Slide1

Gifts ofthe Magi

   I.      Introduction

I have missed a few weeks due to travel again.  I was fortunate enough that the weekend wasn’t too windy or cold or rainy, so I got out to see a Victorian Festival in Otley UK.  The very first thing I saw was a brass band – I love brass bands, I used to play a brass instrument – so I whipped out my camera.  Just as they began to take a break.  And I said, “But I came all the way from Texas!”  And the leader says, ok, 1 more, just for you, do you have a request?

I thought about this upcoming lesson on the gifts of the magi, and said, “How about, ‘We Three Kings?’”  They mumbled to themselves and said, “I think it’s #90.”  And I said, “Yes, #90.”  As if I knew what page number it was on.

So they gave me this special gift of song that I’d like to share with you:

There.  Wait, there’s more to today’s lesson.

Christmas is approaching, and with it, another chance to reflect on the incredible gift God has given us.  During our studies in this class, we’ve considered the desires of God for man, how man has fallen, how God must punish all sin including the sin that is in our very nature, and how in God’s infinite love, He has given us a free gift to accept His sacrifice for our sins.

Open your bibles to Matthew 2 this morning; last week we read about the birth of Jesus, and today we’ll study the wise men who came to worship Him.   Let’s step through our verses one at a time today and get the full richness of God’s gift.

II.      Matthew 2:1

Matthew 2:1 –

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

 

Did you know there are actually two towns named Bethlehem?  There is a Bethlehem in the tribe of Zabulon that is mentioned in Joshua 19:15, and it’s not the same as the town of Bethlehem in Judea which is located about 6 miles from Jerusalem.

Slide4

When I visited Israel 5 years ago, I didn’t go into Bethlehem, but I did get a chance to photograph it from a distance.  It’s primarily a Palestine town now, and I understand that over the centuries the original site was destroyed and rebuilt several times.  Today, the church doesn’t resemble the humble beginnings of our Lord.    What I find most interesting about the land of Bethlehem is that this land was used for raising sheep.  During Passover, Jews would select the best lambs to offer as a sacrifice at the Temple of Jerusalem.

This was during the time of King Herod – this is Herod the Great or Herod the Ascalonite, the son of Antipater.  It’s interesting to me that he wasn’t completely Jewish, his ancestors were Edomites whose ancestors had converted to Judaism, and Herod was raised as a Jew.  Last week Chris talked about the importance of lineage of Jesus, and how observant Jews study certain rabbis whip can trace their lineage to the tribe of Levi so they can say they came from “good stock.”. Herod did not have such good lineage.

Slide7

He was born around 74 B.C. and through a series of political manipulations with the Romans was appointed King of the Jews around 40 B.C.  His dedication to the Jewish faith was always questioned, so he married a Jewish woman named Mariamne, but Herod already had a wife named Doris and a young son Antipater who were banished after his second marriage.  Herod’s lifestyle was condemned by the observant Jews, but Herod had a habit of executing those who opposed him, including several members of his own family, including his second wife Mariamne.  He ruled Jerusalem with the support of Rome for 37 years, and Jesus was born in the 35th year of Herod’s reign.

After Jesus was born, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem.  There is no evidence there were only three wise men, that’s just part of the song.  The term “magi” was used for several occupations, not all of them considered wise.  They were wizards, enchanters, magicians, sorcerers.  The most likely origination of these wise men were probably from Persia, first appointed by Cyrus, to sing hymns to the gods and to sacrifice to them.  They likely arrived, not a Jesus’ birth, but to account for the long journey from Persia, most scholars agree that they arrived in Jerusalem about 2 years after Jesus’ birth.

Slide8

III.      Matthew 2:2

Matthew 2:1 –

[The Magi] asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

 

Some translations, like the King James, say “for we have seen his star in the east.”  That’s not phrased very well, because it wasn’t the star that was in the east, it was the magi who were from the east.

What was this star?  Some sources say it might have been an angel, but that’s not likely or the scripture would have said it was an angel.  Some are of the opinion it was the light or glory of God which shone about the shepherds, or perhaps a comet which tradition had appeared at the birth or death of some illustrious person.  But I think a star still makes the most sense, a new and unusual miracle from God the Father to mark the birth of His Son.  It fulfils prophecy, such as in Numbers 24:17 which says

there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.

 

The magi would have been very familiar with this prophecy, and journeyed 2 years to arrive at the birth of the new King of the Jews.

Can you imagine the wicked Herod’s reaction when wise men from Persia, following this star, shows up at his palace and asks to see the new king?  Herod must have been furious.  In the next verse, Matthew 2:3, it says –

IV.      Matthew 2:3

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

 

Herod knew he had no legitimate right to be the king of the Jews, and fiercely defended his power, and a threat to Herod’s power also brought fear to Jerusalem for the power struggle that would ensue.  The birth of Christ partially fulfilled the prophecy in Genesis 49:10,

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.

