Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What the Pros and Cons of the Letters to the Seven Churches Teach Us

It seems that more and more God is giving me object lessons, using a few other people and their relationships with me, to show me how far short I am falling in working on my relationship with Him, by letting me experience the same kind of treatment that I am giving Him. It has not been pleasant, and in fact has been hurtful. The most obvious place that I am failing is in giving Him the time and attention that any relationship needs if it is to succeed. So many people take relationships for granted and do not realize that you have to actually put in the time and effort, and work diligently to keep the relationship alive. It doesn't just happen. You need to spend time with that person. Nothing replaces your time and attention. And so it must be with our Lord. I have been spending a lot of time examining myself and looking at what the Scriptures say as to how I should be living my life to make sure that I am abiding with Christ, so that I can, as Peter says, “...give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” (2 Peter 1:10).

It is a given that the first place to start is to give God your time and attention, as said above. Without that the rest of what follows is a moot point. Christ and the Father should be a constant presence in our life, and we should be talking to Him whenever we can. There is no such Christian as a Sunday Christian. Nor even a Sabbath one for that matter, (for us Sabbath observers). We also need to be spending time in His Word on a daily basis, as much as possible. If you aren't beginning with that, then you have already lost the battle and can only expect that you will drift further away with each passing day. The only way back is through repentance and a diligent effort to change your ways.

So many teach that all you have to do is say a pray accepting Jesus and you are all set for heaven. They do a disservice to many people, for while at the moment of accepting Christ we are given justification and are secure, from that moment on everything we do can either jeopardize it or continue to secure it. Salvation is the prize for which you have to run to win. 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Paul said in Philippians 3:10-14 that he had not yet attained that state of perfection and the security of eternal life. He still had to press toward the mark to apprehend it. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead (to eternal life). Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” We do not have the security of eternal life until we pass from this life, and to gain it we must still be in good standing with God at the time of our death. There are so many things that can cause us to get off the path. And it does not help that so many teach that once you accept Christ, you can put Him up on a shelf like a trophy and live however you please. It does not work that way, and the Bible does not teach that. I have several articles addressing different aspects of this issue, starting with the subject of eternal security. That article can be found here. http://bibleconundrumsandcontroversy.blogspot.com/2014/05/is-there-or-is-there-not-eternal.html.

What I want to do in this article is go over each of the churches of Revelation to see the pros and cons of what they were doing, so that we might be careful to look at our lives and see if we have the pros and need to get rid of the cons. The first church mentioned is Ephesus.

Revelation 2:1-7 “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

The pros listed in this church are: 1) works, 2) labor, 3) patience, 4) not tolerating evil, 5) assessing people who say they are apostles (or any type of teacher, preacher, prophet, etc.) to see if they are truthful or liars by double checking what they say and what they do against the Word of God, 6) longsuffering with patience, 7) labored without ceasing, 8) hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Notice that patience and labor are mentioned twice, as is basically hating evil deeds, those in general and the Nicolaitans in particular. Whatever those deeds may have been, Christ saw them as particularly bad. This group would not tolerate that evil. This gives us a list of things which should be evidenced in our lives if we are living correctly. We should have good works to our credit. And they should not be done out of a wrong attitude or motives or be works that are not really of or for God. They need to be works that will glorify God, and be done with a cheerful heart out of charity, not out of selfishness. We should labor. Not only labor for our daily bread, but labor to bring in a harvest of people for God, and it should be always ongoing. We should be slow to anger, patient in tribulation, and longsuffering with others. We should not tolerate evil, especially within the church. It needs to be exposed, not hidden, not tolerated, and not condoned. We need to be Bereans and check everything against Scripture that leaders, teachers, and others teach and say, to catch false teachings.

The cons consist of 1) leaving their first love, 2) repent and do the initial works that one did when first saved, 3) repent in general of sins of commission and omission. What is the first love? I never understood it until the first time I fell head over heels in love. Those first few months were ones where every moment of the day, my every thought and desire was for the person I loved. I wanted to be with him all the time. I wanted to do everything to please him, as I wanted him to be as happy as I was. I floated on a cloud, as they say, and I was told even by people who did not know the reason for it, that my face was radiant. No matter what bad things happened during that time, I never was unhappy, for the happiness I felt in my love overwhelmed any sad feelings I might have had. I knew happiness and joy every minute of the day for days on end. Then there was that first moment of disappointment in the other person when they were less than perfect and deeply hurt my feelings, and reality hit and the bloom was off the rose. For those few months, I had seen the other person as perfect and their love for me as perfect and had an unrealistic view of them. It was the sense of perfection that had given me that “high” that I was feeling, and when that perfection was shattered, so was the “high.” Usually when that happens with people, they tend to forget that they, too, are less that perfect and might have contributed to the perfection of the love being shattered. 

With Christ, when we accept Him, we feel that same “high” of being in love. And in this case our view is not unrealistic, as Christ is perfect and will never disappoint us in His love or behavior toward us, but what happens is that we are the ones who sin and ruin the perfection of the relationship. Somehow we expect the love that Christ has for us to be perfect in its protecting us from anything bad, or not being upset with us when we are not perfect ourselves. We become disappointed that it does not protect us from the evils of life that sin has wrought, and so we tend to shift the blame to the one who does not deserve it, Christ, and lose that sense of that first love, where our every thought of every minute of every day is to please them. We feel disappointed that He doesn't overlook our sin, even if we aren't repentant. The bloom comes off the rose, and while we continue to love Him as we love other people, even though they are not perfect, it is never quite the same. Christ is telling us to get that first love back. And since the problem is us, not Him, it is our behavior that needs fixing. We need to draw closer to Him and make Him our priority every day, thinking of Him all the time and spending the time with Him.

Next we need to do the initial works that we did when we were saved. If you have been around brand new Christians the one thing that seems to be common is that just as a person new in love wants to shout their love and share it with the world, so does a new Christian want to share their new-found faith. They seem to have no concern over the reaction they might get from the people with whom they are sharing it. As time goes by, Christians tend to be much more selective as to when and with whom they will share their faith. They worry about people's reactions. Christ wants us to get back to that initial work of sharing the gospel in the same way that we did at first. And lastly we need to not just repent of our sins off commission, which Christians have less problem doing than repenting of those sins of omission, which we tend to ignore. We need to be far more cognizant of the things we could have done and did not do and repent of those things as well.

The second church in the list is Smyrna. Christ has little to say to them, because they are abiding with Him. Revelation 2:8-11 “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”

The church as Smyrna is unusual as a people in that Christ finds no fault with any of the people in this church. The pros of this group are 1) their works, 2) their tribulation, 3) their poverty, and 4) their faithfulness in suffering persecution. This teaches us that again, works are very important, as they are the evidence of our faith. James 2:17, 24 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” We are to be faithful in tribulation, even unto death. And while poverty is not a sign of faith, those who are poor need to rely on Christ for their daily bread far more than those who are rich in material wealth. And so because of this, their faith is stronger, so they are actually richer in that they are rich in spiritual wealth.

There are no cons in this church as far as their Christian faith is concerned. The bad news for this church is that they are martyred. This occurs in spite of their almost perfect faith. They are not going to be protected from persecution and death. They will be thrown in prison and killed. This is one of the churches whose example we should emulate. They are doing the works they should, they are enduring tribulation with faithfulness, and they are rich in spiritual things.

