Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Beast or Antichrist in the Old Testament Pt.7

I finally (after a few months) have my computer back and working, so am now able to get back to posting articles on my blog. My apologies to any readers who have not had anything new to read in a while.

For a while I have been writing on verses in the Old Testament that seem to refer to the beast or antichrist. I have gone through Isaiah and am now in Jeremiah, but I want to digress for a moment. I want to step out of Jeremiah for this post, as something brought to remembrance the fact that many people feel that the beast will come out of the tribe of Dan. They believe this because of the prophecy made about Dan by Jacob when he pronounced blessings on his sons before he died.

Before getting into that prophecy, it bears mentioning that these blessings (and curses) were not merely vain words expressing approval, disapproval, hopes, disappointments, or desires. Our words actually have the power to come true prophetically. Have you ever heard the "mother's curse?" "I hope you have a child just like you?" In my case, if my mother uttered it, and I imagine she probably did, she may have meant it as a curse, but unknown to her, it was a blessing. While I may not have been the world's most perfect child, especially in her eyes, I was a child who gave their life to the Lord at a young age and did my best to try to live a life pleasing to Him (in spite of my many sins). Likewise, my children both gave their lives to the Lord at a young age and now in their twenties are young men who still have a vital relationship with the Lord. While not perfect (who is?), they strive to be good young Christian men who put the Lord first in their lives. I have uttered the "mother's curse" on them as a blessing, as I would like to see them have children who turn out as well as they have.

We (and I am sinfully as guilty of this as anybody) all speak words without thinking of the power they have. The Scriptures tell us that words have power. They have power because God's words have power (He spoke the world into being) and we are created in the image of God. He is the one who gives our words power, as He hears and fulfills the things we say. As such our words have great power. We do not stop and think about that, but we are told it is true, even to the point of life and death.

Proverbs 18:21 "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof."

Our words can bring life of death to others as well as ourselves. Those who exploit the power that the tongue can bring will eat of the consequences.

Proverbs 6:2 "Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth."

Proverbs 18:7 "A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul."

There were severe consequences in the Law of Moses for cursing one's parents.

Matthew 15:4 "For God commanded, saying. Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death."

Mark 7:10 "For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother, and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death."

We are told that the tongue is the most dangerous member of our body.

James 3:5-10 "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth preceedeth blessing and cursing. my brethren, these things ought not so to be."

Matthew 15:11, 17, 18 "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Do not ye yet understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man."

We are told to guard our mouths and tongues for our own safety and sake, to think before we speak, and only utter those things which are good and edifying.

Proverbs 4:24 "Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee."

Proverbs 13:3 "He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction."

Proverbs 21:23 "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles."

Proverbs 15:28 "The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things."

Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."

One of the reasons we need to guard our tongues is that God hears what we say and acts accordingly. That is why our words have power. When Israel was complaining that they would die in the wilderness, God said this to them. Numbers 14:28 "Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you." As a consequence, that generation did die in the wilderness, just as they had pronounced upon themselves. I have heard people say that they would like to die young, so they don't become a decrepit old person. Guess what. They do.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few."

A good example of this was the vow that Jephthah spoke in Judges 11 when he vowed to give the Lord as a burnt offering whatever met him as he returned, if the Lord would deliver the Ammonites into his hands. Unfortunately it was a rash vow spoken without thinking it through properly, as his only child, a daughter, was the one to run out and greet him. Now this is a passage atheists use to condemn God as a person who demands human sacrifice, but this was not the case. God hates human sacrifice. That is Satan's domain. God never would have allowed this had not Jephthah made a vow, but God had said that whatever was vowed must be kept by the person, so Jephthah had no choice but to offer his daughter up. God put this story in the Bible to make us realize how careful we must be not only in making vows to Him, but in uttering things without thinking. It is a sad story with a very important lesson.

We shall answer for every word that we have spoken. I am dreading that day as I look back upon things I have said in my life. I am pretty sure everybody will feel the same.

