Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Four Women of Revelation

Our church is sending a mission team to Peru next week. They will distribute items and tracts to the homeless, work in an orphanage, and street witness. (Prayers please?)

Because the country is heavily Catholic, I was asked to put together some lists of verses and other material to use in witnessing to Catholics to give to the team leader in order to help them understand the keys to witnessing to lost Catholic people. As I was studying about the origin of the Mary worship, and the plethora of art and statuary depicting her as the queen of heaven with 12 stars encircling her head, I re-read Revelation 12.

Gotquestions.org offers an introductory paragraph regarding this highly symbolic yet also highly literal book. It, along with Genesis, are two of my favorite books of the bible.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to John by God “to show his servants what must soon take place.” This book is filled with mysteries about things to come. It is the final warning that the world will surely end and judgment will be certain. It gives us a tiny glimpse of heaven and all of the glories awaiting those who keep their robes white. Revelation takes us through the great tribulation with all its woes and the final fire that all unbelievers will face for eternity. The book reiterates the fall of Satan and the doom he and his angels are bound for. We are shown the duties of all creatures and angels of heaven and the promises of the saints that will live forever with Jesus in the New Jerusalem. Like John, we find it hard to describe what we read in the book of Revelation.
I have the ESV MacArthur study bible. I read the note for the verse 1-2, the woman with twelve stars. The note was interesting. It said there are four women mentioned in Revelation.

1. Jezebel. This woman represents the pagan church. This isn't the actual queen Jezebel who once actually lived. (1 Kings, 2 Kings). This Jezebel mentioned in Revelation 2:20 was more likely a Jezebel type. She was a woman who actually was living and harming the church at Thyatira, but was called by Jesus "Jezebel." This was not a compliment.

Virgin of Quito: Catholic representation
of the woman clothed with the sun &
having 12 stars being Mary. CC
But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead.

2. Woman clothed with the sun. This woman represents Israel.

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. (Revelation 12:1-2)

MacArthur's note reads:

Not an actual woman, but a symbolic representation of Israel, pictured in the OT as the wife of God. (Isa. 54:5-6; Jer. 3:6-8, 31:32; Ezek. 16:32; Hos 2:16). ... That this woman does not represent the church is clear from the context. 'clothed with the sun, ...moon under her feet...twelve stars...Cf., Gen 37:9-11. Being clothed with the sun speaks of the glory, dignity, and exalted status of Israel, the people of promise who will be saved, and given a kingdom. The picture of the moon under her feet possibly describes God's covenant relationship with Israel, since new moons were associated with worship (1 Chron 23:21; 2 Chron 2:4, 8:13; Ezra 3:5; Ps 81:3. The 12 stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel.
3. The Scarlet Woman. This woman represents the apostate church.

And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast
EPrata photo of the Virgin of Quito
that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
(Revelation 17:3-6).

The bible note says,
Purple and scarlet...the colors of royalty, nobility and wealth. The woman is portrayed as a prostitute who has successfully plied her trade and become extremely wealthy. Adorned...Prostitutes often dress in fine clothes and precious stones to allure their victims. (cf. Prov 7:10). The religious harlot Babylon is no different, adorning herself to lure the nations into her grasp.
4. Wife of the Lamb This woman represents the true church.

[ The New Jerusalem ] Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, (Revelation 21:9-10)

The New Jerusalem takes on the character of its inhabitants, the redeemed.
So you have heard of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse...now you know of the four women of Revelation! :)

Read Revelation. It promises a blessing for those who do! (Revelation 22:7). It also has another promise.

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:12-13)


Further Reading:

Bible Introductions: Revelation

Book of Revelation: Bible Survey

Monday, July 21, 2014

I found an old note with life goals on it. Have they come true?

Wikimedia Commons
I don't write about much that is personal. I feel that people ought to know Jesus, not me. But sometimes a personal post is warranted. I think this one is.

I came to the Lord in January 2004.

At the end of 2004 I sat down to write my goals for the upcoming year. I write a lot but I've never been big on journals. Introspection is not my suit and so journaling is wasted on me. Even re-reading my marine navigation logs and my travel journals, they are filled with data and facts, not what I thought or felt at the time.

So the other month I was cleaning out and re-organizing my bookshelves. I found some old papers. You don't throw out old papers without going through them, there could be something irreplaceable in there.

