Posts Tagged 'Millennium'



Hosea: Losing God

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Hosea 5

 

Hosea 5 is a powerful chapter that talks about two of Israel’s biggest problems:  religious and political.  These two problems are related; the latter being influenced by the former.  We can see this situation playing out even today in our own country.  In Israel’s case, her religious problem was particularly nasty:  they were literally chasing after the Canaanite fertility cults.  Her political problem was disastrous:  instead of turning to God, they turned to Assyria and Egypt for help.  Their rebellion against their God was close to being complete as they had pretty much figured Him out of their religious lives and found alternatives for Him in their political lives.

This chapter tells us how God reacted to their faithless behavior.

1.  A sad result

Then at last, they will come with their flocks and herds to sacrifice to God, but it will be too late—they will not find him. He has withdrawn from them and they are left alone.  (Hosea 5:6  TLB)

The power behind this verse lies it what it means, not only in what it says.  To “come with their flocks and herds” means to search after God’s favor through sacrifice.  The problem with the Israelites, though, was that while they had the sacrifice part of the equation down to an art, they had no faith; they exhibited no evidence of true faith; they were all show.  We know from elsewhere in Scripture that mere outward sacrifice is never enough to move God, and it fact can elicit the exact opposite response from God than the desired one.

Samuel replied, “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him. For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. And now because you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he has rejected you from being king.”  (1 Samuel 15:22—23  TLB)

We have an interesting juxtaposition occurring in chapters 4 and 5.  In chapter 4, Israel’s spirit of harlotry is what drove them away from God, but here in chapter 5, that same spirit is the reason God is withdrawing from His people.  You may think that removing His presence from them was pretty harsh.  After all, you may think, they were willing to make sacrifices and to seek the Him out.  But consider what was really happening here.  These people had fallen so far from God, that they were seeking the one True God at the altars of Baal!  They were literally mixing up religions, so mixed up they had become.  They foolishly thought they could combine the best of the Canaanite religions with their religion, expecting God to bless them.  How wrong they were!  No wonder God left them.

This is what happens when people try to approach God on their terms.  Christians have become very good at this; mixing worldliness with true worship and expecting God to “honor their hearts.”  But the fact is, it’s important to God how and even where we seek Him.  You will never find God if you are not looking for Him with all your heart, in the right way, in the right places.  He demands complete allegiance and loyalty.  He also demands obedience.  How can He reward your disobedient spirit with answered prayer?  Or with His presence?  There’s good reason why it seems so many churches are bereft of spiritual power and direction.  Too many churches have bought into the lie that the way to attract members is to appeal to their fleshly needs – things like worship/music style, a casual atmosphere, or even coffee in the sanctuary are thought “progressively clever” ways to get the young and hip to commit.   Appealing to the flesh is never a good idea under any circumstance!

2.  Reasons

God was angry enough with His people to take His presence away from them.  Ultimately, though, the nation’s leaders—political and religious—were the ones who bore responsibility for leading the people astray.

“Hear this, O priests!  Take heed, O house of Israel!  Give ear, O house of the king!  For yours is the judgment, because you have been a snare to Mizpah and a net spread on Tabor.”  (Hosea 5:1  NKJV)

It’s startling to discover that people evaluate Christ and our faith by our behavior.  We, like the political and religious leaders of Hosea’s day, can become a snare for others if we misrepresent God through our words and actions.  It was Emerson who insightfully observed,

What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say.

Hosea’s main targets of attack were guilty of ensnaring and netting the people in sin.  Of course, the people were willing participants in the sinful rebellion against God, proving what was written by another prophet of God,

The one who sins is the one who dies. The son shall not be punished for his father’s sins, nor the father for his son’s. The righteous person will be rewarded for his own goodness and the wicked person for his wickedness.  (Ezekiel 18:19  TLB)

The leaders led the people further and further into sin and away from God, but the people wanted to be led in that direction.

What a terrible responsibility we have as Christians to make sure our testimony bears witness to the glory of God.  Somebody’s soul depends on how we behave!

Your deeds won’t let you come to God again, for the spirit of adultery is deep within you, and you cannot know the Lord.  (Hosea 5:4  TLB)

Sin creates a very real barrier between man and God.  One who constantly gives into his sinful nature and consistently goes off in a sinful direction will become so deeply fascinated with sin and bogged down in it that he will literally become its slave.

