Nearing the End of the Age
According to the Bible, the Son of God became a man and entered human history "late" in time (Galatians 4:4). Furthermore the past two thousand years between the two advents of Jesus are spoken of in Scripture as "the last days"--as if they were but a few short days in extent (Heb. 1:2, 2 Peter 3:8, 2 Tim. 3:1).
If the Apostles and early Christians anticipated the second coming of Jesus in their lifetimes, (and they did) how much closer are we now to the time when God will intervene actively in world affairs to bring justice and peace to our beleaguered planet? (Titus 2:11-15, Zeph. 1).
Secular history ignores the behind-the-scenes movements of God in history but those who take time to know the Bible (and the Lord Jesus) are bound to see things very differently. News from the Middle East this summer has been a series of cliff-hangers with precariously balanced forces of violence and war poised for release on every side. Ominous threats issue forth almost daily from every quarter of the region, along with apocalyptic rhetoric threatening annihilation of one's enemies. World leaders as well as locals in the Middle East have been constantly scrambling this summer to hedge off one crisis after another. There are alliances everywhere. Every major nation in the world has entwined itself in the region. Age-old animosities are coming to a head--as in ancient times. The Middle East today is neither quiet nor stable.
Teaching the book of Isaiah the past five months has been very refreshing to me. (See http://ldolphin.org/isaiah). Israel's great 7th century BC prophet presents us with many beautiful pictures of Messiah, seen in both his first and his second advents--with no gap in between. (1)
Israel's key place in world history, fully foreseen 27 centuries ago by Isaiah, is becoming impossible for even the spiritual blind secular media to complete ignore. In short, Israel is the key to world peace, but that peace will elude us until Jesus returns in power and full military glory. There will be no peace without the Prince of Peace and His hands-on, in person involvement in world affairs.
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend forever, Nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would fail before Me, And the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his [Israel's] covetousness I was angry and struck him; I hid and was angry, And he went on backsliding in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, And restore comforts to him And to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near," Says the LORD, "And I will heal him."
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt. "There is no peace," Says my God, "for the wicked." (Isaiah 57:19-21)
The restoration of Jewish people to the historic land of Israel began towards the end of the 19th Century, followed by independence from Great Britain and statehood in 1948. Israel's restoration has been accompanied in the past hundred years by the rising from the ashes of surrounding nations--most of them hostile to the Jews. To those who know their Bibles well, the stage is obviously being set for the climactic events of the end of the present age which will culminate in the return of Jesus to our beleaguered planet. When He returns it will be to Jerusalem, Israel, not to Zion, Illinois.
God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks onto the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right, but what is the good of saying you're on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else--something it never entered your head to conceive--comes crashing in; something so beautiful to us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love, or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down, when it's become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realize it or not. Now, today, in this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever; we must take it or leave it. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
The tiny state of Israel has fought or endured at least one war in every decade since its rebirth – 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 1991 and 2006 – not including the unrelenting terrorist war waged against her. Why should this be the case? Our planet is a violent place and becoming more so ever year, but Israel is special. There is one true God, and that God happens to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Jesus.
A Jewish descendant of King David, Jesus of Nazareth, now ruling the universe from the heavens, will shortly return to reign on earth--and He'll reign from Jerusalem (http://ldolphin.org/kingdom/). This is the clear promise of both the Old and New Testaments.
About 3500 years ago, at the time of their exodus from Egypt, God called the descendants of Abraham through his son Jacob to be a unique nation--a model for other nations intended to show the world what a relationship with the true God should look like (Exodus 19:5-6). Historically, the nation of Israel has repeatedly not lived up to her calling--to say the least. But that one Jewish man, Jesus, has met God's national requirements on Israel's behalf, thus making it possible for the nation to be fully justified and vindicated--when they return to faith in the God of their fathers. Obviously this has not happened yet in history.
Israel today is almost entirely a secular people with only a tiny "believing remnant" among her people in the land. About 40% of the Jews in the world live in Israel at present, another 40% live in the U.S. and 20% live elsewhere, (see http://jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/jewpop.html). When He returns, Jesus will gather all the remaining Jews back to the land--and all will be believers (Matt. 24:31).
