Like Men Of Issachar

    Well this has certainly been a long study. It has taken me far longer than I expected to complete this work. As I look at it I am stunned not by how much I have covered but by how much I have missed.

     The prophets are so expansive. They have  much to say regarding the days in which we live, much to say about the lives we lead and take for granted.

     To boil it down into a few sentences I have learned:

1. We are a people facing judgment.

2. Even the godly will be affected by judgment when their nations come under the hand of God’s fury.

3. That God works all things together for good when Christians trust Him.

4. Many Christians will fall away in the days ahead.

5. That trials have the potential to draw us closer to the Lord.

6. That the future of the sinner is fearful.

7. That the future of the Christian is beyond glorious!

    Much has change in my life since I began this study. I can say the judgment of God has begun to lap the shores of my personal island. Yet as I walk forward haltingly into the future God has prepared I am not dismayed. I am hopeful.

     “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 2 Tim 1:12 KJV

      What have you committed into the hands of God?

       Where will you stand in the judgment to come?

Malachi: The Healing Wing

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.  And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” Mal 4:2

       The couple had come to me for gas money to get out-of-town. She was a widow and a member of our church. He was a wolf who had ruined her life and tempted this sister in the Lord  into a life of sin. Now he had convinced  her to spend her every last dime to rent a Uhaul to get them out-of-town to go who knows where.

     “I won’t help you.” I told them.

      “But I will help you sister. Say the word and I will have this man removed from the building. We will help you. Please don’t go with him.” I begged.

      “I love him.” She explained. “And I still love the Lord too. Pastor I can do both. Please help us to live our dream.”

      In the end she left with him. I heard several months later from her sister that she had died, away from family and friends alone and penniless.

     “What happened to this woman?” Many asked.

     On the outside she certainly exuded a love for the Lord. How could such a love be turned to sin so quickly?

      I have to tell you that while love for God will drive you to God, only the fear of God will drive you away from sin.  Proverbs 16:6 says, “Unfailing love and faithfulness cover sin; evil is avoided by fear of the LORD.” (NLT)

      I also want to point out that many of the promises in the Word are for those who “fear the Lord” not for those who “love the Lord”.

    I am working on my fear of the Lord. I know I love Jesus but I have questioned in my own heart do I reverence Him enough? I don’t think I do. I know I am part of a culture that does not. I am realizing I am still pretty attached to that culture.

      But I want to bask in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. I want to receive the healing that is in His wings. I long to reverence His greatness. To love what He loves and hate what He hates is my desire.

     Oh that His mercy would transform me to fear His name more, that I may be one of those freed in the promises of eternity!

     How do you practice the fear of the Lord?


Malachi: The Distinction

     Our community college just put in two wind turbines to generate electricity for the city. The mammoth constructions break Gardner’s skyline like giant steel dandelions gone to seed. Really they remind me of the enemy spaceships from War Of the Worlds .

     As the snow melts under the influence of the cold New England wind, many of these early spring days have been shrouded in thick fog that has the power to hide even these colossal  objects when they are right in front of us.

     It came to me as I was taking this picture that the wickedness of our present age is just like the icy Massachusetts fog.

     A friend of mine was recently defrauded of several hundred dollars by a person she trusted. My friend is now having trouble seeing God in the midst of this situation.

     Her words to me echoed the biblical writer Jeremiah.

     She asked me, “Why do wicked people get blessed, while people who serve God seem to always get the short end of the stick? It makes serving God seem pointless!”

     The prophet Malachi gives her this answer,

     “Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and loved to think about him. “They will be my people,” says the LORD Almighty. “On the day when I act, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient and dutiful child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Mal. 3: 16-18 NLT

       In these last days the fog of wickedness is growing increasingly thick. Jesus said that these days were like the days of Noah. The wickedness that brought judgment then is about to bring it again.

    Our hope as Christians can never be for a fair shake in this world. We won’t get that. If that makes you mad talk to Bonhoeffer, Tenboom, or Mother Theresa. Christianity isn’t about our rights here; It’s about our reward THERE!

