.

Part 3: Birth pains. The age of religious deception. Why study Bible prophecy? Two characteristics that signify the end of the age: godlessness and apostasy. Signs the present age is coming to a close.

Part 4: The key event that signals this age is coming to a close. The prophecy of King Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. Daniel’s vision. The 70 weeks of Daniel.

Part 5: The Book of Revelation. The 7-year tribulation period. The 144,000. The Temple Mount. The two witnesses.

Part 6: The Antichrist. The fatal wound that is healed. The Arab Spring.

Part 7: The mark of the beast. The False Prophet. The one-world religion. The woman who rides the beast. The Battle of Armageddon.

Part 8: The great white throne of judgment. Is Hell a real place? The New Jerusalem. Evidence of true conversion – are you really saved?

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The Spiritual Deception of the Masses

The most important election of my generation has come and gone and Barak Hussein Obama has been declared the winner with a majority of Americans voting to keep him in the office of President of the United States for another four years.

Although I admit I was hopeful for a Romney/Ryan win, I fully anticipated the re-election of Obama.  If that hadn’t happened, then I would have been looking for something catastrophic to happen that would keep Obama in office even after January 20, 2013.  And I base that on the fact that, without a doubt, we are living in the last days and Bible prophecy says in the last days Israel will stand alone against the world.  Referring to the last days, God said: “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.”  Zechariah 12:3  For those wondering where America is in the last days, there we are grouped in with…  “all the nations,” that is, if we continue to exist as a nation at all.

Romney and Ryan made it clear that they would support Israel so their nomination couldn’t be.  However, with Obama retaining the presidency, Israel’s list of allies has all but disappeared.  Obama stated to Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin – the red army from the north – when he thought his microphone was off, that he’d have more flexibility after the election.   That “flexibility” alludes to Obama’s intentions to complete his betrayal of God’s chosen nation, Israel, by partnering with her enemies.

Consider that even with all the concrete facts that have emerged in books and movies about Obama’s past, as well as his failures over the past four years that has caused our nation to become a divided country, his failure as an international figure which contributed to the mayhem in the Middle East with the Arab Spring, the Benghazi, Libya cover-up, his failed economics which is leading our country into a downhill slide into obscurity, his profanity on camera and his approval of partial birth abortion and same sex marriage, etc. etc. not to mention the Chicago-style politicians that he has surrounded himself with, for Americans to re-elect him is stark evidence of the mass deception that has overtaken our nation – a deception that has been allowed to envelope us because of our nation’s wanton disregard for God and His moral laws.  We have lost our moral compass as a nation.  America has stomped upon the first, second, sixth and seventh commandments so thoroughly that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah pale in comparison!  We have managed to remove God from our courthouses, schools, currency, laws, homes and even our churches.  How dare we cry out to God to bless us as a nation!  Our cry should be one of repentance as we throw ourselves upon the mercy of God.   But it’s too late for that.  The dye has been cast.  America, like previous great empires before, will fall.  But not because our nation’s leaders have been allowed to decimate our military strength, but because our nation has decimated God’s moral laws.

So what can you and I, as discerning Christians, understand about these events?  First and foremost, it is God Who has allowed Obama to serve not only one, but two terms.  God – not man – is the One who “sets up kings and deposes them.”  Daniel 2:21  And He does this for His divine purpose… and that purpose is to bring Him glory.  Remember Pharaoh how at first he hardened his own heart and refused to let the Hebrews go.  But later it says that it was God Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart!  And God told Moses why He would do it.  He would harden Pharaoh’s heart to bring Him [God] glory – that He is the God who is able to free His children from bondage!  Not Moses… or Aaron… but the Great I AM!  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’  Exodus 3:14

We see God’s glory and His might being revealed to mankind as our world is suddenly thrust into dangerous and unexplainable events around our planet and in our solar system that threaten our very existence.  Superstorm Sandy is just the beginning.  This is our new norm.  (Matthew 24:4-8, Luke 21:8-12, 2 Timothy 3:1-7, I Thessalonians 5:3)  God is allowing these perilous times to come upon us to wake us up because multitudes have been lulled into a sense of complacency where they will awaken someday in hell.  (Matthew 7:21-23)  It’s up to you and I, if we care about the lost, to wake them up.

