Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sennacherib's Rage (Part V)

"But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not. Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh." (Isaiah 36:21-22)

Some words do not deserve a reply. Hezekiah's messengers would have been wasting their time to answer such an arrogant fool. The Almighty would answer these arguments Himself. Besides, what was there to say? The sins of Judah had brought this situation upon her. God was using this Assyrian rod, and only He could break it when its arrogance exhausted its usefulness. The messengers showed wisdom in their actions. They rent their clothes in humility and fear for what had been spoken against the Lord. Their actions demonstrated an acknowledgment of their inability to help themselves and their dependence upon the One Who can work the impossible. At this juncture, they and their king had no recourse but to take Rabshakeh's words to God and remember the words of Isaiah spoken many years prior.

Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire (Isaiah 10:12-16).

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Judgment following the Kingdom

"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their 
works." (Revelation 20:11-12)

This is the second resurrection. The blessed of the first resurrection will not take part in the resurrection described here. This resurrection is reserved for the damned. The Scriptures have foretold of not only a resurrection of the just but also of the damned. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake ... some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2)." Jesus said, "...The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ... they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29)."

Outside of Christ's righteousness, each person will be judged not according to the merits of the sinless Savior but according to the merits of his own insufficient and evil works. The one who resists the grace of Jesus Christ will receive the graceless reward of his own works (Psalm 143:2, Romans 4:4, James 2:10).

"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:13-15)

"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (I Corinthians 15:26)." Prior to being sentenced herself, death will be required to surrender the last of her victims. These souls will then be judged by their own faulty merits and consigned to the lake of fire. The lake of fire would seem to be the zenith of eternal damnation since death and hell are seen being cast into it.

The Almighty keeps perfect records. He knows His own. God's memory is flawless. He does not need records, but He keeps them as a testimony to man. Other Bible passages speak of these heavenly records (Exodus 32:32-33, Philippians 4:3).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sennacherib's Rage (Part IV)

"Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern; Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The LORD will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?" (Isaiah 36:16-20)

Rather than face starvation through resistance, the king proposes surrender. He promised that each inhabitant would be permitted to return temporarily to his home. Cisterns were large pits used to collect rain water which could then be used for drinking. Not being very clean, this water was usually mixed with alcoholic wine in order to kill bacteria and prevent sickness. In light of this, the vineyard was a necessary part of life. The Assyrians commonly practiced deportation of conquered peoples. Removing a population from its homeland and replacing it with another from a different country reduced the probability of a patriotism-inspired uprising.

The king continues to tread upon dangerous ground by blaspheming the God of Israel. He now places God on the same level as the nations he had previously conquered. By inference, Sennacherib is saying that Ashur, the god of Assyria, is stronger than the LORD, the God of Israel. He would soon discover that the opposite was true. As mentioned previously in chapter ten, Arpad was besieged in 743 by Tiglathpileser III and overcome in 740. The city was located in northern Syria approximately thirteen miles north of Aleppo. Hamath was also a Syrian city, and it lay along the Orontes River in western Syria. This important city fell to the Assyrians sometime near 732 BC when Damascus was taken by Tiglathpileser (see notes on 10:9). The exact location of Sepharvaim remains a mystery. Some equate it to the ancient city of Sippar in Babylonia; however, no one is certain. Of course, Samaria was the capital of Israel and had fallen in 722 BC under the reign of Sargon.

Rabshakeh's message from the king ends with one final word of blasphemy. He suggests that the God of Israel is no stronger than the well-known false gods of the fallen nations; therefore, Jerusalem could not possibly be victorious.   

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Assault against the Kingdom

"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea." (Revelation 20:7-8)

Thousands will come to faith in Christ during His earthly reign; however, the millennial kingdom is not the eternal state. Man's sin nature will still be present. Babies will be born in the kingdom. Flesh and blood will co-exist with the bodies of resurrected saints. The rebellious heart of man will still exist, and the evil heart of many will choose the lies of Satan over the truth of Christ.

A few Old Testament passages give a small glimpse into the presence of rebellion during the kingdom period. In his millennial Psalm, the Holy Spirit said, "Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee (Psalm 66:3)." The Hebrew word behind submit, means to deceive or (in this context) to cower in deception. Not every citizen in the kingdom will be a true believer. It would appear that only true believers will be permitted to enter the kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46); however, near the end of the kingdom, many will be unregenerate and will choose to side with Satan against the Messiah. Zechariah 14:17-19 also indicates the presence of human rebellion in the kingdom.