 

Herod was not of the tribe of Judah, so the scepter of the king did not belong to him.

  V.      Matthew 2:4-6

When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

 

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

 

This prophecy is from Micah 5:2, and they’re explaining to Herod that this prophecy has already come true, and that magi are here to pay homage to Him.  Herod likely gathered the priests and rabbis of the Sanhedrin, and in the NIV Herod sounds very nice, he asked them politely where Christ the Messiah would be born.  I think it’s more of a demand; Herod is the chief of the Sanhedrin and Herod wants to know if there’s any validity to this threat.

 

VI.      Matthew 2:7-8

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

 

I don’t think Herod’s being honest here, just sayin’.  Herod meets with the magi privately and interrogates them for intel.  No doubt he did this away from the Sanhedrin, for the Sanhedrin would understand exactly why Herod wants to know the time and place of the birth of Christ.  He would understand that Jesus may be as old as two years old now, given the length of the journey from Persia.

Did I mention earlier that Bethlehem is only about 6 miles away?  Don’t you think it’s odd that Herod know the fulfillment of prophecy is just a short distance, yet he sends nobody with the magi.  Herod certainly didn’t want the Jews to know what the magi already did, that the king of the Jews was born.  The Jews in Herod’s palace were likely to set up the newborn king as the new king of the Jews with the intention of overthrowing Herod.

VII.      Matthew 2:9-10

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

 

To me, it’s interesting that the Jews, though they knew prophecy, did not accompany the magi.  Did the Jews even know the magi had been born?  This passage seems to indicate that the star had reappeared – that “lo” in verse 9 is an expression of surprise and joy.  The magi were gentiles from east of Israel, and no doubt overjoyed to have this star lead them to the child.  The birth of the child is the first noel; the star itself is the first GPS navigation system.

Herod was not overjoyed; we read later in this chapter that the magi didn’t return to Herod has he had commanded, and Herod, furious that the magi didn’t identify the specific child he was looking for, ordered every child in Bethlehem under the age of two to be slaughtered.  The evil of men and the horrors they commit to maintain their so-called grasp of power for a few more years is appalling, but rather than focus on Herod anymore, I want to study the magi as the met and worshipped the king of the Jews for the first time.

VIII.      Matthew 2:11-12, Gifts of the Magi

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

That last line is meaningful to me.  We all meet Jesus, and once we meet Him, we go another way.

The magi provided their gifts to the young baby, wealth of abundance.  When we see Christmas scenes of The Three Wise Men, they’re often shown holding a small decorative container with a gift.  It’s likely, though, that the magi brought substantially more – they certainly wouldn’t travel over a thousand miles just to provide samples.  No, they brought gifts for the King of Kings.  Scholars note that later, when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt, this wealth surely sustained them during their exile.

Slide17

 

Let’s look at these gifts –

  • Gold certainly makes sense as a gift.  Gold is a gift fit for a king, and the magi recognized Christ the newborn as the rightful King of Israel.  Jesus traced His lineage to David and Abraham, just as scripture prophesied.  And Christ certainly was the rightful king of the Jews, but the book of Matthew illustrates these magi as giving the gold to the baby, something the other gospels don’t mention.  It’s as if Matthew wants to make sure we understand, as the magi did, that Jesus was born a king.Slide18
  • Frankincense is an aromatic balm used to make incense, used by priests during sacrifice.   In other words, a gift for a god.  Jesus is not just our king, the Lord of Lords, but he fulfills a unique role in our salvation that only He can fill – He is our High Priest.   Hebrews 2:17 says that Jesus is our merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.  The magi worshipped Jesus as divine while at the same time Herod was trying to destroy Him.  This contrast characterizes much about the life of Jesus.  Some, like the magi, worship Jesus as Lord.  Others, like Herod, seek His destruction.  Which brings us to the third gift.Slide19
  • Myrrh is an odd gift for a baby.  Like frankincense, myrrh is an aromatic resin that is used to prepare bodies for burial.  From the very beginning, for Christ to give up His life was His purpose.  Mathew 20:28 says that His purpose was “to give His life as a ransom for many.”  And in John 12:27, just before Jesus went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I came to this hour.”  Jesus lived His life with an awareness of His purpose – He was born to die. The story of the magi is a central part of the story of Christ’s birth, but the magi presented Jesus with a gift that honored his death.  We celebrate Christ’s birth because of His death.  Were it not for His sacrifice, His birth would have little meaning.Slide20

The Christmas tradition of exchanging gifts probably is influenced by the story of the magi, but the real story of Christmas is not about the gifts of the magi or the gifts we give to one another, but the gift of God’s only son.  When God gave us Jesus, He gave us everything Heaven had to give.  Ephesians 1:3 says that God has blessed us with *every* spiritual blessing in Christ, like a special Christmas package that contains every blessing of God.

