Thursday, December 31, 2009

2012: End of the World

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

I think it is clear that all the 2012 hysteria is unfounded. But would it be accurate to say that even if the 2012 date is wrong, we could very well be near the end of the world?

Well, that all depends on what is meant by "the end of the world." The only reliable source of information about the future is the Bible. We know it is reliable because it contains hundreds of very specific prophecies about persons, cities, and nations that have already been fulfilled in history. It also contains 109 specific prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.23

The Bible prophesies the end of the current age, the end of the current world system, and the end of the natural world as we know it today. But it never prophesies the end of the world in the sense that the universe will cease to exist. In fact, it clearly states that planet earth will exist forever. Let's consider each of these in order.


The End of the Current Age

The Bible teaches that Mankind entered a whole new age on the Day of Pentecost in approximately 30 AD.24 On that day the Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles and they were empowered to preach the Gospel (Acts 2:1-4). Peter preached the first Gospel sermon, and the Church was established when three thousand people responded and accepted Jesus as their Messiah (Acts 2:14-41). We have been living in the Church Age ever since.

The Age of the Last Days also began on the Day of Pentecost. The prophet Joel had prophesied that in the "last days" God would pour out His Spirit upon all mankind (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17). When the three thousand responded to Peter's sermon, they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and all believers have received that gift since that time. The writer of Hebrews referred to his day and time in the First Century as "the last days" (Hebrews 1:2). The Apostle Peter did the same thing in his writings (1 Peter 1:5 & 20). And the Apostle John called his day the "last hour" (1 John 2:18).

Before Jesus died and the Church Age began, He referred to His day as "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). He was referring to the period of time when the Jewish people would live under Gentile domination without a king anointed by God. That period began in 586 BC when Israel was conquered by Babylon, the Davidic monarchy was ended, and the Jewish people were carried away into captivity. This period continues to this day simultaneously with the Church Age because the Jews still suffer from Gentile domination, and their God-anointed monarchy has not been restored.

The Church Age will conclude when the Church is taken out of this world on the day of the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13- 18). The Second Coming of Jesus, approximately seven years later,25 will mark the end of the Age of the Last Days. It will also mark the end of the Times of the Gentiles.


The End of the Current World System

At the end of the Tribulation, when the Second Coming occurs, the current world system will also come to an end. When I refer to the "world system," I am talking about the way human society has operated since Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden.

All the societies of the world, despite their particular forms of government and their types of economies have revolved around the ego of Man. They have thus been characterized by unrighteousness and injustice and war. Greed has ruled supreme. Power has always corrupted. The dispossessed have been exploited. Winston Churchill perhaps summed it up best when he observed, "Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Since the beginning of human history, people have yearned for a world of peace, righteousness and justice. Time and time again they have placed their hopes in politicians who have promised them the moon, and time and time again their hopes have been dashed. But the good news of God's Prophetic Word is that the current world system is doomed.

Jesus is returning to institute a radically new world system. It will be a theocracy characterized by the rule of the rod of iron (Psalm 2:7-9 and Revelation 2:27). He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords from Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Revelation 19:16). His Word will be the law of all nations, and it will be enforced worldwide by those of us who will be reigning with Him in glorified bodies (Isaiah 2:2-4 and Daniel 7:13-14, 18, & 27).

There will be no political parties, pressure groups or legislatures. Greed will be replaced with decisions based on fairness and equity (Isaiah 11:4-5). Vulgarity will give way to holiness (Zechariah 14:20-21). Poverty will be swallowed up in abundance (Micah 4:4). Righteousness and justice will be fulfilled (Isaiah 11:3b-5). Peace will flood the world as the waters cover the seas (Micah 4:3).


The End of the Current Natural World

Many Christians believe that at the end of the Lord's millennial reign the cosmos will be consumed with fire and cease to exist. A corollary of this is a belief that since the material universe will cease to exist, the Redeemed will live eternally in a non-material, ethereal spirit world called Heaven.

These beliefs are derived from a passage in 2 Peter 3 that says, "The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). If that's all the Bible had to say about the matter, then we could rightfully conclude that the material universe will one day come to an end.

But a few verses later the same passage states that according to the promise of God (Isaiah 66:22), we can live "looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13). Further, the same passage refers to the original earth as having been "destroyed" by water (2 Peter 3:5-6). This does not mean that it ceased to exist. What it means is that the original earth was radically changed by the Noahic Flood. In like manner, the current earth will be destroyed by fire, meaning it will be radically changed, not that it will cease to exist.

This interpretation is sustained by the fact that the Bible teaches that the current earth is eternal: "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4; see also Psalm 78:69 and Psalm 148:6).

Chapter 21 of Revelation affirms that the Redeemed will live forever on a new earth in the presence of God. As verse 3 puts it, "the tabernacle of God" will be "among men." In other words, Heaven will come to earth — to the new, renovated and perfected earth that has been cleansed of all the pollution of Satan's last revolt at the end of the Millennium.


Conclusion

There is no reason for you to fear the "end of the world" if you are a born-again child of God. You have the promise of living eternally with God on this earth after it has been redeemed and perfected.

But if you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have every reason to fear the future. The signs of the times given in the Bible indicate beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is about to return to take His believers out of this world in preparation for the pouring out of God's wrath during a period of seven years that the Bible refers to as the Tribulation.26 It will be a time of unparalleled horror on this earth, so terrible, in fact, that one-half of humanity will die during the first three and a half years!27

God does not wish that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). That's why He has provided us with signs to watch for that will indicate the season of His Son's return. We are in the midst of that season. We are living on borrowed time. Don't delay. Give your heart to Jesus today (John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-11).


Notes

23) David R. Reagan, The Christ in Prophecy Study Guide, (McKinney, Texas: Lamb & Lion Ministries, 3rd edition, 2006).

24) Scholars have dated the Day of Pentecost in 30, 31, and 32 AD. A few have placed it as late as 33 AD. The consensus opinion is the year 30.

25) The Rapture does not mark the beginning of the Tribulation. The seven years of the Tribulation begin when the Antichrist signs a covenant with Israel. There could be months, or even several years between the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation.

26) David R. Reagan, "50 Reasons Why We Are Living in the End Times," www.lamblion.com/articles/articles_signs11.php.

27) David R. Reagan, "The Tribulation: What is it? What is its purpose," The Lamplighter magazine published by Lamb & Lion Ministries, January-February 2004.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2012: Counter Arguments

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

Is there any truth to the claim that the world will end in 2012?

There is not a single academic Mayan scholar who has endorsed the idea that the conclusion of the fifth cycle of the Mayan Long Calendar will signal the end of the world. In fact, they have mocked the idea as nothing more than an Internet urban legend.

Dr. Sandra Noble, the director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, has pointed out that there is no declaration in Mayan literature that the end of the world will occur when the Long Calendar ends its fifth cycle. On the contrary, she says its conclusion would most likely have marked a time of celebration for the Mayas and the launching of another five cycles of the calendar.14

Mayan Pyramid

Keep in mind too that the Long Calendar has been interpreted in various ways by the scholars. Some have deciphered its ending date to be anywhere between December 21 to December 27 in 2012. But others have calculated the end date to be either in 1957 or 2050.15

Establishing a specific date and linking it to an end-of-the world scenario appears to be the work of sensationalist hucksters and New Age mystics mystics who have used the world's greatest rumor mill — the Internet — to create unjustified hysteria.