    The fog wickedness creates comes from that part of us that is still tied lovingly to this earth. We think that because people doing wrong in the world get blessed in the world that makes them the most blessed. We think that because people living for God in the world get kicked by the world that makes them the most cursed.

      We are failing to take into consideration the fact that the world is fallen into sin. It can never do anything but elevate wickedness and persecute righteousness. That failure to truly understand the nature of things creates a fog.

    We also forget that blessing in this world is as transitory as that morning mist that blocks our view on the way to work. Trapped in these “jars of clay” we call our bodies we think of 70 or 80 years as a long time. We long for that much blessing and begrudge the wicked who seem to “have it all” for their 70 or 80 year sojourn on the planet. The truth is 70 or 80 years is a blip and the wicked had better enjoy it because it’s all they get. Me I may struggle for  that same 70 or 80 years to serve God (and let’s be real most of us don’t struggle the entire time) but then I will enter into 70x70x70x80x80x80 years of blessing the wicked will know nothing of.

     We have to be very clear brothers and sisters in our minds about the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, so that we will not be pulled into ruin by the fog that is blinding so many.    How has the fog threatened to obscure God in your life?

Zechariah: The Political Landscape Of the Millenium

     For those of you who thought you’d escape politics once Jesus came, guess again. There will be a government and it will be upon “his shoulders”. Jesus will put democracy under his feet along with every other idea of men. Maybe it is the best governmental idea fallen men can come up with but as Isaiah reminds us “His ways are higher than our ways”. Isaiah 55:9

    Zechariah, among other prophets gives us a glimpse into the rule and reign of Jesus during the Millenium.

     “the LORD will go out to fight against those nations, as he has fought in times past.On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west, for half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south. On that day the sources of light will no longer shine, yet there will be continuous day! Only the LORD knows how this could happen! There will be no normal day and night, for at evening time it will still be light. On that day life-giving waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half toward the Dead Sea and half toward the Mediterranean,  flowing continuously both in summer and in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one LORD–his name alone will be worshiped. All the land from Geba, north of Judah, to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become one vast plain. But Jerusalem will be raised up in its original place and will be inhabited all the way from the Benjamin Gate over to the site of the old gate, then to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. And Jerusalem will be filled, safe at last, never again to be cursed and destroyed. …In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters. And any nation anywhere in the world that refuses to come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, will have no rain….On that day even the harness bells of the horses will be inscribed with these words: SET APART AS HOLY TO THE LORD. And the cooking pots in the Temple of the LORD will be as sacred as the basins used beside the altar.  In fact, every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be set apart as holy to the LORD Almighty. All who come to worship will be free to use any of these pots to boil their sacrifices. And on that day there will no longer be traders in the Temple of the LORD Almighty.” Zech. 14:3-21 NLT

     After the Battle of Armageddon the Lord will institute his reign on the Earth. He will be the King of Earth. He will not ask for a vote of the people. Nor will he seek the permission of a parliament. He will not rule to please men but out of His divine right to rule.

      Freedom of religion will be a thing of the past. Jesus alone will be worshipped and shall bring glory thereby to the Father. Further he will dictate how He is to be worshipped. It seems that the Jewish system of festivals (at least Tabernacles) is instated for the nations.

     All of Jerusalem will become dedicated to the worship of God, Everything in it will be used for worshipping Him by sacrifice. Yes the Jewish system of sacrifice is reinstated in the Thousand Year Reign! Why we do not know. The writer to the Hebrews indicates that the need for sacrifice was done away with when Jesus gave His life on the cross. Yet need it or not Ezekiel 40-42 and Zechariah 14 indicate that the sacrificial system is very much a part of the worship which is to come.

     I believe that King Jesus will rule his world and his nations through the group of immortals who return with him at the Battle of Armageddon. It is an awesome thought that I would ever be considered worthy of such an honor, me a man of so many failings and foibles, me!

      Oh as I think of it I have to speak the words of Paul, ” I  consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us!” Romans 8:18 NIV

    How about you?

The Branches of Men Part 3

       In the Millenium the accursed will be those who refuse, in spite of all that will have happened, to follow Christ in his new government.