There’s a story of a very wealthy man who came from generations of money.  His great-grandfather had made a fortune in trading spices.  His grandfather made money in real estate.  His father made money in smart investing.  And this man continued on the family tradition, and invested in art.  He had art from Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Picasso, Monet, and more.  He had an amazing art collection and kept it all in a gallery on his mansion’s estate.

Slide21.JPG

He met a beautiful woman; they fell in love and were married.  Not long after, the woman got pregnant with their first child, but tragically, she died giving birth to a son.

The father and his son were inseparable.  They spent their days together, playing ball and traveling the world and enjoying every moment.

The son grew up, and before taking over the family business, he thought he’d get some life experience.  He joined the military and was soon shipped off to war.  But he wrote to his father often.  And as each letter arrived, the butler would hand carry it to the father, knowing how eagerly he was waiting to hear from his son.

One day the butler came into the father’s study, holding one of the familiar envelopes.  The father took the letter but instantly noticed something was different.  It was not his son’s familiar handwriting.  The father began to tremble as he read the words, “Dear Sir, we regret to inform you that your son has been killed in the line of duty…” The father fell on his knees sobbing.

For weeks he was overcome with grief.  To celebrate his son, the father commissioned a local artist to paint a portrait of the son.  He hung that portrait right in the middle of the Picassos and the Monets.  It was entitled, “The Son.”  Out of all the priceless works of art, “The Son” was his favorite, and every time he looked at it, he would smile and remember his son.

Slide22

The years went by. The father grew old and passed on.  There were no living heirs, so the estate was to be auctioned.  The day of the auction arrived. Wealthy investors and art collectors from around the world arrived to bid on the art.

The auctioneer opened by announcing that they would begin with the piece entitled, “The Son.”  The name of the artist was unknown, and the restless buyers stirred impatiently as the auctioneer started. “We will start the bidding at $1,000. Can I get $1,000?”  There were no bids.  “Can I get $1000?”  At the back of the crowd, one hand went into the air.  It was the butler.  He was not a wealthy man and could never afford the Picassos or the Rembrandts, but it was this portrait of his master’s son that he wanted.  He had seen the son grow from a little boy into a man and had come to love him as his own.  “I’ll give $1000,” he said.

The auctioneer continued, “Can I get $1,500?”  No hands went up.  “Can I get $1,200? $1,100?”  By now the wealthy buyers were grumbling.  They were waiting for the prized art and wasting time with this worthless portrait. “Going once, going twice…sold!”  The gavel came down. The butler went forward to claim his purchase.

Then the auctioneer announced, “And with that purchase this auction comes to a conclusion. Thank you all for coming out today.”  The art collectors began to shout, “Wait a minute! What about the paintings, the cars, the house, the property? What about the rest of the estate?” The auctioneer explained, “I’m sorry, but there was a very specific instruction in the father’s will regarding the sale of his possessions.  He said that in the auction, we should start by offering “The Son,” and whoever takes The Son – gets everything.”

 

IX.      Conclusion

Romans 8:32 says,

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Christ is the ultimate gift.   In Him, God has given everything else as well.  That baby two thousand years ago, was the treasure of Heaven and God’s gift to mankind.  “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…”

That is the true gift of Christmas.

To God be the glory.

Slide24

Revelation 12, Jesus Defeats Satan

  I.      Introduction

History and prophecy.  God uses both throughout time to display to all creation that He alone is in control.  There is prophecy that tells what God will do, then, when God fulfills His promise, the prophecy becomes history.  And then there is new prophecy.  Some prophecies have already come true; others are yet to come.

Open your bibles to Revelation 12 and this morning we’re going to study both prophecy and history and examine the battle between good and evil, God and Satan, throughout time, beginning thousands of years ago and is ongoing today and is still yet to come.

Ever heard that statement, “Jesus never says He is God?”  While technically accurate, if you’re a student of the bible you know it isn’t true.  Jesus used word specifically to indicate to the Pharisees that Jesus was Lord, and the Pharisees turned him over to Pilate to be crucified for it.  Also, the entire book of Revelation points to the deity of Jesus and His Kingdom and millennial reign.  Revelation doesn’t even try to justify the deity of Jesus with words like, “Jesus is God because…”  No Revelation just states it as fact.

II.      Christmas and Easter, Revelation 12:1-5

Today’s study is intense with symbolism, verse 1 begins with “a great sign appeared in heaven.”  But just because it’s symbolic doesn’t mean it’s hidden from us, or cloaked in mystery.  The passages of Revelation open up to us if we examine the scriptures carefully and try to understand each verse separately, then put them all together to understand the story that is being told.

Slide3

And Revelation is meant to be understood, it is “revealed” so we can understand our place in this world and the parallels in the heavenly realm.  The Greek word for Revelation is Apokalupsis which means to reveal that which was before unknown.  To reveal the things that have been, that are, and are to come.