The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, and his resurrection three days later, made it possible for God to ultimately fully restore the nation of Israel to her intended status as head of the nations. The book of Isaiah emphasizes this again and again. But God's choice of Israel as a model nation had in mind the well-being and healing of all of the nations as well. The message of God's long-term favor to Israel has vastly expanded since the resurrection of Jesus. God loves Israel, but He also loves all the rest of us as well. All people everywhere are welcome to come into His family. (2)
1 "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters;
And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live…
6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
12 "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the LORD for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
Because of their unique calling, God holds Israel to a very high standard of performance. This Jewish people have suffered more than any other people in history for at least 3500 years--and there is much more to come. As noted, Israel is today a secular nation. Only a tiny few of her citizens--a much-hassled believing remnant--call upon their God for daily help. When Paul in Romans 9-11 declares, in as careful set of arguments which would hold up in a court of law, that "all Israel will be saved" he is speaking of "true Israel," as defined in Romans 4. This final transformation of Israel ultimately means all who survive will have placed their faith in Yeshua. For today's professing Israel to be changed into believing Israel will only happen near the end of a terrible world war when Israel (and Jerusalem) will be overrun by the nations of the world in the most terrible of all world wars.
The arrival of Jesus to prevent mankind's total self-destruction will be just in time. The prophet Zechariah (c. 520 BC) wrote of this:
Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You. It shall come to pass in that day That there will be no light; The lights will diminish. It shall be one day Which is known to the LORD-- Neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen That it will be light. And in that day it shall be That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be-- "The LORD is one," And His name one. (Zechariah 14:1-9)
Zechariah also describes the 11th hour national repentance of the Jewish people during the time of this last terrible world war (also called "the time of Jacob's trouble" see Daniel 12:1, Jer. 30:7)
The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. "And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it. "In that day," says the LORD, "I will strike every horse with confusion, and its rider with madness; I will open My eyes on the house of Judah, and will strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. "And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in the LORD of hosts, their God.’ "In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a firepan in the woodpile, and like a fiery torch in the sheaves; they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place--Jerusalem. "The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah. "In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. "It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. "In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. "And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; "the family of the house of Levi by itself, an their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; "all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves. "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. "It shall be in that day," says the LORD of hosts, "that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land…
And it shall come to pass in all the land," Says the LORD, "That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’"
The nations of the world will not be bystanders to Israel's great final war. One has only to read the last book of the New Testament--the book of the Revelation, to see that the cities of the world will be laid waste and the majority of earth's inhabitants will perish in the coming holocaust. (Recommended reading: http://raystedman.org/revelation/).
Apart from a few diligent Bible teachers who call our attention to the certitude of the terrible--and glorious--events which will close the age we live in, today one finds wide-spread Biblical illiteracy among "Christians" on every side. Just when we most need to be Biblically well-informed, many churches are dumbing-down their flocks with irrelevant teaching and preaching. Erroneous teaching on Bible prophecy, even open heresy, is everywhere. Perhaps this is because of the failure of teachers of God's word to take ALL of God's word into account when understanding God's grand plan for human history. One can not understand parts of the Bible fully without knowing the whole. Truth on many important themes of the Bible, especially prophecy, is not found in any one place in the Bible, it is scattered throughout the entire Word, "…here a little there a little, line upon line, verse upon verse."
Recently I listened again to four amazing special messages by the late Ray C. Stedman, my mentor and pastor. Though delivered 24 years ago, I found the content was gripping and refreshingly clear--more relevant now than ever. I heartily recommend Ray's series, "The Fate of the Earth" -- http://ldolphin.org/fate.html.
Very briefly, the current peace negotiations in the Middle East will finally succeed when the European nations (the EU) will successfully negotiate a peace settlement with Israel's neighbors--probably in the form of a "land for peace" treaty. The Jews will at last find a way to build their long-awaited Third Temple and resume Old Covenant sacrifices and services. (Keep up on these developments from our web site on the Temple Mount, http://templemount.org/).
