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nChrist
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« Reply #45 on: August 28, 2008, 12:13:12 AM »

The End Times According to Jesus ... Part 4
(Why Didn't The Lord Mention The Rapture?)
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps of the Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Surprise, Surprise

But no one knew what the Lord had cooked up to solve this problem. Having known from the beginning that we couldn't save ourselves by our works, He had determined in advance that He would save us by our faith. That meant someone qualified to do so would have to step up and pay the penalty for our sins for us. Then God could promise us that if we accepted this substitution in faith, we would be saved.

Of course the only One qualified to do this for us was God Himself. So He did. He Who had no sin was made a sin offering for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) And as a special blessing for "believing though we have not seen" (John 20:29) He even went so far as to make His Church a separate classification of humanity, (Ephesians 2:15) giving us a pre-imminent place in His Kingdom, and promising to take us out of this world to be with Him forever in a secret, sudden departure we now call the Rapture. And though we can look back and see hints of His plan all through the Old Testament, (Isaiah 49:6 for example) neither Satan, the leaders of Israel, nor even the Lord's closest disciples realized that His death on the cross was intended to accomplish all this.

"None of the rulers of this age understood it," Paul wrote, "For if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8 ) Implicit in the phrase "rulers of this age" is a reference to Satan, whom Paul called "the god of this age" in 2 Corinthians 4:4. If Satan had known that his efforts to defeat the Lord by killing Him would result in his own total defeat, he would have done anything he could to prevent it.

I've Got A Secret

For these reasons the Rapture of a largely Gentile Church had to be kept secret. It was part of God's secret wisdom, Paul said, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began (1 Corinthians 2:7). Paul was not authorized to reveal this until nearly 20 years after the Lord's death, when it was too late for anyone to do anything about it, but it's what he meant when he wrote to the Colossians, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities (by paying the penalty for our sins) He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:15).

(It's easy to forget that up until Peter's vision and subsequent visit to the home of Cornelius detailed in Acts 10, most believers had come from among the Jews. The acceptance of Gentiles into the Church didn't become official policy until the council at Jerusalem 13 years after that in Acts 15.)

What was to have been Satan's great victory has resulted in his total defeat. Now the only ones on his side of the ledger will be those who choose to be there by rejecting God's offer of pardon. Their choice relieves God of the responsibility. He still grieves over them, but can't override their sovereign right to choose their own destiny. And since they've chosen to join him, Satan can't use them as leverage to get a better deal for himself.

In Closing ...

The enormity of God's Gift of Grace, made available to Jew and Gentile alike and sealed with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, is something so unbelievable that neither Paul nor any other Apostle was ever able to adequately describe it. The best Paul could do was to borrow a passage from Isaiah, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Amen to that.

And so one day soon, with no prior warning and at a time when the world least expects Him, the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) There is no precedent condition, nothing that must happen first, except that if you want to be included you have to give your heart to Him who's coming before the trumpet call sounds. Better do it right away, for if you listen carefully you can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 06-13-04
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« Reply #46 on: September 07, 2008, 01:29:37 AM »

Habakkuk Speaks ... Again - Part 1
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps Of The Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley


The prophet Habakkuk wrote about the same time as Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. It was just before the Babylonians swooped down upon Judah to punish them for their idolatry, finally carrying them off in 586 BC after 19 years of siege and failed diplomacy. As they left, they destroyed the city and the Temple, taking its priceless artifacts along with their captives to Babylon for 70 years of servitude. All this had been foretold by Jeremiah from Jerusalem and Ezekiel from Babylon, where he and Daniel had been held as hostages since the early stages of the conquest.

First, A Summary

Habakkuk's message differs from the other prophets in that it consists solely of a dialog with God. It opens with Habakkuk's complaint that God would allow so much evil to prosper in the land without doing anything about it.

In response, Habakkuk learns that God is finally going to act, but has chosen the Babylonians, a people much more evil than the Israelites, to do the job. He can't believe it. Sure, Judah deserves to be punished, but how can a righteous God justify using such an evil force as Babylon against His own people? Instead of being judged themselves, the most depraved and unjust nation on Earth is going to be rewarded with the chance to punish God's people. How is that fair? Now Habakkuk's really upset!

Throughout he gets the benefit of God's perspective and finally, as is always the case when man questions God, winds up apologizing.

Now, The Application

While the prophecies of Habakkuk were largely fulfilled in the Babylonian conquest, there's a striking similarity between conditions in Judah in 600BC and those in the Western World, especially America, today.

Commenting on Israel's history, the Apostle Paul said, "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come." (1 Corinthians 10:11) In other words, events in Israel's history had the dual purpose of instructing them through experience and us through observation.

I believe it was Mark Twain who said, "The only time experience is the best teacher is when it's somebody else's experience." This is exactly what God had in mind for us, to learn from Israel's experience. And that includes the events of Habakkuk's time.

Someone else said that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it, so as we go through this study let's remember that, like ancient Israel, much of the West at one time claimed to believe in God and pledged our fidelity to Him. But now we've denied that belief in large part, and have withdrawn our fidelity.

Like Israel we began by first tolerating and then following other gods. Like Israel we started out by including them with Him in our worship and moved from there to excluding Him altogether in favor of them. As we've done this, our system of justice has failed and evil is triumphing over good all too often. In short we're as ripe for judgment as they were.

Is it merely coincidence that a powerful force from the very region on Earth that spawned the Babylonians, a force we consider to be much more evil than we are, has arisen with the stated goal of judging God's people both Jew and Christian? Or is history repeating itself? If it is then the Prophecies of Habakkuk could have easily been written for our time as well. Let's find out.

