"And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the Lord." Ezekiel 39:6 (NKJV)
Opening prayer: Father, it's hard to understand what is happening in the world today, with religious violence burning everywhere. Help me understand how this fits into Your plan, and what I should do about it, I pray.
If you have been paying attention to world events, you should be concerned about what you see and hear. There are unusual things happening everywhere. Crazy violent people are doing crazy violent things all over the world. Our own government appears to intent on turning itself into a dictatorship hostile to Christians and Jews. So what's going on here, and what should WE be doing about it?
Open your Bibles to Romans chapter 8, verse 28, and let's see who actually IS in charge here:And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Let's read through that again, slowly, and notice all the different elements at work here:
- "We know that all things..." How many things? All. Even the crazy things we don't like, don't understand, and don't even want to hear about. All things.
- "...work together for good..." Are ALL these things pulling in different directions and forcing us to run here and there putting out fires? Nope. They are ALL working together, according to God's Plan, for good.
- "...work together for good to those who love God..." Will everybody on earth benefit from "All things?" Will everybody like the outcomes? Nope. Only those who love God and TRUST that He is in charge of all things, especially their eternal salvation.
- "...to those who are the called..." Have you been called by God to receive eternal life? Have you responded to the call and been born again? Have you allowed the Holy Spirit to enter your heart, to begin the process of transforming you into the image of the Lord Jesus? If you have NOT responded to the call, then I encourage you to do so in the near future. If you procrastinate, you might find yourself radioactive (or worse) in the near future. For a "how-to" guide to salvation, I suggest reading the first few chapters of the Durable Joy book, which you can read for free on this web site.
- "...according to His purpose." That is the punch line of the story, and you need to keep a tight grip on the concept. God has a PURPOSE. God has a set of plans for all of world history. Nothing catches Him by surprise. All the ugly things we see and hear have been predicted by God, thousands of years in advance.
So we are beginning this message with the Good News and Happy Ending first. God is in charge, and He predicted all these things would happen. What's more, He allowed the nation Israel to go through a similar cycle of good things and bad things, as we shall see.
God established the framework of blessings and cursings back in Moses' day. Open your Bibles to Deuteronomy chapter 28 and begin reading at verse 1:1 "Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God: 3 "Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. 4 "Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. 5 "Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 "Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. 7 "The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. 8 "The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. 9 "The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 10 Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you.
We all know that Moses spoke those words to the people of Israel. But here is a key question: Are these principles relevant only to the nation Israel? Are there any other people on earth that God refers to as "My people?" Yes, Christians should be His people.
When you read how this nation was founded, and the Christian faith of key men and women, you realize that this country occupies a unique place in human history. There has been a real hodge-podge assortment of people here, with the usual mixture of good and bad. But this country was established on a bedrock of freedoms and self-governance that existed nowhere else on earth for the first 100 years of its existence.
The remarkable thing is that born-again, Spirit-filled Christians have never been a majority in the USA. Our Lord did not call us to conquer nations by the sword or the ballot box. Our Lord has a different plan, as He explains in Matthew chapter 5, starting in verse 13:"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 " You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
What is salt used for? For flavoring, and for preserving. What is the proportion of salt in a recipe compared to the other ingredients? It's a pretty small amount. If you cook a pot roast tonight, there will be a LOT more meat and potatoes than salt. So salt has an effect far beyond its quantity. Likewise Christians only need to be a small percentage of the population, and IF we are salty as the Lord intended, we can have an influence far beyond our actual numbers.
THAT is God's plan: for His people to be salt and light, to glorify His Father in heaven. That is His purpose. But note what else Jesus tells us in verse 13: "...if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men."
So let's pause for a moment and look at the world around us. Are the heathen countries around us and the heathens in our government seeing our good works and glorifying our Father in heaven? Not so you'd notice.
Is it possible that we, as a nation, have lost our salt-ness? You can be sure of it. The Lord knows that we have a tendency to backslide, and He provided specific warnings about backsliding in that same chapter of Deuteronomy we visited earlier. Let's turn back to Deut. 28, and see what might be happening. We'll start in verse 15:15 "But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: 16 "Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. 17 "Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 "Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. 19 "Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. 20 "The Lord will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me."
Now we're going to stop reading here at verse 20, but there's plenty more if you're interested. In other words, God is telling HIS people -- and who are His people? -- the nation Israel and Christians in the USA -- that He will bless our socks off if we choose to be salt and light, so that all men will see the light and give glory to God. Unfortunately, the opposite is also possible, as we just read.
What does this mean in real life? Did God really carry out all the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28?
First of all, did God bless Israel when they obeyed Him? Definitely. The kingdoms of David and Solomon were the richest and most-powerful in the world at the time. And yes, the United States HAS been the richest and most-powerful nation in the world for most of its history.
And did God keep His Word concerning the consequences of disobedience? Definitely. First of all, He allowed Israel to be split into two kingdoms immediately after Solomon's death -- because Solomon had been unfaithful and had allowed the worship of foreign gods. Then things proceeded to get worse. Yes, God punished the Israelites, but -- and this is a key point -- He never turned His back on them completely. Even though Romans 8:28 hadn't been written back then, God had His purposes. And God sent His prophets to them, to encourage them to repent and do right.
Let's open our Bibles to the Book of Isaiah, chapter 1, and start reading at verse 1:1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. 3 "The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib; but Israel does not know. My people do not consider." 4 Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.