But it will be a difficult task.  The level of deception you and I saw yesterday across America as people placed their votes for Obama is vivid proof of the deception that God is allowing to overcome the world.  (Matthew 24:24) And it will continue to increase even into the tribulation period through the one-world political ruler, the Antichrist.  (Revelation 6:1, 2; 13:1-8) That is why it is absolutely imperative that we bathe our efforts in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to go before us.  Salvation is from God… and we are His mouthpiece. (Matthew 28:19-20)  And we must plant good seeds deep down into fertile soil that can be cultivated and harvested by the Holy Spirit.

Now, while I do not believe Obama is the Antichrist as some do, I do believe he is a forerunner… like Titus and Antiochus Epiphanes IV.  But mark my words… there is a political leader from the Middle East who will soon take center stage by bringing both the Jews and the Palestinians to the peace table and broker a 7-year [false] peace agreement. (Daniel 9:27)  He is on the political stage even as we speak and his emergence is very soon.  Watch for him!

So saints, be encouraged because we know that as bad as things get, the nearer is the return of our Lord Jesus Christ!  God has not called us to be fearful but to go forth with boldness knowing the God who created the entire universe – who flung the stars into space and set the world on its axis – is on our side and goes before us!

Last… a stern warning.  The Bible makes it exceedingly clear that in the last days, many who think they are saved are really not.  People professing to be Christians but have no zeal to reach the lost, no desire to read and study God’s word or spend time in prayer.  People who are not producing fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”  Galatians 5:22-26

If you are not producing this kind of fruit, then wake up!  You may not really be a Christian.  If that is the case, then it’s vitally important that you repent (turn away from) your sins, tell God you are sorry for breaking His commandments, and then earnestly ask Christ to come take up residency in your heart and be your Lord.  If you truly mean it, God will do just that and will change your heart and make you His child.  But you need to do it soon!  Today!  Time is short and no one is guaranteed another heartbeat.

May God richly bless my brothers and sisters in Christ as we contend for the faith for the glory of God!

Leslie

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The Oasis

Last month my family and I went to dinner at The Oasis.  For those who aren’t familiar with this famous Austin restaurant, it’s a large restaurant with multi-levels overlooking Lake Travis.  We happened to be sitting on the third level up on the outside balcony area where inside the restaurant itself was a live salsa band playing for a dance floor filled with exuberant salsa dancers.  Because we were sitting on the balcony overlooking the water, throughout the night many people would squeeze by our table to pose against the rail to have their picture taken with picturesque Lake Travis in the background.  With the salsa music, fine food and spirits flowing freely, everyone was in a good mood.

The evening had barely started, however, when we became aware of a drama begin to unfold on the far side of the bay on a sand spit.  We saw the first emergency vehicle arrive and then not far behind it a second emergency vehicle – both with lights flashing.  Soon the sand spit was filled with flashing lights – both on the shore as well as on the water as emergency crews arrived in boats.  Within moments after that we saw star flight arrive on the scene and proceed to methodically fly back and forth over the water.

We soon learned the emergency crews were looking for a drowning victim – a young man who had gone into the water but had failed to surface.  What we were witnessing was a rescue mission but if, after 20 minutes, they were unable to locate the victim, it would then become a recovery effort.

We watched as the minutes slipped away and still no sign that the young man had been found.  And then, the crucial 20 minutes passed as the emergency crews continued their frantic search.  And as the minutes continued to slip away, whatever hope there had been began to slip away too.  And then it became apparent that we were no longer witnessing a rescue mission, but a recovery mission.  The search was still going on when we left the restaurant some time later.

I felt such sadness for the young man and his family.  Although I didn’t know who he was, I have two sons of my own so it wasn’t at all hard for me to imagine the overwhelming moment when the family had to face the reality that their loved one was dead.

That night and later the next day I continued to reflect upon the past evening.  And so as I began to piece the evening’s chain of events together, I had these thoughts.

That evening as my family and I were walking across the dance floor to find our table on the balcony, at that same moment just across the bay, loved ones were frantically calling 911 for help.

And then for the next 15 minutes, as party-goers laughed and chatted away as they squeezed past our table to pose against the handrail oblivious to the tragedy unfolding directly behind them, emergency crews and divers were frantically working against time to save a young man’s life.  And as the next salsa number came up and new dancers filled the dance floor, with sadness and frustration the emergency workers realized their efforts to find the young man had failed.  And as the photo shoots continued until the horizon lost it’s red glow with the setting of the sun, the family across the water were faced with the reality their loved one was dead.

