Prophecy Update Newsletter
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
Who is Daniel Chapter 8 Talking About?
- - Steve Schmutzer -
Part 1: A Directional Dilemma
I've decided I no longer believe some of the things I'm reading in my Bible. I used to, but I don't anymore. Now that I've exercised some common sense, I'm unable to accept what I find there.
I can hear the collective gasp already - but as the Brits say, "Don't get your knickers in a twist." I'm talking about the commentary notes at the bottom of the page. Many Bibles have them.
God's Word is divinely-inspired. It's 100% inerrant and complete - no questions there. But that standard does not apply to all the opinions which ordinary people have juxtaposed to those portions of the Bible that are actually "God-breathed" (2 Tim. 3:16). It's easy to forget that.
Too many of us check our brain at the door when we study the Word of God. The truth is we only partially study it. We are often reluctant to disagree with establishment views, especially if those views are supported by reputable folks with last names like Ryrie, MacArthur, or Lindsell.
These are Godly men, but they are human - I don't think any of them would claim to be infallible. I believe they've done their best in providing service to God's Kingdom, but as long as they inhale this planet's air, they "....see through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12) like the rest of us. Their knowledge now is still limited, and it's OK to challenge their views the right way.
We know Paul as the human agent through which most books of the New Testament were authored. Certainly he was someone folks should have followed without question. But even Paul commended the Bereans of Macedonia when they "....examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11). The Bereans didn't take Paul's word for it - they compared what he had stated against what the Old Testament said.
Two important things happened in this process. First, the Bereans proved their own "nobility" by their actions. Their positive reception of Biblical truth was marked by fervent personal study. Second, Paul proved his credibility as a leader of the church and as an expositor of truth. All of his statements were supported by Scripture.
I need to be candid here. The more I study God's Word, the more I learn from it, and the more I grow in my faith, the more I question the credibility of Christian leaders that miss the clear intentions of Scripture by such a wide margin. I am particularly troubled by those who dilute the significance of God's covenant with the Jewish people, those who awkwardly force future prophecies into past events - - and basically anyone who constructs ideas that are not supported by Scripture in order to avoid those which are.
It is difficult for me to appreciate some of the other good things these people might have to say when they are so willing to ignore or change entire portions of Scripture. I fear some of these folks have personal agendas that supersede their reverence for God's Word.
I read many online discussion forums on various topics of the Bible. When the intensity of these discussions escalates, someone always says something like, "There are different interpretations and we need to respect all of them," or, "We cannot be sure what the Scriptures are saying, so let's focus on getting along." A chorus of spineless agreement usually ensues.
Sometimes I want to puke. These "conciliatory" expressions are a common reaction to essential Biblical debate, but let's be honest - they are often lukewarm responses more than not. Last time I checked, that's a temperature setting outside of God's affections (Revelation 3:15-16).
It's time for a reality check. It's a necessary assumption that the Bible always extols truth, right? Therefore, the Scriptures advance the need for proper understanding by their very nature. Since the Bible does not contradict itself, will we not contradict each other when we responsibly incorporate God's Word into our fellowship and interpret it as we ought to do.
Alternative explanations which steer us away from the intended message of the divine Word of God are neither correct nor are they worthy of our respect. The Bible says it is man's rules and teachings that always render our service to God ineffective (Matt. 15:9). It all goes to show we each have a significant responsibility - just like the Bereans - to study the Scriptures for ourselves.
That brings me full circle to my opening comments in this article.
As many of you know, I am teaching a class at my church on the book of Daniel. Those lessons are recorded and available at www.thewordwithsteve.com. Each Sunday, as I face a gymnasium full of people, I'm cognizant of the fact that there are many more folks I do not see who listen to these lessons online.
Some Sundays, my palms are clammy. I love public-speaking and I do a lot of it, so that's not the issue. Instead, I know I am facing an awesome responsibility. The charge to "rightly divide" (2 Tim. 2:15) the Word of God burdens me, and I fail to comprehend the casual way it's treated and taught in many churches today.
