Tag: Jesus

The Mystery of the End of the World . . . SOLVED!

The Mystery of the End of the World . . . SOLVED!

Okay, not really. Not at all, actually. But as I’ve read through Matthew I came to Chapter 24, the scary beginning of the Olivet Discourse, and it has a lot to say about the end of the world as we know it. It’s the chapter where the disciples ask Jesus, after he tells them about the temple being destroyed, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

This chapter confuses me to no end and always has. I’ve never really understood it, and after re-reading it many times over the years and several more times this past week, I still don’t. 

It starts off easily enough. Jesus warns them not to be deceived. “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4-5) Since we are living in the age of news being replaced by propaganda, I would say we are living in a time of great deception.

At the same time, however, there have been false Christs throughout history. Some notable ones in my own lifetime were Jim Jones of the Jonestown Kool-Aid drinking cult, David Koresh of Waco, Texas, and Reverend Sun Myung Moon of Korea. Things didn’t go well for the followers of Jones or Koresh. I’m not sure whatever happened with the Moonies, but if they thought he was Jesus they would have been pretty disappointed when he died in 2012 and never came back.

So I’m not sure how that warning is specifically a sign for the last days when we’ve had crackpots like these guys throughout history.

Next Jesus says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars . . . nation will rise against nation . . . there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginnings of birth pains.” (24:6-8).

These are also things that have gone on since the beginning of history. The Old Testament is full of wars and nation against nation. Did Christians in Italy think the end was coming when Pompeii was obliterated by Vesuvius in AD 79? Because if any event ever looked like the apocalypse, that had to be it. Pompeii’s destruction happened just nine years after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Meanwhile Christians were being fed to the lions and used as human torches in Nero’s courtyard. Surely many believers then must have been certain they were in the end of days. (The Christians in Thessalonika seemed to think so.) And here we are, two thousand years later, still wondering after every big earthquake or skirmish in the Middle East if this is finally it.

Jesus then goes on to warn his disciples that “you will be persecuted and put to death…and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” Is he talking to the Church here, or to the Jews, or to both? Jewish people have been relentlessly persecuted since they were first a people. Christians have also been persecuted throughout the centuries, and in many parts of the world are brutally persecuted today. We are seeing the early stages of it here in America.

Then Jesus says, “At that time men will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands to the end will be saved.” (24:10-13).  That sounds like the world today. Deception, wickedness, coldness—that’s the world around us, all right. But I remember that several false or twisted versions of Christianity came into being in the 19th century, namely Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and Seventh Day Adventists. That’s a lot of twisted theology to come out in a fairly short span of time. Bible readers in those days must have wondered if they were in the last days. 

All this raises a big question: Why did Jesus bring up these things as signs of the end when they have been going on forever? I think I do have the answer for that — I have heard Bible teachers say that because Jesus described this as the beginning of birth pains, then just like real birth pains these events will increase in frequency and intensity as we get closer to the end. But where are we on that timeline? Are we “ooh, honey, I think I just had a contraction” or are we “GET THIS M***** F***** OUT OF ME!!!!!” or somewhere in the middle?

Things do seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity today. The global COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in world history in how it shut down nearly every country on the entire planet, at least for awhile, making us all prisoners and destroying countless livelihoods. COVID has greatly aided the push for a one-world socialist government, monetary system, and tracking of every person in the world. We are seeing violent earthquakes, severe weather, and famines on what seems to be an increasing scale. I was astonished last year to learn of massive armies of locusts plaguing parts of the world like something straight out of Exodus. Weird stuff is going on in the Middle East, with Israel making peace agreements with Muslim countries on the one hand, and Iran allegedly being extremely close to a nuclear bomb on the other.

Ugh! Wake me up when this is all over!

I just don’t think we can use any of those things as a measuring stick to figure out when Jesus is coming back. It’s all just too vague. One day we may look back in hindsight and say, “Ah, okay, now I get it! It all makes perfect sense.” But that day isn’t today.