Were we the only ones who were cognizant of the tragedy that had just occurred within view of The Oasis balcony?  I scanned the crowd and no one else seemed to be looking that direction.  In fact, it seemed most of the people were facing the opposite direction so they could watch the salsa band and dancers.

Yet, if the people around us had not been so consumed with the festivities of their immediate surroundings, they might have noticed the flashing red lights of the emergency vehicles as they began to light up the lakeshore on the far side.  And had they noticed the lights, they might have become aware that there was a life and death situation unfolding before their eyes.  And then if they had paused even longer to consider the implications of the scene, perhaps they might have even reflected upon the uncertainty of life and even their own lives.

But therein lies the real tragedy.  That night as I sat between two starkly different worlds encompassing two starkly different circumstances, it occurred to me that whether one was happy or grief stricken depended upon which shore one was standing on.  And that it’s not up to us at any given moment which shore we will find ourselves standing on.

In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus told the parable of a certain rich man who decided to tear down his old barns to build bigger ones.  The rich man was planning ahead so that in his retirement years he could simply eat, drink and be merry.  But what did Jesus say to him?  “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”  In other words, we should not be so concerned with the material things of this world or be consumed with making plans for the immediate future but instead have our eyes fixed on things above because we never know when our very lives will be taken away!

As that young man went about his day, I can be reasonably confident he had no idea that within hours he would be dead.  If he had, I believe he would have firmly fixed his thoughts on things of eternity, rather than the temporal things of this world.

Let this be a wake-up call!  Neither you nor I are guaranteed even another minute to live.   Without warning, that muscle within your chest cavity could suddenly stop beating and you will find yourself suddenly propelled into eternity.  So do you know where you will spend eternity?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, then you are on the wide road to hell because contrary to what most people believe, heaven is not the default destination.  (Matthew 7:13, 14)  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)  To put our feet on the narrow road to heaven requires a conscious decision to surrender our will, repent of our sinfulness and ask Jesus Christ to be our Lord.  That could be your family standing on the sandbar one day.  Listen, we all make wrong decisions in this life, but this is one decision we do not want to be wrong about because it concerns where we spend eternity.  Every one of us… you and I, will find ourselves one day on that far shore facing death.  That’s reality.  So what’s preventing you right now from making sure your future in heaven is secure?  Not to choose is to choose.  Please don’t choose wrong.  After all, eternity is a long time to regret it.

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About Me

I grew up in the ‘60’s and 70’s… the beginning of the age of self!  The era of self-indulgence and self-absorption promoted by the onslaught of self-help books in the pursuit of a higher self-esteem.  The “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” generation.  It was only natural then that I grew up with a false sense of self-righteousness.  I saw myself as a good person by my own merits… my own accomplishments.  If I ever gave heaven any thought, I had convinced myself that I was good enough to go if for no other reason than there were far worse people than me.  You know the ones… liars, thieves and murderers?

Well, in August of 1978 my pedestal of self-exaltation was yanked out from beneath my feet when I was shown through the scriptures what God thought of my “goodness.”  I was shocked to learn that God would not judge me by man’s standards (which are extremely low compared to God’s) but by God’s standards!  BIG difference!  I learned that just one tiny little sin – even a little lie – would prevent me from entering into heaven.  And when I did a self-assessment, I realized that I had not told just one lie, but many lies!  And not only told lies, but I had stolen… many times!  Okay… just little stuff but it was stealing all the same!  And then worst of all… God considered hatred to be murder!  How many times had I hated someone??  So I was a murderer too?!?

As I began to understand that God sees my good deeds as filthy rags, suddenly my “goodness” didn’t seem so “good” anymore.  I realized there was nothing whatsoever worth redeeming in me and suddenly the thought hit me… if I were to die at that moment, I wouldn’t be going to heaven, but to hell.  With that understanding, in humility and with a repentant heart, I asked Jesus to save me. 

