Consumed with the Vision

Matthew 24

January 24

Do you know someone who had a quote or a phrase that they said so often that you can hear it in their voice? Maybe it’s Jerry Seinfeld’s “What’s the deal with…” or you can see a cute electric mouse and hear “pika-pi”. I think most people at Timberland Bible Church can hear these words in my voice : “That’s good news! That’s gospel message! That’ll preach! Can I get an amen?!”

I bring up this aural phenomenon because it happened to me while reading Matthew 24. Every time I read Matthew 24:14, I am transported back to my grandparent’s house. I am sitting at the kitchen table, and James Mattison, who I knew as Papa Jim, is telling me about his ministry in Africa. I had asked, “Why did you go?” right before we ate lunch. And he opened his worn down Bible, though he quoted the verse by heart. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” I can hear and see him, but I can also feel him : I still see his composure brimming with energy, I can still hear his confidence tempered with humility, but I FEEL his burning conviction. It was not someone else’s duty to speak this gospel to the world. It was his. Malawi, Mozambique, Africa needed the gospel of the kingdom of God to be preached to them. It was imperative, and Papa Jim knew it was his imperative.

James Mattison was consumed by the vision of Matthew 24. He knew it inside out and backwards. But most of all, he knew what it entails. Lots of Matthew 24 is worrisome. Things look bleak, destruction is coming, the end is scary. But that isn’t what Jim was focused on. Primarily he knew that the end had to come so that the perfection of the Kingdom could come.  He also saw in this teaching commands, commands that I want you to see. He was consumed by three truths of Matthew 24. 

  1. No matter what comes at the end, there is given to the faithful the strength to endure it all. Jesus says the one who endures (in Revelation, the parallel phrase is “the one who conquers”) will be saved. (24:13) But that enduring is not merely hanging on. 
  2. In verses 42-51, Jesus declares that he will return like a thief in the night, like a master on a long journey. The ready and alert won’t be caught off guard, and therefore they will keep doing what the master has commanded them. 
  3. And what Jesus has commanded each of us is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom. Technically, in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands us to make disciples (more on that later), but part of that is to teach people to follow the commands of Jesus. Preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and teaching all Jesus commanded us is the call for Christians. Let us continue so that the master might find us working. 

You may not be called to Africa and in fact most of you AREN’T. You are called to where you are. To endure, to be ready, you need to be consumed by the vision that we see in Matthew 24. Will you listen to the call of Jesus, and tell others the gospel of the Kingdom?

-Jake Ballard

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Are you consumed by the vision of Matthew 24? James Mattison believed it was his imperative to preach the gospel to the world, especially Eastern Africa; to where are you called? Are you listening for the call of Jesus at all, and if you are telling others of your faith, do you tell them about the gospel of the Kingdom?
  2. Do you feel like you have been skimming by, enduring, or conquering the last year? Do you feel like you AREN’T enduring or conquering? How can you be empowered?

Resolution 4: Pump Some Iron

Zechariah 12-14

Sheep are notorious for two things. Being stupid and being easily spooked.  It is no wonder the scriptures use the comparison of sheep to the followers of Christ.  As a group, we have faith and access to God, yet it is often our last resort instead of our first instinct.  Additionally, when things start getting tough and someone flexes in our direction, we often are reduced to a cower. We may make the excuse that we are acting in a spirit of gentleness or turning the other cheek, but the truth is most of the time we are wonted weenies.  How many people stood against Goliath?  How many men stood in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace? How many apostles were at the crucifixion of Jesus?  If you’re keeping count, all the answers fit on to a single hand.  We may have faith that triumphs over personal hardships, we may be able to pray for tough changes, or we may be able to move towards a difficult calling, but when a real, visible enemy comes, we often let out a bleat, tuck tail, and run with the flock.

Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the Lord Almighty. Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. 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.’”  Zech 13:7-9

Zecheriah, Matthew, and John all allude that the tribulation will be a tough time to be on this planet, but even more so for those who call themselves a follower of Christ. There will not only be an uptick in geological and astronomical superevents, but Christian all over the world will be truly persecuted – no, not the butt of some late night TV joke – meaning it will be challenging to keep both your faith and your life at the same time.  It is too easy to say that we will not fall away or forsake our beliefs in this ever-coming-closer moment in history. Peter said he never-ever would fall away; Jesus tells him he won’t even make it 24 hours from speaking these words (Matt 26:33-34).  Fortunately, for Peter and for us, there is an opportunity to amend our mistakes, our denials, and our flight.  According to church tradition, and alluded to in the prophecy of Jesus (John 21:18-19), Peter is crucified for sharing the Good News.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” – Matt 24:9

Like Peter, and so many others, we may have had weak moments and scattered the flock.  We may have diminished our faith in front of others, so we could be more accepted or avoid a consequence.  We are weak.  We need to pump some iron with the Word of God.  Let his Holy Spirit spot you (or really do the heavy lifting).  We need to train harder because standing up for our faith WILL NOT get easier.  We want to be like David, Esther, Stephen, Joseph, Mary, and so many more whose faith were purified with persecution.  Our time to be refined in the fire is coming, whether or not we live long enough to see the Great Tribulation.  How do we make sure we are prepared for this moment? Here is a small list of verses that can speak to us, to help us plant our feet and hold firm, today or any other, so when the fire comes and the dross is removed, there remains the precious things that we cling to with our faith: Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.

No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,”declares the Lord. – Isaiah 54:17

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.Hebrew 11:7-10

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. – 2 Timothy 1:6-8

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? – Psalms 56:3-4

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:25-26

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 12-14 and Revelation 20

Resolution 1: Drink More Water and Less Kool-Aid

Revelation 17

The eternal feasting from Thanksgiving to Christmas has begun to catch up with me (it’s not just you, promise).  This pre-New Year’s week (and it’s bloating) is often cited by many as their week of revelation and insight into the preparations of what they might change in the upcoming year. While any time – month, day, or hour – is welcome to change, this week I will be focusing on some resolutions presented to us in the continued reading in the prophecy of Zecheriah, the Revelation of John, and the beginnings of Matthew.  While many of the passages are filled with prophetic, symbolic, end-time images, I will try to remain focused on the big picture: the message or warning presented in the passages.  Our eyes should be open, our ears listening, and our spirit attune to the world around us, not only because we become reflective as our year draws to an end, but because the drum roll quickens towards the end of this present evil age.  We should hasten our efforts, not to simply shed a few holiday pounds, start a new hobby, or get organized, but to make changes and to carry on efforts that will make lasting impacts in the Kingdom of God.

Speaking of eternal things, did you know, Kool-Aid, when stored properly, really doesn’t expire?  It is a seemingly innocent drink, yet there is a crushing idiom out there beckoning people not to partake in the consumption of this perpetual potion: You might hear an older generation say, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid ”.  This expression actually means don’t believe everything you hear, especially because it presents a very real threat.  It might seem that the origins of this phrase refer to the high sugar content, the unnatural color, or the artificial flavor of the name brand fruit drink of childhood and beyond.  It is true, there isn’t much wholesome about this drink (sorry, grape. I still love you tho❤️); however, this isn’t where our figurative turn of phrase is born.  Instead, the origin is far more tragic than the attack on our blood-sugar.  The notorious event is referred to as the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, where hundreds of innocent men, women, and children died by drinking, or being forcibly injected, with a combination of Flavor-Aid and poison.  This presents a more tragic history behind the coinage, but draws a parallel to today’s reading in both Zechariah and Revelation.  The words below remind me that there is a great coming (or even present) evil, or a more perilous and poisoned Kool-aid that is brewing and being passed as legitimate name-brand Gospel.