Imagine my surprise when I saw an index card with a list of annual goals on it. I don't think I'd ever written down goals, I usually just remember them.

When we pray to Jesus we ask for things. "Give us this day our daily bread..." "Forgive us our sins",
Crosses in Gipuzkoa, Hernio, Basque autonomous region. CC
"Lead us not into temptation..." We know He is listening. We know He will fulfill them as long as they are consistent with His will. "Thy will be done." We also know that He answers our prayers in ways we can never have imagined at the time, but in looking back we see that He did it perfectly for who we are or what the situation needed.

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5)

The most obvious example of what I'm trying to say is that we pray for healing for a loved one, and then they die. Jesus has healed them- just not in the way we expected.

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:28)

So in that December I knew that the upcoming year was going to be a big year. I knew huge changes in my life were afoot. I could feel it.

To give a little context, I'd started a weekly newspaper in town in 2001. There was only one paper there at the time and I felt that a more balanced view should be given to the people. Let's just say that their multi-decade monopoly had warped their view and it was seriously detrimental to the townspeople. I'm very committed to Constitutional ideals, good government, and the citizen's democratic responsibility as free individuals enjoying liberty in the greatest nation on earth. I thought my newspaper could exhort, educate, encourage, and inform in the face of these ideals and goals. Apathy is anathema to Democracy.

Here were my goals:

1. Serve the greater good
2. Other newspaper go out of business
3. Sell my newspaper to a good company
4. Place in FL/Lubec
5. Earn $ from creative endeavor
6. Relationship

Looking back, Jesus answered each one.

But none in the way I expected.

The ones He fulfilled most literally were #2 and #3. Indeed the other newspaper went out of business. A larger newspaper absorbed it, "coincidentally" the same week I sold mine. When the job is done, it's done. So #2 and #3 were checked off.

Lubec ME, taken from New Brunswick Canada. EPrata photo
As for #4, finding a home in a more conducive town with the proceeds from selling my business, I'd
intended to move to a more forgiving climate (FL) and/or a place that was God-made for artists, (Lubec ME). I had vacationed in Florida numerous times since I was 18 years old when my father had bought a condo in Palm Beach. As an adult I'd visited Disney World, rented houses in Naples, stayed in hostels, camped, gone on an archaeological expedition to central FL, sailed in it, from it, and around it, motorboated up it; in other words, spent time in Florida in every county and in every vehicle possible.

There was one thing I'd overlooked. I had done all those during the winter months. I'd never been in Florida between April and November. Living that far south would have been a killer for me who hates the heat and humidity. Just when you think you have it all figured out, God knows best (and shows you your flaws in your thinking, too).

Bundled up in blankets in Lubec watching the 4th of July parade!
The same goes for Lubec. I'd spent less time there, discovering the little town at the end of the world (at the tip of a peninsula looking at Canada) late in life. I'd vacationed there in July about 6 or 7 times and driven up for day trips a few more times. The natural beauty is astounding, and the remoteness and sparse population seemed perfect for a hermit like me. But the key word is "July". Once I drove up in October for a weekend with a friend. That's it. The average high temp in Lubec in July is 74 degrees. You can imagine what the rest of the year is like, me who hates the cold AND the dark.

Yes, I have a narrow tolerable range for light and temp. My husband and I made a global search and discovered Quito Ecuador. The weather page for Ecuador's capital says "Over the course of a year, the temperature typically varies from 48°F to 69°F and is rarely below 45°F or above 72°F." The bonus is that there are few flying insects over 5000 feet and Quito is nearly 10,000. So Quito fit my "livable" range for light and temp but there's no air that high. You can't have everything.

God in His wisdom led me to north Georgia. He knew what I needed and this bucolic haven of red dirt roads and a church on every corner was exactly what I needed. I did not need the bustle of Florida, nor the heat. I'd wilt. I did not need the dark of remote Lubec, which is extremely economically depressed. I needed sheep and goats and horses and cows and chickens and pastures and green. I needed a place where the manners were high and the values were in large part aligned with God's. My general theme of #4 was getting at moving to a nicer place, the specifics notwithstanding. God perfectly fulfilled #4, in His timing and in His way.