That was over 30 years ago that I changed paths and began to walk the narrow road that leads to heaven.  It has not necessarily been an easy road to travel and it’s been costly at times – but the eternal rewards are worth waiting for.  Also, finding the narrow road was very difficult.  It required that I come to Jesus broken and repentant over my sin.  I had to acknowledge that if I got what I really deserved, I’d end up in hell.  It’s now no longer about myself and my goodness, but all about Christ.  Afterall, like the hymn says: “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that there are one of two roads we must travel when we leave this life… either the narrow road that leads to heaven or the wide road that leads to destruction.  Which one will you choose?  Not to choose is to choose so be diligent!  Afterall, eternity is a long time to regret making the wrong choice.

 Leslie

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Signs of These Last Days

If you have surrendered your life to Christ and He is your Savior, then rejoice in these perilous times and “see to it that you are not alarmed” because Jesus warned us that the things we see happening in our world today would happen precisely as He said they would.  So why be worried by the news headlines?  We know that God is, and has always been, very active in the affairs of mankind and nothing happens except that God allows it.

For Christians who know what to watch for, we are seeing some very specific events unfolding before our eyes in the political and religious world that tell us the time known as Jacob’s Trouble, or the Tribulation Period, is very near, including the rapture of the church.

Here are just a few of the key signs that relate to Bible prophecy in our world today:

First and foremost:  The restoration of the Nation of Israel.   Never before in the history of the world have a people who have been dispersed throughout the entire world, ever returned to re-establish a homeland.  NEVER.  Yet, that is precisely what happened on May 14, 1948.  After more than 2,500 years of dispersion, the Jews are back in the land that God gave to them, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

This is a key event because Jesus warns us in Matthew 24:32-34 that when we see the “fig tree” bloom, the end is near.  In Jeremiah 24:5, God referred to the Jews as “figs,” therefore, the logical interpretation of Matthew 24:32-34 would be that a “fig tree” refers to a young Jewish nation.  The reference to the blooming of the fig tree, symbolizes the coming forth of a “new” Jewish nation.  When we apply Psalm 90:10 which defines the number of years in a generation being about 70 – 80 years, we are faced with the realization that mankind’s days as we know it on planet earth are fast approaching the end according to Bible prophecy.

Second, the partitioning of the land God gave to the Jewish people.  The land of Israel has been invaded and conquered by various kingdoms in the past, however, this is the first time in history that the land of Israel has been divided up!  (Joel 3:2)

Third, Jesus warned that in the last days, if He did not cut those days short, no flesh would be left alive on the planet. (Matt. 24:22)  Amazingly, this prophecy was foretold by Jesus during the first century when weaponry consisted of spears and swords.  Our generation is the first generation to possess the capability of destroying life on the planet 10 times over by nuclear and chemical warfare.  (Ezekiel 39:14-16)

Fourth, the emergence of a one-world religion.  We know it as the “ecumenical movement” – a religion that embraces ALL religions of the world.  A religion whose very foundation is grounded upon tolerance.  A movement that is alive and well in American churches.  Yet, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes to the Father except by Me.”  Such exclusiveness and intolerance will lead to increased persecution of Jesus’ followers for suggesting there is only one way to heaven through Jesus Christ.  There will be little patience for a religion that is so blatantly exclusive by world standards and true converts will pay for their intolerant beliefs with their lives.  (I Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:1-4, Rev. 3:15-16)

Fifth, an increase in intensity and frequency of natural disasters.  No explanation necessary if you are reading the headlines.  Jesus said in the last days, the world would be like a woman ready to give birth. As the time for the child to be delivered draws closer, her contractions become more frequent and more intense until the baby is born.  Certainly, that describes our world today with the increase in natural disasters worldwide.  (Matthew 24:4-8, Luke 21:8-11)

So what can we expect in the days to come?  As Zechariah predicted (Zech. 12:2-3), the greatest point of contention in the Middle East would be Jerusalem – and so it is.  The Muslims and the Vatican all want to control this city.   The Pope wants to make Jerusalem an “international” city and there is now talk of dividing Jerusalem.  The fact that Jerusalem has become such a point of contention is astounding in itself considering that God’s Holy City, is not a city with tremendous beauty or even any natural resources!  Yet all the surrounding nations are willing to go to war over her!

Add into the mix the plight of the “Palestinian refugees,” Iran’s soon nuclear capabilities, and an Israeli Prime Minister who has a track record of opposing any agreement that requires Israel to relinquish land, and you have a powder keg ready to blow.

