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Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

“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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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