Regarding galactic alignment, again it appears that all the predictions of cataclysmic events are based on junk science. Academic astronomers have pointed out that the alignment will span a period of 36 years. That period began in 1998 with a convergence that was even more precise than what it will be in 2012, yet there have been no dire consequences.16

In contrast, the prediction of increased solar flare activity in 2012 is based upon solid science. Every 11 years the sun goes through what is called a solar cycle. During the peak time of this cycle, the sun's magnetic poles switch. This produces, in turn, solar flares which are pieces of the sun which are discharged into space, carrying with them radiation and strong electrical currents. They usually fall back on the surface of the sun. But sometimes a very strong flare, called a Coronal Mass Ejection, will shoot into space like a bullet. These flares can cause major power blackouts when they hit power grids.17

The prediction by the National Center for Atmospheric Research that solar flare activity could increase 30% to 50% over previous years is a legitimate cause for concern. It could result in large scale blackouts, and it could affect such things as satellite communication and cell phones.18

But even the scientists who have issued the warnings have not predicted cataclysmic results. And they have not proposed any specific date. In fact, one of the lead scientists for the National Space Science & Technology Center (NSSTC) argues that the maximum sun flare activity is more likely to occur in either 2010 or 2011.19

The Nostradamus "prophecies" are hardly worth mentioning. This man was a demon possessed practitioner of witchcraft. His so-called prophecies are poetic quatrains that are so obtuse as to be unintelligible. They have therefore never been used to prophesy any event before it happens. Instead, the Nostradamus groupies apply a quatrain to an event after it happens, and even these applications require a vivid imagination. In fact, the writings of Nostradamus are often doctored to make them more applicable as "prophecies." There is nothing in any of his published writings that has reference to the year 2012.20

With regard to the Bible Code, I believe there is no doubt that there are mathematical wonders coded in the Bible that point to its supernatural origin,21 but I do not believe there are secretly coded prophecies that are hidden beneath the surface of the text. The prophecies God has revealed in His Word are clearly stated in the surface words. Serious Bible code researchers have distanced themselves from those like Michael Drosnin who try to use the codes like a crystal ball to predict future events.

Drosnin's Bible Code prediction about the earth being annihilated in 2012 must be considered in reference to the fact that when he published his book in 1997 he claimed that the codes predicted a nuclear war in 2000 or 2006 and a comet strike on the earth in 2006.22 These events failed to take place.

That leaves us with the Web Bot Project, which is the silliest bit of evidence that could possibly be presented. All this system does is catalogue the consensus Internet opinion on any given topic. It amounts to prophecy by majority opinion, and that opinion is derived from the Internet rumor mill!

In the last installment of this 2012 series, we'll look to see what the Bible says concerning the end of this world.


Notes

14) G. Jeffrey MacDonald, "Does Maya Calendar predict 2012 apocalypse?" USA Today, March 27, 2007, www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-03-27-maya-2012_n.htm, accessed October 18, 2009.

15) Mervin Stoddart, "Will the world end in 2012?" The Jamaica Observer, October 25, 2008, www.jamaicaobserver.com, accessed on October 6, 2009.

16) Jean Meeus, Mathematical Astronomy Morsels, (Richmond, VA: Willmann-Bell Publishers, 1997).

17) Richard Lowe, "2012: What's All The Fuss About?" www.december212012.com, accessed October 18, 2009.

18) Alfred Lambremont Webre, "2012 may bring 'perfect storm' — solar flares, systems collapse," Fort Worth Examiner, April 1, 2009, www.examiner.com, accessed October 18, 2009.

19) NASA, "Solar Storm Warning," March 10, 2006, http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/10mar_stormwarning.htm.

20) For more information about Nostradamus, see "Nostradamus Prophet or Charlatan?" by Dr. David R. Reagan, www.lamblion.com/articles/articles_cults9.php.

21) David R. Reagan, "The Bible Code: Is it for real, and if so, does it provide new evidence of the supernatural origin of the Bible?" www.lamblion.com/articles/articles_bible4.php.

22) Drosnin, The Bible Code, pp. 123-127, 153.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2012: Apocalyptic Factors

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

Is the Mayan Long Calendar the only source of the 2012 "end of the world" prediction, or are there other factors that support this dire forecast?

There are other factors besides the Mayan Long Calendar that are fueling the 2012 hype. One is the fact that the same date, December 21, 2012, allegedly marks the first time in thousands of years that the galactic alignment of the sun and earth with the center of the Milky Way will occur.7 Some have theorized that this cosmic event will cause the earth's poles to reverse, resulting in major catastrophes.8

A Mayan Calendar

Also causing concern is the prediction by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) that 2012 will be a peak year for the sun's cycle, resulting in a very dramatic increase in solar flares.9 Estimates are that the next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one in 2000. If correct, the years ahead could produce a burst of solar activity second only to the historic Solar Max of 1958.

To no one's surprise, the Nostradamus fans have also jumped on the 2012 band wagon. In 1994, Italian journalist Enza Massa was at the Italian National Library in Rome when she stumbled upon an unusual find. It was a manuscript dating to 1629, titled: Nostradamus Vatinicia Code. Michel de Notredame, the author's name, was on the inside in indelible ink. This manuscript, never published by Nostradamus, was handed down to the seer's son and later donated by him to Pope Urban VIII.10

The book is full of bizarre images and mystical quatrains. Its contents have not yet been completely revealed to the public, but there are rumors all over the Internet that it contains predictions of the end of the world in 2012.

And then there is the Bible Code. Michael Drosnin, the author of the book that popularized the code, states that the words, "earth annihilated" appear in correspondence with the year 2012.11

Finally, there is the Web Bot Project that was started in 1997. It was originally created to predict stock market trends. But it has expanded in recent years into a program that claims to be able to predict future events by tracking keywords entered on the Internet.12 When the date, December 21, 2012, is entered into Web Bot, the prediction emerges that there will be "a cataclysmic pole shift in 2012."13

In the next installment of this 2012 series, we'll look to see if there is any truth to the claim that the world will end in 2012.


Notes

7) Dan Eden, "The Real Doomsday? December 21, 2012," www.viewzone.com/endtime.html, accessed October 16, 2009.

8) Patrick Geryl, "Pole Shift & Pole Reversal in 2012,"
http://survive2012.com/index.php/geryl-pole-shift.html, accessed October 16, 2009.

9) NCAR News Release, "Scientists Issue Unprecedented Forecast of Next Sunspot Cycle," March 6, 2006,
www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2006/sunspot.shtml, accessed October 16, 2009.

10) Mendhak, "The Lost Book of Nostradamus," www.mendhak.com/40-the-lost-book-of-nostradamus.aspx, accessed October 16, 2009.

11) Michael Drosnin, The Bible Code (New York: Touchstone, 1997), pages 153-154.

12) Wikipedia, "Web Bot," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_Bot, accessed October 16, 2009.

13) Andrews and Andrews, The Complete Idiot's Guide to 2012, page 162.

Monday, December 28, 2009

2012: Cataclysmic Calendar

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

What is the source of the doomsday date of 2012 that so many are talking about?

The 2012 hysteria has produced a doom boom that has been fueled by a series of television programs and the recent Hollywood blockbuster film.

It all relates to a calendar developed by the ancient Mayan civilization that was centered in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Their society flourished from about 250 to 900 AD, when it experienced a sudden, unexplained collapse.

2012 Poster

The Mayas developed an advanced society that featured large cities built around stepped pyramids that also served as temples. They excelled in mathematics and astronomy. Combining the two, they produced a series of 20 different types of calendars. It would not be an overstatement to say that the Mayas were calendar-obsessed.

Their calculations were incredibly accurate. Without the help of calculators, computers, or telescopes, they were able to determine the length of a lunar month to be 29.53020 days. The actual length is 29.53059 days.1 Their solar year was calculated to be 365.2450 days minus an error of .002. Modern calculations put it at 365.2425 plus an error of .0003.2

The Mayans had three main calendars.3 One was a solar calendar that was based on 20 day months. The second was a ceremonial calendar that was related to the 260 day cycle of Venus. It was their third measure of time, the Long Count Calendar, that was related to the year 2012.

