The delay

Key verse: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. (2 Peter 3:8)
Since Jesus departed into heaven, and the disciples started to fulfill the Great Commission, every early Christian has been waiting the return of our Lord. It has been almost 2000 years since these events took place, yet Jesus has not come back, leaving many to wonder, both then and now, what could possibly be holding Him up. The world is descending into chaos and anarchy, and Jesus seems to have forgotten His promise. What’s worse, He seems to have forgotten us, in this fallen world.
Peter addresses some of these issues in his second letter to the churches (ch. 3), and says that even in the mid-late 1st century there were scoffers asking “Where is the promise of his coming?” and “all things continue” as they always have. This clash of ideologies has been present since those times. In one camp, we have people who claim that Jesus is returning soon. In the other camp, we have those who say he’s forgotten about His promise.
Peter says that the latter group are ignorant of the fact that everything was created by the word of God. He also mentions the flood in the same thought (v. 5,6). This is important because the same kind of attitude can be seen in the days of Noah. While Noah was building the ark, he preached to people that the world would soon end, and that they should repent of their evil and return to God’s grace. Then, as now, there were scoffers, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24: 36-39).
In other words, Jesus is saying that there is a catch 22 situation. Those who proclaim that the end is near, have no idea when the end will come, while those who scoff demand evidence that the end is near. Neither camp seems to be able to convince the other, because the believers in the second advent rely on faith, and the scoffers rely on skepticism. In order for the skeptics to believe, they must become faithful, and in order for the believers to doubt, they must become skeptics. This situation does certainly happen, and there’s a constant trade-off between the camps, but there isn’t a clear winner yet.
Now, as faithful Christians, we know that Jesus will keep His word. God cannot lie, because everything He says becomes reality. If God tried to lie, and say that the sky is red instead of blue, the sky would become red. If God tried to lie by saying the color yellow doesn’t exist, the color yellow would be gone from the universe. The word of God is immutable, it is truth, it doesn’t change. When Jesus says that He will return, that means He will return. He never gave a date for His return, so we must wait patiently, and try to convince the skeptics that His return is imminent so that they too may taste the reward of eternal life with the King of the universe.
What the early Christians didn’t seem to understand, and this applies to most modern Christians as well, is the timeline that must first complete before Jesus’ return. Jesus points to the book of Daniel as an important part of scripture that deals with date prophecies (Matthew 24:15). There are two big date prophecies related to the end times in the book of Daniel: the 2300 days, and the 1260 days. I will address these in future studies, but for now, it is enough to understand that these prophecies were not yet fulfilled for the early Christians.
This leads me to believe that they either forgot to study Daniel, or they didn’t know what it all meant, as the angel speaking to Daniel does say that the words would be sealed until the end days (Daniel 12:4). This would mean that the prophecies wouldn’t make sense until they become fulfilled in the modern era.
As we will see in later studies, we are living in the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary. In order to understand what Jesus is doing right now, we must understand the symbolism of Leviticus 16 and the earthly sanctuary in general. These are the days spoken of by Peter in his second epistle: God “is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”.
This delay, then, is for our sake, the inhabitants of the earth. God doesn’t want us to perish into death, but He wants us all to be saved. Brethren, those in the church and those outside, remember the promises of God and that the word of God is truth. God doesn’t have the capability to lie. His very words become reality, so whatever He says is true. Jesus is coming back, and His second advent is near. Keep the faith, remain strong, and prepare for the coming onslaught upon those who have the faith of Jesus and keep the commandments of God.
Prayer: Our heavenly Father, we cannot wait to see you and to be in your presence. We cannot fully comprehend what it will be like to live with you, and have eternal life. We do look forward to find out though, and to discover all the secrets of the universe. We ask that you send us your Holy Spirit so that we may be strengthened against the tide of evil of this world. We ask that our lives will be cleansed of sin so that we may stand in front of you without blemish. We ask that the gospel will reach every living person in this world and that all will keep your word in they hearts so that it may blossom into life. Maranatha, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