There is a system to understanding the symbology Revelation.  First, search the immediate verses.  Throughout Revelation, 26 times the interpretation is given in the immediate verses.  If that doesn’t provide the interpretation, then search the Old Testament for the same symbol.  There are 404 verses in Revelation, and 278 of them are explained in the Old Testament.  Most of the symbology refers to Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.  In particular, the visions of Daniel are represented.

The first 5 verses of Revelation 12 are a history lesson from the perspective of heaven.  It’s a story that needs earthly translation, as God says, “His ways are above our ways.”  Let’s read verses 1-5 –

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.  Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.  Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.  She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

Ok, there’s some symbolism here, but it’s relatively easy to figure out.  There are three characters in this symbolic story so far, let’s see if we can figure out who they are –

  • Verse 1: A woman.
  • Verse 3: A dragon.
  • Verse 5: A son.

Let’s take them in reverse order.  The son is a male child who will rule the nations with an iron scepter.  Let’s take a peek at the Old Testament where this phrase is used in Psalm 2.  Psalm 2 laments that the nations conspire against the Lord and the kings and rulers of the band together against the Lord.  The Lord responds by saying in Psalm 2:5-9,

He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.
Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will rule them with an iron scepter,
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Our male child is the Messiah, savior of His people, ruler of nations.  And when Revelation 12:5 says the male child was “caught up unto God,” it’s reminiscent of Acts 1:9, when Jesus ascended into heaven in sight of His apostles.

The second character in our story is a dragon.  And the dragon is the devil because I can skip down to verse 9 where it says the great dragon was called the devil.  I could figure that one out on my own, didn’t need any bible study guides at all.

Slide8

The third character in the story is the woman, and she’s a little harder to figure out.  For years some scholars posited that she was the early Christian church, but that can’t be right.  The woman gives birth to the male child, and the Christian church didn’t give birth to Jesus.  Quite the opposite – Jesus through His sacrifice opened God’s grace to the gentiles and the Christian church was born.

Since the surrounding verses don’t positively identify the woman, let’s see if we can find our clues in the Old Testament.  The woman is described as having the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  Let’s go all the way back to Genesis 37, where Joseph had a dream.  Joseph was the son of Jacob who God renamed Israel, Joseph was Israel’s favorite, and Jacob’s brothers would eventually drop him in a deep well and leave him.  But just before that, Joseph had a dream he told to his family.  Joseph said, “Listen, I had a dream, and in this dream the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”  His father Israel rebuked him, saying, “What is this dream you had?  Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”  In this dream, we understand that the sun is Joseph’s father Israel, the moon is Israel’s wife Leah (Rachel had already died by this time), and the 11 stars are Joseph’s brothers who became eleven tribes of Israel, which Joseph becoming the twelfth tribe.

Slide10

The woman in Revelation 12, then must be Israel.  The twelve stars are the tribes of Israel, and the woman brought forth Jesus, who brought forth His church.  And then we realize Revelation 12:1-5 is the Christmas story as told from the heavenly perspective.

Let’s look at the exact same story from the earthly perspective, told in Matthew 2 and is already very familiar to you.  Jesus is born in Bethlehem.  The Magi from the East, commonly referred to the Three Wise Kings, stop at King Herod’s and discuss the birth of the new King of the Jews.  Herod is so disturbed by this, that his rule may be overthrown, that he orders every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed.  The angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and tells him to take Mary and the baby to Egypt.

Slide12

Jesus was born, this is the Christmas message.  Matthew 2 tells the story from the perspective of the earthly realm, Revelation 12:1-5 tells the same story from the spiritual realm perspective, as Satan tries to prevent the birth of our Savior.  Revelation 12:1-5 tells us a history lesson about Satan’s failed strategy to prevent the birth of the Messiah..

Verse 4, the angelic realm’s perspective of the devil trying to destroy the Messiah before He was born, we have to realize that this isn’t the only time Satan tried to destroy the Messiah.  Throughout the Old Testament, the devil tried many times to prevent the arrival of the Messiah.  Satan is trying a preemptive attack, trying to prevent the arrival of the Messiah and prevent God’s prophecies, because the devil knows he loses the spiritual warfare and Jesus will conquer death.  Satan is a fallen angel that believes he can take the place of God, and he used Herod’s insecurities to kill every baby in Bethlehem, but Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt and escaped.  Before that, the devil tried for millennia to prevent the birth of Jesus.

Before Herod (Matthew 2), Cain killed Abel.  Satan believed since God had accepted Abel’s sacrifice, then the Messianic line would certainly come through Abel (Genesis 4, 1 John 3:2).  God’s plan, though, was through the lineage of Abel’s  younger brother Seth.  Then, in Exodus 1, Pharaoh tried to drown all the Jewish babies.  In 2 Chronicles 22, Athaliah tries to destroy all the royal offspring of the house of Judah, but the priest hid Joash in the temple and the Messianic line is preserved.  In the book of Esther, Haman tried to exterminate all the Jews.

