Posts Tagged ‘christian experience’

THE TEN PERIODS OF SMYRNA’S PERSECUTION

 

In Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 Jesus dictated messages to John regarding seven Churches located in what is now Turkey. At the time John was in exile on the Island of Patmos, having been banished there by the Roman emperor Domitian for placing his Christian belief above the worship of the emperor. John’s vision occurred toward the end of the first century, before John was released at Domitian’s death in A.D. 96.

These Churches are, in the sequence that Jesus presented them, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The messages generally followed the same seven elements: Church name, the name Jesus chose for Himself in addressing them, a commendation, a concern over a matter that needed correction, an exhortation, a promise to the overcomer, and a closing statement. The closing statement was identical for all seven Churches: He that hath an ear, listen. Two Churches were singled out for having no commendation: Sardis and Laodicea; another two Churches were singled out for having no concern: Smyrna and Philadelphia.

These seven Churches are variously identified as seven Churches representative of Christianity at the time that Jesus delivered the message, as well as Churches that typified the prevailing character of the Church over seven sequential eras of Christianity, and Churches representative of Christianity over the entire Christian era from the first Pentecost to the Second Coming of Christ. In actuality, the views are not mutually exclusive; they all have some validity. Corresponding to the sequential view, Christian theologians have associated an identification and time period for each Church, as follows:

Ephesus: Apostolic, first through fourth centuries

Smyrna: Persecuted, first through fourth centuries

Pergamos: Heretical, first through fourth centuries

Thyratira: Post-Constantine, fifth through ninth centuries

Sardis: Medieval, tenth through sixteenth centuries

Philadelphia: Missionary, sixteenth through nineteenth centuries

Laodicea: End-Time, twentieth century to the return of Jesus Christ to earth

The specific message given to Smyrna is presented in Revelation 2:8-11:

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things say the first and the last, who was dead, and is alive. I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of them who say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things that you shall suffer. Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried, and you shall have tribulation ten days; be you faithful to death, and I will give you a crown of life. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death.”

Over the years many Christians have wondered what Jesus meant by the ten days of persecution. I favor the opinion given by John Foxe in Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World. During the time interval ranging from A.D. 64 under the reign of Nero to A.D. 313 under Diocletian, Foxe in Chapters 1 and 2 of his work identified ten separate periods when persecution was particularly violent and widespread, typically a result of the Christian refusal to worship the Roman emperor as god. During these and subsequent persecutions, Christians remained nonviolent, holding fast to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, particularly His Word in Matthew 5:43-48 regarding the treatment of enemies:

“You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy; but I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you. That you may be the children of your Father, who is in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love them who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors the same? And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? Do not even the heathen so? Be you, therefore, perfect, even as your Father, who is in heaven, is perfect.”

In fact, as a rule Christians under persecution have, in the spirit of Titus 3:1, generally attempted to follow the dictates of the governments of which they have been subjects. It only has been under a direct conflict of loyalty between God and the government that Christians have practiced civil disobedience. An example of that is given in Acts 5:26-29:

“Then went the captain with the officers, and brought [the apostles] without violence; for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council; and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we strictly command you that you should not teach in [Jesus Christ’s] name? And, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered, and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Persecution typically is not unexpected in the Christian community, except, perhaps, in those Churches having the Laodicean character. Jesus Himself gave Christians plenty of warning about it, typical examples being given in Matthew 5:10-12 and John 15:18-20:

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of this world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”

It is an interesting fact that the persecution of the early Christians didn’t harm the Church in the least, but rather helped it grow. It strengthened those Christians who held fast in its wake and in the scattering of those who fled, it served to propagate the Gospel to lands that otherwise would not have known of Jesus Christ and the salvation that He offered.

A summary of Foxe’s take on the ten “days” of Smyrna’s persecution is presented in the table below.

PERIOD DATES PERSECUTOR COMMENT

1 54-68 Nero Peter and Paul killed

2 95-96 Domitian John Exiled to Patmos

3 104-117 Trajan

4 161-180 Marcus Aurelius Polycarp martyred

5 200-211 Septimus Severus

6 235-237 Maximus

7 249-251 Decius

8 257-260 Valerian

9 270-275 Aurelian

10 303-313 Diocletian worst persecution

After Diocletian’s persecution, Constantine became Emperor of Rome and legitimized Christianity, which led to growing complacence thereafter, a condition that continued to worsen until the Reformation, of which Martin Luther played a major part. The persecutions that occurred during the Middle Ages were largely associated with the Catholic Inquisition. Modern persecutions are primarily the result of the Muslim hatred toward Christians and the attempt of morally weak governments to maintain an uneasy peace between themselves and the Muslim communities within their borders.