        “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach  a hundred will be considered accursed.” Isaiah 65:20

    These accursed ones then will be the third branch of men living in the Millenium. They will live and dwell among the race of immortal men and the race of long-lived men. But their span of existence will be much shorter. Somehow disease will still affect them. Age will still take them. Perhaps they will be survivors of the tribulation who received the mark of the beast. Perhaps they will be descendants of those reprobate ones. Perhaps they will be rebellious descendants of the righteous men and women who repopulate Earth. Whoever they are it is these individuals who will organize into nations and oppose Christ.

     For those who conceived  an entirely peaceable kingdom during the Millenium I would say that peace is the general rule, but as with all things earthly there is always an exception. The prophet Zechariah seems to agree.

     “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.” Zec. 14:16-18 NIV

     Perhaps war will not ensue directly after Jesus takes the throne but we know eventually it will come. These accursed ones will grow in population until they rise to threaten the entire world one last time.

     “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth-Gog and Magog-to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” Rev. 20:7-9 NIV 

     It is a frightening thought that the power of sin is so great that there will be those who, even after walking through the terrors of the Tribulation, even after seeing Jesus ascend the throne of nations, will still oppose God’s rule.

     There is a line from “Come Now Is the Time To Worship” that is very telling here.

     “One day every tongue will confess You are God. One day every knee will bow. Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose you now!”

      I am choosing Jesus now so that my hope may be secure in that Thousand Years! My life is already hid with God in Christ and so it shall remain. How about yours?

The Branches of Men Part 2

     My son is taking a Victorian Novels class in college. So when he calls we often talk about the latest book he is reading. He just started Tess Of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Somehow today as we got talking about the class we went off track to discuss our blogging and ended up in a conversation about J.R.R. Tolkien (heady conversations really).

     Anyway that led  us to the topic of the future race of men you and I have been talking about in these last few blogs. Tolkien’s books discover many races of creatures: elves and  orcs, dragon and hobbits and oh yeah three kinds of men. The wizards or the Maier are a race of immortal humanoids. The Dunedin are a race of men, mortal but very long-lived. Finally there are the race of “middle men” ordinary men with shorter life spans.

     I see three races of men in the Millenium. Those who rule and reign with Christ, we spoke of in our first blog on this subject. These men and women will have glorified human bodies immortal and filled with power.

    But there is a second group of men, alluded to in Scripture, which corresponds to Tolkien’s Dunedin.

     “No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands.” Isa. 65:22 NIV

     I believe something is going to happen in the Millenium which restores mankind’s ability to live long and prosper, so to speak. Something in the atmosphere changes, something in the water…something to make it like it was in the beginning. You know Adam lived 828 years. Methuselah lived to be 969. I believe that there will be a race of men who while not immortal will have lives that go on for centuries and centuries. Why do I believe it? Well because the Bible says there will be such a race  in Isaiah 65. Now this is one of those fun-house mirror things I talked about three blogs ago. We can’t really tell for sure what we are looking at. The image is kind of blurry but I really don’t think Isaiah is talking about the people who come back to rule and reign with Christ in Revelation 20:4,because those people will have been resurrected and its pretty clear according to I Cor. 15 they will then have incorruptible and immortal bodies. How can something immortal and incorruptible die? I don’t think it can.

    So who are these long-lived mortals? Hmm not really sure… Maybe they are people who lived through the Tribulation but didn’t take the mark of the beast or end up getting whacked by an earthquake or a hundred pound hail stone. Maybe they are children born to those who rule and reign with Christ (can they still have kids?)

    Anyway what we do know about them is that they are blessed.

    “They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. ” Isa. 65:23,24 NIV

      The mysteries of the Millenium intrigue me. I long to discover that day for myself and see if what I have thought all these years on this side is really how it will be or will it look entirely different?

     Now for the third branch of the race of men? Can you guess who they are?

The Branches of Men Part 1

      In the Millenium the race of men will have three branches.