This is what had happened in Israel.  At first, they were merely interested in the false religions.  Soon, those false religions began to influence their thoughts and deeds.  That interest in the Canaanite religions became an all-out obsession that blocked the people from returning to God.  At first, they wanted both Baal and Yahweh, but in the end they lost interest in Yahweh.  Because they knowingly sinned against God, they grew to block all knowledge of God and the Law from their minds.

Because they walked away from God, they walked away from His divine protection and opened themselves up to the spirits of idolatry, harlotry, and an awful, sick obsession with the vilest religions of the pagan world.

For they have betrayed the honor of the Lord, bearing children that aren’t his. Suddenly they and all their wealth will disappear.  (Hosea 5:7  NKJV)

What an awful indictment against the people of God!  The leaders of God’s people behaved “deceptively.”  Literally, they behaved like an unfaithful husband.  These men knowingly led the people away from the Lord.  Noted scholars Anderson and Freedman have noted,

We are dealing with hypocritical Yahweh worship:  The depravity that makes repentance impossible is not renunciation of Yahweh, but complacent religiosity.

The people had been deluded into thinking they could approach God their own way, using their made-up rules.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.

3.  Results

So, what happens when God withdraws His presence from His people?

Worship became a waste of time.

Then at last, they will come with their flocks and herds to sacrifice to God, but it will be too late—they will not find him. He has withdrawn from them and they are left alone.  (Hosea 5:6  TLB)

To whom are your worshiping if God is not there?  As long as your heart is not right with God, there is nothing He can do for you.  No number of prayers, sacrifices, offerings, or good works, or any amount of positive thinking and effort expended in His service can make up for the lack of His presence.  If a Christian is out of fellowship with God, his testimony is worthless.

Broken

…Ephraim will be crushed and broken by my sentence because she is determined to follow idols.  (Hosea 5:11  TLB)

Because they had taken their eyes off God and God had taken His presence from them, the people (of Ephraim as noted, but really all the Israelites) turned even more to pagan religions and man-made gods for help and comfort.  However, what they didn’t realize is that they were simply compounding their problems by their continued state of rebellion against God.  When a person disobeys the Word of the Lord, they by default become obedient to worldly wisdom, which is most often opposed to God.

Even more lost

When Ephraim and Judah see how sick they are, Ephraim will turn to Assyria, to the great king there, but he can neither help nor cure. (Hosea 5:13  TLB)

What’s so sad is that both Israel and Judah could have been strong, robust, and healthy in every way if they had just returned in repentance to God.  But they didn’t, and so they rushed headlong into more and more trouble.  God Himself became their enemy, allowing their sin to grow and grow, and allowing the nation to decay, becoming more and more morally confused, culturally perverse, and politically corrupt until they became easy pickings for foreign nations.  Israel, fearing Egypt, turned to Assyria for protection.  They should have turned to God, because in the end, this alliance would lead to Israel’s end.

God remains patient

I will abandon them and return to my home until they admit their guilt and look to me for help again… (Hosea 5:15a  TLB)

God promises to stay away from Israel until she acknowledges her sin and guilt and returns to Him.  Sin carries awful consequences, but there is hope.  This chapter is depressing, but ends on a note of hope.  Like the prodigal son who found forgiveness when he came home, so it will be with Israel.  To this very day, God has not given up on Israel.  But He can’t do a thing until they fess up.  Historically, the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities did little to change their hearts.  This verse, then, looks forward into the far future, into the Millennium, when at last the Israelites will stand before the Messiah in repentance and seek Him.

The way God treated wayward Israel is the way He treats the backslider.  He doesn’t give up on them.  There is always hope for the believer who has wandered away from God.  He calls them, and in His sovereignty and providence He makes a way for them to find their way home.

Hosea: A Divine Betrothal

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HOSEA 2

 

God’s love for Israel is hard to understand.  Almost from the very beginning she had rebelled against Him, complained, and been guilty of spiritual adultery.  Israel’s sin ran so deep; it was as though rebellion was in her DNA.

For their mother has committed adultery. She did a shameful thing when she said, ‘I’ll run after other men and sell myself to them for food and drinks and clothes.’  (Hosea 2:5  TLB)

But God’s love for Israel did not depend on her loveliness.  In fact, God’s love for sinful man has nothing to do with sinful man.

