Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Signs of the Times - Part 2

Let’s continue in the Book of Mathew chapter 24:

"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. (Mathew 24:15-25)

The ‘abomination that causes desolation’ is a difficult topic. It’s difficult because there are two possible interpretations of this prophecy. This prophecy either describes the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman Empire or it is describing a future event that has not taken place. Much has been written about this event mentioned by the prophet Daniel and Jesus. In the Left Behind book series, the authors interpret this as a future event with the antichrist (Nicolae Carpathia) riding through a rebuilt Jewish Temple on a pig, proclaiming to be God. We now know that this is pure fiction. So, is it possible that this remains a future event? It’s very difficult to say. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure of the answer. Jesus could have been warning His followers that when they see Roman soldiers entering the Temple (an abomination in a holy place), drop everything and get out of the city to spare yourselves. I don’t believe this 100% because we’re also told that ‘For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.’ Jesus is the Lord and Savior of the whole world, not just the Jewish nation, so was this event in 70 A.D. something that caused the most distress the world has ever seen? I don’t believe that we’ve seen the worst that satan is going to throw at us, so it is certainly possible that this is a future event. If it is a future event, the key to unlocking this mystery is determining where ‘the holy place’ is. Would the Lord consider a rebuilt Jewish temple that offered animal sacrifices His holy place? We previously discussed this - I believe the answer is no. We are told in the New Testament that we are the Lord’s church (not a building or structure)– those justified by faith. So, if this is a future event, where will this ‘abomination’ take place? This would lead me to believe that this prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. The end result of my study of this prophecy is that I don’t know the answer with 100% certainty. If it is a future event, we will need to spiritually discern it.

If this prophecy is describing a future event, how bad will it be? Jesus makes it crystal clear for us – ‘there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.’ Jesus tells us that when this takes place, all of us will be affected. If it were not for God’s mercy for His children, no one would survive. I believe that Jesus could by describing Armageddon. Nuclear war on a global scale. It’s also interesting to note that we are told in multiple verses in the Bible that before the Lord’s return, the sun will be darkened and the moon will turn to blood. This could very well be describing how the dust and debris in the atmosphere from this worldwide event causes the sun to appear darkened and the moon to appear red. I believe this could be describing the time between the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ and the Lord’s return.

‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.’ (Joel 2:28-35)

Notice that the Lord mentions ‘fire and billows of smoke’ and we are told, once again, that the true children of God will be saved. We are also told that many will prophecy, dream and see visions. Throughout the Bible we see that the Lord tells us what He is going to do and why. He will also speak to us at the end of this age through these prophecies, dreams and visions.

The Book of Revelation also reveals judgments that affect the appearance of the sun and moon:

‘I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.’ (Revelation 6:12-13)

Again, it appears that our view of the sun, moon and stars will be affected by an event on earth.

‘The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.’ (Revelation 8:12)

Once again, the sun, moon and stars turn dark due to a judgment from the Lord. Are all of these verses related to the same event? It is certainly possible. It is also possible that multiple events will have the same result – darkened skies.

‘Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man's heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame. See, the day of the LORD is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger — to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.’ (Isaiah 13:6-13)

Here we see again that the sun, moon and stars are darkened. The word ‘desolate’ is once again used to describe the earth. Do you see a pattern? For those who question if the Bible is really the Word of God, remember that the men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write these words (in both the Old and New Testaments) lived hundreds of years apart – yet the message was the same. You see this time and again within the Lord’s Word. We are also given the reasons for these things – sin and evil in the world. When the time comes according to God, He will punish the world for its sins. We see this described again in Zephaniah 1:14-18:

‘The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD's wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.’ (Zephaniah 1:14-18)

We see, once again, a description of the same terrible event. Once again ‘darkness and gloom…clouds and blackness’ are mentioned to describe our atmosphere resulting from these events. Why are these events taking place? It’s clear - ‘….they have sinned against the Lord.’ In our physical world, how will the Lord do this? I believe that it is clear this is the result of worldwide war - ‘a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers’. There is only one thing in the world today that could cause such widespread destruction – nuclear weapons. Also note that we’re told that all the wealth in the world cannot prevent this from happening. None of the things of the world can protect us if we turn away from God - our wealth, our weapons, our military strength – they mean nothing.

Once again, we’re also told that those who are following the Lord are offered the Lord’s protection:

‘Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger.’ (Zephaniah 2:3)

The Bible tells us that even though all of these things have been foretold in God’s Word, even though there will be many who preach the Truth during these times, most of the world will not repent. They will not turn back to God:

‘The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk.’ (Revelation 9:20)

Why are we told all of these things? Why has the Lord instructed me to write about them? We all need to wake up to what is happening in the world and what is going to happen. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually.

‘These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:1-6)

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