Thursday, September 22, 2011

"End Times" or the "End of Time?"


The 2nd Temple circa 30 A.D.


A Continuing Exposition of Matthew 24 & Luke 21


As we continue to explore the singular meaning of the Matthew 24 / Luke 21 Mount Olive discourse regarding the two apostolic questions; “When will the Temple be destroyed?” and “What are the signs of your (2nd) coming and the end of the world?” we will fail in our exegesis unless we grasp the fact that this discourse is neither chronological nor sequential in the 21st century mindset.  Christ does not put everything in exact “time sequence” and “chronological” order.  To our way of thinking, He jumps around and gets things “out of order.”  In fact, such chronological and sequential concepts are foreign to the 1st century Jewish way of thinking.  Though many, if not most, of the dialogue is in what we would call “proper sequence,” it is by no means 100% so.  Frankly, such concepts as time, chronology and sequence were not important to the writers of Jewish literature, inspired or otherwise.  What was important was the impact of certain people, places and events in order of importance to God’s long term plan for mankind.  In other words, “correct” chronological and sequential order has little, if nothing, to do with how God communicated His Holy Word to the Jewish people.  As the Littman Co. © says;

The comprehensive study of time, time reckoning, and chronology in ancient Jewish sources demonstrates that the concept of time as an entity or a continuum was entirely absent from ancient Judaism.  Reality and change were conceived in terms of concrete processes.  This stands in contrast with the world view of Greco-Roman culture and its pervasive concept of chronos[1]

This, of course, is not to say that viewing history chronologically is in any way right, wrong or indifferent.  It is to say, however, that the 1st century Jew did not communicate discourse and dialogue in the same way we do 21 centuries later.  Now back to our text(s).

The Jewish revolt that resulted in the complete destruction of the 2nd Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. began in 66 A. D. when 3,000 Romans were lost in battle with the Jews.  The Romans withdrew for a time and then returned with a massive army of 60,000 men made up of the combined forces of the 5th and 10th Legions.  The combined force was commanded by Vespasian moving the 10th southward out of Syria and his son, Titus, pressed north from Egypt with the 5th.  Rome was determined to put down Jewish uprisings for all time and eternity.  When it was all over, the only thing left of Jerusalem was a small Roman garrison camped on top of Mt. Zion where the Temple once stood.  Josephus records a detailed history and archeology has un-earthed a Roman marker dedicating the victory to “Imperial Caesar Vespasian…”  Vespasian led the army to a rout of Jewish opposition in Israel, pushing Jewish forces gradually into Jerusalem which he then began to besiege.  However, he was called back to Rome by his supporters where he was installed as the imperial emperor on 21 December 69 A. D.[2]  In his absence, the siege was temporality lifted and people were able to leave Jerusalem.  Shortly, in the new year, the siege was begun anew under the new commander, Titus.  Titus, on behalf of Vespasian, destroyed the Temple, conquered Jerusalem, killed 1.1 million persons in there, defeated the remnant Jewish garrison at Masada, and ended the revolt.  The events of 70 A. D. had consequences that last until this very day.  Not since the destruction of the Temple have the Jewish people been able to prove what tribe they are from, no person(s) of Levitical linage ancestry are identifiable thus completely destroying the Mosaical sacrificial system.  Everything near and dear to the Jewish mindset and identity as a people was swept away forever.  In fact Jesus said that “…Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled…” – Luke 21:24b (KJV).  Thus it is so, Jerusalem has been fought over and trampled by Gentile peoples from that day until this very day.  As we speak Gentile Arabs possess and control the very Temple Mount that was swept clean of the Temple of God by Titus.  Gentile peoples will continue to fight over this mount until the last trumpet sounds.  The seed of Abraham is now living in Spiritual Israel, the hearts of Christian men and women and His law is no longer written in stone but on the hearts of every faithful Christian!  - TO BE CONTINUED



[1] From the on-line intro to the book Time and Process in Ancient Judaism by Sacha Stern.  See: http://www.littman.co.uk/cat/stern-time.html
[2]  69 A. D. is known as "The Year of the Four Emperors."  Vespasian was proclaimed emperor only after 3 other men temporarily held the Imperial Seat. Nero committed suicide in 68 A. D. In 69 A. D. Galba was assassinated in the Forum by the Praetorian Guard, Otho committed suicide, thirdly, Vitellius was killed by Vespasian's soldiers as they overran Rome.  Interestingly, as his son would do a year later in Jerusalem, Vespasian burned down the Temple of Jupiter which was associated with Vitellius.  The fourth emperor that year, Vespasian, was proclaimed emperor just before years end.
NOTE: For a detailed history of "The War of the Jews" see: http://www.historynet.com/first-jewish-roman-war-siege-of-jerusalem.htm