A Mayan Calendar

The Long Count Calendar was a measure of "world age cycles" that repeat over and over again. This calendar was divided into five units or cycles that started with the mythical date for the creation of the Mayas — August 11, 3114 BC. The fifth cycle was supposed to end on a date that corresponds to December 21, 2012 on the Gregorian Calendar that is used in the Western World. Since the calendar ends on that date, some modern day interpreters have jumped to the conclusion that it marks the date for the end of the world.

The man who put 2012 on the map as a pivotal date for world history was José Arguelles, a Mexican-American, who authored a mystical book in 1987 titled The Mayan Factor.4 He was also instrumental that year in organizing a worldwide event called the Harmonic Convergence.5 During two days in August, people were urged to gather at sacred sites to awaken the "energy grid" of the world and thus initiate a 25-year era of spiritual growth that would culminate in 2012.

Since that time, a man by the name of Christian John Meoli has been organizing and conducting 2012 conferences that have the flavor of a Star Trek convention. He plans to hold the final conference on December 21, 2012 at the Mayan pyramids in Mexico. He describes 2012 as "the shift,"and the slogan for his conferences is "Shift Happens."6

Meanwhile, the History Channel on television has promoted the 2012 craze with a zeal, broadcasting a whole series of programs focused on the date: "Mayan Doomsday Prophecy" (2006), "Last Days on Earth" (2006), "Doomsday 2012: The End of Days" (2007), "Seven Signs of the Apocalypse" (2009), and "Nostradamus 2012" (2009).

In the next installment of this 2012 series, we'll look at the apocalyptic factors that are used to substantiate the doomsday date of 2012.


Notes

1) Lawrence E. Joseph, Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation into Civilization's End (New York: Broadway Books, 2007), page 12.

2) Synthia Andrews and Colin Andrews, The Complete Idiot's Guide to 2012 (New York: Alpha, 2008), page 11.

3) Mark Hitchcock, 2012: The Bible and the End of the World (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2009), page 32.

4) José Arguelles, The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology (Rochester, Vermont: Bear & Company, 1987).

5) Wikipedia, "Harmonic Convergence,"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_Convergence, accessed October 16, 2009.

6) Pauline O'Connor, "12/12/12: The end of the world as we know it?" Los Angeles Times, February 28, 2008, http://theguide.latimes.com/general/12-12-12-the-end-of-the-world-as-article, accessed on October 16, 2009.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Prophecies: The Future

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

Are there Christmas promises yet to be fulfilled?

Dr. David Reagan, Dennis Pollock of Spirit of Grace Ministries, and I recently got together on the television show "Christ in Prophecy" (watch it!) to discuss how some of the Bible prophecies related to the birth of Jesus Christ have yet to be fulfilled. To find out just what those future but "forgotten" promises of Christmas are — read on!


Dr. Reagan:
Let's consider one of the prophecies that was given to Mary by the angel Gabriel when he informed her that she had been chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah. It is recorded in Luke 1, beginning with verse 31. Nathan, why don't you read that to us.

Nathan Jones: Okay. "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of his father, David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom there will be no end."

Dr. Reagan: This magnificent statement contains 7 promises. Four of them relate to the first advent of the Lord, and they have thus been fulfilled. Let's consider those four. The fulfilled prophecies are:

  1. Mary will conceive and give birth to a son.
  2. His name will be called Jesus.
  3. He will be called great.
  4. He will be called the Son of God.

Dennis Pollock: But, Dave, what most people don't realize is that Gabriel's statement to Mary contained three other prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled. Those three unfulfilled prophecies are these:

  1. He will be given the throne of David.
  2. He will reign over the house of Jacob.
  3. There will be no end to His Kingdom.

Dr. Reagan: I call these three promises the "forgotten promises of Christmas" because they are not taught by most churches in Christendom today. That's because most churches take the position that Jesus will never return to this earth again. That is called the Amillennial viewpoint.

Dennis Pollock: The Amillennial view is based on the supposition that the Bible does not mean what it says. To substantiate the viewpoint, its proponents are forced to spiritualize Scripture. Thus, in their interpretation of these three unfulfilled promises, they convert the throne of David into the throne of God and the house of Jacob becomes the Church. They then conclude that the promises have been fulfilled in the current reign of Jesus from His Father's throne over the Church.

Dr. Reagan: There is no doubt that Jesus is currently reigning from His Father's throne over His kingdom the Church, but to identify that reign with the one promised to Mary takes a great leap of imagination. The throne of David is not the throne of God. The throne of God is in Heaven. The throne of David is in Jerusalem. Jesus himself clearly differentiates between the throne of God and His own throne in Revelation 3:21. In that verse Jesus says that He will one day allow believers to sit with Him on His throne just as His Father has allowed Him to share His throne. Jesus is not on the throne of David today. He is sitting at the right hand of His father on His Father's throne. He will occupy the throne of David when He returns to earth to reign from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.

Nathan Jones: Nor is the Church the house of Jacob. This is an Old Testament term for the Children of Israel. The Church is never referred to in the Scriptures as "the house of Jacob."

The Bible teaches that a remnant of the Jews will one day accept Jesus as their Messiah. This will occur at the end of seven years of terrible suffering called the Tribulation, or "the time of Jacob's trouble." Now, when Jesus returns at the end of that time of suffering, the Jewish remnant will be gathered to the land of Israel and will be made the foremost nation in the world. Jesus will then rule over the house of Jacob.

Dennis Pollock: Another important point to keep in mind is that the current Church Kingdom is not an everlasting kingdom. The Church Age Kingdom will end with the Rapture of the Church. The Church Kingdom will be followed by the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus will reign over all the earth from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. That kingdom here on this earth will last one thousand years. The final, eternal kingdom of Christ will be established on a new, perfected earth.

Nathan Jones: Why can't people just accept the promises made to Mary to mean what they say? The first four meant exactly what they said. Why must the last three be spiritualized? The only reason for spiritualizing them is to force them to conform to some preconceived doctrine.

Dr. Reagan: Well, I believe God knows how to communicate. If God had intended to promise Mary that her Son would reign from Heaven over the Church forever, He would have said so. Instead, He reaffirmed to her the promise He had made many times throughout the Old Testament through the prophets — that his Son would reign from David's throne in Jerusalem over Israel and that He would be given a kingdom that would last forever.

Dennis Pollock: If the promises God made to the Jews didn't mean what they said, then how can we be sure that His promises to the Church mean what they say? I believe God says what He means and He means what He says.

Dr. Reagan: I would agree whole heartedly, Dennis.

During this Christmas season I am going to praise God for sending His Son to die for my sins, but I am also going to praise Him for the fact that He has promised that He will soon send His Son again to fulfill the "forgotten promises" which Gabriel made to Mary. The Church may have forgotten those promises, but I thank God that He never forgets a promise.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Prophecies: The Promises

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

What does the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies by Jesus of Nazareth have anything to do with you?

Dr. David Reagan, Dennis Pollock of Spirit of Grace Ministries, and I recently got together on the television show "Christ in Prophecy" (watch it!) to discuss how the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in Jesus of Nazareth has great implications to every person on Earth. To find out what God has promised to those who believe in His Son Jesus — read on!


Dr. Reagan:
God's faithfulness in fulfilling in detail each of the Christmas prophecies concerning the birth of the Messiah is incredibly significant because it gives absolute assurance that God will likewise faithfully fulfill all the prophecies He has given to Christians regarding the soon return of Jesus. God has made some great promises to the Church.

Dennis Pollock: He certainly has, Dave, and that's why Paul wrote that, "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is yet to be revealed to us."