Matthew 12:36 "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."

We are told what we should be saying, though. We are told to bless others, including those who persecute us.

Matthew 5:44 "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

Luke 6:28 "Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you."

Romans 12:14 "Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not."

Even praying over or asking God to bless our food has certain consequences. This verse alone lifts all restrictions that having to eat kosher, as taught in the Law, requires. (In spite of what Messianic Jews or Hebraic Christians may teach).

1 Timothy 4:3-5 "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."

By asking a blessing over the food, we render it safe and permissible for us to eat.

When we look at the New Testament, especially the words of Yeshua, we see that He pronounced blessings on us by the score, if we follow Him in obedience. There are so many blessings that we could obtain, if we are only aware of them. God's Word is full of them, just waiting for us. When some people preach that these blessings are available, they are often seen as preaching a prosperity gospel. It is not the same thing. The prosperity gospel is that you deserve and demand everything good from God, and nothing bad should happen to you if you have faith. That is not what the Bible teaches. We do not deserve anything, and we have no right to demand anything. The Bible teaches that if we walk with God, are obedient and do his will, we can expect that the blessings He has promised for certain behaviors will come our way. However, this does not mean that we will never have bad times or suffer. We are guaranteed that through the times of tribulation God will be with us, that He has his reasons for allowing these things to happen (whether for our benefit or someone else's), and that in the end it will be a blessing. Blessings are not so much based on faith as they are on obedience. Obedience only comes though, when one has faith.

The Old Testament patriarchs were very aware of the power of words - blessings, and curses. When Esau lost his blessing, he was distraught beyond measure, as he finally realized its importance. He had already treated his birthright with contempt, because he sold it for a bowl of stew. This birthright was a double portion of Jacob's estate when he died and a special blessing. When a patriarch was on his deathbed, he would utter blessings (or not so much of a blessing in some cases) over his sons. When Jacob knew his time was near, he told Esau it was time for the blessing and instructed him to carry out his command first. Isaac, at his mother's instigation, tricked Jacob into giving the blessing to him before Esau could do what his father had required. When Esau realized he had lost the blessing too, he was exceedingly distressed. He wanted the blessing, as the blessing was a part of the birthright and was a guarantee of sorts, of success, but he was too late. He lost the spiritual blessing upon the oldest son when Isaac tricked Jacob. Esau should have known how important the birthright was, but he did not treat it with the seriousness it deserved, and as a consequence he lost it all. He cried and begged and pleaded for a blessing. Why get so upset if it were just some words. The reason is, it was not just some words. It was a prophecy uttered by a patriarch to his son, which God would hear and fulfill.

Now understanding how these blessings are prophecies, we look to see what Jacob said to Dan. Genesis 49:16-18 "Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord."

Dan was the elder son of Bilhah, Jacob's first son by a handmaid instead of a wife. By declaring that Dan would judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel, Jacob (Israel) was saying that the sons of the handmaids had equal status with the sons of the wives. As it was, Dan had one of the most famous judges in his line. Samson was from the tribe of Dan. But the rest of the prophecy is not quite so nice. It says that Dan will be a serpent or adder in the path. The snake that seems to be referred to here is the cerastes. It is a horned serpent the color of sand, which likes to lie in wait along desert paths to attack its prey. As such, it is often come upon before the prey knows of its presence. So a horse would trample upon it, and being bitten would throw its rider. The symbolism found in the fact that this is also a horned serpent should not be lost on the reader. Satan is referred to as a serpent, and is often pictured as being horned.

