GOD’S HEART IN THE LAST DAYS
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:6-8)
In PART I, we looked at the chaos that is unfolding and enveloping the entire globe. The world is filled with hate and war and wickedness. Evil has become defined as good. And we wonder: Where is God’s heart in all of this? Has He forgotten us? No! For even in this chaos – and often through this chaos – God’s promises are being fulfilled – especially in the Land of God’s Chosen People, Israel.
PART II – THE SHAME OF GOD’S CHURCH
We serve a many faceted God. His character is reflected in His names. He is the Creator God, Elohay Kedem. He is the God of the Beginning found in Deuteronomy 33:27. God of Justice, Elohay Mishpat, Isaiah 30:18. The God of Forgiveness, Elohay Selichot. He is Jehovah Raphah, The Lord Who Heals You. He is Jehovah Jireh, the Provider God. These are the names all found in Scripture. So by Scripture – and His actions – we can know more of His character. He is the God Who Sustains. And He is the God of History. And prophecy is the same as the present – because He sees the end from the beginning. God exists outside of time, if you can wrap your head around that. “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:10)
But what is God’s counsel? What is God’s heart as we find ourselves on the edge of the Last Days? Well, when we just look at prophecy – at history – we see that God works an incredible calculus to work all things for “the good for those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) You see, all of history is an expression of His will, His purposes, His heart! Think about it! Man operates in free will, making millions of often contradictory decisions. There is no straight line when it comes to the human decision-making process. Yet in all of this, God accomplishes His purposes in our personal lives as well as history. And this is where history and prophecy intersect. Prophecy shows the end game and in the process, prophecy shows God’s heart.
We can see God’s heart right from the beginning. In the Garden – with the perfect life and communion with God, Man rebels. God forgives…and makes a way for restoration. In the days of Babel and Noah, mankind is in full rebellion – and God makes a way. And Man continues to rebel. Even His Chosen People live in rebellion and hard-heartedness. But God just keeps working toward His purposes. He gives the promise. He will provide a Messiah. He establishes the nation of Israel where there is none. Despite their stubbornness, it becomes Israel “my beloved.” (Isaiah 5:1) And Israel rebels….and God chastens, allows them to be taken in captive exile and God brings them back. Times of rebellion are always followed by times of repentance and then restoration. In the fullness of time, God brings forth a Messiah, Yeshua, God’s very Son. When Israel for the most part rejects Him – they are once again scattered – because, as Jesus told them, “you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:44) And in the course of things – through their fall, Gentiles were drawn to the Faith. Here are Paul’s words from Romans 11:11. “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!”
That was God’s prophetic word, given in the 1st Century. Since then the world is witness to how it all played out in history. At Pentecost, the Church starts as a primarily Jewish entity. Then through Paul’s missionary journeys and the scattering of Jewish Christians, the Church morphed into a Jewish and Gentile entity. Then in 70 AD Jerusalem was taken by the Romans and many of the Jews were banished from the Land. In the 130s you had the Bar Kochba Revolt, wherein the Jewish authorities declared him to be the Messiah – and he wasn’t – and all Jews were expelled.
So over time, the Church changed. Gentiles began taking over. By the 2nd Century, it was becoming a Greco-Roman institution. Greek philosophy began to creep in, replacing the doctrines handed down from the Apostles. The Church was getting away from literal interpretation of the Scripture. Over time, the Church would claim for itself the mantle of the New Israel. At the same time, pagan forms were being adopted, invading the Church. As the Catholic Encyclopedia once called it, a “cultus of Mary” was developing. Worship became formalized. Over the course of the following centuries, they wandered farther and farther from the doctrines of the Apostles and the practices and beliefs of the 1st century. Pagan encroachment continued. In 786 the worship of images and relics was instituted. In 850 it was holy water that was borrowed from the pagan playbook. Canonization of dead saints came in 995. Two centuries later Indulgences, (or get out of purgatory free cards) were put up for sale. Later, after the onset of the Protestant Reformation attempted to return the Church to its original teachings, – the Church of Rome declared Tradition as interpreted by the Popes to have equal authority with the Bible and added the Apocryphal books. Over the course of centuries, the organized Church had managed to transform its doctrine from that of the Apostles to a synthesis between Christianity and the paganisms from whence its people were called out. Almost a new faith had been built. It was pulling away from Jewish practices that had been part of its early development. [i]
It went even beyond just abandoning those forms. The ancient Fathers of the Faith began to criticize and even curse Israel. [In the process they were bringing curses on themselves.] In the 3rd Century, Jews became “Christ killers.” Justin Martyr said, “Jews have forfeited the scripture…. [and] the Prophets are now the property of the Church.” Ignatius of Antioch declared Jews were “in league with the Devil.” Gospel of Barnabas argued that Jews have lost the covenants. Tertullian said the Jews were idolaters. Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicea held in 325, separated Easter from Passover. Eusebius held that the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures were for Christians….Jews were not left out completely. Curses were for the Jews.
The result of all of this was the development of something called Replacement Theology. In its mind, the Church inherited the promises God made to Israel. Greek interpretation suppressed the Hebrew mindset. And it went from mere words to action. Ambrose of Milan instigated riots against the Jews. Cyril of Alexandria expelled them from the city. St Jerome supported forced conversions. Augustine held that the true image of the Jew was Judas of Iscariot. Jews were believed to be eternally responsible for the death of Jesus.
And then came the Crusades. Replacement theology holds that the Holy Land belongs to the Church. The Vatican has held that position ever since. The funny thing is, God is quite sure that the Land belongs to Him – and through His covenants He gave it to the Israelites in perpetuity. And He’s pretty serious about it. Joel 3:2 says: “I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.” In the Abrahamic Covenant, God gave that land to Israel. “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) Genesis 15:18 gives the dimensions. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.’” And as we’ll see beginning next time, the Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant, sealed by God Himself – and therefore can never be broken.
[i] Tim F LaHaye, Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain, 1973, pg 68