The current government of Israel is none-too-stable. These days God fearing Jews eagerly await what they believe will be the first coming of their Messiah. However they are convinced that this Messiah can not possibly be Jesus (see http://ldolphin.org/messiah.html). This of course means much more trouble ahead for Israel--and for the world. Israel is the linchpin of the nations and a false messiah wheeling and dealing in Israel spells terrible trouble for everyone. But Jesus has already warned about this, "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive." (John 5:43) Sure enough, Israel's end-of-the-age peace treaty (her "covenant of death" to quote from Isaiah 28)--will fail catastrophically and the last great world war will erupt, (Matthew 24:15-22).
As our age closes, a false, counterfeit church will also rise to a position of high influence soon after the Christian remnant, the true church, departs, (http://ldolphin.org/Return.html). Religious as well as secular deception around the world will greatly increase.
Just as God will save only a remnant in Israel, God is not saving all professing Christians, nor entire nations. Yahweh, the God of Israel always deals with individuals and with "remnants" (http://ldolphin.org/Remn.html). In mercy, God will greatly expand world-wide evangelism during the coming time of the end, bringing millions into a personal saving relationship with His Son during the final seven-year period after the departure of the church, and preceding the second coming of Jesus (see http://raystedman.org/olivet/ and http://ldolphin.org/GreaterMoses.html).
By the way, the last world war will begin with an invasion of Israel by Egypt (Daniel 11:36ff), followed by an immediate response from the North (Russia, Syria, Iran and allies). Quickly nations from the East and the West will be drawn together into this terrible conflagration, popularly known as the "campaign of Armageddon." Ray Stedman sketches the major events of this war in his "Fate…" series referenced above. On the one hand, it is God who will "call" (i.e. "drag") the armies of the world to fight one another over Jerusalem. The nations of the world will enter the fray seeking to protect their own self-interests and to "stabilize" the region, probably also intending to solve once and for all "the Jewish problem."
But early into this horrific war, it will be come clear to the gathered armies of the world that their real enemy is God! It is at that point Jesus, Commander in Chief of the Armies of the Lord, (Yahweh Sabaoth) will step into world history in a clear and visible way.
A momentous, world-wide earthquake--involving the shaking of both earth and the heavens--will accompany the return of the Lord to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11), (see http://ldolphin.org/shakedown.html).
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, "that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh." (Revelation 19:11-21)
Incidentally, the judgment of the nations and of every individual who has ever lived, has already been placed in the hands of Jesus of Nazareth according to John Chapter 5 (http://ldolphin.org/judgment.html). Jesus is earth's coming King presented to us in Psalm 2.
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed,
saying, "Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us."
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The LORD shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
"Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion."
"I will declare the decree:
The LORD has said to Me,
‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’"
Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
(1) The church is not mentioned in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the two advents of Messiah seem to merge--posing a real problem for many of today's Rabbis. At times messiah is seen coming in peace riding on a donkey as king of the Jews, and then he is shown as a conquering warrior leading the armies of heaven. Only in the New Testament are we given information about Christ's bride, the church, a called-out covenant body of believers sandwiched in between Messiah's first and second advent, (Zech 9:9, Is. 63, Matt. 16:13ff, Eph. 3:1ff, Rev. 19:11ff)
(2) God has always been available to all people everywhere, since Adam and Eve, but the open proclamation of this fact--the gospel--has been made known progressively in the course of history. Simply put, God has always saved people by grace through faith in Him and in His promises. He has never saved people because of their deeds or their best efforts to follow the Law or because of their lineage or religious background. Paul argues this in Romans in great detail. See http://ldolphin.org/crucified.html.
In order to preserve Ray Stedman's vast legacy of sermons and books, a group of us set up an independent web site several years ago where all of Ray's works could be centralized. Do visit http://raystedman.org/! Many of Ray's books are back in print; especially recommended are Job and Leviticus. Ray's expository studies in the Corinthians letters are due off the press in September. We've also discovered a good number of long-lost sermons by Ray "in the attic" of the church. See http://raystedman.org/attic.html.
A group of us is available to answer email--not only regarding Ray Stedman's web site, but from any other source as well. Visit http://paracleteforum.org for more information, and send us your email.
I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching all of Isaiah in a 21 week series at Peninsula Bible Church in the Forum Class. The messages are available in mp3 on my web site http://ldolphin.org/isaiah/ or by Podcast.