In a previous posting on the beast, it was seen in verse 14:29 in Isaiah that it called the antichrist a fiery flying serpent, who came from the root of a serpent and cockatrice. "Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent." We know that Satan is the original serpent who has his own seed that will be the enemy of the seed of Eve (Christ). Genesis 3:15 " And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Satan is the first serpent mentioned, and then there is a cockatrice from whom this fiery flying serpent comes. The cockatrice is a mythological dragon with a rooster's head. Whether this stands for Dan, or for Antiochus Epiphanes, who was the foreshadow of the beast, another antichrist figure, or whether it is someone yet to come is uncertain. The fiery flying serpent, though, is the last in the line, so therefore must be the beast. That it is called a fiery flying serpent leads one to believe that this may be an entity who passes itself off as an "alien" come to save mankind. It is known that the beast will be inhabited by a demonic force (Revelation 16:13-14) and will have the power to perform miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9), so being able to fly (without mechanical means) is not beyond comprehension, nor should posing as an alien in this day of UFOs be an unreasonable hypothesis.

The last line of this prophecy has puzzled scholars for centuries. It seems to be a random statement totally out of place with what goes before or after it and does not seem to make any sense in its context. It does not make sense, that is, if you do not take this prophecy to be speaking of the antichrist. However, if one sees this prophecy as being about the beast, it then makes sense. The time of the beast upon earth is the time when all of God's people will be looking for the salvation of God (or the rapture and the Second Coming) to occur. People will be anxiously waiting for the Lord to return to rescue them. Within this context, this part of the blessing makes perfect sense and is completely in context to what is being said. That being so, it appears that this blessing may indeed be a prophecy about the antichrist and would make it appear that he is in fact a descendant from the tribe of Dan in some way.

Having determined that there is a good possibility that the beast comes from the tribe of Dan, many commentators have then jumped to the conclusion that the beast must be Jewish, but in fact that is an erroneous conclusion. The tribe of Dan is not Jewish. In fact, none of the ten lost tribes are Jewish. Only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and some of the tribe of Levi are technically Jewish, as those were the tribes in the land of Judah. The other ten tribes (as well as some of the Levites) were the land of Israel, which was taken into captivity by Assyria, and were dispersed among the nations to be "lost". For all we know, some of the tribe of Dan (although evidence indicates that much of the tribe of Dan migrated up to the area of Germany as indicated by names such as the Danube River, Dnieper, etc.) may see themselves as part of the non-Jewish Middle East. In other words, Arab, Iraqi, or etc. So a descendant of Dan might very well be a Muslim. Possibly the cockatrice spoken of in Isaiah was Hitler, as we know he was the seventh mountain spoken of in Revelation upon which Babylon sat. (Revelation 17). He was from Germany where it appears the tribe of Dan settled in and around. There have been people (and even a movie) which have speculated that Hitler has been cloned and will appear again. I do not know that I believe this, but that speculation is out there. What we do know is that a descendant of Dan would not be Jewish, but could claim descent from the nation of Israel, and as such would be able to claim a blood brotherhood with the Jews, while not being one. As it has been wondered how the "Arab" world and Israel could possibly come together under one leader (the beast) and find him acceptable, this would provide a link between the two. A man descended from the nation of Israel who is a part of the Islamic world would have a foot in both worlds. It is mere speculation, but one that bears keeping in mind.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Judgment Begins With the House of God

Satan has been on the attack with my family for quite some time now. One of the latest things was the crashing of my computer. To date, I am still waiting to get my computer back up and running and see how much was lost. This is why I have not been writing on my blogs of late. Right now I am using someone else's computer just to write this, and may be able to put some posts out there using this one until mine is back in order. With all that has been going on with my family, and some other's whom I know to be strong, stalwart Christians who are not allowing themselves to be swayed by the heresies and things that are going on in the church, and given the events in the Middle East, I have come to the conclusion that there is a reason for these attacks other than just the usual harassment. I believe that we are about to enter Daniel's 70th week in the near future, and because it is a time of severe testing, God is now separating the wheat from the chaff in Christendom to see who needs to be refined and who is a Philadelphian.