These circumstances and the seeming impossibility of peace have set the stage for a man to come on the scene who will bring peace to the Middle East.  We know him from scripture as the Man of Lawlessness, or the Antichrist.  This man will broker a 7-year peace agreement between Israel and the Arab nations, but it will be a false peace agreement.  According to Daniel, he will be a small horn that will arise from a small, obscure nation to the south and east of the Beautiful Land (Israel).  He will come on the scene as a man of peace (Rev. 6).  I believe he will achieve peace by giving both the Arabs and the Jews what they want.  For the Arab people:  The West Bank to set up a homeland for the “Palestinian” people.  And for the Jews?  He will promise them what they have been earnestly praying for as a people and a nation for more than 1,900 years: a Third Jewish Temple.  We know from Daniel 9 that a Third Jewish Temple will, in fact, be built – and all signs point to this rebuilding in the very near future.

I often hear people ask the question, “Where is America in the last days?”  Sadly, since taking office, President Obama has made his position quite clear where he stands concerning our only democratic ally in the Middle East as he has clearly established himself to be one of the most anti-Semitic politicians to hold the office of U.S. President!  This also lines up with prophecy in that Ezekiel 38 says that in the last days, all nations will come against Israel.  That means, IF America is still a viable nation when this global war commences, America will very likely partner with the surrounding Arab nations to launch an assault against God’s chosen people.  What a sad thought that America would conspire with Israel’s enemies to annihilate her, yet the Bible predicts Israel will be completely on her own.

What an amazing time to be alive and watching Bible prophecy reach fulfillment before our very eyes!

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Is Time Running Out?

I have become somewhat dismayed with Christians who rebuff the idea that the return of Christ is near.  Not all Christians, mind you, only those who have been enlightened by the facts yet still reject this idea.  It’s as though they’re walking around with blinders on.  The term willingly “ignorant” comes to mind – something the Bible warns us against being repeatedly.  Here we are living in what has to be the most thrilling time to be alive to witness firsthand the fulfillment of end time Bible prophecies that immediately precede Jesus’ second coming!  To realize that 6,000 years of human history on this planet is rapidly coming to a close and we are the generation that is alive to watch the final events unfold!

Yet, sadly most Christians avoid this topic like the plague!  Why is that?  I find that the mere mention that Jesus may be coming back within our lifetime can cause one or more of varying responses.  Usually there ensues a very uncomfortable silence and the subject is quickly changed, or they argue profusely that we cannot know and shouldn’t even try to know when Christ will return.  And sometimes they just look at you as though you’ve grown a third eye.

These responses confuse and concern me.  After all, Christians should look forward to and have a longing for the time when God will lift His followers out of this fallen world to be in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.  [2 Peter 3:13-14]  We know this world has never been a friend to those who profess to know Christ and who live for Him [John 15:19-21] so this thought should not cause us to be afraid or angry, but to rejoice!  This is our hope!

The scriptures are teeming with evidence that Jesus Himself expects us to be on our guards and constantly watching!  [Matthew 7:15, 24:4, 42, 43, 25:13, 26:41, Mark 13:35, 37, and Luke 21:8, 36]  Matthew 25 is a parable of ten virgins who were told to keep watch for the Lord’s return.  Sadly, only five of the virgins kept watch while the other five fell asleep.  When the bridegroom suddenly returned, five of the virgins went in to the marriage supper of the Lamb while the other five were shut out.  This parable is a sad scenario of the last days when only half of professing Christianity will be watching for signs of the Lord’s return.  In Matthew 24 and Luke 21, Jesus tells His disciples precisely what the signs would be that would precede His second coming.

Unprecedented Natural Disasters

Let’s consider that this past decade in America alone, we have seen natural disasters occur in unprecedented proportions from the east coast to the west.  Forest fires and floods have ravaged California, the east and northeast have experienced record freezing temperatures and snowfall, hurricanes in the south, and killer tornados in record numbers across the Midwest.

We were a mere 12 days into the year 2010 when a massive earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck the Haitian city of Port-Au-Prince killing hundreds of thousands of people.  The U.S. Geological Survey has called this quake the strongest earthquake since 1770 to ever hit that region.

