The Case For the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

There are many views within the body of Christ when it comes to Bible prophecy and end times events. My goal in this article is not to put down other points of view, but just present my case for the pre-tribulation rapture.

Types of Tribulation
The Tribulation that comes upon the Church
There is no doubt that the Church has in its history, and will continue to, experience tribulation and trials. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) This, however, is different than the Tribulation that will come upon the earth.

The Tribulation that comes upon the Earth
The Tribulation period is a specific 7-year period where God deals with the Nation of Israel and pours out His wrath on the whole world (Daniel 9:24-27). Speaking about that time, Jesus said, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matt 24:21-22)

There are those that believe we will go through the Tribulation period, and often their criticism of the Pre-trib view is that “Pre-tribbers are escapists!” I believe that this is only partially true. Are we to be escapists?… Yes and No! Yes, we want to escape the wrath of God, but no, we do not want to escape trials and tribulation out of fear. Paul the apostle said that Christians that live godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:10-12).

The key to remember is: the tribulation that the Church experiences comes from a different source than the Great Tribulation! The tribulation and persecution that comes upon the Church originates with Satan and fallen man (i.e. the wrath of Satan), whereas the Great Tribulation that comes upon the earth comes from God (i.e. the wrath of God – Rev. 6:16-17)

Evidences for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
A. The Nature of the Church 
I believe that one main reason people do not understand the timing of the rapture is because they do not understand the nature of the church. It is not just a matter of eschatology, but ecclesiology.

The 1st time the word “church” is used in the New Testament is in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus said, “I will build My church.” The word “will” shows that it was still future from the moment Jesus said it. The Greek word for “church” is ekklēsia, which comes from two Greek words, ek meaning “out from”, and kaleo, which means “to call,” thus the word church literally means “the called out ones.” We are the ones called out of this world to Jesus Christ.

In the N.T., we see that the Church is UNIVERSAL. The Church can be defined as: every genuine believer in Jesus Christ all over the world, regardless of denomination, race, or gender, from Pentecost (Acts 2) until the Rapture, whether in heaven or on earth. Notice that this includes those already in heaven! Thus, those that believe the Church will go through the tribulation don’t have a problem with Eschatology, but Ecclesiology – most of the Church is already in heaven! I would assume then that they just don’t understand what the nature of the Church is. The Church is not just those on the earth right now, but includes those believers that have died since Pentecost.

1. The Church is distinct from Israel and Gentiles.
The Church is referred to as the Body of Christ (Col. 1:18) composed of both Jews and Gentiles, of which there is no difference (Gal. 3:27-28), forming “one new man” (Eph. 2:11-16). The Church is a whole new thing! Paul the apostle wrote to the church in Corinth, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” (1 Cor. 10:32) The Church is distinct from Israel and Gentiles, yet is made up of both.

Until Jesus died, there were only 2 entities: Israel (Jews) and the Gentiles, but now there is a 3rd entity – the Church! From Adam to Abraham there were only Gentiles (Gen. 1-11). From Abraham to Jesus there were both Jews and Gentiles. From Jesus to the Rapture, there are Jews, Gentiles, and the Church. From the Rapture through Tribulation there will be only Jews and Gentiles again, and from the 2nd Coming, when the Church comes back with Jesus, through the Millennial Kingdom, there will be Jews, Gentiles, and the Church again here on the earth.

2. The Church is not appointed to Wrath.
Paul, in writing to the Romans, said, “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Rom 5:9) Also, he wrote to the Thessalonians, “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come,” (1 Thess 1:10) and “for God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 5:9) On the cross of Jesus Christ, He took the wrath of God that we deserved upon Himself in our place, thus we will never have to face God’s wrath again! We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ! (Rom. 5:1)

In Jesus’ letter to the church of Philadelphia, He said, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from (literally ‘out of’) the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev 3:10)

B. The Nature of the Tribulation.
1. It is the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble.”
The prophet Jeremiah refers to this time period as the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” (Jer. 30:1-11) This is the “70th Week” that the prophet Daniel refers to in Daniel 9:24-27, where God deals with Israel as a nation.

2. It is the Wrath of God.
The Book of Revelation makes it clear that this period in history is the wrath of God. (Rev 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15) The Tribulation is also called “The Day of the LORD” throughout the prophets in the Old Testament, which refers to the whole 7 year period of God’s wrath and judgment.

3. It is the wrath of God upon all people.
In speaking of this time period, Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible,” (Isaiah 13:9-11) and “For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” (Isa 26:21)

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the LORD of hosts. Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD.” (Jer 25:29-31)

Jesus promised that the Church in Philedelphia would keep them “out of the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev 3:10), and the it clear in the New Testament that the Church will not experience the wrath of God! (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess 1:10; 5:9).

4. The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail Against the Church. 
At Cesarea Philippi, Jesus told Peter, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) The prophet Daniel wrote about the AntiChrist and said, “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” (Dan. 7:21) Also, the apostle John wrote, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” (Rev. 13:7) Thus, these saints cannot be the Church.

5. Believers that survive the Tribulation will repopulate the earth.
Cf. Isaiah 11:6-8; 65:20; Matthew 25:31-46.  For those that hold a Post-trib view, they have a problem here. Who will repopulate the earth in the Millennium if only believers go into the Millennium and they are all translated at the Rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-58; Matt. 22:30)? Those believers cannot be the Church.

