Be Stirred, Not Shaken

"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled…" ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands…" ~ II Tim. 1:6

Circumcision, Baptism, and the Passover:  Coming Into Covenant

[Author’s note:  I wrote this study almost 15 years ago as a means of trying to understand what God’s word said about who should partake of the bread and wine within the Passover ceremony, as that was a topic of debate in our small group at that time (specifically regarding children).  The study outlines what I concluded, though in my mind this is not a topic I would “fall on my sword” about.]

Circumcision required in God’s covenant with Abraham

Abram was a righteous man who followed and obeyed God throughout his life.  In Genesis 12, we see the Lord (who later came as Jesus Christ) come to Abram and initiate a covenant, which was later reiterated and expanded upon in Genesis 13 and 15.   More than thirteen years later, the Lord again appeared to Abram, tells him to be blameless, and instituted a new part of their covenant:

“This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you…and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Gen. 17:1-14)

These verses show circumcision being added as requirement of God’s covenant with Abraham and applying to his descendants as well.  Circumcision was a symbol of the faith Abraham already had, an outward symbol or action of the change already evident in Abraham’s heart.  It was also used to signify the people God had made a covenant with.

Circumcision involves the shedding of blood, a crucial component in sacrifices for the atoning of sins.  Leviticus 17:11 tells us that “the life of the flesh is in the blood…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul”.  This is a forerunner of Christ shedding His blood for the atonement of mankind’s sins (I John 1:7).

Israel’s requirements as God’s covenant people

Fast-forward to Israel preparing to leave Egypt and to keep the Passover for the first time.  Throughout Exodus 12, God gives Moses and Aaron the instructions for the sacrifice of the lamb, the blood on the doorpost (again, the shedding of blood and coming under it), and eating the meal.  Towards the end of the chapter, God instructs them that no foreigner shall eat the Passover (the body of the lamb that has been sacrificed), and tells them:

“All of the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised…For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.” (Ex. 12:47)

The Lord is very clear that no uncircumcised person can keep the Passover, because it’s impossible to come under the blood of the lamb (Lamb) and partake of its (His) body without being circumcised—the sign of God’s covenant with His people.  In this patriarchal society where God made a covenant with the nation as a whole, circumcision for family members was ascribed to the head male family member, who stood for the whole family (and all males in the family were also circumcised).

Over the centuries, God frequently made a connection between the act of physical circumcision and an analogy of spiritual circumcision, or circumcision of the heart.  Throughout many years of wandering in the desert, Israel continually rejected God and longed with their carnal hearts to return to their old ways.  Before they finally were allowed to enter the Promised Land after the 40 years of wandering, God hammered home this connection and how He wanted His relationship with them to function.

  • “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?…Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” (Deut. 10:12-16)
  • “Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed…And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live…And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments.” (Deut. 30:5-8)

Circumcision represented removing the part of a person that is resistant to God.  This never happened with physical Israel, though they were (often) physically circumcised.  The fact is that this circumcision of the heart can’t truly happen without God’s spirit at work in a person, and this was not available beyond a few specific cases until Christ’s sacrifice.

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Touring the Holy Land: Jerusalem, Masada, En Gedi, & the Dead Sea

This is the final post in a series about our trip to Israel and Jordan, where we’ve been focusing particularly on the history and biblical relevance to areas we visited.  At the end of our trip, over the course of about two days, we immersed ourselves in Jerusalem’s Old City, visited the Temple Mount, and spent some time exploring the fortress of Masada, ancient oasis of En Gedi, and the Dead Sea.  

If you missed the other posts in the series, here are the links.  I’d definitely recommend starting with the maps and introduction post, which gives some helpful context to the geography, history, and politics of the region.

After spending two days in the fascinating modern-day country of Jordan (historically Moab, Ammon, and Edom in the bible),  our friends picked us up at the border in Eilat, and we drove toward Jerusalem.

Drive from Eilat to Jerusalem

We took a different route coming back from Eilat than we’d taken from Tel Aviv down there a few days earlier.  Instead, we came up along the coast of the Dead Sea.

Qumran Caves

As we drove toward Jerusalem, we could see the Qumran Caves in the distance, with their distinctive striations, points, and cave holes.  The caves are famous for being where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  Specifically, thousands of fragments of the Old Testament scrolls dating back to between about the 1st-2nd century BCE through the first century AD.

You can visit some of the Qumran Caves but we didn’t have time for stops on this particular drive.

West Bank

I won’t even attempt to thoroughly explain the West Bank, because I’m not remotely equipped to do so.  It is an important thing to know about if you’re traveling in Israel, however.  It encompasses a large swath of modern-day Israel that is hotly contested by Palestinian Arabs, who claim it should be theirs as part of a Palestinian nation state. 

