Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

A Single Human Being

posted by jfletcher

Memorial Day.

Remembering the dead is always poignant. Those of us of a certain generation are emotional at the site of American flags on display in military cemeteries. Decorating family graves is bittersweet. Remembering those who gave their lives protecting us is no small matter. I think of all those 19-year-olds at places like Normandy and the Argonne, and too many others.

Can you imagine (I cannot), in the smoke and mist of battle, feeling alone in a forest, and calling out for your mother? God knows men on both sides have done that since time immemorial.

Thank you, Lord, that people have given of themselves to protect the rest of us.

Death is a specter in our world.

That’s why I take comfort in the promises of the Bible. Resurrection is a strong theme in Scripture, and it reminds us that each person is precious to God. Each one. Not only in our era, but all eras.Bible

Some might think it odd, but when these bits of memory float across my consciousness, I think of how much God has always loved humanity. The Babylonian scribe. The Aztec princess. The Russian officer at Pyana River.

All are precious in His site.

God is always concerned about the individual. Yes, He guides history and eras and civilizations, but the person matters to the Creator.

We hear an echo of this in the sublime closing speech delivered by Spencer Tracy’s character, Judge Dan Haywood, in “Judgment at Nuremberg”:

“Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: Justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”

So we think about these things here in America, on Memorial Day weekend.

Is there life after death? The Bible says there is.

(An aside: there are plenty of evidences that the Bible is wholly true. Believing that is the key step in believing its promises of resurrection and full life in the life beyond.)

At the Getty Museum in California, there is a touching display of the effects of death on the human conscience.

An Athenian woman, identified as Sime, sits on a chair, surrounded by her family. The gravestone further depicts her as shaking hands with her husband, and the takeaway is that there is a bond between family members after death.

Our hearts feel more than a twinge at such images. Humanity shared is an intimate experience, no matter who we are or where we’re from. All die.

Yet the Bible speaks of resurrection. I have heard scholars say that ancient man, in his “primitive thinking” knew little about the afterlife. That’s silly and wrong. Job, for example, knew a great deal about the next life. So did the rest of the great figures of the Bible. The New Testament, echoing the Hebrew Scriptures, speaks much about the life beyond.

An elderly friend of mine is currently watching her best friend die from cancer. It has caused her to think about her own mortality, of course. We all do. She is grappling at this moment with understanding how God deals with us at such a time.

Another dear friend lost her mother to breast cancer 20 years ago. I firmly believe they will see each other again, in perfect health and joy everlasting.

The Bible speaks of a future time, when there will be—permanently—no more suffering or death or sadness.

An ancient grave in Jerusalem, which will one day be empty

An ancient grave in Jerusalem, which will one day be empty

“And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.” (Isaiah 65:19)

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

I am sitting now on my deck, surrounded by woods and the melodies of a thousand songbirds. I am thinking of a placard I read at the World War 2 Museum in New Orleans; the words of a young man speeding across the English Channel in the early morning of June 6, 1944:

“The Channel waves bounced our craft like a bobber, and a heavy mist made visibility far from good. There was no conversation now. Each soldier was making his peace with himself as we got closer to the beach.”

I do not know what happened to that soldier. But I know—here at Memorial Day—that he mattered to God.

Who is in your thoughts on Memorial Day?

The Coming Messianic Temple

posted by jfletcher

The privilege of standing on the Temple Mount — the spiritual center of the universe — cannot be adequately described. Singing birds, lush trees, and the quiet presence of pilgrims from around the world make the place a park-like setting for one’s soul.

For this is Mt. Moriah, the almost-fabled spot where Abraham and Isaac had their encounter with the Divine. Where David and Solomon worshiped the Lord of History. It is where Jesus took a whip to the money changers.

And it is where destruction in ancient Jerusalem, on an unprecedented scale, left a sadness that Jews and many Christians today still lament.

AD 70.

A Roman army has laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, and finally the Legion breaches the walls. Amid the slaughter of Jews, the Temple is itself destroyed. So complete is the frenzied onslaught, nothing at all remains of the Temple; stones and other debris are pushed over the side (where they remain today!). Christians in particular recognize this as the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Gospels, when Jesus had told his disciples that one day, “not one stone will be left upon another.”

For centuries, only the cry of an occasional hawk or the sobbing of a stray pilgrim was heard on the Temple Mount.

Eventually, with the rise of Islam, the golden Dome of the Rock, and the Al-Aksa Mosque were erected on this site. To this day, no one knows the exact spot where the Temple stood (the first, having been built by Solomon, was destroyed by the Babylonians, while the so-called “Herod’s Temple” was the one targeted by Titus.

All this makes a new book by Chaim Clorfene so compelling. I’ve stood on the Temple Mount many times, trying to imagine the location of the Temple. Clorfene’s book, The Messianic Temple: Understanding Ezekiel’s Prophecy, is one of the most extraordinary I’ve seen. Be sure and check out the wonderful promo video, in which Chaim explains the basis of the book.

With over 200 color photographs and illustrations, Hebrew text followed by English translation, and commentary and history about the site…I can’t put this book down.

It helps bring a remarkable segment of history — past, present, and future — alive for the “average” reader. As a Christian, and one whose heart soars when biblical history and my beloved Jewish friends are discussed, I can’t say enough good things about Chaim’s efforts here.

Yes, it does help me that I’ve visited the Temple Mount, but the real value of this book is for those who have not. Here’s an overblown phrase, but one that rings so true with The Messianic Temple: You feel like you’re there.