C. The Nature of God.
1. God won’t judge the righteous with the wicked.
Cf. 2 Peter 2:9; Genesis 18:22-25; 19:15, 22.  In Christ, we are completely righteous! (Rom 4:5; 5:1-2; Eph 2:1-9)

2. Judgment is God’s strange work.
Cf. Isaiah 28:21.

D. The Old Testament Model.
1. Enoch was taken before the Flood. (Genesis 5:24)

2. Lot was delivered before the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18:22-25; 19:15, 22)

3. Daniel was not present during the worship of the golden image. (Daniel 3)

E. The Testimony of Paul.
1. Paul expected to be alive at the Rapture.
1 Thessalonians 4:15 – “…we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord

2. Paul taught that the Rapture would precede the Tribulation.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-9.  Verse 3 says, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”  The Greek word for “falling away” is apostasia, which means “departure.”  It is used twice in its noun form (Acts 21:21; 2 Thess. 2:3), 15 times in its verb form, and of all those it is just translated “depart” 11 times. Our modern English word apostasy has the idea of “departing from the faith,” but the Greek word apostasia does not.  It just means a general “departure.”  This same Greek word is used in 1 Timothy 4:1 as a departure from the faith, but it adds those words “from the faith” to describe exactly what kind of “departure” it is.  There is nothing like this is in the text of 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

The AntiChrist will not be revealed until there is a “departure” first, so then we need to figure out what kind of departure Paul is talking about in its context.  In verse 3, there is a definite article used with the word which implies a specific departure, which Paul just mentioned in verse 1 where he says, “by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him.” He also mentioned that departure in his 1st letter to the church in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Thus, the Antichrist will not be known (cf. Rev. 6:1; Dan. 9:27) until after the “departure” or the Rapture of the Church.

3. Paul referred to the Rapture as the Church’s “Blessed Hope.”
Titus 2:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 4:18.

4. Paul loved the appearing of Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 4:6-10.

F. The Testimony of the Book of Revelation.
1. The Church is not mentioned on Earth from Rev. 4:1 – 19:14.

2. The Identity of the 24 Elders.
Revelation 4:4, which says, “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads,” and verse 10, “the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:” When you look at the identity of the 24 Elders in the Book of Revelation, it’s pretty obvious that they represent the Church.  The description of the 24 Elders follow the exact promises that Jesus gave to the 7 churches in Rev. 2-3.
a) They sit on thrones. (Cf. Revelation 1:6; 3:21)

b) They are clothed in white raiment. (Cf. Revelation 3:5)

c) They have crowns of gold on their heads. (Cf. Revelation 2:10; 3:11)

d) They sing a song only the Church can sing. (Revelation 5:5-11, 14)
Revelation 5:9 says, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;”. This group is made up of Jews and Gentiles from all over the world. Verse 10 say, “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”  This is a phrase John used in Revelation 1:4-7 referring to the 7 churches!

d) They cannot be Angels. (Revelation 7:11)

f) They cannot be Tribulation believers. (Revelation 7:13-14)

g) They cannot be the 144,000 Jewish believers on earth. (Revelation 11:16; 14:1-3)

h) They cannot be the complete Nation of Israel. (Revelation 7 & 12)

i) They are only mentioned in Rev. 4-19, and they are always in heaven! (Revelation 19:4)

j) There are 24 of these Elders.
Some say that they represent 12 from Israel (O.T.) and 12 from Church (N.T.).  However, the text says 24 and there is no justification for separating them.  The number 24 indicates a representative group and a completed body, as in 1 Chron. 24 & 25 where there were priest singers in 24 “courses” or “divisions”. The 24 courses represented the whole Tribe of Levi.  In the N.T., “elders” are the representatives of the Church, thus it would seem that these 24 Elders would represent the entire Church.

G. The Doctrine of Imminency.
1. The Church is to be watching and waiting for Jesus to come.
Cf. Matthew 24:36 – 25:13; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:28-36; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6.

2. The Church is to be looking for Jesus Christ, not the AntiChrist.
Philippians 3:20 – “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Titus 2:13 – “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Hebrews 9:28 – “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
1 Thessalonians 1:10 – “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, [even] Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
James 5:7-8 – “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”
Revelation 22:20 – “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

H. Jesus Promised to Remove His “Last Generation” Disciples from the Tribulation Period.
Jesus said, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:36)  He also promised the church of Philadelphia, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev 3:10)

How does this Doctrine affect us?
A. Promotes Holiness.
1 John 3:2-3 says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

B. Promotes Evangelism.
Believing that Jesus can come at any time gives us an urgency to reach our generation with the Gospel. (Matt. 3:2, 7; 4:17; Colossians 1:28)

C. Promotes World Missions.
If we have an urgency to get the gospel out, this impels us to develop a worldwide missionary vision of reaching the lost.  Dr. Timothy Weber, a church historian, has noted that belief in the rapture has been a great incentive for missions in the last 150 years: “By the 1920s premillennialists were claiming that they made up ‘an overwhelming majority’ of the [missions] movement. Others estimated that believers in the imminent second coming made up from 75 to 85 percent of the missionary force worldwide… American premillennialists were better represented on the mission fields than in the home churches… Instead of cutting missionary involvement, premillennialism increased it.” (Thomas Ice, The Truth About the Rapture, pg. 45)

D. Gives Comfort to the Believer.
Writing about the rapture of the Church, the apostle Paul told the Thessalonians to “comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess 4:18)

E. Awakens the Believer!
Paul, in writing to the Romans, said, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:11-14)

When Was Jesus Born?

In our culture today, we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on December 25th. Is that the day He really was born?  Let me say first of all, we don’t know the exact date of Jesus’ birth.  However, I want to explore an interesting possibility in this article that might intrigue you.

December 25th?
There are some problems with a December 25th birth of our Lord. First of all, when Mary was great with child, she and Joseph had to travel 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem because of the worldwide tax decreed by Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1-6). No government official would have the world travel in winter because of the harsh weather conditions (Matt. 24:20). Also, the shepherds were in the fields watching their sheep (Luke 2:8), which they wouldn’t do out in the open conditions in December.

This date actually comes from the pagan holiday Saturnalia and the winter solstice, and was married to the church under Constantine (312 A.D.). Thus, the church has since celebrated the birth of our Lord on December 25th.