Towns such as Bethlehem (where Jesus Christ was born) and Jericho (thought to be the oldest city in the world) are here, as well as Hebron, where tradition says Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah are buried.  As such, it’s a popular place to visit despite some of the complexities.

When you are driving through Israel, you will encounter various checkpoints.  We didn’t have any issues getting through, but if you’re visiting certain areas it’s recommended to go with a day tour or you can use public transportation and then hire a Palestinian taxi driver to take you around.  The Gaza Strip, however, is basically considered off-limits (to the point that the U.S. government explicitly says they will not help you if you’re dumb enough to go on your own).  

Most of the time when we were within the West Bank, I didn’t even know it.  However, as we approached Jerusalem and then from certain viewpoints in Jerusalem, you could see it a bit more clearly.  There is a wall at certain points that delineates.

Jerusalem in the Bible

Because Jerusalem is obviously present throughout most of the bible, we’ll have to approach this section a little differently than in the previous articles, since we could list scriptures for days.  Instead, we’ll cover the highlights of specific sites in Jerusalem in the bible or history.

One of the first things we did upon arriving in Jerusalem was visit the Israel Museum, because we arrived on their Independence Day and museum entrance was free.  While I’m not a big museum person, this may be one of the best in the world (from a historical standpoint). 

One of the things you can see there are fragments of the actual Dead Sea Scrolls (which were discovered in the Qumrum Caves above).  These are housed in the Shrine of the Book, a beautiful white dome meant to look like the clay jars the scrolls were discovered in.

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Becoming Strong, Useful Instruments In The Hands of a Master Blacksmith

“For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined…we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment [abundance]” (Ps. 66:10-12)

There are many verses about God testing us and allowing us to go through trials.  Obviously in some cases, trials are of our own making, through poor decisions or sins.  But in many other cases, they seem to come out of nowhere, and it’s normal for us to wonder why, and what God’s intention is in allowing the trials.  Is it because He’s angry and wants to punish us?

Of course not.  God’s ultimate purpose is to make us into strong, useful instruments (James 1:2-3, I Pet. 1:6-7).  He has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the strong and wise, and so that those chosen don’t think it’s because of their own amazing capabilities (I Cor. 9:27-28).  But just because he selects us when we’re weak doesn’t mean we’re meant to stay that way.  Myriad verses make it clear that God is tearing us down and remaking us in His image (Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:24).

In Acts we read where Jesus told Ananias through a vision that Saul (Paul) would be “a chosen instrument (or vessel)” of His plan (Acts 9:15).  This is the same word used when Paul tells the Romans that the potter has “power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor” (Rom. 9:21).  So how does God make us into the strong instrument He is looking for?

A while back I read an article from a modern-day blacksmith talking about his craft, and for whatever reason, on that particular day the biblical analogies just jumped off the page at me and I had to dig further.

Removing impurities in the midst of fire

The first thing the blacksmith does is take a piece of metal and heat it in the fire until it’s almost translucent.  Or he might melt the metal down entirely to pour into a mold.  Both of these processes make the metal workable, but also illuminate the metal’s impurities or deficiencies.

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The Feast of Tabernacles and the Fleeting Nature of Man

We live like we have unlimited time.  Even though we know better, this is human nature.

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the fall holy days are really about us, as they picture God’s plan for reconciling the whole of humanity to Him (while the spring holy days are about the salvation of His called-out people).

The spring holy days are quiet, personal, intimate.  It’s about salvation on a one-to-one level, focused on inward change.  The fall holy days are about the whole of mankind, with dramatic and world-encompassing events that no one will be able to ignore.

We know that the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.  His faithful saints will have been resurrected to eternal life, and God will begin reconciling the rest of the world to Himself.  So for those of us who understand God’s plan and are striving to be in that first group (the spring harvest), what should this holy day period mean to us on a personal level?

Dwelling in tents

Let’s look at the original command to keep the Feast, back in Leviticus:

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: the fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord…when you have gathered in the fruit of the land…you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook: and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days…You shall dwell in booths for seven days…that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths [tents] when I brought them out of the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:34-43)

Why did God make the Israelites dwell in temporary dwellings during this time of rejoicing and feasting?   Yes, it’s a literal reminder of how the Israelites were made to wander for 40 years, living in tents in the wilderness and relying on God to sustain them before they could enter the Promised Land.  But we know that there’s a spiritual analogy here as well.

He commanded it to remind us of where we’re going.  Dwelling in tents during the Feast of Tabernacles is meant to remind us of the lack of permanence—the fleeting nature of mankind, of this life, of this world.  It also is meant to drive home our total reliance on God.