1 Peter 4:17 “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

If Peter said this to the audience of his day, how much more is it applicable to us today, many of whom will no doubt see the Coming of the Lord? The indications are there that God has already begun to sift the wheat from the chaff of this generation to decide who will have to suffer the Great Tribulation, and whom He will preserve through it. Ever since the church came into existence there has been apostasy. One need only read Paul's letters to see that. Doctrines of demons, wolves in sheep's clothing being leaders of the flock, corruptions of the gifts of the Spirit – all of these things have been a constant enemy to battle. Yet the church survived and continued as generation after generation of people saw this apostasy and split away from the institution of the church to try to weed out the yeast. They would begin new churches under new names calling people back to repentance and the literal interpretation of God's Word, trying to weed out man's traditions and heresies. The remnant has always been a small group bucking the system of religion that reigns in Christ's name. But God forewarned that at the time of the end, the apostasy would be greater than ever, just as the Tribulation that they would enter into would be the worst in the history of the world. Given that information, and most Christians (here I will specify Christians as referring to true born-again believers, not people who identify with a denomination but have no personal relationship with the Lord) believing that we are in the end times, one would think that every Christian would be studying their Bibles diligently and be very wary of every new doctrine or “way of doing things” that comes into the church, and some have. But that “some” represents a very small percentage of those who attend church and call themselves Christians. Most tend to not have a clue what their Bible really says, as they expect to be spoon fed the information (regardless of whether it is erroneous or not) by their pastors and teachers. Most have bought into the idea that it is not a personal command to go out and preach the gospel, but feel it is the church's (meaning their place of worship) duty to do the witnessing for them. As a result, the idea of making church a palatable place for non-believers to come, be entertained, and receive some watered down, inoffensive message about salvation has become the goal of most congregations. This is in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches the local church is supposed to be, a place where believers meet to worship corporately, praise and thank God, study the Scriptures to grow in understanding and wisdom, pray for the body's needs, and fellowship together for encouragement and camaraderie. It is not meant to be a place to bring people to be saved, although that can sometimes be a side-effect.

Because of this disobedience to shift away from personal responsibility to corporate responsibility, Satan used the foot in the door to bring in more paths to perdition. Rather than preach the Word, which we are told will be an offense, the social gospel, and other damnable heresies like the prosperity gospel began to creep in. Where that did not work, other truths were distorted and corrupted. New Age beliefs began to be brought in. Now churches have yoga classes and other occult practices given as part of their reaching-out-to-the-community programs. The music changed. Originally the church sang the psalms. Then there were hymns that praised God. Then the hymns began to focus on man's blessings from God, then man's response to God. Then the music started to move away from the style that was solely identified with the church to music that sounded exactly like the world's. Then the music became solely the world's music, first with some oblique references to God thrown in, and finally with the words focusing on man with occasional oblique references to some higher entity or power, not necessarily the God of the Bible. Instead of worship praising God, meetings have become entertainment for social purposes. Bibles have been removed from the pews, and the Lord's Supper eliminated for being offensive to non-believers. God has become a person who loves everyone and will not be judgmental, so there are not only no standards anymore as to what behavior is acceptable, but also what qualifies for getting into heaven.

Has it crossed anyone's mind as to why God is allowing things to go so far this time? I believe it is because the final judgment has commenced. God is separating those who love and obey Him from those who want to have itching ears, or are like the chaff in the wind blowing about with any doctrine that they find interesting or pleasing for their comfort. False prophets and teachers are in abundance. One cannot travel very far anymore without seeing billboards of one group or another announcing the end of the world on a particular day. At the moment of this writing, I know of three different groups setting a date. All different of course, based on their "infallible leaders'" twisted versions of the Bible. The fact that we are told by God that we cannot do this has not stopped them. They “know” and they are “right.” Within the churches are those who have seen the apostasy and have left the church to start home churches. This was a good move at the beginning, but as usual, people are lazy, preferring to be spoon fed, and do not want the responsibility of answering straight to God without that intermediary pastor to blame when something goes wrong, so do not trust the Lord to be their only Shepherd. Just as Israel clamored for a king so as to be like everyone else, not trusting God's system of judges whom He would divinely appoint and who would judge according to the Spirit given to them, people feel the need for a pastor or leader. As a consequence, those who initially are the wheat leaving behind the room full of chaff, make themselves more slaves to Satan's deceptions by turning to the wolves outside the church who are looking to devour them. Thus they end up worse than before, becoming a part of some cult.

