Thursday, October 27, 2011

Missions Week!

I was in the car today, and was struck by a thought.  Our church is in the middle of a week-long missions festival, which is probably why I have been pondering this.

Acts 1:18 says, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The church always says that this means missionary work begins in your backyard.  Then you can start thinking about your county.  And then about the rest of your country.  And only then the world.

But what if the scripture means exactly what it says?  That witnessing should start in Jerusalem?  The apostles followed that very directive... beginning in Jerusalem and then fanning out.  This makes sense because Jerusalem is where it all started. 

So, was that directive only for the apostles, or is it something we should also take to heart?  Romans 1:16 says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Most people forget the second part of that verse when reciting it).

I visited a huge church a few weeks ago, and they too were having a missions fest.  Many giant flags were hanging all around the sanctuary.  The green Saudi Arabian flag was prominently displayed right up front.  (I wonder if that pastor knew that the Arabic words on it - above the sword - say "There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet.").  He did let me know that the flags represented the missionaries that they support, which is not a bad thing.  If God is calling you somewhere, it is in your best interest to obey Him (read the account of Jonah if you are unsure of this).  But I noticed there was one country's flag that was conspicuously absent:

What if my backyard here in little Mayberry is actually part of "the ends of the earth," and not my own personal "Jerusalem"? I'm just sayin...

Next year in Jerusalem!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts on that Last Great Day

Today is known as the Last Great Day - Shemini Atzeret (meaning eighth day of assembly).  It is a special Sabbath, a celebration to close out Sukkot, and the final feast day of God's prophetic calender. 

The day commemorates the end of the agricultural year and the beginning of the new one.  The former rains would begin to fall, and the wheat and barley would be planted.  Even today, the Jewish people pray for rain as part of the celebration of this day.  In the arid country of Israel, water was obviously very important.

In the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.  Look at what he says:

Verses 37 and 38 say:  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

The millenium, which is foreshadowed by the Feast of Tabernacles, will end.  This Last Great Day is a foreshadow of the coming Great White Throne judgment and the eternal life that follows for believers. 

In Revelation 21, John says, Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also, there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

Here is a thought.  If the wedding feast of the Lamb took place just before the millenium, it could perhaps be said that the millenium period is the "honeymoon" with our Bridegroom.  After the honeymoon, our new permanent home is revealed - the New Jerusalem... the place Jesus said He would prepare for us:

In My Father’s house are many mansions;  if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tabernacles - The Grand Finale!

Today we are halfway through the seventh Biblical feast - The Feast of Tabernacles. We look forward with anticipation to the God of the Universe fulfilling this appointed time very soon! This morning in church, our pastor spoke of the dedication of Solomon's temple, which happened to also take place during the Feast of Tabernacles. I'm not sure if he even knew that Tabernacles is being celebrated this very week!

Remember, the seven Biblical feasts are a "mural" of God's redemptive plan with His people. The four spring feasts were fulfilled at His first coming to Earth, and the last three autumn feasts are awaiting fulfillment at His second coming.

Tabernacles is the seventh feast, celebrated in the seventh month, is seven days long, and there were 70 bulls sacrificed every year. The number seven again! Remember, seven in scripture represents completeness.

The Jewish people celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles by building and dwelling in "Sukkahs," or booths. This symbolizes the time spent in the wilderness - forty years - in temporary dwellings, with God's presence in their midst, in the tabernacle itself. The time in the wilderness taught them to trust God, and He lovingly cared for them during that time - giving them food and water to eat, and not allowing their shoes or clothing to wear out.

Tabernacles symbolizes God dwelling with us. The Feast is foreshadowing the millenium - the soon-to-be-fulfilled 1000 years on Earth. Jesus mentioned this in His prayer when he said "Your kingdome come." Look at history: From creation to Abraham was about 2000 years. Abraham to Yeshua was about 2000 years. And Yeshua until NOW is about 2000 years. The seventh millenium will be THE scriptural millenium, representing a Sabbath millenium.

Tabernacles also foreshadows the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Hebrew weddings in scripture lasted seven days, and they were extremely joyous events. Even today, Jewish weddings are so awesome! I used to work for a caterer in a special event facility, and some of the grandest events held there were the Jewish weddings.