Problem of the Dating
The year of Jesus’ birth is broadly accepted as 4 B.C., primarily from incorrect conclusions derived from Josephus’ recording of an eclipse, assumed to be one on March 13, 4 B.C., “shortly before Herod died.” If that is the case, then Jesus would have been born in 5 or 6 B.C. because considerable time elapsed between Jesus’ birth and Herod’s death since the wise men came, the family fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s edict, and they didn’t return until after Herod’s death (Matt. 2:1-15). It was more likely the eclipse on December 29, 1 B.C. that Josephus was referring to. Also, it seems to be that Herod actually died on January 14, 1 A.D.

Early Church Fathers
Tertullian (born about 160 A.D.) stated that Augustus began to rule 41 years before the birth of Jesus and died 15 years after that event. Augustus died on August 19, 14 A.D., placing Jesus’ birth at 2 B.C. He also notes that Jesus was born 28 years after the death of Cleopatra in 30 B.C., which is consistent with a date of 2 B.C.

Irenaeus, born about a century after Jesus, also notes that the Lord was born in the 41st year of the reign of Augustus. Since Augustus began his reign in the autumn of 43 B.C., this also appears to substantiate the birth in 2 B.C.

Eusebius (264-340 A.D.), the “Father of Church History,” ascribes it to the 42nd year of the reign of Augustus and the 28th from the subjection of Egypt on the death of Antony and Cleopatra. The 42nd year of Augustus ran from the autumn of 2 B.C. to the autumn of 1 B.C. The subjugation of Egypt into the Roman Empire occurred in the autumn of 30 B.C. The 28th year extended from the autumn of 3 B.C. to the autumn of 2 B.C. The only date that would meet both of these constraints would be the autumn of 2 B.C.

Information About John the Baptist
The “Course of Abijah”
Elisabeth, John’s mother, was a cousin of Mary and the wife of a priest named Zacharias who was of the “course” of Abijah (Lk 1:5). Priests were divided into 24 courses and each course officiated in the Temple for one week, from Sabbath to Sabbath (1 Chron. 24:7-19). When the Temple was destroyed by Titus on August 5, 70 A.D., the first course of priests had just taken office. Since the course of Abijah was the eighth course, we can track backwards and determine that Zacharias would have ended his duties on July 13, 3 B.C. So, if the birth of John took place 280 days later, it would have been on April 19-20, 2 B.C., which happened to be on Passover of that year! (Interesting that John would refer to Jesus as “the Lamb of God” so often!)

John’s ministry began in 29 A.D.
Luke gives us some historical references to the ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist. John began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar (Lk 3:1-2). As Augustus died on August 19, 14 A.D., that was the accession year for Tiberius. If John was born on April 19-20, 2 B.C., his 30th birthday would have been April 19-20, 29 A.D., or the 15th year of Tiberius. Also, the minimum age for the ministry was 30 years old (Num. 4:47). This seems to confirm the 2 B.C. date and, since John was 5 months older, this also confirms the autumn birth date for Jesus.

Elizabeth’s Pregnancy with John
Elisabeth hid herself for five months (Lk 1:24) and then the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary both Elisabeth’s condition and that Mary also would bear a son who would be called Jesus. Mary went “with haste” to visit Elisabeth, who was then in the first week of her 6th month (Lk 1:26), or the 4th week of December, 3 B.C. That would place the date of Jesus’ birth on September 29, 2 B.C.

As Dr. Henry Morris pointed out, one thing we need to remember is, the incarnation was not when Jesus was born, but when He was conceived! Jesus came into the world and “became flesh” at conception (John 1:14; Heb. 10:5) Thus, if Jesus was born on September 29, 2 B.C., that would mean that He was conceived on December 25! The actual number of days between the two dates is 278 days, which is ideal for human gestation! So we could still celebrate December 25th as Jesus coming into the world: just not celebrating his birth, but His incarnation!

Ancient Christian Feast “Michaelmas”
Michaelmas was a feast observed on September 29th by many early Christians, especially in England and western Europe. The name later also was appropriated to identify a period during the fall when certain courts were in session.

The word “Michaelmas” means “Michael sent”, just like “Christmas” means “Christ sent.” It is very probable that Michael was the “angel of the Lord” (Lk 2:9) who was sent from heaven to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. The feast of Michaelmas thus may well have originated to commemorate this coming of Michael and the angels to welcome Jesus at His human birth.

This date would be just several days before the great Feast of Tabernacles, which the pre-exilic Israelites observed each fall in gratitude for the annual harvest, with each family dwelling for a time in a tent, or “tabernacle.” When John wrote that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (cf. John 1:14), he did not use the usual Greek word for “dwell.” Instead, he said, literally, that the Word “tabernacled” among us. It was as though He had come into the world at just the appropriate time for the joyful Feast of Tabernacles, as Michael and the angels sang of “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Lk 2:10).

Conclusion
The September 29, 2 B.C. birth date of our Savior is an interesting possibility.  This would fit with the narrative of Luke 2 (the worldwide travel & shepherds in the fields).  Although we do not know for sure when Jesus was born, these are some interesting possibilities. We do know, however, that Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem on a mission of redemption. May we celebrate His coming into the world this December 25th and enter into His mission of making disciples of all the nations. Merry Christmas!

Resources:
David Hocking’s study notes on “Luke
Chuck Missler’s study notes on “Luke
Dr. Henry Morris’ “The Modern Creation Trilogy: Vol 1”

Hanukkah: Festival of Lights

“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” (John 10:22-23)

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century B.C. It is interesting to me that Hanukkah is mentioned in the Bible, yet Christmas is not. This was a feast celebrated by Jesus Christ and it’s interesting to see the background of this feast and why He celebrated it. Actually, Hanukkah highlights an historical event that Jesus Himself pointed to as the key to understanding the prophecies concerning His return!

