The Middle East: War with Iraq?
God only knows. It might happen, it might not. Iraq occupies the land and city which was once called Babylon. Babylon was the first city built after the Flood of Noah, and its builder, Nimrod, organized the first mass rebellion from God, (Genesis 10:8-12). Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives were all convinced and committed followers of Yahweh but very shortly--within a generation or two-- their descendants began to be disinterested in God. They set off to run their own lives and take control of their own destinies (just as most people do nowadays). Nimrod's rebellion was political, cultural and religious. Thus, all false religion in the world today can be traced back to the well-spring of the ancient Babylonian Mystery Religion. It is not surprising therefore that there is along thread on Babylon and her idolatry which runs all the way through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
Five years ago my good friend Ron Graf and I wrote a book on eschatology ("Thy Kingdom Come") --because of our deep concern that there was so much ignorance, disinformation and misinformation on the subject of Bible prophecy these days. Knowing it was highly unlikely we could find a book publisher we elected to give our book away for free. Besides, we wanted to reach a wider audience. To our amazement our book has been downloaded more than 80,000 times. We have not had a lot of complaints so there is probably not much we would change if we were to start all over again. (Read it at http://ldolphin.org/kingdom).
"Mystery Babylon the Great" in Revelation Chapters 17 and 18 speaks of God's judgment on the entire world, especially on false religion and the world cultural/political/economic system. This series of judgments will happen in the tribulation period after the removal of the true church. What many Bible scholars did not see in generations past is that there is also a coming final judgment on the literal ancient Babylon--the city and the land. This area of the Middle East is present-day Iraq. Jeremiah 50-51 (especially) and Isaiah 13-14 go into this further judgment in detail. Suffice it to say that Babylon will eventually be completely destroyed and the land left uninhabited and desolate forever. Some think the U.S. could be God's instrument to make this happen. I don't think so. The final end of Babylon seems to come in the form of an invasion from the North at the very end of the tribulation period when Israel is undergoing her "final redemption." As never before in world history, now is the time to watch the Middle East carefully. I am firmly convinced that the stage is now set for the returning of the Lord to rescue our beleaguered planet.
Because there is so much in the Bible about Babylon--the old and the new--Ron and I are working on a second free Internet book. Please pray for us. Though we work very well together we are both very busy. If you haven't met Ron, visit his web site, http://www.Bible-prophecy.com/.
The Gog/Magog Fuss
A friend recently asked me for my comments on what has been called "the God/Magog" invasion of Israel which is described in Ezekiel Chapters 38 and 39. Some years ago I asked my mentor and friend Ray Stedman what he felt about the timing of this event. Ray replied that the great earthquake in Ezekiel 38:19-23 was surely our anchoring milestone for fitting these chapters into other parts of the Bible. Ray taught that the Gog/Magog invasion was just one aspect of the overall "campaign" of Armageddon. I agree with this view
"For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day [this term applies to end-time events] there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. [this is a world-wide earthquake, not local]. I will summon every kind of terror against Gog, says the Lord GOD; every man's sword will be against his brother. With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples that are with him, [this invasion involves many other armies as well] torrential rains and hailstones, fire and brimstone. So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations [the whole world will be radically affected]. Then they will know that I am the LORD."
In an article, "The Coming Cosmic Shakedown," http://ldolphin.org/shakedown.html, I've listed the above earthquake in a table alongside the same one great earthquake which is mentioned five separate times in the Book of the Revelation. This earthquake will shatter the city of Jerusalem, cleave the Mt. of Olives, produce tidal waves which will engulf the islands of earth's oceans. The major cities of all nations will collapse. Horrendous loss of life around the world will surely result. Then Jesus will appear on the Mount of Olives and supernaturally slay all His enemies with the "breath of His mouth and by the epiphaneia of his parousia." (For more on earthquakes and the Bible see http://www.ldolphin.org/quakes2.html, http://www.ldolphin.org/quakes.html, and http://ldolphin.org/signs.html).
"...the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8)
"For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him." (Zechariah 14:2-5)
"Then I [John] saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, "Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh." (Revelation 19:11-20)
No one chapter or section of the Bible tells the whole story about events which are yet future. We have to look at what the other prophets have to say about an end-time events in and around Israel. In times of international stress there is a temptation to force fit prophetic passages of the Bible to fit the current situation. We have to resist this over and over again. The only sound position is to know the whole Bible thoroughly--cover to cover, and to walk closely with our Lord Jesus Christ. Then we can see prophecy unfold--dimly and a little at a time. See "The Coming Time of Trouble" by Ray Stedman for more on some of the characteristics of the final Northern Invasion of Israel and Messiah's return in triumph, The Fate of the Earth Series..