Habakkuk's Complaint

The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:1-4)

As it was in Habakkuk's time, concerned believers bemoan the current state of affairs in the world wondering why God puts up with it. They witness the break down of family, the increase of violence, the systematic perversion of justice, and the seeming triumph of evil over good, and shake their heads in bewilderment.
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« Reply #47 on: September 07, 2008, 01:31:20 AM »

Habakkuk Speaks ... Again - Part 1
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps Of The Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

The Lord 's Answer

"Look at the nations and watch - and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence. Their hordes] advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on - guilty men, whose own strength is their god." (Habakkuk 1:5-11)

Many wonder if the dramatic increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters is signaling God's displeasure, but very few have defined the sudden rise of Islamic terrorism as a judgment from God. Even considering the possibility provokes the same question from us as it did from Habakkuk. How could a righteous God use such an evil force against His people? And yet in the past He's used the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Romans, the Germans, the Russians and others, all godless in their time and all evil in their motivations. The only difference is that He came right out and told His people He was using many of those others, and so far as we know He hasn't said anything like that about Islamic terrorism. (Of course the terrorists have said it, but nobody believes them.) Again I ask, is it just coincidence or are we supposed to draw conclusions about this from history? Maybe we're just like the people of Habakkuk's time in that we wouldn't believe it even if we were told.

Habakkuk's Second Complaint

O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad.

Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy? (Habakkuk 1:12-17)

Surely the Lord couldn't be behind the rise in terrorism. He's too pure. He couldn't possibly condone that kind of evil, could He? But somehow, like the tentacles of some giant yet invisible octopus, Islamic terrorists have slithered into every western society and according to some have positioned themselves undetected at our most vulnerable points, awaiting the signal to strike. And we admittedly have no certain defense against what will surely be a devastating attack. "It's inevitable," we're told. How did they accomplish this? Will the Lord really permit this to happen to his own people?

And if He does, will the terrorists then acknowledge Him as their benefactor after they've struck? Will they proclaim Him as their God? Or will they give the credit to the one they worship, offering sacrifices and burning incense to him as if he had brought them the victory?

The Israelites expected God to protect them from the Babylonians. They convinced themselves that He would never permit any harm to come to them, even as the Babylonians were camped outside their gates. They were His people, after all. Never mind their unfaithfulness, their lusting after false gods, their disrespect for the fatherless, the down trodden, the widows. Never mind that they only gave lip service to their beliefs, that their worship had become form without substance, ceremony without meaning, that they sacrificed their children in the name of prosperity, and worshipped the idols of the harvest.

It's different now, we say. But is it? We sing, "God bless America" playing lip service to our relationship while our sins pile up to the heavens just as theirs did. And even now, as our leaders admit the inevitability of further attacks and as our countries suffer storms and earthquakes and the threat of pandemic disease, are our churches and synagogues full of repentant worshippers, praying as Habakkuk did, "In wrath, remember mercy"? (Habakkuk 3:2)

For over 50 years Christians have looked with concern on the plight of Israel while Islamic enemies periodically tried to wipe them off the face of the Earth. Now the fight's come to us, just as they promised it would, and we seem surprised. We don't even consider that this might be another, stronger warning from God.

A few conservative preachers call terrorism an attack on our religion, but not even they suggest that it might be more than that. They join the secular voices demanding stronger fences on our borders, bigger weapons in our arsenals, and tighter restrictions on our populations, but where are the voices calling for repentance from our lifestyle, or for mass prayer vigils in our auditoriums and stadiums? Are we already so far gone that God has spoken to them as He spoke to Jeremiah. "So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. (Jeremiah 7:16) We'll find out next time in the conclusion of our study in Habakkuk.
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« Reply #48 on: September 07, 2008, 01:37:13 AM »

Habakkuk Speaks Again. Part 2
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps Of The Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley


We've been comparing Habakkuk's prophecies of the Babylonian conquest of Judah in 600 BC with current events where powerful forces from the same region have once again risen in battle against God's people. Is this mere coincidence or is history repeating itself? And if it is, is God warning the West and particularly America that our judgment is due and will come at the hand of Islamic terrorism? Let's continue with chapter two.

Habakkuk 2


I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. (Habakkuk 2:1)

Habakkuk has complained about the Lord's method of judging Judah. "Sure, we deserve it" he said, "But at the hand of the Babylonians? They're ever so much worse than we are, and they don't even believe in you. Do You think they'll credit You for giving them victory over us? No, they'll think it was their god who did this, and they'll worship him for it."

The LORD's Answer

Then the LORD replied: "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

"See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright - but the righteous will live by his faith - indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.

"Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, " 'Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?' Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man's blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

"Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

"Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people's labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

"Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the LORD's right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed man's blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

"Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!' Or to lifeless stone, 'Wake up!' Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." (Habakkuk 2:2-20)

Chapter two deals primarily with the Lord's condemnation of the Babylonians, declaring in no uncertain terms His distaste for those evil people. In language eerily reminiscent of His judgment of Satan in Isaiah 14:1-23 (interestingly called the King of Babylon there) He answers Habakkuk's complaint by promising Babylon's destruction. Cautioning him to be patient, He swears that it will surely happen.

However there would be no reprieve for Judah. In spite of repeated warnings, Judah had failed to repent and would be judged. The only hint of hope is tucked away in verse four and is given to individuals, not the nation. The righteous shall live by faith. Their faith in God and His infinite mercy would see them through this difficult and destructive time.