But Jesus is just getting warmed up. Next he gets really specific, warning about the desecration of the temple as spoken of through the prophet Daniel, and telling people when that day comes they need to drop whatever they are doing and run, run, run for their lives. Some people think this happened in AD 70 but I don’t think so. The temple in AD 70 wasn’t desecrated by the abomination that causes desolation. It caught on fire, and all the gold covering the walls and ceilings melted down. The Romans dismantled the temple, stone by stone, to get every last speck of gold they could, little imagining they were fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that no stone would stand upon another.

So that means that Jesus must be talking about the desecration of a future temple. Here he seems to be talking about the events of the Great Tribulation, or the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). Then he gives one more warning about not being deceived by false prophets and false Christs. “See, I have told you ahead of time!” (24:25). 

Okay, so that’s another thing I do know for sure: Jesus bothered to warn us about not being deceived more than once, so he wants us to pay attention and not be deceived! That’s not as easy as it sounds in today’s environment, where lies are literally everywhere and we don’t know who we can trust. But if we are diligent and know what is in God’s word, then the lies will be obvious and not able to deceive us.

Next, Jesus describes His Second Coming and how the whole earth will see him coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (24:31)

…From one end of THE HEAVENS to the other?

He then goes on to say, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (24:32-34).

This is more straightforward than some other passages, at least partly. If the fig tree represents Israel, as most scholars agree on, then it blossomed in 1948 when the modern state of Israel was born. Which would mean that today we are standing right at the edge of the Great Apocalyptic Sh** Show. That is, IF a “generation” literally means one generation. Assuming our lifespan is about 80 years, then Jesus better move fast or this “generation” is going to die out in the next decade or so. However, my NIV notes say that “generation” may mean “race,” as in the human race. In which case we are back to not knowing for sure.

Finally — this is the part that really confuses me — Jesus goes on to talk about what SURE SOUNDS like the rapture, “No one knows the day or the hour,” “one will be taken and the other left,” except it also seems to be a continuation of what he was just talking about, which was the tribulation and second coming, not the rapture. I’ve heard several teachers, mostly Calvary Chapel pastors, insisting that Chapter 24 is all for the Jews and not for the church. I have heard other teachers say that is nonsense.

If “no one knows the day or the hour” is referring to his second coming instead of the rapture, how can that statement be true? We might not know today but people in that time will know the EXACT day that Jesus is coming back. Daniel 9:27 talks about the desecration of the temple, and that it takes place in the middle of the final seven years. That means from that awful day, there will be exactly 1,260 days (based on a Jewish 360-day calendar) until the return of Christ. 1,260 days of hell on earth and horrors that make all of Stephen King’s novels look like Blueberries for Sal by comparison.

Getting stressed! Time for a calming nature break. Breathe . . . Just breathe . . .

So I find all of this very confusing. However, I do know one more thing for certain: Whatever happens is going to happen, whenever it happens, and however it happens. We may indeed be very close to the end. It sure feels that way right now. But God may give this wicked world a reprieve like he did with Nineveh so long ago. We don’t know for sure. 

Maybe someone reading this understands this chapter perfectly. Please comment with your thoughts if you do! I doubt that I will until I’m looking back at it from the other side of eternity. That’s okay by me. I think the main point to take from it is actually in Chapter 25, where Jesus tells us to be ready at all times. Whenever he does come, we want to be good and faithful servants, ready and excited to be with Him forever.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might.

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Learn about Jesus from Bible study and spending time with Him in prayer.

Live a godly life and share the gospel with everyone that you can.

As the apostle John said, “And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28).

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If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.   – Romans 10:9-13

(Just like) Starting Over

(Just like) Starting Over

The last time I decided to read the Bible from cover to cover it took me three years. I spent six months just going through the Book of Psalms. Thought I was going to die slogging my way through Leviticus – Deuteronomy. Got more than my fill of bloodshed, perverts, and idiots reading through Judges. Ruth was like an oasis in the desert. Fell in love with Isaiah. Couldn’t keep the minor prophets straight. Devoured the gospels, so hungry to see Jesus in person again after just getting hints of him in the OT. Still a little afraid of Paul. Not as freaked as I used to be by Revelation because we’ve seen so much of the imagery already in the Old Testament.