When Noah and his sons and their wives--eight persons--disembarked from the Ark, the old world with its billions of people was gone. Towns, cities, roads, forests, fields, most of the animals, and any advanced pre-Flood technologies were all gone forever.
When Christ returns the surviving population on earth will perhaps number only a few millions at most, a thousand-fold decrease from what it is now. Gone will be our great cities, factories, freeways, power lines and, yes, also the Internet. The entire infrastructure of our "great civilization" will simply not be there anymore. Large areas of the earth will be uninhabitable, (Ezekiel 12:20-27; 45 [Edom]; 39:11ff, Isaiah 13:20-22 [Babylon]; 17:1 [Damascus]--to cite a few examples). The beautiful Millennial kingdom described in Isaiah will not happen overnight. It is be the result of hard work by God's people under the firm reign of Jesus, ruling the nations "with a rod of iron."
Christians and other believers can look forward to living in the marvelous orbiting city of New Jerusalem (Revelation 21-22), but we are also called to rule and reign with Christ. Thus the nations of the world will rise again gradually from the ashes of the near-total destruction of World War III. The challenge of building a whole new world-order from scratch under Messiah's direction will surely demand our all. We Christians are "in training" now for this, and even more demanding assignments in heaven.
What is "Sound Doctrine?"
In writing to Timothy, Paul made it clear that teaching sound doctrine is the Number One calling and highest priority for the church of Jesus Christ.
"As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith; whereas the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:3-5)
An astute friend of mine, when we were discussing First Timothy, asked me what constituted sound doctrine. I replied that sound doctrine was the direct teaching (and explanation of) the teaching of the Apostle and Prophets. My friend pointed out that the test of whether or not this was actually happening was given in verse 5. The result of teaching should be love issuing from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. My friend went on to add that as a new Christian he had been in a church where the teaching had confused him because it was not the direct teaching of the apostles, but second or third generation derivative doctrine. Immediately I thought of all the seminaries today which turn out experts in third or fourth generation synthesized doctrine derived from the Bible but not faithful to "the whole counsel of God" and lacking the power inherent in the Word itself.
Previously I noted that much preaching in churches today is really Greek Oratory and not Bible exposition, http://ldolphin.org/oratory.html. In another discussion some younger friends brought up to me their observation that when preaching in church is only an elaboration on the text of the Bible the message neither feeds nor edifies the listener, but leaves him empty and depressed. That is, there is no bridge to the present-day world we live in. I have a number of friends who no longer attend Sunday morning worship because they leave depressed and empty. One friend of mine spends an hour on Sundays listening to tapes by Ray Stedman from 20 or 30 years ago because he does end up edified and fed. (Most of Ray's sermons are now in MP3 format, http://raystedman.org/) Many preachers today who claim to be expository teachers of the word probably are not (http://raystedman.org/misc/expos.html). What I think is worse is that only a tiny fraction of the Bible is ever covered even though many years passes by.
The Frog in the Pan
It's an old adage--I have no idea if it is literally true. Put a frog in a pan of hot water and it will jump right out. Put the same frog in a pan of cold water and turn on the stove. The water will heat slowly and cook the frog. In other words, apostasy creeps in on us a little at a time. So do the values of the world. Recently while visiting Elaine Stedman in Grants Pass, Oregon as a guest speaker in her church, I met a marvelous Jewish believer who has a rare gift of vision--like a seer of old. The hypocrisy of the church and the worldly values of most churches pains this dear man grievously. He does not find that the so-called Sunday "worship service" helps him draw near to God. Nor does he find most preaching of any real value in helping live a better Christian life in the world today. My friend suffers constant inner pain because he sees what the rest of us are blind to.
My wonderful men's group, The Brothers of Thunder, is a dozen or so men (single and married) who have been meeting for a good many years now. We are a "leaderless" group because we expect Jesus Christ to show up and lead all aspects of our two hours together. After dinner we spend an hour in the Bible and then an hour in sharing and praying.