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Popular Religion"



We live in retail times.  Everything is for sale, including religion.  The 12th century Roman Catholic monk, Thomas Aquinas, taught that one's primary access to God was one's own senses - including, according to Thomas, one's own imagination!  How American!  "If you can dream it, you can make it reality!"  We might call this approach, "Popular Religion."   In these days of American jobs being shipped overseas, "popular religion" is one of the last things manufactured here in the states...and boy do we turn out the product!  The message of "popular religion?"  "Come just as I am and leave just as I am!"  No repentance, no confession, no acknowledgement, no baptism, no changed life...God just pats me on the head and tells me "you're o. k., you're not as evil as all those other people!"

The most "popular" church in America today is Joel Osteen's "Lakewood Church" in Houston, TX.  Lakewood boasts a membership of just north of 43,000 people![1]  Just how popular is Joel Osteen?  Popular enough to "put the show on the road!"  People are so wanting to hear Joel's "popular religion" of no change and no obligation that they are willing to pay big bucks just to hear it!  Here’s an advertisement on ticketsnow.com:

Charismatic Lakewood Church pastor and best selling author Joel Osteen is sharing his message with capacity crowds at arenas across the nation.  Fans drive in droves to see Joel Osteen and hear his popular sermons!  Join one of the most famous televangelists for a special night of encouragement, inspiration, and worship!  Buy your Joel Osteen tickets now!(2)

But...what does GOD think of "popular religion?"  Does He endorse it?  Does He accept it?  More importantly, will it SAVE you?  Paul says that "the things written aforetime were written for our learning."  (Romans 15:4)  One of those "aforetimes writings" takes place in I Kings 22 where we get an insight as to the validity of "popular religion" with God.

Due to an un-scriptural marriage (I Kings 8:18) between Judah's King Jehosophat's son, Jehoram, with the daughter, Athalia,  of the pagan queen of Israel, Queen Jezebel, and her lap-dog husband, King Ahab, Jehosophat found himself in a military pact with evil.  This obligated Jehosophat to militarily support whatever military adventure Ahab could dream up.  "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses." (22:4b ESV)  Thus the two kings decided to attack the Syrians at Ramoth-Gilead.

King Jehosophat, being skeptical of that old fox Ahab, in 22:5; "Inquire first for the word of the Lord."  He wanted God's stamp of approval before he and Ahab started a war.  Ahab, being the pragmatist that he was, was actively seeking a way to fend off such pesky requests.

We think "opinion polls" are new but King Ahab knew all about them.  Not only that, he knew how to manipulate them!  (Imagine, politicians manipulating polling data?!)   In 22:6, the Bible says, that Ahab took an "opinion poll" of "about 400 men" who (here’s a shocker!) ALL told the king that he would succeed!  They universally proclaimed to the king, "Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king."

This is "popular religion" at it's best, or should we say, at it's worst!  We can almost hear the people say, "Tell the king what he wants to hear and all will go well with you!"  They claimed to be speaking for God (22:11) but Jehosophat was still skeptical!  "Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?"  Finally, the reluctant Ahab fesses up!  "There is yet on man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil." (22:8. emphasis mine - RM)  You reckon!?  No wonder Ahab did not include him in the first batch!  He knew what was the likely prophesy to come out of all of this!

As it turns out, the 400 "prophets" were wrong and the lone Micaiah was right!  The combined army of Ahab and Jehosophat was to be defeated by the Syrians.  Not only that, the evil Ahab was killed at Ramoth-Gilead and Jehosophat barely escaped with his life to rule over a devastated and ruined country.  "Popular religion" did not fly on that day nor will it in our day!   Every Sunday in Charlotte, 400 +/- denominational preachers tell their listeners to say the "sinners prayer and receive Christ as their personal savior."[3]  They tell people what they want to hear while entertaining them with instrumental music, art, dance and drama...all without a "word from the LORD!"  What was it that Paul told the Galatians?  "But though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8 (KJV)  "Popular Religion" IS "another gospel!"  It is accursed!

Yes, King Ahab died for his embrace of "popular religion" and will face God one day in judgment still clutching onto it.  WILL YOU?                    