The Feast of Dedication
This feast referred to in John 10:22 is in the “winter,” thus it cannot be Solomon’s Temple [1st Temple] because it was dedicated in the month of Tishri, a month in the autumn (1 Kings 8:2). Also, it cannot refer to Nehemiah’s Temple [2nd Temple] since it was dedicated in the month of Adar (Ezra 6:15-16), a month in the spring. It must refer to another dedication of the Temple that took place in the “winter.”

Historical Background
During the 400 “silent years” between the Old and New Testaments, there were historical, political, and cultural changes in the land of Israel (fulfilling most of the prophecies in Daniel 8 & 11). The Medo-Persian Empire (539-332 B.C.) was dominating the world until the rise of the Greek Empire (332-68 B.C), which was prophesied in Daniel 2.

The Greek Empire rose from the west of previous empires, rising with great speed by their notable ruler, Alexander the Great. He had a famous war with the Medo-Persian Empire and conquered the known world, but his reign was suddenly cut short when he got drunk and died of pneumonia, which led to the Greek Empire being divided among four generals.

Alexander did not divide the empire among his four generals himself, but they divided it among themselves by force after his death: Cassander, ruling over Greece and its region; Lysimachus, ruling over Asia Minor; Seleucus, ruling over Syria and Israel’s land; Ptolemy, ruling over Egypt.

Antiochus Epiphanies (174-164 B.C.)
Israel’s land was fought over between the dynasties of Seleucid and Ptolemy, but the Seleucids gained power over the region in the days of Antiochus III (198 B.C.). Antiochus IV gained the throne by murdering his brother, the former king Seleucus Philopator. The son of Philopator was the rightful heir to the throne, but Antiochus IV had him held hostage in Rome and legitimized his rule mainly through flattery and bribery.

Antiochus IV was a despot, eccentric and unreliable, cruel and tyrannical! The name “Epiphanes” is an abbreviation of Greek theos epiphanes, a designation he gave himself, “the god who appears or reveals himself.” The Jews turned it into “Epimanes” meaning, “madman.” Antiochus undertook the total eradication of the Jewish religion and the establishment of Greek polytheism in its stead. The observance of all Jewish laws, especially those relating to the Sabbath and to circumcision, were forbidden under pain of death, and all Jewish practices were set aside. In all cities of Judea, sacrifices were brought to the pagan deities, and representatives of the crown everywhere enforced the edict. Once a month a search was instituted, and whoever had concealed a copy of the Law, or had observed the rite of circumcision, was condemned to death.

In Jerusalem on the 15th of Kislev in December 168 B.C., Antiochus “broke the league that he had made” and a pagan altar was built on the Great Altar of Burnt Sacrifices. On the 25th of Kislev (which was his birthday) a sacrifice was brought on this altar for the first time (1 Macc 1:54,59). He offered a swine in every village and erected an idol to Zeus in the Holy of Holies – “a desolating sacrilege” (1 Macc 1:54). This desecrating sacrilege has a technical name – “the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 8:13; 11:31), which is a foreshadowing of the Coming World leader that we commonly call the AntiChrist (Daniel 9:26-27).

Maccabean Revolt (164 B.C.)
Of course, the Jews were furious, and a spontaneous Jewish revolt was to turn into a full-scale war. Officers were sent to carry out Antiochus’ decrees at the village of Modein, where an aged priest named Mattathias lived with his five sons. Mattathias killed both the first Jew who approached the pagan altar to offer sacrifice and the royal official who presided, and he and his sons fled to the hills.

Mattathias and his five sons became the nucleus of a growing band of rebels against Antiochus. Mattathias died soon after, leaving leadership in the hands of Judas, whose surname “Maccabeus” (Hammer) became the source of the popular name given to the family and its followers. Under Judas’ brilliant leadership, what had begun as a guerrilla war turned into full-scale military engagements in which smaller Jewish forces managed to defeat much more powerful Syrian armies.

Happy Hanukkah!
Judas’ most notable achievements were the recapture of Jerusalem (except for the Akra fortress, where the Syrian garrison continued to hold out) and the rededication of the Temple on 25 Kislev of 164 B.C. Judas ordered that the Temple be cleansed, the defiled altar be demolished and rebuilt, and new holy vessels of the Temple be made. According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night, but there was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet a miracle happened and it burned for eight days (which was the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah)! The ancient Jewish sages declared to commemorate this miracle with and eight-day feast, which was called Hanukkah.

Let this feast day remind us of the True Light of the world, Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Little Churches

Let me say from the outset: Mega-churches can be good, and little churches can be good. One is not better than the other. There are advantages of being a bigger church, but there are also advantages to being a smaller church.  Bigger churches have more resources because they have, of course, more people, thus they have the ability to impact many many people.  I got saved at a mega-church, and it’s a blessing to see what the Lord can do through big churches.  However, there are blessings in the smaller churches too, and there is an impact that a small group can have as well on the world. I’ve served at bigger churches and smaller churches, and they are both a blessing. The Lord uses both! Right now I’m in a season where we are planting a church from the ground up called Moriah Chapel, and it is a blessed little church. We are having an impact on the world even though we are so small.

The Model of Israel
God established the nation of Israel as a congregation of people.  They are His chosen people, and He established their worship system.  They were to have 7 annual feasts throughout the year where they would have a corporate, huge gathering in Jerusalem (Lev. 23).  At the same time, the Jews couldn’t gather at the Temple every Sabbath because most of them lived too far away, thus they established synagogues – a place to meet for the smaller gatherings.  In order to have a synagogue, there had to be at least 10 Jewish males.  Otherwise, the smaller group would meet down by a river to worship (Acts 16:13; Psalm 137:1).