In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins.  (1 John 4:10  TLB)

Yes, God’s love is very difficult to understand.  It’s agape love; a special love that is unconditional.  God loves us as much as He can—He will never love us less, and He cannot love us more.

The allegory in Hosea illustrates this concept of God’s amazing love better than any sermon ever could.

I will bind you to me forever with chains of righteousness and justice and love and mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and love, and you will really know me then as you never have before.

“In that day,” says the Lord, “I will answer the pleading of the sky for clouds, to pour down water on the earth in answer to its cry for rain. Then the earth can answer the parched cry of the grain, the grapes, and the olive trees for moisture and for dew—and the whole grand chorus shall sing together that ‘God sows!’ He has given all!

“At that time I will sow a crop of Israelites and raise them for myself! I will pity those who are ‘not pitied, and I will say to those who are ‘not my people,’ ‘Now you are my people’; and they will reply, ‘You are our God!’ ”  (Hosea 2:19—23  TLB)

1.  The manner of God’s betrothal

What exactly is a betrothal?  Literally is means “to woo a virgin.”  Or, we may say betrothal is the act of courtship.  This is what God said He would do to Israel:  He would court her.  He would, in time, win Israel for Himself.  This is God’s solemn promise to Israel that in the future she would be betrothed to Him forever.  In that day, Israel will never again be estranged from God, as in Old Testament times.

How will God do this?   This chapter of Hosea describes God’s technique for “wooing” Israel.

In righteousness

God would bind Himself to Israel in complete righteousness.   His betrothal to Israel will be based on His perfect character and Israel’s real need.  What is the thing that Israel needs most?  She needs to be righteous.  So what God is saying to Israel is that “in that day,” He would impute, or cover, her with His righteousness.

In justice

The betrothed, Israel, has been shown to be completely unworthy to be the Lord’s bride.  She had been shown to be guilty of heinous and awful sins, completely covered in a sin-debt she could never hope to repay.  How can she be made clean enough to be wed to God?  God will deal with Israel is complete justice.  Sin must be judged.  Sinners must be paid their wages:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23  NIV)

But, through the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, God is able to deal with Israel (and, in fact, all sinners) in a perfectly just way:

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.  (1 John 2:2  NIV)

He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s.  (1 John 2:2  TLB)

Sin and guilt must be judged and they have been judged in Jesus Christ.  God’s eternal Son, in seeking to bind lost humanity to God the Father, took on its nature, bore its sin, and shed His Blood to cleanse us; to make it fit to be the betrothed.

In lovingkindness

This word has reference to the aspect of God’s covenant-keeping nature.  His love for Israel will be manifested in His faithfulness to His Word or promise concerning her.  This idea is expressed over 20 times throughout the Psalms.  God promised some very specific things to Israel—things that have not come to pass yet—and His nature guarantees that those promises will be fulfilled.

In mercy

The word used here is ruhamah, or “compassion.”  And God’s compassion for Israel is manifold!   It is multifaceted.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one pall things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  (Ephesians 1:7—10  NKJV)

The mercy or the compassion of God is a strong motivational force that beckons us to completely yield ourselves to Christ.  When you understand all that God did for you in Christ, don’t you want to love Him back?  Isn’t that enough to compel you to live for Him?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:1, 2  NKJV)

In faithfulness

Finally, this proposed marriage will be made by God in total faithfulness.  God’s faithfulness to Israel is what is in view here, but faithfulness is a two-way street.  In the Old Testament, God had always been faithful to Israel but that faithfulness was not returned.  Therefore, there was a necessary separation between Israel and God.  However, in that great future day of the reconciliation of all things, a brand new relationship will be established by God; that separation will come to an end and Israel will be faithful to God for the first time.

When the people of Israel have finally received all that God has for them, they will finally know God and will finally be faithful to Him.  This new relationship was on Jesus’ mind in the Garden as He prayed to His Father:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  (John 17:3  NKJV)

The simple fact is, the ability to “know God” is a gift from God.  This gift is given to us as much as it will be given to Israel in that future day.

2.  The purpose of the betrothal

The purpose of this betrothal is obvious:  eternal union with God

That Israel may really know God

Israel certainly doesn’t know God today.  As a nation, she is so secular she can’t get too much farther away from Him!  But when their sin problem is finally taken care of, they will gain eternal perspective; they will finally see God for Who He really is and of course they will see Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

This kind of knowledge of God is not head knowledge, but rather heart knowledge.  It is this heart knowledge that results in salvation.