Ephemeral humanity

Several of David’s psalms dwell on the idea of humanity’s transience, how man is “like a breath…his days like a passing shadow” (Ps. 144:4).  He gets to the heart of why he’s focusing on this idea in Psalm 39:

Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.  Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but a breath.  Selah.  Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.  And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in You.” (Ps. 39:4-7)

The book of Ecclesiastes explores this idea in-depth, making it a perfect pairing with the Feast of Tabernacles (the Jews traditionally read Ecclesiastes during the Feast).  At its heart, Ecclesiastes asks the reader:  What direction is your life headed in—toward man or toward God?

It starts (and ends) with the famous exclamation that “All is vanity!” and then Solomon goes on to talk about all the ways he tried to seek physical fulfillment, only to discover that it’s all emptiness.  That word translated “vanity” is hebel (H1892), used heavily in Ecclesiastes but more than 70 times throughout the Old Testament (including David’s Psalm 39).

The KJV/NKJV versions exclusively translate it as “vanity”, and other translations (like the NIV) use “meaningless” or “emptiness”, but none of these really captures the true meaning intended—it’s definitely not accurate to say that this life is meaningless.  Hebel is a notoriously tricky word to translate, but its true meaning is closer to “breath”, “vapor”, or “mist”.

Or in other words, insubstantial, temporary, and impossible to cling on to.

James cautioned his readers about this very thing, saying, “You do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  The prophet Isaiah echoed a similar sentiment, likening flesh to grass that withers and fades (Is. 40:6-7).

Like the Israelites in the desert, God is showing us we are in temporary dwellings until He gives us a permanent habitation (“a body incorruptible”).  The apostle Peter, as he neared the end of his life, wrote of knowing his “tent must soon be folded up” (II Pet. 1:13-14; Moffatt version).

Do we see our lives—our bodies, our jobs, our houses—in this manner, as a flimsy covering that one day will abruptly be taken down?  Generally speaking, the way we focus on our houses, careers, and physical appearance would suggest not.  Paul also uses this analogy, telling the Corinthians, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands (II Cor. 5:1).

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Being a Light in a Dark World

“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:1)

Light is one of the most prevalent themes throughout the entire bible, a thread that starts man’s journey on the physical earth and closes out the story in Revelation.

In the first few verses of Genesis, the very first thing God (the Word, Jesus Christ) does in recreating the earth is to bring physical light.

“The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:2-4).

Then, in the last few verses of the bible, John explains that after God has set up His kingdom and recreated a spiritual heaven and earth, that “they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light” (Rev. 22:5).  The physical celestial lights that God created for man in the current kosmos—sun, moon, and stars—are no longer necessary because we will have the Light with us and God’s glory will be all that is needed to see.

During His ministry, Jesus told His disciples (and us, by extension), “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16).  We’ve each probably read that verse a couple hundred times in our lives, and typically what I’ve heard said is that it’s about how we’re meant to live righteous lives and be examples of God’s way.  And that’s true.

But a message I heard at the Feast last year got me to thinking about the analogy a little differently, including various aspects of being a light—basically, what does that really mean and require of us?  After digging in somewhat, there are a few insights about light that helped me in seeing even deeper meaning to that verse in Matthew.  They’re not earthshattering revelations, but rather reminders that should enhance our understanding of the type of light we are meant to be.

Light illuminates

I know, that feels like a “duh” statement.

So maybe another way of putting it is that it reveals.

The Hebrew word that’s used in that very first Genesis verse referenced above (ore, H216) means illumination, bright, or clear.  In Jesus’s command in Matthew 5, the Greek word used (phos, G5457) also means to shine or make manifest (a.k.a. clear, plain, apparent).  Both imply an enlightening or uncovering of something that was there but hadn’t previously been seen or understood.

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The Pursuit of Happiness…What Does That Mean?

The beginning of the Declaration of Independence makes an interesting statement.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The writers believed that this was self-evident, meaning that it was completely obvious and didn’t need explanation.  The right to life (a.k.a. to stay alive) and right to liberty (a.k.a. freedom) make perfect sense to us.  But the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” doesn’t have the same meaning to us today as it did to the patriots in 1776.

We live in a world today that is obsessed with the pursuit of happiness.  But it’s not a world that our founding fathers would even recognize.  Today the words “happy” or “happiness” have become watered down, speaking more to a temporary mood or shallow state of being.

But when that sentence was written, the phrase signified a combination of fulfillment, contentment, self-worth, dignity, and community or civic duty.  I love the quote from this article, which sums it up by saying that “happiness was about an individual’s contribution to society rather than pursuits of self-gratification”.