Is this how it will be in our day? The West is also ripe for judgment, and it appears that Islamic terrorists are positioned to bring it to us just like their ancestors did to Judah. If so, Europe and America are in for even more difficult times, and as His people we're admonished to rely on our faith to see us through. Like it did in Judah's case, the judgment will come, but our enemy's victory will be short lived, as his ultimate destruction awaits the appointed time and will not prove false. His god will be of no help to him then; the error of his teachings exposed. But the Lord will stand in His Holy Temple; let all the Earth be silent before Him.

Habakkuk 3

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On Shigionoth. (Habakkuk 3:1)


Having finally realized the wisdom of God's plan, Habakkuk breaks forth in a passionate prayer of apology. To capture the spirit in which Habakkuk offered this prayer, chapter three was set to a type of music called Shigionoth and sung like a psalm. Shigionoth is a Hebrew musical term describing frenzied, impassioned music and dance. The amplified Bible defines it as wild, enthusiastic and triumphal music. Other definitions include inspired or motivational, an intoxication in the Holy Spirit. Some have called it the rock music of its day. Suffice it to say that Habakkuk was full of the Spirit, spontaneously beginning to sing and then dance as the words of his prayer came gushing forth.

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.
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« Reply #49 on: September 07, 2008, 01:39:37 AM »

Habakkuk Speaks Again. Part 2
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps Of The Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. He stood, and shook the earth; He looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal.

I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. Were you angry with the rivers, O LORD ? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode with your horses and your victorious chariots?

You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear.

In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations. You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot.

With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched, who were in hiding. You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters.

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:2-19)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, King Solomon wrote, (Proverbs 9:10) and as Habakkuk concluded his prayer we can see that he had acquired both. He knew that the behavior of his people deserved judgment, and that the Lord would have to act. In fact he had criticized Him for delaying.

He also knew that the Babylonians were evil and given to excess and that the Lord would have to punish them, too. Isaiah had prophesied that very thing 150 years earlier. I was angry with my people and desecrated my inheritance; I gave them into your hand, and you showed them no mercy. Even on the aged you laid a very heavy yoke. (Isaiah 47:6)

And Jeremiah, a contemporary of Habakkuk's, had written, "But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt," declares the LORD, "and will make it desolate forever. (Jeremiah 25:12)

(Jeremiah had earlier foretold the term of Judah's captivity in Babylon as being 70 years. After that they would return and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. True to His word, the Lord raised up the Medes and the Persians to conquer Babylon 70 years from Babylon's first siege of Jerusalem.)

Far from being rewarded, as Habakkuk had earlier accused the Lord of doing by choosing them as His instrument of judgment, the Babylonians would be sealing their own fate. Their abusive treatment of the Jews entrusted to them would be the last straw for the Lord. But He would choose the time and means of their destruction.

Now I Get It

Habakkuk had seen the light. No matter what happened, he would praise the Lord, relying on his faith to carry him through the difficulties ahead. And that's the most important message for us to receive from this study. The righteous shall live by faith, irrespective of circumstance or situation.

Our leaders tell us that Islamic terrorism of the nuclear variety is all but inevitable. It's not a question of if but when. And if Habakkuk was writing to us as well as Judah, I detected no promise in his book of escape for some. This leads me to believe that the church may still be here when it happens. (According to some, our time of judgment has already begun, that Islamic terrorism declared war on us during the Clinton administration and we just weren't willing to admit it.)

Years ago Billy Graham said that if God doesn't judge America, He'll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. God is just and whatever He permits to befall us is nothing more than we deserve. That being the case, the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation must become our watchword for today. The righteous shall live by faith.

Does that mean that we should just sit here and wait for the inevitable? Of course not. Neither should we deny the reality of our plight as so many in Habakkuk's time did. We have to prepare for the worst. But though our enemies rise up in our midst, our prosperity vanish before our eyes, and our trust in the things of this world totally betray us, yet will we rejoice in the LORD, and be joyful in God our Savior. The Sovereign LORD is our strength; he makes our feet like the feet of a deer, he enables us to go on the heights.

Rejoice in the Lord always, Paul wrote. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7) Sounds like Habakkuk and Paul agree on this. How about you? 10-30-05
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« Reply #50 on: September 07, 2008, 01:41:59 AM »

Haggai Speaks Again - Part 1
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps Of The Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley


Haggai served as the Lord's Prophet to Israel for only four months, beginning on August 29, 520 BC and ending on Dec. 18 of the same year. He spoke to the Israelites who had returned from Babylon in 538 BC to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and re-establish a Jewish presence there.

The first thing the Lord had Haggai tell them was the reason why their labors over much of the 18 years since their return had not been productive. It was because their priorities were out of order. He promised that as soon as they corrected this mistake, the Lord would begin to bless them, to a degree they couldn't have imagined. The very day they took action on his instructions things started changing for the better.

Chapter 1 A Call to Build the House of the LORD

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, (Aug. 29, 520 BC) the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.' "

Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?"

Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the LORD.

"You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands."

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD.

Then Haggai, the LORD's messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: "I am with you," declares the LORD. So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius. (Sept 15, 520 BC)

When Cyrus the Persian defeated Babylon and freed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, only about 50,000 took advantage of his offer. Immediately upon arriving they began work on the Temple and two years later finished its foundation amid great celebration. It was 536 BC.