Our Wednesday night men's group, The Brothers of Thunder, completed a detailed study of The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis last month. We are currently working through Paul's letter to the Philippians. James Boice's commentary has proven to be excellent and is very highly recommended (Philippians, Baker Books, 2006).
How you can help: A few months ago a trusted brother took me to lunch after church. I happened to mention that I was getting old and probably should "downsize" my ministry and reduce my already-cramped living situation. Bob immediately disagreed! He felt it was the time for expansion! He suggested I needed to be able to accommodate more houseguests and visitors--and I clearly needed more logistical support. How this could come about I have no idea--but, yes, I do need more space and more help. But I don't want to build a permanent organization or institution which will survive my home-going as a monument to my ego. I presently spend many hours each day answering email, and all manner of friends drop in for one-on-one time visits or perhaps an all-day or weekend Bible study. Our present tiny condo living room often doubles as sleeping space when visitors stay over. A larger house with a small live-in trusted staff would be a huge help. I'd like to delegate such things as housekeeping and meals for example. Hopefully I can get some books written. None of my friends wants us to expand what we are now doing by acting on our own initiative, or for the wrong reasons. Since we have no clear plan for "upscaling," your prayers are solicited. If anything develops we want it to clearly come from our Lord and not from any of us. Ray Stedman once joked, "About the time the zits clear up, the mind begins to go." My zits are gone at last, so hopefully I have some productive time left, should the Lord tarry. How can I be more effective?
George Barna in a recent survey noted that increasing numbers of younger Americans are disengaged from church and from faith, (http://barna.org report for June 11, 2007). I believe in both small groups and the local church. But in reality many of my friends are not willing to get involved in a local church at all--for a dozen different reasons. Or they attend church merely out of a sense of duty--their hearts are often elsewhere. Of special note to me is that dozens (if not hundreds) of students at nearby San Jose State University have become Christians in the past year--right out of the blue--yet many are not plugged into local churches. They surely need teaching, mentoring and fellowship with live local churches for their long-term survival. I believe in the local church! But I see a huge disconnect between many people I know and "the church."
An hour in church on Sunday morning with semi-strangers is hardly enough fellowship to produce the wholeness and healing many people today desperately need. There is a great need these days for real community among Christians, and the discovery that we are one, big extended family who belong to one another for this life and for the next.
I am constantly engaged in discussions with "nominal Christians" who find their lives dull and boring. Naturally I hope with some coaxing and prodding some of these individuals will choose to enter in fully to genuine, authentic Christian living, (http://ldolphin.org/exchanged.html). The counterfeit kind of Christian living which the majority of professing Christians default towards is well attested to in Ray Stedman's classic book, Authentic Christianity.
We should not forget that the last recorded words of Jesus (Rev. 2-3) are addressed to seven representative churches. Each letter closes with special words of encouragement for the "overcomers" in each church, that is words for the believing remnant.
My dear friend Glenn Miller of the Christian Think Thank, http://christian-thinktank.com/ thinks my calling in life is that of "God's sheep dog." If that is true, I feel honored to serve in that capacity, especially these days when the sheep are so scattered and there are so few true shepherds left among us. I like to round up stray sheep and I am always looking for good shepherds to take the strays from there.
This week several college friends are here at my home cataloging a good many of my thousands of books--at long last. That's a great start on "upscaling." Next week, God willing, I hope to visit Elaine Stedman and family, Stu and Sue Mendelson, and dear friends Barry and Helen Setterfield, all in Southern Oregon.
Friends who want to help out with my multitude of expenses may send contributions directly to me by means of the PayPal or Amazon.com links on my web site, http://ldolphin.org. For those who'd like to contribute for tax purposes, checks may be sent to Peninsula Bible Church, 3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. Please include a note designating your gift to my support account. I am not an organization and not employed by any organization, so I depend very much on the support I receive from friends. I do not receive a list of those who send in contributions to my church so I can't send thank you notes in most cases. But thank you!
Previous newsletters are on my web site: http://ldolphin.org/news/. My main web site library is http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml, with newer articles posted at the top. This Newsletter: Subscribe/unsubscribe information: Send an email TO: email@example.com SUBJECT: (blank) MESSAGE BODY: subscribe lambertnews or unsubscribe lambertnews.
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Lambert Dolphin, email@example.com, August 17, 2007