"And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelation 20:9-10)

In every dispensation God has proven that man is wicked and the Lord is righteous. Man failed in the garden. He abused government. His need for God's righteousness is thoroughly displayed under the Abrahamic covenant. The dispensation of Law exposed his sinful heart. The age of grace has clearly revealed the degradation of man and the sufficiency of Christ, and in the end of the world, God will once more reveal man's failure even in the most blessed of circumstances. In summation, every individual needs the saving work of Jesus Christ.

This final defeat of Jerusalem's attackers is likely not the battle described in Ezekiel 38-39. Although similarities exist, there are too many obstacles to definitively say that the events of Ezekiel and the events presented here are one and the same.

Satan is seen receiving his eternal reward. His freedom to roam and to devour will soon be terminated, and he will then take his place in the lake of fire along with the rest of the unholy trinity (19:20).

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Establishment of the Kingdom

"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season." (Revelation 20:1-3)

The two names mean slanderer and adversary respectively. From the beginning, the devil has opposed the work of God and led people astray with his lies. "...For he is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44)." He misrepresented God and deceived Eve (Genesis 3:1, I Timothy 2:14). He sought to move God against Job without cause so that Job might be destroyed (Job 2:3). He is termed the god of this world who is consistently about the work of deceiving mankind (II Corinthians 4:4). He is compared to a roaring lion that roams about freely looking to devour anyone he may (I Peter 5:8, Job 1:7). Unceasingly, he is engaged in the occupation of deception and destruction, and the believer is susceptible to the danger of his attacks (II Corinthians 2:11).

During the 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ, the devil will be imprisoned in the abyss (bottomless pit). He will not be permitted to carry out his deceptive work during that time. The conversion of millions will be a fruit of the devil's confinement; however, the context will soon declare that man's rebellious heart remains with him even in the absence of Satan.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4-6)

The saints of all ages will be present in the kingdom. Church Age saints who have died in Christ will be resurrected and taken up with those saints who are alive. This event will occur prior to the Tribulation.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:15-17).

On numerous occasions, the New Testament speaks of Church Age believers being present in the millennial kingdom (Acts 14:22, Romans 14:17, I Corinthians 6:9, Colossians 1:13, I Thessalonians 2:12).

Old Testament saints will also be present. Christ's kingdom was that for which they looked with eager expectation. God told Daniel, "But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days (Daniel 12:13)." Daniel was promised an inheritance in Christ's kingdom. Concerning the patriarchs, Jesus said, "...Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11)."

The text makes it clear that tribulation saints will be there as well. Regardless of dispensation, every believer in Christ's righteousness will have a part in the kingdom. This first resurrection of the righteous is mentioned in both the Old and the New Testaments. Isaiah prophesied, "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19)." In his disclosure of last things, the angel told Daniel, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life...(Daniel 12:2)." Commenting on this very passage, Jesus told the Jews, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life...(John 5:28-29)."

The participant in the first resurrection is blessed because he is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ; however, the participant in the second resurrection is cursed because he is damned being outside of faith in Christ's blood. Although the second resurrection is not specifically mentioned in the text, it is referred to by the phrase the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. These unregenerate souls are then seen being resurrected, judged and eternally sentenced after the kingdom of Christ is past.

Little is spoken of the kingdom. So much has been given in the Old Testament that the Holy Ghost merely says, "And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Should the reader have questions as to the nature and order of the kingdom let him read the writings of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Micah, Zechariah and many others.

Sennacherib's Rage (Part III)

"Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall. But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria." (Isaiah 36:11-15)

Afraid of how these verbal threats might affect both commoner and soldier, the messengers entreat Rabshakeh to change his speech to Aramaic. Syrian, Syriac or Aramaic (various titles for the same language) was the common trade language of the day. This very language was that used by the prophet Daniel to reach the nations with the prophecies concerning the preeminence of Christ's kingdom (the text behind Daniel 2:4 through 7:28 is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew). As ambassadors, these men were familiar with Aramaic and sought to deliver the common people from the terror incited by Rabshakeh's words.

Rabshakeh's answer is terse and to the point. His mission was not to threaten privately the king and his counselors but rather to openly terrorize the city through psychological warfare. He proclaims that the end of the Jews' resistance would be that of starvation and thirst brought on by the Assyrian siege. He pictures every inhabitant being reduced to ingesting his own excrement due to extreme hunger.