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TO WHOM SHALL WE GO? (CONTINUED

TO WHOM SHALL WE GO? (CONTINUED)

This post is a continuation of my previous post, in which I gave one of three reasons for my faith in response to another WordPress blogger’s question “How do you keep God in your life?” The question was raised after the blogger noted how many people have left their Churches and their faith behind.

The first reason for my maintaining my faith in God was what I called the direct and obvious intervention of God to get me out of jams. I covered that in my previous posting.

The second reason for my faith is the supernatural character of Scripture, including its amazing consistency and prophetic accuracy. Understanding this feature takes more than a superficial glance at the Bible (I’m sure you’re well beyond that), and explaining it fully would be beyond the scope of this posting. I have posted many articles on this topic, and have addressed it in my book writings as well. For a more detailed development I’ll simply point to the appendices in my book Marching to a Worthy Drummer, and particularly to Appendix 4: The Inerrancy of Scripture. Here I’ll highlight a few basic reasons and some Biblical zingers that really grabbed me.

Scripture is a supernaturally beautiful document that identifies itself as inspired and inerrant. Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17, and Peter, in 2 Peter 1:20 and 21, both make that claim. Despite what at least one group of pseudo-intellectuals asserts, the Bible is amazingly self-consistent, including the manner in which the two Testaments support each other.

Time and again, where my first impression was of Scriptural inconsistency, the resolution in favor of consistency gave me a deeper understanding of God. An example of this is the difference in the account of the birth of Jesus between Matthew and Luke. Matthew has Herod so jealous of Jesus that Joseph and Mary had to escape with him into Egypt until the ruler’s death. Luke, in contrast, describes a peaceful setting for Jesus’ birth. The culprit here is the tradition of having the Wise Men come to the manger where Jesus was born. That wasn’t the case, as is obvious, from Matthew’s account of Herod’s slaughtering of children two years and younger, that the Wise Men came to Israel at least a year after Jesus was born. Another tipoff is Matthew’s having the Wise Men come to Jesus’ house rather than the manger in Bethlehem.

The Old Testament description of the Passover (Exodus 12) correlates perfectly with the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself for our salvation. Adding weight to this correlation is the account of Migdal Edar (watchtower of the flock) that places the manger of Jesus’ birth as the very same birthing place for the special lambs to be sacrificed in the nearby Jerusalem temple. That the lambs were wrapped in swaddling clothes at their birth to maintain their ritual perfection adds yet more weight.

In the sixth century B.C., the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9) foretold Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the very day from Artaxerxes Longimanus’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 B.C. (years after Daniel’s death) to His entry on an ass as recorded in Matthew 21. This entry wasn’t unique; it was prefigured by Solomon, who entered Jerusalem as king of Israel on his father David’s donkey (1 Kings 1:33-38 and Zechariah 9:9).

Ezekiel 4:5 and 6, in combination with Leviticus 26:18, foretells the return of Israel to its homeland on May 14, 1948. This was discovered by the late Biblical scholar Grant Jeffrey, who claimed that the ancient prophecy was accurate to the very day; I have personally verified it to the year 1948, to my astonishment.

The third reason for my faith, like the first, is personal, involving the love of God toward me, and my responsive love toward Him. It makes me a bit of a pariah, as the intimacy I feel is related to my belief that the Holy Spirit is feminine. I’ve written much about that in postings and books, and again I point to my book Marching to a Worthy Drummer, which presents the logic behind that belief. In the context of the family-based Godhead supported by a feminine Holy Spirit, I view the future marriage of the Church to Jesus to be both substantive and productive, a re-enactment of the divine union of Father and Holy Spirit.

My Baptist pastor kind of looks at me sideways sometimes, but he’s managed to convince himself that my views aren’t so far outside the box that they represent heresy. In fact, Scripture itself, other than a few masculine pronouns that I suspect were inserted later to replace the feminine ones associated with the Holy Spirit, consistently points to Her femininity. I don’t understand how that escapes the Church in general. It appears that the early Church did indeed understand that. More recently, the Moravian Church of the 1740s, established in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, held to that view during her most successful and productive period.