[2] Upcoming Osteen event tickets for a November 4, 2011 event in Cincinnati are priced from $25.00 - $109.00 each!  Via: http://www.ticketsnow.com/joel-osteen-tickets/ 
[3] There is no such thing as the “sinner’s prayer” in Scripture.  For more Bible on this, go to: http://sinners-prayer.info
NOTE: Picture courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Let The Lower Lights Be Burning!




S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, 1958 - 1975[1]
10 November 1975 was a dark, cold and stormy night on Lake Superior just off Cleveland.  As sometimes is the case, 80 mile per hour winds and 30 foot waves sprung up without warning.  The now iconic ship S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sunk just short of reaching harbor.  All 29 crew were lost without a trace with the cause of the wreck unknown until this day.  She lies in 530 feet of water just 15 nautical miles from the safety of Whitefish Bay.  In her day she was the largest ship ever to sail the Great Lakes. The maritime tragedy, is memorialized by Gordon Lightfoot in his moving 1976 ballad, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.[2]  Such losses of men and ships are nothing new off Whitefish Point.  In fact, from 1816 until 1975 some 240 ships perished![3]  One such loss in the middle of the 19th century moved song writer and missionary singer, Philip Bliss (1838 – 1876) to write a moving hymn; Let the Lower Lights be Burning.  While in Chicago, Bliss heard a preacher tell of a similar tragedy that took place on Whitefish Bay off Cleveland more than a 100 years before.  The preacher told of a ship in a violent storm one stormy night trying to make Cleveland. 
As he drew near, (the captain) shouted to the lighthouse keeper, “Is this Cleveland?”  The lighthouse keeper shouted back, “Quite true, sir!”  The captain asked, “Where are the lower lights?”  The lighthouse keeper said, “They have gone out.  Can you make the harbor?”  The captain replied, “We must, or we will perish!”  With that he sailed his ship into the harbor, passed the lighthouse, missed the channel, and was dashed against the rocks.  It was a terrible tragedy.  Many people were killed.  The preacher brought the story home with these words; “Brothers and sisters, the Master will take care of the lighthouse.  Let US keep the lower lights burning!”[4]    
The prospect of a shipwreck due to extreme weather and darkness is clearly revealed to us in Acts 27:39 – 44.  Life knows few terrors more desperate than a shipwreck in the dark of night.  We can easily visualize such trauma by remembering the opening scenes of the Disney classic Swiss Family Robinson.  The Edmund Fitzgerald had radar and she knew her heading but the storm was just too great to overcome. In years past, before the advent of radar and sonar, ships had to rely on lighthouses at the harbor entries for direction.  These lighthouses had both upper and lower lights.  The upper light is what we normally think of when we think about lighthouses.  It is that light up top of the large brick structure that shines several miles out to sea.  It gave general direction to ships seeking harbor.  However, the upper lights by themselves became useless when the ships drew close.  They would be blind without the “lower lights burning.”
Just what are the “lower lights?”  The “lower lights are those lights in those buildings surrounding the harbor illuminating the narrow channel and entrance to the safety of the harbor, where the wind and the waves subside, eliminating the terror and danger of the open sea.  Without the “lower lights burning,” the helmsman is blind and in grave danger.  “Light” is biblically linked to safety and salvation.  It is the singular most visible attribute of God Himself!  It is our duty and privilege as Christians to carry the light of God’s saving gospel to a lost and dying world, much like those who bravely man the “lower lights along the shore.”  As the upper light and the lower lights strive together to bring the lost and stranded sailor to the safety of the harbor, so it is with God and His children.
In Scripture, the primary Hebrew word for “light” is or which means “illumination in every sense including lightning, happiness, bright, clear, day, morning, sun.” [5] [See Exodus 10:23, Psalms 27:1 et. al.]
The primary Greek word for “light” is phos which means to “shine or make clear by rays, fire or light.”[6]  [See I john 1:5, John 8:12, Matthew 5:14 et. al.]
Metaphorically speaking, God provides the “upper light” of salvation which we then carry to a lost and dying world as His “lower lights.”  The essence of these thoughts are all covered by Paul’s wonderful words in II Corinthians 4:4 – 7 where Paul uses “light” to describe both the glory and the Word of God, God Himself and the Light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ, light that is then distributed by jars of clay!  My friend, you and I are “lower lights” housed in “jars of clay” lining the harbor of God’s salvation!
Jesus Christ, the (upper) Light of the World, gives us the His gospel through the light of the knowledge of His Word & then gives us (lower lights) “…all authority to speak, exhort, rebuke and to be disregarded by no one!”  (Titus 2:15 (ESV)  “Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave.  Some poor fainting, struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save!”                          
[The gospel of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15) is the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, that He was buried, that He rose on the 3rd day and appeared to over 500 witnesses.  The free gift of God's salvation through Jesus Christ is available to all who HEAR the Word of God (Romans 10:17), who BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (John 8:24), who REPENT of all sin (Luke 13:3, Acts 2:38), who CONFESS that Jesus is the Son of God before witnesses (Matthew 10:32), who are BAPTIZIED in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) and who LIVE FAITHFULLY from that point forward until death (I John 1:7).]