Then barely six weeks later, on Saturday, February 27, 2010, an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck Okinawa, Japan.  It barely got any press because the very next day, Sunday, February 28, 2010, an earthquake 250 to 350 times more powerful than the one that devastated Haiti, demolished the city of Concepcion in Chile.  This earthquake measured 8.8 on the Richter scale and is said to be the seventh largest quake in recorded human history.  In fact, scientists report this quake was so massive that it caused the earth to shift on its axis.

People watch with concern and confusion as record-breaking natural disasters from earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and so on, wreak havoc around the world.  These catastrophes have become so frequent and severe, that international news sources have begun asking the question, “Is the world coming to an end?”  It seems as if the earth is writhing in pain as if an unseen force is exerting unbearable pressure upon it in an effort to push mankind toward extinction.

Signs of the End of the Age

So here is the unavoidable question… “Is the world in fact coming to an end?”  And if so… when?

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus addressed this very question when asked by His disciples what would be the signs of the end of the age.

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.  “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”  As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”   Matt. 24-1-3

Interestingly, even first century believers were anticipating the end of the world.  Yet, instead of trying to dissuade their concerns, Jesus addressed their concerns by not only warning them to be on their guard, but by telling them what specific signs to look  for that would signal the end of the world was near.  And what are those signs?

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, ‘ and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matt. 24:4-8

First and foremost, Jesus warns believers to watch out for false prophets.   This is a warning that pertains to our generation more than any other because at no other time in human history has religious deception permeated the church like it does today.  [1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Tim. 3:1-5, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Rev. 3:7-22]  The gospel of Jesus Christ has been so watered down within so many churches today that it barely resembles the gospel anymore!  The tragedy of this is that multitudes who think they are on the road to heaven through good works, will tragically find out too late that they were on the road to hell all along.  (Matt. 7:13, 14, 21-23; Rev. 3:14‑16)

Then Jesus goes on to warn of “wars and rumors of war,” “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”  And then in verse 8 He says, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” or “birth pains.”  Jesus compares our planet in the last days to a woman in labor because it is an analogy we are all familiar with in one way or another.  As a woman in labor experiences contractions with more frequency and intensity as her delivery approaches, so too in the same way, our planet is experiencing “contractions” as the time of the end draws near.  These “contractions” manifest themselves by the occurrence of more frequent and more intense natural disasters around the world.

The Apostle Paul uses this same comparison in I Thes. 5:2-3:

“For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

Keep in mind… God always warns His people!  All throughout the Bible, God warned His people of the impending disaster that would befall them if they refused to repent and turn back to Him.  And likewise, God is warning us today through record breaking natural disasters, wars, diseases, pestilences and the like, that the end of the age is near.

Yet, so often I hear the same ‘ol argument, “Yes, but… mankind has experienced these kinds of natural disasters and catastrophes since the beginning of time.  Every generation says Jesus is coming back in their lifetime so nothing is any different today.”  The Apostle Paul warned us that this would be the argument of many:

“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”  But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.  By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”  2 Peter 3:3-7

Without question, past generations have claimed Jesus’ return would be within their lifetime, only to have that generation come and go.  So then how can we be certain that our generation is in fact the generation living in the final days leading up to the second return of Christ?

The Fig Tree

Jesus gives us a key historical event that, unlike other generations in the past, our generation alone can claim.  Jesus said:

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree:  As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you will know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.  I tell you the truth; this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”  Matt. 24:32‑35

Some suggest that Jesus is referring to 70AD when the Jewish temple was destroyed and millions of Jews were massacred.  However, the problem with this argument is that the generation of the first century did not pass away so obviously Jesus could not have been referring to them.  So what generation was Jesus referring to in this passage?  He says the generation that sees the tender twigs and leaves come out on the fig tree.

What does the fig tree symbolize?  We find that in Jeremiah 24:4‑10, God refers to the Jews as “figs.”

Then the word of the Lord came to me:  “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians.  My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.   I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.   “‘But like the poor figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the Lord, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt.  I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, an object of ridicule and cursing, wherever I banish them.  I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their fathers.’ ” 

If “figs” are “Jews,” then it would make sense that a “fig tree” would be a Jewish nation.  Therefore, if we apply this understanding to Matthew 24:32-35, we rightly conclude that the generation that is alive to see the rebirth of a new Jewish nation (the fig tree), would be the generation that would see the return of Jesus Christ.  And that is precisely what happened on May 14, 1948.  Against all odds, the State of Israel was reborn!