At first I wondered how this could be happening, and why. Having seen several friends fall into this last category, friends whom I was persuaded loved the Lord with all their heart, and who left the church due to apostasy, I went to the Lord asking for wisdom to understand what was happening. I was brought to the verse at the beginning of this article and led to understand that it is all a part of the sifting process. God has allowed Satan to enter the churches and defile them. This is the first sifting of those who embrace the turning from God from those who stay and tolerate it while not approving, and those who shake the dust from their feet and leave. Those who turn from God will probably be lost. Those who stay and tolerate will find themselves thrown into tribulation to refine them. The next sifting comes to those who come out of the church. He needs to find out who will follow and rely solely on Him, and those who insist upon having a human shepherd. I believe the reason for this sifting is that, as the Tribulation approaches we will have no one but the Lord to guide us, and He needs to separate those who have studied and know His Word, having had Him teach it to them, and who have learned to hear His voice and instructions, from those who will listen to man and can be deceived.

I believe the next sifting comes on a much more personal level. I have noticed that God seems to be taking away some of His protective hand from His faithful servants and allowing Satan to attack them in their Achilles heel. Whatever your weakest point, if you have passed the tests to this point, you can be sure that Satan will go after your weak spot to try and tempt you and drag you away from the Lord that way. To qualify as one of the remaining remnant, one must be living a life in which striving for holiness is a daily quest. The Ten Commandments are our guide. Granted, meeting that goal may not always happen, but repentance and continuing to fight the good fight and finish the race is for what God is looking. We should be able to say as Paul did “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7. We are running in a race which we can lose if we are not careful. 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Judgment is happening all along the way on this path to the finish line. For those who fail along the way, they can expect to be one of those for whom the sword is waiting during the Tribulation. They might make it to heaven, but it may be through a trial by fire. 1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” The timing of this is “when his glory shall be revealed.” That means that this fiery trial will be around the time of His return. Note that Peter is saying that they will think that this fiery trial is a strange thing, or something they were not expecting. How many do not believe they will go through the Tribulation, but be raptured beforehand? One of the so-called rapture dates predicted, came and went last month (the May 21, 2011 one) and now has been "rescheduled" for October 21. The people who follow this teaching came out of the apostate church, but then wanted to hear that they would not suffer, as they were godly Christians, who did not condone the apostasy. They deserve to be rescued do they not? How our pride can deceive us. We deserve nothing but hell. It is only through Christ's blood that we can even aspire to receive God's forgiveness. Pride is a dangerous creature. It can lead us astray so easily. When one thinks they are incapable of being deceived, at that moment Satan has you. He will find something that you really desire (in this case people wanted a way out of tribulation) and he will find a way to convince you that you can have it. If these people were studying their Bibles, instead of taking this man's words as gospel truth and never checking on him, they would not have been led down the primrose path. God would have been able to show them where he is in error and they could have been saved. Instead, they traded comforting words for possibly their very salvation.

People often condemn me for preaching that we will suffer, as they say that is not looking for Christ, but for the antichrist or that I believe in working for my salvation (suffering being the work), not justification by faith. Really? When did Christ say we would never suffer? That is not what I read in my Bible. I read to take up my cross and follow Him. I read that the trying of our faith brings patience. Do you not look all the more for Christ's return if you are enduring terrible hardships and trials? I know I need to be refined. I am very aware how far from perfect and righteous I am. I know I do not deserve an easy “out.” I am scared to death that I could be deceived, if I am not extremely vigilant. I have seen it happen to others. I do not look forward to the Tribulation, but look through and beyond it to my salvation which waits on the other side. How much more incentive do I have to live a holy life, if I know what lies in the balance?

God's judgment on His house has begun. The sifting process is underway. Are you wheat? Or are you chaff?