The bottom line is that with this view I am able not only to maintain my faith, but to love God with the fervor He commands in Matthew 22:35-38, which echoes Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5:

“Then one of them, who was a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, testing Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.”

This kind of love is akin to the fervor with which I love my own wife, Carolyn. It’s a beautiful thing, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

A SPEECH AMERICA NEEDS TO HEAR AGAIN

[Note: this is a rare case where I’ve posted the same article on multiple blog sites.  It’s just too good, and too relevant not to.]  

I’m a packrat. My wife finally convinced me to make it easier on the kids by tossing out all the old papers and memorabilia that’s been accumulating in the garage for several decades.

Do you think the kids will want to read all this when we’re gone?” she asked pointedly. “Nah, I replied. It’ll just go into a black garbage bag, and from there to the dump.”

You’re right. Now I have another question. Do you think that you’ll ever want to read it yourself, particularly when, I’d guess within another five or ten years, you won’t remember your own name?”

I didn’t answer. I just did it. But in going through the odd scraps of paper, I came across a copy I’d retrieved from the Internet of actor Charlton Heston’s 1999 speech as then-president of the National Rifle Association to a group of Harvard Law students. As I reread it, I was moved by how his words came down across the years as more relevant to our own time than to his.

His speech follows:

I remember my son when he was five, explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living.

“’My Daddy,’ he said, ‘pretends to be people.’

There have been quite a few of them. Prophets from the Old and New Testaments, a couple of Christian saints, generals of various nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses, including Michelangelo. If you want the ceiling repainted, I’ll do my best.

It’s just that there always seems to be a lot of different fellows up here. I’m never sure which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess I’m the guy. As I pondered our visit tonight it struck me: if my Creator gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and minds of those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to re-connect you with you own sense of liberty – your own freedom of thought – your own compass for what is right.

Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said of America, ‘We are now engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure’ Those words are true again – I believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that’s about to hijack your birthright to think and say what lives in your heart. I fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you – the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is.

Let me back up a little. About a year ago I became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serve – I serve as a moving target for the media who’ve called me everything from ‘ridiculous’ and ‘duped’ to a’brain-injured, senile, crazy old man.’ I know, I’m pretty old – but I sure Lord ain’t senile.

As I have stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I’ve realized that firearms are not the only issue. No, it’s much, much bigger than that. I’ve come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated.

For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 – long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else’s pride, then called me a racist.

I’ve worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe.

Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.

From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they’re essentially saying, ‘Chuck, how dare you speak your mind like that? You are using language not authorized for public consumption!’ But I am not afraid. If Americans believed in political correctness, we’d still be King George’s boys – subjects bound to the British crown.

In his book The End of Sanity, Martin Gross writes that ‘blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories regularly focused on us from every direction. Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something without a name is undermining the country, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don’t like it.’

Let me read a few examples. At Antioch College in Ohio, young men seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission at each step of the process from kissing to petting to final copulation – all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive. In New Jersey, despite the death of several patients nationwide who had been infected by dentists who had concealed their AIDS, the state commissioner announced that health providers who are HIV-positive need not – need not – tell their patients that they are infected. At William and Mary, students tried to change the name of the school team ‘The Tribe’ because it was supposedly insulting to local Indians, only to learn that the authentic Virginia chiefs truly like the name. In San Francisco, city fathers passed an ordinance protecting the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the job, and for transsexuals to have separate toilet facilities while undergoing sex change surgery. In New York City, kids who don’t speak a word of Spanish have been placed in bilingual classes to learn their three Rs in Spanish solely because their last names sound Hispanic. At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands died at Gettysburg opposing slavery, the president of that college officially set up segregated dormitory space for black students.

Yeah, I know – that’s out of bounds now. Dr. King said ‘negroes’. Jimmy Baldwin and most of us on the march said ‘black’. But it’s a no-no now. For me, hyphenated identities are awkward – particularly ‘Native-American’. I’m a native American, for God’s sake. I also happen to be a blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou Sioux. On my wife’s side, my grandson is a thirteenth generation native American – with the capital letter on ‘American’. Finally, just last month . . . David Howard, head of the Washington D.C. Office of Public Advocate, used the word ‘niggardly’ while talking to colleagues about budgetary matters. Of course, ‘niggardly’ means stingy or scanty. But within days Howard was forced to publicly apologize and resign. As columnist Tony Snow wrote: ‘David Howard got fired because some people in public employ were morons who (a) didn’t know the meaning of ‘niggardly’, (b) didn’t know how to use a dictionary to discover the meaning, and (c) actually demanded that he apologize for their ignorance.’