      The first branch is seen in the New Testament:

      “Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus, for proclaiming the word of God. And I saw the souls of those who had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Rev. 20:4 NLT

     This first branch of humanity is the branch that rules and reigns with Christ. It is composed of all those who are part of the “first resurrection”, a divine act carried out by Christ in which all the righteous dead of the ages are brought back to life and granted new redeemed bodies capable of living forever. Revelation indicates that this group is composed of two types of people. As the Millenium begins there will be people already sitting on thrones of authority. This will include all the saints who have passed on to Heaven in death as well as those who rose in the rapture.

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.” I Thess. 4:16,17 NLT

     The raptured righteous together with the Old and New Testament saints will be judged at the Bema seat of Christ during the 7 years of Earth’s Tribulation. While Earth and its inhabitants face a time of trouble unlike any other in history the saints of God in Heaven will worship God and be qualified for their role of rule to come.

       “But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day to see what kind of work each builder has done. Everyone’s work will be put through the fire to see whether or not it keeps its value. If the work survives the fire, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builders themselves will be saved, but like someone escaping through a wall of flames.”  I Cor. 3:13-15 NLT

        The second type of person included  in the first resurrection will be those who did not leave Earth in the rapture because they were not true Christ-followers, but who came to follow Christ during the Tribulation. Many of these late-comers will be slain for their faith and at the first resurrection they shall be raised to rule with Christ as befits their martyr’s status.

       As the Millenium begins this branch of man’s race will be revealed immortal and indestructible. Our new bodies will not retain their current weaknesses but will be filled with a Heavenly power that makes us glorious in power and life.

      “It is the same way for the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies, which die and decay, will be different when they are resurrected, for they will never die. Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power. They are natural human bodies now, but when they are raised, they will be spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, so also there are spiritual bodies.” I Cor. 15: 42-44 NLT

     Oh for this day to come! Even So Lord Jesus come quickly!

The Mystery of the Millenium

   What does it mean to reign?

    From the prophecies given to Daniel  we know that the time of AntiChrist’s reign on Earth and the subsequent period of the planetary judgment will be seven years.

“He will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. Then as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration,  until the end that has been decreed is poured out on this defiler.” Dan. 9:27 (NLT)

     The prophets point to this coming “Day of the Lord” with  absolute certainty. It is coming and according to the prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments our world is set for this seven-year period to arrive shortly.

    But what lies beyond this time of tribulation? The prophets also speak to that. The time beyond the judgment of Earth is divided, by the Bible, into two periods. The first is called the Thousand Year Reign. The second is called New Heaven and New Earth (see Rev. 18-22).

      The Thousand Year Reign is a period shrouded in mystery. We see it in Scripture but we see it as though looking through a fun-house mirror. The whole of it is twisted and bent out of proportion. I can only tell you what I think I see. But that is enough to excite me to service for my King!

     I know it is a thousand years long. I know that in that time those who have followed Jesus will be co-rulers with Christ over the Earth.

     ” Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus, for proclaiming the word of God. And I saw the souls of those who had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Rev.20:4 (NLT)

    What does it mean to you to reign with Christ? Reign is such a loaded word. To me it means to have authority but not just over men. It means to have authority over all the creation as I was originally meant to.

     “For you made us only a little lower than God, and you crowned us with glory and honor. You put us in charge of everything you made, giving us authority over all things–the sheep and the cattle and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.” Psalm 8:5-8 (NLT)

     I will swim with the dolphins in the ocean and the great whales. They shall carry me from one shore to another on their backs. I shall ride upon the lion and the zebra across the great plains and they shall keep me warm in the cool of the savannah nights. I will call forth the winds and they will obey. I will pray for rain and it will come to water my gardens. Now that is really “Reinventing the We’ll”!

    The communion between my God and me will be completely restored. Being perfected, I will be always in His will. This means that every prayer I utter will be answered. I will never wonder again if I am off track or praying wrong. I will know my God and He will know me face to face and the communion Adam had will be mine somehow.

    In that I will be able to tend my Eden as Adam tended his. At my command the plants will grow. The beasts of my forest will not fear me and I will not fear them for that curse which was given after the flood will be removed. I see the Thousand Year Reign as Lewis’ Narnia or as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, beautiful, idyllic!

     There is much more the Bible reveals in shadow about the Thousand Year Reign. We will say more on that later. In the mean time tell me what you think comes after the Tribulation.