[1] Photo from the Minnesota Historical Society via: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Edmund_Fitzgerald




[4] http://ussboston.org/shore.html


[5] According to Strong’s via http://e-sword.com


[6] Ibid.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"End Times" or the "End of Time?" - Part II

The Temple Mount as seen across the Kidron Valley from the Mount of Olives (1)

A Continuing Exposition of Matthew 24 & Luke 21


It is morbidly interesting to see what the "God is the Temple / The Temple is God" mentality led to.  After the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem by the Romans, the remaining Jewish fighters fled to the mountain top fortress in the wilderness, Masada.  It was thought that no army could ever defeat it.  The Romans, however, never got the message and built a siege ramp and entered the fortress.  Sadly they discovered the Jews there had all committed suicide.  Why?  Suicide had always been looked upon with distain by God's people.  The reason is that with the Temple destroyed, there could be only one conclusion.  There is no God, there is no afterlife, life is meaningless.  Suicide was the only answer to their now atheistic minds.  Had they only listened to Jesus!  He had (and STILL has!) the words of life!



In vs. 4, Jesus began to answer the disciples first question; "Tell us, when will these things be?"  He clearly states that before "one stone is not left upon another," deceivers will arise and attempt to draw away the disciples.  One of the keys to understanding this passage is to observe the almost redundant use of the personal pronouns of "you" and "your" by Jesus referring exclusively to the disciples.  The text tells us that the "disciples came to Him privately."  There was no one there but Jesus and His disciples when he answered their two questions.  He is not speaking to someone in the distant future, He is speaking to His disciples in the flesh and in their own time.



Throughout this discourse, Christ will give many detailed clues as to when and under what circumstances the destruction of the Temple will take place.  His instructions were so precise that the disciples were able to warn the Christians in Jerusalem at that time to the extent that there is no record of even a single Christian perishing in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.!  We will detail these very clear signs.



As noted, the first sign Christ tells the disciples of the Temples destruction is that there will be an attempt to "lead YOU astray."  Not people in the future but the disciples in their lifetime.  Vs. 5 gives four vivid predictions that begin the signs of the coming destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in which it is located.  (1) The deceivers will be "many."  (2) They will come in the Name of Christ.  (3) They will claim to be the Christ.  (4) They will lead many astray.  These are warning signs that are spiritual in nature but very observable.  There were also physical warnings that would be very observable to the disciples as well.



Jesus begins to detail these physical warnings in vs. 6.  He says that YOU (the disciples) will "hear of wars and rumors of wars."  Many today fret that the end of time is approaching because we continually hear of "wars and rumors of wars."  Really?  Name a time in history since Cain slew his brother Abel that there has NOT been "wars and rumors of wars?"  War is a constant in the ongoing saga of fallen and sinful man.  Jesus was speaking "privately" to His disciples answering two very distinct questions, the first of which he answered with multiple signs and the latter which He answered with absolutely no sign whatsoever.  Jesus here is referring to specific wars and rumors of wars..."The War of the Jews" as Josephus puts it.  In 66 A.D., after years of protest, violence, civil disobedience and several small but open revolts, the Jewish nation rose up en masse in open rebellion against the hated Romans.  The Romans, in the process of establishing their pax romano (The Roman Peace), were determined to once and for all stamp out all Jewish resistance in a most complete and dramatic way.  The result was so profound that the entire empire took note and complied to Roman rule for the next 300 years.  The destruction was as Christ said it would be; "...great tribulation, such as not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be."  TO BE CONTINUED


[1] Photo Courtesy of: http://www.photos8.com/the_old_city_of_jerusalem-wallpapers.html  The extant “Dome of the Rock” is the approx. location of the Herodian Temple.



More Blessed than the Apostles? - In One Way...YES!

Audio and Outline of a Sermon Rendered 3 June 2018, Morning Service, Archdale church of Christ, 2525 Archdale Drive, Charlotte, NC 28210 by...