The Early Church
Just as Israel had the large meetings (Temple) and the smaller meetings (synagogues), I think we see the same type of thing once Jesus began to build His church. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he addressed it to “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1:2). He was writing to the church as a whole that resided in Corinth. However, in New Testament times there were no church buildings so believers would meet for worship wherever facilities were available, which was often in the homes of believers. At the end of the letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” (1 Cor. 16:19) It would seem that in the first century there was a city church (1 Cor. 1:2) that was made up of a number of house churches (16:19-20).

Many churches in the N.T. started as little house churches. The 1st church in Europe, in the city of Philippi, started as a house church. The beginning of the church there was Lydia, her family, a few other women, and the the Philippian jailer and his family, and they met in Lydia’s home (Acts 16). Then, by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, they had grown to a place of establishing leadership of multiple pastors and deacons (Phil. 1:1) and supporting world missions (Phil. 4:15).

The Church in Rome had small churches that met in the home. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, wrote, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.” (Rom. 16:3-5)

There was a church in the city of Laodicia that Jesus wrote a personal letter to (Rev. 3:14-22), but it seems that it was a network of smaller churches also because Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians, “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.”  Also, it seems that the Colossian church was a network of smaller churches that met in homes when Paul wrote to Philemon and said to greet “the church in your house.” (Philemon 1-2)

Small Churches Are Valid
Small churches are Biblical, and they are just as legitimate in the eyes of God as the bigger churches. One is not better than the other, but both are just as valid!

Here in California, our church culture gives a perception that unless your church is a mega-church, then you’re not as valid. I believe, however, that God is just as blessed by a small group of believers gathering to worship Him as He is by a larger group (i.e. mega-church). There are some people that we, as a small church, can reach that a mega-church might not. I believe that Jesus has a plan for both! If the Lord blesses and decides to grow our church, then we will make sure to have the smaller gatherings too! There is so much discipleship that happens in a smaller setting that doesn’t happen in the larger setting. May the Lord free us in our minds from the church culture that says that God has to do things in a certain way. The little churches are just as valid as the larger ones.

At Moriah Chapel, we are blessed because we are able to have some larger gatherings with another smaller church, Calvary Way Fellowship in Oceanside. We plan events together where we can meet as a larger group. We had a Christmas Eve service together, and recently we joined together for a Good Friday service. We encourage each other as smaller churches and it is such a blessing! I encourage other smaller churches to find other smaller churches and network together. Just to have the fellowship and encouragement is a huge blessing!

Advantages of Small Churches
Some of the practical advantages of being a small church are:
1) Simplicity. There are not a lot of programs and “ministries”, so there is just the simplicity of Acts 2:42, thus it’s not institutionalized.
2) Flexibility. Sometimes a smaller church might have to move around a bit depending on the facilities. Our church sometimes has to be move last minute because the place we meet is not available, so we go meet at the park or beach. Right now we have the flexibility and mobility to do that, where it would be more difficult with a larger group.
3) Intimacy. Smaller churches are great for fellowship, and it is conducive to relating as a family. You know what each other are going through, and you’re able to minister and pray for people a lot easier.

Jesus Will Build His Church
Jesus said, “I will build My church.” (Mt. 16:18) As with any construction project, there are both the quantitative (growth in numbers) and the qualitative (growth in quality, depth, enrichment) aspects! In the book of Acts, we see both.
Quantitative: Acts 2:24 says, “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Qualitative: Acts 4:33 says, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

May the Lord build His church as He sees fit. I will leave the results up to Him and not try and conform Him to our culture and what our culture says about how things need to be. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), and I know He has a plan (Jer. 29:11-13). He is the Lord, and I am His servant. We exist for the glory of His name! Therefore, all the churches should pray, “Lord, have your way with the churches. Amen.”

Palestinian State in the West Bank?

Since the mid-1970s, there has been a push by the international community for a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They desire to split the land of Israel and give the West Bank to the Palestinians and form a state of Palestine. Will this happen? Will Israel give the West Bank to the Palestinians?

Coming War in Israel
According the prophet Ezekiel, the next major prophetic event will be Russia leading a coalition of Islamic nations against Israel (Ezekiel 38-39). Russia will equip Iran, Turkey, North Sudan, and others, with nuclear capabilities, and that has already begun. These nations will attack Israel from all sides, but God will intervene and wipe out 5/6 of the armies that invade the land of Israel (Ezek. 39:2).  Then God will pour out His Spirit upon the house of Israel and they will nationally realize again that YHVH is their God. (Ezek. 39:22)

Armageddon?
Some scholars believe that this battle is the same as the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation period, but I believe there are some stark differences between these two conflicts:
1. The Leader 
The Magog Invasion = Russian leader (Ezek 38:1)
Armageddon = The AntiChrist – which is the coming world leader out of the revived Roman Empire (Daniel 2:40-44; 7:7-8, 24; 9:26-27) and is from ancient Assyria, or northern Iraq (Isaiah 10:5, 12, 24; 14:12-17, 25-26; 30:30-33; Ezekiel 31:3, 6, 8-9, 16; Micah 5:5-6).

2. The Nations
The Magog Invasion = a specific list of nations: Iran, North Sudan, Turkey, Lybia, and possibly Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. (Ezek 38:1-6)
Armageddon = All the nations (Revelation 16:14-16; 19:19)

3. The Location 
The Magog Invasion = the Land of Israel, and specifically “the mountains of Israel” (Ez. 38:8; 39:4)
Armageddon = the land of Jordan, specifically the Rock city of Petra (Mt. 24:15-21; Isaiah 16:1-5; Daniel 11:41; Revelation 12:6).

I do not believe that there will ever be a two-state solution before this battle happens because of the location of this battle described in Ezekiel 38-39. The Lord prophesied to Russia through the prophet Ezekiel by saying, “After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.” Throughout the Scriptures, the mountains of Israel included Judea and Samaria, which is in modern terms “the West Bank.” Because this battle has not happened yet, we can be certain that Israel will not give up the West Bank.