But then their enthusiasm waned, partly because of regular attacks from neighboring countries who feared a thriving Jewish nation in their midst again and did their best to run them off. This interference caused the Jews to start wondering if they'd stepped out ahead of the Lord. Maybe He was trying to tell them that it wasn't His time yet.

So they stopped work on the Temple and instead began to focus on building their own houses, planting crops, and restoring normal life. But though they had labored long and hard during the ensuing 16 years, they weren't getting anywhere. Then Haggai explained the problem to them. Finish the Lord's house first, he said, and everything else would work out too.

Haggai's admonition to the Israelites is strikingly similar to our Lord's promise to us. Don't worry about what you're going to eat or drink or wear, He said. The Lord knows you need these things. But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness and all these things will be given you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The parallel between the two messages reveals more evidence of how things that are external and physical in the Old Testament become internal and spiritual in the New. To experience the abundant life they desired, the Israelites were admonished to make the Lord's Temple their first priority again in spite of interference from their enemies. We also want an abundant life, and in this age we are His Temple. The enemies that distract us are the pressures of our complex lives. Have we also built our foundation amidst great celebration and then left it alone while we succumbed to the lure of worldly goals?

If, after our salvation experience and the period of spiritual high that followed, we descended slowly back to normal until now we're more focused on what we want than what He wants for us, then that's exactly what we've done. And if all our labor in life hasn't brought us the fulfillment we've been seeking, maybe it's because we haven't yet built a house fit for Him to dwell in. Maybe it's time for us to re-order our priorities, too.

The salvation experience is only the beginning of our walk with the Lord, not its culmination. It's the foundation for all that will come after. Paul wrote, "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)
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« Reply #51 on: September 07, 2008, 01:43:36 AM »

Haggai Speaks Again - Part 1
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps Of The Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

You Gotta Give It Up To Get It

To experience the abundant life that we desire, we have to erect a Temple on the foundation we've built. We do this by choosing to make Jesus Lord of our lives, just as we chose to make Him Savior of our souls. Paul also wrote, God is working everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 ) It's another version of Haggai's message. The key is the Greek word translated love here. It's agapeo and it means to be totally given over to the object of one's affection. Stated another way, it means that if we want the Lord to work everything together for our good, we need to be totally given over to Him. In other words we have to yield control of our lives to Him. Have we?

Here's how you can tell for yourself. Count the number of times you consult with Him each day, how often you seek His advice, His opinion, His permission. When faced with a decision, do you wait for His input before you act? Do you thank Him for every beneficial thing that happens, no matter how small? Do you listen for His voice in quiet moments? Do you see His hand in the beauty of Creation? Do you continue in faith the task he's set before you even in the face of resistance from the enemy?

If you're not happy with your answers, here's more advice from Paul. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

Offering your body as a living sacrifice means placing your life on the altar for Him to use as He pleases. It's the only way to discover His will for you. In view of His mercy, you know there's very little risk involved, but the rewards are beyond comprehension. Start today to make Him Lord of your life. He's promised to make it better than you could ever dream possible.

Next time we'll see that as soon as the Israelites began working on the Temple again they were blessed in every area of their lives just as Haggai had promised them. Powerful kings supported their cause, and their enemies were kept at bay, for when a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7) Their work began to produce the results they sought, their progress was evident to all, and the abundant life they desired was theirs.

In our previous series on Habakkuk, we learned that the believer's only security during the difficult times ahead will come from God, not man. The righteous will live by faith, we're told. (Habakkuk 2:4) Beginning now to make Him Lord of our lives is the best possible way to grow the faith we'll need for the challenges we'll surely face. And it may be the only thing that keeps us secure as the deterioration of our world becomes more and more pronounced in these last days. 11-06-05
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« Reply #52 on: September 07, 2008, 01:46:28 AM »

Haggai Speaks Again. Conclusion
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps of the Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley


In part one of our study of the Book of Haggai, we learned that before the Israelites could live an abundant life upon returning from Babylon, they had to first complete the Lord's Temple. As New Testament believers we're told that we're the Temple of God. Does the same principle hold true for us concerning our abundant life? Let's find out.

Chapter 2. The Promised Glory of the New House

On the twenty-first day of the seventh month (Oct 17, 520 BC), the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: "Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, 'Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?

But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,' declares the LORD. 'Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,' declares the LORD, 'and work. For I am with you,' declares the LORD Almighty. 'This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear. (Haggai 2:1-5)

This was Haggai's second message to the people. (Altogether there were four.) Aside from the dimensions of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the Second Temple was nothing like the first, with none of its many courtyards and plazas, no gold covered ceilings, finely woven tapestries, or intricately carved panels. They were returning from 70 years of captivity, destitute and barely surviving.

According to tradition, those who remembered the first Temple wept when they saw the modest foundations for the second. After King Herod remodeled the second Temple just before the Lord Jesus was born, it was said that so little of the original structure was left that it was all but unrecognizable in the beauty of the finished project. Looking at that foundation, who would have predicted that the Lord would one day inspire someone who wasn't even Jewish to undertake a 40 year expansion and renovation project that would make this humble temple into an architectural marvel, just so the Lord's house would be ready for its most distinguished visitor?

"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty. 'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty. 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty." (Haggai 2:6-9)

This passage points to both first and second comings. The phrase "desired of all nations" refers to the Messiah. Although He never entered the second Temple (He could have set up shop in the Holy of Holies had He chosen to) His death did bring peace between God and man, (Colossians 2:19-20) and at His second coming the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30) Who could imagine a greater glory than that?