What does all this mean? It means that telling us what to think has evolved into telling us what to say, so telling us what to do can’t be far behind. Before you claim to be a champion of free thought, tell me: why did political correctness originate on America’s campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate it? Why do you, who’re supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their suppression? Let’s be honest. Who here thinks your professors can say what they really believe?

That scares me to death. It should scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of reason. You are the best and the brightest. You, here in the fertile cradle of American academia, here in the castle of learning on the Charles River, you are the cream. But I submit that you, and your counterparts across the land, are the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge. And as long as you validate that and abide by it, you are – by your grandfathers’ standards – cowards.

Here’s another example. Right now at more than one major university, Second Amendment scholars are researchers are being told to shut up about their findings or they’ll lose their jobs. Why? Because their research findings would undermine big-city mayors’ pending lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from firearm manufacturers. I don’t care what you think about guns. But if you are not shocked at that, I am shocked at you. Who will guard the raw material of unfettered ideas, if not you? Democracy is dialogue! Who will defend the core value of academia, if you supposed soldiers of free thought and expression lay down your arms and plead ‘Don’t shoot me.’

If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist. If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you sexist. If you think critically about a denomination, it does not make you anti-religion. If you accept but don’t celebrate homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe. Don’t let America’s universities continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism.

But what can you do? How can anyone prevail against such pervasive social subjugation? The answer’s been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people. You simply – disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely. But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don’t. We disobey social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom.

I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr. King, who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau, and Jesus, and every other great man who led those in the right against those with the might. Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship with that disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that protested a war in Viet Nam. In that same spirit, I am asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives and onerous laws that weaken personal freedom.

But be careful – it hurts. Disobedience demands that you put yourself at risk. Dr. King stood on lots of balconies. You must be willing to be humiliated – to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma. You must be willing to experience discomfort. I’m not complaining, but my own decades of social activism have left their mark on me.

Let me tell you a story. A few years back I heard about a rapper named Ice-T who was selling a CD called ‘Cop Killer’ celebrating ambushing and murdering police officers. It was being marketed by none other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the world. Police across the country were outraged. Rigthfully so – at least one had been murdered. But Time/Warner was stonewalling because the CD was a cash cow for them, and the media were tiptoeing around it because the rapper was black. I heard Time/Warner had a stockholders meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at the time, so I decided to attend. What I did there was against the advice of my family and colleagues. I asked for the floor. To a hushed room of a thousand average American stockholders, I simply read the full lyrics of ‘Cop Killer’ – every vicious, vulgar, instructional word.

“’I GOT MY 12 GUAGE SAWED OFF I GOT MY HEADLIGHTS TURNED OFF I’M ABOUT TO BUST SOME SHOTS OFF I’M ABOUT TO DUST SOME COPS OFF. . .’ It got worse, a lot worse. I won’t read the rest of it to you. But trust me, the room was a sea of shocked, frozen, blanched faces. The Time/Warner executives squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. They hated me for that. Then I delivered another volley of sick lyric brimming with racist filth, where Ice-T fantasizes about sodomizing two 12-year-old nieces of Al and Tipper Gore. ‘SHE PUSHED HER BUTT AGAINST MY . . .’ Well, I won’t do to you here what I did to them. Let’s just say I left the room in echoing silence. When I read the lyrics to the waiting press corps, one of them said ‘We can’t print that.’ ‘I know,’ I replied, ‘but Time/Warner’s selling it.’

Two months later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T’s contract. I’ll never be offered another film by Warners, or get a good review from Time magazine. But disobedience means you must be willing to act, not just talk. When a mugger sues his elderly victim for defending herself, jam the switchboard of the district attorney’s office. When your university is pressured to lower standards until eighty percent of the students graduate with honors, chock the halls of the board of regents. When and eight-year-old boy pecks a girl’s cheek on the playground and gets hauled into court for sexual harassment, march on that school and block its doorways. When someone you elected is seduced by political power and betrays you, petition them, oust them, banish them. When Time magazine’s cover portrays millennium nuts as deranged, crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last month, boycott their magazine and the products it advertises.