In spite of his failures, Hezekiah had been justly admonishing his people to trust in the Lord and not to fear Assyria.

Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah (II Chronicles 32:7-8).

Through his blasphemy, the king of Assyria crossed the line and incited the wrath of God. Truly, the Jews had made many mistakes in seeking to Egypt and others for help, neither had they done wisely in turning a deaf ear to Isaiah. Yet, now the king and his people sought the Lord in their need. To discourage such an endeavor is to incite God's wrath. Sennacherib shared in the sins of those Jews who would later tell their countrymen under Ezekiel's ministry, "...Get you far from the LORD.(Ezekiel 11:15).. ."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sennacherib's Rage (Part II)

"And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? I say, sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me? Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him." (Isaiah 36:4-6)

Rabshakeh used psychological warfare with the king and his people. His goal was to expose the fallacy of their Egyptian alliance and to discredit any trust in God. Rabshakeh mocked the confidence which Judah had displayed up to this time. The Jews believed that they and their allies were capable of waging warfare with Assyria. They also believed that Egypt would arrive as their ultimate deliverer. Rabshakeh's mockery of Egypt's strength was well-founded. His assessment of their overall ability to help harmonized with what Isaiah had been preaching for years. When Ashdod revolted against Sargon in 711 BC, the rebel leader of the revolt called upon Egypt for help, but he received none. In desperation, he fled to Egypt but was eventually handed over to the Assyrians by the Egyptians. Rabshakeh had good reason for calling Egypt a crushed reed that was ready to break the moment a man leaned on it. Hezekiah too was well aware of these events. Through this Assyrian leader's rebukes, Hezekiah and his people were hearing a sort of heavenly "I told you so."

Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit (Isaiah 31:3).

"But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar? Now therefore give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them. How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? And am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? the LORD said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it." (Isaiah 36:7-10)

Hezekiah had justly removed the heathenish high places from Israel. These places (located on the tops of hills and mountains) were a constant source of trouble for Israel. They provided a consistent temptation for the people to return to the worship practices of those whom they had dispossessed. This is one reason why God forbade the formal worship of Himself in just any place the people chose; but rather, the Lord commanded that all Israel journey to the place of worship which would be chosen by Him (Deuteronomy 12:1-8). Rabshakeh, in his ignorance of God's ways, mocked Hezekiah for his biblical actions. Rabshakeh was familiar with the widespread use of high places and groves for the worship of and sacrifice to the gods of Assyria. To him, the desecration of high places, groves and their accompanying symbols of idolatry was the height of blasphemy, worthy of the divine wrath of the gods. The unregenerate have never understood the wisdom of purity and separation.

In perhaps what was a tone of mockery, Rabshakeh urged the people to give a pledge to Sennacherib and he would be able to furnish 2,000 horses which Hezekiah would not even be able to use for battle. With this challenge, Rabshakeh was illustrating the weakness of Jerusalem's physical defenses. At some point, Hezekiah did make a gesture of submission to Sennacherib by sending him gifts. Although, exactly where this act fits in the biblical record is somewhat unclear. II Kings 18:13-17 presents the account.

Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them. And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house. At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.

Sennacherib's own record of these events adds gems of various kinds, ivory-inlaid couches and chairs, elephant hides and tusks, ebony, as well as Hezekiah's own daughters, concubines and musicians (Taylor Prism). At this juncture, it must be noted that Hezekiah's actions were not godly. Had the king and his people kept their eyes solely on the Lord and heeded the warnings and encouragements of Isaiah, such disgraceful tactics would not have been necessary. One cannot justify robbing the house of God and giving away one's own family in order to gain deliverance from the enemy. Also, this act of submission proved futile, because Sennacherib attacked Jerusalem anyway. These types of deeds are the result of a failure to put God first in all things. In the end, Hezekiah still had to trust God. With that said, Hezekiah was a man remembered for his love of the Lord. He eventually came to a place of dependence upon God alone, and the biblical record bears witness to his righteous encouragement in the lives of his people (II Chronicles 32:6-8).

In a fashion characteristic of the day, the king of Assyria takes credit for acting on behalf of Judah's God. It was not uncommon for ancient kings to believe that their campaigns were conducted under the direct authority of their own gods or of the displeased gods of the people against whom they warred. Also, unknown to Rabshakeh, the Lord was using the Assyrians to punish the oppression and idolatry practiced by the Jews.