If Jesus came tomorrow

If Jesus came tomorrow, would you be happy? Would you welcome Him with open arms, or would you cower in fear under a rock? Christians always claim that Jesus could come tomorrow, or at any moment, unforeseen. It’s because of this uncertainty that Christians must always strive to live a holy life. It would be extremely unfortunate for Jesus to come tomorrow and to find us not ready to welcome Him (Matthew 25:1-13).
In Matthew 5:19, Jesus tells His followers that “whosoever therefore shall break one these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is addressing the immutability of the Law of God as it relates to the eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is saying that breaking the least of God’s commandments will cause the breaker to be the least in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is clearly addressing believers here, not unbelievers because believers know the Law of God. There’s a greater expectation for the believer to keep the Law of God compared to an unbeliever.
Most Christians are aware that God has a set of laws, or commandments, that He expects us to faithfully adhere to in our daily lives. Exodus 20 has the details, but let’s look at the outline:
  • Do not worship other gods
  • Do not make images of things in heaven or earth to worship them
  • Do not use the name of God lightly
  • Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy
  • Respect your parents
  • Do not kill
  • Do not commit adultery
  • Do not steal
  • Do not lie
  • Do not covet
Every Christian on Earth is guilty of breaking at least one of these commandments. According to Jesus, even one broken commandment relegates us to the bottom of the ladder. Looking back at Biblical men and women, there is not a single one whom we can point to as a shining example, except for Jesus Himself. How do we reconcile these seemingly disparate realities? On the one hand, “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). On the other hand, Jesus expects us to keep His commandments (John 14:15) and be righteous.
The answer to this dichotomy is in the book of James. Christians do good works through having the faith of Jesus, and our faith is kept strong through doing good works. As a born-again Christian, I have experienced this relationship between faith and works first-hand. At the beginning of the journey, the Holy Spirit starts to gently nudge the person toward repentance. As each sin is repented, the person starts to fix their eyes upon Jesus and to want to be molded in His image. The person no longer has a desire to sin; sin becomes abhorrent. The more we listen to the Holy Spirit’s nudges, the closer we come to understanding God’s will for us. This leads us to want to live holy lives, untainted by sin.
Unfortunately, sin is still very much a part of this world. As much as we want to be holy we will not be able to be like Jesus until the Holy Spirit fills us completely, just prior to Jesus’ second advent, during an event known as the latter rain (more to follow on this topic in a future posting). Until that future time, we must live in a perpetual cycle of repentance, and praying for guidance so that we may not sin. We must be continually be broken by the Rock who is Jesus Christ so that we will not be crushed by the same Rock at His second coming (Matthew 21:44).
I have a challenge for those of you reading this article. Look at the Law of God, either the simplified list above or the detailed list in Exodus 20, and think about how you have broken each commandment at one time or another in your life. After you do that, think about how Jesus hung on the cross, for you and as you, and how He paid the price of sin, which is death, so that you don’t have to. Think about the gift of eternal life that accompanies each repentant soul and how easily this gift can be claimed.
This Sabbath, I pray that all who call themselves Christians will hearken to Jesus’ challenge, to try to live a holy life through the power granted to us through the Holy Spirit. I pray that those who are not Christians will see the shining lights in the darkness of this world. I pray that everyone will come into the light before it’s too late, and that everyone will be counted with the sheep at the second advent.

Caring for the forbidden tree

The Bible is quite vague regarding the conversations between God and the first people, but we know a few things, from which we can infer others. For one, God asked Adam and Eve to be caretakers of His creation. We read from Genesis 2:15 that “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” The other known directive is that God explicitly forbade Adam and Eve from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge. From Genesis 2:16,17 the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

What we can infer from these two commands is that God intended for Adam and Eve to care for the forbidden tree, but not to partake from its fruit. This is much different from what Eve assumed God said. In Genesis 3:2,3 Eve tells the serpent that they may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” Her and Adam seemed to almost make up their own rules that would help keep them away from the tree, even though they were meant to care for it. If they had cared for it, the snake would not have been attracted to that tree, which seemed peculiar from all others in the garden due to its unkempt appearance. Even if the snake had tried to still use the tree, Eve would not have been afraid of it to the same degree, and she would have been able to express God’s will for them in relation to the tree correctly.

This is the result of not knowing the will of the Lord, but making up our own rules that sound good in theory, but are quite terrible in practice. Another perfect example of this is the rules put into place by the Jewish religious leaders following the exile in Babylon. Their intentions were good, but by the time Jesus came to live among them, the Jews were very far from keeping the laws of God, even though they thought they were doing just that. God said “I desire mercy, not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13).

Where am I going with this? For most Christians who have studied these passages, these are pretty obvious truths and conclusions, right? However, the implications seem to fly right over our collective heads. Do we have forbidden fruits before our eyes? Are we still meant to be stewards of the forbidden trees of the world? Let’s take a look at a highly enticing fruit in our world today, drugs. Some people go so far as to condone the use of drugs by citing the word of God. There are people out there who take Genesis 1:29 and make it seem as if marijuana, which is a seed-bearing plant, is ok to consume. I was one of those people, a drug user who found God, but did not want to give up smoking weed. I’m extremely thankful that God gave me the power to recognize my sin and to repent of it.

In light of this, how do we as a church treat drug users in general? Do we treat them as God wants us to, by being stewards of His creation, or do we treat them with contempt and fear as Adam and Eve treated the tree of knowledge? I believe that in most cases, and certainly in my own personal experience, it’s the latter. What about other forbidden fruit? Prostitutes, liars, thieves, murderers, Sabbath breakers, etc. Do we treat these people with love and care, or do we try to not associate with them, if it can be helped?

I’m guilty of this more than most. I have this false sense that if I just ignore “those people”, they won’t bother me. This is not what God wants me to do. Jesus came to this world to save the sinners and he was known to hang out with some hard people. However, “those people” eventually followed Him and their lives became blessed and they became a blessing to others. The great commission to spread the gospel means we have to spread the gospel to all people, not just the ones we consider worthy in our own judgement. We are meant to care for the forbidden tree while not partaking of its fruit. This is the most important task of God’s church. This is what’s going to cause all people to hear the word of God and be saved. We must practice the love and tolerance that we preach.

Brothers, sisters, friends, in light of the second quarter’s message in our Sabbath school, we must forego sanctimony and reach out to the ones who nobody wants. This is how we win souls for Jesus, starting right in our backyard. Set condemnation aside, let God be the judge, and just be a loving friend to those who need it most. Embracing and welcoming drug addicts and prostitutes does not mean we condone their behavior, but it does mean we love the sinner while hating the sin. This is God’s will for us, until Jesus returns.