To fully understand how miraculous this event truly was, history records that the Jews were exiled from the land of Palestine over 2,500 years ago when they were taken captive by the Babylonian Empire in 486BC.  So the fact that the Jewish people – who make up less than 2% of the world’s population, who have been dispersed throughout the world, persecuted, enslaved and nearly exterminated on numerous occasions, yet remained a separate and distinct people only to be brought back together to form the State of Israel – can be described as nothing less than a miracle ~ the Almighty Hand of God at work!

God told the Prophet Ezekiel that there would be a miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel after a long period of time.  That is the vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37.  God said He would put life back into the old, dry bones [Israel] and He has done just that!

So Jesus said the generation that witnesses the rebirth of the nation of Israel would not pass away before seeing the return of Christ.  That’s us.

How long is a generation?  God’s Word tells us in Psalm 90:10 that… “The length of our days is seventy years or eighty, if we have the strength…”  If we add 70 to the year 1948, we arrive at the year 2018.  Since we are presently in the year 2010, that means the Lord will return within seven years, perhaps as long as 17 years.  But perhaps today.

How Should We Live?

So, understanding that Jesus’ return is so very near, what kind of people should we be?  Paul tells us:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.  That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.  So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.  2 Peter 3:10-18

“Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”  I Peter 5:8

The Apostle Paul gave a strong warning concerning the condition of mankind in the last days:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.  They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”  2 Timothy 3:1-7

I believe this accurately describes the immoral condition of our generation today.

Is Hell for Real??

The signs around us scream that time is running out!  Yet the world gently whispers to mankind that he’s in no eternal danger – all the while multitudes are headed toward the horrors of hell.  There is so much in this world to distract and tempt and cause mankind to turn away from God.  And so people continue living their lives willingly ignorant of the mortal danger they are in.  They fail to understand that to die without a personal relationship in Christ is to face eternity in hell.

The idea of hell bothers a lot of people.  But Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul all taught everlasting punishment. (Matt. 3:12; 18:8; 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; 2 Thes. 1:9). If the suffering in the Lake of Fire is not everlasting, then neither is the joy of heaven because the same Greek word for “everlasting” is used for both.

I know the idea of hell seems terribly cruel and not at all consistent with what we know about God’s loving nature, but understand that there must be punishment and justice for sin or else God is not righteous.  Yet Psalm 7:9 tells us that God is a righteous judge.  His righteousness is part of His character just as are mercy and love.  Righteousness deals with justice and justice deals with the Law.  This means that God will always do that which is right and He does so according to the righteous Law that He has set forth.  God cannot do anything wrong.  God must do that which is right otherwise He would not be righteous.

God is also holy and just. In love, He warned Adam and Eve of the dire consequences of disobedience. To go back on His Word would make Him a liar and why would we believe anything else He said?  And because God loves us so very much, He will never stop warning us to earnestly repent and be forgiven of our sins so we may enter into heaven for eternity someday.

But would a loving God send anyone to hell?  The idea of a loving God sending people to hell for eternity is not easy to accept.  Why would God, Who is full of mercy and grace, send people to a place of torment for ever and ever for not trusting in Jesus even though they are nice people, or never heard of Jesus, or were sincerely trying to find God?  Is that fair?

When people ask these questions, they are appealing to what they perceive as fairness.  They are looking at the issue from their own human perspective.  But this perspective is not necessarily the right one.  If God exists, and He does, then it is He who is the One who says what is right and fair, not us.

The Bible tells us that God is holy, “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” (1 Pet. 1:16).  Holiness is incorruptibility, perfection, purity, and the inability to sin, all of which are possessed by God alone.  Holiness is the very nature of God’s character.  His character is perfect, without flaw, and He is the standard of all that is right and good.

The Bible tells us that God is love.

“And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John 4:16.

God cares about us and seeks our well being and security.  His love for us is eternal.  This is why God does not desire that anyone go to hell, but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

You Must be Saved!

The only way to escape the righteous judgment of God is to trust in the provision He has made.  This provision is found in Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6).  Jesus is also God in flesh (John 1:1, 14; Col. 2:9).  Therefore, Jesus’ life is of infinite value.  This means that His sacrifice is sufficient to cleanse you of your sins.  It is the only way to satisfy the infinitely righteous standard of God that is required to match His infinite holiness.