So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great disobediences of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by God’s grace, built this country.

If Dr. King were here, I think he’d agree. Thank you.”

It is a given that it is ultimately God who emplaces the world leaders. But remember one thing: while the great prophet Daniel submitted to Nebudchadnezzar’s secular lordship over him, he refused to worship him. To that dictate he was willingly disobedient, just as were those Christians who were martyred for refusing to worship Caesar. Charlton Heston’s speech is an excellent reminder that nonviolent disobedience in the face of corrupt and ungodly leadership can be a noble and godly act. A thoroughly appropriate example from Scripture is taken from Acts 4:27-29:

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council; and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we strictly command you that ye should not teach in [Jesus’] name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered, and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”

God apparently approved of this stand, for not long after that incident they were tossed into jail for continuing to speak out about Christ, with the following result as described in Acts 5:19 and 20:

“But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.”

GOD’S RESPONSE TO CONSPIRATORS

 

Previous postings have cautiously asserted that a conspiracy may exist, one with the intent to replace national governments with a multi-region, tightly-interconnected, essentially totalitarian governmental system.

Scripture asserts more boldly that such a conspiracy will certainly exist. God, however, has other plans. These plans involve His own conspiracy. One might be attempted to argue with the term “conspiracy” as it would apply to God, as with God no secrecy is involved. He has laid His plans out quite clearly in Scripture. That open depiction of our future would seem not to qualify as a conspiracy, as the meaning of a conspiracy involves secret knowledge that only the elect are privy to.

But the Bible has been so maligned and generally avoided in our society that it might as well contain secrets to which only an ever-smaller minority has access to. In brief, society shot itself in the foot by making information in the Bible a de facto secret, and thus that information, to all intents and purposes, describes a conspiracy to which only committed Christians have access.

God’s response is previewed in Daniel 2, which is summarized in Daniel 2:44:

“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”

The Book of Revelation gets into details. After a series of awesome judgments of God in which a large percentage of the world’s population is killed through disease and warfare, in Chapter 17 a specific prophecy is pronounced against a harlot, taken by many to be the end-time apostate Church of Laodicea, of which Jesus spoke against in Chapter 3.

“And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come here; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication; and upon her forehead was a name written Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth. And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her, I wondered with great awe.

“And the angel said unto me, Why didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, whichhath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition; and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in gthe book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come, and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet, but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he said unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naket, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the women whom thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”

Given the use of purple garments by Catholic bishops and of scarlet ones by cardinals, many people place this melancholy pronouncement onto the Catholic Church. It need not be the present one, but a future one that may be a chrislam conglomeration consisting of the most watered-down elements of Islam and Christianity. This association might seemingly be strengthened by the identification of seven heads with seven mountains, Rome being called the City of Seven Hills, but note that heads in Scriptural prophecy usually depict rulers rather than geographical features.

Revelation Chapter 18 addresses next the judgment upon and demise of a mysterious Babylon:

And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. 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; for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works; in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her; for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

“And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more. The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and al thyine wood, and all manner of vessels of ivory, and all manner of vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thoushalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches are come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off. And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying What city is like unto this great city? And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, in which were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! For in one hour is she made desolate.

“Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus wil violence shall that great city, Babylon, be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the light of a lamp shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee; for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blook of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.”

Some eschatologists claim that Babylon is indeed the Babylon of old, situated in Iraq. That association was most popular under the regime of Saddam Hussein, who had reconstructed that city and vowed to restore it to its former greatness. But the Babylon of Revelation 18 also can be a suggestive reference, the name of some other great community whose characteristics followed those of the original Babylon.

Note the suggestion in Revelation 18:17 that it is a seaport. Mighty as is the River Euphrates, I doubt that it properly meets the description of Babylon as a seaport in Revelation 18. Note also that every time the word fallen is used, it is used twice, and that its destruction occurs in an hour. These items mesh disturbingly well with the events of 911, in which Manhattan’s twin towers, representing the ultimate in commerce, were destroyed, virtually within an hour. Equally disturbing is Manhattan’s long-standing nickname, “Babylon by the sea”. Regardless of its identification, this great center of commerce and corruption is destroyed.

In the very next chapter of Revelation there is rejoicing in heaven over the judgments that have destroyed the kingdoms of mankind, and the war of Armageddon, and the return of Jesus Christ to reign on earth and to marry His wife, the Church.