The nature of fear

In the previous entry I made the claim that the anti-Christ of the Bible can only refer to the Roman church, specifically its system of worship. The Reformers were all of one accord in regards to this question and there was no doubt in their minds, collectively, regarding the interpretation of Daniel 7. In this entry, I want to make it clear why this knowledge, while valuable, cannot be the focus of the Christian’s spiritual walk. It’s extremely important to know this truth, but it must be tucked away in the recesses of the mind, lest it take the place of Jesus as the focus of our worship. It is extremely likely that the study of the conspiracy will become much like an idol, in that the student spends all his time on YouTube instead of having his head buried in the Bible.

I was personally affected by this behavior, and still am to a small degree, but even in that condition God called me forth and bestowed this clarity of thought which the various conspiracies I was studying could not even come close to emulating. This article by the Post-modern pastor also helped me wake up further and realize my grave mistake. Anything I do, anything I write, must begin and end with Jesus. The importance of understanding the prophecies of the Bible lies in first understanding the reason for the prophecies. Even if I could understand every single prophecy, including the revelation of the date of Christ’s second coming, it would be of no worth as far as my salvation is concerned. Having knowledge has no bearing on the status of the soul with God.

This brings me to the topic of this entry, which is fear. I alluded to fear in the previous post as well, by reminding my dear readers that the enemy is using fear to herd us into the “Christian” ecumenical world religion. This fear is characterized by uncertainty about the future, to the point of not even trusting relatives and friends. I often peruse the discussion sections of various online news outlets, and the general consensus on the right-leaning blogs is that the good Christians are loaded for bear, just waiting for the system to collapse. I often ask some of the more fervent Christian brothers (and sometimes sisters) if they would really take the life of another human being, seeing how Jesus told us to turn the other cheek when an evil person attacks/persecutes us. The consensus is that yes, the good Christian is prepared to take a life, if it’s done in self-defense. This general sentiment leaves me utterly speechless, but I understand its provenance.

You see friends, fear makes us think, say, and do some pretty outlandish things. This is why fear is one of the greatest tools of Satan, second only to deception. The prophet Isaiah spoke to king Ahaz at one point, regarding Ahaz’s own fear:

“For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,
Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 8:11-14)

Ahaz even had a good reason to be afraid, yet God sends him a fairly strong rebuke. God is saying that we should not be afraid of the conspiracies in this world, rather let God be our fear. The next verse is somewhat puzzling in this context because God is also our sanctuary. God should be the object of our fear, but not in the way we fear the world. God is the only one who can affect history and He is the Judge at the end of this age. God is merely allowing these horrible things to happen in the world, for a time, until all people decide to choose a side. For those who fear God alone, He is the sanctuary from the world, the windbreak in the midst of the tempest. For those who sanctify God, fear of His judgment is only the natural consequence.

So brothers and sisters, please do not be discouraged by the happenings in this world. Please don’t think that God has forgotten us, that He doesn’t exist, or worse, that He is a tyrant who enjoys our torture. He is hoping that all of us turn from our own way and follow His Way, and walk through His Gate. He is there for you as a sanctuary in the time of the worst trouble. Even worse trouble is coming to this world, and we will need His protection even more in the coming years. It is easy to see how one would despair and quake with fright if God is not the first priority in one’s life. Yet He promised us that He will deliver His remnant, and that our reward is forthcoming. We live in interesting times indeed.

Who is the enemy?

On December 14, user @TalibKweli posted the following message on Twitter: ” Nicky Minaj is not your enemy. Shaun King is not your enemy. Deray is not your enemy. Spike Lee is not your enemy. Let’s focus on the enemy.”

I’d like to say that I agree in spirit with this Twitter user, who was actually posting a message in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. I want to focus on the enemy, not the enemy of BLM, but the enemy of all humanity.

The enemy of all humanity is the father of lies, the angel of light, Lucifer (or Satan), who loved power so much he sought to ascend to the very top of the heavenly hierarchy, even above God (Isaiah 14:12-13). In contrast to Lucifer, God loved the world so much “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God became flesh and dwelt among us, showed us that it is possible to resist temptation through the power He imparts to us, and eventually He died for our sins so that we may have everlasting life.

I want to make it absolutely clear that my intent here is not to attack individuals, not even those who are part of the enemy camp. Each person is precious in the eyes of God, and each person still has the potential to be saved. There are none “too far gone” for Jesus; He can still save all of us. Additionally, it is not my intent to focus on Satan, but the nature of the message makes it such that I have to talk a bit about his works and the works of those in his employ. Always remember that Jesus has already won the battle and that He is coming soon with our reward.

The people who are in charge of Satan’s plan, those who have the mark of Cain, play both sides of the fence. They incite the left against the right, the Christians against Muslims, Muslims against Jews, and variations of these themes, ad nauseam. They only know how to play this one type of game, but their repertoire of tricks is quite vast, for they have had a few thousand years of practice. Their ultimate goal is to create a conflict great enough that separation between groups of people is no longer an option. When they reach that point, the world government, global economy, and universal religion can be implemented. Your side isn’t winning, the puppeteers are winning.

The way they will reach their goal is to herd everyone into a hold through the use of fear. They attack from the left, from the right, from the Middle East, from whitin the church, and all these attacks move all of us closer and closer together. Don’t get me wrong, I would love for all people in the world to come together in agreeing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He is our redemption and ultimate prize. I would love for all people to confess that God is an interventionist God, and that His judgment is forthcoming. Alas, this is not the case with the herding of the people. We are being led into a fold that belongs to Satan, not God. As Christians, we need to recognize that we are being led away from Jesus. Our main goal is spreading the Gospel, not worrying that the Islamists are going to impose Sharia law in the West. The latter is merely a mirage, a distraction, so that we don’t have the time to look behind the curtain.