“I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” – Revelation 17:6

The prostitute on the beast paints an ironically sobering picture, becoming intoxicated on the blood of saints and lying with the kings of the earth.  Those who take part in this great debauchery against God, may do so willingly, but it seems many do so unwittingly, astonished and deceived by the spectacles of ungodly power (v.8) . There will be those who are not in the Lamb’s Book of Life who attend churches, have ministries, and even blog about Christ, but give-in to tinted truths, sweet lies, and god-like power, because it is a more “palatable” gospel, requiring less real change and more gratification.  The love, justice, mercy that take root in another source other than our Heavenly Father, may look pretty, taste sweet, and have some of the same notes, but it is filled with poison.  It will never quench your thirst.  It is just empty calories leading you closer to death.  Stop the endless following, swiping, and double-tapping – look up.  Turn off the continuous bombardment of the news cycle – look up.  Quit chasing after causes that don’t lead to the saving Gospel message of Christ – look up. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Now, this begs the question, what then should we drink?  Coffee!  Wrong. Tea? Still wrong.  Soda?  Getting colder.  Simply, water.  No beans, no leaves, no syrup, no colors, no nonsense straight-from-the-tap water.  It is what your body is craving, essential to every major function in your body, beginning at the cellular level.  Among many other things, water aids in digestion, stabilizes the heart, regulates blood pressure, flushes away the toxins, and provides protection to the day-to-day function of our organs and joints.  Such is true for our Living Water, the Gospel message and the Spirit of God present in our daily walk.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” – John 7:37-39

While there is a metaphor to be drawn for each of these literal benefits, there is an inherent advantage, understood or not, from consuming water.  Yes, we are trying to flush away perpetuated falsehoods, but drinking living water in and of itself is simply refreshing.  Make time for God’s Word.  Worship Him in your car.  Honor Him with your time. Live out the Gospel through actions and bear the testimony of Jesus Christ. Resolve to fill your tumbler and carry it wherever you go because there are so many ready to make the switch from the Kool-Aid to the quenching Living Water.

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at Bible Gateway here – Zechariah 5-6 and Revelation 17

Wrath and Reward

Revelation 16

If you’ve ever needed an incentive to remain obedient to God, read about the 7 bowls of God’s wrath as recorded in Revelation 16 – if a stick motivates you.

Bowl 1.  Revelation 16:2, “The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

This is a good reason not to worship the beast, better known as the antichrist.  But it gets better…

Bowl 2. The sea turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

Bowl 3. The rivers and springs of water turned to blood.

Bowl 4. People were seared by the intense heat of the sun, which grew very hot.

Bowl 5. Darkness, and men gnawed their tongues in agony.

Bowl 6. Demons gathered the kings of the earth for the war of Armageddon.

Bowl 7.  An earthquake more devastating than any since man has been on the earth.  Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.  From the sky, huge hailstones of about 100 pounds each fell upon men.

This should give us the incentive to remain faithful to God in the midst of persecution from the antichrist.  But we can’t endure alone, we will need God’s help.  This brings us to a promise in Zechariah 4:6, also in today’s reading, which says, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”

We need to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God.  And when tough times come, He will give us the strength to endure, with the power of His Holy Spirit.

Personally, I’m more of a carrot kind of guy.  So I look more at the promises of Revelation 21:4, which says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

So whether you’re motivated by a carrot or by a stick, the important thing is to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God today.  Once the tough times come, it will be really hard to start serving Him then.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 3-4 and Revelation 16

Which Fate will You Choose?

Revelation 14 – 15

Even though Revelation 14 was part of yesterday’s reading, I waited to comment on it until today so we could contrast the fate of those who submit to the antichrist from Revelation 14 with the fate of those who resist the antichrist in Revelation 15.

Rev 14: 9-12 tells us, “…If anyone worships the beast [the antichrist] and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever.  There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.  This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

In a nutshell, no matter how bad it will get for Christians, including being martyred for their faithfulness to Jesus, the punishment for the wicked will be infinitely worse.  This will call for patience and endurance on the part of Christians – when given the choice between “the good life” of following the antichrist, or torture and death for remaining faithful to Jesus.

By contrast, we read in Revelation 15:2-3, “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name.  They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the lamb:  “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.””

Every one of us has a choice to make.  Usually these choices are in little things – would God approve of this or that that I’m doing?  As we consistently choose to live for God, it gets easier to make the right choices.  Eventually, making the right choices will be really tough.  If we don’t develop the discipline now, we’ll never be able to endure when times get tough.

This reminds me of Moses’ challenge to the Israelites just before his death, as recorded in Deuteronomy 30:15, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”

Which will you choose?

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 1-2 and Revelation 15

Life and Death – and Life Again

Zephaniah 1 – 3 and Revelation 13

Today’s reading contains some disturbing imagery, so readers be warned.