Pergamos is the third church in this list. Revelation 2:12-17 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Pergamos has the following pros: 1) works, 2) holds to the faith, and 3) does not deny Christ. Once again we see that works is the very first thing mentioned by Christ, as it was in the previous two churches. Christ sees our works as a very important part of our walk with Him. They do not earn us salvation, but they secure it by glorifying God and evidencing our faith in Him. Without the works, we show no evidence that we love or have faith in Him, for words without actions are meaningless words. When you tell someone you love them, and then do not show it in the least way, why should they believe you? Our love is borne out by our actions toward the person. If there is no tangible evidence of our love, then it really only exists in the imagination of the one saying that they love you. There is no reason for the one who is told they are loved to believe the person when they say it. The same is true of faith. Love and faith go hand in hand. They have held fast to the faith even in the face of martrydom coming to one of their own, and have not denied Christ. They are willing to face death if necessary, and will not deny Christ if it comes down to it, and it could very well come down to it considering where they live. They live where Satan has his earthly headquarters (at that time).

Again we should recognize that we should have works to our credit, for they are very important as evidence of our faith. We should also not be ashamed of Christ. Too many are afraid of offending others, or afraid of being mocked or disliked, if they were to parade their Christianity. We cannot hold back, for Christ has told us that if we deny Him, He will deny us. We need to be willing to let our Christianity be known, even if we live in an area that is very anti-Christian.

There are some serious cons in this church. 1) They tolerate those who practice the doctrine of Balaam, and 2) they tolerate those who hold to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The doctrine of Balaam was that he advised that the Israelites could be conquered by getting them to live licentiously with the pagan women. So this church is tolerating all sort of moral and sexual sins with the idea of “freedom in Christ,” as so many are doing today. They are indulging in worldliness, probably going to worldly venues, hanging out with worldly people, and indulging in worldly pursuits. They would claim, as so many are doing today, that obedience to the commandments of God is trying to work your way to heaven, and that their freedom in Christ allows them to partake of these things. Added to that is the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which is something that Christ particularly hates. There is nothing in Scripture that tells us what this sin is. There are several theories. One, due to the root derivatives of the word “Nicolaitan” (meaning overcome the laity), is that there were those who were saying that only the clergy and leaders could understand Scripture, so were the wolves in sheep's clothing that were teaching apostate doctrines, and withholding the truth from the people. Another theory is that they were Gnostics, as there was a Gnostic group later in time who were referred to as the Nicoliatans. But according to what I have found written, they did not adopt this name at that time, so it seems that this might not be what is referred to. The third possibility is that there is one reference to a Nicolas in Scripture. He was a deacon, a proselyte from Antioch. It is possible that he was teaching some very bad teachings and was getting a following. Again, whatever these deeds were, they were bad, and unlike Ephesus, they were tolerating it here.

We should not be tolerating worldliness and licentious behavior, nor any deeds that are evil, or doctrine that is unscriptural. Too many Christians think today that living in holiness is trying to work their way to heaven and they don't want to become “legalistic,” so they embrace the world, its pleasures, and its people and are unequally yoked to it. They see no harm in living that way, not realizing that Christ does not see it the same way. He has told us that we must abide in Him and produce good fruit, not bad.

The fourth church to come under scrutiny is Thyatira. Revelation 2:18-29 “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

Once again, the first thing mentioned is works. Not only once, but at the end of the list of pros, their works are listed once again, for they continue to grow in works reaching out further and further into the community. So for this group, the list of pros is 1) works, 2) charity, 3) service, 4) faith, 5) patience, and 6) works again. The list of works, charity, service, and faith is very reminiscent of the type of behavior that one finds in the churches today who focus on working one's way into heaven. They have good intentions and believe they are doing them for God, so He gives them some credit. There are some denominations who do have a head belief in Christ, and try to live for Him, for whom works is the key to getting into heaven, rather than a vital personal relationship with Christ. It would seem that this church is a forerunner of those type of churches. The thing with this is, we should have all these things. They are very important, and are vital things that we should be doing. And of course patience is something which we should always practice. The problem was, this church had those things without the relationship. Without the relationship they are done for man's purposes, not God's.

Besides the churches who focus on works to earn their way to heaven, we have those who teach that salvation is by grace, but pervert the rest of the Bible. One of the practices of the mega-churches these days is to have more ministries than you can shake a stick at. They reach out into the communities to service people who have all sort of problems and addictions. Their works are more than those at first, where they mainly saw to the needs of the saints in their congregation. But with that also seems to come apostate teachings, the prosperity gospel, the purpose driven church, etc. This is a problem of the church at Thyatira also.

The cons of this church are so bad that they are said to be the depth of Satan's teachings, and Christ says He will throw them into great tribulation. The phrase “great tribulation” is used in only one other context in the Bible, and that is during the 70th week of Daniel. This church is allowing a woman, one who is so evil that God calls her Jezebel after the queen in the Old Testament who was evil, to teach. It is not only that they allow her to teach the entire church, against what Scripture teaches about women not being pastors of churches, but she is actually advocating and encouraging people to commit fornication and adultery of all kinds. It is not bad enough that they tolerate people in their ranks acting this way, as was found in other churches, they have elevated the ringleader of this kind of sin to the rank of leader. All of the good deeds which they do, does not hold a candle to the evil that is going on in their church. God will purge them of their sin by giving them the worst persecution ever, that will result in their deaths. Just as we cannot tolerate the sins of Balaam or the Nicolaitans, we cannot allow our leaders to teach that sinful behavior is okay with God. We need to check their teachings against the Scriptures.

Sardis is the next church on the list. Revelation 3:1-6 “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

Sardis has the following pros 1) none. They don't even have works, for their works are not perfect before God. They are strictly the works they want to do, not works for God. They have a name that they are Christian, but they have reached the point of almost death, as far as faith is concerned. They do not have a living faith at all, it is just the remnant of glowing embers ready to be extinguished. They basically have nothing more than the name of Christians. I know some liberal churches like this. They have discontinued their belief in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. They don't even believe much of what is in it is actual history anymore. They treat it as a mythological book. They do not see Jesus as the Son of God, born of a virgin, and a part of the Trinity, but ascribe a lesser position to Him. They do social works for the world. They are essentially almost unbelievers, but there are still some in the church who are true believers. They have not defiled themselves with the unbelief that is rampant in their church. We must be careful to not be entangled in churches like this, for the people we keep company with will corrupt us, if they are the wrong kind of people.

The cons of this church are 1) everything. They have no faith, no doctrine that is good, no works, nothing. They are on the point of being unbelievers and probably most of them actually are. Church is a ritual for them. Again, this is a serious warning to us to cling to the truth of Scriptures and believe in what they say, for if you do not, you end up in unbelief.

Philadelphia is akin to Smyrna in that they are not guilty of straying. Revelation 3:7-13 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

The pros in this church are 1) they have works, 2) they have kept God's Word, 3) they have not denied Christ, 4) they have kept the word of God's patience, and 5) they will be kept safe through the great tribulation. This group has several things in common with Smyrna. 1) Christ has nothing bad to say about them. They have the works that are always the first consideration. They have kept God's Word pure and unadulterated, and have not denied Christ. These are things which we want in our lives. 2) They also have some enmity with the synagogue of Satan who call themselves Jews. Both of these churches have had dealings with this group of people. Then there are two things that Christ mentions which have not been mentioned before in connection with any church. They keep the word of God's patience, and because they have kept it, they will be spared the suffering of the great tribulation which will purge the rest of the churches who have been chastised, and which will result in the deaths of the Smyrnans even though they are spiritually fine. Because of this many of this group will most likely live to see the rapture. To know what keeping the word of God's patience means, and what criteria this group must meet to get to the rapture, read my other article here.

Now while this article is about helping us to know some of the ways (not all, but some) that we must be behaving to have a right relationship with Christ, if one wants to actually make it to the rapture, I would advise not only doing the things that this article presents, but especially those things of the article just referenced, as well as any other of the many things of which we are told that we should be obedient.

The Philadelphians have no cons, just as Smyrna had none. This is the ultimate group to be in, for not only do they meet with Christ's approval, they will not have to die the death of the martyr.