And there’s something else you need to understand about Chaim’s book: the Ezekiel prophecy, from the final nine chapters of the prophet’s book, describe a future rebuilding of the Temple, thus the “Messianic” flavor of it. This future Temple, which many Jews and Christians believe will be literally rebuilt, will be for the Messiah, Himself. Ezekiel has very detailed descriptions of the physical structure of this Third Temple, and again, Chaim’s book brings it all to rich and colorful life.

Temple model, Israel Museum

Temple model, Israel Museum

He also provides historical detail that will thrill the reader. For example, in 312 B.C., Alexander the Great has extended his rule over Israel, having taken the territory from the Persians. He purposes to destroy the Temple, on the advice of the Samaritans. But one morning at dawn, he sees a group of Jews from Jerusalem approach. They are the high priest, Simeon the Just (Shimon HaTzadik) and some noblemen.

Incredibly, as they come near to him, Alexander descends from his chariot and bows low to the ground, in front of them. He says, “In all our battles, I see the image of the face of a man who blesses me with victory. It is the face of that man. Should I not bow to him?”

This encounter compels Alexander to spare the Temple.

Such historical detail, along with biblical commentary, makes The Messianic Temple: Understanding Ezekiel’s Prophecy, invaluable to the student of biblical history. I want to help Chaim connect with those students, and so I give my endorsement to this masterful work.

Next year in Jerusalem!

Scratch That Itch

posted by jfletcher

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 17-21)

I recently attended two conferences, which perfectly illustrate the widening gap between sound-doctrine churches and apostate congregations that are rapidly becoming the majority. At least among large, visible churches and ministries. There are still thousands of sound, small churches dotting the American landscape. Yet the glitzy, “celebrity pastor” set has become the face of American Christianity.

The teaching of Bible prophecy has fallen out of favor among highly visible ministries and churches. It is mocked routinely by a wide range of leaders; Brian McLaren and the magazine for Millennial evangelicals, “Relevant,” come to mind. Looking at the trail of mocking jabs “Relevant” has taken at the new “Left Behind” movie makes one wonder what Nicholas Cage ever did to Cameron Strang.

Although Strang, the publisher of “Relevant,” goes silent when people ask him to clarify or document his views on a variety of subjects, his dislike of Dispensationalist, Israel-supporting Christians is dismaying.

And he gets away with it.

Likewise, leaders like McLaren are taking many Americans away from the historic faith. His diatribes against “fundamentalists” and Christian Zionists are chilling.

And he gets away with it.

In short, there is a massive, coordinated effort to take the American Evangelical community hard to the left. And plenty of other commentators have noticed.

At Catalyst Dallas a few weeks ago, I observed contemplative prayer, self-absorbed speakers, and no shortage of pro Palestinian fervor.

Materials from Catalyst

Materials from Catalyst

At the Mid-America Prophecy Conference in Tulsa recently, I saw plenty of great Bible prophecy teachers and connected with long-time friends, all of who recognize that the Great Apostasy—the Great Falling Away of the faith—is well underway.

Yet the antidote is there for us in Scripture: prayer and reading the Word.

The Fig Tree Parable

posted by jfletcher

A key prophecy of the last days is found in Matthew 24—the famous parable of the budding fig tree (the same reference is found in Luke 21 and Mark 13).

The identity of the obviously symbolic passage has been hotly debated for years, and now my friend Michael Neutzling has brought fresh research and insight into the fig tree parable.

Let’s first look at the passages themselves:

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, 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.” (Matthew 24:32-35)

He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:29-31)

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, 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.” (Mark 13:28-31)

The accounts in Matthew and Mark are virtually the same, giving a bit more detail. Preterists (those who believe most of the “last days” prophecies were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70), point to the “this generation” phrase as relating to the generation Jesus was literally addressing that day in the so-called “Olivet Discourse.”

Scholars such as Thomas Ice of the Pre-Trib Research Center, see the implications of this view:

“If this notion is granted, then almost all of Bible prophecy is not to be anticipated in the future, but is past history.”

Ice also specifically discusses the interpretation of “this generation”:

“You must make your determination from the passage under discussion and how it is used in that particular context. Context is the most important factor in determining the exact meaning or referent under discussion.

“Now why does ‘this generation’ in Matthew 24:34 (see also Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32), not refer to Christ’s contemporaries? Because the governing referent to ‘this generation’ is ‘all these things.’ Since Jesus is giving an extended prophetic discourse of future events, one must first determine the nature of ‘all these things’ prophesied in verses 4 through 31 to know what generation Christ is referencing. Since ‘all these things’ did not take place in the first century then the generation that Christ speaks of must be future. Christ is saying that the generation that sees ‘all these things’ occur will not cease to exist until all the events of the future tribulation are literally fulfilled. Frankly, this is both a literal interpretation and one that was not fulfilled in the first century. Christ is not ultimately speaking to His contemporaries, but to the generation to whom the signs of Matthew 24 will become evident.”

I cite Ice because I think he’s one of the best Bible prophecy scholars alive today. I am excited that Michael Neutzling is continuing in this tradition by bringing the fig tree parable to light again in his new book, The Fig Tree Parable: Israel Wins in…2018?

Some will accuse Neutzling of date setting, something I stay away from. It’s a hot-button issue, if for no other reason than the missed dates set by some like Harold Camping have done great harm to the teaching of Bible prophecy.

Overlooking Jerusalem's Old City, 2011

I don’t think Michael is doing this, and further, his spotlight of Israel as the “fig tree” is correct, in my view. He’s done an outstanding job putting the idea forth that not only is Israel the reference in these gospel passages, but that the intensifying international pressure on Israel is bringing us to the very door of the fulfillment of all the great end-times prophecies.

It’s a book I think is more than worth checking out.

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posted 11:03:59am May. 25, 2014 | read full post »


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