In Revelation 13, we find details of the person we call the antichrist. In Revelation 13:7, we’re told “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them…”  In Revelation 13:9-10 we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.  This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

In a nutshell, we know that at some point in the future (I believe in the relatively near future), a person we call the antichrist will arise.  He will deceive the nations and will control the economy such that only those who receive the “mark of the beast” will be able to buy or sell.  (We will find out in Revelation 14:10 that those who do receive the mark of the beast will be tormented in the lake of fire.) And he will successfully conquer Christians.

As a Christian, this doesn’t sound very appealing.  If all we’re focusing on is this life, it won’t seem worth maintaining our faithfulness to God.  When that time comes, we’ll need to remember what God has promised for the wicked, as recorded in Zephaniah – also part of today’s reading.

In Zephaniah 1:2-3, we read, “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.  I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.  The wicked will only have heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.”

In Zephaniah 1:18, we read, “…In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.”

Zephaniah 3:8 tells us, “…I have decided to assemble the nations to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them – all my fierce anger.  The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

But then we find hope in Zephaniah 3:12-13, where we read, “But I will leave within you the meek and the humble, who trust in the name of the Lord.  The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down, and no one will make them afraid.”

In short, terrible times are coming for Christians, when the antichrist will try to annihilate us from the earth.  It will be critical to remain faithful to God during those difficult times, even if we lose our lives.  Because ultimately, God will judge the world, and completely destroy the wicked.  Even if we die, we will be resurrected to live in peace forever.  While the wicked will be completely destroyed forever.

I’m reminded of Deuteronomy 30:19 where we read, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Choose to remain faithful to God.  Choose life.  Even if you have to succumb to death.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zephaniah 1-3 and Revelation 13

“Why, God?”

Habakkuk 1 – 3

One widely assumed fallacy about Christianity is that once you choose to follow God, all of your problems will just go away.  Habakkuk wasn’t that kind of believer, and we shouldn’t be either.

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah – living at a time when things were really bad for Judah.  He loved the Lord with all his heart, and longed for justice.  But he saw only violence and injustice wherever he turned.  He had some complaints, and took them to the right place – to God.

In Habakkuk 1:2, Habakkuk complained, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “violence!” but you do not save?”

In Habakkuk 1:3, he complained, “Why do you tolerate wrong…?”

Then in Habakkuk 1:13, he complained, “…Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

His basic complaint was, “God, I’m pouring my heart out to you in prayer, why don’t you do something?”  And “Why do you let the wicked persecute those more righteous than themselves?”  As we pointed out yesterday from 2 Peter 3:9, the answer may be that God is just being patient, wanting to give people as much time as possible to repent, before he steps in and judges.  And from Romans 3:10-12, we recognize there is no one that is righteous, no one who does good, not even one.

In God’s response to Habakkuk in 2:2-3, God said, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end.”  Then God gave a series of 5 “woe”s.  God was reminding Habakkuk that eventually, God will punish the wicked, but until then, Habakkuk needed to be patient and trust God.

I love Habakkuk’s response in Habakkuk 3:17, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”  

This ties into our Revelation 12 reading for today, where we read in Revelation 12:17, “Then the dragon went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”  For the last 3.5 years of this evil age, Satan will try to annihilate the Jews, but God will miraculously protect them.  So Satan will vent his wrath against Christians.

As Christians, there may come a time when we cry out to God, “Why don’t you answer my prayers?  Why do you let the wicked persecute those more righteous than themselves?”  But no matter how bad it gets, we need to have the same response as Habakkuk.  “Even though it appears that there is no hope, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Habakkuk 1-3 and Revelation 12

Be the Right Person

At the Right Time in the Right Place

Daniel 11, 12

     Have you ever been the right person at the right time in the right place?  My wife and I were driving home one evening after dark.  We came upon a slow- moving vehicle that was being driven rather erratically.  It swerved from side to side.  It would speed up for a moment and then slow way down.  We even witnessed this vehicle cross the center line several times.  Oncoming vehicles sometimes were forced off the road to avoid this driver. We thought that we were about to see a terrible accident. Of course, this driver was impaired in some way.  I am sensitive toward the subject of drunk drivers.  I was badly injured and my best friend killed by one many years ago.  Of course, we called 911.  However, while my wife was talking to the 911 operator, we noticed that a police cruiser was sitting in a parking lot next to the road.  We pulled alongside and described the situation.  To their credit, the officers quickly sped off in pursuit and had the vehicle pulled over in less than a minute.  The driver, a middle aged woman, was clearly inebriated.  We hope that we helped to save some family from a devastating tragedy that evening.  Perhaps, our decision to get involved may have even saved that drunk driver from a life of guilt, prison, or from death itself.   However, we did nothing more than what many people would do.  If you found yourself in a similar situation, I know that you would act.  The right person is often given the right place and the right time to act, to get involved.