Satan is called the prince of this world, and he doesn’t want to give it up.  It’s all he has.  He even tried to tempt Jesus in Matthew 4:5-7 by offering Him the kingdoms of this world.  Jesus didn’t disagree that Satan was the prince of this world.

But the history is past, God is in control, and the Messiah, our Savior is brought into this world.  The devil loses.  How wicked, how dangerous the devil then becomes.  Now the devil needs a new strategy; to destroy Israel.

III.      War in Heaven, Revelation 12:6-12

God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that in him, all the nations of the world will be blessed.  Israel is the only nation that God started directly and has a covenant with God.  God will bless Israel, and Israel will bless the world, that’s God’s plan.  Israel has already blessed us.  Israel has provided scripture – all the authors of the bible with the possible exception of Luke were Jewish.  It says in Romans 3:2 that the Jews were entrusted with the very words of God.  The Jews gave us a Savior.  Did you know Jesus wasn’t Baptist?  No, He was a Jew.  And it says in Isaiah 2:2-3 that the Kingdom in the future would be headquartered in Jerusalem.

Slide13

So just like Revelation 12:1-5 is Satan’s past failed strategy, Revelation 12:6-17 is Satan’s present and future strategy, also failed.  Satan is trying to do a preemptive strike to destroy the nation of Israel to prevent the coming of the kingdom.

Satan knows that the kingdom is coming to the earth through Israel.  He is trying to destroy Israel like he once tried to destroy the messiah.  Verse 6 is set in the future to the 2nd half of the Tribulation.  It says,

The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

To understand the symbology, the woman is Israel, as we’ve studied.  The wilderness most scholars believe to be the city of Petra, in the wilderness, to be taken care of my God.  And 1,260 days means… 1, 260 days.

Slide15

The study of eschatology is the theology of the end times for mankind and the word.  We’re not going to get into the various comparisons, other than to note that not all scholars agree on how the future unfolds.  In the eschatology of a pre-Tribulation worldview, first comes the Rapture where believers meet Jesus in the air according to the 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. Then begins seven years of Tribulation as God pours out His wrath, and Jesus comes to establish 1000 years of the millennial kingdom on earth.

Slide16

At the midpoint of the seven years of Tribulation, there is a blasphemous desecration of the temple in Jerusalem, and Jesus tells the Jews in Matthew 24:15 that they are to flee to the mountains.  And this is where we find ourselves in Revelation 12:6 as the woman flees to the desert for 1260 days, which is 3 and 1/2 years.  We are looking at these verses that describe the spiritual war from the angelic realm.

Revelation 12:7-12,

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.  The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”

Satan is furious.  Christ is coming, the Lion of Judah, and bringing the Kingdom of God.  Up to this point, Satan believes he can still thwart God.  Satan has access to God’s throne room – remember in Job 1 where God and Satan have a discussion about Job’s future?  Satan is in God’s throne room, not to worship as other heavenly beings do, but to accuse.  In fact, this verse says Satan accuses us before our God day and night.  We should be careful we ourselves do not become accusers.  The side doing the accusations has an ally that we should want nothing to do with.

But now, halfway through the Tribulation, Satan is thrown down from heaven, permanently.

IV.      War on Earth, Revelation 12:13-17

Then we look at verse 13, and Satan is losing the war.  He has already failed in the past when he was unable to prevent the coming of the Messiah, then he loses access to the heavenly throne room as he is thrown down, and here in the future, furious, Satan pursues Israel in earnest because he knows he only has 3 1/2 years to prevent God’s kingdom on earth.  And just like God rescued the Messianic line from Satan’s plans, now God rescues the woman Israel.

Verse 13-17,

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.  The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.  Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.  But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.  Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

The most difficult part of Revelation 12 for me to figure out was “time, times, and half a time.”  Sounds like a math problem, and I’m an engineer, I should be able to figure this out.  It’s just a weird way of saying 3 1/2 years or 1260 days.  “Time” is “1 year,” “times” is “2 years” and then add “half a time” for a total of 3 1/2 years.

Satan’s final efforts to destroy Israel will also fail.  Notice Israel is given “the two wings of a great eagle.”  This symbology comes from Exodus 19:4, when God protected Israel from Pharaoh.  God tells Moses to say to the people of Israel, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”  The image of being carried on eagles’ wings shows God’s protection during persecution, carried safely out of harm’s way.  This is God’s divine protection.

Slide21

Also, a favorite verse is Isaiah 40:31, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Some scholars have tried to interpret the eagles’ wings as being protected by the USA who has the bald eagle as our emblem.  I’d like to say we will continue to protect Israel, but sadly, that’s not to be the case.  The USA, too, will one day persecute Israel.  Indeed, just in the last month the USA struck a deal with Iran so that Iran will have nuclear technology.  Iran then chants, “Death to America” and pledges to wipe Israel off of the map with nuclear weapon technology provided by the USA.