Dr. Reagan: And likewise, in 1 Corinthians 2:9, Paul wrote, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has the mind of man even conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him."

Nathan Jones: One day very soon Jesus is going to appear in the heavens and take the Church — both the living and dead — out of this world. On the way up we are going to receive glorified, immortal bodies that will never age again and never again feel any pain. After the Tribulation, we will return to earth with Jesus to help Him reign over the earth. We will see this world flooded with peace, righteousness, and justice as the waters cover the seas.

Dr. Reagan: And, Nathan, those are only a few of the glorious promises that God has made about the future. We can be assured that God will be just as faithful in fulfilling those as He was in fulfilling all the promises He made about the first coming of the Messiah.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Prophecies: The Story

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

Does the New Testament provide any prophecies that show Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah?

Dr. David Reagan, Dennis Pollock of Spirit of Grace Ministries, and I recently got together on the television show "Christ in Prophecy" (watch it!) to discuss how the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in Jesus of Nazareth is proof positive that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. If you were wondering what the New Testament has to say about the birth of Jesus being the fulfillment of the First Coming prophecies concerning the Messiah — read on!


Nathan Jones:
In addition to Old Testament prophecies that were given hundreds and even thousands of years before the Messiah was even born, the New Testament contains a cluster of prophetic statements that were made shortly before the birth of Jesus. The first was given by the angel Gabriel to Zacharias, the priest who was to become the father of John the Baptist. Gabriel told Zacharias that his barren wife Elizabeth would conceive a son to be named John, and that this son would serve as a forerunner of the Messiah preparing the hearts of the people for the Messiah's appearance.

Dennis Pollock: Gabriel next appeared to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the Messiah by the power of the Holy Spirit. He told her that her child's name would be Yeshua, or Jesus, in English meaning "God's salvation." He also said the child would be divine and that He would be "the Son of the Most High."

Nathan Jones: The next prophetic words came out of Mary's mouth after she became pregnant with the Messiah. Luke records a glorious song which she sang to Elizabeth. In the song Mary prophesies that her son will "scatter the proud," "bring down rulers," "exalt the humble," and "fill the hungry."

Dr. Reagan: Three months later, Elizabeth's husband Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit when his son John the Baptist was born. Zacharias also sang a prophetic song. Referring to the baby in Mary's womb, he proclaimed that God had "raised up a horn of salvation" for the Jewish people. He then declared that his own son would be called "the Prophet of the Most High," and he prophesied that his son would "go before the Lord to prepare His way." Zacharias concluded his song with one of the most beautiful poetic prophecies concerning the Messiah that can be found anywhere in the Scripture. Here is what he said, "Because of the tender mercy of our God... The sunrise from on high shall visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace."

Dennis Pollock: The next prophetic song of celebration was sung on the night of the Messiah's birth when an angel appeared to the shepherds of Bethlehem and proclaimed, "Behold, I bring you good news of a great a joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord." That angel was suddenly joined by a multitude of angels who sang a triumphant chorus, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

Dr. Reagan: The final prophetic song related to the Messiah's birth was sung by a righteous and devout man of Jerusalem by the name of Simeon. The Holy Spirit had come upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die before he saw the Messiah. He was given that glorious privilege forty days after the Messiah's birth when the parents of Jesus came to the temple in Jerusalem to dedicate their baby to God. Simeon took the Christ child in his arms, he thanked the Lord, and then he sang, "My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel."

Nathan Jones: The bottom line is that the fulfillment of all these prophecies in the life of one person — Jesus of Nazareth — is proof positive that He was who He said He was, namely, the Messiah of God.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Prophecies: The Probability

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

What is the probability that all 109 distinct Bible prophecies concerning the Messiah's first coming were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth?

Dr. David Reagan, Dennis Pollock of Spirit of Grace Ministries, and I recently got together on the television show "Christ in Prophecy" (watch it!) to discuss how the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in Jesus of Nazareth is proof positive that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the First Coming of the Messiah. If you were wondering what the mathematical probabilities are that Jesus is really the prophesied Messiah — read on!


Dr. Reagan:
I spent some seven years cataloguing the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the firsts coming of the Messiah, and in that process I discovered a total of 109 separate and distinct prophecies that were fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus. 109!

A science professor by the name of Peter Stoner has calculated the odds of just 8 of those prophecies being fulfilled accidentally in the life of one person. He concluded that the odds are 1 in 10 to the 17th power. That's the number 1 with 17 zeros after it. That is 100 quadrillion, about 10 times the size of our national debt. Have you ever pondered the odds represented by this phenomenal number?

Now, I have never met Peter Stoner, in fact he has gone on to be with the Lord, but I know he must have been a good guy because he uses the state of Texas to illustrate the meaning of 1 in 10 to the 17th power. Here is how he describes this number. Just conceive of these odds. Fill the state of Texas knee deep in silver dollars with one of those dollars having a black checkmark on it. Then you take 10,000 bulldozers and let them just kind of mix up the silver dollars really, really, good for 10 years. Next blindfold a guy and turn him loose in that sea of silver dollars. The odds that on the first draw he would reach down and pick up one of those silver dollars with the black checkmark on it is 1 in 10 to the 17th power!

Nathan Jones: You're right, Dave, that's just beyond the realm of possibility! That's why some people try to argue that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies on purpose. But, most were incapable of being purposeful and being self-fulfilled. For example, consider the prophecies concerning the Messiah's birth. How many of us have been able to control the timing of our birth?

Dr. Reagan: And, not only the timing, the same is true about the place of his birth.

Nathan Jones: Oh yeah, that's right, Dave, that brings us to one of the most important prophecies concerning Jesus' birth. And you can find it in Micah 5:2 which speaks of the birthplace of the Messiah. The passage reads as follows, "But as for you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you one will go forth for me to be ruler in Israel." This prophecy, written 500 years before Jesus' birth, specifically names the town where the Messiah will be born.

Dennis Pollock: Yes it does, Nathan, and it does it more precisely than most people realize because there were two Bethlehems in Israel at that time, one in the north near the Sea of Galilee and the other in the south near Jerusalem. This prophecy says the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, meaning the Bethlehem near Jerusalem.

Let me illustrate it this way. If I were to ask a person where he was born and he said to me "Springfield," I would have to ask, "Which Springfield?" That's because there's a Springfield in almost every state of our nation. We are talking here about very specific prophecies and not the kind of vague and indecipherable prophecies that characterize the writings of false prophets like Nostradamus, so-called prophecies that are written in such linguistic mumbo-jumbo that they can be "understood" after the event and then can be applied to numerous events over and over again.

Nathan Jones: I'd like to point out something else in Micah that is very important and which is often overlooked. Beginning with the latter part of Micah 5:2 and continuing through verse 3, the passage says, "From you Bethlehem one will go forth for me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." Now, these verses make it very clear that the Messiah will be divine and that He will be God in the flesh, for these verses say He will be the one who has existed eternally.

Dr. Reagan: This is not the only prophecy that affirms the divinity of the Messiah. Another can be found in Isaiah 9:6 where it says the Messiah will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace."

Dennis Pollock: Let's not forget the scriptural evidence of the virgin birth. Several prophecies indicate the divine nature of the Messiah, like the one in Genesis 3:15 which said He would be born of "the seed of woman," and the one in Isaiah 7:14 which said point blank that He would be born of a virgin.

Dr. Reagan: There are many other details in the Hebrew Scriptures about the birth of the Messiah that were prophesied long before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. For example, the prophet Balaam mentioned that a special star would mark the Messiah's birth, and that is exactly what happened. Solomon in one of his psalms stated that the kings would send the Messiah gifts. The New Testament tells us that those gifts were brought by Persian wise men. Hosea prophesied that the Messiah would be taken into Egypt, and that is exactly what happened when Jesus' parents fled Bethlehem due to the threats of King Herod who's subsequent slaughter of the children of Bethlehem was prophesied by Jeremiah.