The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new contract with the people of Israel and Judah. It won’t be like the one I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a contract they broke, forcing me to reject them, says the Lord.  But this is the new contract I will make with them: I will inscribe my laws upon their hearts, so that they shall want to honor me; then they shall truly be my people and I will be their God.  At that time it will no longer be necessary to admonish one another to know the Lord. For everyone, both great and small, shall really know me then, says the Lord, and I will forgive and forget their sins.  (Jeremiah 31:31—34  TLB)

But this “change of heart” is not something Israel will be able to do for herself.  God will do it; He will give her a new heart.

I will give them hearts that respond to me. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with great joy.  (Jeremiah 24:7  TLB)

This is something every sinner can attest to:  God has given them a new heart, one that beats after Him.  It was a desire of David’s too, as he expressed it in Psalm 51:

Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires.  (Psalm 51:10  TLB)

Israel will confess God

Verse 23 makes it clear:

You are our God!

Verses 22 and 23 constitute a play on words that doesn’t come across in the English translations of our Bible.  The play on words has to do with Gomer’s children, a son called Jezreel, a daughter Lo-Ruhamah and another son Lo-Ammi.  God will not only bring the family back together again (regather Israel), but they cease to be “Lo-Ruhamah,” the pitiless daughter of a harlot.  God will show them mercy.  In our day today, Israel is really “Lo-ammi,” they are “not God’s people.”  But in that future day, God will finally declare that “they are my people” and they will say in all earnestness, “You are our God.”  This isn’t happening yet.  It will happen in the future.  This is an exciting prophecy for the Millennium.

Israel will be partners with God

This is something to stop and ponder for a moment.  According to Genesis, a wife is to be a husband’s helper; she is to bring into a marriage something her husband lacks.  She becomes his partner in life.  So it will be with Israel.  When she is finally united to her Lord, she will become His partner in the Kingdom.  Again, this finds its fulfillment during the Millennium when the Jews become the great evangelists, taking the Gospel of the Kingdom all over the world.

But consider how this applies to believers today.  Today we are co-workers with Christ.

We are only God’s coworkers.  (1 Corinthians 3:9a  TLB)

We, who have become part of God’s family, have a responsibility today to work with Christ in building His Church; it is our responsibility to work to extend the Kingdom in the here and now through witnessing and sharing the Gospel with the lost.  If you are in God’s family, then “the family business” ought to be yours.

A SURVEY OF THE MINOR PROPHETS, Part 8

OUR GOD REIGNS

Zechariah 14:1—21

The title of this book of prophecy comes from the prophet’s name, Zechariah, who preached in Jerusalem during its restoration, as a contemporary of Haggaih. His name, Zekar-Yah, properly means “Yahweh remembers.” What does Yahweh remember? His people of course!

This is a book filled with unending hope for the many Jews who felt they had been forgotten by God during the 70 years of exile.

This is the longest of the Minors and it is most frequently quoted elsewhere in Scripture. In all, there are over 70 quotations (direct and indirect) from Zechariah in the New Testament. Half of these are to be found in the book Revelation.

1. The day of the Lord, 14:1—8

The phrase, “day of the Lord” is a common one among the Minors. It speaks of the ultimate goal of the history of Earth: the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His personal reign over all nations and people. However, before the coming of Christ’s Kingdom, the Earth must experience certain “birth pangs.” This is what chapter 14 deals with.

It is impossible to see this prophecy as being fulfilled at some time in the past. Though Jerusalem has been destroyed, captured, occupied, and destroyed again numerous times in the past, none of its history comes close to Zechariah’s prophecy. The “day of the Lord” is an eschatological phrase which refers a time in our future. And yet, over the centuries, the “day of the Lord” has had many inner-history fulfillments or partial fulfillments that foreshadowed the ultimate fulfillment. This supra-historical fulfillment of history will finally come to pass when Christ returns literally, physically, and visibly to the Earth to consummate the Kingdom He inaugurated at His first coming.

a. The end of judgment, vs. 1, 2

A day of the LORD is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city.