We need to stop talking about outlawing this religion, and that fundamentalism, and waging war against terrorism (as if it’s a real thing). We need to wake up and understand that the enemy is not your Muslim neighbour, your Jewish banker, or your Evangelical aunt. The enemy is way behind the scenes, pitting us against each other, planting subliminal messages in the media, and creating conflicts to suit their purposes. Stop playing their game and just be a witness to the message of Jesus Christ.

I think it’s probably time to stop beating around the bush and get to the point. In the book of Daniel, ch. 7, the prophet is given a vision of a great beast which follows the other beasts of history. This beast was shown to be the Roman Empire. Out of this beast comes a little horn who speaks great things against God, and makes war against the saints. This horn can only be the papacy, which made war against God’s people for 1260 years, and still does it in this day.

This whole world is under control of the Roman church through its agents, the Jesuits. They work behind the scenes, set up front organizations, fight against even their leader (the pope), incite wars and conflicts, and are the cause of the death of hundreds of millions of people on this earth.

This blog is not the best way to show exactly how this is happening, but there are videos of these theories being examined into detail. The playlist can be found here.

Justification, Sanctification, Glorification and the Law of God

In Exodus 20, we are shown a glimpse at the character and will of God. It is in the 10 commands given to God’s people that we see the abstraction of what it means to be in harmony with God, or to “walk with God” as Enoch did. God condenses His requirements into 10 easy to follow precepts, which can certainly be expanded, if need be. For instance, in Matthew 5, Jesus says that anger is the root cause of murder, so if we are angry without cause, this is just as bad as killing. In the same chapter, Jesus makes reference to the Law, and says that “until heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). In the previous verse, Jesus also says that he is not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.

Fulfillment of the Law in this case means the simple fact that in keeping the Law of God, we are in harmony with Him, just as Jesus was in harmony with Him. Fulfillment also means that all things concerning Jesus are done, including his second and third coming, and the establishment of the Kingdom. Jesus didn’t say that keeping the law alone will lead to salvation, but he did say that unless we are righteous, even more so than the scribes and Pharisees, we will in no case enter heaven. Jesus sees righteousness as a pre-condition to being saved, though not on its own merit, because the scribes and Pharisees were righteous, yet they rejected Christ. In looking at this subject, we have to discuss the notions of justification, sanctification, and glorification. We must address these subjects in the correct order and context, lest we be led astray into error.

Justification is the concept of salvation, or redemption, from the sin to which we are slaves, which can only be achieved through the blood of Jesus. I can honestly admit that I am a slave to sin, and that, just like Paul, I mean to do good in my mind, yet sin has a hold on me and my body always desires evil. Justification simply means that this burden of sin can be taken off our shoulders and placed on the cross. Jesus died and shed his blood so that I would no longer have any guilt regarding my sinful nature. Jesus died for my sins, so that Satan can no longer accuse me. This is also called salvation by grace through faith, the free gift offered to all. Being justified means that God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, imputes His righteousness to me, not of any merit or work of my own, but only by the sacrifice of Jesus and His blood. Once I realized that, it was a simple transition to the next step. It is important to notice that the Christian conversion does not stop with justification. Accepting my sinful nature and recognizing that Christ died for my sins is only the beginning of the change process.

Sanctification is the next step in this process and is the work of a lifetime. Sanctification starts with understanding that Jesus died not only for me, but as me, so that my sinful self can die for him so that he may live in me and through me. You see, justification only addresses the guilt portion of sin, but does not offer any solution as to how to eliminate sin from my life. It’s all well and good to know that Jesus died for me, but that is only a fact, not a solution. Sanctification means that I have to die, symbolically, be born again in the water, and allow Jesus to live through me. This means that I give him complete control over my thoughts and actions, and I allow his righteousness to be manifested in my life. While justification is an action that I can control, my only control of sanctification is the allowance of Jesus to live through me. This step is symbolized by the baptism of water, where I symbolically die and a new me is born. The new me is actually not me at all, but a representation of Jesus, because my actions are not my own, but his.

Sanctification can also be defined as righteousness by faith. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were believers in righteousness by works, and Jesus rebuked them many times for this attitude. How can sinful man declare himself righteous just because he follows a set of laws? The Law is not there to define what is righteous, but exists to facilitate the judgment. If there is no law, there is no sin, for sin is the transgression of the law. If there is no sin, then the sacrifice of Jesus is meaningless. We must in fact go even further than the Law, just as Jesus showed us, and we can only do that by Jesus living in us and through us. This not something that can be achieved through our own power. We only have the power to accept the gift of salvation and invite Jesus into our lives. The majority of the actual work is performed by Christ.

The last part of this narrative is glorification, our translation into our new bodies at Christ’s second coming. Righteousness by faith is the only thing that will bring us into the Kingdom of God. The works of Jesus through us are our only salvation, and we cannot claim any of it as our own, for it is him that does the good works, not our sinful selves. In the book of Revelation, there are two instances where the Law of God is referenced. In chapter 12, verse 17, the remnant believers are those who “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ”. In chapter 14, verse 12, those who overcome the tribulation of the last days are those who “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”.