CONSPIRACY – IMAGINED OR REAL? (CONTINUED)

 

Daniel actually had been describing the composite modern beast of Revelation Thirteen as well as the sequence of world kingdoms which had led up to the modern world. This can be seen even more clearly as the passage in Daniel Seven continues: the modern incarnation of the Persian bear would be Russia, whose icon is indeed the bear, and Germany of the Grecian leopard. Daniel continues, in verse 7, to flesh out the modern world government:

“After this I saw in the night visions, and, behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet; and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before which there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots; and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.”

Daniel’s mention of a “little horn” introduces a probable feature of the coming world government that most eschatologists tend to overlook. The horn is indisputably a leader, but of what? As Bible scholar Daymond Duck proposed, the final world government may well be composed of ten regions, rather than of ten nations. In that context, the “little horn” of Daniel Seven may refer to a nation, a smaller entity than a region, which would place the “little horn” as the president of a nation. One could then speculate that perhaps this president may be a president of the United States, for example, who would, in Daniel’s parlance, pluck up the presidents of the United States, Canada and Mexico to become leader of what would then be the North American Region, a supranational entity composed of those three former nations. In my novel Home, Sweet Heaven, as a matter of fact, I describe just that scenario. This regional leader would then go on to be head of the world government comprised of those ten regions.

Is that why the present government of the United States recently kicked its campaign of gun control back into high gear on the heels of the several recent shooting incidents? Keep in mind that whatever gun control the government might come up with doesn’t apply to those who would wish us harm. Is that why the government insists upon maintaining open borders and is actively bringing in refugees without vetting them? (I think helping refugees is a good idea if it’s handled with American safety in mind. It isn’t – and why is that?) Is that why the government seems to be stirring up the racial pot? If these issues aren’t intentional methods of creating problems that only a repressive government can solve, they’re certainly working toward that end.

The Christian doesn’t have to go as deeply into the weeds as we have just trekked to perceive from the Bible that a world government will become a reality. It’s not a question of whether, but of when. In that sense, virtually all Christians with any interest whatsoever in eschatology could be labeled as conspiracy theorists.

Are there other indications, aside from Scripture, that a conspiracy is underway to integrate nations into a larger governmental system, indications that might move more individuals to perceive that the notion of a conspiracy might be more than a paranoia-fed myth?

One simply has to make a quick glance around at the various problems that exist in our modern world to appreciate that society the world over is encumbered with a number of negative issues, each of which represents a very real threat of turning our present order into a chaotic mess from which we have the possibility of emerging only through a centralized system of government that possesses the will and the strength to impose the harsh measures required to restore order. To enumerate just a few: the terror threat from radicalized Muslims; the terror threat from society’s misfits; the terror threat from rogue nations motivated either by unreasoning hatred or the desire to call forth the Mahdi; the increase in natural disasters, exacerbated by the unwise location of populations, the over-use of available resources, and the decay of infrastructures; environmental pollution leading to disease and degeneracy of living conditions; overcrowding; and loss of survivability due to substandard schooling and training, compounded by growing political corruption.

This partial list can easily be expanded, but one item that probably doesn’t belong on it is global warming, which points to what may be the most important item on the list – the manufactured issue that can only be resolved by a more powerful government. Some may argue that there are very real indicators that global warming is a real and important issue. But even if it is a real issue, it may not be caused by man – off the top of my head I can point to at least one potential source other than man – and the issue may not be permanent or life-threatening. Furthermore, if it is a real issue, the motivation for labeling it as threatening may be a primarily political one.

Given all these potential causes of disaster and chaos, most of which are solvable only by God or a centralized government that has the will and means to impose harsh controls over its subjects, it isn’t difficult to perceive that if a cadre of exceedingly wealthy and powerful individuals exist, and further that if these individuals have no understanding of or faith in God, such people would be more than willing to create such a government.

We do know of the existence of such a cadre of people, and we also know that, like bugs that hide under rocks and logs, they are prone to conducting meetings away from the public spotlight.