The group that is the worst of the bunch is saved for last. The Laodiceans. Revelation 3:14-22 “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

Laodicea has no pros. They have only cons. Even their works are useless for God. He can't even stand them. 1) They are rich in material goods, selfishly so, 2) they brag about it and are arrogant, and think that they are just fine not only with themselves, but with God also. They think because they have all this wealth that God must be blessing them, so believe that how they run their spiritual lives meets with God's approval. 3) They are so blind to the truth that they cannot see that in God's eyes they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. They don't even have dirty robes as the others do. They are totally naked. They need to get themselves some robes to begin with by truly having a relationship with Christ, and doing the good works that gives them that white robe. This is the church that I believe describes the American Church as a whole – wealthy (especially compared to the rest of the world in general, much less the Christian world), arrogant (they think that God will never let them suffer, while they see Christians around the world dying for their faith), and blind to their spiritual condition (they defiantly cry that trying to live holy lives is an act of works, and they do not need to earn their way to heaven, because Jesus did it all). They are so oblivious to the real gospel and what God expects from us in return that they don't even realize that Christ is not even a part of their lives or church. He is standing outside asking them if He can come in. This is a serious place to be, for this blindness is one that keeps them from seeing their condition and will result in their eternal damnation if they do not wake up. No Christian should want to fall into this condition.

There is an interesting progression among these churches. The first one is accepted by Christ as a whole as followers of His, although they are not perfect. But neither are they in flagrant sin or tolerating it in their church. Then there is a church which is walking in faith, but they are a persecuted church. The third church has many who have crossed the line, but the while church is not endorsing crossing the line, they make the error of tolerating those who do. So the church is dangerously trying to walk on the fence, but are still followers of Christ. The fourth church has totally crossed the line as a whole in setting up in the position of leadership those who would teach that they can and should cross the line. There are a few who do not go along with this though, so there are still some who are in Christ in this church. The next church is almost, for all intents and purposes, dead in faith or about to breathe their last. They have all, but for a few who still remain faithful, fallen away. Then we have another faithful church, who will not suffer the greatest persecution of all times, because they have qualified in a special way for that protection. The last church is one which has thrown Christ out the door, for He is standing outside waiting to get back in. The entire church is already lost. They do not even have some
among their ranks who are still faithful.

I have already written a couple of articles on how we should be making our salvation secure. I have already provided links above to those. Another article that might be useful for those who want to know how to walk with the Lord, was how to avoid being one of the people that Christ says, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:23). That can be found here.

There are many more passages in Scripture that give us instruction as to how to live our lives in Christ. Most of the epistles in fact. It is not an easy thing to live out the life of a Christian in the best possible way, but we can only strive to do so. God is forgiving, and we must make sure we are repentant when we do walk off the path. The main thing is to try. For if we do not at least try, we risk everything, for salvation is not a trophy that you display on a shelf. It is something that you must work out and run the race to try to win. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12. Christ took the penalty for our sins, and took us by the hand to lead us to His home, but we have to walk with Him to get to the destination. The words “fear” and “trembling” should indicate how serious this is. We can't take our own path and think it will get us there without His guidance and companionship, just because we accepted the invitation to go there. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Where Is the Wilderness Where the Woman of Revelation 12 Runs?

There is much speculation about a couple of related verses in Matthew 24 and Revelation 12. It has to do with the woman fleeing to the wilderness for protection and where that wilderness is. For years many teachers have taught that it is the city of Petra. They base this on some oblique verses in the Old Testament. The woman is Israel, and we know that at least 144,000 of original Israel – the twelve tribes – will be protected, and beyond that the Scriptures indicate another remnant is saved, so the number should be more. But is it practical to think all those people could run to and survive in the city of Petra? Had they done their homework, they would have found the answer to that question is “no.” At its top population, it is estimated that Petra could hold 20,000 people. That is a great deal short of a couple hundred thousand people. And not all of the Jews (not to mention the unknown Ten Lost Tribes) are in Israel. A great part of the world's population live in America. Roughly a little more than a third live in Israel, and roughly an equal amount of that live in America. Less than a third live scattered throughout the rest of the world. The world's Jewish population is roughly 15 million. Even if God only brought a tenth through (which is one of the prophecies) that is 1.5 million which is far beyond the 20,000 that Petra could hold. There is another verse that mentions bringing one third through. If we took a third of 1.5 million, we end up with 500,000. That is still way over the limit and more than 3 times the 144,000. So obviously they are in some other wilderness. So what wilderness could handle that many refugee Jews and Israelites?

When Christ was giving the Olivet Discourse, He said that those in Judea should flee to the mountains when the abomination of desolation occurs. So where does Israel go when it happens? In Revelation 12:14 we read, “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am a great proponent of taking Scripture at face value whenever possible. In this case clearly that cannot be done, so we have to find another explanation of what is meant here. The woman (Israel) is given two wings of a great eagle to fly away. Now I don't care how big eagles are, even if an eagle could carry a full grown human, it most certainly could not carry more than one. So we are not speaking literally here. We need then to look to what this might symbolically refer. Often the metaphor of an eagle is used to symbolize swiftness and in this case I think that probably is one of the meanings behind the use of the word, for Israel will be under siege of the beast's armies and as Christ said in Matthew, they are not to even take the time to go back in the house for anything. They are to run for their lives. So swiftness is definitely one of the indications from this word. Another meaning might be the symbol of the country which is the helper, who flies Israel out of the land. Scripture, especially in prophecy, does refer to nations in terms of animals at times. In Daniel chapter 8 we see the story of the ram with two horns (Medo-Persia) who was conquered by the goat (Greece) with a notable horn (Alexander the Great) which was then divided into four horns (the splitting of Alexander's kingdom into four sections after his death) followed by a notable horn that comes up among them (initially Antiochus Ephiphanes – ultimately a final fulfillment in the person of the antichrist). It is easy to see from history to whom these animals referred, Medo-Persia and Greece. In Daniel 7, I hypothesized that the animals in that prophecy were not the same nations as the statue in Daniel chapter 2, as traditional interpretation presents, but that due to certain phrases, it indicates that these animals represent nations who are currently part of our world system. As such, the lion is Britain and the eagle wings on its back represent America. The wings are plucked off the lion's back, which would seem to indicate a separation - the Revolutionary War - which allowed America to become its own nation. More explanation about this passage can be found at this post http://endtimesstudies.blogspot.com/2009/06/daniel-7.html.

Given that it would seem that the eagle's wings in this passage might well refer to America, it seems also possible that the wings of the eagle in Revelation also refer to America. And the fact that Israel flies on those wings might indicate American planes. The woman is flown to the wilderness. Now while America is not exactly a wilderness, she was at the time this was written, and as a country she is a vast area of open land from coast to coast. There are many cities and small communities, but overall, we are a great deal of open land. A wilderness so to speak. Israel is kept safe in this wilderness away from the reach of the beast for three and a half years.

Now, again, if one has followed my blogs, they will know that I believe America is Babylon. Reading the rest of my endtimes blog referenced above will show why I believe that. One should look in the archives to find the relevant passages in Revelation, as well as later posts that I wrote on Babylon, if one is interested in that information. If, as I believe, America is Babylon, and Israel is brought to Babylon for safety reasons, then it stands to reason that it should follow that we will find passages in the prophecies of Israel being in Babylon and having to “come out of her” as God tells His people to do in Revelation 18:4 “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” And indeed, we can find some prophecies that point to this being the case.