This year I’ve decided to burn through the whole Bible again, cover to cover, in just 12 months. I’m using the Bible-in-a-year guide from a calendar I got for Christmas. It has you read so many OT and NT passages each day. I’m cheating, though; I’m ahead of it in the Old Testament and way behind in the New Testament.

What really hit home with me after reading the entire Bible — I’d only ever read books and/or passages here and there before, never the whole thing — is how it really is a story. It has all the elements of great literature: Introduction / Crisis / Building Action / Climax / Falling Action / Resolution. Themes. Foreshadowing. Character development – of a nation, not just individuals. And a happy ending. The happiest of all happy endings. 

Assuming that not one word of scripture is wasted, and assuming that everything points toward Christ, some passages make me scratch my head. For example, at the very end of Genesis, we have a detailed chapter about Jacob blessing the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh. 

Jacob tells Joseph, “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.” (Gen 48:5)

Then Jacob is going to bless the two boys and a big deal is made of the fact that Jacob is going to bless Ephraim, the younger, over Manasseh, the older. Joseph tries to get Jacob to switch but Jacob is adamant. I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” (Gen 48:19)

Chapter 48 deals almost entirely with Ephraim and Manasseh. So it is important and we need to remember this episode. I missed this significance the first time through. I still can’t quite understand why the 12 tribes of Israel are reckoned with Joseph being the two half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh instead of just being called the Tribe of Joseph. I haven’t done any serious study in this before but there must be volumes written about it. Maybe I’ll dig into it more later. Maybe just reading through the book, something will leap out at me and make more sense to me this time. Scripture interprets scripture, as they say.

Now on to Exodus. I wonder how disappointed I’ll be when I get to heaven and discover that Moses doesn’t actually look like Charlton Heston. 

Sinking down for the last time

Oh boy! Kathe’s Kraptastic Art is Back!

STILL MUSING ON JOHN 3:3 – “YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN.”

Sorry this is late. I’ve been on vacation, escaping the smoke to go someplace where there was slightly less smoke. When you can’t breathe, “slightly less smoke” is a gift straight from Heaven. We’ve had a lot of rain since I’ve been back, so everything is perfectly lovely and clear again. Thank You, Jesus! My lungs and I are extremely grateful.

On my September 6 blog I was reading through different Bible verses pertaining to original sin, going back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3. If you’ve ever read the Bible straight through, you see how generally depraved people have been from the very beginning and will continue to be straight through to the bitter end. No character in scripture apart from Christ is flawless. The closest we see is Daniel; we aren’t told any of his character flaws but we do see him confessing his own sin in Daniel 9:4-6. I don’t have to search my own conscience very deeply to know that I am a sinner. How many times in my life have I lied, cheated, stolen, raged, slandered, gossiped, etc.? More than I could ever count. Every time I hear someone say something like, “I’m a good person! I don’t need any saving, thank you very much,” I want to laugh in their face. I know they’re lying, I know THEY know they’re lying, and I know that THEY know that I know that they’re lying, so why do they bother?

Because we don’t want to be accountable to anyone. Because we know in our heart of hearts that we don’t have an excuse. Every rotten thing we’ve ever done or said or even just thought is piling up on our souls like Jacob Marley’s chains.* And we don’t want to face it. Pretend God isn’t there and He’ll go away, right?

But the day of reckoning is coming. Each and every one of us will have to stand before the Lord God Almighty and give an account for our lives. Do any of us really think we have any merit at all? That it is one big cosmic scale and our so-called “good deeds” are going to outweigh our bad?

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28. — Whoah! If even our own private, fleeting thoughts make us sinners, who then who of us could be saved? We’re screwed!

Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. – Isaiah 45:23

As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. – Romans 14:11-12

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes. – Romans 3:10-18 (quoting various OT passages).

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21.  OUCH! TOO CLOSE TO HOME!

Okay, I think now I understand what Jesus was getting at when he told Nicodemus that we must be born again. The first birth is the sinful nature we inherited from Adam. No matter how much we want to be good, or how hard we try, we keep falling flat on our faces. Like Sisyphus in the old Greek story, we are doomed to keep pushing a rock up a hill; a rock that always gets away from us and rolls away before we reach the top. No matter how hard we try, we can never get to the top.