There is no doubt that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth proves He is the Messiah.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Prophecies: The Timing

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

Were there any prophecies that identified when the Messiah would first come?

Dr. David Reagan, Dennis Pollock of Spirit of Grace Ministries, and I recently got together on the television show "Christ in Prophecy" (watch it!) to discuss how the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in Jesus of Nazareth is proof positive that Jesus came when the Messiah was supposed to first come. If you were wondering if Jesus really came on the scene when the Messiah was first meant to — read on in our discussion of this amazing timing!


Dr. Reagan:
Every year at Christmas I am reminded of the remarkable prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus and how they substantiate His deity and the faithfulness of God. Let's look at some of those prophecies. The first that came to my mind are those that established the general time period when the Lord would appear. Tell us about those prophecies, Nathan.

Nathan Jones: I'd be happy to, Dave! There are two of them. I'll begin with Genesis 49 which contains the words spoken by Jacob on his death bed to his son Judah. Jacob said, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah… until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." Now, the term, "Shiloh" was recognized by the Jewish rabbis as a Messianic title, so the term "scepter" refers to the judicial power of the nation. Thus, this prophecy is saying that the Jewish nation's judicial power will never be lost before the Messiah comes.

Dr. Reagan: But, Nathan, didn't the Jews lose their judicial power during the Babylonian captivity, about 500 years before Christ?

Nathan Jones: Well, Judah's national sovereignty was lost, but they never lost their ability to have their own courts and judges during that time.

Dr. Reagan: Okay, so then, the loss of judicial power must have been during the time of the Romans?

Nathan Jones: Exactly, it was during 7 AD the Jewish Sanhedrin Council had actually lost the ability to pronounce the death penalty.

Dr. Reagan: Well, you know, Nathan, that is remarkable because the Messiah had come 11 years earlier when Jesus was born say in 4 BC. So, Shiloh had arrived shortly before the scepter departed, just as prophesied.

Nathan Jones: Exactly!

Dr. Reagan: Dennis, tell us about the other First Coming prophecy, the one that is contained in Daniel 9.

Dennis Pollock: It is a pretty complex prophecy, so let me just summarize it. The prophecy was written during the Babylonian captivity. Basically, what it says is that the Messiah will come and be killed 483 years after an order is issued for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. That order was given by the Medo-Persian ruler Artaxerxes, and 483 years later Jesus entered Jerusalem to be crucified.

Dr. Reagan: You know, Dennis, that is absolutely amazing! The world, of course, would call that a coincidence.

Dennis Pollock: They might call it a coincidence, but the truth is that when you have these kinds of prophecies and their precise fulfillment, that goes well beyond the realm of coincidence. That would be a "God-incidence," that is, historical events that are orchestrated by the hand of Almighty God.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peter Marshall Conference

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Lamb & Lion Ministries feels highly honored to have Christian historian Peter John Marshall as our distinguished guest at a conference we're hosting titled "America's Christian Heritage."

This special conference will be held on Saturday, January 16, 2010 from 9:00 a.m. to 12 Noon at Faith Fellowship Church in Lucas, Texas (a northern suburb of Dallas). The conference is free of charge, but registration is required by calling (972) 736-3567 (M-F, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. CST), or register online.


Sessions

Session 1 - America's Christian heritage
Session 2 - Challenges to that Heritage
Session 3 - Q&A


About Peter Marshall

Peter MarshallPeter John Marshall is the son of the famous Scottish minister, Dr. Peter Marshall, who came to this country in 1927. He attended Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia before entering the ministry. After serving two churches in Georgia, he was invited to become the pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. in 1937 and was appointed twice as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, serving from January 1947 until his sudden death just over two years later. He was 46 years old.

Mr. Marshall's mother, Catherine, became as famous as his father when she wrote a biography of her husband entitled, A Man Called Peter. This book was later made into an Oscar-nominated film of the same title (1955) featuring Richard Todd as Peter Marshall. Mrs. Marshall eventually wrote over 20 books, including many editions of her late husband's sermons, several inspirational books, and the best-selling novel Christy.

Peter John Marshall emerged from the shadow of his famous parents 32 years ago in 1977 when he published his seminal study of the Christian heritage of our nation, The Light and the Glory, 1492-1793. This book went through 24 printings before a revised and expanded second edition was published in 2009. He has since written two sequels, From Sea to Shining Sea, 1787-1837, and Sounding Forth the Trumpet, 1837-1860.

The headquarters of Mr. Marshall's ministry is located on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, in the town of Orleans. His website address is petermarshallministries.com.

Peter John Marshall is a graduate of Yale University and Princeton Seminary. He served as a Presbyterian pastor for twelve years before devoting himself in 1977 to a continent-wide ministry of preaching, teaching and writing.

"I strongly recommend Peter Marshall as a speaker. He is one of the most knowledgeable men of our times on America's Christian and biblical heritage, and has a message from God that people need to hear." — Bill Bright, late founder of Campus Crusade for Christ International

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Its About Time: When Was Jesus Born?

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Dr. James W. HuggEditor's Note: James W. Hugg, PhD, has been a disciple of the Messiah since 1971 and has been a member of the Lamb & Lion Board of Trustees since 1982. He has been involved since 1989 in Messianic Judaism, working with Jews for Jesus in street evangelism, and serving as cantor in several Messianic Jewish congregations. James holds dual citizenship in the USA and Israel (where he is called Ya'akov). Dr. Hugg is formally a senior research physicist at the General Electric Global Research Center in Niskayuna, NY, where he designed molecular imaging scanners. Dr. Hugg earned his doctorate in nuclear physics from Stanford University.


I am a research physicist who escaped the slavery of devotion to the atheist religion of secular humanism and the evolutionary worldview. I have investigated a number of biblical topics related in some way to better understanding "time" and I want to share some of my faith-building findings with you.

God created time "In the beginning..." and placed humans into this temporal world to separate the sheep from the goats in preparation for the eternal world where we sheep will live in His presence. So the title of my article "It's about Time" has a double meaning: I want to write about topics related to questions of time, and the expression "it's about time" reminds us that our Lord and Savior will soon return to conclude this phase of world history and to establish His Millennial Kingdom on earth.


The Christmas Tradition

We celebrate the birth of Messiah (Christ) on Christmas (from Old English, meaning "coming of Christ"), the 25th day of December. This date was first observed in 336 AD, some 24 years after the Roman emperor Constantine established Christianity as the state religion. Apparently, Pope Julius I chose to replace the pagan winter solstice feast in honor of Mithra, the "Unconquered Sun," that had been officially recognized by the emperor Aurelian in 274 AD. From Rome, the new feast celebrating the birthday of the "Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2) spread to all other churches (except the Armenian church) over the following century.

As many Christians are aware, the modern Christmas celebration combines many strands of tradition including the ancient Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia (merrymaking, exchange of presents), the old Germanic midwinter customs (Yule log, decorating evergreen trees), the tradition of Francis of Assisi (displaying the crib, or crèche of Jesus), the medieval feast of St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas in Dutch, hence "Santa Claus"), and the British sending of greeting cards (1840s). The Puritan pilgrims did not celebrate Christmas because of its many unbiblical associations. The holiday was officially recognized in the United States in 1870.

The Dutch Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) is the origin of the North American Santa Claus. According to legend, Sinterklaas makes his rounds on December 5, Saint Nicholas's Eve. Dressed in a catholic bishop's robes, Sinterklaas rides through the streets distributing sweets to the children. According to some versions of the popular legend, another figure accompanies him named Black Peter, who carries a whip with which to chastise naughty children.