Quito Ecuador. EPrata photo
As for #5, earning money from a creative endeavor, He fulfilled that too, but in His typical manner, a bit different than I'd imagined. In Georgia, right away in God's grace I found a job working for a daily newspaper writing features and taking photos. I did it for about a year and I discovered that making money from a creative endeavor does two things: increases stress because it's freelance and the $$ are not steady. And second, it takes the fun out of the creative endeavor. God perfectly fulfilled my desire, and in so doing showed me that it wasn't such a great desire anyway. I'd desired the desire, not the reality of it.

What He knew is #5 encapsulated the gist of what I wanted: time to be creative. A life structured in such a way so as to not be exhausted from work and have the time and energy to write, photograph, and craft. What I really needed was a regular schedule, fulfilling work that sustained me self-sufficiently, time off to be creative, and to be with children again. I'd formerly been a classroom teacher and unbeknownst to me, I missed kids in my life. A lot. God knew.

He installed me in the local public school system as a substitute and then shortly after I got a job as a para-professional, AKA teacher's aide. He made it so that I get to work with kids, (fulfilled) have a regular routine, (safety net for an Aspergers), summers off to be creative (life of the mind), with a paycheck that comes year round, (self-sufficient). God is perfect in the way He knows His children and gives them what HE knows they want and need. Check off #5.

Ministering to Prisoners by Michael Sweerts, c. 1649
As far as #1 and #6, serving the greater good and a relationship...as a baby Christian, I had a vague notion of "service". As I looked to the coming year I wanted to activate that, accelerate it, immerse in it. The "greater good" I'd yearned for prior to salvation was crystallized in sanctified service to Jesus in a way that exalts Him and witnesses to fellow man. When I moved to Georgia I joined a church and began ministering through the gifts the Holy Spirit had delivered to me. My work in the school system also serves the greater good, in my opinion, by supporting children educationally and emotionally. Children are near and dear to Jesus.

As far as 'relationship' went, that is the item on my list He fulfilled most metaphorically- but He definitely fulfilled. It is not for me to marry again. I understand that now. (1 Corinthians 7:8). But instead, the relationship I'd wanted became one with Jesus, a relationship I'd never have dreamed would be so fulfilling and wonderful.

As far as making life goals goes, I think that is a good thing to do. I don't believe in 'let go and let God.' That is passive. We are to be active in pursuing holiness and actively pursuing a deepening relationship with our Savior. I also believe it is wise to have life goals, for the near term and the far term. We enroll in higher education to attain a higher employment goal, we plan for retirement, we save money for a house. All those are goals. We have goals because we're human and we need them.

However, if you make a list of goals, don't allow the goal to become the object of your desire, rather, allow Jesus room to move in your goals and fulfill them in ways you'd have never dreamed of. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He has known each of us who are saved since before the foundation of the world, (Ephesians 1:4). He formed us in the womb. (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).

Each of the goals I'd listed was attended to by Jesus, in marvelous and holy ways. Holy because HE instilled them in me, and in my clumsy way I'd written them down in crude generalities, but all the while, He was working in them to show me His providence and His Hand upon me. Jesus is always working (John 5:17).

The concept of Divine Providence is not explicitly stated but IS the theme of the Book of Esther. shows the providential care of one appointed to a life fulfilling in ways a person at the time would never have dreamed of Esther's life goals as a young woman, if she had jotted them down on an index card, were in all likelihood to marry, to be near her uncle Mordecai, to do some good in her sphere, to remain faithful to Yahweh, and to grow in obedience and submission to her husband and her God.
A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament
in the original (1888) printing of the Flammarion engraving.
Notice the wheel within a wheel, the machinery of heaven,
perhaps also known as, Divine Providence
God's name is not mentioned in it, not once. Yet that book

And she did, just not in ways she ever would have thought at the outset.

As a Pharisee, did Saul want to study theology, write and speak great sermons, mentor the brightest minds of his generation, and serve God? He did. Just not in ways that the man who became Apostle Paul ever would have thought at the time.

The Providence of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit were working in my life since the day I was born, and before. It was working all the days of my life.It was the road my feet trod all the way to meeting the resurrected Savior of the Cross, and beyond. Providence is what it means when we recite this verse:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Matthew Henry on the verse:
That is good for the saints which does their souls good. Every providence tends to the spiritual good of those that love God; in breaking them off from sin, bringing them nearer to God, weaning them from the world, and fitting them for heaven. When the saints act out of character, corrections will be employed to bring them back again.
Pulpit Commentary on the verse:
A still further reason for endurance. Not only do these inspired groanings strengthen our hope of deliverance; nay, also we know (whether from God's Word, or inspired conviction, or experience of their effects) that these very trials that seem to hinder us are so overruled as to further the consummation to them that love God.

