Natural Disasters and the Will of God 12: End of Days

What is the Battle of Armageddon & Is It Around the Corner?

When I start talking about the fact that God is not the Judge any more, that all that God’s justice does is subsumed by love and God’s work of justice in the world is to lay all our sin on Christ so that we can now be made as just, as righteous as He is, soon enough someone will ask a question about end-times.

The traditionally taught picture of God in the end-times, in Daniel’s 70th week, in the great tribulation, makes God out to be a vicious smiter.  To the point where some grace teachers are now teaching that there will not be an end-times, some are going so far as to teach that Jesus has already come back and everything in Revelation is a past event.  That is just foolisness. Jesus Christ did not return in AD70 and you have to mangle His words to teach that.  But that does not mean we do not need to re-examine select passages in Revelation in the light of the love and goodness of God, and so that is what we will do in this post, and we will find out that plagues – in Revelation as well as Exodus – come from satan not Jesus.

Now there is a lot to teach on in the book of Revelation, but my heart here is just to show that God is not the smiter.

Now the main verse that is used to show God is the destroyer in Revelation is found in Revelation 11.18:

And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. (Rev. 11.18 KJV)

Now we know God loves planet earth and takes seriously anyone who is trying to destroy it, but can we take this verse at face value that God destroys anyone who destroys the earth?  Now the Greek word here does not mean “destroy” but more literally corrupt and ruin, but it is the same word both times: those who destroy will be destroyed.  You realize that the Bible has a thread of sowing and reaping inside it, you understand the Hebrew thought of John, and you realize that God is not destroying those who destroy the earth, their destroying seed has reaped a destroying harvest.   This ties straight into Galatians 6.8, using the same concept and the same Greek word: those who follow their sinful nature will reap destruction.  When we destroy things or people, we will reap a harvest of destruction upon ourselves.

Most of us do not really consider that because of the cross of Jesus and the care of the Holy Spirit and the continual prayers of the church, many seeds of destruction do not bring an appropriate harvest of destruction on the sower.   However, in the last days, all those harvests are coming in.  Not because God is actively smiting but because He is backing off from the world, and allowing those harvests in.  God did not plant and God is not the source of the harvest!  We planted, and the harvest is the harvest of our destruction.  Romans 1.28 explains clearly how God judges – “God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do things that are not convenient”.  That Greek word gave them over is didomi, which means to grant what is asked, to permit or to allow.  If you consistently choose death, God will let you walk into death.  He is not the source of death, but He will never force you into life if you do not choose it.

In his commentary on Rev. 16.5-6, John Hinds lets us know that God allowed those who persecuted the church to suffer terrible bloodshed, realizing that God is not the one actively punishing.   What is happening in Revelation is the end of a long sowing and reaping issue – Rev. 13.10 concurs with this telling us that “He that leads others captive will be taken captive, he that kills with the sword will be killed with the sword”.  Revelation is the harvest that Jesus tells us in Matthew 13 is the end of the age.

As we have said several times over in this series, the wicked are destroyed because they push God’s grace and glory out of their lives, and God withdraws rather than force Himself on people, and the harvest of their wickedness smacks them in the face.  It is the principle running throughout the whole Bible, and God does not suddenly change after 65 books of being love, and then in the last book become the Almighty Smiter!

Israel suffered when they booted God out of their religion and replaced Him with statues of pagan deities.  Job suffered because God’s protecting hand was pushed away by fear.  The enemy is our destroyer and although he cannot get through the shield of faith, when fear and sin abound, he has found someone he can devour!

Scripture is utterly consistent: God is good and satan is bad.  And one day, this planet will reject God so powerfully, that satan will be permitted to reign.  A planet under satan’s rule leads to death, sin, and tragedy.  God created a paradise for Adam and Eve, Heaven on earth.  Humanity turned the planet over to satan who is trying his hardest to turn it into hell on earth.

Right now, due to grace and mercy, you are not facing the full effects of your sin. No one on the planet is.  God would love to stop all evil, but humanity – who has dominion over the planet – is inviting satan and evil into this planet faster than the people of God are standing against it and being salt and light in the earth.  But the day will come where there is no restraining at all, and that is why we can say God “will destroy them which destroy the earth” and also say strongly that God is not the destroyer.  He is ultimately responsible, but only in that He has stepped aside rather than force Himself on people.  He is not destroying anyone actively, and never has and never will.

In Revelation 7.1 the angels were holding the four winds of the earth that they would not blow.  In other words, God in His grace and goodness was holding back tragedy, storms, earhquakes, storms, violence.  They could not step out of the way and let the harvest of sin flow until the saints were sealed.  How did these angels “hurt” the earth – they merely moved aside and let people face the consequences of their sinful actions.  They let the winds go.