     The book of Daniel often describes events that are earth shattering and world changing.  People often get caught up in forces that are beyond their control and they feel helpless.  However, the book of Daniel also gives examples of those individuals who rise to the occasion by standing for their faith.  These individual acts of faith actually change the course of events: Daniel refused to eat the king’s food, Meschach, Shadrach and Abed-nego refused to bow to the image, and Daniel broke the law and risked the lion’s den to pray to the LORD. 

Daniel 11 and 12 describe the incredible times and events that will occur at the end of this age.  Forces will be at work that will be beyond our control.  Yet, it is still a moment for individuals to make a stand.  According to Daniel and the book of Revelation, the time of the end will be characterized by great deception.  Many people, even believers, will be fooled and tricked by the antichrist.   Daniel 11:32 reads, “By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant…..”  However, some make a stand.  Daniel 11:32 continues, “….but the people who know their God will display strength and take action…”  They will be the right people at the right time in the right place.

 Daniel 11:33 adds, “Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many….”  Yet there will be a price for this courage.  Daniel 11:33 continues, “…yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days.”  However, Daniel 12:3 makes this promise: “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” 

We live in a time of great confusion.  We have become strangers to God while we worship the idols that we have created.   Many people fear the future and wonder how it is all going to end.  For all our worldliness, our country is confused about sexuality and gender.  People have forgotten what is right and what is wrong, what is truth and what is false.  This world needs a voice of reason.  It needs truth.  It needs people of courage and faith.  The answers are “hidden in plain sight.”  They are right here in the Bible.  Insight will be found by those who are looking for it and by those who thirst for it.  Those who have insight will shine like the stars.  Be the right person so that you can act when the right time and the right place comes to you.

-Scott Deane

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Daniel 11 & 12 and 1 John 1

The 70th Week

Daniel 9

It is more than just numbers.  However, the numbers help tell the story.   Daniel chapter 9 is also known as the “70 Weeks Prophecy.”  It was a message given to the prophet Daniel.  Daniel had sought to know the purpose and plan of God.  He called upon God to save him and his people.  For his piety, God revealed to Daniel His mighty works.  In particular, God revealed to Daniel the events that would happen at the end of this age.  Even though this is called the “70 Weeks Prophecy,” the spotlight falls to the 70th week or the last week.  Each week is really “week of years.”  Since each regular week has seven days, each week of years has seven years.  The 70th week, then, is really the last seven years of this age.  It is the seven years prior to the return of Jesus Christ in glory. 

As the prophecy unfolds for us in Daniel 9:26-27, a person who is called “the prince who is to come” makes a covenant or a treaty with Israel at the beginning of the seven years.  Perhaps, unknown to most people, this “prince who is to come” is the same as the “little horn” of Daniel chapter 7.  He is the same as the “small horn” of Daniel chapter 8 and as the ‘king of the North” and the “despicable person” in Daniel chapter 11.  He is also the same as the “beast” in Revelation chapter 13 and the ‘lawless one” in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2.”  He is known widely as the antichrist.  

In the middle of the week or after 3 ½ years, the “prince who is to come” dramatically breaks the covenant with a horrible abomination.  This is the very prophetic sign that Jesus warns us about in Matthew 24:15: “…when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place….”  What is this abomination of desolation?  In Thessalonian 2:2, Paul says of the “lawless one, “…he takes his seat in the temple of God displaying himself as being God….” 