My hope of deliverance is strengthened when I believe God's word when it says Jesus is working in our life. When I have inspired conviction of the same. And this essay shows my experience with the effects. Our Jesus loves us so much.


Further reading:

What does the Bible say about setting goals?

Should a Christian set goals? 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hannah who loved and Peninnah who thundered

Hannah and Peninnah...two women married to the same man (Elkanah) all living in the same house. This never really goes very well- and in Hannah and Peninnah's case we shall see that it didn't. The Hebrew word tsarah means 'one who vexes' and its synonym is 'a rival wife'.

Polygamy was started by Lamech, son of Methuselah and father to Noah. The world was so corrupt in Genesis 4 that Lamech's two wives, Adah and Zillah I'm sure were a bundle of envies and jealousies too. We know that Rachel was jealous of her sister Leah (Genesis 30:1). Two or more wives for one man at the same time is not God's will.

In Hannah's case we read that indeed Peninnah was torturing Hannah because Hannah had not produced a child. In the days of the Hebrews, it was tantamount to keep the race going and to keep it ethnically pure. Hannah had failed at what women were supposed to do, bear progeny. What Hannah did not know is that God closed her womb. (1 Samuel 1:5). God had a purpose in mind. Anyway, Peninnah had been successful at giving Elkanah an heir, and she never let Hannah forget it.

He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. (1 Samuel 1:2)

Hannah was barren, for the LORD had closed her womb. CC photo

Now see this:

And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. (1 Samuel 1:6-7)

Look at the words provoke, grievously, and irritate. The word for 'irritate' is a denominative verb from raam meaning thunder, or roar). Remember this. Peninnah 'thundered'. It seems there was a lot of sinning on Peninnah's part and it certainly must have been a stress for Hannah to live under those conditions.

It's like, but worse than when you go to Thanksgiving at your mother-in-law's house, and you know your cousin will be there, and she always lobs those loaded barbs at you.

"That's a nice outfit, for the selections available in your size."

"Your daughter seems to be doing well at her piano lessons, though Julliard is obviously out of the question."

"Now that we're moving to our new house, be sure to visit us, it won't be as cramped as when we come to your house."

"It's so nice you're not embarrassed driving a big car in these days of expensive gas."

The Thanksgiving meal seems like it'll go on forever with all the provocations coming out her mouth. All you want to do after ten minutes is throw the gravy at her. Hannah's provocations were worse because they were intentional with malice. Peninnah was loud and proud about her provocations. They struck at Hannah's very womanhood, and raison d'etre of a woman in those days. They cast salt on a wound, for what woman who wants children isn't mournful when she doesn't have them. Peninnah heaping salt on the wound was just insensitive and hard-hearted. Peninnah must have made life very hard for Hannah. This went on every day, "year by year."

Alma-Tadem, Unconscious Rivals 1893

As we see how upset Hannah was-

Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. (1 Samuel 1:7b)
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. (1 Samuel 1:10)

But Hannah had a choice.

--She could succumb to Peninnah's level and lob some barbs back,
--She could become demanding like Rachel did in the face of Leah's fruitful child-bearing,

"When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!" (Genesis 30:1).

Note Jacob's response to Rachel in the next verse, "Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" (Genesis 30:2)

Becoming demanding and angry and petulant only perpetuates anger and strife in the home. Elkanah remained loving and supportive of his wife Hannah. Hannah gave Elkanah no cause to kindle his anger against her.

Elkanah loved Hannah so much. 1 Samuel 1:5 says "But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb."

Elkanah was publicly showing his love for Hannah by giving her the best portion, double, to illustrate to one and all that though she bore no children, he loved her anyway, and loved her best. Would he have loved her if she had succumbed to bitterness and rivalry with Peninnah, trading barbs and making more strife in the home? Hard to say. But Hannah's attitude of obedience the LORD and love for her husband went a long way to maintaining a loving relationship with both her husband and her God.