So our founding fathers thought that this was a core tenet of humanity, but is the pursuit of happiness a biblical principle as well?

Related:  Comparison & Envy: the Key to Unhappiness

What does the bible say about happiness?

A lot, it turns out.

It’s worth just getting this out of the way to begin with:  pursuing happiness does NOT mean pursuing your own desires at the expense of others, or at odds with God’s way.  It does not say “the pursuit of pleasure”.   And it’s NOT the pursuit of materialism, humanism, and hedonism (II Tim. 3:1-4).  Solomon was clear that pursuing these things was pointless vanity (Eccl. 12), and the bible reiterates this again and again.

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Who is the Antichrist? Part 5: Jewish False Messiah Theory (cont…)

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a six-part series on theories and prophecies about the Antichrist and a continuation of the previous posts, Part 3: Jewish False Messiah Theory and Part 4: Jewish False Messiah Theory (cont.).  At very least we strongly recommend starting there before diving into this post, as this jumps right into the middle of the theory. 

If you have the time we’d also suggest starting with the Introduction, as well as Part 1: Roman Antichrist Debunked and Part 2: Muslim Antichrist Debunked.  

Mystery Babylon is eschatological Jerusalem

First, let’s establish that another significant event of the end times is the re-establishing of the temple services and daily sacrifice.  I alluded to this in the opening.

And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.  (Dan. 12:11 KJV)

Next, I will attempt to demonstrate that the Mystery Babylon figure from the book of Revelation is eschatological Jerusalem, and the verses used to describe Mystery Babylon reveal the peoples of eschatological Jerusalem getting RICH on the backs of those that come—by force—to worship the weird talking statue and/or the actual beast himself.

The people of Mystery Babylon are also made rich by selling the goods needed for temple services and the sacrificial system.  Which begs the question: Was it mere coincidence that the only time Messiah showed real anger in the gospels was when He turned over the merchants’ tables and chased them from the temple?

To begin, let’s list out what we know about Mystery Babylon.

Revelation 17 and 18, where Mystery Babylon is described, are passages of scripture loaded with symbolism and allegory, but there are some literal descriptions of Mystery Babylon that we can use to develop a hypothesis about who and what Mystery Babylon is.

For instance:

She is RICH Rev 17:4
She is the Mother of Harlots Rev 17:5
She is drunk on the blood of the saints Rev 17:6, 18:24
She herself is a prostitute Rev 17:16
She is a City Rev 17:18, 18:10, 16,18
She is full of Sin Rev 18:4-5
She boasts that she is not a Widow, and never will be Rev 18:7
The Kings of Earth commit sexual immorality with her Rev 18:9
She makes her merchants RICH Rev 18:11-12

Now let’s analyze each of these descriptions to further develop the hypothesis.

She is rich

In ancient times, wearing garments of scarlet and purple was a sign of great wealth.  The clothes of commoners, the rank and file, were the natural color of the wool or cotton that the garment was made from.  The dyes used to make a garment colorful were expensive, and the bold colors of scarlet and purple were the most expensive of the dyes.

I believe there is additional significance to the use of scarlet and purple and the notable absence of the color blue, but we will get into that later.

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Spiritual Leprosy, Part 1: Recognizing the Symptoms

Some years ago, I read a book that had a chapter specifically devoted to pain.  I don’t recall the chapter heading, but if I had to guess, it would be something like, “The Blessing of Pain”.  The premise was essentially that pain was a good thing, because without it the body wouldn’t know that there was a problem, or that there was something that it shouldn’t be doing.

In that chapter, there were a few pages that addressed leprosy, because as it turns out, leprosy is an excellent illustration of why pain can be a blessing.  The disease’s physical ramifications were discussed, along with experiences from leper colonies (yes, they still exist, although they’re a foreign concept to us “first-worlders”) and observations from those in the medical field who have devoted their lives to pursuing a cure.

The observations about this disease frankly left me staring open-mouthed at the book while I mentally connected the physical with the spiritual.  I began to gain an understanding of why the issue of leprosy was addressed in scripture, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Leprosy is a topic that really isn’t on our radar screens.  For the most part, it doesn’t impact any of us.  We all know someone—close to us or not—with a serious disease:  cancer, diabetes, cardiac problems, dementia, etc.  Because of this, we have a sense of the seriousness and impact these have one people’s day-to-day lives.

I don’t personally know anyone with the physical disease of leprosy.  Not one person.  And I doubt that most people do.  That’s why the topic is not on our radar—it isn’t visible in our lives.  But scripture actually gives this disease a fair amount of attention.  In the Bible, we can find the word leprosy in the bible upwards of 40 times, depending on which translation you’re using.  Leviticus 13 and 14 is a major section that deals with this disease, a part of the “cleanliness” laws.  These chapters are somewhat technical and tedious, and because of that are not my favorite section of the Bible to read.  What they essentially cover are the identification of the disease, when to quarantine, and the remediation of the person/clothing/house.