In the book of Jeremiah we find a lot written about Babylon. However, there are some differences between some of the writings. Up to Chapter 50 we find that God is very specific in having particular kings and people mentioned by name, and the actions of those individuals. In this case, one has to understand that these prophecies were for those specific people and situations. When we get to Chapters 50-51 we find that the prophecy is no longer specified to particular people by name for most of the prophecy. It is more generalized, which allows it to be either one of the “two fulfillment” types of prophecies that we find in the Bible, where there is a near fulfillment and a far fulfillment, or one which is strictly a latter days fulfillment. In this case we can almost immediately see that this is an endtimes prophecy for the nation of Babylon during our time, for in verse 4 we find the following: “In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.” Now the thing which stands out that makes this verse strictly an endtimes prophecy is the part about the children of Israel and the children of Judah going together to seek the Lord their God. Israel has not existed as a people since they were assimilated by Assyria. This occurred over 2700 years ago. So clearly this was not a prophecy that could have been fulfilled any time since then, as Israel, or the Ten Lost Tribes as they are known, will not exist again until the end of days. Also as Jeremiah prophesied roughly a hundred years after the captivity and assimilation of Israel, it clearly has to be a latter days prophecy as there was no Israel in his time.

The next verse also gives away the timing of this prophecy for verse 5 says, “They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.” Israel will not be joined in a perpetual covenant again with the Lord until they look upon Him whom they pierced and recognize Him as their Savior. This will not occur until the end of Daniel's 70th week. There is more in the passage about their spiritual condition and then in verse 8 we read, “Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he goats before the flocks.” Both Israel and Judah are in the midst of Babylon. The Babylon of the end of days. If America is Babylon, then Judah (the woman who now lives in the land of Israel) and Israel (the Ten Lost Tribes which were assimilated and whose whereabouts are unknown) are in America. This would seem to confirm the passage in Revelation that the wings of the eagle might very well stand for the planes of America.

As we know God will have Babylon destroyed, naturally the prophecies go on to describe that. There is an interesting phrase used in verses 12 and 13 that again point to America being Babylon. “Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.” Babylon has a mother. Most nations are not said to have a mother, but there are some present day ones who have. Canada, Australia, and America all were birthed by the nation of Britain. And this goes along with the prophecy in Daniel 7 of the lion (Britain) who has the wings of an eagle which are plucked off. Then Babylon is referred to as the hindermost of the nations. The Hebrew word “achariyth” or as it is translated “hindermost” means the last or the end one. This particular Babylon will be the last great nation on earth for this present world. This most certainly can be said of America, for we are the youngest or the last nation that has become a great or the greatest world power. This is followed by the verses outlining some of God's wrath, which is repeated in other places including Revelation, that befalls her. This further identifies that this section is an endtimes prophecy.

The verses then change slightly and specific reference is made to Nebuchadnezzar which would seem to indicate that verses 16-18 refer to the Babylon of that king. But verse 19 again picks up with God saying that He will bring Israel back to their land (which won't happen until the end) and verse 20 starts with the phrase “in those days, and in that time” which generally is an indicator that we are going back to end of days prophecies. The entire verse is “In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.” That the verse is indeed an endtimes verse is proven by the statement that the iniquity of Israel and the sins of Judah will be sought, but will not be found. Clearly that is not the case yet, nor has it ever been. They are in diaspora due to their sins. Only when Christ returns will their sins be purged. God says that He will pardon those whom He saves. God is planning on saving a remnant and that remnant will be forgiven and brought back into a covenant. Specifically we know the 144,000 and the woman in the wilderness are a remnant. Whether they are the same group or not, I do not know. Personally I do not think they are. As God does not pardon Israel's sins until the end, when they seek Him and repent and acknowledge whom their Savior is, we see this prophecy is again a future one.

In verse 28 we see something that is missed by most prophecy teachers. “The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, the vengeance of his temple.” Now this could be only the prophecy about the destruction of the first temple by Babylon, but possibly it is about the tribulation temple, and the president of the United States (I do not at this time think it is Trump, for those concerned about that) being guilty of doing something that causes the abomination of desolation by the antichrist. This verse is followed for a number of verses by the description of the wrath of God that matches His wrath at the end, so it is likely that this is also about the endtimes temple. The part that is pertinent to Israel taking refuge in America is that those who flee (God has already told Israel to get out of Babylon) are to go to Zion, or Jerusalem, and declare that God is going to avenge what has occurred. So again we see that an endtimes prophecy has Israel in Babylon.

In Jeremiah 51:6-13 we read, “Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD's vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence. Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD's hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so she may be healed. We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies. The LORD hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God. Make bright the arrows; gather the shields: the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance of his temple. Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, set up the watchmen, prepare the ambushes: for the LORD hath both devised and done that which he spake against the inhabitants of Babylon. O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.”

In this passage in Jeremiah 51 Israel is again told to flee out of Babylon. That Babylon is about to be punished for her iniquity. She was a a golden cup in God's hand, but has made the whole earth drunk on her wine of sin. People will hope to heal her, but she cannot be healed. Everyone must run for their lives back to their own countries. This would seem to imply a country that is a country of immigrants. What better description is there of America? We are a nation of immigrants from people all over the world. It is the mark of our country that we have a statue of Babylon in New York City harbor that welcomes the immigrants. Israel is told to declare the work of the Lord in Zion when they get there. Once more it is said that God is avenging His temple. He holds Babylon responsible for what the beast does. While the beast is the one who is the source of the abomination of desolation, clearly Babylon has done something which has caused this to happen.

In verse 50 it says, “Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the LORD afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.” There will be a time of affliction for God's people (Christians and possibly Jews) in Babylon at some point, for we know from Revelation that she is drunk on the blood of the saints, but there will be those who escape. Just as God earlier told them through Jeremiah to go to Zion, here they are told to let Jerusalem come to mind as they are fleeing. They are to make their way there.

Isaiah also has much to say about the endtimes. In Isaiah 47, the chapter deals with the destruction of Babylon, which again parallels the other passages that tell of God's wrath and the consequences of it upon Babylon. Chapter 48 deals with Israel and how God is going to refine them in the furnace of affliction. In verse 20 it says, “Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The LORD hath redeemed his servant Jacob.” When the name Jacob is used, it refers to all twelve (or thirteen) tribes, so while they were to go to Zion and declare God's vengeance, now they are to leave Babylon and declare to the whole earth that God is redeeming Israel.

Now again when we read in Revelation 12 that the woman is to flee on the wings of an eagle to the wilderness, and in Revelation 18:4 “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” we can see from knowing the prophecies in the Old Testament that God is not just speaking to Christians to get out of Babylon (America), but He is also telling the Jews and the people of the Ten Lost Tribes, who may not even realize that is who they are, to get out of Babylon. In Jeremiah 50:8 it told some to be as the he goats who go ahead of the flock. As the rapture does not occur until the seventh trumpet judgment at the end of Daniel's 70th week, it is quite likely that some Christians will survive the time of tribulation in Babylon, as they are the ones who will understand from the command in Chapter 18 that they are to leave before Babylon is destroyed. Revelation was written for Christians, but they should also know from Jeremiah that they are to be the he goats who lead Israel out of Babylon and back to Jerusalem, for Israel will not know exactly what is going on, given that they do not know the New Testament and Revelation. I believe it will be the mission of those Christians who escape, to gather Israel and lead her back to Zion or Jerusalem when the time is right. As to exactly when that will be, at this time I could not say. I believe God will make that clear to the people who need to know when they need to know it.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Depart from Me, I Never Knew You

Lately I have been giving a great deal of thought to the verse in Matthew 7:21-23 “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” The reason for my preoccupation with the verse being that I have had the belief of eternal security preached at me a number of times lately. Now I have written on eternal security here http://bibleconundrumsandcontroversy.blogspot.com/2014/05/is-there-or-is-there-not-eternal.html , so I do not see the need to go into the subject in detail when I have already written on it. What I would like to address here is, to whom is Christ speaking when He says that He doesn't 'know” them?