Wiping Israel off the map, though, would actually be an improvement, though, because the official world map from Iran doesn’t even show Israel.  I guess that means they will put Israel on the map first, then wipe Israel off.  Psalm 83:4 sounds exactly like something the leader or Iran might say.

“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

Here is a map of the Middle East showing the Muslim countries, with Israel at the center.  They say there will be peace in the Middle East if Israel just gives up a little more territory.  Here’s what Benjamin Netanyahu says about the Middle East peace process:

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel.”

Slide23

Satan been trying throughout the ages to destroy Israel.  Perhaps he thought for a while he succeeded – the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70AD and the Jewish diaspora were scattered throughout the earth.  Even without a country, the Jewish people and culture survived, so Hitler and his Nazis destroyed 6 million of them in World War II.  And still Satan was unsuccessful, and when the United Nations reestablished Israel as a nation in 1948 after nearly 1900 years without a country, Satan realized his plan was failing again.

One cannot underestimate how furious Satan is.  Look at some of the words used to describe Satan’s emotions:  Verse 12, “filled with fury,” verse 13, “persecuted.”  Verse 15, “sweep away,” Verse 17 “war” and “enraged.”    God’s divine protection is in place, though.  In fact, the word for “persecuted” in verse 13 is the exact same Greek word that is used on Jesus’ sermon on the mount when He says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted.”

Satan knows scripture, and he knows how badly things end for him.  But he believes he can replace God, and there is no end of his deceptions and lies in order to thwart God’s will.  1 Peter 8 says that your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  And if you think the deceptions and lies and accusations he uses against Christians are tormenting, it pales when measured against Satan’s fury against Israel.

Slide24

See, God’s plan is to bless Israel, and Israel will bless the nations.  Satan’s plan is not.  I believe antisemitism, and hatred of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is driven by Satan himself.  The desire to wipe out Israel is our earthly demonstration of the war in heaven and is rooted in the angelic conflict of good versus evil.

Jerusalem will be at the center of the Kingdom of God and of His Christ according to Zechariah 14:17 and several other verses.  Satan hates this.  Once the kingdom comes, his kingdom of this world is permanently ended, he is permanently bound and thrown into the lake of fire.

  V.      Conclusion

Be ever careful and vigilant to stay on the side of good.  Nobody is immune from Satan’s lies and deceits.  We have a God of love and forgiveness and grace, and all hatred is against His will, but antisemitism is especially evil and comes from the devil.  Satan has an evil plan for this hatred of Israel.

This battle in heaven with the battle on earth that mirrors it is widely perceived as a struggle between good and evil.  There are wars and famine and death in this world that may seem evil is winning, but it’s not.  Sata is dangerous, but Satan also is defeated.  The battle isn’t even close.  Jesus wins overwhelmingly.

To God be the glory.

Pink and Green

First, some background about the way I select my clothes in the morning. I generally put the freshly laundered clothes on the left side of the closet, and select clothes to wear from the right side. I suspect women select their clothes based on mood, impression, temperature, moon phase, and other factors I can’t deduce, but I’m a simple, partially colorblind engineer that needs a system so I don’t wear the same thing every day.

I select my pants first because there are fewer pants. I’ll then have a wider selection of shirts to choose from, whereas choosing a shirt first may force me to wear the same pants (black slacks) multiple days in a row. Once I have the pants, I choose a shirt that matches. Maybe. See, I’m a partially colorblind engineer, and I’m not always sure of the colors I’m choosing, nor whether the combination actually matches.

This morning, I selected a pair of slacks that are not brown. I know this because I wore these pants for a few years with brown shoes and a brown belt before my sweet wife, who fortunately is asleep when I’m dressed and leaving the house and not subject to my wardrobe infliction, noticed my combination and informed me the pants were actually green.

At least, I think it was these pants. It might have been a different pair she was referring to, but none of the other pants look brown to me. So I think I’ve selected green slacks.

Then the trick is to select a shirt that goes with the pants. I’m not really sure what goes with green. When I wear blue slacks, I know blue shirts go with them, unless they’re the wrong sort of blue. I don’t know what sort of blue that is, but I know those sorts of blues are in my closet. I don’t have any green shirts. At least, I don’t think I do.

So then the trick is to select a shirt that is least likely to clash with green. I have a pink oxford button down shirt. I know I can wear this shirt with black pants, and I suspect it’s ok to wear it with blue pants. Is it ok to wear it with green pants? What if the green pants are actually brown after all? Brown and pink sounds like a horrid combination, though whether it also looks horrid is beyond my powers of observations.

I elected to wear the pink shirt anyway because 1) it was coming up in the rotation, having journeyed from left to right in the closet, and I was going to wear it in th near future, 2) I don’t know what goes with green, and 3) I’m pretty sure red and green go together in a Christmasy sort of way, pink is basically red but faded, and being February, so has Christmas.

