Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

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.

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.

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