The Historical Evidence

I think it is fair and not overly critical for us to admit that the date chosen by Constantine and Pope Julius I to celebrate the birth of Jesus was not based on good historical or biblical evidence. Let's look for that overlooked evidence in the historical account of the birth of Jesus recorded by Dr. Luke.

1) Our first clue is found in Luke 1:5. Here is how it reads in the Complete Jewish Bible:1 "In the days of Herod, King of Y'hudah (Judea), there was a cohen (Jewish priest) named Z'kharyah (Zacharias) who belonged to the Aviyah (Abijah) division." The service of the Abijah division of priests was scheduled for the last two weeks of the fourth month of the Jewish religious calendar (15-29 Tammuz, June-July), according to the Talmud (rabbinic commentaries) and Qumran sources.2

Dr. Luke tells us that Zacharias was serving in the 2nd Jewish Temple in Jerusalem when he was chosen to enter the holy place to burn incense outside the Holy of Holies. The archangel Gavri'el (Gabriel) appeared to Zacharias and revealed that he and his barren wife Elisheva (Elizabeth) would have a son named Yochanan (John) who would precede and prepare the way for the Messiah. He returned home after his two-week service, then his wife conceived, as Gabriel had prophesied. The earliest date for John's conception would be the 1st of Av (July).

2) In the 6th month (Kislev-Tevet, December) of Elizabeth's pregnancy, Gabriel visited Miryam (Mary) in Nazareth to announce: "You will become pregnant, you will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Yeshua (Jesus, meaning "God's salvation")" (Luke 1:31, CJB). Gabriel also revealed to Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, was six-months pregnant. Elizabeth's sixth month included the celebration of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah, the "Feast of the Dedication" (John 10:22) connected with the rededication of the temple after the Maccabean revolt. Without delay, Mary hurried to visit Elizabeth (Luke 1:39), about a week's journey on foot from Nazareth.

3) When Mary arrived, Elizabeth greeted her: "How blessed is the child in your womb!" (Luke 1:42). From this, we conclude that there was no delay between the time of Gabriel's announcement to Mary and the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. We can infer that the same was true for the conception of John. At most, only a few days passed between the announcement and the fulfillment of each of these two angelic prophecies.

4) Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, until John was born (probably during Pesach or Passover, 15-21 Nisan, April), circumcised on the eighth day, and given his prophesied name (Luke 1:57-80). One of the long-held Jewish traditions is that the prophet Elijah will return at Passover (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6). Gabriel had prophesied to Zacharias that John would come "in the spirit and power of Eliyahu (Elijah)" (Luke 1:17, CJB).

5) Mary returned to Nazareth, where an angel (probably Gabriel again) reassured her betrothed husband: "Yosef (Joseph), son of David, do not be afraid to take Miryam (Mary) home with you as your wife; for what has been conceived in her is from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Yeshua [which means ADONAI (God) saves], because He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20-21, CJB). Emperor Augustus ordered a census that required Joseph to take Mary to Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem) where she gave birth to Jesus (probably during Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, 15-21 Tishrei, September-October). "The Word [Jesus] became a human being and lived [tabernacled] with us" (John 1:14).

6) The night of the birth of Jesus, an angel (probably the archangel Michael) appeared with the angelic armies of heaven to announce the birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-15). Perhaps there is a long forgotten connection with Michaelmas ("coming of Michael") Day, the feast of Michael the Archangel, which is celebrated in some traditions (particularly in the United Kingdom) on the 29th of September. Michael is the leader of the angelic armies who hurls Lucifer (Satan, the Devil) down from heaven because of his treachery (Revelation 12:7).

7) Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the Jewish Temple on the 40th day after His birth (probably late Cheshvan, early November) for the ceremony of Pidyon HaBen (redemption of the firstborn son). There He received the blessings of Shim'on (Simeon) and Hannah, two righteous Jewish prophets (Luke 2:22-38).

8) Magi from the east came (probably in Winter) to inquire of King Herod about the birth of Jesus. The head cohanim (Jewish priests) admitted that Messiah must be born in Bethlehem, so the Magi went there (three miles from Jerusalem) and found Joseph, Mary, and Jesus living in a house. They worshipped Him and gave Him gifts, then obeyed an angelic warning (probably Gabriel) to avoid revealing to King Herod the location of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12).

9) After the Magi departed Bethlehem, an angel (probably Gabriel) warned Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape King Herod's attempt to murder Jesus. They left that same night (Matthew 2:13-15). King Herod ordered the slaughter of all boys in Bethlehem up to age two, but Joseph escaped with his family to Egypt (possibly the Sinai peninsula), where they remained until Herod's death (Matthew 2:16-18). I assume that Herod included a margin of error in calculating how old the newborn Messiah, King of the Jews, would be when he ordered the murder of all Bethlehem boys less than two years old.

10) After King Herod's death, an angel (probably Gabriel) appeared to Joseph to tell him it was safe to return home to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23). The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus recorded the death of the evil King Herod in the spring of 4 BC.3 I assume that Herod did not live long after the slaughter of the innocent boys of Bethlehem, and thus that the family of Jesus did not stay long in Egypt. Therefore, we can place the birth of Jesus on a fairly well constrained timeline.


Determining the Date

If Jesus was born during Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, (which began the 29th of September) in 5 BC, as we deduced from the evidence above, then His conception was probably during Hanukkah, possibly as late as the 25th of December in 6 BC. It is also possible that the Magi visited Bethlehem around the 25th of December in 5 BC, when Jesus would have been almost 3 months old.

'Anno Domini' (AD) dating was adopted in Western Europe during the 8th century. In 525 AD when the monk Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Little, meaning humble) calculated the year of Jesus' birth, he missed by about 3 years. We now have evidence that Herod died in 4 BC, probably less than a year after Jesus was born.


The Significance

Does it really matter when Jesus was born or when we celebrate Christmas? In some ways, no, it doesn't matter — after all, if it was critically important to know precisely when Jesus was born, God would have told us He was born on a particular day and month and year. We have the freedom as believers to celebrate, or not to celebrate, the birth of our Lord and Savior on any day of our choosing (Romans 14:1-12).

Christmas is not a commandment. It is far more important HOW we celebrate ("remember the reason for the season") than WHEN. Let us not give or receive condemnation for observing the 25th of December, rather let us celebrate that God's Son became fully human and lived a perfect life so that He could become our perfect sacrifice and conquer sin and death in our place.

But, in another way, it IS important to consider the evidence God gave us and to place it in a proper Jewish context so that we can better understand the foundation of our faith. For example, the information I have presented in this article makes it clear that an important prophecy about the Messiah was fulfilled in the life of Jesus. That prophecy is found in Genesis 49:10 — "The scepter will not pass from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his legs, until Shiloh [Messiah] comes, and it is He whom the peoples will obey." Second Temple rabbis understood this as a Messianic prophecy.

In about 7 AD, the Romans abolished the power of the Jewish Sanhedrin Council in Judah to pronounce the death penalty.4 Furthermore, Herod was the first king of Israel who was not a descendent of the tribe of Judah. However, Jesus had already been born in 5 BC, before the scepter and staff (power) departed from Judah.

There is a deeper meaning and real significance to the conclusion that Jesus was probably born during the Feast of Tabernacles, thus bringing partial fulfillment to the prophetic type of that important feast established by God. Tabernacles (booths) are temporary, insecure dwellings and emphasize our reliance on God's grace. So also the temporary human body in which the Son of God dwelled among us demonstrated what total reliance on God can accomplish.

The ultimate fulfillment of the prophetic significance of the Feast of Tabernacles will occur when Jesus returns in glory and majesty to tabernacle among us as King of kings and Lord of lords. Maranatha!