And now you know why I’m wearing pink and green today.

At least, I think I am.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

How to Gain the Christmas Spirit

The best way to give wings to the Christmas Spirit is to give gifts to people who need them. My wife and I exchanged few gifts this year, opting instead to give to charities instead. Instead of giving somebody a trinket they didn’t need, we’d ask them what their favorite charity was. Then we’d give to that charity, to people in need. We hope many lives were brightened this year.

Giving a gift to those in need is precisely what God did for us 2000 years ago. We are, each one of us, people in need. We want mercy on us for the lies and cheats and naughty or evil thoughts we’ve had. Instead, we deserve justice. Instead, we received a gift of forgiveness. It all began when God came down out of heaven with a baby in His arms. Merry Christmas.

Here’s what happens when you give a gift to those who need it. Fair warning; you may need a tissue to wipe away a tear or two. Try cheering for those who need encouragement.

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team’s fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, “Go Tornadoes!” Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

“I never in my life thought I’d hear people cheering for us to hit their kids,” recalls Gainesville’s QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. “I wouldn’t expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!”

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he’d just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That’s because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith’s head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. “Here’s the message I want you to send:” Hogan wrote. “You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.”

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan’s office and asked, “Coach, why are we doing this?”

And Hogan said, “Imagine if you didn’t have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

“I thought maybe they were confused,” said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). “They started yelling ‘DEE-fense!’ when their team had the ball. I said, ‘What? Why they cheerin’ for us?'”

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. “We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games,” says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. “You can see it in their eyes. They’re lookin’ at us like we’re criminals. But these people, they were yellin’ for us! By our names!”

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game’s last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that’s when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. “We had no idea what the kid was going to say,” remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: “Lord, I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say thank You, but I never would’ve known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.”

And it was a good thing everybody’s heads were bowed because they might’ve seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, “You’ll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You’ll never, ever know.”

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they’d never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it’s nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.

Hope.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

How to Kill the Christmas Spirit

The message of Christmas is simple: God loved us, so He sent His son to us. We’re celebrating His birthday.

Ways to celebrate this gift to us are many, and bring peace and joy to us, knowing that God loves us. We can spend time with those we love. We can spend time with those that need love. We can give gifts to show our love.

And then there are horrible ways to honor this gift. Here’s a sample from today’s news:

Focus on the shopping. Shopping is war.

Shopping is war.

The battle is not just among the jostling crowds at the sale bins and cash registers in these pre-Christmas days; it is also between warring factions of our own brains, some economists and neuroscientists say.

Recent studies suggest that each buying decision plays out in the brain as a fight between a pleasure center seeking the bliss of acquisition and an aversion center seeking to avoid the pain of paying.

Waste money on consumerism. With so many needy people around the world, lining up a day before Christmas to overpay for a limited-edition set of sneakers is a complete waste of time and money. Before you spend $2000 trying to get something that moths and rust will destroy, try to imagine how many low-cost sneakers you could buy for the millions of people in this world that have no shoes.

Criticize Santa. Criticize parents for lying to their children instead of nurturing imagination in children.

Vandalize a nativity scene. It’s a sad commentary that churches have to outfit baby Jesus with a GPS to catch petty thieves trying to ruin Christmas for others.

It’s easy to kill the Christmas spirit, but in doing so, you miss the gift that was meant for you.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

I Believe Too

God bless Joellen Murphy for her ministry. Joellen Murphy is putting together a campaign to counter atheist messages at Christmastime.

Atheists in the nation’s capitol have been campaigning to get Americans to doubt God’s existence this Christmas, but one Christian woman is standing up against their efforts.

Joellen Murphy had been praying for a chance to evangelize when she received an email about atheist advertisements showing up on the sides of metro buses in Washington.

God loves you
God loves you

Visit her website at Ibelievetoo.org for complete details.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Christian Carnival CCLIV

I could call this the “Day After Trying to Recover From What Might Have Been a Minor Flu Edition,” but I won’t. Christmas Season and Flu Season accompany each other every year, like Hansel and Gretel, or Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. I had just enough aches and pains to baby myself to prevent a flu… heck, enough of the excuses. Instead of posting the Christian Carnival last night, I took some Nyquil and went to bed at 8pm.

Feeling good today, and ready to roll. And whoa, there are a lot of submissions this week. Here’s the 254th Christian Carnival in reverse submittal order-

Vickie Sloderbeck presents How to Be a Sidetracked Mom posted at Sidetracked Moms. Apparently this takes instruction.
🙂

Jeremy Pierce presents Bob Jones and Race posted at Parableman. A reflection on some Christians’ resistance to Bob Jones University’s repentance on the race issue.

Jody Neufeld presents Wanted: an Available Tool in the Hand of God posted at Jody’s Devotionals. Have you considered the story of the widow who gave her all and what that might mean in your life?