Chapter 14 picks up a thought begun back in chapter 13:

In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:8, 9)

A refining process looms on the horizon for God’s people, the Jews. The final “day of the Lord” will involve a final siege on Jerusalem; it will happen immediately before the Second Coming; it will involve Jerusalem and other nations gathering against it. In the early stages, the siege will be successful. What we are reading in verse 2 is history written backwards.

The fact that many nations will come against Jerusalem is stated repeatedly throughout the Minors:

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land. They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine to drink. (Joel 3:2, 3)

What triggered Zechariah’s harsh words of prophecy? Even though Zechariah is seeing the far future, it was the selfish behavior of his people during his time that prompted the prophecy. The people should have been working tirelessly to rebuild the Temple and fix up Jerusalem after their 70 year exile. Instead, for some 16 years after they returned to Jerusalem, the Temple had virtually no work done on it. The people were more concerned about building homes for themselves than they were with restoring God’s House.

b. God’s breakthrough, vs. 3—8

In spite of how hopeless it will seem for Jerusalem, suddenly the King of Kings will return in full glory for all to see, in the face of the Antichrist’s forces:

Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (vs, 3, 4)

In his book of Revelation, John describes the same event like this:

Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

The Lord will return personally, literally, physically, and visibly to the Earth, just as He said He would, at the exact location He departed from after His earthly ministry was over. Remember what the the early believers were told:

Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

While Zechariah indicates that Jesus will return in power to fight for His people, ultimately He is coming back with “healing in His wings,” according to Malachi 4:2. But before the healing must come great Earth upheavals and catastrophic events that will change the landscape of the Middle East and beyond. See Revelation 16:18, 19, for example.

2. King of the Earth, 14:9—15

a. Return to Shema, vs. 9—11

The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. (vs 9)

While on the island of Patmos, John was given a look into this same event:

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

On that day, Jesus Christ will finally be seen by all and acknowledged by all people as the one and only “King of kings and Lord of lords.” And in a final nod to the Jews, their great confession, the Shema, will be regarded by all as true: there is one Lord.

b. Judgment on Babylon, vs. 12—15

This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. (vs 12)

As we read about the literal Second Coming of Christ, it is sometimes difficult to separate the figurative language from the literal. We read about the splitting of the Mount of Olives, the spring of living waters, the interruption of God’s own day, and other strange events. But at verse 12, we see a literal horror which John writes about in Revelation 19:11—18. Here we seen a coming together of the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses.

3. Worship of the King, 14:16—21

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. (vs. 16)

In spite of the awful decimation that will take place on Earth as described in the previous verses, there will be those who survive. Theologians are split as to whether these “survivors” will be a converted remnant among all the nations, or just people in general who are not touched by God’s various judgments. It seems to us that there will, in fact, be many, many survivors, some not converted at all, since there will be those who refuse to go and worship.

Three features of this worship become clear in this group of verses:

a. Jerusalem will be the center of faith in the world, 14:16

The Messiah will take His rightful place on the throne of David, and nations will stream to Jerusalem to worship Him and pay Him homage. We are told that all people will celebrate the “Festival of Tabernacles.” Why this festival in particular? This feast, out of all Jewish religious feasts, has been traditionally open to both the people of Israel and to strangers.

The Passover Feast pictured the death of the Messiah as our Redeemer; the Feast of Unleavened Bread pictured the walk of believers in fellowship with the Savior; the Feast of Firstfruits foreshadowed the resurrection of Jesus; and the Feast of Pentecost predicted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So the Feast of Tabernacles will remain unfulfilled until the Kingdom age and Israel is gathered to her own land.

b. All nations will come to Jerusalem annually, 14:17—19

Those who refuse to come will be dealt with harshly by God. This group of verses reminds us that, even in the great day when the glory of the Lord covers the earth, during the Millennial Kingdom, there be some who will simply rebel. Egypt is singled out here perhaps because as so often in the past it symbolized a defiant and rebellion nation.

Here is an accurate glimpse into the nature of the Millennial Kingdom. Just because Jesus Christ will rule and reign as the plant’s Sovereign, not every human soul alive at that time will be saved. It simply means that the Godly influence of a divinely ordered kingdom will be a positive influence over all the affairs of human beings. Justice, purity and righteousness will all be favored.

c. Holiness to the Lord will dominate all worship, 14:20, 21

On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty.