So Hannah did not succumb to the temptation to rival Peninnah back. Instead, she did what she did,

--seek the LORD,
--remain humble,
--love her husband

Ultimately the LORD rewarded Hannah, not Peninnah. Though Peninnah was given children first, and after a while Hannah was too, Hannah's child became Samuel, the great prophet of God and Judge of Israel.
But Hannah’s patience, self-control and intercession prevailed and she became the mother of Samuel who was “more than a prophet” Source
Hannah's patience, forbearance, loving and submissive attitude is pleasing to God. God heard Hannah's prayer and answered it.

Hannah prayed a beautiful prayer of thanks to the LORD. It is long and sensitive and humble. In verse 10, you note Hannah said the following:

The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:10)

Remember above, Peninnah thundered against her rival, Hannah? Well, all the while God thundered against Peninnah from heaven! Yes, the word 'thunder' in Penninah's verse and in Hannah's thanksgiving verse are the same, raam.
Illuminated manuscript of Elkanah and his two wives, c.1430

Whatever you are going through, God knows, He hears, He sees, and He remembers. He thunders at our rivals in heaven. Our job is to remain submissive to His will, be loving to our family and friends and even our rivals. We should pray like Hannah did. Whether we pray bitterly or we pray joyfully like Hannah did, she prayed honestly. She poured herself out before the LORD and sought Him at all times.

Stay strong! In Hannah's case she was strong in devotion to God. She continued to love her God, her husband, and her life. She was unhappy, but the more she was unhappy, the more she sought God. It's hard to stay loving when you're sad, heartbroken, and bitter. But Hannah remained consistent in her attitude. That's strong.

O, take heart! Your rival will come to naught, our God hears! He thunders against our enemies, He loves His children.

For the director of music. A psalm of David. The king rejoices in your strength, LORD. How great is his joy in the victories you give! (Psalm 21:1)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Every white flag represents a body part"

The facts of the terrible tragedy of the downed Malaysian flight #17, a civilian airliner allegedly destroyed by a Ukrainian/Russian missile, are still coming public. But the cleanup and the investigation has quickly begun. And just as quickly, the Ukrainian rebels have disallowed entry to the area, and are doing all they can to stall and impede.

Nonetheless, here is an ABC photo by Kirit Radia. I saw it on Twitter. He wrote: "Every white flag represents a body part"

It reminds me of a time when, unbelievably, there will be worse tragedies. Ezekiel 39 records it. An alliance of nations will form, including Russia and the Baltics, to come against Israel. Israel will be dwelling peacefully in the land at that future time, and this attack will be a total surprise. (Ezekiel 38:14). Without the LORD'S direct, supernatural intervention, Israel would be obliterated. God does this for the singular purpose of letting the world know He is the LORD. (Ezekiel 38:16 & 23). He will vindicate His holiness before the eyes of those who dwell on the earth.

Ezekiel 39 spends time giving the specifics of the battle and its outcome. All who come against Israel in that day, Russia, Turkey, the Baltics, Armenia, and the rest, like a cloud covering the land, hordes of them, five-sixths of them will be smote.

Fire will be sent, earthquakes will happen, missiles will be duds, and every plane will fall out of the sky. (Ezekiel 39:1-6).

Two hundred and ninety-eight people fell from the sly when Malaysia flight 17 went down. What will it be like when hundreds of planes fall? There will be so many! Like clouds covering the land! It will take seven months of constant cleansing to bury these hordes. And they will start with flags.

Normandy being supplied, Wikipedia historic photo
On that day I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel, the Valley of the Travelers, east of the sea. It will block the travelers, for there Gog and all his multitude will be buried. It will be called the Valley of Hamon-gog. For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. All the people of the land will bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day that I show my glory, declares the Lord God. They will set apart men to travel through the land regularly and bury those travelers remaining on the face of the land, so as to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make their search. And when these travel through the land and anyone sees a human bone, then he shall set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon-gog. (Hamonahe is also the name of the city.) Thus shall they cleanse the land. (Ezekiel 39:11-16).

There will be so many they have to mass bury them in a place whose name translates to "Multitude". Imagine how many flags. Each one represents a soul gone down to Hades. On that day, Hades will swell with souls flooding in.

Normandy invasion aftermath, Wikipedia historic photo
I try to bring the specificity into it regarding the flags so people will KNOW what the Tribulation will be like. Soft and Easy Christians following their Jesus and talking of love refuse to gain biblical knowledge about God's other attributes: His vindication, His wrath, His judgment. It isn't pretty- for those who rebel. It is bloody and awful and destructive. The soft and easy Christians think they will go through the Tribulation (which they will but not because it is a post-tribulation event, but because many of them aren't saved. Matthew 7:21). They think their love for Jesus will float them through. They haven't a clue.