Notes

  1. Dr. David H. Stern, Complete Jewish Bible, 1998, available from Lederer/Messianic Jewish Communications, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029, 1-800-410-7367, www.MessianicJewish.net.
  2. Shmuel Safrai, "A Priest of the Division of Abijah," www.jerusalemperspective.org/%5Cdefault.aspx?tabid=27&ArticleID=1847.
  3. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 17, Chapter 8, www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-17.htm.
  4. George A. Barton, "On the Trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 41, No. 3/4 (1922), pp. 205-211, www.jstor.org/pss/3260096.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mysteries of the Star of Bethlehem

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.'" (Matthew 2:1-2)

The star of Bethlehem has always intrigued people. What was it? Could it have been a comet or a meteor or a super-nova? What about a special alignment of planets?


Various Theories

The longevity of the star rules out a comet or a meteor. The star had to appear each night for several months in order to lead the magi all the way from Persia in the Far East. The possibility of a super-nova or a planetary alignment is ruled out by the fact that the star constantly moved, leading the magi first to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem where the star hovered over the house where Mary and Joseph had moved to with the Christ Child (Matthew 2:9-11).

Wise Men Follow the Star


A Supernatural Alternative

The renowned Messianic Jewish scholar, Alfred Edersheim, has proposed another solution to the mystery. He points out that the Greek word translated "star" really means "radiance." The "star" could therefore have been what the Jews called the "Shekinah" — that is, a physical manifestation of the glory of God in the form of a supernatural radiance.

The Jews experienced such a phenomenon in the wilderness of Sinai when for 40 years they were led about by a pillar of cloud in the day that became a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). When the radiant cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud hovered, they pitched their tents and settled down (Numbers 9:15-23).

This Shekinah later resided in the Holy of Holies after the Temple of Solomon was built (2 Chronicles 7:1-3). Ezekiel describes how the Shekinah departed from the Temple in stages before God allowed the Temple to be destroyed by the Babylonians. First, the Shekinah moved from the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the Temple (Ezekiel 9:3). Then "the glory of the Lord" moved from the threshold to the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 10:18-19). Finally, the Lord's presence moved to the Mount of Olives where it "stood over the mountain" before departing the city (Ezekiel 11:23).

Shekinah Glory

The Shekinah is mentioned in the New Testament as being present at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:9), at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5), and at His ascension (Acts 1:9).

Considering the radiant and maneuverable qualities of the Shekinah that are demonstrated in these scriptures, I think it is very likely that the "star" which led the magi was really the Shekinah glory of God.


The Attraction of the Star

Another mystery associated with the Bible's account of the magi is why did these men "from the east" follow the heavenly radiance?

Their very title gives us a clue. Magi is a Persian term for a priestly caste of wise men who specialized in astrology, medicine, and natural science. The ancient historian Herodotus says they interpreted dreams and omens and claimed to have the gift of prophecy. Such men would naturally have been interested in an unusual heavenly radiance.

It is also very likely that they would have been familiar with the writings of Daniel who gained great renown as a wise man and interpreter of dreams in the Persian court of Nebuchadnezzar. If so, they would have known his prophecy of "the seventy weeks of years" which is recorded in Daniel 9:24-27.

This remarkable prophecy established the general time period of the Messiah's coming by indicating it would be 483 years after a Persian ruler issued an edict to rebuild Jerusalem. The magi had probably been counting down the years since the Jews had been sent back from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem, and they thus knew the general time period when the Messiah would be born.

Because of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, the magi would also have had access to the writings of Moses (the Torah), and from those writings, they may have come across the Messianic prophecy of Balaam that "a star shall come forth from Jacob" (Numbers 24:17).


The Inclusion of the Gentiles

The final mystery is why God would open the eyes of a group of Gentile mystics and draw them to the Christ Child.

Undoubtedly it was for the purpose of symbolizing the universal importance of the birth, to emphasize that although salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22), it is intended for all peoples.

That was certainly the message of the angels who proclaimed to the Bethlehem shepherds that their good news of the birth of a Savior was for "all the people" (Luke 2:10-11).

This point was affirmed and emphasized forty days later when Mary and Joseph took their son to the Temple "to present Him to the Lord" (Luke 2:22). As they entered the Temple, a prophet of God by the name of Simeon took the Christ Child into his arms, blessed God, and then announced:

My eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared in the
presence of all peoples,
A light of salvation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.

(Luke 2:30-32)

During the Christmas season as you think about the star of Bethlehem that pointed Mankind to the First Coming of the Messiah, keep in mind that Jesus will soon return as "the bright and morning star" (Revelation 22:16).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

What exactly are the Dead Sea Scrolls and why are they important?

In 1947, Bedouin goat-herders were searching the cliffs along the Dead Sea for (supposedly) a lost goat and came upon a cave containing ancient jars filled with manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts made their way to scholars, spurring a great archaeological race.


Dead Sea Scroll Caves


Eleven caves produced some 825 manuscripts and thousands of scroll fragments, dating from approximately 200 B.C. to 68 A.D. The writings included copies in the original Hebrew and Aramaic languages of the Old Testament (all but Esther), hymns, prayers, and Jewish writings. Much of the writings pre-date Jesus, so there is no direct mention of him. The strict Qumran community called the Essenes hid their writings in the caves before a Roman invasion killed them.


Qumran


What makes these manuscripts so amazingly important to archeologists is that before 1947 the oldest copy available of the Old Testament was from 1008 A.D. Scholars could finally take our most modern Hebrew and Aramaic copies and compare them to the older Dead Sea Scrolls and try to find potential differences. What they found were accurate copies.

Like the transcribers since Jesus' time, transcribers during the Old Testament times were also sticklers for accurately copying the Word of God from one parchment to the next. Each copy had to be made on a brand new writing surface and had to be prepared in a specific way. Each copy had to be written in a certain number of columns of thirty-letters width, with a certain number of lines to each column. Each copy had to be written in a certain color and quality of ink. Each copy had to be made from an authenticated original.

Not even the tiniest letter could be written from memory, as one would glance at the word "to" and write the letters "t" and "o" before glancing back at the original; but every letter was copied singly from the original. No letter could connect with or overlap another letter. The distance between each letter was measured by a single hair or thread. Every letter of every page and book was counted and compared against the original. The number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in a book was counted and compared against the original. The middle letter of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the middle letter of the entire Hebrew Bible were computed and indicated in the text. If one of these calculations was incorrect, the copy was discarded.

What makes the Dead Sea Scrolls so amazingly important to the rest of us is that we can take our Old Testament today and know it compares accurately with a copy from 2000 years ago. They help show us that we can trust that the Bible is the true and accurate word of God, and build our understanding and faith in God upon it.

"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." - Isaiah 40:8

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Did God Create Sin?

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

Did God ultimately create sin?

Twenty words from the original biblical languages can be translated into the English word "sin." Written 522 times, "to miss the target or mark by choice" is the most frequently used. Other words translate as "to break the standard or rule purposely," "go astray," "get lost," and "rebel."

Sin is not temptation. The thesaurus' synonyms for temptation are "attraction," "bait," and "persuasion." For example, the Serpent tempted Adam and Eve in Genesis, yet they did not sin until the fruit was eaten. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Lk. 4), but still lived a sinless life (Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:19).

Sin is not a noun representing something tangibly created such as a car, but it is a verb demonstrating a conscientious action such as turning direction. Sin is a willful crossing of the line that God has drawn.

The first to cross that line was God's closest angel Lucifer. Isaiah 14:13-14 "You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'"

Satan's prideful desire to set himself up above God swayed a third of the angels of Heaven to rebelliously act and become demons (Rev. 12:4).