Moreover, we can infer from the conscious effort to discredit the notion of our Judeo-Christian God and to remove all references to Him from society that the most powerful of this cadre of individuals has absolutely no truck with this God. Yet further, we have clear evidence that this group already has exercised a heavy-handed influence over society to worsen rather than mitigate our problems. We can see this by observing the atrocious mishandling of our public education systems from kindergarten all the way through college and beyond; the ineffective manner in which terrorism is addressed; the enormous effort expended to propagate godless myths such as macroevolution in the face of scientific findings to the contrary; the attempt to prohibit the chaplains of our armed forces from uttering the name of Jesus Christ; the characterization of Christians as “disturbed malcontents”; and the use of the gay agenda to label portions of Holy Scripture as “hate-inciting”.

Given, then, the numerous paths to disaster that exist in the world today, the cadre of immensely wealthy, powerful and godless individuals that exist as well, and clear evidence that this group is fomenting issues rather than attempting to control them, it is only a matter of common sense, driven by the obvious issues and the equally obvious reluctance to mitigate them, to perceive that a conspiracy to form a totalitarian one-world government is indeed afoot.

Why, in the face of the Bible’s forecast of just such a conspiracy, and the obvious indicators of the same, have we been led to view those who have simply connected the dots as being dangerously removed from reality?

The mere fact that “conspiracy theorists” are commonly thought of as dangerous misfits may actually be the most powerful indicator of its reality. Why else would a common-sense conclusion be labeled as dangerously wrong?

CONSPIRACY – REAL OR IMAGINED?

CONSPIRACY – REAL OR IMAGINED?

The notion has been around for quite a while that a conspiracy might be afoot, wherein a cadre of enormously wealthy and powerful individuals band together to plot a worldwide system of government that will enslave all but a privileged few.

Those who read their Bibles don’t find that to be so hard to believe. It’s right there in the pages of Scripture, particularly in Daniel and Revelation. In Daniel 2, for example, Daniel interprets a dream of King Nebudchadnezzar, the ruler who sacked Jerusalem and took Judah into captivity in the sixth century B.C. This troubling dream involved a metallic image representing the mightiest kingdoms of man on earth, appearing in sequence from the time of Nebudchadnezzar’s dream up until the time that Jesus reigns on earth.

“This is the dream, and we will tell its interpretation before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings; for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heavens hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.

Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall rise another [silver] kingdom inferior to thee, and another kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and, as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided, but there shall be in it of the strength of iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men; but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter; and the dream is certain, and the interpretation of it sure.”

Up to our own point in time, Daniel’s prophetic interpretation of Nebudchadnezzar’s dream has been sure indeed. Nebudchadnezzar’s Babylonian kingdom of gold came and went, as did the silver kingdom of the Persian Empire, and after that the brass kingdom of Alexander the Great. The iron kingdom of the Roman Empire followed the others in its rise and fall. Daniel in Chapter Seven also described these kingdoms in terms of animals: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and the most dreadful beast of all, which had iron teeth. These animals fit well with the features of the first four kingdoms. The Leopard, for example, is fleetfooted, as was Alexander in the speed with which he conquered the known world in the fourth century B.C.

We now await the rise and fall of the final worldwide kingdom of man, Daniel’s kingdom in Chapter Two of iron and clay and in Chapter Seven having ten horns, also known as the kingdom of the antichrist as described in Revelation 13:

“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion; and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as though it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed, and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshiped the dragon who gave power unto the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience of the saints.

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them who dwell on it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast, saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, that had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he hath power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads, and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six.”

This awful ten-horned beast that shall be the final kingdom of man has features that represent a composite of the earlier sequence of kingdoms spoken of in Chapter Seven of Daniel: lion, bear, leopard, and power from a great and terrible dragon. This similarity of features evokes a closer look at that chapter of Daniel. There, in verse 4, the lion is found to possess a feature of startling significance in a modern context.

“The first [beast] was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings; I beheld till its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man; and a man’s heart was given to it.”

The association of England with a lion is a common one; the lion is an iconic fixture of government buildings in that nation. It is also common knowledge that America sprang from English roots. Its first non-indigenous people were English, and it was an English colony before gaining its independence. Given that America’s icon is the eagle, this passage in Daniel, as Bible scholar Irvin Baxter first pointed out, very clearly relates to America. It is wrong, therefore, to assert as many theologians do that America can’t be found in the Bible. There are other Scriptural references to a modern kingdom that match well with America, such as the feckless young lions of Ezekiel 38:13 and the twice-fallen Babylon of Revelation 18. But these associations are more speculative than the eagle of Daniel Seven.

[to be continued]

IS THIS ALL THE CHOICE WE GET?