Blessings For A Defiled People

On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius (Dec. 18, 520 BC) the word of the LORD came to the prophet Haggai: "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Ask the priests what the law says: If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?' "
The priests answered, "No."
Then Haggai said, "If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?"
"Yes," the priests replied, "it becomes defiled."

Then Haggai said, " 'So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,' declares the LORD. 'Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled. (Haggai 2: 10-14)

According to the Law, consecrated meat in the fold of someone's garment made the garment holy, but that holiness would not automatically transfer to anything else the garment touched. On the other hand, anything that was unclean would immediately make whatever it touched unclean too. Defilement was much more easily transferred than Holiness. Here's the point. God made the Holy Land Holy. But just being back in the Land couldn't make the people holy. To become holy they had to be obedient. In the meantime, since they were defiled everything they touched became defiled. Hence, no abundance.

" 'Now give careful thought to this from this day on - consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the LORD's temple. When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,' declares the LORD. 'From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid. Give careful thought: Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.
" 'From this day on I will bless you.' " (Haggai 2: 15-19)

This concludes message number 3. Their disobedience had caused the fruits of their labors to be diminished during the time they had ignored the Temple, but they hadn't figured this out. Haggai had to explain it to them. Now that they've heard his message and begun to obey, the blessings that had been available all along, and that the Lord longed to provide, would flow. Notice they didn't have to finish the job to begin receiving their blessings, only to start it.

Zerubbabel, The LORD's Signet Ring

The word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: "Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.

" 'On that day,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,' declares the LORD, 'and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,' declares the LORD Almighty." (Haggai 2:20-23)

Haggai's final message. A King or other high official pressed his signet ring into soft wax to create an image of his seal, testifying to the authenticity of the written order or decree to which the wax had been applied. This seal both guaranteed payment of any expenses his subordinates incurred in carrying out his order, and gave them full authority to act on the official's behalf in all matters regarding the order. In our parlance it was a company credit card and power of attorney all rolled up into one. By calling Zerubbabel His signet ring, the Lord publicly guaranteed both the unhindered completion of the Temple, and the promised blessings to His now obedient people.
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« Reply #53 on: September 07, 2008, 01:48:02 AM »

Haggai Speaks Again. Conclusion
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps of the Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Along with other blessings, the Lord would put a stop to the interference Israel's neighbors were causing. Persian King Darius let it be known that he favored Israel's re-building project and was helping with it. Darius being superior to all the other kings (he was a king of kings) this was enough to end the interference and the Temple was completed less than four years later.

What's External And Physical In The Old Becomes Internal And Spiritual In The New

The key word in the Old Testament is "obey", whereas in the New it's "believe". To achieve holiness they had to obey God's Law. We have to believe in the One He has sent. (John 6:29) The Greek word translated "believe" in that verse is also translated "faith". The two meanings can be used interchangeably. (Interestingly, its antonym (a word with the opposite meaning) is disobedience. The Lord has provided so much proof of His existence that He views unbelief as disobedience.)

Being in the Holy Land didn't necessarily make the Israelites holy. Being saved doesn't necessarily make us holy either. That's why the writer to the Hebrews could say, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14) In other words, while salvation (being made perfect) is a once for all time event, sanctification (being made holy) is an ongoing process. It progresses as the believer yields more and more of his life to the Lord, and is only really complete when we're transformed from corruptible into incorruptible.

As we first believe that His death purchased a pardon for our sins, our faith saves us. Then as we come to believe that He has a plan and purpose for us, and in faith make more and more of our lives His to manage, we are being sanctified. This is doing the work He requires of us. This is how we build His Temple and make our selves a living sacrifice. And this is how we qualify for the blessings that have always been available and that He longs to shower down upon us.

At the moment of our first belief, He places His seal within us, the promised Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13) That's His signet ring for us just as Zerubbabel was for the Israelites. In our case it guarantees that the full price was paid for our salvation and authorizes the Holy Spirit to complete the good work begun in us. (Philippians 1:6) Then as we initiate the sanctification process the real King of kings sees to it that the interference our enemy's been causing ceases to impede us. (Romans 8:32) Like the Israelites, we don't have to complete the job to begin receiving our blessings, only to start it.

If your life isn't all you think it could be, and no matter how much you've acquired you don't feel like you're getting ahead, ask Him if it's time to go back to building His Temple. Ask Him if you've been foregoing some of the blessings He has for you in your headlong effort to get all you can on your own. Remember, seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness and all these things will be given you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
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« Reply #54 on: September 11, 2008, 09:18:28 PM »

The Terminal Generation
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps of the Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley


"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:34-35).

As you probably know, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have written a non-fiction book called "Are We Living In The End Times?" in response to the many questions they've received from folks who've read their "Left Behind" series. Their goal is to provide insights into Biblical prophecy that will help readers conclude that the correct answer to the question raised in their book's title is a resounding YES.

As I was reading the book the other night I came across a point that I think bears a closer look. This point addresses the length of a Biblical generation and is significant due to the popular (mis)interpretation of Matthew 24:34 referenced above. Many folks take this verse to mean that the generation the Lord is referring to is the one being born about the time the signs He's been describing start to appear. Nothing wrong with that, but then they assume that all the signs will appear and the Lord will return within the time span of one generation.

What's a Generation?

This "one generation" idea has Biblical precedence since all the major prophecies pointing to the first coming were fulfilled within the generation in which the Lord was born. So right away everyone starts speculating on the length of a Biblical generation and that's where the trouble starts. First of all the terms generation and life span are not equivalent, and yet some people go to the verses defining life span (Psalms 90:10) to determine the length of a generation.