This week our ongoing study was in Deuteronomy. We discussed in detail the meaning and application of such verses as
"These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them upon two tables of stone, and gave them to me. And when you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders; and you said, `Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire; we have this day seen God speak with man and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire, as we have, and has still lived? Go near, and hear all that the LORD our God will say; and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you; and we will hear and do it.' "And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me; and the LORD said to me, `I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you; they have rightly said all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their children for ever! Go and say to them, "Return to your tents." But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you all the commandment and the statutes and the ordinances which you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess.' You shall be careful to do therefore as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land which you shall possess.
"Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it; that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life; and that your days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them; that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9)
We discussed the seriousness of hypocrisy and legalism and the heart's desire of the Lord that we all develop and maintain a close, personal, intimate relationship with God as a real, living Person. God was not our errand boy, He hates sin. He is a loving Father, but he is holy. He is who He is and does not change so it we who have to change and adjust to Him and to His ways. We gave our whole lives to Him when we became Christians, so we can not take back the ground rules of that agreement.
"As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Colossians 2:6-7)
As usual the discussion of the passage at hand was insightful. Then we moved into sharing--and promptly dropped everything we had supposedly just learned. We shared, as we usually do, valid prayer requests for one another. Some of the men need jobs, some have friends who are ill, some are concerned for family members. But not a word was said about what God might want to ask us to do in His service! After our Bible study we had all reverted to treating our Lord as if His only reason for existing was to make our lives better and to guarantee our success (and prosperity) in this present life.
Many years ago I was privileged to be a member of the Palo Alto Think and Pray Group, (see http://www.ldolphin.org/patpg.html). When we came together weekly it was for Bible study, but the sharing time was almost entirely spent in seeking the face of God. What did He have for us to do in serving Him in the world? How could we serve Him? What was on His heart for the world? Personal needs, if any, came during the last few minutes of the meeting, or afterwards. We were outgoing in those days in our focus and vision back then, not ingrown and hiding from the world as we seem to be today.
At the end of this week's brotherhood meeting I suddenly had a feeling of revulsion and nausea in my heart. The prayer I blurted out to the Lord shook up the entire group. I explained that I felt that I had suddenly had a glimpse of our real across-the-board disinterest in knowing God as Person. Jeremiah told Israel,
"Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. Do you not fear me? says the LORD; Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the bound for the sea, a perpetual barrier which it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over it. But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, `Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.' Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you. For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. Like a basket full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich, they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of wickedness; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things? says the LORD, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?" An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?" (Jeremiah 5:21-31)
Spiritual blindness creeps in upon us a little at a time. It is possible to go through all the motions of church and a religious life but to be a thousand miles away from the living God. I think this is why God is withdrawing His presence from most churches I know of, leaving them dull and lifeless. This week I saw that I, too, was far far from where I ought to be in my own taking God for granted.
Perhaps Isaiah's prayer for God's people in His day fits us today?
"O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence-- as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make thy name known to thy adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains quaked at thy presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him. Thou meetest him that joyfully works righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways. Behold, thou wast angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one that calls upon thy name, that bestirs himself to take hold of thee; for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast delivered us into the hand of our iniquities. Yet, O LORD, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; we are all the work of thy hand. Be not exceedingly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity for ever. Behold, consider, we are all thy people. Thy holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. Wilt thou restrain thyself at these things, O LORD? Wilt thou keep silent, and afflict us sorely? (Isaiah 64)
A Word from C.S. Lewis
"If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with in the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not as self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire."
"If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased." (C.S. Lewis)
Other News: My recent class in Hebrews at PBC is in RealAudio on my web site, http://ldolphin.org/audio.html. Or, the entire series in a twelve-cassette album is $30 plus $4.00 shipping from Discovery Publishing, 3505 Middlefield Rd. Palo Alto, CA. 94306. Order Form: http://pbc.org/dp/orderform.html.
New or revised articles on my web site will be found at the top of my library page, http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml. Archived newsletters are found at http://ldolphin.org/news/.
Contributions: I am very grateful for the financial help of friends who help me stay actively answering email, growing my web site, teaching the Bible and spending lots of time with individuals. Your contribution should be addressed to Peninsula Bible Church (include a note that it is for my ministry support). 3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. I do not receive a list of contributors. I am grateful to friends who contribute. Your prayers are even more valued and important.
Sincerely, Lambert Dolphin.
October 17, 2002. Web Archive for these newsletters: http://ldolphin.org/news/