IS THIS ALL THE CHOICE WE GET?

From the way this election cycle is shaping up, we might be left with the choice of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for our next president of the United States. What kind of choice is that?

Clinton has an extremely shady past. Her Machiavellian acquisition of wealth and power at the expense and lives of others includes the Benghazi debacle that smacks of an unthinkable abandonment and the email scandal that reeks of a felonious placing of self before the interests of our country. But even before those more recent suggestions of malfeasance on a grand scale, she had left in her self-centered wake the Whitewater scandal and the death of associate Vince Foster that evoked a number of unanswered questions that suggest murder rather than the alleged suicide.

[insert excerpts from the Prince-taken from Part 3, Chapter 1 (The Perversion of Truth) Of Family of God]

Truth perverted has the power to enslave us. In the two thousand years since the death of the innocent man who was thrust before Pilate, battles have been fought and countless people have suffered in the struggle to define truth for gain. No one knew this with more clarity than Niccolo Machiavelli, the fifteenth century Florentine who set out in The Prince to describe the means by which an ambitious man might acquire and maintain power over others. It has been recognized for centuries as a handbook on deception and betrayal in which the manipulation of truth is wielded with the objective of obtaining unfair advantage over innocent people. This kind of self-service is the very antithesis of the Judeo-Christian God; it represents a horrifying death of the soul. Below, in his own words (translated by N. H. Thomson), Machiavelli relates a classic instance of the application of duplicity:

In our own times, during the papacy of Alexander VI, Oliverotto of Fermo, who some years before had been left an orphan, and had been brought up by his maternal uncle Giovanni Fogliani, was sent while still a lad to serve under Paolo Vitelli, in the expectation that a thorough training under that commander might qualify him for high rank as a soldier. After the death of Paolo, he served under his brother Vitellozzo, and in a very short time, being of a quick wit, hardy and resolute, he became one of the first soldiers of his company. But thinking it beneath him to serve under others, with the countenance of the Vitelleschi and the connivance of certain citizens of Fermo who preferred the slavery to the freedom of their country, he formed the design to seize on that town.

He accordingly wrote to Giovanni Fogliani that after many years of absence from home, he desired to see him and his native city once more, and to look a little into the condition of his patrimony; and as his one endeavor had been to make himself a name, in order that his fellow-citizens might see that his time had not been mis-spent, he proposed to return honourably attended by a hundred horsemen from among his own friends and followers; and he begged Giovanni graciously to arrange for his reception by the citizens of Fermo with corresponding marks of distinction, as this would be creditable not only to himself, but also to the uncle who had brought him up.

Giovanni accordingly, did not fail in any proper attention to his nephew, but caused him to be splendidly received by his fellow-citizens, and lodged him in his house; where Oliverotto having passed some days, and made the necessary arrangements for carrying out his wickedness, gave a formal banquet, to which he invited his uncle and all the first men of Fermo. When the repast and the other entertainments proper to such an occasion had come to an end, Oliverotto artfully turned the conversation to matters of grave interest, by speaking of the greatness of Pope Alexander and Cesare his son, and of their enterprises; and when Giovanni and the others were replying to what he said, he suddenly rose up, observing that these were matters to be discussed in a more private place, and so withdrew to another chamber; whither his uncle and all the other citizens followed him, and where they had no sooner seated themselves, than soldiers rushing out from places of concealment put Giovanni and all the rest to death.

After this butchery, Oliverotto mounted his horse, rode through the streets, and besieged the chief magistrate in the palace, so that all were constrained by fear to yield obedience and accept a government of which he made himself the head.”

One does not need to look closely to see applications today of the methods of deception set forth by Machiavelli and his disciples. Problems are created by governments for which the only solution is more state control. Information is hidden and compartmentalized in the name of national security. Groups who oppose state-sponsored agendas are isolated through public marginalization.

Opposing Clinton is Donald Trump, whose immense ego and empty-minded bombast suggest a deranged personality far darker than the self-absorbed immaturity of a schoolyard bully. Elevation to the presidency would have a good chance of placing the consequences of his inevitably misguided acts on a destructive level with that of Benito Mussolini, Italy’s fascist dictator who brought his country to its knees in World War II.

[insert writeup on Mussolini]

This poverty of choice was handed to us by an electorate who is unable to distinguish between the ability to act boldly and the ability to act wisely. Mussolini got the Italian trains to run on time, true to his promise.