Henry Neufeld presents Stories in a Chronological Context posted at Participatory Bible Study Blog. Sometimes we behave as though the Bible consists of nothing but God’s interventions. Perhaps we ought to consider the time that passes between our favorite stories as well.

A Sower presents Solomon- God’s Greatest Disappointment? posted at A Sower’s Heart. What can we learn from Solomon’s life?

Minister Mamie L. Pack presents Open Confessions posted at The Life I Now Live. A beautiful study of a transparent life.

Tiffany Partin presents Five Bucks and a Piece of Tin Foil posted at Fathom Deep: Sounding the Depths of God. A simple gift, 2 opposite reactions. This is the season to offer help to those who really need it.

A. Lee presents Edvard Munch : the Man behind the Scream ~ Biography posted at e Art Fair .com. What does Munch have to do with Christianity, you might ask. Everything, I’d like to answer. Munch comes from a strictly religious upbringing and this influence has permeated his art.

In a post entitled God’s arrival in Jerusalem, Weekend Fisher traces an Old Testament prophecy of God’s arrival in Jerusalem back to when God’s arrival was first announced: “Prepare the way of the LORD”. These are among the words which Mark uses to open his gospel. WF considers the possibility that Mark considered Jesus to be the LORD spoken of in the prophecy. Read the article at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength.

Vickie Sloderbeck presents Some Thoughts on Why I Homeschool My Children posted at Sidetracked Moms. Good thoughts on the benefits of homeschooling. Yeah, I know it’s a second entry from this blog, but if I can post the carnival a day late, then Vickie can have 2 posts.
🙂

Drew Tatusko presents the great emergence from abundance posted at Notes From Off Center. God’s grace is a gift that extends beyond any contingencies in which the cause and effect of life finds all people. This includes death itself. Because God’s grace is not contingent on what happens in the world in which we live, God must deserve thanks at every point in time and history. A more fitting alternative is to say either that God simply must not exist, or at least the God who gives the gift of grace to all, for all, and forever must not be real.

Allen Scott presents Living in the Land of Denial posted at Journey Across the Sky. Many people live their lives in a state of denial. An altered state of reality you could say. A place where, in their opinion, everything is as it should be, but those around them hold to a different viewpoint.

Mike Weaver presents Will I Ever Finish? posted at COURAGE FOR TODAY. Lessons I have learned in my Christian walk with the Lord, this time about procrastination.

Mike Weaver presents Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue posted at COURAGE FOR TODAY. Lessons I have learned from my Christian walk with the Lord, this time about my grandmother’s Christmas tree.

Richard H. Anderson presents Date of the Crucifixion according to Luke posted at dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos Theophilos.

Raffi Shahinian presents 7 Christian Clichés…Re-appropriated posted at parables of a prodigal world. Bite-sized morsels of Christianity.

Gil presents Matachines posted at gilocafe. Soldiers of the Virgin dance in her honor.

Jennifer in OR presents Christmas Music: Annie Moses Band! posted at Diary of 1. Contemporary and Classical mix of Christmas music.

ChristianPF presents What the Bible says about this economic downturn posted at Christian Personal Finance Blog. A look at what the Bible says about the economy and what we should be doing now.

ChrisB presents A Concordance as a Devotional posted at Homeward Bound. Even the “begats” can teach us something important with just a little work.

MBB presents Christmas Shopping Credit Tips posted at Money Blue Book Blog.

Stephen Miracle presents Christmas Charity: Giving This Holiday Season posted at Inspirational Articles @ AltNoise.net. It might be harder to give this Christmas season, but it gives us the perfect opportunity to help those in need. It will no longer be automated action, but something actually coming from your heart.

FMF presents Free Money Finance: The Fuel to Feed the Fire posted at Free Money Finance. You can turn your financial life around if God is with you.

Rodney Olsen presents The Bishop of Harare posted at RodneyOlsen.net. Christians in Zimbabwe are suffering persecution. What would the church be doing to stand beside our brothers and sisters?

Henry T (Hank) Imler presents Objections to Calvinism Part 8 of 5 posted at Think Wink.. Does the New Testament discuss Limited Atonement?

Henry M Imler presents Seeking One’s Own Glory posted at Theology for the Masses. God’s glory, which is God’s own being, is God’s love.

Tom Fuerst presents Culture, Theology and Gender posted at Theology for the Masses. The traditional role of women in the home and church versus secular feminism.

Johnny and Kate Brooks presents Hey! You’ve got my nose! posted at Pure Christianity. Way back, we all came from the same family.

The 253rd edition from last week, the Advent (Conspiracy) Edition CCLIII, can be found at “Parables of a Prodigal World.”
http://www.parablesofaprodigalworld.com/2008/12/christian-carnival-ccliii-advent.html
You know you’re itching to submit an article. You can do so with the Christian Carnival Submission form http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_1551.html

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]