This is a description of the true nature of the Messiah’s kingdom. It will be a holy kingdom, dominated by holiness in all things. Perowne observes:

The ornaments of worldly pomp and warlike power shall be as truly consecrated as the mitre of the High Priest, and every vessel used in the meanest sense of the Temple as holy as the vessels of the altar itself. Nay, every common vessel throughout the city and the whole land shall be so holy as to be meet for the service of the sanctuary, and every profane person all be for ever banished from the house of the Lord…All distinction between sacred and secular shall be at an end, because all shall now be alike holy.

We may sum up the teaching of these verses like this:

  • There will be holiness in public life (“the bells of the horses);

  • There will be holiness in religious life (“cooking pots in the Lord’s house);

  • There will be holiness in private life (“every pot in Jerusalem and Judah”).

And so Zechariah ends his book of prophecy in a most stunning way. This man, whose name means “Yahweh remembers” has proven that God has never forgotten His people. God Himself will end human history as He promised He would in His Covenant: His people will never be forgotten or foresaken.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:14, 15)

(c)  2011 WitZend

Some more wistful thoughts about the future

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Some more wistful thoughts about the future

Can you believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ is mentioned over 300 times in the New Testament?  The apostle Paul alone refers to some 50 times in his epistles.  Since it is mentioned so often—fully 8 times as often as His first coming—it must be an important doctrine to understand.

It’s too bad that liberalism in the Church of Jesus Christ has turned this important and precious doctrine into little more than the stuff comic books are made of.  Those of us who believe in the literal, visible, and physical return of Christ to the earth are often ridiculed and mocked by the left wing of the Church.  Yet, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that Jesus Christ’s second coming will be:

  • Personal—John 14:3; Acts 1:10—11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 1:7; 22:7.
  • Literal—Acts 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:16—17; Revelation 1:7; Zechariah 14:4.
  • Visible—Hebrews 9:28; Philippians 3:20; Zechariah 12:10.
  • Glorious—Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7—9; Colossians 3:4.

In an effort to avoid the literal nature of Christ’s return, some teach death is really the second coming of Christ; that He comes to get you when you die.  However, Scripture indicates that the Second Coming is the exact opposite of physical death!  The dead in Christ will be raised to new life when Christ comes to get them.  At death, we go to Him, but at His glorious appearing He comes for us.

Others, desperate to explain away this great doctrine, teach that at Pentecost Jesus came again, in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  Others claim Christ came in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed.  However, even if we could wrap our minds around their premise that Jesus’ return was spiritual in nature, so many other things have not occurred:  nobody was resurrected from the dead, for example.

It is natural for Christians to long for Christ to return.  Those of us to believe that He will return visibly, literally, and physically live with a sense of hope and confidence in the future.  We know that no matter what happens in this world, a better world is coming!  No wonder liberal Christians are always “angry” about something and demonstrating against this and that!  They have no hope in the future!  If they did, they wouldn’t be such a miserable lot and instead of tilting at windmills, they’d be out spreading the Good News!  Read what Paul wrote—

The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  (Romans 8:19—23)

It will be a glorious day it will be when Christ returns to Earth.  Of course, we believers will with Him when He returns to set up His earthly kingdom.  But what of the House of Israel?

To Christians, Jesus Christ is the Head and Savior of the Church, the heavenly people.  To Jews, the earthly people, Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.  When He returns, He will return as their Messiah and their deliverer; He will deliver them from the Tribulation, gather them together from around the Earth, restore them to their Promised Land and finally rule over them as their long awaited King of the House of David.  We who are not Jews cannot imagine what His return will mean to them.  The nation of Israel has been looking for their Messiah since the days of Abraham!  Multiplied millennia have come and gone; but the faithful followers of Jehovah have never given up on the great messianic promises and prophecies of the Old Testament.

Earth changes

When Christ returns and builds His kingdom, the world as we know it will change.

  • There will be worldwide peace, Isaiah 2:4;
  • All people will live in safety, Micah 4:4;
  • The earth will produce abundantly, Amos 9:13;
  • The nature of wild bests will also be transformed, Isaiah 11:6—8;
  • The world will be ruled by one Man, Jesus Christ, Isaiah 11;
  • Israel will be regathered to it’s ancient land, Isaiah 11:10—12;
  • Jerusalem will be center of the world’s government, Isaiah 2:3; 33:20, 21; Jeremiah 3:17;
  • Jerusalem will be the center of worship, Zechariah 14:16;
  • Nations of the world that may have been against Israel in the past will be allied with her, Isaiah 19:23—25;
  • World leaders will submit to Christ, Psalm 72:11; Zechariah 9:10; Psalm 86:9.

