Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah Land

posted by jfletcher

“Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” (Isaiah 62:4)

Generationally, I sit between people who survived the Depression, and those who no longer need wristwatches because they have smartphones.

I thought about this tonight as I turned off the Bose playing Jack Johnson and decided to watch “Classic Gospel: Ryman Gospel Reunion,” hosted by Bill Gaither. The program was a few years old—Vestal Goodman and J.D. Sumner were still with us. Other artists with arcane names, such as Squire Parsons, gave me a warm feeling, as I recalled “simpler times.”

One of the songs featured on this special was “Beulah Land,” written by Edgar Page Stites and John R. Sweney. As with so many things going on in our world today, it reminded me of Bible prophecy.

“Beulah Land” was a name coined by the prophet Isaiah in the eighth century B.C. Its use comes late in the biblical book of Isaiah, and refers to the Land of Israel.

Some commentators attribute this passage to the Jews’ return from the Babylonian exile, which indeed occurred a few centuries later. However, I would argue that the Beulah Land passage is looking far ahead in time, to the Messianic Age. Notice in Isaiah 62 that Jerusalem will be “a praise in the earth.” The Jews are referred to as “the holy people” and the “redeemed of the Lord,” with Jerusalem being “a city not forsaken.”

If one reads the Old Testament, one of the recurring themes is the restoration of the Jews to their ancestral land, for a final time. This is what some refer to as “the Messianic Age” and others, particularly evangelicals, call “the last days.”

Certainly in the past, Jerusalem has been forsaken many times, and the Jews have been maligned and certainly not held in esteem. That will change, according to Isaiah.

Although “the Holy Land” today is in unrest, and the Arab-Israeli conflict seems to have enveloped the whole world, we are promised by God that one day, all will be made right in the world.

What a sweet promise tonight, coming on the heels of the sweet memories of the gospel program. Truly, the days we think of as simpler were probably not better. Bible prophecy tells us that better and sweeter days are ahead.

The Whirlwind

posted by jfletcher

News of the terrible tornadoes that ripped through the South last night brought to my mind the terror that people feel today. Most that I talk to have the feeling that “something is going on” beyond our capacity to fully understand. Natural disasters, economic woes, societal unrest and revolutions…the list is long.

Americans spend $21 billion a year on bottled water. We also spend priceless amounts of time seeking inner fulfillment. The world scares us, despite its traces of original beauty and goodness. I have friends from all religious walks of life, and a few who say they are atheists or agnostics.

As I watched a video of a monster tornado rip through Alabama, it called to mind the “reaping the whirlwind” passages from Scripture, the ones that highlight the tragic consequences of wrong choices. But my mind then quickly went to that wonderful promise—a full-blown prophecy, although most don’t think of it that way—in John 16:33.

Here, Jesus tells us that we will have trouble in this life. He throws that cup of cold water in our faces upfront. However, He then immediately offers the ultimate comfort: He says that we should actually be happy, because He has overcome the world. In other words, the nastier elements of our environment can threaten to overcome us, but our Creator is stronger than that.

As with any discussion of Bible prophecy and the trustworthiness of Scripture, we should remember that ultimately, it is a source of supreme hope and comfort. It is real, practical-living stuff.

I believe John 16:33 is rooted in reality and has practical, even pragmatic value. Terrors come to all of us, but Jesus has overcome all of them.

“Did you hear the one about…?”

posted by jfletcher

Bible prophecy teachers get a bad rap as being dour, gloomy, “anxious for Armageddon.”

Actually, there is some comic relief swirling about the big issues related to biblical prophecy. In my work as a book editor, which I liken to Dr. Henry Jekyll drinking the elixir and becoming Mr. Hyde, I have had many opportunities over the years to laugh at the lighter side of the apocalypse.

In 1995, a fellow sent a manuscript in which he identified the Antichrist (hint: it wasn’t Bill Clinton).

Setting dates for Christ’s return, identifying the Antichrist, etc. isn’t my cup of tea. I’m not interested. I prefer to look at the big picture, to emphasize that the Bible is self-authenticating and therefore trustworthy.

So it was with boredom that I opened the aforementioned manuscript and began to flip through it. The thing was well-written, and heavily documented. And yes, he most certainly identified a modern figure as that diabolical, end-times embodiment of evil.

I won’t keep you hanging any longer. The writer/researcher pointed to…to…

Prince Charles.

It’s been more than 15 years and I’m still laughing. Every time I recall this story, the image of Charles looking half-awake, with wind-blown hair comes to mind.

That anyone could remotely link the prince of evil with this foppish, eccentric chap is quite hilarious. It’s like saying that a brutish destroyer has entered the world and he is that fellow over there, wearing a kilt and chasing butterflies.

Don’t tell me the study of Bible prophecy doesn’t have its light moments.

Not Forgotten

posted by jfletcher

HMS Titanic

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? (Luke 15:4)

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:13)

Just one of the horrors forced on the survivors of the Titanic sinking was seeing children die. Gosta Leonard Palsson, was seen being washed overboard.

The body of the two-year-old boy’s mother, Alma, was recovered. Her pockets contained all four tickets for her children.

Today, it was announced that researchers believe they have identified one of the unknown children buried at Halifax, Nova Scotia, after members of the vessel Mackay-Bennett located a few hundred bodies from the waters that closed over Titanic.

The infant apparently isn’t Gosta Palssen, but rather Sidney Leslie Goodwin, fair-haired 19-month-old.

Their deaths and re-entry into the news cycle 99 year after the disaster, call to mind a marvelous prophecy from the Bible, one that is yet future.

In the closing chapters of Revelation, we read that everyone matters to God. This is a dominant theme in Scripture, and one that fascinates me.

Reading the works of Josephus, one is privy to details from ancient battles. But how often do we stop to think about the individuals who took part in those almost-forgotten battles? A Babylonian father. An Egyptian officer. And the modern accounts: the gates of hell at Stalingrad, or the Battle of the Bulge. Those were human beings who perished. Almost 40 million died in World War II alone.

Only God knows all of them. But that is precisely the point.

According to the biblical accounts, we live in a fallen, broken world. More than that, it is “groaning” under the weight of sin. We are not rocketing toward some blissful “Omega” point. We are all passengers on a badly damaged vessel that is gashed in its bowels.

Jesus Christ tells us that He is coming back. I delight in knowing that He also knows every “forgotten,” pitiable person left by history and survivors. Those baby girls and boys on Titanic, and their parents, were known to God.

Jesus assures us that when one of us goes missing, He leaves the secure group and goes in search until He finds the one. This is so comforting!

Bible prophecy has rich practical applications, because through it, God tells us not only what is going to happen, but that He keeps His word.

One day the sea will give up its dead and Gosta Leonard Palsson will be known again.

Do you ever wonder if God has forgotten you? Do you feel alone, shivering in the cold void?

He has not forgotten you. You are not alone.

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