So what are we to get from this?  In recent years I feel that I’m getting a glimmer of why this subject is covered so heavily in God’s word.

“…Written for our example…”

Although Paul made the statement in 1 Corinthians 10 specifically about the exodus from Egypt, we can be sure that this concept of scriptures being “written for our example” applies to the rest of the Old Testament scrolls.  Paul also described the purpose of the Old Testament scrolls, saying, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

So what can we learn about leprosy, and especially how it can apply to us in a spiritual sense?  Well, here’s what I have learned…

The physical impact of leprosy

Let’s start with some of the characteristics of the physical disease.  As we go through these, you’re free to get out ahead and start thinking of the spiritual implications and analogies for what we consider the ecclesia of Christ:

  • Leprosy has a long incubation period.  It can take years, even a decade or two, for symptoms to definitively show up.
  • It’s actually not easily contagious.  It takes close and repeated contact with someone who has untreated leprosy.  Children are more susceptible than adults.
  • Leprosy primarily attacks the nerve endings.  Left unchecked, this will lead to loss of feeling and muscle weakness, leading to atrophy and deterioration.

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Who is the Antichrist? Part 4: Jewish False Messiah Theory (cont…)

Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment in a six-part series on theories and prophecies about the Antichrist and a continuation of the previous post, Part 3: Jewish False Messiah Theory.  It’s followed by the last in the series, Part 5: Mystery Babylon.  At very least we strongly recommend starting there before diving into this post, as this jumps right into the middle of the theory. 

If you have the time we’d suggest starting with the Introduction, as well as Part 1: Roman Antichrist Debunked and Part 2: Muslim Antichrist Debunked.  

The “first beast”

One thing that seems abundantly clear about the coming Antichrist figure is that he is a man of war. He rules with a rod of iron to be sure. Let’s now take a look at some of the scriptures that I believe show him as a man of war and others that detail some of the wars that he wages.

Revelation 13 describes a seven-headed beast rising out of the sea and that the “dragon” gives this beast “his own power and throne and great authority” (Rev. 13:1, 13:2 NLT).

It is almost universally believed that the beast in Revelation 13 is the Antichrist figure that we are studying. To be sure, interpretations that are “universally believed” are not always a good thing, but in this case, I tend to agree with this position. With that said, it is also almost “universally believed” that the dragon in question is Satan.

The NET Bible translates that scripture as, “The dragon gave the beast his power, his throne, and great authority to rule.” So, if those “universally believed” interpretations are correct, then we can deduct that Antichrist is somehow empowered by Satan himself, and as the interim ruler of this world, Satan will grant the Antichrist a great deal of authority with which to rule.

In verse 4 we read about people worshiping the dragon for “giving the beast such power.” Those same people go on to say, “Who is as great as the beast?” and “Who is able to fight against the beast?”. It seems from these statements that the people of the earth don’t think that any fighting force could defeat this beast. Now, this could partially be due to the beast receiving a mortal head wound, and then coming back to life, in the previous verse, verse 3.

We will discuss the mortal head wound in the next section, but I think it is safe to say that the people believe the beast cannot be killed. Who could fight against something that can’t be killed?

In verse 7 of Revelation 13 we learn that this beast is “allowed to make war with the saints and to conquer them.” Now, it is clear to me that the figure that does ALL “allowing” is God. God is in total control at all times. If it were up to Satan, he would “allow” the killing and conquering of the saints today…if that were in his power to do. No, this is God Himself allowing the beast to make war with the saints and to eventually conquer at least some of them. I guess the little bit of good news from this verse is that there are, in fact, saints left on the earth in the end—though it sounds like it will be a quite a tumultuous time for them to say the least.

The false prophet…a false Elijah?

While we are here in Revelation 13, I would like to draw the reader’s attention to the second beast that is described towards the end of the chapter. This second beast is near “universally believed” to be the false prophet figure mentioned elsewhere in Revelation.

Before we read the scriptures describing the second beast—the false prophet—I want to point out that nearly ALL adherents of Judaism are still awaiting Elijah the prophet, whom they believe will precede the coming of Messiah.

Remember, the Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the Christ; therefore they also don’t see John the Baptist as the Elijah figure that prepared the way for Messiah. So the Jews are still waiting for Elijah to prepare the way for Messiah. Some Jewish people go so far as to set a place for Elijah at their table during the Seder meal.

In Malachi 4:5, we read: “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.” It cannot be stressed enough here how much the adherents of Judaism are expecting a literal reincarnation of Elijah the prophet.