It was no small matter for me to wade into the murky text of Daniel 8:9-14, and it took me almost two months to teach these six verses. A chief problem I faced as I did so was the commentary notes at the bottom of that page in my Bible that said the "small horn" in this passage referred to Antiochus Epiphanes.
Now - who is that?
Antiochus Epiphanes was the eighth of roughly 30 rulers of the Seleucid dynasty which emerged following the demise of the Greek empire. He ruled from about 175BC to 164BC, and historians consistently mark him as an eccentric, impulsive, and dangerous despot.
Antiochus Epiphanes gave himself divine-sounding titles such as Theos Epiphanes which means "God Manifest" in ancient Greek. This led some of his contemporaries to call him Antiochus Epimanes, or "The Mad One." It was a word play off of Epiphanes.
Antiochus Epiphanes was noted for his persecution of the Jews during the intertestamental period. He murdered over 40,000 Jews in three days, he plundered their temple in Jerusalem, and he defiled it with unclean animals and the construction of a pagan altar. He so prohibited and penalized the religious practices and customs of the Jews that he spawned the revolt of the Jewish Maccabees.
Antiochus Epiphanes also waged military campaigns against Egypt in the south, and against the region of Cyprus. He had limited success in these efforts. While he had inherited the territory of the Jewish nation, "the beautiful land" (Dan. 8:9) from his predecessor, he lost control of it in the Jewish revolt.
Historians mostly agree that Antiochus Epiphanes died of some sort of incurable bowel infection. The records of this event are revolting in their sordid detail, but it qualifies as a natural death the same way similar diagnoses would qualify today.
An informal poll of my class revealed that most of their Bibles also said Daniel 8:9-14 was referring to Antiochus Epiphanes. This aligned with the majority consensus of commentators I had found. It seemed to me that popular opinion was firmly entrenched in one direction.
However, I am not of the view that Daniel 8:9-14 is talking about Antiochus Epiphanes. Rather, I believe it is referring to the antichrist - that future and final apocalyptic tyrant which will traumatize the world and bring it to the brink of full ruin just before the return of Jesus Christ. I came to this position through my own study.
I believe my opinion draws from common sense while it also conforms to the literal interpretation of the text. Here is a key reason why I believe Daniel 8:9-14 is referring to the antichrist and not to Antiochus Epiphanes, and I call it "a directional dilemma."
Daniel 8:9 describes this ruler as waxing in power and territory "....to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land." Northern Syria was the Seleucid dynasty's headquarters, and while one might argue that Israel lies south of that region (it's a bit southwest), it certainly doesn't lie anywhere east of it.
There's nothing southeast or east of the region of northern Syria that suggests anything pertinent to Israel. In those directions are Jordan and parts of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. These directions are a problem with respect to Dan. 8:9 and the territory of Israel both past and present.
A couple more problems emerge from the content of Daniel 8:9 if we assume Antiochus Epiphanes is the primary subject here. First - as noted, he inherited the territory of the Jewish nation. He did not have to conquer it. If anything, he lost it in the Maccabean revolt. This hardly conforms to the victorious overtures of this verse.
Secondly, Antiochus Epiphanes is marked for having a largely unsuccessful military career. His campaigns were marginal in their achievements. The most notable military campaigns he had were with Egypt and Cyprus, and those successes were "iffy" and short-lived. Besides, their directions are clearly southwest and west of northern Syria.
The bottom line is it's hard to conform the specifics of Daniel 8:9 to the achievements of Antiochus Epiphanes. It's also difficult to argue that Israel is southeast of northern Syria.