I find it fascinating when I see politicians get frustrated wasting their time trying to establish the two-state solution. It will never work. God’s Word says it won’t happen. Anyways, I was thinking about this recently and I had nobody to talk to about this, so I thought I would share it with you!

Absolute Confidence in the Scriptures

The Church is Theological
Definition
– “Theology” = “theos” (God) & “logos” (word; discourse) thus the study/understanding of God. Since the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man, then we must study the Bible to know God!

Biblical Theology
Systematic Theology organizes essential Christian doctrines using the entire Bible, church fathers, history, philosophy, creeds, to discover truth in order to form a coherent doctrinal system. Systematic Theologies are good and have their place, but only after we have a “Biblical” Theology, which is letting the text of the Scriptures alone determine your body of doctrine. Your Theology should grow as your understanding of the Bible grows.

In Acts 2:42, it says that the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine.” “Doctrine” is the Greek word didachē, which means “teaching”. What did the apostles teach?… The Word of God! The early Church was very interested in Doctrine (i.e. Theology) because they wanted to know God! I’ve heard pastors say, “We’re not interested in doctrine, we just want to get down with the people and minister to them.” What?!!! How can you minister to people without the Word of God? What can you give people besides the Word of God?

As the Church, we are based on Theology, NOT based on any other “___ology”! We are not based on Biology (the study of life), Sociology (the study of human society), Anthropology (the study of man), or Psychology (the study of the soul). The Bible deals with these subjects, but they are not our foundation… God is! Theology comes from the Bible, the Word of God.

The Character of God’s Word.
It’s not just man’s word, but it’s God’s Word. The Scriptures declare what God wants to say to humanity, and God still speaks today! In Matthew 22:23-33, the Sadducees came to Jesus trying to disprove the resurrection by giving Him a hypothetical situation, and He said to them, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God,” (v. 29) and “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,…?” (v. 31). God speaks through the written text of the Scriptures! All of the Being and the very Character of God are behind every word that He speaks, and as we read it, it’s like sitting down in front of the Lord Himself and just having the Creator/Redeemer express His very heart and mind to us.

The Early Church had an Absolute Confidence in the Scriptures.

They believed in the literal interpretation of the text, the literal fulfillment of prophecy, and that the Word of God was just that: the Word of God.
Acts 1:16, 20; 2:25-28, 34-35; 3:18, 21-26; 4:24-25; 7:42; 13:23, 26-41; 15:13-18; 24:14.

Absolute confidence in the Inspiration of the Scriptures.
Acts 1:16; 3:18; 4:24-29; 7:6-7; 13:23; 28:23-27; 2 Timothy 3:16.

Since the Scriptures are inspired by God, and God cannot err, then the Scriptures are Inerrant!
The apostle Peter wrote, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:19-21)

Absolute confidence in the Sufficiency of the Scriptures.
2 Timothy 3:14-17 “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned [them]; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

The Word of God is profitable for: Doctrine, Reproof, Correction, and Instruction in righteousness. Why?… That the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work! Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4) Paul, in writing to the Romans said, “So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17) He also wrote, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom 15:4)

Absolute confidence in the Authority of the Scriptures!
They used the Scriptures to confirm all of their experiences.
Acts 2:16; 4:25-30; 13:27-30; 15:13-15.
There was a hyper-Pentecostal lady that would visit a church that we served at, and one Sunday she told me that she was “drunk” in the Spirit. I said, “You mean ‘filled’ with the Spirit?” She said, “You say ‘filled’, I say ‘drunk’.” I said, “The Scriptures say ‘filled’.” Then she would say to us, “All you guys want to do is study the Bible! I’ve read the Bible already!” She just wanted experiences!

The moment we allow experience to be the confirmation of truth, we are no longer being guided by the Scriptures, but we’re guided by the experiences and open up a Pandora’s Box that we’ll never be able to close! If we used experiences to determine truth, we would have to recognize the Mormon’s “burning heart” while reading the Book of Mormon. We would have to recognize the Occult’s psychic phenomena and the Self Realization spirituality.

Let’s learn our Bibles and have the same confidence in the Scriptures that the apostles did in the early Church. I believe that we need to spend time studying the text so that God can speak to us and we can grow in our relationship with Him! He wants to speak to you; are you willing to listen?…

What is Worship?

If we were created to worship God, it is important that we know what worship is! First of all, worship is not music. Most of the time we associate worship with the musical part of the church service, however, it is so much more than that. As we look in the Word of God, the topic of worship is very broad. It encompasses much more than just music, and we want to look at what worship is.

Definition of Worship
Old Testament
In the Old Testament, worship was based upon reverence and sacrifice. The Hebrew word “shachah” is used 172 times in the Old Testament for the word “worship.” The word “shachah” means “to bow down and prostrate oneself in homage before a superior or deity.” This word has the idea of bowing down with your face to the ground in humility.

The nation of Israel would bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to the Lord as an act of worship. The book of Leviticus was given to the priests to know how to worship the Lord acceptably. It was the sacrifice of animals that would cover their sin so that they could approach a holy God. Man cannot come into God’s presence in his sinful state. In order to worship God, the sin issue needs to be dealt with. The sacrificial system was a reminder of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man, and that the only way to approach God was with a sacrifice.

New Testament
In the New Testament, worship is based upon intimacy and sacrifice. (The aspect of “intimacy” will be covered later) Worship in the Old Testament was about sacrifice, but worship in the New Testament is not without a sacrifice! We can now approach God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ! Hebrews 10:19-20 says, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.

Worship under the New Covenant also involves the sacrifice of the saints! It is not the sacrifice of flesh and blood, but of our lives and praise. Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.” The word “service” can be translated “act of worship.” Hebrews 13:15 says, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of [our] lips giving thanks to his name.”

Worship is a sacrifice unto God and it is an offering for God. It is not something that is done for us, nor is about us. We may enjoy it and be blessed by it, but it is for God. Thus, the degree to which we worship should not be dependent on how we feel!