Now let’s read the description of the ‘false prophet’ in Revelation 13, starting in verse 11 (from the NLT):

Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of a lamb, but he spoke with the voice of a dragon.

He exercised all the authority of the first beast. And he required all the earth and its people to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.  (Rev 13:11-12)

So this ‘false prophet’ figure is granted authority that is like the first beast, and he requires that the inhabitants of the earth worship the first beast. Take note of how the first beast is being described, kind of reminding the reader which beast is in view by calling the first beast the beast “whose fatal wound had been healed”. Keep this in mind as we go forward.

He did astounding miracles, even making fire flash down to earth from the sky while everyone was watching.  And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world.

He ordered the people to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. [There it is again]  He was then permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die.  (Rev 13:13-15  NLT)

The verse that I really want to draw attention to is verse 13, where the false prophet, the second beast, is said to perform astounding miracles—even making fire come down from the sky. Please take note of how the bible makes sure that we know that this false prophet calls down the fire “while everyone was watching.”

Imagine that on the evening news: “Tonight in Jerusalem, a man calls down fire from heaven,” while they roll footage of the event. I think it is safe to say that any person that calls down fire from heaven would garner quite a lot of attention from the ENTIRE world.

Now, recall—what was the prophet Elijah famous for in the book of Kings? Stopping the rain for a few years, being risen to the heavens, and…calling down fire from the heavens.

The story of Elijah is one of the great stories of the Old Testament, the way he laughed at and taunted the priests of the false god Ba’al. I love the story myself.

But, to modern-day Jews who see a man calling down fire from the heavens on the evening news, they will immediately equate that event to mean that the prophet Elijah has returned, and the coming of Messiah is imminent.

I really don’t quite know what to say about a statue that comes to life and demands to be worshiped. I think this is probably symbolism, but I guess anything is possible during this time period.

The wars of the Antichrist

OK. Let’s circle back now to our study on the wars of the Antichrist.

In part two of this presentation, we briefly looked at Daniel 11. Let’s now go deeper and peel back the layers of these scriptures a little bit. I’m going to go verse-by-verse using the NIV, starting in verse 40.

“At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood.  (Dan 11:40)

The “him” of course, I believe to be the Antichrist.

During the Cold War, most scholars believed the king of the North to be Russia. Who else? It was the Cold War, after all. However, in his paper titled “Daniel’s ‘King of the North’: Do We Owe Russia an Apology?”, Dr. J. Paul Tanner, a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Studies, suggests that the king of the North is “a confederation of northern Arab nations that will attack the Antichrist and his forces.” The modern-day nations of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Afghanistan are brought to mind, but that is speculation on my part.

It is widely believed that the king of the South is Egypt. So Egypt attacks ‘him’ first, and then Antichrist invades many countries and sweeps through them like a flood. Floods move fast and they destroy everything in their path.

He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand.  He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape.  (Dan 11:41-42 NIV)

The NLT renders the first part of verse 41 as “He will also enter the glorious land of Israel”. So, I think we can assume that Antichrist enters the land of Israel.

But I feel that the NIV might be in error for rendering the Hebrew word eiserchomai (ice-er’-khom-ahee) as “invade”. Most all other translations use the word “enter”. For instance the King James translates Daniel 11:41, “He shall also enter the Glorious Land”.

Other translations also use terminology that is more along the lines of ‘entering’ rather than ‘invading’.  For instance, the ESV renders it as, “He shall come into the glorious land”.  The Stongs definition of the word also points more to ‘entering’ or ‘coming into’ rather than ‘invading’.

After ‘entering’ Israel, many nations fall; by that we can assume that he conquers many nations, but Moab, Edom, and the leaders of Ammon escape. These three names seem to point to modern-day Jordan. However, Egypt does not escape. So the Antichrist conquers Egypt. Egypt picks a fight but ultimately they get their hats handed to them.

He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission.  (Dan. 11:43  NIV)

After conquering Egypt, the Antichrist takes their money, and also makes Egypt’s neighbors his servants. To me, it sounds like he takes control of the entire area. Let’s also make note here, as we did in part two, that all of the nations mentioned in these verses are modern-day Muslim nations.

But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many.  He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.  (Dan. 11:44-45  NIV)

Antichrist hears of news to the east and north, and in a rage, he storms out to annihilate many. Then verse 45 is very interesting. He “pitches his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain”. In verse 41 he “comes into” Israel, and now we see him “pitching his tent” there. In my opinion, the “beautiful holy mountain” is the Mount of Olives.

At this point, one has to ask themselves the question: Are the people of Israel accepting of the Antichrist, or are they in a position of having been conquered, and thus in bondage to the Antichrist?