But, now let's take a different tack. Let's assume for a moment that Daniel 8:9 is talking about the antichrist. Let's also assume that the antichrist does indeed arise from somewhere within the region of ancient Assyria and northern Syria as multiple Biblical texts suggest (i.e. Isaiah 10:1-11:1, 14:24-27; Dan. 8:9; Micah 5:5-6; Zech. 10:10-12; Zeph. 2:12; et al.). If these two assumptions are true -- then Daniel 8:9 is referring to a point that is still future to you and I.
When Gabriel explains Daniel's second vision to him, he tells Daniel four times that the elements of his vision are yet a long ways off. Gabriel says that "....the vision concerns the time of the end" (Dan. 8:17), that "....it will happen later in the time of wrath" (Dan. 8:19), that "....the vision concerns the appointed time of the end" (Dan. 8:19), and that "....it concerns the distant future" (Dan. 8:26). These points, together with others made in Daniel chapter 8, suggest that the main focus of Daniel's vision is about the time of the Tribulation.
Well, what do we know of Israel's territory during that time? I suppose there are several more articles worth writing to fully respond to that question, but I'll give you my opinion now. I believe Israel may endure several major conflicts before the antichrist "....confirms a covenant" (Dan. 9:27) with her. By the time the Tribulation clock commences, Israel will be a much larger nation as a result of those prior wars.
Perhaps nobody has researched these pending conflicts and brought them to public attention better than Bill Salus, and I have provided a link to his website on my own. Bill Salus believes that Psalm 83 foretells one particular forthcoming war that Israel will be forced to fight against all her surrounding neighbors. Those neighbors are specified in Psalm 83 and it's important to note that they either share a border with Israel or they are in very close proximity to the Jewish nation.
The conditions for this Psalm 83 conflict are coming together quickly. I believe as Bill Salus does that Israel will have a resounding victory and will end up greatly expanding her physical territory as a result.
We can look to historical events as a case in point. As the Golan Heights were annexed by Israel after the Jewish nation was attacked in the 1967 war, so I believe Israel will gain much more land in the wake of her Psalm 83 victory. This dynamic conforms to the rules of war, and it is quite possible Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and much of Syria will all become part of Israel.
You can see where this is going. The territory of Israel in the time of the antichrist is likely to be a much larger area than the diminutive one it is today. If we can accept the straightforward ramifications of the Psalms 83 conflict, then a large part of the land which will be added to Israel's territory will extend east.
This will place much of Israel's territory directly south and east of present-day northern Syria. In that situation, the directional elements of Dan. 8:9 play out perfectly. It will be in these directions that a large part of "....the Beautiful Land" lies. It may be "beautiful" because Israel will rehabilitate it the same way she's done with the land she now has.
I can already hear the liberal critics howling, "How DARE you!" They are unhappy that I would suggest such an "outrageous" thing as this. They don't want to talk about national boundaries anymore. They also feel Israel is "illegally occupying" the land they're already in; they cannot stand any notion of Israel gaining more from her present neighbors.
For those of us that still believe God's Word is the final authority, let's not forget that God gave Abraham very clear boundaries for his descendants back in Gen. 15:18-20. Furthermore, elements of that promise were reinforced multiple times (Exodus 23:31; Num. 34:6; Deut. 11:24; Josh. 1:4; Ezek. 47:17-20, et al.), and it includes all the land Israel could add in the wake of the Psalms 83 victory - and then some! Liberal frothing aside, God will still have His way.
The Jordanian territory, in particular, dovetails with Jesus' instructions in Matthew 24:15-22 to a remnant of Jews in the future. He told them to "....flee to the mountains" when they see the abomination of desolation. His directive is aimed at protecting them from annihilation during the second half of the Tribulation, and all this plays out in prophetic detail in Revelation 12:14-16.
The question arises, "Which mountains are Jesus referring to?" and I believe the answer is found in a couple of passages. The first is Isaiah 63:1-6, and it is a prophecy of Jesus Christ returning from Bozrah. This is the region in Jordan where the ancient - and virtually impregnable - city of Petra is found. This passage in Isaiah describes our Lord's "day of vengeance," and His garments become stained with the blood of His enemies that He conquers there.
The second passage is Daniel 11:41 where we learn the area of Jordan uniquely escapes the antichrist as he "....invades the Beautiful Land." This region is protected from the antichrist during the Great Tribulation, and I believe it is because of the believing Jewish remnant which heeded Jesus Christ's instructions in Matt. 24:15-22 and found refuge there at Bozrah.
Now, work with me here as we apply some logic to this situation. If a future Jewish remnant flees to a secure hiding place in the mountains of Jordan at the midpoint of the Tribulation when every nation will be set against them (Zech. 14:1-2), then it is most likely because that territory is already part of Israel in the first place! This conforms to territorial changes in that part of the world in the wake of the Psalm 83 war which would have already occurred.
The Lord supernaturally protects this remnant of faithful Jews as they flee to this desolate stronghold of theirs (Rev. 12:14-16). He continues to protect them in that place as the antichrist extends his military campaigns from northern Syria "....south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land" (Dan. 8:9; 11:41), which will then include the territory once known as Jordan.
When Jesus Christ returns as King of kings and Lord of lords, He first goes to Bozrah and violently conquers His enemies which have laid siege to this Jewish remnant (Isaiah 63:1-6). He will do this task alone, and we read His garments become drenched in blood as a result.
I believe this explains why He's "....dressed in a robe dipped in blood" (Rev. 19:13-14) when He subsequently appears with the armies of heaven to defeat the antichrist at the Battle of Armageddon. Jesus Christ will have already won one battle at Bozrah just before! Now, He is about to win the finale.
It's a fantastic sequence of events that makes perfect sense if we apply sound reasoning to the literal interpretation of Scripture. It's also a picture that makes it exceedingly difficult to find Antiochus Epiphanes a part - even though the commentaries in many of our Bibles say otherwise.
In Part 2 of this series I will unpack at an additional list of reasons why Daniel 8:9-14 is not about Antiochus Epiphanes. I won't get into such granular detail with that list as I have here with the directional dilemma of Dan. 8:9, but I feel this additional information will put the "nail in the coffin" for any notions that Daniel 8:9-14 is referring to a past individual.
Can Christians Support The Rebuilding Of The Temple? - By Enoch Lavender -
In October 2007, a group of 34 West Papuans showed up at the Temple Institute in Jerusalem to make a donation. As Temple Institute CEO Rabbi Yisrael Ariel saw the nature of the donation he became very emotional - it was one kilogram of solid gold, plus a large sum of money!
Some of the members of the delegation even began giving their own jewellery - one couple went so far as to give their wedding rings! West Papua is rich in gold, and the group explained that their donation was motivated by the words of the prophet Zechariah: "Even those from afar shall come and build the Temple of the Lord." (Zec 6:15)
Is such a donation led by God, or is it misplaced zeal aiding an anti-Christ agenda?
To find the answer, let's examine some common objections to Christians aiding the Temple movement.
Isn't the Church the Temple of God?
The Church has correctly taught that we are temples of the Holy Spirit as individuals and as a church. And as we no longer need sacrifices, many have concluded that a physical Temple in Jerusalem has no role in the 'Church Age'.
If this was the case, then one would expect that the birth of the Church in the book of Acts would have led to an immediate and complete withdrawal of the Christians from the Temple. After all, what further use did they have for the site?
Surprisingly, the first thing the disciples did after the ascension of Jesus was to return to the Temple to praise and bless God (Luke 24:52-53). Even after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the disciples continued to meet in the Temple during the hour of prayer.
They were even divinely instructed to preach the gospel and heal the sick there(Act 3-4). Years later we read of Paul the Apostle encountering God in a trance during a time of prayer at the Temple (Acts 22:17).
It can therefore be seen that the Temple was still important to the disciples even after the birth of the Church.It was a place where they met with God and worshiped Him. If the early disciples met God there at the Temple, why couldn't we also meet with Him there? And if so, could we also support the efforts to rebuild the Temple?
But the Rabbis Don't Believe in Jesus
Bible believing Christians can find many areas of common ground with leaders of the Temple Movement. But the Temple Movement does not recognise Jesus as the Messiah and segments of the Movement are interested in inter-faith co-operation with Islam.
Can Christians have anything to do with a Temple built and led by Rabbis with such views? To answer the question, let's turn again to the example of the early Church. We have to remember that the Temple leadership at that time were the very ones who conspired against Jesus and had Him killed.
The early disciples had every reason to leave the Temple and start their own Church down the road so to speak. Why then did the disciples continue to worship in the Temple?
I believe the answer is simply that they honoured the holiness of the site. They believed that God still had chosen this place, and that His promise to King Solomon still remained that "My name (will) be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually" and that "My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place"(2 Chron 7:12-16).
They saw the site as holy to God and as a meeting place with Him - irrespective of its leadership.
If the early disciples kept meeting and praising God in the Temple with a corrupt leadership in place, shouldn't we as Christians also be able to go to and support a future Third Temple - even if we disagree with key teachings of the rabbis in charge?
The Temple will be an Unholy anti-Christ Temple
The Third Temple will one day be desecrated by the anti-Christ.Therefore some say that it is an anti-Christ Temple, and that helping to rebuild it is tantamount to building a temple for the anti-Christ! But according to Rev 11:1 it will be a Temple of God (and not of the anti-Christ).
The very fact that it will one day be desecrated necessitates that it will in the first place be considered truly holy to God. After all, only a place that is truly holy to God can be desecrated!
If God then considers the Temple Mount and the future Temple as truly holy, then that should radically change the way we view and treat this site and any efforts to rebuild the Temple.
The Bible records how Ezra and Zerubabbel were divinely mandated to rebuild the Second Temple. Yet, only a few hundred years later (150 BC),the Second Temple was desecratedand an idol was erected in the Holy Place. This dramatic period known as Hanukkah, is regarded by most scholars as a graphic prophetic pre-cursor to the future reign of the anti-Christ and his future desecration of the Temple.
God knew that the Second Temple was going to be desecrated - yet He commanded, encouraged and enabled His people to rebuild the Temple.
It would appear that God is today also stirring up the Jewish people to rebuild the Temple even though it one day will be desecrated.
Ultimately I believe that the Temple will not only set the stage for key End Time events - but it will also point the Jewish people back to the need for a perfect sacrifice lamb. I believe it will set the stage for the day when He is welcomed back as their Messiah and the Lamb of God that carries away the sin of the world.
In this article we have seen that it is possible for Christians to support the rebuilding of the Temple. However, I would also urge all believers to be aware of the various issues surrounding the Temple project and to only support what they have peace about in their own hearts.
Nearing Midnight: Rush into Last Days - Terry James -
Rush Limbaugh, the premiere conservative radio talk-show host, delved into an arena he rarely enters. He bordered on getting into Bible prophecy Thursday July 26, while reading to his audience from an article written by a so-called futurist.
A few days previous, I had received the same article from which Rush read. My friend's email note, I inferred, indicated that the article's content might have some peripheral relationship to the deep state things often in the news these days-news reports surrounding hatred for President Donald J. Trump.
The deep state milieu rivets my attention. This is because I view everything we are inundated with in each and every news cycle as involving the hate-filled politics that smack of Paul's warning in his letter to the Ephesians. That Scripture should be quite familiar to readers of this column: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
The spiritually attuned believer should be aware of this battle taking place behind the headlines. It is all part of the opening salvos of the great end-times battle that will lead to Armageddon. The battle will break out in full force once the Church-all born-again believers in accordance with Romans 10:9-10-are called to be with Christ:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
But Rush, in that July 26 program, mentioned none of these prophetic truths-probably doesn't grasp or even desire to grasp these future realities. I once heard him say his father didn't believe the Book of Revelation even belonged in the canon of Scripture. He indicated that he believed the same.
However, during the Thursday program he said that the people who were the subjects of the article mentioned above didn't recognize that the things they fear as soon coming to pass are given in that prophetic Book. He added that these men-five hedge-fund billionaires-totally left God out of their configuring for the world-rending event that is to come.
Here is a very brief excerpt of the article Rush addressed.
Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk-about half my annual professor's salary-all to deliver some insight on the subject of "the future of technology"...
My audience was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys-yes, all men-from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world. After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own...
They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern.
Which region will be less affected by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked: "How do I maintain authority over my security force after the Event?" ("How tech's richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse. Silicon Valley's elite are hatching plans to escape disaster - and when it comes, they'll leave the rest of us behind," by Douglas Rushkof, July 24, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/23/tech-industry-wealth-futurism-)
The author of the article went on to write that the multibillionaires were interested only in surviving a coming "event" -one that would be the beginning of the end of the world. That was the future they wanted to learn how to survive-not how to plan, financially, to do even better than they already are doing.
Rush talked about how this sort of fear-mongering is normally part of the wild-eyed speculations of kooks. But these were men who dealt with the realities, not the apocalyptic fears of Hollywood-type fictioneers. And, these men now really believed there was one "event" that will initiate Armageddon!
The world is indeed moving toward some climactic event that will bring about a world more horrific than any yet experienced by earth's inhabitants. But, those mentioned here have no idea of what that "event" is or the signals of its approach. They simply instinctively sense that something is on the brink of bringing their world crashing down around their ears.
Again, Jesus' forewarns of just this scenario-but a scenario that is made of absolute truth, not Hollywood hype or writers' fiction. These will not understand the true nature of what is about to happen because they, as Rush has charged, leave God out of the equation in looking to the future.
Those of you who read and believe what is written in Holy Scripture take the God who created all there is at His Word regarding Bible prophecy. You can, with study and prayer, understand things these great men of wealth refuse to grasp.
Jesus prophesied that there would be buying, selling, building, planting, marrying, giving in marriage-i.e., an extraordinary time of uptick in economic life at the very moment He next catastrophically intervenes (Matthew 24:36-42; Luke 17:26-30).
That great "event" will be the Rapture! (John 14: 1-3).
I believe we are seeing the beginning of that economic boom at present.
My new book: Essays in Apocalypse: Some Thoughts on the End of Days, is being released this week. That book contains my in-depth thoughts in a chapter titled "The Coming Economic Boom."
Last-days dynamics are on full display for all to see. But the "seeing" of what is happening must be accomplished through unwavering belief in God's Word on the matters involved.
Seek Ye First His Kingdom - A Bible Study by Jack Kelley -
The Lord wanted His people to trust in Him for their security, not in their material possessions. Had man permanently adopted these laws as his own, there would be very little poverty in the world today, and almost no war or oppression...
The folly of becoming obsessed with material gain is mentioned often in Scripture. In fact, the Levitical System included laws specifically designed to discourage it. Money was loaned without interest. (Exod. 22:25) Every seven years all debts were canceled (Deut. 15:1-2), and slaves were set free and given a stake to help them start over. (Deut. 15:12-14) Land that was lost due to foreclosure had to be redeemed by family members, (Lev. 25:25) and every 50 years all land that had been sold, or lost and not redeemed, was returned to its original owner. (Lev. 25:8-17)
There was simply no motivation for empire building in God's economy. The intent was clear. The Lord wanted His people to trust in Him for their security, not in their material possessions. Had man permanently adopted these laws as his own, there would be very little poverty in the world today, and almost no war or oppression. In fact, while giving the Israelites these instructions, the Lord concluded with:
"However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today." (Deut. 15:4-5)
Why was the preoccupation with acquiring wealth discouraged? Having created man with incredible talent and ability, didn't the Lord want him to use it to make his life better? Here's His answer:
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (Deut. 8:10-14, 17-18)
Obsession With Possessions
Notice that the Lord wasn't speaking against acquiring wealth as such. By the use of when instead of if in the passage above we know His intent was that they would all become prosperous as one way of demonstrating the benefits of being in a relationship with Him. But He wanted them to remember that it was a blessing from Him, so He warned them not to become proud of their prosperity, and not to start thinking they had earned it on their own. He knew that this kind of pride would foster feelings of self-determination, replacing their trust in Him with a trust in themselves. That, in turn, would lead to greed and dishonesty and finally an obsession with material possessions. He designed His laws to prevent this, and when they refused to obey, He took everything away from them to humble them and bring them back to Him. (2 Chron. 36:20-21 & Jere 25:8-11)
Who Are You Working For?
Psalm 39:6 is a good example of the folly we're talking about. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. It reminds me of the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:16-21. Having acquired too many goods to fit into his storage barns he decides to tear them down and build bigger ones that will hold everything, so he can relax and take life easy. But he had no sooner made that decision when he got a visit from the Lord.
"You fool," He admonished him, "This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" (Luke 16:20) After telling His disciples the parable, the Lord went on to teach them how to live. And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Luke 12:29-31)
How far we've fallen from that advice! In America. For example, we've created such a materialistic society that it's taken on a life of its own. It's cheaper for the auto industry to give us rebates and low-interest loans, so we'll buy more of the cars they've already built than it is to shut down some of their assembly lines and make fewer cars. The system demands a certain level of production, whether people need new cars or not.
The advertising industry motivates, manipulates, and cajoles us to spend, spend, spend to keep our economy moving. As a nation, we're spending money we don't have to buy things we don't need. (note: as of 2016, US citizens owe 747 billion dollars in credit card debt.) Marriages fail, children are all but abandoned and bankruptcies are skyrocketing. The idea of trusting the Lord for our security vanished from our culture long ago, and our dependence on material possessions as a substitute has caused many of us to become two and three income families just to fund our debt-ridden lifestyles. We've become slaves to this system in every sense of the word, with no chance of ever getting free by ourselves. Where's the security in that?
Our only hope is to ask the Lord to help us begin downsizing right now, and that means terminating our illicit love affair with materialism and asking Him to forgive us for our unfaithfulness. This is not consigning ourselves to a life of poverty and deprivation, by the way. He has always promised prosperity in exchange for faithfulness, and you can read story after story about people who are happier, healthier, and leading richer, fuller lives after downsizing than they ever could have imagined before. But the history of God's people shows that if we don't choose to do this voluntarily, we'll eventually be required to do it forcibly.
Here Is Wisdom
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart, says Psalm 37:4.
If poverty or economic enslavement were meant to be the lot of believers on Earth, this verse is at best misleading and at worst downright cruel. So if that's what we're experiencing, maybe we've ignored the first part of the verse in our preoccupation with the second.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:9-10)
Giving Him the 10% that's His is a good way to show your delight in Him. It says, "Thanks for the other 90%." Do it, and He'll soon make your remaining 90% bigger than your old 100% ever was.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38.
As we give so shall we receive. Are we skimping on His share? If so we're only hurting ourselves.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Cor. 9:8,10,11)
Rich in every way includes prosperity without debt.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
The lesson is clear. The Israelites failed to obey the Lord in these matters and wound up losing everything. The Lord is patient, but His patience is not inexhaustible. Eventually, He has to put a stop to such disobedience because if He doesn't we'll totally destroy ourselves and He loves us too much to let that happen.
Out With The Old, In With The New?
But most of that's Old Testament stuff, you say, ignoring Paul's teaching from Romans 15. Please remember that regardless of what you've been taught, the only consequence we, as New Testament believers, escape when breaking God's law is the loss of our salvation. His law was never revoked and carries no expiration date. Thieves and murderers still get caught and go to prison. Adulterers still destroy marriages and families. And excessive debt in our quest for material gain still brings untold stress and even loss of the very possessions we coveted. All this is irrespective of our beliefs.
But because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
No matter what happened yesterday, we will always have a future with Him, and because of the cross our past sins can be forgiven and forgotten. (1 John 1:9) The moment we decide to start over and return control of our life to the Lord our slate is wiped clean and it's as if we never sinned. Plus, we get the benefit of having the burden lifted off our shoulders as He takes over. He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28) Combining the Lord's guidance with our obedience in a guaranteed solution we can implement now to escape the economic oppression that has enslaved us. Remember, He came so that we could have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) Selah
Daily Jot: The case for actively preserving religious freedom - Bill Wilson - www.dailyjot.com
Many Christians believe that socialism/communism is no problem to the Christian faith. Many support the current atmosphere of democratic socialism, progressivism, and liberal thought, believing it is in alignment with the principles of Christ. They cite Christ's nonviolence, the Apostle Paul's take on submitting to government, and Acts 2:44, "And all that believed were together and had (shared) all things in common," as Biblical justification. This is foolishness. Communism and its derivatives are anything but nonviolent. Submitting to evil is not what Paul meant. Early Christians lovingly had all things in common-they were not forced to do so by a government. The very nature of communism is against God.
A story by AP's Yanan Wang in China underscores the communist/socialist threat to Christianity. Wang writes: "Under President Xi Jinping, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982. The crackdown on Christianity is part of a broader push by Xi to "Sinicize" all the nation's religions by infusing them with "Chinese characteristics" such as loyalty to the Communist Party."
Wang reports, "This spring, a five-year plan to "Sinicize" Christianity in particular was introduced, along with new rules on religious affairs. Over the last several months, local governments across the country have shut down hundreds of private Christian "house churches." A statement last week from 47 in Beijing alone said they had faced "unprecedented" harassment since February." Now, let's look at what is happening in America under the influence of socialist politicians and communistic advocacy groups. While it is not nearly as severe as in China, Christianity in the United States is under fire. Christians adhering to scriptural principles and faith values are considered extremists, bigots, homophobes and more.
Christians are ridiculed by the left. Moreover, Christians are hated and demonized by leftists. You see, the Communist Manifesto states: "...Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience." What can be more clear? When we look at what is occurring here in America, the visceral by the socialist left against anything suggesting a moral code, is there any doubt that electing more leftist will result in a continuation toward soft tyranny, and outright persecution of Christians? We have a say in this because we have a vote. Those in China do not because communism disenfranchises them. We need to pray for the persecuted church AND take action that our country preserves and defends religious freedom.
Daily Devotion: A Certainty for Everyone - By Greg Laurie -
Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. -Psalm 144:4
Statistically, three people die every second, 180 people die every minute, and 11,000 people die every hour. This means that every day around the world, 250,000 people enter eternity. Moses prayed, "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12 NKJV). The psalmist David said, "Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow" (Psalm 144:4 NKJV).
We have to look at this topic biblically, not emotionally, remembering that life comes to an end for everyone. One thing is clear: we're going to die and enter the afterlife.
Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, commissioned a servant to remind him every day of his own mortality. And Steve Jobs said, "No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it."
Everyone has to face death. It's a certainty we all know.
Ecclesiastes 3 says, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die" (verses 1-2 NKJV). And Hebrews 9:27 tells us, "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (NKJV). Death may come sooner than expected, or it may come later. But it will come.
Then what? According to Scripture, if you believe in Jesus, then you'll go to Heaven. If you don't believe in Jesus, then you'll go to Hell. If you're a Christian, praise God for that. But if you know people who aren't Christians, my question is what are you doing to reach them? We want to do everything we can to keep people out of that horrible place.
FROM THE HEART
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