Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

He is Risen!

posted by jfletcher

“For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16:10)

“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Revelation 19:15)

On this Easter morning, dark and rainy where I live, there is the bright light of the Resurrection to celebrate. For Christians, of course, Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and the very moment of His rising from the grave is considered to be the very core of our faith; Paul spoke of this eloquently.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

There is an element of His personality that I’d like to address this morning, as Christians all over the world celebrate. The following is not an attempt to disrespect the Catholic view that Christ’s tomb is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre;

Gordon's Garden Tomb

Protestants usually point to “Gordon’s Calvary” as the spot of the crucifixion and resurrection. Today, this park-like setting, in the midst of a teeming Palestinian population, is a popular destination for pilgrims.

British Major General Charles George Gordon, a Protestant, identified the site as Christ’s tomb, in the late 19th century.

Despite the scholarly controversy over whether this is in fact the location of Christ’s tomb, I will discuss the Resurrection as having taken place at this site on that morning two thousand years ago.

The tomb itself was cut out of solid rock, and is situated very near an oddly featured, small hill just outside of Damascus Gate. Two gaping holes in the hill’s “face” seem to fit well with the traditional “Place of the skull” for the crucifixion.

Yet it is a feature just up the slope from the tomb that I find most compelling, and one that stopped me in my tracks when I saw it for the first time.

As one leaves the tomb and heads toward the exit of the park (through the bookstore—everything in our world today is marketing!), one sees a first-century winepress, excavated just a few years ago.

For me, seeing this is a stunning reminder that Jesus defeated death, that physical, grotesque “thing” that slithered into our world through our first parents.

God has promised in His Word that in the end, He will make all things new, and will make all things right again. Death will no longer touch us. Jesus took care of that when He was literally raised from the dead. Scripture tells us that at the time of the end, He will utterly destroy evil.

The garden winepress

And further, the winepress is a reminder that at the consummation of history, He is not returning as a hippy pacifist, as so many liberal scholars and “new evangelicals” seem determined to turn him into. He will return to His city as a conquering King, one who will execute judgment on His enemies.

There is power in prophecy. The power comes when we are able to see just how majestic God is. He said in Isaiah 46 that He keeps His word. As we discussed the past few days, the current international obsession with Jerusalem; the remarkable destruction of the Temple by the Romans, and the implications surrounding Christ’s resurrection are supreme reminders that the Lord of History knows the end from the beginning.

Jesus emerged triumphant from the tomb. He walked over the winepress, looking toward His destiny.

He is coming back.

Not One Stone

posted by jfletcher

“And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2)

The first time I visited Jerualem’s Temple Mount (known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif), I noticed something that I believe to be relatively uncommon.

Of course, the Dome of the Rock dominates the 35-acre site, holy to three faiths. The Al-Aksa mosque also occupies ground there, as do two underground mosques. There are a few trees and a couple smaller buildings; the whole area, especially when one is a solitary visitor, has the feel of a serene garden.

The site is also where the two Jewish temples stood in antiquity. The first, Solomon’s Temple, was destroyed by the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C., and Herod’s Temple was obliterated by the 10th Roman Legion in A.D. 70.

And that is what I noticed in this park-like setting, those many years ago when my faith was cemented by a trip to the Holy Land.

The glistening golden dome of the shrine to Muhammad and Allah is known the world over. The Al-Aksa is known as much for its political firepower as anything else (beginning with King Abdullah I and his 1951 assassination in front of the mosque). The adjoining Western Wall is a place of awe for the Jews (although an often-overlooked truth in this region—nay, globally—is that the Temple Mount itself is the holiest site for the Jewish people).

Yet it is with the mind’s-eye that one can truly appreciate a remarkable prophecy, fulfilled later in such exact detail, I wonder how so many miss it. I wonder too how the Bible’s critics can claim it is myth, and do it with a straight face.

In their frenzy to stamp-out any connections the land had to the Jews (a fatal spiritual virus that unfortunately affects certain groups in our world today), the Romans demolished Herod’s Temple. They slaughtered scores of Jews. The searing observations of Josephus are particularly illuminating for us today.

So that you’ll fully get my point today, let me say this:

The Roman legionnaires scraped the Temple Mount clean as a table top.

Do you get it?

Jesus told His disciples 40 years prior that that day would come. He said not one stone would be left upon another.

Today, if you were to visit this site, this international flashpoint of controversy, and you used your mind’s-eye, you would be transported back to that awful day in A.D. 70. Fires raging, screams, rivers and trenches of blood.