When Christians read this passage, they inevitably point the finger at someone else. They never even remotely consider that this passage might be speaking of them. And you will find this attitude pervades every Christian denomination or cult across the board. Well, the problem is, it applies to someone, so to whom does it apply? Obviously the people in question in the verse believe they are Christians. In fact they think they are good Christians. They believe in God, they believe in Christ, they even have power in using Christ's name. They have prophesied, cast out devils, and done wonderful works by the power of His name. The evidence of these actions would seem to fall under the category of fruits of the spirit, so when we are told that we can judge by looking at the fruits, we find that this is not always the plumb line that we can trust, for clearly people who seem to have had fruits still do not make it into heaven. In fact they are said to be workers of iniquity. This is about as frightening a passage in the Scriptures as one can find. In this passage Christ gives two more evidences that must be considered along with the evidence of works and gifts of the Spirit. The first is that we must do the will of the Father and the second is that we must “know” Christ.

When it comes to fruits and gifts in the name of Christ, one must look to see whether or not it is the Christ of the Bible or some other “christ” whose name is being used. New Age believers believe in a “christ” spirit which can give powers to some of them. The source of the powers though is not the Christ of the Bible, it is a demonic power impersonating Christ. Then there are actual Christian churches who have false prophets and teachers who use the name of Christ, and the people believe they are speaking of the Christ of the Bible, but in reality it is a different Christ. So we must be very careful to see what Christ is being referenced in the name of these works to see the source of the power behind the works. That requires having a thorough working knowledge of the Bible and its teachings, which so few seem to have these days.

The next criteria, that of doing the will of the Father can only be wholly determined by the individual in question. The outward actions of a person can only show so much about a person. We are told that if we love Jesus, we will obey His commandments. Living by the Ten Commandments (not nine, but ten) is a good indicator that a person is walking with God, but it is not a decisive factor, for many can conform in outward appearance (look at the Pharisees) while being inwardly rebellious. We also cannot know what God is asking of that person in which they may be resisting His will. We cannot look at someone else and decide whether or not they are doing the will of the Father, for we are not God and do not know His will for that person nor can we look at that person's heart. We can only look at them and see whether or not it looks as if their life is under His control. For ourselves we have to ask ourselves, are we living in accordance with God's commandments, and do we turn to God for every decision we have to make and try to find out what God's will is, or do we simply make decisions and expect God to go along with our decision? Often it seems hard to know what God wants from us when it comes to decisions in life that are not about sin vs. obedience but simply life choices, for the path may seem murky, or there is more than one path. Making decisions in these situations is most difficult, and often we find ourselves doubting that we have made the right choice. We can only pray and look for peace in our decision, for I have found that peace seems to be the one thing that we can count on to help us make the right choice. There are occasions when we are presented with opportunities which come out of the blue, and the natural reaction is to say that it must be from God, as we were not looking for this opportunity. In such cases we often will jump on that decision thinking we are doing God's will, but that is not always the case. Sometimes Satan will give us a temptation for an opportunity that will improve our lives materialistically and God is waiting to see if we will go for the gold, or take into consideration the cost of that decision in terms of spiritual well-being or the cost in other ways, such as family life. We must always weigh all the costs when determining God's will. There may be sacrifices that are necessary to follow God's will, but they will never be ones that will imperil our spiritual well-being by leading us away from Christ, and should not ruin our relationships with the godly members of our family. I specify “godly” members, as those who hate Christ will hate us if we follow Him, so we should not expect their approval.

The last criteria, and the one I want to dwell a little more on is whether or not Christ “knows” us. There are many ways that the word “know” is used in the Bible. Adam “knew” Eve and they had a son. In this case the “knowing” took the form of physical intimacy. Adam did not have to have intellectual knowledge of Eve to know her in this way. He did not have to know her desires or preferences or facts about her. He knew her carnally. This is the first type of “knowing” someone.

Another way to “know” someone is to have knowledge of the facts of their life - where they were born, grew up, went to school, etc. It is an intellectual knowledge of a person. We can get to know Christ in this way as we read about His life in the Bible. We gain a head or intellectual knowledge about Him and who He was and what He did. It does not necessitate that we love Him. This is a second type of “knowing” someone.

Even further we can “know” someone when we become friends and we spend time with them, getting to know their personalities, how they will react in situations, what their preferences are. This is a more personal knowledge that results from spending time with someone. We feel affection for our friends and we enjoy their companionship when we are with them, but when we aren't, they are not generally present in our minds. We don't dwell upon the thought of them, but when with them, we thoroughly enjoy their company and doing things together with them. We do love them with a brotherly kind of love, but it is not generally all encompassing to our lives. They are a pleasant and enjoyable companion for whom we feel affection and we like spending time with them. We learn to know Christ this way when we initially accept His gift of justification and forgiveness, and study God's Word and see into the heart and mind of Christ as He revealed Himself, and spend time in prayer talking to Him. He is in our hearts and we feel a love for Him, but our thoughts are not always turning to Him. He is a sometimes presence in our lives, when we go to church, when we do devotions, etc. This is a third way of”knowing” someone.

Finally we have the kind of knowledge which is the kind that marriage should result in, but so seldom does. It is the kind of knowledge that embraces the previous three, but goes a step further. It is the kind of knowledge that results when there is a combination of two elements, sacrificial unconditional love, and a constant intimate presence of two individuals together in spirit if not always in person. Their spirits and souls have become one in essence. This is how married people become “one.” They know each other intimately physically, they know each other's personal facts, they know each other's personalities and preferences and enjoy each other's companionship, but even more they have a deep abiding love for each other and know each other's deepest secrets, longings, and even when not physically in each other's presence, they have a constant awareness of the other individual in their mind and heart. They are always thinking of the other person and how what they do will affect that person, for that person's welfare and happiness is paramount to them. They are bonded in body, soul, and spirit, and start conforming to think alike and can even finish each other's sentences, because they have so joined their souls together that they almost think as one. This is what marriage is supposed to be, and hardly ever is. This is the fourth type of “knowing” and is why Christ calls us His Bride, for this is the kind of relationship He wants with us.

In this passage in Matthew the word “knew” is “ginosko” in Greek and can be said to mean “be aware of.” To be aware of something generally indicates that its presence is constantly within our perception. It is this constant awareness of the other person's presence in our minds and hearts that is defined in the type of relationship that one should find in marriage as described above. And to repeat, this is exactly why we are called the Bride of Christ. Our relationship with Christ is not supposed to be just a physical one where we have feelings that get all worked up when we are having an emotional outpouring at a rousing service, or the physical indwelling of the Spirit whom we can let guide us or quench if we do not want to listen to Him. It is not supposed to just be a head knowledge of Christ, who He was, what He did for us, or the facts of the Bible. It is not just supposed to be an affectionate relationship where we do love God to an extent and are familiar with the Bible and know the basics of what is expected of us, and spend Sundays (or Sabbaths) in worship, and may even read a devotional and pray every day to spend some time with God, but when not doing those things, it is "out of sight, out of mind" as far as He goes. Knowing Christ and God the Father has to go further.

Knowing Christ in such a way that He knows us has to be a relationship where you willingly submit and sacrifice self to His will. Christ should be constantly aware of your presence, because you should be constantly aware of His. Your thoughts must be conformed to His thoughts, your love must be as sacrificial and unconditional as His is. You should know God intimately in a physical way when you listen to the Holy Spirit and don't quench His teaching, guidance, chastisement, etc. Christ should be your best friend and you should have an intellectual knowledge of Him as well as enjoying His company as a friend whose companionship brings you joy. You must have all of the kinds of “knowledge” listed above for Christ to “know” you. He must be as aware of you in His life as you are of His in yours. If He is not, then this is probably the scariest passage for a Christian to read, for it does not offer blanket eternal security to all believers. There will be Christians who thought they have known Christ, because they have trusted in their church or a baptism to give them salvation and have thought that they lived their lives for Him (in their estimation) by demonstrating gifts of the Spirit and good works, and who yet have missed the mark. There will be those who have accepted salvation as a free gift as born again believers, who read their Bible, attended church, and have done good works and still they do not know Him, or rather He does not know them, for He has not been the Lord of their lives. They have walked with the world in a carnal Christianity and an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality instead of constant awareness, submission, and holiness. So having Christ “know” you is a serious business. One that more people should consider carefully to decide if they will be among the people He addresses, or if He will know them upon sight.