I have come to believe that Tabernacles is a likely time for Yeshua to have been born. It makes sense with the idea of Immanuel - God With Us. Also, being as He is the Alpha and Omega, it makes sense in my brain that the same day would fulfill the beginning and the end. And if He was born as Tabernacles began, He would have been circumcised on the eighth day, which is the celebration of Ingathering - also a holy day.

Of course, we can't be certain on this one, since God didn't chose to reveal the date in scripture - and I'm sure He has His reasons for that. However, I am pretty certain that he was NOT born on December 25. Don't get me started on that one... I'm sure I'll be posting more on THAT after Thanksgiving.

For a few years now, I have wanted our family to build a temporary shelter and celebrate in a Hebrew way. But time got away from me again, so I will have to let my chickens do the celebrating for us. They are living in their temporary sukkah in the backyard - and, ahem, awaiting a different sort of feast.

If you would like more understanding on how the Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated today among the Jewish people, I highly recommend the movie "Ushpizin," which is the Hebrew word for visitors. The movie was filmed in Israel by some orthodox Jews. And unless you understand Hebrew, you will need to turn on the subtitles. We loved this movie!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Letter to the Congregation at Laodicea

The final letter to the seven churches is to Laodicea.

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:  “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—  I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  
  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

The word Laodicea means customs or judgements of the people. The time represented by this church began in around the 1900s and will continue until the Lord returns.  Remember that there is some of each church present during each time period, but the letters outline the main happenings of each era.

Laodicea was a very wealthy city – famous for gold and banking, located between Colosse (known for its refreshing ice cold water) and Hieropolis (famous for hot springs). The city was also known for its special breed of black sheep, which produced wool for the expensive black fabric that Laodicea was known for.  The city had no defenses – armies would take over and they would succumb to them.  Finally, Laodicea had a medical clinic in the city that was well-known for its eye salve.

Laodicea had no water of its own; it had to be piped in from the neighboring cities and was nasty - lukewarm.  So many commentaries say that this was a lukewarm church, and that God would wish them to be hot or cold instead.  As if being cold in your faith was a good thing?   Both hot and cold in this letter were good and refreshing.These were not passive believers, these were religious unbelievers.  They had not been born again.

It is stressed in the beginning of this letter that He is Faithful and True - unlike the church.  It was a false church, succumbing to the "armies" around it.  It is interesting to note that the creation of God is mentioned.  One of the great heresies of the end-times church denies the creation and promotes evolution instead.  Today's politically correct church does not want to mention the atoning blood of Yeshua as being the only way to God.  Many churches today have succumbed to many other liberal ideas as well - such as the Bible is obsolete, inviting Muslims to prayer meetings (claiming that we serve the same God), ordaining homosexuals (claiming they were born that way, so it's fine), etc.

2 Timothy 3 says:  But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power

The good news is that God loves the people of Laodicea!  He gives them three appeals.  He says they are poor, naked, wretched, and blind (in the midst of wealth and gold, expensive black clothes, falsehood, and eye salve).  But He loves them and wants to give them a white robe, which represents salvation (Revelation 7).   He knocks at the door.  Notice the picture below - there is no doorknob on the outside.  It must be opened from within.  This church is ruled by people, with God on the outside.

The church of Laodicea will be refined during the end.  It will be a tough time - many will fall away, but others will heed the warning.

In Zechariah 12, God says: 
I will bring the one-third through the fire,
Will refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them.
I will say, ‘This is My people’;
And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement

Tonight begins the feast of Yom Kippur - The holiest day in the Israeli calendar and the sixth mo'ed, or appointed time in the Bible. In scripture, this is the one day of the year that the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, and first atoned for his own sin, and then for the sin of the people of Israel. But since the temple was destroyed in the year 70, this has not been possible.

It is interesting to note that the custom of wearing a yarmulke (Yiddish), or kippah (in Hebrew), developed after the destruction of the temple. The word kippah comes from the same root word as kippur, which means atonement, or covering.  The Israelites were temporarily covered by the Yom Kippur sacrifice.  When Yeshua came to earth and was sacrificed, He covered us once for all with His blood.

Hebrews 9:11-13 says, But Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Since Yeshua already made atonement for the world at Passover, what is the prophetic significance then, of Yom Kippur? It is a snapshot of the future, of Romans 11:25-27, when the nation of Israel will collectively receive Yeshua as her Messiah.