The prophet Habakkuk wrote, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither [shall] fruit [be] in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and [there shall be] no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18) He didn’t see the Lord working, but he knew that God was worthy of praise! What a great example of a true worshiper!

In the New Testament, the Greek word “proskuneo” is used for “worship.” Of the 60 times it is used it is exclusively interpreted to worship. It has the idea of kissing the hand of a superior in a token of reverence. It also carries the idea of kneeling or prostrating oneself to do homage or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication. It is the word used for “shachah” in the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Proskuneo” is a compound word that means “to kiss toward.” “Pros” is the preposition meaning “unto” or “towards.” “Kuneo” means “to kiss,” and the noun form of the word is “kuon” which means “dog.” Thus, the idea of this word carries the idea of “to kiss, or kiss toward, like a dog licking his master’s hand!

What is Worship?
1. Worship is a Passionate Response to God’s Love.
1 John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” Worship is not to do something for God, but respond to what He has already done for us! It is to be done in reverence, we are to experience intimacy, there is to be a sacrifice, but it is because of God.

2. Worship is a Lifestyle of Loving God.
In Mark 12:30, Jesus said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment.” Basically, with the central or innermost parts of us that governs our feelings, sensibilities, passions, desires, affections, emotions, appetites, purposes, endeavors, thoughts, aversions, and with all our understanding, intelligence, ability, force, strength, might, with our entire being we are to love God! That sounds like a lifestyle of loving God to me!

3. Worship is Intimacy with Jesus.
We always hear, “It’s not a religion, but it’s a relationship,” and that is true. However, what is the difference between religion and relationship?… INTIMACY! Have you ever thought of God as being romantic? Some people could take this idea too far, but think about it. Have you ever read the O.T. realizing that He’s not just mad, but He’s an angry, jealous, passionate Lover? Read Hosea to see how passionate God is for His people!

Also, He is the One that inspired the Song of Solomon which is one of the most erotic and romantic pieces of literature ever written! A lot of couples want to go the Hawaii or the Bahamas as the backdrop for their honeymoons, but Who created these places? It wasn’t man’s invention, but God’s (however, man sure jacks up the prices so you can’t go there!) God is a passionate God that wants to have an intimate relationship with you!

I pray that we continue to grow in our love for the Lord, and that we would respond to Him in reverent worship and intimate adoration! Hallelujah!

Created to Worship

The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:10-11)

Reason We Exist
You and I were created to please God! That is the purpose for your existence. And some might say, “I didn’t want to be created to please God.” Tough! That’s the way it is. He is the Creator, and you are a part of His creation. God created you for His pleasure. The reason you exist is to come into a meaningful, loving relationship with God. God created us for the pleasure of fellowship with Him.

Knowing God
God created you to know Him and to have an intimate relationship with Him. Jesus said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)

God wants you to know Him. The prophet Hosea said, “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) The Lord also spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying, “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24) More than anything else, God created you to have a relationship with Him and to have fellowship with Him.

Fellowship With God
In his first epistle, the apostle John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:1-4)

God wants fellowship with you! He created you to have meaningful fellowship based upon love, and when you come into that loving fellowship, your life is fulfilled, thus bringing pleasure to Him. You are fulfilling the very purpose of your existence – to please God!

The world can’t give you true fulfillment. It can give you temporary happiness, but not fulfillment. The world tells you that you’ll be happy if you have the right education, wear the right clothes, or find the right person. However, when you get to the end of it, it’s empty. There’s a void. It’s like chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

On the other hand, when you come into fellowship with God, your life becomes full, rich, and meaningful. Why? Because you are fulfilling the purpose of your existence in bringing pleasure to God! So, if you were created to bring pleasure to God, it only makes sense that if you are not bringing pleasure to God, you can’t be fulfilled. You’re not living according to the basic purpose of your existence. However, if you are living a life that is pleasing to God, then your life is fulfilled. You are now fulfilling the basic purpose of your existence.

Jesus and the Thirsty Soul
The Psalmist said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1 – NIV) There is a thirst within man’s soul that longs to be quenched by fellowship with God, and in John chapter 4, the apostle gives us a story of a woman that had a thirsty soul.

Jesus was traveling with His disciples from Judea to Galilee, and instead of taking the long away around Samaria, which the Jews did because they hated the Samaritans, He went straight through Samaria to find this woman. As He and the disciples came to a city there in Samaria, He was tired and went to Jacob’s well and sat on it while they went and bought food. Then a woman of Samaria came to draw water, and Jesus said, “Give me to drink.” This shocked her! She asked, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me to give you a drink?” and Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, ‘Give me to drink,’ you would have asked of Him, and He would have given you living water.”

The woman thought that He was talking about physical water, and Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again. But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst. The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” So she asked for that water so that she didn’t have to draw water anymore, still thinking of physical water. Then Jesus got to the heart of the issue with this woman. She wasn’t living to please God. He said, “Go call your husband.” She answered, “I don’t have a husband.” Then, Jesus said unto her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you’re with now isn’t your husband. In that you’ve said truly.”

Then the woman changes the subject. She now perceived that Jesus was a prophet and brought up a theological discussion about where to worship God. Jesus gets right to the heart of it again and said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)

Jesus is telling us a few things here…
1. God is seeking worshipers.
What an incredible thought. God is seeking you to worship Him! God is always the initiator. His eyes are going back and forth throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:8-9) He is seeking people to worship Him.

2. God is seeking true worshipers that worship in spirit and in truth.
The Christian life is a life of worshiping God. Everybody worships something, whether it’s a music group, a sports team, or even themselves! Some even worship “worship”! They love the goose bumps, the feelings, and the atmosphere. God doesn’t want us to worship other things, but He wants us to glorify Him. In Psalm 50:23, it says, “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me…” It glorifies God when we worship and praise Him! Worship is not limited to a certain group of people. Whoever praises Him brings Him glory. That word “whoever” includes you and me.