Other Christians, sad to say, are saved but don't spend time looking ahead. They don't study prophecy, for whatever reason. Many pastors weren't taught it in seminary so they don't preach it in church. Other Christians think they are superfluous doctrines, not for edification or practical application to today.

The fact is, the Tribulation will be gross and horrific and bloody and terrifying. The Holy Spirit will not be restraining sin any more! (2 Thessalonians 2:6). Jesus said it will be the worst time there shall ever be, from the beginning of the world to the end, and will ever be again. (Mt 24:21).

 Knowing these things in such detail helps us

--be grateful for His grace in rapturing His Bride before these things happen
--be urgent about pursuing holiness as a result of our gratitude
--witness in word and in deed to the lost, who, unless they repent first, WILL go through it.

In the ABC News photo by Kirit Radia I counted three flags. In the Valley of Hamon Gog, there will be untold thousands, perhaps millions.

I long for the Day when God vindicates His holiness before the world. I mourn that day too, for many will perish. Living with the joy of anticipation and the heartache of certain death for many is bittersweet. It is joy mixed with pain and regret; regret that they didn't do the one thing required: repent of their sins and make Jesus Lord.

Yes it is that simple. Difficult, but simple.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Repent while there is time, Jesus is the way.

Scripture photo: sheep and goats

EPrata photo

"Iraqi Christians flee after Isis issue Mosul ultimatum," Prophecy and Mosul/Nineveh

God said 'Jonah, arise and preach to Nineveh.' (Jonah 1:1-2)

Jonah outside Nineveh's gate. Rembrandt
We know the rest of the story. Initially Jonah refused, and ran in the other direction. He boarded a ship and sailed away. God sent a storm and overboard Jonah went. As Jonah contemplated his options on the way down to the bottom of the sea, he relented and acknowledged the sovereignty of God. He accepted the call to preach repentance to Nineveh. God had appointed a big fish and the fish swallowed Jonah and then spit him up back to where he began. Hoisting his toga, Jonah set off for Nineveh, heeding God's call.

It was 'an exceedingly great city' some three days' travel in breadth. Some historians calculate that as many as 250,000 lived in Nineveh. For several decades it was the largest city in the world. When Jonah preached, all the Ninevites repented, from the king on down to the lowliest peasant. All of them. It surely was a great move of God and a great shower of grace upon the many people of Nineveh.

Nineveh's Adad gate exterior entrance. Wiki CC
God's move was so powerful and so amazing that even till this day Eastern Orthodox churches of the Middle East commemorate the three days Jonah spent inside the fish during the "Fast of Nineveh". There are streets named after Jonah in the Middle East and monuments to him. There are even several places claiming to be his tomb. He is known to Muslims as Nabi Yunus, and Prophet Jonah is mentioned in the Q'uran. Therefore we see that God's move was SO GREAT that the vestigial memory of it rests in the hearts and minds of even the most blinded and spiritually distant from God.

Unfortunately, the Ninevites' repentant attitude was not permanent and Prophet Nahum records Nineveh's end. One hundred years later, they had gone back to their ways. Nahum says that it was a city full of blood, lies, and plunder. God said He would make an utter desolation of the city and He did.

The city was so obliterated by 400BC the city of Nineveh itself had passed into history. Even the very name was forgotten. The city was buried so well it was never re-discovered until 1842.
In 1842, French Consul General at Mosul, Paul-Émile Botta began to search the vast mounds that lay along the opposite bank of the river. The Arabs whom he employed in these excavations, to their great surprise, came upon the ruins of a building at the mound of Khorsabad, which, on further exploration, turned out to be the royal palace of Sargon II, which was largely explored for sculptures and other precious relics. Wikipedia

Today's Nineveh overlaps Mosul. Mosul is in Iraq, or what used to be Iraq, now that the ISIS group has taken over and established "The Islamic State". You might know that the goal of the Caliphate is to have 100% of all residents in it compliant to Allah. If someone is not a Muslim, they must pay jizya, a religious tax to the dhimmi (community). Or convert. Or die.