At the end of the day you would see a barren, desolate place. The Romans dumped foundation stones from the Temple over the side—you can see them today in an archaeological park there in the Old City.

So, if you get the chance to visit this hallowed ground, imagine just for a moment the scene before the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aksa mosque were there. There was nothing. Only a plaza, from which one could look out over the hills of a cursed land.

Jesus said it would be so.

O, Jerusalem

posted by jfletcher

What a fascinating time. From my perspective, the fulfillment of Bible prophecy is heating up to unprecedented heights. Adding spice to the mix is the growing number of skeptics…from within Christendom. Witness the Emergent leadership; they have a different eschatological worldview, and believe much of the Bible’s predictive prophecy is not valid, or is at least misinterpreted by some of us.

I’d like to focus on three prophecies over the next few days, and discuss the first one today, the “City of Peace.”

Of all the dynamic cities in the world, why would Jerusalem be a virtual obsession of the international community? The status of Jerusalem has become a growing problem for diplomats—even whole continents—the world over.

Dave Hunt once mused about this, asking for an explanation for this phenomenon, apart from the Bible.

If, for example, one were to read the last few chapters of the book of Zechariah, one would notice that a titanic battle is fought for Jerusalem, in what the Bible calls the last days.

Of course, many readers dismiss this as metaphor, or perhaps relegate the prophecies to the distant past. However, notice that “all” the nations come against Jerusalem. The Lord then throws down a gauntlet and prepares to act to defend His people.

Dave Hunt asked a delicious question: why do we find ourselves in a time in which Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem is a point of contention for so many nations?

Have you ever thought about this?

There won’t be a test. But there is a point. You’ll see.

Safely in Danger

posted by jfletcher

Israel today is a paradox, and this according to Bible prophecy. The nation dwells alone among the international community—Isi Leibler’s recent column in the Jerusalem Post reveals the depth of the Jewish state’s isolation (really only supported by Canada, Australia, and a now-ambivalent America. Polling shows that Europeans believe Israel to be more of a threat to world peace than North Korea, Iran, etc.).

Yet if we hold strictly to Scripture, in the context of Bible prophecy being true, we see that the Lord not only carries the Jewish people in His heart, He promises them safety and peace in the last days. This is not a popular view.

As I often tell audiences, in the last days it isn’t Israel that’s in trouble; it’s everyone else. They are at once in more existential danger than at any time since 1967, or 1973, and yet they are safe in the Lord.

Think of that! Israel is in danger, and at the same time, safe. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants the Jews dead. The Creator of the universe intends to keep them alive.

Remarkable.

In Joel 3:2, the Lord is pretty clear about the impending judgment on the nations, for the way they have treated the Jews. Of course, liberal scholars and other skeptics scoff that all these passages mean something else. It doesn’t really matter; we’re going to find out at some point who was right and who was wrong.

In Isaiah 49:26, there is a rather macabre description of just what the Lord has in store for Israel’s enemies.

The question of course is, what is the proper interpretation of these scriptures? The liberal would say they are metaphor, or some other nothingness. The popular view today is that these passages are not referring to future realities that are on the doorstep. Many critics of the Bible do not like the concept of a vengeful God.

It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that the safety God provides the Jews in the last days is not some esoteric nonsense. It is reality. There are unlimited practical benefits to believing Scripture.

I have a lot of Jewish and Israeli friends, along with pro Israel Christian friends, who are afraid for Israel. I am certainly concerned about the saber-rattling from rogue nations, and the international community’s decision to isolate Israel saddens me. But I am not afraid for Israel.

I admire the Jewish people. I love them. I believe they are noble, and to paraphrase Herman Wouk’s comment about Israeli hero Jonathan Netanyahu, in Israel one sees an ember of sacred fire. Their return to their ancestral land against all odds is surely the most sensational miracle of the past 2,000 years. Again, the liberals scoff at this, but read the Hebrew Scriptures—the Old Testament—and then read a history book. The simple fact is, Israel has re-entered history. If you can explain the fulfillment of these ubiquitous Old Testament prophecies in modern history—apart from the supernatural—I tip my hat to your super brain that can explain this sublime truth in secular terms.

Israel is astonishing.

In this I see the hand of God, and marvelous comfort. When I visit Israel, as I will do several times this year, I feel completely safe, physically. I feel rejuvenated spiritually.
As a practical matter, I feel safer walking down a street in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv than I do in any American city. The Israelis are both resourceful and scary innovative. Eating their superb food in a restaurant, taking pictures of glorious historical sites, or simply strolling along ancient streets makes me feel safe and happy. I trust the Israel Defense Forces to keep the peace.

I trust the Lord even more.

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