Adam and Eve crossed the line while there was just one simple rule to follow. "And the LORD God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die'" (Gen. 2:16-17).

We have crossed the line more than once in our own lives. We sin not against man, but God, who sets the boundaries — boundaries that were created for our own very good. The Bible tells us just what those boundaries are.

Jesus taught that our desire to sin is always self-focused, springing from the heart and mind. MY will! MY desires! MY way! "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28).

Jesus went on to set our standard of holiness in Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

If we have all rebelliously crossed the line and are incapable of being perfect (Rom. 3:23), what hope is there for us when the time comes for our rebellion to be judged by God? While living on Earth, we have the opportunity to make both a heart adjustment and a choice — to humble ourselves and accept the loving sacrifice Jesus made which has placed our punishment instead onto Him.

God did not create sin, but He did create a way to be forgiven from it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Wife of Cain

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

Where did Cain's wife come from?

This common question takes us back to the infancy of mankind, to a pre-flood world with living conditions unlike anything we experience today — the world of Genesis 4-6.

Adam and Eve, the first people, had become sinful and were banished from the utopian Eden. The cursed land outside was wild and untamed. Fear of attack by animals and the elements continuously lingered in their thoughts. Survival skills were being learned on the run.

Eve gave birth painfully to her first son, Cain, and later to Abel. Abel loved God whole-heartedly, and joyously offered gifts out of the best he had. Cain, in stark contrast, did not foster the same relationship with God. God paternally warned Cain not to let sin control him. Cain allowed it, and instead of turning towards God became consumed by rebellion and jealously killed his own brother. As punishment by God, Cain was made a marked man, condemned to leave farming and wander the earth, always fearful that future generations of relatives might exact revenge.

Adam, now age 180, and Eve had yet another son — Seth. Pre-flood life spans were incredibly long, and over Adam's 930 years Eve bore other sons and daughters. It wasn't until centuries later during Moses' time that God put into law that men could not marry their sisters and nieces. And so, with the assurance there would be no genetic defects, Adam's children married each other. Over their 900-some year life spans, Adam's children and the following generations had numerous children, exponentially increasing the population.

Over Cain's long life he took a wife from one of his many brother's descendants. After that, he defied God yet again by ceasing his wandering and recruited other relatives to join him in building a city, naming it after his first son Enoch.

The generations that came from Cain were lawless and exceedingly evil. Lamech, a sixth generation grandson from Cain, fled in the face of the will of God by marrying two women and bragged about his murders. By the time Noah came on the scene, the Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart were only evil all the time. God was grieved that He had made man on the Earth and His heart was filled with pain. God decimated the wicked inhabitants including all of Cain's descendents with a flood, but left hope for mankind by leaving the godly Noah and his family to start the human race anew.

Cain's life was a polar opposite to his brother Abel's life. Abel was full of love and obedience to the Creator. Cain's life was full of disdain and rebellion to the Creator. Abel had a short life on Earth, but an everlasting life in Heaven. Cain had a long life on Earth, but everlasting separation from God in Hell.

Weigh carefully whom you'll model. Be an Abel!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Nuclear Weapons in Wrath and Hope

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

Why would God allow the earth to experience the terrible devastation of a nuclear war in the end times?

Is He not the God of love and compassion? The God of all mercy? Certainly the Bible makes plain that God is all of that. Yet we also learn from the Bible that "Our God is a consuming fire," (Hebrews 12:29) and that He will not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:7).

It is interesting to note the way God judges sin in individuals and nations. We find that He almost never seems to bring immediate judgment for sin. He allows people to lead cruel and wicked lives for years while enjoying prosperity. This is the great stumbling block that has caused many to question either God's love or His involvement in human affairs. Job cried out, "The tents of robbers prosper, and those who provoke God are secure — in what God provides by His hand" (Job 12:6).

We find that sin has an accumulating effect. In the book of Revelation we read about Babylon: "Her sins have reached up unto heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities" (Revelation 18:5). In Genesis, Abraham was told that his descendants would have to wait 400 years before they could take possession of the promised land, for "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:16). It appears that God lets sin "pile up" for years, or even generations before it provokes Him to act in swift decisive judgment and destruction. In Romans, Paul writes that sinners are "storing up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Romans 2:5).

If that is true for nations and individuals, could it not also be true for the entire planet? What if God has been restraining His judgment for thousands of years, while men have filled the earth with blood, hatred, war and immorality? Could it be that the terrible plagues and judgments in the book of Revelation are the accumulation of God's wrath over the history of mankind, stored up for that season of time which would immediately precede the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? This certainly appears to be the thought given in the sixth chapter of Revelation where the world's leaders, along with the rich and the poor of the earth cry out, "The great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Revelation 6:17).


Is there any hope?

Up to this point the picture seems grim and hopeless. And in a certain way it is. There is no hope for this present evil age. It is under a death sentence from Almighty God. The flood of hatred, violence, immorality, abortion, homosexuality, and the mockery of all that is good and holy will finally produce a response from heaven. God has decreed that this present evil age shall pass away in a flame of fire, death, and judgment. No amount of peace talks, goodwill conferences, or think tanks will be able to change that.

Likewise those who refuse to repent and turn to Christ are in a hopeless situation. There is no peace or security for those who determine to live life by their own rules. When God's wrath begins to fall, it will overtake the rich and the poor, the celebrities along with the unknown, the sophisticates with the simpletons. No hiding place on earth, no amount of wealth or prestige, no measure of cleverness or ingenuity will be able to spare people from the wrath to come.

The good news in all of this is that God has always provided a hiding place whenever He poured out His wrath. In Noah's flood, that safety was found in the ark. In the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot was told to flee to the mountains. Rahab found safety from the destruction of her city by staying in her house with a scarlet cord tied to the window.

In these last days God's hiding place will be found, not in a cave in the mountains, not in a mammoth ark, but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was on His Cross that Jesus took the wrath of God upon Himself, in order that those who would put their trust in Him might be spared. The Scriptures tell us, "For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9). For those whose godly lives reveal that they have truly placed their faith in Jesus, He will come and take them unto Himself.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nuclear Weapons in Biblical Parallel

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

Amazingly, predictions by secular writers parallel the horrific visions the Apostle John saw in Revelation in nearly every major detail.

Contrast the words (in regular print) of secular writer Jonathan Schell author of the book The Fate of the Earth (1970), with what the Bible says (in parenthesis) as he describes the consequences of a nuclear war:

"Bearing in mind that the possible consequences of the detonations of thousands of megatons of nuclear explosives include... the extinction of many ocean species, among them some at the base of the food chain..."
("And every living creature in the sea died" — Revelation 16:3)
"... the pollution of the whole ecosphere with oxides of nitrogen."
("And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night" — Revelation 8:12)
"... a significant decrease in photosynthesis in plants around the world; the scalding and killing of many crops..."
("And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up" — Revelation 8:7)
"... the increase in rates of cancer and mutation around the world..."
("... and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast" — Revelation 16:2)
"... the attendant risk of global epidemics..."
("And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences" — Luke 21:11)
"... the possible poisoning of all vertebrates by sharply increased levels of vitamin D in their skin as a result of increased ultraviolet light."
("the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat" — Revelation 16:8)
"... and the outright slaughter on all targeted continents of most human beings and other living things by the initial nuclear radiation, the fireballs, the thermal pulses, the blast waves, the mass fires, and the fall-out from the explosions."
("By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed — by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone" — Revelation 9:18).
"Considering that these consequences will all interact with one another in unguessable ways and, furthermore, are in all likelihood an incomplete list... one must conclude that a full-scale nuclear holocaust could lead to the extinction of mankind."
("And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" — Matthew 24:22).