Nineveh's Mashki gate from the west. Wiki CC
The leaders of ISIS issued an ultimatum recently to that very effect. Before the war in Iraq in 2003, there were about 65,000 Christians living there. That is according to official records. However, spiritually, most of those are not Christians, because they adhere to an Eastern Orthodox religion, which is false. Personally I cannot say that the numbers were so large, but we do know that at out of 65,000 claiming Christianity, least some are true Christians.

Remember, Iraq is also home to Baghdad, AKA Babylon, the first city which Nimrod built and future history's (almost) the last city; a city which will be the prophetic focus of the Tribulation. It has been said that the bible could be subtitled "A Tale of Two Cities: Jerusalem and Babylon." What I'm saying is, the area has a long, loooong spiritual history. Moreover, and future history will dwindle down to events in this exact region.

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq about half the Christians left. After ISIS came, 10,000 more left. Suffice to say that life for a true Christian in this war-torn, spiritually hostile ground zero place would be hard. And this week, it just got harder.

Iraqi Christians flee after Isis issue Mosul ultimatum
Iraqi Christians are fleeing Mosul after Islamist militants threatened to kill them unless they converted to Islam or paid a "protection tax". A statement issued by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) was read out at the city's mosques. It called on Christians to comply by midday on Saturday or face death if they did not leave the northern city. Isis has control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and said last month it was creating an Islamic caliphate. The ultimatum cited a historic contract known as "dhimma," under which non-Muslims in Islamic societies who refuse to convert are offered protection if they pay a fee, called a "jizya". "We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword," the Isis statement said.

This is very similar to the upcoming ultimatum that the antichrist will issue. The antichrist will locate headquarters in Babylon. At the Tribulation, the antichrist will force all to worship him by accepting a mark on their hand or forehead. Or be excluded from the economy and unable to buy or sell, and then to be beheaded. (Revelation 13:16-17).

In addition to the hostility against perceived Christians, the ISIS people also took a sledgehammer to "Jonah's tomb" in Mosul.

Shocking moment ISIS militants take sledgehammers to Mosul tomb of Prophet Jonah
Donning balaclavas and black coats, they swung sledgehammers into the tombs, causing pieces of dust and stone to fly through the air. One of the devastated tombstones belonged to the Prophet Jonah (Younis in Arabic) and was revered by Muslims and Christians alike, according to Iraqi authorities. Speaking of the latest attack, Ninevah official Zuhair Al-Chalabi, told IraqiNews.com: 'The elements of ISIS [have] controlled the mosque of the Prophet Younis in Mosul since they invaded the city.'  
It should be noted that there are also alleged burial sites for Jonah in Hebron, Lebanon, and Galilee in addition to Mosul.

We should:

1. Pray for the true Christians in the Middle East. As Joel Rosenberg calls it, it is "the epicenter" because geologically the epicenter is the point on the earth above the center of the earthquake. It aptly describes Israel, Jerusalem, and the countries surrounding her. Geographically, God considers Israel the center of the world. (Ezekiel 5:5) as Rosenberg explains here. Spiritually, it all comes down to God and His people, and history's last events will be located in Jerusalem and surrounding environs.

From this moment forward, whenever you are reading this, life will only be harder for Christians there. Jews also. Every day will be harder than the day before it.

2. Pray for the rapture. (2 Timothy 4:8). It is spiritually all right to pray for a time of deliverance, in so doing, acknowledging your citizenship (heaven), identifying yourself with the promises of Jesus, and wanting to be where there is no more pain.

3. Be strong in the word. Persevere, and in so doing, being the Light of Hope within us. Let it shine, your patience, calm, and hope will be a balm to those around you.

4. Study scripture and memorize it. Even in America, the time is coming and might already be here when we will need to rely on memory for scripture- as possessing a bible may soon be not-possible. The noose is tightening daily. Apostasy is rising and as John MacArthur said, "Cultural Christianity is dying at warp speed." I'll do another blog post later today about that. Therefore we should be aware of what is happening in the world and in our nations, and in that way we can be responsible to our duties as Christians on behalf of the glory of God.

5. Always shine the glory back to Him, He is the originator of the world, the sustainer of the world, and the King, Lord, and Judge of the world, He deserves all glory and acknowledgement in all we say and do. At the very moment that attitude is becoming more rare, is when we need to display it the most.


Further reading:

Topical Bible: Nineveh