I believe, and will continue to attempt to demonstrate, that it is the former. The people of Israel will welcome the Antichrist with open arms, considering him to be the long-awaited Messiah whom they are expecting to rule from Jerusalem. Where does he pitch his royal tents according to Daniel? “Between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain”.

Most commentaries, however, believe verse 45, coupled with verse 41, depict the Antichrist as conquering the land of Israel. They assume that Antichrist is going into Israel to make war and ‘invade’.

However, I would ask: Does this necessarily mean that the fight is with the Jewish peoples in the land of Israel? Could it not be pointing to the Antichrist going into Israel and “invading” Israel’s enemies, such as the Muslim Palestinians that control Gaza and the West Bank?

OK. Back to our narrative. So here we have a man soundly defeating and conquering Egypt. Remember also, the Jews believe that a big portion of Egypt should be theirs due to God’s declaration in Genesis 15:18, “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates”.

Thus, the Jews believe that from the Nile in Egypt to the Euphrates River is and always will be their God-given land.

So imagine this:

  • A man comes and calls down fire from heaven and is considered by many to be a prophet while paying homage to and promoting a second man..
  • After that, the second man conquers all of Egypt and thoroughly defeats almost all of Israel’s enemies, most notably Israel’s neighbors that they have been fighting with non-stop since the tiny nation was established in 1948.
  • After that, this same man comes to Israel and submits the Palestinians and Muslims to his authority—thus, giving the “Jews” near total control of the land that they believe to be their God-given land, for the first time in millennia. And this same figure sets up shop “at the beautiful mountain” (again, this has to be the Mount of Olives in my opinion).

It would be hard to imagine a Jew NOT believing this figure to be the long-awaited Messiah.

In my opinion, a GREAT number of modern Christians—who don’t read their bibles closely—after seeing these events, where fire is called down from the sky, Israel’s enemies are finally subdued, etc., will believe that the Millennium has come. This person MUST be the Messiah. In other words, the majority of Christians will buy this lie too, just as the Bible prophesies.

In the interest of time, I need to move on, but I would point the reader to Zephaniah 2 for further corroboration of my assertion that the Antichrist is not only a man of war, but he specifically wars with the enemies of modern-day Israel.

Antichrist ‘resurrected’

At this point, I want to re-look at the “resurrected” Antichrist. I really don’t like using the term resurrected in accordance with Antichrist, so let’s just refer to it as the healed head wound going forward.

Going back to Daniel 11:45, we read about the Antichrist “coming to his end” and that “no one will help him”.

For whatever reason, a chapter break has been placed here, but you can be sure that Daniel didn’t place a chapter break there, so let’s keep reading, this time from the NKJV:

“At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time.  (Dan 12:1  NKJV)

To fully comprehend this verse, I think we should also look at Matthew 24, where Messiah Himself describes a time that sounds very similar to this “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation”:

“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation’, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains”  (Matt. 24:15-16  NKJV)

Skipping down to verse 21:

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be”  (Matt 24:21  NKJV)

In these verses contained within the Olivet Prophecy, the Messiah seems to go out of His way to make sure that everyone listening knows that He is making reference to specific prophecies made by Daniel.

OK, let’s continue to try to put all of these things together. First, the Antichrist pitches his tents in Jerusalem in Daniel 11:45. He then commits the abomination of desolation from earlier in Daniel that Messiah makes reference to in Matt. 24:15. Which is to say, that the Antichrist will go into a temple of God and claim to be God and defile the temple. This act will cause those with understanding to flee from Israel to the mountains. And then, Antichrist will “come to his end”, with a mortal head wound described in Rev 13, but he will come back to life, at which time the period known as the “Great Tribulation” will begin. “A time of trouble like there never has been, and there never will be again.”

Are you with me?

You might be surprised to know that many Jewish people are waiting for a man to do exactly the things I just described. Namely, they are waiting for a man called Messiah ben Joseph to destroy the enemies of Israel and after these wars march victoriously to Jerusalem, where he will be killed by his enemies, but then miraculously be brought back to life. These events are thought by many Jews to happen at the end of this age or the beginning of the Messianic Age.

Allow me to explain.

In the Talmud, when trying to reconcile the various natures of the Messiah in the Bible (suffering servant, king, and conqueror), the writers came up with the idea that there will actually be two Messiahs in the end times. The first, Messiah ben Joseph, will precede Messiah ben David. Ben David is considered to be the superior Messiah. Ben Joseph will do all of the things that I just mentioned, and then Ben David will actually rule over the Messianic Age as king.

To be sure there are many differing views about how the end times will play out within Judaism, but the view of there being two Messiahs is widely accepted.

