Thursday, February 24, 2011

Turmoil in the Mideast and the Book of Daniel

Daniel 11:32 "The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits."

Just finished a short but excellent study of the Book of Daniel- helped immensely by the late pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and his commentary: "Daniel: An Expositional Commentary". Daniel is such an interesting book- there are a few passages that are just plain strange.

Have you noticed recent headlines?
Iranian warships enter Suez Canal...
Federal, state and local debt exceeds size of entire economy...
Deadly quake rocks New Zealand...
Witnesses report bodies in streets (Libya)...
Colossal volcano eruption sends ash plume 2 miles high in Philippines

Anytime you read a book of the Bible that contains apocalyptic visions- you become a little more sensitive to the current movements of nations and events.
I experienced this a lot during a two year study of the Book of Revelation which caused me to see the books of Daniel, Jeremiah, many OT passages, and the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24) as key companions in interpretation and application.

A quick warning, however, is to avoid the temptation is to 'tea-leaf' the passages and apply them exactly to what is happening in the world of current events. A better approach is to cultivate the enduring principles and apply them regardless of how things shake out literally. Any reading of the above passages tell a very clear message.

Here is that clear message: God exists- He is in control- Conflict is evidence for sin and rebellion- there will be ebbs and flows of war and persecution- there will even be periods where it looks like God has lost the day- but there will be a day when time will be ended- it could be VERY soon- so are we prepared to meet the King? Are we an enemy because of independent rebellion or an adopted son? Have we spent a selfish life ignoring and  not thanking the Creator or do we acknowledge His authority and live lives of gratitude? Do we expect to stand before him touting our own righteousness or do we throw ourselves on the mercy of God by clinging to His Son's sacrifice as our only hope of forgiveness? Are we in love with the city of man or do we seek the kingdom of God? Will we incur God's wrath or will we hear the tender sound of a Father's love?

Practical Applications:

1) Regardless of your interpretation you have to get ready now. The signs are all in place ( they have been since the ascension of our Lord) and time is ticking. You can't wait for a warning signal. Your time is now. Simply bend your knee, ask forgiveness and set your heart to follow Him, and ask Jesus for His help and tell Him He is your only hope. There are some who will meet judgment day today just due to their individual life coming to an end.

2) It is likely that living for Christ will get harder as time ticks by. Whatever your circumstance- hard physically, hard socially, hard economically- find a support system to persevere NO MATTER WHAT.
I am so thankful to live in a country where I have the freedom to follow Christ and we have blessings of liberty and relative peace and prosperity- but it is not a guarantee. But we need to be of the mindset that if the bottom fell out tomorrow- we would still follow our King in confidence and joy. Think of it this way- if it got HARD quick, rejoice- the end is that much closer- and the end is sweet!

3) Search the Scriptures and pray so that we will be wise enough to follow our shepherd's voice in times of confusion.

4) Be steadfast and confident- people who know their God never hand ring or whine or collapse in despair. We walk on through in joyful peace!

Want to read some of these passages? (Daniel 11:36-12:4- Matthew 24- Rev. 20 and 21) I firmly believe that the many of these prophetic verses speak of future events (not everyone will agree with this). Part of the confusion is that some events recapitulate in an ever growing circle as types and shadows of the final reality. Be careful about buying into some of the more modern preaching on prophecy- I don't believe ANYONE has it exactly right (especially me). But here are things to read and consider. In all of this- don't get freaked out or afraid- there are beautiful promises to cling to- let's continue to worship, sing, live and hope.....

Goofy Guesses: (This is what I said NOT to do)

Scenario A: There will come out of this recent unrest in the Middle East as very powerful person or nation that will dominate and stabilize the world markets. It is possible that he will subdue radical Muslim elements and be very attractive as a 'secularist'. This individual or nation would be one we should be very wary of.

Scenario B: There is a rapid explosion of militant Islamic outbursts becoming deadly to Christians and Jews. This would launch the great tribulation and would be an unprecedented time of suffering for God's people.

Scenario C: Slow erosion of economic and political influence of the US. This would make it easier to interpret passages in Revelation by America's absence from the world stage.

Scenario D: Christianity explodes as a golden age of gospel expansion comes out of the political and economic unrest. This would be primarily a result of the growing church in China and Africa. The conversion rate is so powerful that even many Jews are converted in the process and would make post-millenial proponents of Rev 20 look good.

Scenario E- All of the above or none of the above

SEE WHAT I MEAN!- Don't draw charts, just take steps of faith today. Be thankful and serve well.

Again- no matter what happens- God is always worth sticking with- and only by His grace can we stick with Him. Let's keep encouraging each other to 'STICK WITH IT' run the race with perseverance.

Not sure what book I will go to next- I have really been enjoying the OT for the past few months.

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