Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part IX)

"For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." (Isaiah 28:27-29)

Being smaller and more delicate, cumin is not harvested in the same manner as wheat. The tiny bits of grain are removed from the plant by tapping them with a rod. The wheat however is threshed. This process is more violent. The Lord knows what each man and nation can handle. With the weak, He is more gentle; and with the strong and proud, He is more forceful. Israel could have found comfort in this. The Lord knew how to administer the appropriate amount of help and correction to her while dealing with the stronger nations of the world according to their strength and character.

Verse 28 is difficult to interpret. The main thought seems to be that of God's ability to bring chastisement while simultaneously preserving what is useful. The middle part of the verse literally reads, "He will not ever tread it to blood (of grapes) or gore." Even during the times of heavy chastisement when God sees fit to crush the grain, the end result is not in excess of that which is befitting the overall plan of God.

The passage ends with a declaration of God's unsearchable wisdom. Only He could exercise such skill and ability. The affairs of this world are far beyond the capabilities of any man; but the man who commits himself into the hands of the master Husbandman may rest quietly.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Beast (Part IV)

"And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live." (Revelation 13:11-14)

The appearance of the beast's prophet clearly illustrates how Satan is constantly attempting to mimic the work of God. The devil will attempt to follow the same format as the Trinity by having himself as the head, the antichrist as his unholy offspring and the prophet as the driving force for the evil spirit behind it all.

The false prophet will do amazing things including miracles which parallel those of Elijah (I Kings 18:36-38, II Kings 1:10). The text does not hide the power and impressive nature of his miracles; however, the text also declares the unbiblical nature of them. Contrary to the Scriptures, the false prophet will use his miraculous powers to bring about the construction and worship of an image. His miracles will contradict, not compliment, the truth and authority of God's Word. This is an important principle to identify. Too many people are taken in by the smooth talk and impressive tricks of false teachers everywhere. Works are only as valuable as they are obedient to the doctrine of God. Most Christians today live not by doctrine but by emotion and sight. As the foolish Israelites in the days of the judges, professing Christians are setting aside God's truth for in exchange for that which is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). This way of living destroys people. It will lead many away in the end times, and it is taking its toll on millions today.

"And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." (Revelation 13:15-18)

Some believe that trickery will be used in order to give the appearance that the image has life. This may or may not be the case. If God chooses to allow Satan to give physical life to such a statue, so be it. Such power is still under the authority of God, and Satan's miracles still fall far short of God's abilities.

As a seal of their doom, every individual who does not know Christ as Savior will be marked by the number of the beast. Thousands of Christians have frightened themselves needlessly by fearing either the intentional or unintentional reception of this mark. First of all, this damning mark is reserved for the tribulation period. It is not a pre-rapture event. Secondly, for the tribulation saints, the reception of this mark will be impossible. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer will not permit the receiving of such a mark (I John 2:27), and the eternal security of the believer also excludes the possibility. The Bible makes it clear that the saint cannot lose his salvation, and to receive the mark is to be condemned to hell (Revelation 14:9-10); therefore, the true believer will not and cannot receive the mark of the beast.

The number of the beast is that which falls short of perfection. In the Scriptures, seven is often connected with the idea of perfection, that which is complete. God's seven Spirits are before His throne. The holy Lamb of Mount Zion is pictured as having seven horns and seven eyes in compliment of His flawless Spirit. Yet, Satan's messenger is characterized by the number six. He comes close; yet, he fails. To come close but to fall short is to fail. The very best that Satan can conjure up still fails to match God's perfection. This number of a man is just that. It is not God's number; therefore, it is not to be feared. It will not triumph. It cannot deliver.   

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Beast (Part III)

"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." (Revelation 13:7-10)

The lost will be deceived and will follow the antichrist; however, the Spirit's discernment will prevent such deception on the part of Christ's own. The Holy Spirit is not passive; He is active. His presence brings a discernment between good and evil which is not possible prior to regeneration. The absence of this discernment indicates the absence of salvation (Malachi 3:16-18).

The unbelieving do not have the privilege of God's deliverance. They must rely upon their cunning, strength and weaponry. The unregenerate are marked by a spirit of rebellion, violence and hatred. In the last days, this truth will become even more of a reality as the earth's inhabitants take to living and dying by the sword. The presence of such evil will bring to light the heart of the lost man and his ways. On the other hand, the believer finds a different type of deliverance. His lot is not the sword but rather the power of God. In the tribulation days, the saint will lose his physical life; however, his soul will be safe with Jesus Christ. His demeanor will not be characterized by the violence of the sword but rather the victory of Christ's blood. As He does today, the Spirit will shine through the tribulation saint bringing evidence of charity, mercy, peace and patience before those who desire his death.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part VIII)

"Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him." (Isaiah 28:23-26)

The chapter ends with an agricultural illustration of God's work. The specific application is not given; therefore, the illustration stands as an object lesson concerning the general work of God and His precision in guiding the affairs of His creation.

Isaiah asks, "Does the plowman plow all day to sow?" The answer is, Yes. The farmer tills and prepares his land with a definite purpose in mind. He is not toiling aimlessly. The hard work of preparing the soil enables the farmer to plant the valuable seed.