The question for the reader becomes not one of “Do you know Christ?” , but “Is Christ aware of your presence in His life? Does He know you?”


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Why the Trumpet Judgments are Not God's Wrath Nor the Same as the Vials

A number of people have said to me that the seals, trumpets, and vials in Revelation are all the same thing, but merely from a different point of view. Or at the very least that the trumpets and vials are the same thing, and that I just do not understand. I think I understand that numbering things one through seven means that they come in numerical order. And when one of those numbers contains something, it falls within that number. So for clarity's sake, I am presenting a few verses to clear up this issue as to why they are not only chronological, but that only the vials are God's wrath.

I have already done an article on this subject, found here,
where I compare the seals, trumpets, and vials and show how the content is different so they cannot be the same, but I was reading something that made me realize I had missed the most important verses which prove that the vials alone are God's wrath.

First for a very short recap we look at the seals. Christ opens the seals on the scroll one at a time. This is how you open a sealed scroll, and John tells us that when he says "when he had opened the **th seal," telling us that they were being opened one at a time. So the only thing being opened is a seal and each seal has an event, none of which are the same as the trumpets and vials. Now does Jesus open them out of order? Well it does not say that they have a number written on them. John says that he opens one of them and from that point on he merely calls them in numerical order as Christ opens them, second, third, etc. from John's point of view. So they are opened one at a time and the order has been predetermined and Christ knows what that is.

Revelation 8:1-2, 6-7a,  gives us the first verification that the six seals come before the trumpets. "And when he had opened the seventh seal, (which is the last seal opened in chronological order) there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.  And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets....... And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.  The first angel sounded, and there followed...."

Now clearly it says that when the seventh seal (which comes after the first six) is opened, seven angels which are standing before God are given seven trumpets. And then they prepare to sound them, and what follows in that chapter is that there are six trumpets blown in successive order.  So there is no question that the seals and the trumpets are chronological, whether you look at this from a Hebrew or Gentile point of view (which is the excuse I have been given for them not being chronological, I don't understand how to look at it as a Hebrew). Nor are they simultaneous as John doesn't say they all sound together. He says that the first angel sounds his trumpet and thus and so happens. Then the second angel sounds, and so forth. So again, these are chronological.  To make this even more clear, in Revelation 9:12, John says that the first woe (which is the label he gives to the fifth seal) is past and there are two more to come. Well, there are still two more angels to sound their trumpets, so it is obvious that the two woes are the sixth and seventh trumpets. As they are yet to come and the fifth one is past, obviously these things are not happening simultaneously or even overlapping each other, which some like to say is happening.  Every word of Scripture is there to lead us to truth, so we must not skip over them. The seals are in order, the trumpets are in order, and at the very least, the last three - five through seven - are not overlapping.


At the end of the sixth trumpet John says something that is very pertinent to distinguishing the trumpet judgments from the vials of God's wrath which are contained in the seventh trumpet.  The dictionary defines "judgment" as "a misfortune or calamity viewed as a divine punishment."  "Wrath" on the other hand is defined as "extreme anger."  There is a reason that the trumpets are called judgments and not referred to as God's wrath. God uses judgments or misfortunes and calamities for the purpose of punishment. Punishment is given to try to drive people to repentance. God sent many calamities as punishment on Israel to try to get them to repent of their sins against Him. Whom He loves, He chastens. It is the last resort to try to get someone to repent BEFORE God exacts His vengeance or sends complete destruction on someone. America is under God's judgment right now. We are suffering natural disasters, bad leadership, and all sorts of punishments to try to drive us to our knees in repentance. We are still here. We have not yet been the recipient of God's wrath. That is coming, though. Sodom received wrath, not punishment or judgment. It received God's complete anger and was annihilated. There was no warnings given through punishment to give them time to repent. There is a distinct difference between God's judgment and wrath.

When we look at the end of the sixth trumpet judgment we see these words. Revelation 9:20-21 "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:  Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts." God has sent these judgments as a last resort to drive men to repentance. This was their last chance. If this were God's wrath, there would be no opportunity for repentance. By the time God's wrath is handed out, the time for repentance is long over, and God is just exacting His revenge on an evil world.

Finally we come to the seventh trumpet. Revelation says this in 11:14-19. "The second woe is past; (sixth seal) and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.  And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.  And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,  Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.  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.  And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail."

In the seventh trumpet we find that the last woe has come.  Christ is declared King of the earth, taking Satan's control of earth away from him. The time for the dead to be judged and rewarded (which means that the dead must be resurrected first, then the Bema Seat judgment held) has come. And that God's wrath, the time when He will destroy (not punish, but completely destroy) those who have been destroying the earth, has finally come. And then we see that God's temple is opened, and for the first time John sees the ark of the testament (or covenant) which resides in the heavenly temple.

There is a pause in the narrative of the chronology of the seals, trumpets, and vials at this point to fill in other information, because the time of tribulation and judgment is over and it is time for wrath.  As we know that we are not appointed to wrath, and we are to be resurrected/raptured at the last trump, we should find that at this point there is a rapture somewhere in the narrative, followed by God's wrath which corresponds to the event as described in Rev. 11, before the vials begin, and we find it in Revelation 14:14-20 "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.  And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.  And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.  (resurrection/rapture) And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.  And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.  And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.  And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." (wrath)  This is followed by God's wrath.


Revelation 15:1, 5-8, 16:1 "And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.......And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled......... And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth."

Notice that John saw the temple opened for the first time in Rev. 11, and now in Rev. 15 it continues that narrative as he repeats that the temple of the tabernacle of the (ark) of the testimony has just opened. It has not been closed and reopened, it is simply continuing the previous narrative. The seven angels having the plagues (I believe the angels themselves are the plagues) are handed the vials of God's wrath or anger to unleash their plagues. In Rev. 11 we saw in the condensed statement that God's wrath has come after the last trump, concluding with lightnings, thunderings, earthquakes and hail. And we find the exact same conclusion of God's wrath in Revelation 16:18-21 "And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.  And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.  And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.  And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great." And we know that this is the end of God's wrath, because of the voice on the throne in Revelation 16:17 telling us it is done. "And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done." So we have a beginning of God's wrath at the last trumpet, and the end of it at the last vial.

Clearly Scripture teaches that these things are in chronological order, and that the trumpets are not part of God's wrath, but the last resort attempt to bring some people to repentance. And it does not work, for they do not repent. So God then pours out His wrath and destruction. I am hoping this clears up this erroneous interpretation that so many have on this issue.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Was Balaam Really a Sorcerer or Just a Sinful, Greedy Prophet of God?

I believe that most everyone who has studied the Bible at all knows the story of Balaam's ass. The story is an interesting one, to be sure. For fans of The Chronicles of Narnia, it is fiction come to life. For the most part, almost without exception, it is taught that Balaam was a pagan soothsayer. That teaching always bothered me, for I did not read it that way, so I decided to look at everything we are told about Balaam to see if that is true.

First of all, those who teach that Balaam was a pagan prophet are under the impression that there could only be a true prophet among Israel, for they were the chosen people. The theory being that everybody in the world except Israel were pagans. But is that true?  Abraham lived in a pagan culture when he was called, yet God called him. It is said that Job was a contemporary of Abraham. He was not a part of Israel. Yet God said that he was the most righteous man on earth. One has to wonder why then God called Abraham instead of Job. For a certainty, Job was more righteous than Abraham. There was none like him on earth. Melchizedek was a priest of God. Why would there need to be a priest of God, if there were no people worshiping Him? While we are not told about those around the world who were worshiping God, for the story of the Bible is about Jesus, and other than the two mentioned, people did not enter into that story, clearly there were others who believed in the one true God.