In other words, we cannot even dream about glorification unless our lives are first justified, then sanctified. Is this perfectionism? In a way it is, but it’s important to note that after justification, everything else is on Jesus. I can never claim perfection, but I can claim that Jesus lives through me, and that allows my actions to be good. The only limitation is that we still have a fallen body, which means that sin is not completely gone. However, this also means that we will recognize sin much more readily, and will be able to repent of it in a much more constructive way. Repenting doesn’t mean saying you’re sorry, then doing the same thing again. Repenting means to change, a real action on our part. This change can only come through the promptings of the Holy Spirit and Jesus living through us.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a few questions. The verses in Revelation point to a group of people who are measured by their faith in Jesus and by keeping the commandments of God. Are you one of these people? Do you keep every commandment of God? If not, why not? How do you justify knowingly trespassing the commands of God?

Bible Study – Daniel 3

The third chapter in Daniel happens at an undetermined time after the end of chapter two. The story flows from one chapter to another, and we see the idol from the dream showing up again, but the time difference between the two chapters must be substantial (at least a few months if not years). The reason behind this is that it’s really out of character for Nebuchadnezzar to declare Daniel’s God “a God of gods, and a Lord of kings”, and then immediately thereafter resume idol worship. It’s also highly likely that Daniel wasn’t present for these events he writes about in chapter three, because he doesn’t seem to have any role in the happenings. Some historians have proposed that this chapter takes place shortly after the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and Daniel was either back in that area on official business, or mourning the loss of God’s city and dwelling place.

The chapter starts by stating that Nebuchadnezzar made an idol of gold, and set it up in the plain of Dura. The idol is not described in any detail other than its overall dimensions, which we examined in the previous study. Its height was 60 cubits (90 feet) and its width was 6 cubits (9 feet). I proposed that these dimensions are not very proportional to a human body, so the idol was probably representing something else. It could even be an obelisk, but there’s no certainty about the commonality of obelisks in Babylon at that time, though there are records of Baal worship that involve obelisks. There are certainly records of pillars being used to depict a story. A more modern example of such a pillar is Trajan’s column . In this case, the idol could have been a pillar depicting the destruction of Jerusalem, though this is only conjecture on my part. In any case, Nebuchadnezzar gathered all his officials in order to dedicate this idol.

We see in this chapter that music plays a big role in the worship of this time period, just as it does in our time. The officials are commanded to “fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up” when they hear the sound of all kinds of music. In this case, music represents a sign that worship is about to take place, the worship of an idol. After many years of conquering, Nebuchadnezzar had become proud and full of himself. He forgot about the God of Daniel who reveals dreams, and he forced other people to worship false gods and idols. The punishment for not worshiping this new idol was death by burning in a furnace.

God’s people, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the former favorites of Nebuchadnezzar, did not obey the king’s decree and did not bow down to the idol. In short order, those Chaldeans who wanted to get rid of the three friends, passed the word to the king that the Jews would not bow to the idol. Nebuchadnezzar gave Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego an ultimatum: “Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” In other words, bow down or die. It’s pretty amazing to see that Nebuchadnezzar would even give them a second chance. I think he must have remembered that these people are special.

The Jews held fast to their faith and said to the king: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up”. These men put their trust in God to deliver them, but even if He chose not to deliver them, they would still not bow down to the idol. God had commanded them, from the days of Moses, that “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”.

Nebuchadnezzar reacted with fury and commanded the furnace to be fired up, but to make it seven times hotter than usual. The men that put Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the flames were slain themselves due to the heat of the fire, it was that strong. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not even touched by the flames, bound as they were. As soon as they were put in, Nebuchadnezzar noticed that it wasn’t only the three of them in that furnace, but also one who looked like the Son of God. Their protection and their lives were assured by God, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego really had nothing to fear. This story is used to strengthen Christians in the face of persecution. Even if God doesn’t deliver us, we will not bow down to an idol, to an image, but to God Himself who is the only one worthy of worship and praise.

Revelation 13:15 draws a parallel with Daniel 3. In Daniel 3:4, the people, nations, and languages present in the plain of Dura were commanded to bow down and worship the image or face death by fire. In Revelation 13:15, the image of the beast has the power to kill those who would not worship the beast. The image of the beast in the book of Revelation represents an image of an incarnation of Babylon itself. In the last days before the second advent of Jesus Christ, Christians will be faced with the ancient Babylonian command once again, just as the people on the plain of Dura: “bow down, or die”. If we were to have some music to go along with the command, the parallelism would be complete. These days are coming quickly upon us, and I don’t think many people realize the urgency of the matter. If they do realize it, a lot of people are led astray by messages which have no root in the scriptures. This kind of deception is the work of Satan and his angels in the world.

Back in the plains of Dura, Nebuchadnezzar seemed to repent again of his sin, and said “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon”.

God impressed upon Nebuchadnezzar that there is nothing he can do against His will. What Nebuchadnezzar would consider to be magic, God considers common. There is absolutely nothing that is not in God’s power, and we Christians better remember that. Our faith has to be strong in the face of overt and covert persecution. Satan will attempt to work through good and evil people in order to get us to “bow down” to the image that will come into the world in the last days. I hypothesize that this image will look so good to a Christian, and the deception will be so complete, that most people won’t even notice what’s happened until it is too late. We have to be like the wise virgins in Matthew 25, not like the foolish ones. Jesus commands us to be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves. Being wise to the ways of Satan does not imply that we are also evil; being wise is a defense mechanism. We have to identify his ways, his tactics, and what exactly is the end-time deception that he will set up. so that we can avoid being part of it, even when faced with death as punishment.