If you want to escape the eternal judgment of God, you must put your trust in Jesus and what He did on the cross and in nothing else.  Without Him, there is no hope of escape on the Day of Judgment.  How do you do this?  First you must repent.  That means to tell Jesus you’re genuinely sorry for breaking His laws and then ask Him to forgive you of your sins (John 14:14).  Ask Him to come into your life and become your Lord and Savior.  If you haven’t done this, what’s stopping you?  I strongly urge you to do it now because the fig tree is in full bloom… time is running out!

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The Pressure’s On!!

Things are really heating up in the Middle East and there’s more talk now than ever before about a peace agreement as early as this September! Sounds like it may coincide with Rosh Hashanah, aka the Feast of Trumpets!

Both sides still seem unwilling to budge on some important key issues so how is peace going to come about? As much as I hate the thought, possibly another war between Israel and her Arab neighbors! Isn’t war what usually precedes a peace agreement? Even now Israel is holding daily drills in anticipation of an inevitable attack. And to make matters worse, with the takeover of once-moderate Egypt by Islam, Hamas has been steadily smuggling in weapons of war across the border into the Gaza Strip. Further evidence that the Gaza Strip was never about a Palestinian state for the Palestinian refugees but about the partitioning of Israel until she is eventually left indefensible.

And do you remember which U.S. president put immense pressure upon Israel to relinquish the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians? President Bush, Jr.! And believe me, America paid a heavy price for that with Hurricane Katrina!  Did you know that on the very day the last few remaining Jews were evicted from their homes in the Gaza Strip, was the very same day Hurricane Katrina began to form out in the Atlantic to eventually became the costliest natural disaster to ever hit American shores?  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  But sadly, we learned nothing and in fact, America has increased her pressure on Israel to divide Jerusalem and return the nation to her pre-1967 borders which we know is suicide for the Jews!

Yes, things are looking very bleak for the small Jewish nation although certainly not a predicament she has not found herself in multiple times before. However, this time, the Arabs have WMDs. And with both the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights in the hands of her sworn enemies, Israel will be an easy target from all sides.

Over 2,000 years ago when Christ came to earth as a man, the Jews believed – and rightly so – that He was their Messiah. And as their Messiah, they were certain He was going to put down their persecutors, the Roman Empire, and right then and there restore the kingdom to Israel. So you can imagine how confused and disappointed they were when instead of brandishing a sword and going to war against Rome, Christ set His face toward the cross. What they didn’t understand was that Christ didn’t come to vanquish Israel’s enemies, but to deal with the problem of SIN. Sin… the enemy of all of mankind! Yes, Christ could have easily destroyed the Roman Empire and then given the rulership over to the Jews, but that wouldn’t have taken care of the sin problem. The only way to resolve the sin problem was doing just what Christ did. He came to earth as a man, lived a perfect, sinless life and then went to the cross to shed His blood for mankind. Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross that day for all and for those of us who have put our complete trust in Jesus Christ, He is now our Lord and Savior. But sadly Israel is still waiting for their Messiah. They are looking for Him to make it possible for Israel to at last live in peace and resume her animal sacrifices in their newly rebuilt Jewish temple. And that is why Israel will be easy prey.

Right now the stage is set for a man to come on the scene who the Jews will believe may be their Messiah. This man will rise to power and be able to offer something to both the Jews and Arabs that will put an end to the fighting and lead to the signing of a 7-year peace agreement. We have to believe it will deal directly with the issues of Israel’s borders, the rebuilding of a third Jewish temple and, of course, Jerusalem. Perhaps all three. So be paying attention to the world news because Jesus said in the last days the world would go through birth pains immediately preceding the end. Check. And Jesus warned that false prophets claiming to be Him would be on the increase. Check. And Christ also said when you hear “peace, peace” be ready for the end is near! Check!!

Jesus said we cannot know the “day or the hour,” but we can know the season IF we’re paying attention! And the innumerable clues within scripture shout that the time of the rapture, the 7-year tribulation period and return of Christ are all very, very near!! So be ready!! The stage IS set for the antichrist to come upon the scene and I don’t want you to miss it!

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