To get to the truth about Balaam, we need to read his story first. I have put certain passages in bold that I wish to discuss at the end of each chapter.

"[1] And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho. [2] And Balak the Thof Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. [3] And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. [4] And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. [5] He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: [6] Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. [7] And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak. [8] And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. [9] And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? [10] And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, [11] Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out. [12] And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. [13] And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you. [14] And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us. [15] And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. [16] And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: [17] For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. [18] And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. [19] Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more. [20] And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. [21] And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. [22] And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. [23] And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. [24] But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. [25] And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again. [26] And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. [27] And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. [28] And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? [29] And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. [30] And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay. [31] Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. [32] And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: [33] And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive. [34] And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again. [35] And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.  [36] And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast. [37] And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour? [38] And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak. [39] And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjath-huzoth. [40] And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him. [41] And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people."

The first thing we learn from this chapter is that Balaam is well-known as a prophet. Moreover, he is known as a prophet whose prophecies come true. When the princes of Moab come with the message for Balaam asking him to come curse Israel, his answer is that he will speak to the Lord about it and see what He says. So the first thing we see is that Balaam did not turn to pagan gods to find out his answer, which one would suspect would be the first place he would turn if he were a sorcerer. He turned to the one true God for instructions, as if God were the person he normally turned to for his prophecies. And God came to him and told him that he was not to go, for the Israelites were blessed by God. So we know from this that He was used to talking to the one true God, and his prophecies came true. What is it that God told Israel about a prophet? He gave them criteria to judge them. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 "If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee." So the test of a prophet was to see if what he said came true and lined up with God's commandments. If both those things were met, then he was a true prophet. But if came true and did not line up with God's commandments, it was a test and they were to put him to death.

This is repeated slightly differently a little later in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 "But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him."  What these passages tell us is that there are two criteria by which a prophet is judged. First, does the prophecy come to pass so that it is true, and second, does it line up with God's Word. If both occur, he is a true prophet. In Balaam's case, he was known for prophesying things that came true, and we know in this case, that he most certainly was in line with God's Word, for God was telling him what to say.

Continuing on with the story,  Balaam tells the princes that God has said that he can't go, so he won't. They go back to Balak and he sends them back to Balaam again who tells them that even if the king were to give him all his silver and gold, it wouldn't matter, for he could not do any more or less than what the Lord, his God would allow him to do. Note that Balaam says that God is his God, and that he can't do anything without God's permission. In other words, He knows God, he is used to obeying God and having God tell him what he can and cannot do. This does not sound like a man who worships a pagan god. So Balaam decides to ask God again about going. Now it must be understood that Balaam was being offered a lot of money and honor. It was a serious temptation for him, and he didn't know who these Israelites were. He was hoping for permission to go do something, so that he could get that money.

So Balaam speaks with God again and God tells him that if the men come back, then he has God's permission to go, but he can still only speak what God tells him to say. Now Balaam isn't listening really well, because his mind is apparently on that money, because he does not do as God tells him, He does not wait for the men to come to him. He saddles up his ass and rides out to them. This makes God really angry, so He sends the Angel of the Lord (otherwise known as the pre-incarnate Christ) to stop him. The rest of this part of the story is well-known, as to how the ass keeps trying to walk away from the Angel, and each time Balaam whips it. Finally God opens the mouth of the ass and it talks to Balaam. Now what has always just boggled my mind is that when the ass speaks to Balaam, he merely talks back as if it were an everyday occurrence to have your animal talk to you. The last thing I think I would have done was just carry on a regular conversation, well, that is if threatening your animal can be called a regular conversation. I would have been thinking that I was going crazy. After all, this isn't Narnia. But Balaam and his ass have an enlightening conversation at which point the Angel shows himself to Balaam as well. Now note Balaam's response. He recognizes this Angel as God, just as Abraham recognized Him when he came with the two angels to his tent before Sodom was destroyed, and he realizes that he has sinned against God and confesses it and offers to return home. That is an act of repentance. What pagan seer would say or do that? The Angel tells him to go ahead and go, but he will only speak what the Angel tells him to speak. Note that the Angel is saying that He is the author of the words, yet God earlier had told Balaam that He would be the one to tell Him what to say. So we can see that the Angel of the Lord is indeed Christ pre-incarnate for He is putting Himself in the place of God.

So Balaam goes to Balak and tells him that he should know that Balaam cannot do as Balak wants him to do. He can only speak the words that God tells him to speak.


Num.23

"[1] And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams. [2] And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram. [3] And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he sheweth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place. [4] And God met Balaam: and he said unto him, I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram. [5] And the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak. [6] And he returned unto him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab. [7] And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. [8] How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied? [9] For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. [10] Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! [11] And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether. [12] And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth? [13] And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence. [14] And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar. [15] And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the LORD yonder. [16] And the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus. [17] And when he came to him, behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath the LORD spoken? [18] And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: [19] God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? [20] Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. [21] He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. [22] God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. [23] Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! [24] Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain. [25] And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all. [26] But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do? [27] And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence. [28] And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward Jeshimon. [29] And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams. [30] And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar."

In this chapter we see that Balaam offers sacrifices to God before he meets with Him. God (in the form of the Angel of the Lord) comes and speaks to Balaam and tells him what he must say. In the course of his prophesying, he asks that he be allowed to die the death of the righteous. How on earth would a sorcerer dare ask the one true God to be allowed that? A pagan prophet would not even be in converse with the one true God. The first time, Balaam sees all of the people and of course blesses them.  Balak's response is to say, "What are you doing to me? I brought you here to curse them, not bless them." Balaam again tells him that he cannot do other than what God tells him to do. Then Balak takes him to another place where he can't see all the people and Balaam again offers sacrifices and has a chat with God. God again tells him to bless the people.  Balaam announces that he can't reverse God's decision to bless them. That there is no enchantment or divination against them. Now the words enchantment and divination are the vocabulary that a pagan society would use in relation to prophecies, whether of God or of some pagan deity. And indeed the Hebrew word for enchantment "nachash" merely means to prognosticate or prophesy (verb) or prognostication or prophecy (noun). The word itself does not denote a false prophecy by a pagan seer, but it is merely the word that the pagan society would use for a prophecy whether from God or from someone else. Likewise the word "divination" is in Hebrew " qecem" which means a divine sentence or oracle, which means a message from one who is able to see the future. This message from God through Balaam was a divine sentence or in this case a blessing from God. The words themselves do not have to denote pagan sorcery. They merely mean prophecies and messages. These words are generally used in relation to pagan societies, because generally the person giving the prophecy is a pagan or false prophet. This is not the case here, as we are told that it is the one true God who is giving him these prophecies, so they are not enchantments or divinations in the magical, sorcery sense.  Now Balak take Balaam to Peor where another set of sacrifices are offered, Balak hoping that God will change His mind from this vantage point. Desperation seems to make people stupid at times. So does greed.  It is important to remember that the third time that Balaam blesses Israel it is from Peor. There is a further story about Peor in another passage in the Bible.


Num.24

"[1] And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness. [2] And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him. [3] And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: [4] He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: [5] How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! [6] As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. [7] He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. [8] God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. [9] He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee. [10] And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. [11] Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honour. [12] And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying, [13] If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak? [14] And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days. [15] And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: [16] He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: [17] I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. [18] And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. [19] Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city. [20] And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever. [21] And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock. [22] Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive. [23] And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this! [24] And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever. [25] And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way."