Angels did not smite, they just stopped protecting.  Sin brought on the winds of destruction, not the wrath of God.

Ah, someone will say now – what about the wrath of the lamb?  Well, we will discuss that in our next post.

Difficult Verses 11: Matthew 27.5 and Acts 1.18

Why Jesus Was Betrayed by Judas Iscariot - HISTORY

As soon as I started this series again I got several questions about difficult Scriptures.  Some of them deserve a blog post as I am sure many are struggling with them.  We all know Judas was the disciple who betrayed Jesus for a few pieces of silver, but how did he die?  The Biblical evidence seems to contradict itself:

Matthew tells us:

Then he [Judas] threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed and went and hanged himself (Matt. 2.75)

but Luke tells us:

Now this man [Judas] purchased a field with the wages of iniquity, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out (Acts 1.18)

So, if you read these at face value, you might assume that they are contradicting each other, both telling different stories so that one or the other is wrong.  However, we know that the Bible is never wrong, so we have to think and work it out.

Judas cannot have died from hanging and falling and bursting open at the same time, the Bible cannot contradict the Bible, so we have to look at Matthew and Luke as seeing the same event but from a different point of view.

Matthew was telling us what happened – Judas went and hung himself.  Now Luke’s account at first seems a bit strange – people do not normally fall over and have their intestines fall out.  But if we realize Luke is a doctor, and giving us a medical description of events, and we realize Judas hung himself in Jerusalem, between Passover and Pentecost, when the outside temperature is around 25 C, things start to make a lot more sense.

Warning – what comes next may put you off your breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Judas hung himself in Israel under the beating sun, in the dry heat surrounding Jerusalem.  And that meant his body would putrefy very quickly indeed, basically rotting while dangling from the noose.  The body would become bloated and the skin would become very weak.  And, as either the branch or rope he used to hang himself broke, he fell down, his skin burst and his entrails would have made quite a bit of a mess.

So, it quite clear these two Scriptures are painting the same tragic story, the humiliating end of a man who could never humble himself while alive.

Natural Disasters and the Will of God 11: Korah Has Got that Sinking Feeling

Korah in the Bible: Korah's Rebellion&The Earth Swallows Up Korah

“Your children didn’t see how the Lord cared for you in the wilderness until you arrived here. They didn’t see what he did to Dathan and Abiram (the sons of Eliab, a descendant of Reuben) when the earth opened its mouth in the Israelite camp and swallowed them, along with their households and tents and every living thing that belonged to them. But you have seen the Lord perform all these mighty deeds with your own eyes! – Deut. 11.5-7 (NLT)

Now one of the things that we have mentioned several times is that sin corrupts the planet.  A lot of what we see as natural disasters is just the wages of sin, it is not God judging anything or anyone.  Sin pollutes the planet and it is groaning and travailing right now.

Now the events of Korah getting swallowed up by the earth are found in Numbers 16, and what essentially happens is Korah is disloyal to Moses and challenges his position as the leader of the Jewish nation, and some people side with Korah, as is always the case in this kind of foolish disloyalty.

So, they are bringing strife into the people of Israel, distracting them from their path forward into the promised land.  Moses says that this rebellion was so strong, the earth swallowed them up.  This is what I have been trying to say – the earth itself cannot handle sin and death, it was never designed for the amount of sin that humans commit.

This failsafe is shown first of all at the first murder – that sin leads to the earth opening her mouth to receive Abel’s blood!  And the ground was changed so much by the first murder on the earth, it could not even be tilled anymore!  (This is all in Genesis 4.10-12 and fairly explicit, I am not quoting it here as I want you to read it in your own Bible and see it is the ground reacting to the murder!).  God does not say in those verses in Genesis that He opened the earth up or that He actively made the earth hard for Cain to till.  No – the earth is just not designed to handle sin.  Even the fact Cain is cursed is not God cursing him – it’s just the result of his sin.  Sin pays death, that’s why Jesus set us free from sin.

So, we establish in Genesis that great sin opens the mouth of the earth.  And yet in Deut. 11, we see that this is described as a great act of the Lord.  Again, we go back to the fact that the Lord did not do it, in fact it says “the earth opened her mouth” – but again in Hebrew we have this permissive case where God is said to do that which He did not actively stop from happening.  The fact is that one of the things that is essential in Hebrew is that the Hebrew text will frequently say God did something that He did not actively do, but just that He did not actively stop it.

Cain was a son of Adam, and yielded to satan, so satan could through Cain kill another human and usurp authority on the planet.  John tells us Cain was of the evil one – and if we yield to satan, we give satan authority on the earth, and it always leads to an increase in destruction.  The earth cannot cope with sin.  When we look at natural disasters we often ask “where is God in the midst of it”, and the truth is that God is not in the midst of it, we yielded to satan and rejected God and we ruined the planet!  We need to stop attacking our planet by selfish, rebellious, sinful behaviour.