I will conclude this study by saying that I cannot impart any oil onto you, my dear readers. You must be wise enough to bring enough oil to the wedding so that your lamps will not run out. It’s extremely important to heed this warning, because the foolish virgins were not allowed into the wedding even after procuring oil. Waiting until the last minute to gain understanding and knowledge of the true character of God will not be enough. Just as the officials of Babylon saw nothing wrong in worshiping the image, so will the majority of Christians not see anything wrong in worshiping the image in the last days. Our eternal lives are at stake and we must dedicate ourselves to understanding God’s character and His prophecies so that we may not be deceived.

Bible Study – Daniel 2

Previous study on Daniel 1 can be found here.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s second year as king, he started having strange dreams, so much so that he could no longer sleep at night. He gathered all his magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, in order to get some peace from these dreams, and gain understanding about their meaning. Remember that the Chaldeans were those who learned the magic arts of ancient Babylonia (Sumeria/Akkadia).

The really strange thing about Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams was that he could not remember the details. His request of the wise men of Babylon was for them to tell him what it was the he dreamt. This goes beyond a simple interpretation, and I’m sure that these men would have been able to interpret the king’s dreams, had he remembered what they were about. In reply to the king, the Chaldeans said that “there is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.”

This statement got Nebuchadnezzar really angry. Here were his most educated men, the ones who claimed to have all the answers in the palms of their hands, or in the stars, or other magical devices. Yet, they were worthless when he actually needed them to alleviate his sleepless nights. Not only that, but they had the gall to tell him that no king, lord, nor ruler existed who would ask such things. How could that be when he, Nebuchadnezzar, was asking such things, and he surely existed. It must have seemed like such a cop out on their part.

The second part of their answer is that “it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh”. Well, aren’t these people supposed to be able to communicate with the gods? If they couldn’t do that, nor show him his dreams, then what good were they? So Nebuchadnezzar did what any sane person would do, and convicted them to death. I say that in jest, but to an extent what else was there to do with them? They had leeched off the kingdom of Babylon for years and with nothing to show for it, except insults to the king.

Unfortunately for Daniel and his friends, he was considered to be part of this group of learned men. When he heard about the decree, he asked the king to give him some time and he would show the king his dream and its interpretation. The king agreed and Daniel went back to his friends to tell them about this issue. I imagine they prayed fervently at that time, and the result was that Daniel was given a vision in the night, showing the dream and its interpretation.

When Daniel was brought before Nebuchadnezzar, the king asked him “art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?” Daniel could have fallen in this trap quite easily, and I’m sure his memory would have been wiped. He answered Nebuchadnezzar correctly stating “there is a God in heaven that reveleath secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.” Daniel remembered to credit God for the vision that was granted him, as only God can make such things known to man.

It is interesting here that Daniel should say “in the latter days” when speaking of this vision. The meaning of this phrase seems to point to a time in the future, but not only that, to a time of the last days. The future visions of Daniel shed more light onto this concept, but he already knew that this vision did not pertain to the present time, that it was a prophecy, and it was going to be very relevant in the days of the end.

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was actually quite simple in its structure. He saw a great idol, whose form was terrible. I’m not sure what this idol looked like, but many sources seem to think it kind of looked like a man, a king even. I tend to disagree with that interpretation. In chapter 3 (which we will address in detail in a later study), Nebuchadnezzar made an idol that is assumed to be similar to the one he dreamt. This idol was 60 cubits tall and six cubits wide. In imperial terms, this is about 1080 inches high (about 90 feet), and 108 inches wide (9 feet). This idol measures 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. I’m no mathematician, nor a biologist, but that’s not very proportional to a man. It’s more proportional to a snake, or a lizard, or even a dragon. I’m really not sure what this idol looked like, I’m just thinking that it wasn’t a man, maybe only part man (lower half). In any case, this is more of an aside than a real doctrinal point, it’s just interesting to think about.

As to the parts of the idol, the head was of gold, the arms and chest of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet of iron mixed with clay. Each body section gets stronger as we travel down from the head, yet at the same time the metal representing the body part gets less and less valuable. The end of the dream is that stone is cut out, but not by any hands, and it hit the idol “upon its feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces”. At this point, all the other materials of this idol broke to pieces as well, and the pieces were so small that the wind carried them away like chaff, so that no part of the idol remained. The stone that broke the idol became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

Daniel goes on to say that “this is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king”. I’m not sure who else was there with him in that moment, but I’m sure he wasn’t talking about his friends. I believe he was saying that the Holy Spirit was there as well, imparting the interpretation to the king through Daniel.

The interpretation of the dream has the head of gold representing Nebuchadnezzar, “a king of kings”, whom God has given “a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory”. Nebuchadnezzar had so much power that he was able to conquer Assyria and Egypt within a few short years. His kingdom had so much splendor that we today refer to Babylon as one of the ancient wonders of the world. God truly blessed Nebuchadnezzar and his empire.

After Nebuchadnezzar will come a kingdom which is inferior (silver), and then yet another kingdom (brass), which shall rule over all the earth (at least the known portion of it). The fourth kingdom follows, and it is strong as iron. As iron breaks all things, it shall break and subdue the world as well.

The last kingdom is going to be the feet, part of iron and part of clay. In the interpretation of the dream, Daniel says that this kingdom will be divided, just as iron and clay don’t mix. However, the strength of the iron will remain in it. This kingdom will be “partly strong, but partly broken”. The people in this last kingdom will mingle, but they will not “cleave one to another”.

The next sentence (Daniel 2:44) is interesting: “in the days of these kings shall God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed”. So, while talking of the feet and toes, made of iron and clay, Daniel implies that the feet and toes represent kings: “in the days of these kings…”. What’s interesting is that the implication is that there will be many nations (these kings), attempting to unite (will mingle), but are unable to form a coherent group (will not cleave one to another).