Earth’s greatest King

There have been influential political leaders in the past; there have been great world leaders (and some who thought they were great), but none can compare to the greatness of Jesus Christ when He finally assumes the seat of power.

Though born “king of the Jews,” (Matthew 2:2—6), Christ was not such at His first coming and He still is not, but He will be when He returns in glory.   Notice how the angel announced His birth—

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”  (Luke 1:32, 33)

Mary found all this hard to swallow, and some still do to this very day.  But when we consider the miraculous way in which Christ was born, it’s easy to believe He will return in an equally miraculous manner!

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus was referred to as “king of the Jews” even though nobody around Him could discern His kingship; Jesus wasn’t born like a king, He didn’t live like a king and He didn’t have the trappings of royalty.  And yet, for His entire earthly ministry, those who believed in Christ recognized His authority as king of the Jews.  To those faithful followers, vindication is coming when their faith is made reality.

The Millennium:  The Kingdom of Jesus Christ

Almost every Christian has at least heard of “the Millennium,” whether they can explain what it is or not.  The word itself is not seen in Scripture; it means literally “a thousand,” and we know it refers to the duration of Christ’s reign upon the Earth as its great Sovereign.   Though referred to elsewhere in Scripture, here is a good summary of the Millennium—

He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.  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 his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.  (Revelation 20:3—6)

Can you imagine a world without evil?  A lot of people have been deluded into thinking that Satan, or the Devil, is a fictional little guy that sits on your shoulder whispering bad thoughts into your ear and tricking you into getting into mischief.  But Satan is real, and evil is real and rampant in the world around us.  How else can we explain they heinous crimes human beings commit against each other?  But one day, the presence of evil will be incarcerated for one thousand years!

Of course, there will still be sin in the hearts of man—not everybody alive during the Millennium will be worshiping and obeying Christ out of love and devotion to Him.  This thousand year span, in addition to fulfilling the myriad of prophecies and promises concerning the restoration of Israel, will also be kind of final proving ground for all mankind.  This will be our last chance to exercise our vaunted free will in the right direction.  Sadly, we know that when Satan is released for a very brief time, he will, as he has done since the beginning of time, lead many astray into everlasting damnation.

But the Millennial kingdom will be a real, brick and mortar kingdom, inhabited by real human beings, saints of God, angels, and all under the benevolent leadership of Christ.

How wondrous this time will be to the Jews!  Ezekiel 37 is a remarkable prophecy concerning the complete restoration of Israel; Jewish graves among the nations will be opened, new life will come to Israel, Judah and Israel will at last be united as one great nation; all of this  points to a glorious restoration of God’s people.

Who believes this?

Well, I do!  And although sometimes I feel like I am the only one who does, I know that I am good company.   The apocryphal Book of Barnabas, while certainly not inspired Scripture, is nonetheless interesting and sometimes edifying and has a lot to say about the Millennium.  In it, the author writes that just as there were six literal days of creation, so God will, in six thousand years bring this present dispensation of the world to an end.  Then follows a seventh millennium, corresponding to the Sabbath of creation, in which Christ renews the world.

Church father Papias ,who departed this earth around 60 A.D. writes about the idyllic condition of the the world during the millennial reign of Christ.  Justin, born around 100 A.D., the ante-Nicene theologian, also taught about this restoration of the material universe during the literal reign of Christ during the Millennium.

And what about you?  Do you live the kind of hope the apostles and the early church lived with and that many of us today live with?   I hope that you do.  These are difficult times for many Americans; the things and people we used to trust in have failed us and some folk wonder if life will ever get any better.  There has been a lot of talk about “hope and change” in recent months; I believe in “hope and change,” but not the kind any human being can bring about.  Jesus Christ, a carpenter from the plains of Galilee, is the one Man who not only offers “hope and change,” He will deliver it!

When the two Mary’s went to the tomb of Jesus, they made a startling discovery:  He was not dead; He had risen from the dead!  An angel told them—

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  (Matthew 28:6—8)

Jesus said He would rise from the dead and He did.  He said He will come again, and He will!  If you truly believe this, as I do, then go quickly and tell somebody who needs hope.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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