You Were Created to Worship God
Jesus wants to have fellowship with you! The Creator of the universe became a man, and told us how to please God – through worship. Jesus said, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10) As you worship God and have that intimacy with Him through Jesus Christ, you will be fulfilling the very purpose for which you were created – to please God. So, we can safely say, pleasing God and worshiping God are the same reality. He is pleased by our worship!

Revived Roman Empire!

The Bible predicted about 2,500 years ago that in the last days there would be a confederation of nations that would be a revival of the Roman Empire (Daniel 2). As Bible teachers, and students of Bible prophecy, we got really excited when we saw the European Union (EU) come together because we tend to equate the Roman Empire with Western Europe. However, many of us may have been subject to a myopia (“nearsightedness”) by overlooking the fact that the Roman Empire had an Eastern leg that, in fact, survived the Western leg by a thousand years! In the late 5th century, the Western leg began to disintegrate, but the Eastern leg, commonly called the “Byzantine Empire,” endured until 1453 when it was finally overrun by the Muslims.

Union for the Mediterranean
For the 1st time in over 1600 years, the countries that make up both the Western leg and the Eastern leg of the Roman Empire have come together in our day! As of November 3-4, 2008, the Foreign Ministers from the EU and the Mediterranean states came together officially forming a “Union for the Mediterranean,” thus ratifying the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. France’s minister for European affairs, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, stated that “there is no Mediterranean Union” but rather a “Union for the Mediterranean” which would only be “completing and enriching” to existing EU structures and policy in the region.*

Thirty-seven countries make up the Partnership: the 27 EU Member States and 10 Mediterranean partners (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey, which is also seeking EU membership). Libya has only had observer status since 1999, which is interesting in light of Libya’s involvement with the Russian-Islamic nations when they invade Israel as prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39.

The “Babylon” Factor
The revival of the Roman Empire is in place today except there is one nation missing – Iraq! The Bible has prophesied that Babylon, a literal city on the banks of the Euphrates in Iraq, has a climactic destiny yet ahead of it. The destruction described in Isaiah 13-14, Jeremiah 50-51, and Revelation 17-18, has never happened, and if we take the Bible seriously then Babylon is destined to rise again to power to receive the judgment that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the apostle John have described.

The city of Babylon was founded by the first world dictator named Nimrod and became the capital of the world, and it will be rebuilt and be the capital of the final world dictator, often called the AntiChrist. (Note: The AntiChrist is often referred to in the Scriptures as the Assyrian, which was modern-day Iraq – Isaiah 10:5, 24; 14:25; 30:31; Ezekiel 31:3; Micah 5:5-6)

Keep your eyes on Iraq! At some point, Iraq will be involved with this Euro-Mediterranean Partnership! Also, keep your eyes specifically on Babylon. It will be rebuilt! It is amazing how rapidly things are moving toward those things prophesied in the Bible so many years ago, and it’s not just one prophecy, but all of them! It’s urgent that we get the gospel out to as many people as possible because Jesus is coming soon!

Links for more information:
The European Union Website
EU Website on Euro-Med Partnership
EuroMed Info Center

The Mission of God – “Missio Dei”

“Missio Dei”
Missio Dei is a Latin theological term that means “the mission of God” or “the sending of God.” Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but is an attribute of God. He is a missionary God, and we will see that Mission is an outflow of the very nature of God.

God is Working in Human History
The Bible reveals God’s plan and work of redemption within human history. In the first 2 chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1-2) we see that God created the world perfect and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden perfect, and in the last 2 chapters of the Bible (Revelation 21-22) we see the world perfect again. Everything in between (Gen. 3 – Rev. 20) is sin, corruption, death, and God working on His plan of redemption for mankind. History really is “His Story” of redemption.

Salvation is a work of God. It is not a doctrine, theology, apologetic, or anything else – it is a work! For example, are you saved by the cross of history or the doctrine of atonement? The doctrine of atonement is important, but that doesn’t save anybody. It was the work that God did by becoming a man and dying on the cross! God became a man and did the work of salvation. His work is not a philosophy or idea, but a reality that changes people’s lives!

God is Going with Purpose Toward a Goal
Where is God going with His plan of redemption? There are 2 verses that give us God’s goal – Numbers 14:21 & Habakkuk 2:14.

Numbers 14:21 says, “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD,” and Habakkuk 2:14 says, “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

There are 3 things we learn from these verses about where God is going…
1. God’s plan is accomplished on earth (Mt. 6:10) and is universal in scope.
2. God’s plan involves the inhabitants of the earth that were made in the image of God, thus it is international in range (Jews & Gentiles).
3. The goal is accomplished when the people on earth are filled with the glory of God. The earth will be filled with people like Jesus Christ.

What Does God’s Goal Reveal About His Nature?
He must be a Lover. If God wants people to be filled with Himself radiating His glory, then He must love them and be a God of relationship. This means that within God’s nature, there must be more than one person because to be a Lover, what must a Lover have? A Beloved. God couldn’t be a God of love unless there was another eternal person to love – the Beloved. Also, in order for them to love each other, there has to be a Spirit of love between them. Thus, you have a Tri-Unity within the Godhead. The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the spirit of love between them.

The Mission of God
Mission comes from the very nature of God. He is a missionary, or missional, God. He is on mission to fulfill His goal of filling the earth with people like Jesus Christ. Thus, the Church exists because there is mission. We sometimes think that the mission exists because of the church, but that’s not true. The church exists because of the Missio Dei – the mission of God, and is only part of the larger whole mission.

God has a plan for 3 groups of people according to the Scriptures: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church (1 Corinthians 10:23). Today, God is calling out a people for Himself, the Church, to be a part of His mission, and we will be looking at the Church’s part of the mission is subsequent articles.