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, we are told that there is an eternal chasm fixed between heaven and hell, and no one can cross it. (Luke 16:26). We are trapped in our sinful nature and we cannot and will not ever get out of it by our own power. A man going down for the third time can’t save himself from drowning even if he is a good swimmer. A woman falling to her death from a cliff can’t save herself even if she is the best rock climber in the world. We cannot escape the sin nature we’ve had since the moment we were conceived. We are on a one-way trip to hell and eternal punishment AND, if we are honest with ourselves, we know we deserve it. We’re not the innocent victims of Adam’s original sin. We sin and we like it. It feels good to get our own back on someone we hate. It’s fun to have sex even if we’re not married. Who doesn’t secretly enjoy a good meltdown fit of rage? Who hasn’t said we deserve it, it should be ours, as we nick something that belongs to someone else?

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob doesn’t send people to hell on a whim based on his own capriciousness. We walk there all by ourselves. What God does is offer us a way OUT. A new nature, free from sin—no more pushing an endless rock up an endless hill. He offers us a restored relationship with Himself. That is what being born again means.  

The bad news and the good news: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:27-28

Next time: HOW DOES GOD SAVE US? WHY CAN’T HE JUST FORGIVE US AND BE DONE WITH IT?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  …for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:9-13

*Jacob Marley was the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Nothing more important.

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No man can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for him —The ransom for a life is costly,
No payment is ever enough—
that he should live on forever and not see decay.
– Psalm 49:7-9

But God will redeem my life from the grave;
He will surely take me to himself.
– Psalm 49:15

It’s been weeks now since I found myself stuck on John 3:3 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe the reason I kept coming back to this verse is because being born again is the most important thing of all. For each and every one of us. There is not, there can never be, anything more important. Our lives on this earth will be over before we know it — it is our eternity that matters most. Where will we spend it? It is one of the three most important questions anyone can ask themselves: 1) How did I get here? 2) What is my purpose? and  3) What happens to me after I die?

So, painfully slowly, over the past few weeks I’ve tried to glean from Scripture the basic points of being born again:

  • What does it mean to be born again?
  • Why do I need to be “saved”? Saved from what?
  • I’m a moral person. Why can’t I just do good deeds and make things right with God?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • What is Jesus?
  • How can one man pay for the sin of everyone who ever lived?

And the truth is, I’m overwhelmed. After all, I’m just a secretary. I’m not a biblical scholar, I’m no one special, and certainly not someone others ever listen to about anything important. People far more educated than I am have devoted volumes on these topics; people who know the Bible backward and forward. I have to Google most verses that come to my mind because I can never remember what book or chapter they were in. 

But then I remember that this is not about me. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing more important than being saved. Than being washed clean by the blood of Jesus through his sacrifice on the cross. I know who and what I am without Christ, and I don’t like that person very much. I also know who and what I am IN Christ, and that nothing is better or more fulfilling and beautiful than belonging to Him. Governments come and go, fads come and go, but Jesus is forever. He said, ‘Before Abraham was, I AM!” (John 8:58)

I am also overwhelmed with how to write out these points, because the Bible is a bottomless well of information and it is all about Jesus. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, every verse in one way or another tells its portion of the greater story of Jesus, our Lord. 

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.

– Psalm 46:1-7

Only God knows if anybody even reads this, but if you do my prayer is that you will be encouraged if you are a believer in Christ, and that you will come to know him and be made alive in him if you are not. There is nothing more important.

So from here on out, until I’m done with the nagging issues that John 3:3 put on my heart, I will basically just write out Bible verses that I found on the various topics. Please read them and ask God to show you if they are true. No matter what religion you are, or even if you are an atheist, if you ask the God who created the universe to guide you to truth, you WILL find what is true. For it is written:

“ASK and it will be given to you; SEEK and you will find; KNOCK and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Jesus said those words. He also said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I waited patiently for the LORD;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
Out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear
And put their trust in the LORD.

– Psalm 40:1-3

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible.