Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

In Matthew 19:30, Jesus tells his disciples:

“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

This leads me to the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16.

Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this situation:  A landowner hires a number of workers early in the morning and promises to pay them a certain amount.  Throughout the day, the landowner goes out to the marketplace and hires more workers, promising to pay them a day’s wages.  Finally, an hour before quitting time, he hires the last group.

When the day is finished and it’s time to be paid, the last workers to be hired are paid the same wages promised to the very first group of workers early in the morning.  These workers who have labored all day figure that because they’ve worked so hard and so long, surely the landowner will pay them more than the last bunch who only worked an hour.  Unfortunately for them, the landowner says he has no obligation to pay them anymore than what he promised.  That’s what they agreed to and that’s what they’ll get.  The landowner tells them that if he wants to pay someone he hired later the same wage as those whom he hired first, that’s his prerogative.

Jesus then repeats what He said at the beginning of the parable in Matthew 20:16:

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

What does this mean?

The first are those who have status, wealth, and esteem in the world, even in the church.

The last are the unknowns and those considered unimportant.

In the age to come there will be many who considered themselves above others, but will find their position in the kingdom won’t be as exalted as they believe now that it will be.  There will also be those who are left behind when the Rapture comes despite what they considered of themselves, or perhaps are separated as a goat in the Great White Throne Judgment.

Remember Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus warns:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

On that day, many will be surprised—some to eternal torment, some to an unexpected eternal glory.

This teaching of the vineyard reveals that entrance to God’s Kingdom is a matter of privilege—God’s unmerited grace upon us, not of merit.  He has chosen us because our hearts were right with Him.

Jesus warns us of three harmful attitudes:

  1. A feeling of superiority over others
  2. Failure to share God’s grace toward others
  3. A spirit of envy toward the spiritual blessings of others

Let us remember to love God in Christ, and through Him to love others as He has loved us.

On Eagles’ Wings

Our God is a supernatural God.  We see that throughout the Bible in the many miracles, signs, and wonders that He performs.  In the Book of Exodus, He brings about ten terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt in the earth, the heavens, and upon man.  No doubt, he can do anything, even what to us is seemingly impossible.  Thus, in their exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites reach the Red Sea and are seemingly trapped, God parts the waters to enable them to cross.

Prior to that, the Israelites went from Rameses, Egypt where Pharaoh had a palace to Succoth by the Red Sea.  According to various maps, that distance from Rameses to Succoth appears to be about fifty miles.  There were 600,000 men that left Egypt.  When women and children are added, the number of individuals likely totaled over 2 million people.  It was a slow-moving caravan with all their goods and everything they brought out of Egypt with them.

For comparison, the caravans of illegal aliens traveling through Mexico these days to breach the U.S. border, typically travel 20-30 miles a day.  These people aren’t hauling nearly the amount of goods that the Israelites did.  Remember, God had them plunder Egypt before they left.  They had gold, silver, and many goods.  Also, although some of the illegal alien caravans are large, i.e. several hundred people, those numbers don’t compare to the number of Israelites fleeing Egypt in the exodus or in another incident I’ll note below.

This leads me to a question.  Does it make sense that this group could have gone fifty miles in the natural course of things before Pharaoh came to his senses, sent chariots after them, and caught up?  It seems doubtful to me.

Now listen to God speaking in Exodus 19:4:

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

This verse triggers more questions in my mind.

  • Is being carried on eagles’ wings simply an expression?
  • Or was there something more literal that occurred?
  • Could God have supernaturally transported this group some part of the way?
  • He directed them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night—this was supernatural in itself. But did something else go on to get them to their destination?

There’s an interesting corollary, or subsequent event, to this incident in Revelation 12.  Here, Satan and his angels are thrown out of heaven.  He greatly persecutes Israel, which is signified by the woman who had given birth to a Son.  Recall that in Matthew 24:15-16 Jesus warns Israel through His Olivet Discourse to the disciples:

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

The abomination of desolation is the Antichrist wreaking havoc in the temple, desecrating the Holy Place with a pagan sacrifice.  When he does that, Jesus says to the people of Israel, now it’s time to get out of Jerusalem.  Flee to the mountains.

The most common understanding of where people will flee is to the mountainous enclave in Jordan known as Petra, which is about 102 miles away.  I was there last year.  It’s an incredible place where the Jews could easily live, be provided for by God., and be protected by Him.  As an aside: if you saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, that part was filmed in Petra.

Here’s the narrative: At this time the Antichrist is looking for blood.  He wants to kill all the Jews.  His time has come and bloodlust is upon him.  Again, there will be women and children—how many total people we don’t know.  As of 2015, there were about 850,000 Jews living in Jerusalem alone.  There will have been much persecution of the Jews by this time and likely many will have perished in the Tribulation.  Also, this warning certainly applies to more than just the Jews in Jerusalem proper, but to all in Israel.  Even at the worst case where many have lost their lives, I’d certainly have to estimate that we could be talking half a million people—500,000.  That’s a lot of folks to get from here to there.  Everyone could drive but what if there are roadblocks?  How do all these Jews get to Petra?  Once more we ask: Does God supernaturally deliver His people?

Then we turn to Revelation 12:14:

 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.

As before in Exodus, we have the Israelites being pursued by a bloodthirsty tyrant, and God uses the same symbolic language.  On eagles’ wings He brings them to this safe place.

My thinking is that there may be more going on here than we can see through simply a quick reading of these verses.  God is jealous for those He loves.  He does what He must to protect them.

I want you to remember this in difficult times in your life.  God is jealous for you.  He’ll do for you what He previously did and will do in the future for the people of Israel.

God will deliver you on eagles’ wings.  Trust Him.  Put your faith in Him.

Remember, 1 John 4:4 assures us:

Greater is He who is in each of us, than he who is in the world

Devotion: Jesus & His Father’s House

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:1-6

This passage is most familiar to us because of the last verse, John 14:6:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

It’s an amazing statement and one of the most controversial ever made in the world.  Purveyors and followers of the world’s other religions become indignant at the hubris of Jesus.  Can you imagine their outrage that a religion as outlandish as Christianity could have a concept so foreign?  Don’t all paths lead to God?  Well, all except for Buddhism which disavows that there is a God.  Let’s try again.  Don’t we all serve the same God?  Um, not quite.  Islam believes in only the oneness of its god; the Trinity is a heretical concept.  One more.  How about New Age?  Not so much.  New Agers are big on witchcraft, the occult, and divination.  The God of Christianity says those are an abomination.  Maybe this doesn’t work so well after all:

All these different ways contribute to the problems in the world.  Sometimes it seems like we have nothing but trouble.  The teachings of many religions are an attempt to make sense of the ills around us.  Some disavow the concept of reality (Buddhism).  Others dictate that if we make more trouble by killing others that’s a good thing (Islam).  Still others teach that we’ll go around and round through many lives and finally come out perfect in the end (Hinduism and New Age).

Jesus taught that we’ll have trials and tribulations, but in Him and through Him we can persevere.  As a result, we’re not to worry and let our hearts be troubled.  In Him we have peace.  Through our faith in Christ, we also know that our God is not only merciful, He is just.

These troubles we have in this world?  When we’re in Christ we are assured that God’s justice will prevail.  All around us we see those who hate and despise God and seem to prosper.  We also see those who love Jesus and suffer terribly.  Those who have riches in this life, unless they know Jesus as Savior and Lord, won’t be so fortunate in the next life.  People mistreated and persecuted now but who trust in the Lord have a glorious future.

Jesus is preparing a place for them, and all of us who love Him.  The grandeur of such a house will overwhelm us all.  I think of the negro spiritual: I’ll Fly Away and of the slaves who endured such suffering, yet with a song like this looked forward to eternity:

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

They had hope, despite the terrible conditions under which they lived and labored.  It’s this confident expectation that Jesus brings us in this life.

How will we who live now fly away?  We have the anticipation of the Rapture.  Jesus says in our verse above that He is coming back for us to take us to His father’s house.  These aren’t idle words.  This isn’t a promise that’s in some distant, obscure future.  This is a promise for NOW!

This age in which we live is coming to an end.  All prophetic signs are converging and pointing to the soon-return of Jesus and the coming wrath of God upon an unbelieving world.

That mansion Jesus is building awaits us.  His return is near.  Soon we’ll take up residence in His Father’s house.  Soon, and very soon, we’ll fly away.

Counterfeit Redemption

When I was saved and born again in 2005, my pastor impressed on me the importance of reading the Bible daily.  He held a Bible up over my head and said that everything in our lives must come under the Word of God.  Being brand new in the Lord and having no idea what real Christianity was all about, I believed him.  I desperately wanted to walk with the Lord, and I was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish that.

Since that time in nineteen years as I write this, I’ve completely read the entire Bible through at least twenty-five times.  I’ve read it through with a year-long Bible reading plan, and I’ve also read through a number of times with a Bible in 90 Days plan.  When I’ve completed those ninety days, I go right into the New Testament and read that as often as I can the rest of the year.

I think from this you can see that I believe it’s critical for my walk with the Lord to constantly be in His Word and to know the big picture of the entire Bible.  By the way, when you read the Bible through in ninety days, because of the compressed time period, you really get a good sense of its continuity and are able to piece many things together that you might not have done in reading it over a longer period.

A major aspect of my reading God’s Word like this is that it’s helped me to better know His heart, will, and commands for our lives.

There’s a passage in Exodus that I recently came across, which, based on my reading pattern noted above, I’ve read at least twenty-five times.  However, this time I made a connection that I never had previously.  This is one of the benefits of the continual reading of and washing yourself in God’s Word.  You provide the opportunity for God to reveal things to you in His timing.  You can only do this if you’re regularly in the Word.

Exodus 13:14-16:

“In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

From this passage we see that the firstborn of Israel were to be redeemed to bring the clean out of the unclean.  This act was to be a reminder for the Israelites of their position with God.

Now let’s go to Revelation 13:16-17:

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

This passage speaks of the Beast that comes out of the earth during the Tribulation.  The beast is the false prophet, not the Antichrist.

Of course, the first thing I noticed is the similarity in the marks.  The first in Exodus is from God, the second in Revelation is from Satan.  As usual, Satan is a counterfeiter.  I don’t think he has an original bone in his body; he can only copy something from God and twist it for his evil purposes.

I never thought of the mark of the Beast having a religious connotation.  Normally we look at it as a means of control so that people must take the mark if they wish to eat or engage in any commerce during the Tribulation.  But, given the first usage by God, I think another way we can look at the mark of the Beast is as “redemption” during this time of horrors.  Taking the mark means people will be “clean”; they’ll be “protected” by the religion of the beast.  The added benefit is that this redemption gives them the right to buy and sell.  It makes them special and have a unique position with the god of the Tribulation.

This will be just one of the many deceptions that blind the peoples of the earth in those days.  Make sure you have God’s mark upon you today—that you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ—and that true redemption will protect you from God’s coming wrath upon an unbelieving world.

The Twitter Swamp

Most of you are familiar with the social media platform Twitter.  You may also be aware that many people communicate extremely vile things on it.  It seems that no one stops to think.  Is what I’m saying uplifting in any sense of the word?  It appears that the majority of people don’t care.  They just initiate some awful statement or respond hatefully from the depths of their sinful hearts.

The Bible speaks of this condition in Luke 6:45 and, as usual, nails it:

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

Twitter truly is a swamp.  Certainly, some good things are said and occasionally there are positives that come from it.  But the vast majority of what is communicated seems to be sordid and full of hate.

James 1:19 exhorts us that:

everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

That doesn’t appear to be the modus operandi on Twitter, does it?  In fact, it’s usually the last thing that happens in social media today.  And each day it grows worse.

Are you surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  That’s why studying Bible prophecy is so valuable.  You can know the future and prepare your heart for it.

Twitter is the forerunner of things to come.  During the Tribulation, the Antichrist comes on the scene.  Initially, he’s considered as reasonable and a man of peace.  If he uses Twitter or other social media platforms, he’ll be thought of as tolerant and a promoter of the unity of diversity.  But that’s only his initial persona to gain power.

As he cements that power by the mid-point of the Tribulation, he devolves into something much worse than we see on Twitter today.  Revelation 13:5-6 describes his coming to power and what Antichrist will be like:

There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

Lovely, right?  The words coming out of his mouth will be worse than anything that emerges out of the Twitter-verse today, hard as that is to imagine.

More than that, the Antichrist’s blasphemies will be embraced by the world and it will follow him.  By that time, the language he spouts will be the norm for the world.  You don’t like some of what’s said in movies, music, or TV talk shows today?  Just wait, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

Paul in Philippians 4:8 gives us good advice on what to say, think, hear, and watch:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

This is good advice in these last days.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and your heart centered on Him.

Don’t get sucked into the sewer, the swamp, the morass of social medial or any other situation.  Avoid saying and doing things you’ll regret on the day you’re face-to-face with Jesus.

Corrupting Influence of Sin

Today, I’ll start with an analogy.  It’s rather gross, but at the same time, I think, quite effective.

Consider a brand-new toilet bowl.  It’s clean, white, no hint of anything that might mar its pristine surface.  It gets installed in your home and it isn’t long before it’s not quite so pretty.

A little bit of rusty brown appears on the bowl under the water.  Quickly that brown stain spreads and the entire bottom is covered in this unsightly color.  Eventually you get out the Lysol, the brush, and you scrub it—it’s not going to clean itself!  Otherwise, the stain will just get worse.

This is how sin works in our lives.  We think we’re clean and sparkling, but we don’t realize there’s something at work against this wholesome exterior we portray.  We let in a sinful thought and commit a sinful act there.  Soon, if we don’t eradicate the effects of this sin, it spreads.

Here’s how the Bible puts it in James 1:14-15:

but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Sin can quickly and easily corrupt us if we don’t deal with it.  And how do we do that?  We can’t clean up our own sin like we can scrub a toilet bowl.  The only way is by repenting and giving it to God.

Now let’s look at another example.  It’s quite evident that sin is greatly increasing in the world.

The news is full of hate, the vile remarks people make, and the things they’re doing that are an abomination to God.  Many even celebrate this sin.  Twitter, where so much hate spews in this realm has been rightly described as a sewer.

What we see now is only a precursor of what is to come.  We think it can’t get any worse than this, then it does.  One prominent Christian radio host has repeatedly said, “I never thought I’d see the day.”

When the Rapture occurs and the Restrainer is removed, lawlessness will increase exponentially as the Tribulation advances.  We know the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit resident in true believers within the Church.  After the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will still be present in the world, however, He will probably operate more like in Old Testament times.  Many people will be saved, the Holy Spirit will at the least convict them if not indwell them, but the restraint the Holy Spirit exercises now won’t be there.

Lawlessness will consume the world—just as that brown stain in the bottom of your toilet will consume the entire bowl unless you clean it.  This is a picture of the horrors of sin and lawlessness during the Tribulation: they lead to death.

God in His mercy has decreed the Tribulation will last only seven years.  He says in His Word, in Matthew 24:22:

If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

In other words, the world would destroy itself if God didn’t intervene.

That intervention brings the return of Jesus Christ.  At that time the entire world will acknowledge Him as Lord:

  • Some to eternal torment
  • Some to eternal glory

Be sure you’re ready for when Jesus comes the first time for His saints in the clouds in the Rapture.  When He comes in His glory with His saints at the end of the Tribulation, it will be much too late.

Prepare your heart and live everyday like it’s your last day before you face Jesus.

It may be!

Welcome to Looking Up

The name of this blog is taken from Luke 21:28 where Jesus says: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Reading in Matthew 18 about the parable of the unmerciful servant made me reflect back to verses I discussed in a previous blog post.  In Romans 2:4-5, the Apostle Paul says:

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

Here the extremely serious question arises as to whether those who are professing Christians, yet who are stubborn and have unrepentant hearts, will be Raptured with the true Church of Jesus Christ, or must go through the refining fires of the 7-year Tribulation, otherwise known as the Day of God’s Wrath.

Following on that, let’s review Matthew 18:21-35:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Notice in this parable that the man has an impossible debt.  Yet his master has mercy on him and forgives it all.

This is our sin condition before the Lord.  Our sin is so great that we can never conceivably repay it.  However, God in His great mercy, in the sacrifice of His Son, has forgiven us.  Through this free gift of salvation, God forgives our sins as far as the east is from the west.

But this same man has a debtor. Unlike his master, he doesn’t forgive this man’s debt.  Despite his pleas, the who owes the debt is cast into prison.  Understand: he’s thrown in prison until he can repay the debt.

How can this possibly happen?  In prison, you can’t work.  It’s an impossible situation.  This man will never be able to repay the debt.

The master hears of this situation, and it angers him greatly.  He tells the man that because his master had mercy on him, so should he likewise have mercy on others and forgive their debts.  So incensed is the master at this man’s heart condition that he reverses his initial mercy because of the unforgiveness this servant harbors.  The master throws him in debtor’s prison until he can pay.  Again, this is an impossible situation.  He can never repay such a debt.

God likewise commands us to be merciful to others.  He commands us to forgive others their sins against us.  We are not to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness in our hearts.

If we continue to do so, there is a consequence.  Let’s look at the last verses of this passage again:

In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

Do you see that?  If we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us!

What does He mean that He’ll hand us over to the jailer to be tortured?

This is the impossible circumstance.  It illustrates the critical importance of forgiveness in God’s Kingdom.

Is this a situation where someone in sin doesn’t gain heavenly rewards?  Does it mean someone losses their salvation?  Can this imply that an unforgiving heart, just like in the Romans verses, may cause a believer living in this sin to go through the Tribulation for his heart to get right?

I don’t know the answers, but this Scripture gives a clear, unmistakable warning.  God’s mercy is greater than anything we can imagine.  However, He expects us to reflect the love of Christ in our lives.

If we live in the sin of unforgiveness, there may be terrible consequences for us as a result.

Inconceivable Persecution

I was sitting in my living room in the early morning for my prayer time.  The lights were out.  It was quite dark outside.

I began thinking about my brothers and sisters in Christ who are regularly persecuted in many countries around the world.  This includes the Middle East in Muslim nations, China which is communist and atheist, Southeast Asia where they are communist and Buddhist, India with Hindu persecution, and Russia which is communist.  There are others.

There are generally two types of persecution.  One is where the governments outlaw Christianity.  It is a threat because Christians worship God and not the state.  The second is where family, friends, and neighbors come against Christians because they are different—Christianity is a different religion to the prevailing culture or it is against their pagan traditions.

It is not unusual in these places for Christians to be privately at home or gathering secretly to worship and their enemies learn of their beliefs.  Once they do, it’s not long before they harass or outright attack them.

Think about this.  You’re at home like I was, praying, and reading your Bible.  Suddenly, in the dark your door is broken open and armed men rush in.  They’re shouting, cursing, and they roust your family from their beds.  Immediately they search your house looking for forbidden materials.  They seize your Bible.

You and your family are taken to jail where you sit for days undergoing intense questioning.  The interrogation may continue for weeks.  You may be tortured.

Why do they treat you like this?  The authorities want names of other believers.  Christianity cannot be tolerated because these people and governments see it as a threat to their existence, regardless of how passive or non-evangelical someone might be.  For those who work actively for the Lord’s purposes, they are an even greater peril to the prevailing culture.

Some of our brothers and sisters are imprisoned like this for years.  They have no trial.  They undergo regular beatings.  Torture may be a daily occurrence.  Some are put to death.  Their families may be threatened with death unless the Christians divulge the names of others who follow Jesus Christ.

What would you do in such a situation?  What would I do?

For us in America, this scenario is inconceivable.  But others face it every day.  Persecution to them is as normal as the sun rising daily in the east.

In the coming 7-year Tribulation with the rise of the Harlot world religion and the Antichrist, incredibly, many will choose to follow Jesus rather than take the mark of the Beast.  They will be hunted and severely persecuted.  What I described earlier will become the norm for all those who decide the One true God is worth their very lives.

Most newly minted Christians in the Tribulation, in fact, will pay with their lives.  Why do I frame it this way?  Because all true followers of Jesus Christ will be Raptured from the earth by Jesus before the Tribulation when God pours His wrath and judgment upon an unbelieving world.  Unbelieving is the key.  Thus, the only Christians during that time will be those who come to the Lord following the Rapture; these will be “newly minted.”

These new believers will face severe persecution and death.  They will also know what they’re getting into, just as Muslims today who convert from Islam.  Apostasy warrants the death penalty for them.  True faith in Christ during the Tribulation will warrant it for these new Christians.  Here is Revelation 20:4 giving us insight into this:

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Aren’t you glad you’re a true follower of Jesus Christ?  That you won’t have to endure the incredible suffering that will soon come upon this world?  And if you’re not a believer, don’t wait until it’s too late—make that decision today!—because great deception will come upon the earth during the Tribulation ,and you may not even be able to choose Christ as your Savior because of the overwhelming spiritual darkness.

Rejoice in the Lord and be thankful for His mercy!

Prophecy Update – Destruction of Damascus

There is a soon-coming event that we can see on the road ahead through our prophetic headlights.  This is the destruction of Damascus, Syria.

The Bible speaks clearly about this prophecy that has never been fulfilled.  We see in Isaiah 17 the entire description of this event, but we’ll limit the verses we read to just three: Isaiah 17:1,9,14.  Here’s what they say:

1See, Damascus will cease from being a city;
it shall be a ruinous heap.

 9In that day his strong cities shall be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the sons of Israel; and there shall be a desolation.

14This is the portion of those who plunder us,
and the lot of those who rob us.

At evening time, sudden terror!
And before the morning, they are no more.

There is a confirming passage in Jeremiah 49:23-27.  It reads:

23 Concerning Damascus:

“Hamath and Arpad are dismayed,
for they have heard bad news.
They are disheartened,
troubled like the restless sea.
24 Damascus has become feeble,
she has turned to flee
and panic has gripped her;
anguish and pain have seized her,
pain like that of a woman in labor.
25 Why has the city of renown not been abandoned,
the town in which I delight?
26 Surely, her young men will fall in the streets;
all her soldiers will be silenced in that day,”
declares the Lord Almighty.
27 I will set fire to the walls of Damascus;
it will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.”

Let’s parse these a little.  Look at Isaiah 17 again.  In verse 1, Damascus is going down in a major way.  There will be nothing left of the city; it will be a ruinous heap.  This is major destruction.

This literal annihilation of Damascus will be brought about by the Israeli Defense Forces—the IDF—which verse 17 says will be the sons of Israel.

Then in verse 14 we learn this is occurring because of an historical plundering of Israel by their enemies—that would be those who have ruled Damascus over the years.  In that same verse we learn a startling fact.  This complete obliteration of Damascus happens overnight; by morning nothing is left of this once great city.  The suddenness of this event leads us to lean toward the cause of this being a nuclear attack or perhaps a nuclear accident that happens as a result of an Israeli conventional attack.

Jeremiah’s Scripture provides more details.  Jeremiah 49:26 informs us that there will be many civilian causalities as the young men of Damascus fall in the streets.  More than that, no military troops will remain, but all will be silenced in death.

Verse 27 reinforces the terrible nature of the destruction with fire consuming the many walls of the city, but also the government buildings—the fortresses of Ben-Hadad—will fall.

Why didn’t the people flee in the midst of the panic the earlier verses ask?  That could be the consequence of an accident as I mentioned earlier.  We have just enough information to tantalize us and know it will happen, but not quite enough to answer every question.

Recent headlines in the Jerusalem Post and other news sources have shown us that Israel has already been attacking Damascus for a variety of reasons.  A major reason of late has been the result of Iran, which is entrenched in Syria along with Russia and Turkey, attempting to bring into Syria through Damascus smart-guided missile technology.  Syria has many dumb missiles and Iran wants to upgrade them to make them more lethal against Israel.  Israel has incredible intelligence sources.  If Bashar al-Assad sneezes, the IDF knows about it.

Here are example headlines:

“IDF strikes Iranian and Hezbollah targets”

“Syria War: Israel attack overnight on Damascus – IDF acted after firing of missiles by QUDS forces”

“Satellite images show damage from Israeli strike on Damascus airport”

“Israeli arbitrary airstrikes on Syria ‘must’ stop, Russia warns”

As you can see, Israel is being proactive.  They will not allow Iran or anyone to place themselves into a position where they could have the upper hand against Israel.

Now, several points of interest.  Damascus is the capital of Syria.  It is the oldest continuously inhabited city in history.  Its existence stretches back to the time of Abraham, that is, about 4,000 years.  Syria is the gathering place for the primary nations that will wage war against Israel in a soon-coming conflict.  Russia, Iran, and Turkey are all major players in the latter days war described by the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 38-39.  This is the Gog of Magog War or Ezekiel’s War, as it’s sometimes called.  The pieces for that puzzle are pretty much in place.  It just needs the trigger that God alone will supply.

Let’s go back and reinforce the answers to some questions.

Who causes the destruction of Damascus?  It will likely be the Israeli Defense Forces described by Isaiah as the sons of Israel:

9In that day his strong cities shall be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the sons of Israel; and there shall be a desolation.

Why is Damascus destroyed?  Syria has been the headquarters for many years of those who have attacked and plundered Israel.  God says, “This is enough!”

14This is the portion of those who plunder us,
and the lot of those who rob us.

Understand also, that God early on decreed His supernatural protection upon the Jewish nation in Genesis 12:3:

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;

With the destruction of Damascus, God is fulfilling His promise.  Syria has cursed Israel long enough and God’s curse upon that nation will be enacted.

When will this happen?  For that, let’s go to Ezekiel 38:9 where God is telling the ruler of the land of Gog—which is Russia—the following:

After many days you will be called to arms. In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety.

This describes Israel now as these nations gather against her.  They are already at Israel’s border in the north in Syria past the Golan Heights.  These, right now, are the future years, that is, the latter days—sometime very soon—when this will occur.  These wars and events are likely all connected because of the adversaries that are soon to come against Israel.

The nations are almost in complete alliance.  Russia, Iran, and Turkey all have serious financial issues that the plunder of Israel would supposedly alleviate.  That’s their desire as outlined in Ezekiel.  Soon, God will put a hook in the jaw of Russia’s ruler (Ezekiel 38:4), and he will decide he must attack Israel with the other adversarial nations in order to realize the needs or goals they have.

The implications of this prophecy and what it means are the following:

  • The destruction of Damascus could happen anytime. It will likely be a tipping point for either the Psalm 83 War (which I’ll discuss further at a later time) and/or Ezekiel’s War
  • The IDF will fulfill this prophecy about Damascus, but will be rendered impotent for some reason in Ezekiel’s War. The amazing thing is that when Russia and her allies attack, Israel will be unable to act and all will seem as if it’s lost.
  • However, that’s when God plays His hand. He intervenes in Ezekiel’s War, and it’s apparent not only to Israel, but to the entire earth.  God will get the much-deserved glory.
  • When He does, this will be the beginning of the prophetic fulfillment of Israel turning back to God. Currently Israel is secular and far from God in the general populace.  When God comes through against the overwhelming attack of Ezekiel, the people of Israel will recognize God, His existence, and His protection over them.  Many will turn to Him.
  • What the vast majority will not do at this point is recognize Yeshua, Jesus, as Messiah. That’ll still be a problem for Israel, because it means they must go into the 7-year Tribulation in order for them to be cleansed, purified, and convicted that Jesus is the Messiah they’ve long awaited, and that Jesus is Lord.