Balaam and Balak are now at Peor. Balaam offers sacrifices as before, but this time he did not seek counsel from God, for he already knew what God wanted said. Now the verse says that he did not go to seek enchantments as he had before, but merely turned his face to Israel to prophesy. When it says he did not go to seek enchantments as he had previously done, it is referring to the two conversations he had already had with God, not that he was not using magical spells as he had done earlier. He hadn't used magical spells earlier. He had asked God what God wanted him to do. Nothing in the Scriptures ever indicates that he used magical incantations in his prophecies. He was known for their accuracy and we know he was familiar with God and sought God's counsel. He was not seeking occult magical spells.  The enchantments referred to here refer to the prophecies that God would give him for Israel. As said above, the word in Hebrew merely means prophecies. It does not denote occult magic. And clearly since it refers back to his conversations with God, where he sought what prophecy he was to give, it is referring to prophecies of God, not occult spells or incantations. So Balaam sets his face to Israel and was filled with the Holy Spirit. I cannot see God filling a pagan soothsayer with the Holy Spirit. Cleary from the beginning Balaam has called God his God, and has said that he can not make any prophecy, but what the Lord gives to him. He is used to meeting with God, and he has a reputation for prophecies that come true, and he recognizes the Angel of the Lord when He appears and confesses and repents his sin. This does not add up to a pagan sorcerer, however it does add up to a prophet of God.

When he blesses Israel yet a third time, Balak is enraged and tells him that he had better run for home. Balaam's response is to basically say, "Look didn't I tell your princes that were you to give me all your silver and gold, I still could not say anything except what the Lord tells me to say?" And then he tells Balak that he's going to tell him what will happen in the latter days. Interestingly this term "latter days" often refers to the end times, which is in our day. Balaam then starts to prophesy again and refers to himself numerous times as a man whose eyes are opened, who has knowledge of the Most High (to have knowledge of God and know him means that Balaam is His prophet), who hears  the word of God, and sees visions of the Almighty. This is no pagan fortuneteller. This is a prophet of God. And this prophet goes on to give one of the most well-known prophecies of Christ. A Star will come out of Jacob and a Sceptre will rise out of Israel and this Star will destroy Moab, and Edom, and other tribes and lands. He will give the land back to Israel and make them valiant, and finally He will have dominion. That prophecy is about Christ and it refers to the ultimate destruction of Moab which does not happen until the Second Coming. There are prophecies about Moab concerning the antichrist, so God considers that Moab is still a nation although it might carry a different name now. These prophecies are not just Messianic prophecies, even though the Star of Jacob prophecy is thought to refer to the first coming of Christ. This prophecy really is talking about the Second Coming. Would God give to a pagan false prophet one of the greatest prophecies about the Messiah? The end of this passage tells us that Balaam left Peor and went home. But as we will shortly see, he didn't just leave without finding a way to get some of that money he wanted so badly.

There are other passages in the Bible that refer to this incident. The first is in Deuternomy 23:4-5 "Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee. Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee."

A few more are the following: Joshua 24:9-10 "Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand."

Nehemiah 13:2 "Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing."

Micah 6:5 "O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD."

Each of these merely tell us that Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel, but God blessed them instead.

The next chapter in Numbers tells us of what happened after Balak tried to have Balaam curse Israel.

Numbers 25:1-18 "And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. [2] And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. [3] And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. [4] And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. [5] And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor. [6] And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. [7] And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; [8] And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. [9] And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. [10] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [11] Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.[12] Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: [13] And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. [14] Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites. [15] And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian. [16] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [17] Vex the Midianites, and smite them: [18] For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor's sake."

This chapter tells us that 24,000 men of Israel had committed whoredom with Midianite women and had worshiped their gods. Because Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron had killed the last of them, he was responsible for the ending of the plague of whoredoms. As a reward for his zealousness for the Lord, God blessed him with the promise of a covenant of peace and a priesthood for him and his descendants. God then tells Moses to kill off the Midianites, because they were a problem with tempting the Israelites to go after false gods.

So Moses does as God tells them, and they go kill the kings of Midian. Balaam is also slain during the onslaught. Joshua 13:22 "Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them."  While this refers to Balaam as a soothsayer, we already have seen that the terminology is due to the society he lived in, but that does not mean that he was a false prophet, for he spoke for the Lord and his record was one of accuracy, which is the mark of a true prophet. The word "soothsayer" is the Hebrew word "qacam" which simply means one who is able to see the future, which Balaam could, due to God giving him that knowledge.

Now we know that Balaam was killed during this time, but we find out why God allowed him to be killed.  Numbers 31:8,16  "And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword...... Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD."

So now we know what happened at Peor when Balaam pronounced his last prophecy and then left Balak.  He told Balak how to corrupt Israel by having them turn against God. Since he knew God, he knew what God's reaction would be to this. And he told them to use the sexual attraction of the women to corrupt the men. In pagan societies, it is not uncommon for sexual activity to be a part of the pagan worship, and the morals are not the same as God's people. These women would entice the men to sexual promiscuity and lead them into worshiping their pagan gods. We know that he did this for the monetary and otherwise rewards, for we are told he did.  2 Peter 2:15"Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;"   Jude 1:11  "Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core."

Peter also gives us the testimony that Balaam was a true prophet of God. He writes in 2 Peter 2:16 "But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet."  Now one might suppose that he simply meant he was a false prophet, but that is not the case in the Greek. There are two words that are used in the New Testament regarding prophets. The first is where we get our word "prophet" for it is the Greek word "prophetes" and means what it means in English - "prophet," but in each case in the New Testament when it is used, it refers to a true prophet of God. When false prophets are referred to in the New Testament the word "pseudoprophetes" is used. And as might be expected from the part of the word "pseudo," which means false, this word is applied to prophets which are not of God. So Peter is telling us that Balaam was a true prophet of God. That he was a greedy prophet who grossly sinned against God is without question.  Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived. He was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but he joined himself to pagan women, just as they did in Peor, and as a consequence, the Holy Spirit left him and God turned against him. Would anyone say that Solomon was not a true servant of God at one time? No, they would not. But his end was not a good one for he committed the same sin as the Israelites had done earlier at Peor. We today are not without sin. We are Christians, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, yet we deal with the same sins they did. Greed, envy, we worship things other than God. It might not be a pagan god, but it doesn't have to be. We might worship a movie star, or a football player, or money, or any number of things. We are simply far more fortunate than Balaam, or Solomon, or Ananias and Sapphira, for God does not strike us dead or punish us as we deserve. We should be careful how we label Balaam, for the proof is there that he was a true prophet of God. There is also proof that he sinned against God and incurred God's wrath. There is a lesson for us there. Especially because this sin is again brought up in Revelation in one of the letters to the churches.

Revelation 2:14 "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication."

There are churches today that are guilty of having joined themselves to the paganism of the world. This is easy to see in many churches today. The first thing that is obvious and comes to mind is the music. It is the world's music, melded to religious words. I use the term religious, because in some cases the lyrics do not really even qualify as glorifying to God. They are self-idolizing and indulgent, speaking of self rather than speaking of God and glorifying Him. Sometimes the lyrics are so nebulous that they  might speak of anybody, much less God.  Many of the doctrines have joined themselves to New Age teachings. Christians are practicing yoga and kinesiology and other New Age practices. The blood of Jesus is something they don't want as a part of their doctrine, and the prosperity gospel is prevalent.  The sin of Balaam is still alive. He died for it, and the church will be punished for it as well. For this particular church Christ promises to come and fight against them with the sword of His mouth.  For the church at Thyatira, who is allowing the false prophetess Jezebel to have them commit the same sins as Balaam had Israel commit, they are told they will be thrown into the great tribulation.

So before we start casting aspersions at Balaam, perhaps we should take a good look at ourselves, for while Balaam suggested the sin to Balak for reward and died for it, the church is guilty of committing the sin of Balaam, just as Israel did, and just as a reminder, Israel died for it too.