If you thought that sentence in v.44 is interesting, what follows is even better: “and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever”. The kingdom which God sets up, in the latter days, in a time when nations are trying to form alliances and confederacies, this Kingdom will not be left to other people. The way I read that part is that the Kingdom of God is God’s not man’s, yet it shall be for some people because it will not be left for the others. Who are the “other people” and who are the exemptions? I propose that the “other people” refers to everyone whom does not wish, for whatever reason, to be part of the Kingdom of God. Do you know people like that today? I have certainly met my fair share.

The better part of the interpretation of the dream is spent explaining the feet and toes, so we can certainly assume that this body section of the idol is most important in the prophecy. It is, after all, the section that is struck by the stone. I believe the significance of the feet and toes can be readily seen in our present day. We live in a world that wishes to unite and live in peace and harmony. Yet there are so many forces that seem to desire the exact opposite. We see hatred and bigotry every day on the news, even in our daily lives. How can we unite the nations when we seem to hate each other. I believe the explanation given by the Holy Spirit to Daniel that kings of the latter days will attempt to mingle, but will not cleave to one another is extremely important in our era.

Daniel and the Holy Spirit finish up the interpretation by saying in v.45 “the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure”. The king then testified that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets”. Nebuchadnezzar “made Daniel a great man”, “a chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon” and a “ruler over the whole province of Babylon”.

This concludes our study of Daniel ch. 2, but please tune in for a study of the remainder of the book. The next chapters will get even more exciting, and much more truth will be revealed. Thank God for His word and for His guidance in these times.

Bible Study – Daniel 1

The book of Daniel has been studied over the centuries by people much smarter than me. I only understood it while watching the sermons of Dr. Walter Veith and even then, I had to watch and listen multiple times to truly understand the essence of the scripture. Once I understood the symbolism, the rest was quite easy, and I thank God for granting me understanding of His word. The book is the abridged story of the life of Daniel, a prisoner taken from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar after the first siege of Jerusalem.

Nebuchadnezzar was the son of Nabopolassar, the first of the Chaldean Dynasty of the Neo-Babylonian empire. Under the rule of Nabopolassar, who reigned from circa 626BC to 605BC, Babylon started to regain its former glory, first by defeating the Assyrian empire, then the Egyptian empire, and the states that were friendly to these powers. Nabopolassar only started the work, which was finished in great majesty by his son, Nebuchadnezzar.

The rise of the Babylonian empire coincided with the start of prophet Jeremiah’s ministry. It is no coincidence that the prophet started warning the people about Babylon, when Babylon was just starting to become a world power. God was warning His people that He will allow Babylon to conquer even the holy city, and destroy the nation of Israel, unless they turn back from their apostasy.

We pick up with Daniel after Jeremiah’s prophecies start to come true. Nebuchadnezzar, in pursuit of the Egyptian armies after the battle of Carchemish, comes across Jerusalem and lays siege to the city. King Jehoiakim finally surrenders the city, but Nebuchadnezzar only takes the vessels from the temple and some captives, from the noble families of Israel. Daniel was among these captives.

In the first chapter of the book, we get a short account of this story, and what happened to Daniel and his friends after they were taken captive. Seeing as they were of noble birth, and quite knowledgeable in the ways of kings and court proceedings, the boys were given to the master of eunuchs to be trained as Chaldeans. This meant learning the old knowledge being revived by the Neo-Babylonians, that of the Sumerians and Akkadians. This culture dates back to the days of Hammurabi, in the 3rd millenium BC.

Needless to say, the ancient culture being literally unearthed by the Neo-Babylonians was highly steeped in rites and rituals related to the sun and the moon, amongst other “deities”. Daniel and his friends were forced to study all these things, but God was with them, and they never forgot Him. When asked to partake of the meat of the king, they refused, saying that they did not want to be defiled by the meat and wine. These boys were pure, not only in spirit, but also in flesh. They never forgot the commands of God, and were righteous in His eyes.

Throughout their studies, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom”. God even gave Daniel the gift of understanding visions and dreams. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, was extremely impressed by these young men, and “he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm”, in all matters of wisdom and understanding.

The magicians and astrologers did not have the advantage of the everlasting God of the universe whispering the answers in their ears. Daniel and his friends were close to God, and God allowed them to know secrets that the magicians could only dream of knowing. Daniel and his friends never forgot who was the source of their knowledge and always testified the eternal God, and His great and mighty power.

In chapter 2, we will see how Daniel starts to be used by God to start the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar’s heart. Thank you for reading thus far and may God keep you and bless you until next time.

Common ground (Part 3) – updated

This is the last part in this series, about finding common ground within the Protestant churches. In the previous entries (Part 1, Part 2) we talked about the pillars of Protestantism, the nature of God, and the events about to unfold in the final days of this planet. In this entry, we will continue the story and expand upon some topics that are relevant to eschatology.

The first topic I’d like to broach is the concept of the mark of the beast. This is something every Christian knows a bit about, and it’s quite common in pop culture as well. I would say that this is one of the Biblical concepts that most Christians should agree about. It is quite a controversial topic, and everybody seems to have an opinion on what this number (666), and the mark, mean.

In order to explore this topic, I’d like to step back and examine the events that started this roller coaster we call life. In the beginning, God created the Earth, all that is in it, and humans. He made us in His image. We are the only creatures, that we know of, that were created in God’s image. The angelic beings were not created in God’s image. Why is this important?