The Lord Makes a New Thing

Now in Numbers 16, before the event, when Korah rebels, Moses says that the Lord will make a new thing, and that the earth will open its mouth and swallow Korah.  But again, Moses says “the earth will open its mouth”.  The earth is not new – Moses was well aware of what happened when Abel was killed by Cain.  It was new – in that this had never happened to a family before, the earth opened up, swallowed the family, then closed back up.  But did the Lord make it?

Well, if you look at Isaiah 45.7, it says “I create evil”, in reference to the Lord.  Some people read that and actually think God literally created evil, that God invented sin, God is behind sin, God makes people sin, God makes satan sin, God employs satan and so many other strange and foolish ideas.  The Bible actually tells us that God has nothing to do with evil (see James 1.13), so that passage does not mean God does moral evil.

But if you study the word “evil” here, it means a disaster.  And what God was saying in Isaiah 45, prophesying the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, that the Lord allows disasters to happen.  It is not about God actively doing it, or God being behind sin.  It means God will let these things happen.  One third-century Bible commentary tells us that this verse should be translated “I keep the peace, and I allow war”, so even back then people realized about this permissive understanding of Hebrew.

God is not the author of evil, satan is, and humans help!  But in the sense that God lets us face the consequences of our sin, God permitted natural disasters and wars.

So if the work “create” can clearly be passive here, it can be passive in Numbers as well.  I know a Hebrew speaker who told me “I create evil” means “I allow evil”, it is wrong to translate it “I do the evil myself”

I hope this helps you realize how sinful sin is here, but also how good God is.  Do not make God the direct agent on things that He has already given us dominion that we are abusing and misusing!

Difficult Verses 10: Matthew 19.23-24

can you see the camel through the eye of the needle! | Flickr

It has been a long time since I have done a Difficult Verses post (actually five years since the last one, which can be found here), but I have resurrected this series due to an excellent question I have been asked on Matthew 19.23-24:

23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

As we have been focusing on prosperity this week, these verses by Jesus do seem to cut across the idea that God wants us to prosper (3 John 2), that God delights in our prosperity (Psalm 35.27), that God has given us the power to obtain wealth (Deut. 8.18), that Jesus became poor so that we can become rich (2 Cor. 8.9).  So within that, when there seems to be a contradiction in Bible truths we need to look deeper.

Let’s start by putting these two verses into context and look at what happened before and after Jesus said this to his disciples.  Before, Matthew 19.16-22:

16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

This man asked the wrong question.  His mentality was that he could earn his way into heaven   He thought there was something he could do to get eternal life.  So, this man had a wrong point of view.  Mark 10.21 gives us a little piece of information about this man that Matthew and Luke do not – it tells us that when Jesus looked at him, he loved him.  So, that is the foundation of this account – Jesus loves rich people.  He loves rich people, poor people, sick people, healthy people, cursed people, blessed people.  Jesus loved the rich young ruler while he was rich and young and a ruler.  So, having money does not put you in a place where Jesus stops loving you.  It also means that everything that Jesus does and says next is out of love!

17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

Jesus now wants to correct his wrong thinking, and help him see that you cannot get into the kingdom of Heaven by being a good man.  This man was propserous, a ruler, confident in his goodness, but he had no idea he needed a Saviour.  So Jesus here is rightfully using the law, as a standard we cannot possibly meet, to help someone realize they need a Saviour.

18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

So Jesus throws some laws out there to give the man a standard to help him realize he needs a Saviour.

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

The man responds with a strong self-righteousness, I have kept those laws, I do that, I am a good person, just tell me what to do and I will do it and get the kingdom.  That attitude is obnoxious to heaven, it is pride and arrogance, and sometimes riches cause people to be more self reliant and more self righteous.  Their ability to make money makes them justify themselves and their morality.

21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

So Jesus then gave this man an instruction.  Now, let’s get this out of the way before anything else – this instruction is not for everyone.  Not all of us have to go and sell all we have to be perfect.  I can prove this through the life of a very short man, called Zaccheus.

Read Luke 19.8 and 9:

And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

Zaccheus gave away half of his goods, that is 50% not 100%.  And yet Jesus said salvation came to his house.  Not once in the book of Acts is giving away all your goods to the poor is used as a sign of salvation.  But this man did not come cut to the heart, he came wanting to do something to get the kingdom.  He came self-reliant, so Jesus gave him an impossible instruction.  Jesus got to the heart of this mans’ problems, his emptiness, his reason for coming to speak to Jesus – he had an idol and it was called material things.  That was his god and he could not turn his back on it.  At this point he should have fallen on his knees and cried out to Jesus for salvation by grace, but he couldn’t.