Similarly, when the Israelites refused to go into the Promised Land for fear of the Amorites the Lord condemned all the adults except for Caleb and Joshua to death. He said they'd wander in the desert one year for every day the 12 spies were in the land and during that time all the adults age 20 and over would die. The spies were in the land for 40 days so the term of punishment was set at 40 years. During that 40-year period, the Israelites conducted an average of 85 funerals each DAY to remind them of their failure to obey until all the adults had died (Numbers 14). This event led us to speculate that the length of a generation is 40 years when in fact the Lord had really limited the life span of those adult Israelites to coincide with the term of the punishment.

Then there's the passage in Genesis where the Lord tells Abraham that his descendants would spend 400 years in Egypt as slaves before coming out with great wealth. And then "in the 4th generation your descendants will come back here (Canaan) for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (Genesis 15:13-16). This passage appears to equate 400 years with 4 generations, making a generation 100 years long, but careful study reveals this is not the case. The numbers 400 and 4 refer to two different things. True, the Israelites were in Egypt for about 400 years, but after they left, the generation that finally crossed the Jordan with Joshua was the 4th from Moses. (read Moses... Prince of Egypt)

This mystery unravels with a simple trip to the dictionary, where the length of a generation is defined as "the average interval of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring." These days no one would wait till age 40 to begin having children, but in Biblical times that was sometimes the case. And of course the key to the definition lies in the word average, so we know we're dealing with generalities here. But is it possible to attach even such a fuzzy time frame as this to Matthew 24:34?
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« Reply #55 on: September 11, 2008, 09:20:28 PM »

The Terminal Generation
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps of the Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

There are three spans of time laid out in Matthew's gospel that can help define the average length of time in a Biblical generation. I'm talking about the genealogy of Jesus, divided into 3 groups of 14 generations each; one from Abraham to David, one from David to the Babylonian exile, and one from the Exile to the Messiah (Matthew 1:17). The first one (Abraham to David) is subject to interpretation, but the second and third are clearer. According to the NIV study notes David was born in 1040 BC and Jesus was born no later than 4BC. 28 generations between 1040 BC and 4 BC makes the average length of those generations 37 years.

So What's The Point?


But all this, while interesting, may be irrelevant because Matthew 24:34 simply says that the generation being born when the sign fulfillment begins would still be alive at the Lord's return. We've just assumed that meant all the signs would be fulfilled within 40 years or so. The dictionary also defines a generation as a group of individuals born and living at about the same time and this may be the most appropriate definition to use in interpreting Matthew 24:34.

The verse doesn't say that no subsequent generations would be born, nor does it say that all the signs would be fulfilled before the birth of the next generation, but rather within the lifetimes of those who are born about the time the fulfillment begins. And since He's talking about conditions at the end of the age, we should look at the current length of an average life as well as Biblical revelation to get an idea of the time involved.

When's He Coming?

In any countdown to the 2nd coming the year 1948 is viewed as the obvious starting point, but in Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy the countdown to the 1st coming began with the rebuilding of Jerusalem, not the re-gathering of the nation (Daniel 9:24-27). If history repeats itself we should probably consider using 1967, the year Jerusalem became a Jewish city again instead of 1948, the year the nation was reborn. But the biggest mistake we've made by far (myself included) is adding only 40 years to whatever date we choose when in fact a better number is probably 70 or 80. That would still put the 2nd coming somewhere within the next 20 to 50 years maximum and the rapture no less than 7-10 years earlier, within most of our lifetimes. Keep in mind that the rapture and 2nd coming are only related to the extent that one must precede the other. The Rapture of the church is a secret event that could literally happen any moment now, while there are still several other major events that must occur before the 2nd coming.

It's provocative to note that whether it's a secular or Bible based viewpoint, the most popular estimate for the end of the age is somewhere within the first quarter of this new century. But the real kicker in the Matthew passage we began with is verse 35. "Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35). This is as strong a commitment as you'll find anywhere in Scripture. The Lord will return as promised, and soon. Even Heaven and Earth, two things we think of as absolutely permanent, are not as permanent as His promise. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.
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« Reply #56 on: September 11, 2008, 09:27:14 PM »

Israel Against the World?
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps of the Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley


This is the word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares: "I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. (Zechariah 12:1-3)

Most students of prophecy correctly see this passage as being fulfilled after the church is out of the picture and godless world leaders are free to challenge Israel's right to exist with impunity. The prevailing thinking is that as long as the evangelical church has any influence, particularly in the US, some measure of restraint will be exercised against the Moslem intention of eliminating Israel altogether.

The increasing frailty of our influence was evidenced this week as US Secretary of State Colin Powell prepared to meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat. On Thursday, after meeting with Moslem heads of state, Powell joined with Moslem, Russian, and European leaders to call for Israel's immediate withdrawal from Palestinian cities and to cease their efforts at rooting out terrorists and dismantling their infrastructure. There's incredible pressure on Israel to stop short of achieving their goal and Powell's statement only served to increase it.

What's The Point?

At issue of course is not just the escalating violence in the region and the real possibility that it will spill over into neighboring countries. (For example Syria has just given the Lebanese Hezbollah permission to begin lobbing artillery and missiles, provided by Iran, into the Golan Heights and Israel has begun to retaliate against Lebanon.) This week the Arab world was pulling out all the stops in trying to force Israel to withdraw before the battle in Jenin could be won, and before the sieges in Bethlehem and Ramallah could force those hiding in the Church of the Nativity and Arafat's headquarters to surrender.