The following is what the Jewish Encyclopedia says about the two Messiahs:

“Messiah b. Joseph will appear prior to the coming of Messiah b. David; he will gather the children of Israel around him, march to Jerusalem, and there, after overcoming the hostile powers, reestablish the Temple-worship and set up his dominion. Thereupon Armilus, according to one group of sources, or Gog and Magog, according to the other, will appear with their hosts before Jerusalem, wage war against Messiah b Joseph, and slay him. His corpse, according to one group, will lie dead in the streets of Jerusalem; according to the other, it will be hidden by the angels with the bodies of the Patriarchs, until Messiah b. David comes and resurrects him.”.

Now, not all modern Jews believe in the concept of two Messiahs. But when these events transpire, most Jews would likely start reading the teachings about the two-Messiah theory that has been taught by nearly every sage since the Talmud was written. I would also point out that a false Jewish Messiah Antichrist and/or a false Elijah could exploit these teachings themselves when the time came.

All this is to demonstrate that there are many Jews that believe in two Messiahs. They even believe that the first Messiah, Messiah ben Joseph will suffer a mortal injury, but will be brought back to life. This, of course, is eerily similar to the verses in Revelation 13 where we read:

I saw that one of the heads of the beast seemed wounded beyond recovery—but the fatal wound was healed! The whole world marveled at this miracle and gave allegiance to the beast.  (Rev 13:3  NLT)

The two words in focus here are the words translated as “wounded beyond recovery” and “fatal wound”. The first comes from Strong’s G4969 sphazo, meaning “to butcher or slaughter or maim, kill, slay, wound”. The other is Strong’s G2288 thanatos, meaning literally and figuratively death or deadly, or as Thayer puts it “the death of the body.”

Every translation that I analyzed this verse in uses terminology that points to the wound being a death wound. This beast is believed to be DEAD.

Let’s also analyze the word translated as allegiance, as in, they “gave allegiance to the beast”. In the Greek, the word is thaumazo from Strong’s G2296, meaning “to wonder; by implication to admire: – have in admiration, marvel“.

I like the way the NLT translates this as “gave allegiance to the beast”. Most other translations render this sentence as “and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.” In plain modern English…they give their allegiance to him.

Later in Revelation 13, as we read earlier, John then uses this concept of mortal injury and being brought back to life as a way to identify the particular “beast” that he is speaking of.

Rev 13:12 (NLT) – “… the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed”

Rev 13:14 (NLT) – “… the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life”

I think it is safe for us to assume that the calling down of fire from heaven by the false prophet, and the suffering of a mortal wound and being brought back to life are significant events during the end times.

To be concluded soon.

~Husteak

Catch up on the other parts of this series:

A New Lump, Purged From Sin

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:7, 10)

In a previous year’s study as the Days of Unleavened Bread drew to a close, we explored how the command is that we must eat unleavened bread for seven days—the focus being on taking in Christ as the Bread of Life, rather than on thinking, even unintentionally, that we can get sin (leavening) out of our lives on our own.

One of the scriptures we really focused on in that study was a key passage where Paul tells the Corinthians:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you are truly unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity (clearness, purity) and truth” (I Cor. 5:7-8)

The word translated “purge” in this passage means to cleanse thoroughly, with the implication of cleaning or purging out rather than just wiping down.  It’s a very evocative, active word, and I think the King James translators used it very intentionally in this passage and one other (that we’ll get to later).

I hadn’t ever really thought about why and how the word “purge” is used here, but it caught my attention these past Days of Unleavened Bread, and brought to mind a few trains of thought that I wanted to share.

How are we supposed to become a new lump?

You can’t get leaven out of or “deleaven” your leavened bread dough.  The yeast spores so thoroughly permeate every inch of the dough that it’s physically impossible.  You have to start fresh with new dough.  When the Israelites left Egypt, God forced them to completely throw out their old dough starters, with yeast that had built up multiplied over potentially decades.  But He didn’t want them bringing any of that old leaven with them.

We, too, have to start fresh with new dough, metaphorically-speaking.  Paul covered this topic a LOT.  He illustrated it for us when he said, “For I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  In a letter to the Corinthians he told them, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17).

When we came to understand the gravity of our former sins, repented, and were baptized, we entered into covenant with God and symbolically died in the watery grave of baptism.  We came out of it as a new being (Rom. 6), free from sin, a new, unleavened lump.  This is our purging, and it continues throughout the rest of our physical lives. 

So let’s explore a couple things related to purging out our old leaven and being purged from sin.  I’ll try not to get *too* graphic, but there are some parallels to our physical experiences that are hard to ignore.  Like I said, they chose the word for a reason 🙂

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