...That blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“ The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins. (Quoted from Isaiah 59:20-21)

Today, Yom Kippur is a solemn day of fasting and repentance for Jewish people. The fasting and mourning take place during the day, and then a joyous celebration takes place in the evening, as the day is drawing to a close. When the people of Israel first recognize her Messiah, they will mourn. Zechariah 12 says:

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

But joy will follow, as we will see in the Feast of Tabernacles, which is coming soon. Stay tuned, chaverim! (that means friends in Hebrew)

PS.  I know!  I still have one more church to cover in the letters to the seven.  I hope to finish it tomorrow.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Letter to the Congregation at Philadelphia

Ahhh, the church at Philadelphia.  Finally!

They, along with Smyrna, did not get a bad report.  And Philadelphia and Smyrna are the only two cities of the seven that still stand today, even though they now have different names.

The modern Turkish city of Alasehir began as Philadelphia. It was established in 189 B.C. by King Eumenes II of Pergamos (197-160 B.C.). Eumenes II named the city for the love of his brother, who would be his successor, Attalus II (159-138 B.C.), whose loyalty earned him the nickname "Philadelphos", literally "one who loves his brother".  Today’s church in Alasehir is underground due to persecution from Islam.

Here is the letter, Rev 3:7-12:

 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,
‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:  “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.  Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.   

Holy and true - This church upheld that the Messiah is completely holy.  Once can respect someone who is completely holy, and they respected God. They recognized the magnitude of being in a relationship with Someone so completely holy.   He is True. The Greek word means real, genuine, which is the opposite of“religion.” - not a set of rules, or a code, or a god taught by the Romans. 

Key of David – This section is quoted from Isaiah 22, where you can read the account of Shebna.  His authority was taken away and given to Eliakim - the key of David is given to him. Shebna had controlled access to the king.  The key of David represents the Lord opening the way and inviting us into His presence. Shebna means He came near. Eliakim means God will raise up. 

Is 22:22  The key of the house of David
I will lay on his shoulder;
So he shall open, and no one shall shut;
And he shall shut, and no one shall open. 

The open door is an important feature of this letter.  The city of Philadelphia was a gateway city to Asia– it became a missionary center heading into Asia in the first century.  Thus the mention of the open door – the gateway city. 

The main era of history that this church represents is mainly 1800-1900s and probably continuing to the rapture.  Philadelphia replaced a church that was dead with one that is alive.  This is the great missionary movement!  The end of the 1700s saw an explosion of people becoming missionaries… going and sharing the love of Yeshua with the world. Not crusades or inquisitions or state churches. It was motivated by love... love of God and love of people, just like the two greatest commandments tell us.
Here are a few examples:  William Carey in 1792 established the Baptist Missionary Society.  This was followed by the London Missionary Society, focusing on the South Pacific and Africa.  Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission in 1865.  Other well-known missionaries of this era were David Livingstone, Amy Carmichael, and Gladys Aylward.

The world was turned upside down by the work of these early missionaries.  Most of the believers before then had been in the west, but today, the church is spreading like wildfire in the 10/40 window of Asia.   The door is closing to outside missionaries in many of these countries, but now indigenous missionaries are being raised up to reach their own people.
Moving on.. regarding the synagogue of satan, the church did suffer some persecution from the unbelieving Jewish community there (who eventually became believers, according to writings by Ignatius, pastor of Antioch). 
Isaiah 60:14 gives us a picture: 
Also the sons of those who afflicted you
Shall come bowing to you,
And all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet;
And they shall call you The City of the LORD,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

They have a small amount of strength (the Greek word means power), and they have not denied His name. We all may be asked to deny His name in the near future.  Be ready!

The church at Philadelphia kept His Word – it was a time of restoration of Bible truth.  Truths are still coming forth -spiritual revelations from God.  Nobody talked about end time prophecy before 1948.  Today there are so many learning tools available - lexicons, interlinears, commentaries, Dead Sea Scrolls.  In the era of Sardis (the Reformation), many things were not yet restored.

The church at Philadelphia was promised that they would be kept from the hour of trial facing the whole earth. They will obviously receive protection from something that is bad… could this be special protection during the great tribulation or is it protection from the wrath of God, which follows the great tribulation?  I believe it could be either one.  However,  I do not believe it is a catching away prior to the great tribulation.  Too many scriptures show the presence of believers on earth during this time frame.

Let no man take your crown – Apparently they already had it - had earned it.  Why would the Lord caution them to hold fast to it?  Laodicea is on its way – the lies and deception.  Watch for my last post on the seven churches, coming soon!