Aside from the fact that many senior leaders of Arafat's terrorist coalition are trapped in these 3 locations, the real battle, as with everything involving Israel, is spiritual. The Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, Yassar Arafat, Osama bin Laden and every other Muslim leader knew that an Israeli victory in Jenin could shatter the myth of the invincible warrior for Islam. With Powell, the Russians, and the Europeans joining in it looked as if the Moslems had indeed aligned the whole world against Israel. The Israelis refused to yield to this pressure and as of this morning it appears as if their army has been successful in Jenin. The Jenin refuge camp was the major center of terrorist activity in the West Bank with extensive training and bomb making capabilities and offered the strongest resistance of any targets in the Israeli campaign.

A Rock And A Hard Place

Remember, Israel's very existence as a nation violates provisions of the Koran, and Israel's victories over Islamic forces are therefore intolerable. That's why in the past, world opinion has always been mustered to force Israel to stop before achieving victory. Conversely, there are many in Israel who believe they have no right to give up any land west of the Jordan River. The Lord commanded them, "The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants." (Leviticus 25:23). The National Religious Party, representing this view, has just joined the Israeli government strengthening Sharon's position against the liberal faction who still clings to the land for peace strategy and giving him the political ability to stand against all the pressure.

Sharon, a 73-year-old former army general accused world leaders of turning a blind eye to Palestinian suicide bombings and said that proved Israel must defend itself regardless of international criticism. He complained that while world leaders regularly telephoned him to protest at Israel's military siege of Arafat in his West Bank headquarters, he rarely heard a word of concern about Israeli civilians killed and maimed in suicide bombings.

He also vowed not to be press-ganged by the international community. "Nobody will enforce upon us any decisions or resolutions that might affect our future. Israel is a wonderful country, a courageous country and we should be left to defend ourselves in this historic place," Sharon said.
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« Reply #57 on: September 11, 2008, 09:29:37 PM »

Israel Against the World?
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps of the Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

A Real Eye Opener

After his meetings with Sharon and other Israeli officials, Powell seemed to have modified his earlier position, reminding the world of President Bush's April 4 statement that terrorism must be fought and defeated. They had shown him captured documents that clearly indicate Arafat's personal involvement in the attacks against Israeli citizens, and apparently convinced him of their need to continue with their military actions against terrorist centers. A suicide bombing (now being called homicide bombings by the White House) only mile from Powell's location caused him to postpone his meeting with Arafat until he received Arafat's condemnation of the attack. He later received it and met with Arafat today, but the meeting achieved no progress.

Powell also called his visit to the border with Lebanon a real eye opener. As a military man, he recognizes the threat that the missiles and artillery arrayed against Israel's northern borders presents. This armament has been provided by Iran and set up with Syria's assistance and permission.

His in person assessment of the situation in Israel may have caused Powell to soften the hard line position he had voiced following meetings with EU, Russian and Moslem leaders before arriving in Israel. Phone consultations with the EU and Russians before agreeing to meet with Arafat have apparently caused them to soften their positions as well. On Tuesday, Powell will be in Damascus to warn Syria about the consequences of allowing the Hezbollah to threaten Israel's north. We'll see what reaction that brings.

In the past Soviet might has been applied to force the US to make Israel quit short of victory. For now there's no one left to provide the Moslem world with that kind of clout. Could we therefore be leading up to a perceived Israeli victory over terrorism setting the stage for the false peace required before the battle of Ezekiel 38-39 comes? Time will tell. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.
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« Reply #58 on: September 11, 2008, 09:53:27 PM »

Mystery Babylon ... What's The Mystery?
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps Of The Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley


    Seems like it's popular to identify Mystery Babylon as New York City again, especially after 9/11. The facts that:

    1) you can connect the Scriptural dots and come clearly and directly to Babylon in Iraq,

    2) there's not a shred of Biblical evidence to support the New York City view, and

    3) there's no compelling reason to spiritualize the Biblical passages on the subject,
    seem not to bother this view's adherents.


    The late Dr. David L. Cooper advised, "Where the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate text clearly indicate otherwise." It's come to be known as the Golden Rule of interpretation. We'll apply it to see what the Bible says about Mystery Babylon.

    The first place to look is the only place it's mentioned, Revelation 17. There the words "Mystery Babylon the Great" appear, written on the forehead of a symbolic woman seated atop a symbolic beast with seven heads and ten horns in a vision John was given. We know they're symbolic because in the passage the angel describing them says so, and tells us what they symbolize. This fits with Dr. Cooper's rule.

    The angel explained to John that the beast symbolized Satan, who would become the object of worship in the world and manifest himself in one we call the antichrist. The seven heads were seven hills and also seven kingdoms. Five of these had fallen when John was writing (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece) one was currently in power (Rome) and one was still to come (hold that thought). The ten horns were ten kings who didn't yet have a kingdom but would each receive one for the purpose of serving the antichrist and making war against the Lord. And finally, the woman was the city that in John's time was ruling over the world.

    When In Rome ...

    So far we have three references to Rome. It sits on seven hills, it was the kingdom currently in power, and it was the city from which the world was ruled. Most scholars accept the fact that in John's time, when the Revelation was written, the vision of the woman on the beast represented Rome, and that's why she was called Mystery Babylon.