More importantly, this horrible and unmistakable event initiates the “Great Tribulation” according to Matthew 24:21.  The antichrist will make war upon the saints during that time.  Again the numbers help to tell the story.  The tribulation begins in the middle of the week.  Of course, this is the 3 ½ year point.  So, the Great Tribulation endures for 3 ½ years.  This length of time turns up in other places too.  In Daniel 7:25 he reports that the length of the little horn’s rampage is “time, times, and half a time.”  Time being one.  Times being two and a half being a half for a total of 3 ½.  The period of  time, times and half a time is repeated in Daniel 12:7 and even in Revelation 12:14.  Revelation 12:6 mentions a period of 1260 days (A 360 day calendar was used in Bible times.  When 360 days is multiplied by 3 ½, it equals 1260 days!).  Revelation 13:5 notes that the beast’s authority lasts for 42 months.  42 months, of course, is 3 ½ years.  However, as dramatic as the beast appears so his end will be at the return of Christ.  Daniel 9:27 reads, “…even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

-Scott Deane

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Daniel 9 & 10 and Psalm 148-150

Rescue from the Coming Wrath

Isaiah 23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 1

As editor of SeekGrowLove, last December I created the Bible reading plan we are using this year. Each day we are generally reading two Old Testament chapters and one New Testament chapter. But, to fit it all into 365 days we’ve included Psalms and Proverbs in chunks throughout the year, taking the place of the New Testament reading. I didn’t pay much attention to what Old Testament and New Testament chapters were lining up together for each day. But, I have been amazed throughout the year at how often the two readings have complimented each other. It just goes to show how God’s scriptures are all connected, forever pointing us to the One Almighty God, His Son Jesus, and His plan of salvation and hope for the future. And, it’s been that way for all the generations who went before us, even for those who were reading His words as they were originally written by their writers.

Isaiah had been writing and preaching to the Jews around 740 BC. He was sharing many prophecies he’d received from God of what destruction was to come if the Jewish people and their neighbors did not repent and turn to God. Many of the things Isaiah wrote about did indeed come true within the next few generations. Some of the prophecies Isaiah wrote about (such as we find in Isaiah 24) were telling of a coming judgment further down the timeline – a time still in our future as well. We have not seen it all take place yet, but we can be sure that God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.

In Isaiah 24 we read that God’s judgments will reach across the earth and affect everyone: priest and people, master and servant, borrower and lender, rich and poor. There are none who will be able to escape it because of their wealth or power or position. “The exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.” (Isaiah 24:4b-6a NIV). This will be the fate of the majority, those stuck in their sins without a Savior.

Isaiah also gives hope. To the Jews of his time he spoke of a remnant who would survive the destruction from the conquering armies and return to Jerusalem. This too, has already happened. And, regarding the judgment that is yet to come, Isaiah also has a word of hope and restoration for those who do trust in God in a world that doesn’t – the “very few” that are left after the harvest has taken place. (verse 6 and 13). We have not seen it take place yet, but we can be sure God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.

Those who are left are shouting for joy, giving God praise and singing, “Glory to the Righteous One” (vs. 14-16). Isaiah warns it won’t be easy. This group will be targeted by the evil who tries to trap them. But, God is coming with power and justice. “In that day, the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon…for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously.” Satan, his demons, and all sin and evil and those who have turned their backs on God will face God’s judgment. And God will reign.

Truly, there are so many passages that line up so well with Isaiah 24 (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Daniel 12, and Revelation just to name a few). For this is indeed a huge part of God’s story for the ages. It is what God wanted Isaiah to tell the nations nearly 3,000 years ago. And, it is what God wanted Paul to remind the church in Thessalonica less than 2,000 years ago. 1st & 2nd Thessalonians are often called the eschatological letters of Paul because of the many references to the end times (or, the end of this age and the beginning of the next). It was not enough for Paul to tell them how they ought to love and serve at the present, without preparing them for what was to come in the future, even if it wasn’t during their lifetime.

As we read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians this week and next, look for how many times Paul teaches, reminds, warns, and encourages the church with God’s perfect plans for our future. How does each chapter in 1st Thessalonians end? For a clue, let’s look at the end of chapter 1? “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV). It is especially exciting reading of a part of the future that Isaiah was only able to allude to – the second coming of Christ Jesus, since Jesus had not come for the first time at the time of Isaiah’s writing.

May we read and heed the warnings of Isaiah and Paul as sent by God. May we be encouraged by God’s plan for the ages as displayed throughout His scriptures. And may we too turn, “to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV).

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here Isaiah 23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 1

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