In the beginning of this Earth, there was also a great conflict between God and His chief angel, Lucifer. About this time, Lucifer conducted a rebellion against God’s kingship, in order to usurp it and claim it for his own. The reason this conflict occurred is because Lucifer did not want to be obedient to God. He thought that he could do a better job of managing the universe, got a bunch of angels on his side (about a third), and declared God a tyrant, despot, dictator. God won that battle and cast Lucifer and his angels down to this Earth.

You will notice a small link between this concept and Part 2, where I talked that my God is not a tyrant, a despot, or dictator. In fact, Lucifer is still trying to convince others to this day that God does not merit to be our ruler because of this perceived tyranny. The overall feeling in the secular world of today is that God is either disinterested, or He takes pleasure in seeing us suffer. This was the seed of the rebellion in heaven at the beginning of Earth’s history. Lucifer misunderstood (either willingly or in error) God’s intentions, and he continues to tell us about it, yet he is absolutely, 100% wrong.

Having said that, I’d like to point out that since the beginning, this conflict was about obedience, and we’re still debating obedience to God today in our churches. I believe that the end of the conflict will be about obedience also. We will have to make a major decision at some yet undetermined point in time. Every single person on Earth will have to decide whether we stand with God and obey Him alone, or whether we stand with Lucifer and obey him and his minions.

What does this have to do with the mark of the beast? Well, I’d like to propose that the mark of the beast will not be an actual, physical mark. Rather, I believe that the mark of the beast is a spiritual mark, placed in our foreheads or on our right hand. In order to understand this concept, let’s take a look at Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verses 6-8:

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.”

What we see here is a command from God to put His laws in our hearts, in our hands, and in our forehead. God isn’t interested in half-measures; He wants all our worship. He wants us to believe His laws and to act accordingly. In contrast to that, we look at the description of the mark of the beast in Revelation chapter 13, verses 16-18:

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

As you can see, the mark of the beast will be placed in the right hand, or in the forehead, not necessarily in both places, and the heart isn’t even mentioned. Lucifer doesn’t care whether we believe that what we’re doing is the right thing. He wants us to either do it, or believe it, both if possible, but he doesn’t care if it’s just belief or if it’s just acts. Here is a beautiful passage from the book of James, chapter 2, verse 17: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

I think James sums it up beautifully in that verse. When we serve God, we have to bring everything to Him. Belief in God won’t save us, neither will doing good deeds. Without God as the center of our intentions, good works are meaningless and belief is pointless:
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
We see these concepts throughout the New Testament, but I like the way James expresses himself.

So, if the final conflict is about obedience, how can we frame the prophecies of the Bible to fit that narrative? In this context, is it important that ISIS is terrorizing the Middle East and North Africa? Is it relevant that Israel is looking to build a third temple in Jerusalem? Is it meaningful that we keep getting close to having RFID chips implanted in our bodies for the purpose of easy commerce?

In short, yes and no. Those things are important, sure, because they signal the end of this age. They are the birth pangs of this Earth, but we as Christians should not be focusing on these events for their own merit as fulfillment of specific prophecies. They do fulfill general prophecies, just not specific ones. Ultimately what will matter is our obedience to God. Obedience is something that is attained through practice. This practice is also called “living by faith”. To live by faith, or in obedience to God, is a continuous learning process. There are those who have died to self and live by faith daily, yet they are not perfect. Nobody in this world has a claim on perfection. We are all sinners, wretched on our own, but made pure and white by the blood of Jesus.

We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We can only live by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. This is not something that we can do ourselves, of our own power. We have to ask God to step into our lives, take the yoke of sin from us, and lend us His Spirit to guide and admonish us through life’s lessons. The Spirit is the One who identifies sinful behavior to us. He is the One who urges us to do certain things, or to stop doing certain things. Some people liken this experience to having a very strong feeling that they should do a certain thing, see a certain person, go to a certain place. It is real and works in the life of every Christian who has invited the Holy Spirit into their lives.

Therefore, this isn’t something that we should leave to the last minute. The learning process must not be a cramming process, as we sometimes do before important exams and tests. The learning must not just be superficial, for it is not important that we know how to live in obedience; it is far more important that we do it, daily, flawed as it may appear to us and the world. The trying is the important part, because constant trying leads to having our lessons learned, even as we may err.

We may discern that the end is nigh from the signs in the world around us, but we should not leave the decision to stand for God to the last possible minute. The muscles must be exercised prior to this event so that we may have lasting power and the understanding only experience can bring, when we make that decision. We have to lay our life down before God as it is, and ask Him to enter into it, to mold us into His chosen people, so that we may be a light unto the world.

I personally have a few sins that keep repeating themselves in my life. I’ve decided to let them go through the power of Christ before I get baptized in October. This is a decision I’ve made with a very happy heart, and I can already see God working in my life. To the people reading this article, I challenge you to make a decision now to give yourselves, your whole selves, to God. Let Him in your life, ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Listen to the Holy Spirit when He is talking to you. Let Him pull you in the direction you’re meant to follow.

In conclusion, keep in mind that the final conflict is about obedience. The mark of the beast is not an RFID chip in your forehead. The mark of the beast is a sign of allegiance to Lucifer and his cause. Let your hearts, minds, and hands be filled with the law of righteousness, and cast out the law of sin from your whole selves. May God guide you on this path, and may we meet in heaven at the end.