    (In the Greek language, the word we translate mystery literally means a revealed secret. The pagan religious system first practiced in Babylon had been transplanted to Pergamus in Biblical times (see Revelation 2:12-17) but in the 4th century AD would be merged with Christianity in Rome. That's the secret John was revealing.)

    Through out much of church history Mystery Babylon has been a euphemism for Rome. But what about today?

    The Roman Empire was never really defeated in the sense that the other ancient kingdoms were. It was split up and parts of it were overcome, but in the 300's it was transformed into the Holy Roman Empire and for all practical purposes ruled over Europe until the 1500's. And even after that parts of the old Roman Empire were pre-imminent in the world for a time, specifically Spain and England.

    Currently the USA is the undisputed super-power, but lately the European Union has begun challenging the USA for leadership in the world. This turn of events is particularly interesting to prophecy buffs because of Daniel 9:26. "After the sixty-two 'sevens, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed."

    Those of us who believe that this portion of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy is still in the future, knowing that the Romans destroyed the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (The Temple) in 70 AD, believe that it predicts a ruler emerging from a revived Roman Empire at the end of the age. This ruler is called the antichrist by most, who also see the European Union as a revival of the Roman Empire. That being the case, the kingdom described to John in Revelation 17 as the one that was still to come would be the European Union, a modern version of the Roman Empire.

    When the antichrist comes to power, we believe he'll divide the world into 10 regions and place a leader over each of them, hence the 10 kings loyal to him.
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« Reply #59 on: September 11, 2008, 09:56:54 PM »

Mystery Babylon ... What's The Mystery?
Ikvot ha'Mashiach (Footsteps Of The Messiah)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

    But Wait There's More

    Seeing Rome as both the 4th and 5th kingdoms of John's vision fits with other prophecies as well. For instance, in Daniel 2&7 we're given two views of Gentile Dominion, the time in world history when gentile powers are superior to Israel. In both the dream Daniel interprets in chapter 2 and his parallel vision of monsters coming out of the sea in chapter 7, there were only four gentile kingdoms identified from Daniel's day to the Kingdom Age. By comparing the symbolism of the visions with what we know of history, we can identify the first one as Babylon, in power when Daniel was alive having conquered both Egypt and Assyria. Then came the Medo-Persian Empire, followed by Greece and finally Rome. The only kingdom after Rome is the Kingdom of our Lord, a Kingdom that will never be defeated or given to another. So Rome is the last gentile world power before the Lord's return.

    In Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2) of the huge poly-metallic statue that symbolized the four gentile powers, the two legs of iron represent Rome's Eastern and Western components that ultimately became the Holy Roman Empire's Catholic and Orthodox churches. The feet and toes of iron mixed with clay stand for the European Union and signify the problems that have plagued Europe's attempts to unite (iron and baked pottery neither mix nor adhere well) as well as the 10 regions (the toes) into which antichrist will divide the world. Interestingly, it was the Treaty of Rome that in 1957 gave the European Union its beginning. So the clear hints of the two incarnations of Rome have now been verified in history.

    What's The Point?

    So how does all that relate to literal Babylon? Revelation 18 claims that in the final days the City of Babylon will once again be a world center for government, commerce, and religion and describes the worldwide distress caused by its destruction just before the Lord's return. For years scholars, believing Babylon to have been destroyed long ago, searched for the modern city they believed the passage to be symbolizing, and many chose New York. But during the Gulf War they discovered that ancient Babylon had never been destroyed in the way the Bible describes. Further research showed that it's been continuously inhabited since the days of Nebuchadnezzar, and Saddam Hussein has expended much effort in restoring it. More on this below.

    But before we go on, let's understand a little more about why some still believe Revelation 18 describes New York City. Being home to the UN it could be considered the center of world government, the New York Stock Exchange has a tremendous influence over world commerce, and of course it's located in the USA, the most obviously Christian nation in the world today which connects it with a major religion. And then there's the indisputable fact that having been so richly blessed the US certainly deserves to be judged, and New York is arguably its most prominent city.

    What Makes You So Great?

    Biblical scholars from other countries complain that only the arrogance of Americans causes us to look for ourselves in the Bible. Sure we're on top now, but the US is such a newcomer on the world scene, barely over 200 years old in a history that at its most conservative estimate stretches back over 6000 years. And the battle between the city of Satan (Babylon) and the city of God (Jerusalem) had been raging for several thousand years before America was even discovered. In a nutshell, the long view of history argues persuasively for reading Revelation 18 literally. If so, how does Babylon get to be center stage again after so many centuries of obscurity?

    He's Up In The Night

    In the Book of Zechariah, a series of night visions concerning the end times occupies the first six chapters. The one recorded in chapter 5 gives us the answer. Zechariah describes being told in this vision to inspect a large basket with a lead cover. An angel tells him the basket contains the iniquity of the people through out the earth. When he looks inside, he sees a woman, who the angel identifies as the symbol of their wickedness. Then two other women, each with the wings of a stork, lift the basket and begin to fly away with it. (Storks, being unclean birds, would not defile themselves by carrying this load of wickedness. Leviticus 11:19)

    "Where are they taking it?" Zechariah asks. "To the country of Babylon," the angel replies, "To build a house for it." (Literally to the plains of Shinar, the location in ancient Mesopotamia of the City of Babylon). "When it's ready, the basket will be set there in its place." (Zechariah 5:5-11). The fact that an actual physical location is given for the basket's final destination should discourage anyone from spiritualizing that part of the passage. Again we've applied Dr. Cooper's Golden Rule of interpretation.
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