Cumin is a relatively small seed. The word behind fitches seems to represent another form of cumin or some similarly small seed. These tiny seeds are not individually placed into the ground but rather they are scattered abroad or into rows. The larger grains of wheat, barley and spelt are placed into their respective rows in a more deliberate fashion. The point is that each seed is handled according to its unique nature and requirements. Just as God has imparted to mankind the wisdom to grow crops, even so is God the Master of farming His creation. The world is His field and the seeds are men and nations (Matthew 13:38). The Lord knows exactly how to deal with every nation and every man. Not one seed is mishandled, dropped or incorrectly placed by the Lord of the field. If the Lord has seen fit to enable man to cultivate physical food, will He not exercise at least the same wisdom in cultivating the affairs of His creatures?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Woman and the Dragon (Part V)

"Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." (Revelation 12:12-14)

Faced with the reality of his permanent banishment from heaven, Satan will begin a focused persecution of Israel. Daniel 9:27 says that the antichrist will profane the Jewish temple midway through the tribulation period. In compliment to Daniel's prophecies, the Lord Jesus spoke of terrible persecution against the Jews upon the commencement of the antichrist's blasphemous exaltation (Matthew 24:3-28). In light of these things, it would seem that the beast's persecution of the Jews will come at the Tribulation's halfway point. The 1,260 days (equaling 3.5 prophetic years) presented in the text (verse 6) only adds to the probability of this.

God's mercy will preserve His people from complete destruction during these events. Undoubtedly, this time of intense trouble will provide many opportunities for God's chosen people to reflect upon their disbelief in His righteousness. Perhaps many Jewish hearts will be softened toward the Lord Jesus as they consider the reality of His provision.

Some have speculated that this hiding place will be in the crags and caves of Edom's desolate wilderness; however, no one is certain. In the end, only God knows the hiding place which He has prepared for His people - a hiding place spoken of many years prior by the prophet Isaiah.

Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain (Isaiah 26:20-21).

Jeremiah prophesied of this troublesome time when he said, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble... ." However, he went on to say, "...but he shall be saved out of it (Jeremiah 30:7)." On the heals of this brief persecution comes an eternity of God's blessing upon the Jews.

The time, times and half a time is in reference to the 1,260 days previously mentioned (3.5). Daniel used similar language when he described the antichrist's reign in Daniel 7:25.

"And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Revelation 12:15-17)

Furthered enraged by his failure to annihilate the Jews, the devil will attack the followers of the Messiah. The text calls them those "who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." A truly converted individual is one who loves and respects the commands of his Redeemer. The evil of the tribulation days will leave no room for those who wish to ride the fence.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim (Part VII)

"For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act." (Isaiah 28:21)

This verse references King David's victories over the Philistines at Baal-Perazim and Gibeon (II Samuel 5:20, I Chronicles 14:11, 16). The LORD miraculously interceded in behalf of His people in order that He might save them; however, He would now intercede not to save but to destroy. This role reversal is why the Lord called His work strange (foreign). The Lord's heart is broken over the need to do such things, but rebellion cannot go unchecked.

"Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth." (Isaiah 28:22)

"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation...(Hebrews 2:3)?" It is a dangerous thing to disbelieve the God of the whole earth. Previously, Isaiah had warned the people of a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land (10:23), and now he reiterates the fact that it will devour Judah and Israel. The Assyrians were already gobbling up the surrounding countries, so how could little Israel in her godless condition escape?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Beast (Part II)

"And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven." (Revelation 13:3-6)

Because one of the heads is pictured as being resurrected, some believe that the antichrist will be a man who has been killed and consequently resurrected by satanic power. This is certainly within the realm of possibility. The Lord will allow the powers of darkness to manifest great ability for the purpose of deceiving those who have rejected the Lord. If the antichrist is a man who is resurrected, this restoration to physical life will be brief. His time will be limited to approximately seven years before he is permanently consigned to damnation's flames. Satan's counterfeit works of divinity always fall short of the genuine works of God.

Another possibility is that this resurrected head pictures the Revived Roman Empire. The iron which was mixed with the clay of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream indicates that the antichrist's kingdom will contain certain elements that resemble the ancient Roman Empire. That empire was never completely destroyed as were its predecessors. The character and philosophy of the Roman Empire awaits the day when it will be revived under the headship of Satan and his pawn.

The antichrist's kingdom is depicted as possessing great power. This future kingdom will conquer the world. It will not accept any rivals. It will not care for human rights. It will be a kingdom that operates on the principles of lies and oppression. Mankind views government as an impressive statue composed of lovely and valuable metals (Daniel 2:31-35), but God views human government as a destructive beast which cannot be restrained indefinitely (Daniel 7:1-7). As a wild animal eying the helpless viewers on the other side of the cage's bars, human government constantly patrols its boundaries tirelessly searching for that weak spot through which it might escape.

God will permit His name to be horribly blasphemed but not indefinitely. In the middle of the tribulation period, the son of perdition will desecrate the Jewish temple, invade the Holy of Holies and command all the world that he alone be worshiped as God (II Thessalonians 2:3-4). The forty-two months corresponds to 1,260 days or 3.5 prophetic years. This is the amount of time which God will permit this evil man to do his worst. However, the antichrist's time of triumph is incredibly short in comparison to his eternal damnation.

...Yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him (Daniel 11:45).