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

This man is the only person in the Bible to walk away sad from Jesus.  That is so sad, but it was not because of the possessions he had, it was because his possessions had him.  He couldn’t bring himself to call on the name of Jesus, and walked away from the Lord.

Now remember that the Lord loved this man, he looked at him and felt nothing but love for him.  In addition, do not forget the divine principles that Jesus has taught the disciples over and over – sow and you shall reap (Mark 4), give and it shall be given to you (Luke 6.38).  Jesus wasn’t trying to make a rich man a pauper, He was trying to get a rich man to stop using the world’s system of making money and start using the God system, and this would have in time made him even richer, and meant he would have had salvation and peace with God at the same time.  Now that is a heart of love.

We cannot forget that our blood covenant with the Lord includes prosperity, the Old Covenant also includes prosperity, and Jesus is the one who prospers us.  If that young ruler thought about the Word rather than his wealth, he might have remembered his Bible say “he that gives to the poor lends to the Lord, and the Lord will surely pay him back again” (Proverbs 19.17).  Jesus was offering this man the business deal of a lifetime but the man was too carnal and money-obsessed to see it!  He assumed what a lot of us assume, Jesus wants us poor and weak.

In addition, look at those words “follow me”.  Those words are only used by Jesus when he is calling the apostles.  Maybe Jesus was aware he would need a new apostle soon, maybe he was aware that he needed a new apostle who had the ability to handle money.  Just speculation, but it is interesting.  He would have been pretty well suited for the job – honest, never lied, never stole (isn’t that one up on Judas), and knew how to prosper?

So, as the man walks away sad, Jesus uses this whole event to teach his disciples a key principles about the kingdom:

23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Now despite all the nonsense I have heard about really tiny camels (some people say it is the Greek word for rope – it’s not) or really really big needles (some people say there is a gate in Jerusalem called the eye of the needle, there isn’t), the truth is Jesus is saying that it is impossible to enter God’s kingdom if you have money.  He is not saying a rich man cannot get saved – think about this, if you die, you go to Abraham’s bosom, and Abraham was exceptionally rich.  Every Jew listening knew that rich people could be saved – they know about David, Solomon, Mordecai, Esther, Daniel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and so on and so forth.  But Jesus was saying they struggle to “enter the kingdom of heaven”.  In other words, this man struggled to give and receive, he struggled to handle money the God-ordained way.

A few years ago I was in America and had no money, there were four of us there, and we had no money to pay for hotels and food.  On Sunday morning in church, someone gave me $100.  That is not enough to make me rich, that is not enough to pay my bills or pay my travel and so on.  So I gave it in the offering.  The next morning another minister gave me over $2000 as an offering.  That was my harvest.  That is God-given principles to increase.  I knew I was poor, so I gave my way out of poverty.  The options were pretty clear to me.  But the problem is rich people rely on their money and do not like to give it away like that, because they have never learned to make money in a godly way.

Now want I want you to see as well is what comes after this, because it is illuminating:

25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?

26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?

28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Notice first of all that the disciples were stunned.  We have this false assumption that Jesus and his disciples were broke.  That is not true, Jesus was wealthy and so were most of his disciples.  Peter was a professional fisherman, he owned more than one boat, and had servants.  He was a business man doing very well for himself.  When Jesus said it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom, they wer stunned.  Now, stop being religious for a few minutes and think about this – Peter wouldn’t be caring about Jesus saying this if he was broke.  He was concerned for himself when he heard Jesus, and he points out that he has left everything to follow Jesus.  Which is true, Peter walked away from his business and his nets and left it all behind to follow Jesus. so Jesus tells him that he will be taken care of by God.

Jesus warning about rich men has nothing to do with the money we make as we prosper in the kingdom, it is referring to people so embedded into the world’s system of prosperity they cannot give, they cannot invest in the kingdom, they cannot follow Jesus.  Let’s look at Mark’s account of this:

28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Read that very carefully, we get hundred times what we give up now in this time – not in heaven when we die, but right now.  That is a lot – you see every person, whether poor or rich – has to make a decision, you need to take some of your income and start giving generously.  The more blessed you are the more you should give.  There are so many reasons for giving to the kingdom of God, but one important reason is that it reminds you that God is the source of your increase, God is the one who provides for you, God looks after you.

We have to be a channel for giving, Jesus did not just know that, He did it, and He wanted to see this young man who he loved get in the same flow and obtain the same blessings and grace.  Jesus was such a big giver that when Judas went to betray him, everyone assumed he was going to do more giving!

Do you want a hundredfold return on your money?  Then give it to God and let God multiply it.  No business venture or bank will offer this kind of return, so praise Jesus for offering this kind of return to His family.