Notice how this chapter starts out. Isaiah is stating his credentials, that he was a prophet to God's people for many decades -- through the reign of four different kings of Judah. Were they all good kings? Did they all walk with a pure heart toward the Lord? At times. Some of them, like Hezekiah, were real reformers. Others were real backsliders.
We can say the same thing about the political and religious leaders of this country. We have had some great men as president. We have had some real stinkers. Here is the key distinction about leaders in this country: we have CHOSEN every single one of them. The good men have been God's gift to us, and God's blessings have followed. The real stinkers are exactly what we deserve, because they are an exact reflection of the spiritual health of our country.
Now let's bring Isaiah 1 into the 20th Century, specifically into the USA in the 1960s. In many respects, our nation was heading downhill in the late 1960s. The Supreme Court had banned prayer and the Bible in public schools. Pop culture had turned into drug culture, and traditional morality was being abandoned for what you could delicately call "alternative lifestyles."
Did God sit idly by and wring His hands? No. He sent good men and women to usher in the Jesus Movement of the 60s and 70s. Those of us in Southern California were blessed by pastors such as Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, Jess Moody of First Baptist Van Nuys and Jack Heyford of Church on the Way. These men called this country to repentance. And a good portion of the country did repent for awhile. Revival broke out all over the country, for awhile. And we had some good years, for awhile.
For many years, our churches became alive to the promise of Isaiah chapter 2, so let's begin reading at verse 1:1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow to it. 3 Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
We used to love reading and preaching about this -- when the Lord returns to Earth during the Millennium Period and rules this planet from Jerusalem. We loved to share this vision of a future Earth, and we led many people to the Lord with the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Has that blessed 1000-year period begun yet, as we expected? Not exactly.
Well than, when exactly will this Millennium Period begin? Nobody knows, exactly, but we can be sure it will be at least seven years from now. At some point in the near future, this planet will experience seven years of Tribulation, the worst episode of human history. The Millennium Period happens immediately afterwards.
Back then, we didn't like to talk much about those seven years of trouble, or the evil times immediately preceeding the Tribulation Period. Instead, we emphasized that the Lord would return for us at the Next Rapture Event and then seven years of trouble that would happen a safe distance away from us.
To be honest, we thought that the world of the 1970s was as corrupt and evil as it could ever get. Despite the revival of the 60s and 70s, the moral climate in this country was only slightly improved in the 80s. Behind the scenes, the forces of evil continued to win recruits for the upside-down morality of political correctness, which requires its converts to embrace the worst types of perversity and corruption.
Then we saw the utter corruption of the world in the 1990s and thought, "It can't get any worse than this. The next Rapture event MUST be right around the corner." But it wasn't.
Then September 11, 2001 happened. We finally awakened to the reality that the Middle East was a hotbed of crazy religious violence. We were certain that things couldn't be any worse. We were convinced that the Tribulation Period was just days away and the next Rapture event was just minutes away. So after 9/11, Christians really began to pray. Christians once again were salt and light in a very dark world. And the nation was healthier for awhile. But that was yesterday. After a few months, the light began to fade.
Now the light is very dim. And the salt has lost much of its savor.
Just like the nation Judah, the United States has experienced times of revival and times of backsliding. But how bad can things get before the Next Rapture and the Tribulation Period?
Let's see how bad things got in Judah. Turn in your Bibles to Jeremiah 25, beginning at verse 1:1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), 2 which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying: 3 "From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, this is the twenty- third year in which the word of the Lord has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened. 4 And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. 5 They said, 'Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. 6 Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you.' 7 'Yet you have not listened to Me,' says the Lord, 'that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.' 8 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Because you have not heard My words, 9 behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' says the Lord, 'and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. 10 Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.'"
I can already hear what the TV network news people would say to the prophet if he gave that sermon today. "That's a pretty harsh message, Mister Jeremiah. It's not politically correct. It doesn't sound like much of a happy-face future. You need to preach something more positive!"
Actually the religious and political leaders of his day said exactly the same thing to Jeremiah. But Jeremiah was faithful to deliver the message the Lord had given him.
And I want you to notice two peculiar things:
- In verse 9, God calls Nebuchadnezzar "My servant." Think about that. That pagan king was NOT a nice person, and he ruled a country of people who were equally not nice. But God CHOSE him to carry out His will -- the judgment upon God's people for their backsliding.
- Then in verse 11, God declares that the punishment and desolation are for a FINITE length of time -- 70 years.
To bring this home to the 21st Century, God has called our present enemies and political leaders to be His servants to carry out His Judgment upon the United States. And some of that judgment is starting to happen now, before the next Rapture event. On a more positive note, God does not intend to make a complete end of the USA. He has a specific duration of judgment in mind -- in this case the seven years of the Tribulation Period.
So how bad will things be for the USA after the Next Rapture Event and during the Tribulation Period? Put another way, what event in prophecy happens immediately after the Next Rapture Event and signals the beginning of the Tribulation? If you have read my lessons already, you know that the answer is Ezekiel's War. Ezekiel's War happens at the very beginning of the Tribulation period, when the nations surrounding Israel attack her -- and are miraculously beaten back. But those nations aren't the only ones to get beaten up.
Open your Bibles to Ezekiel 39, and let's start reading in verse 3. God is speaking to the leader of the attack against Israel:3 "Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand, and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand. 4 You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. 5 You shall fall on the open field; for I have spoken," says the Lord God. 6 "And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the Lord. 7 So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel."
The enemies surrounding Israel will be destroyed. And look at verse 6. God will send fire upon Magog "...and on those who live in security in the coastlands."
Who are the Coastlands? Back in those days, the coastlands were countries a long sea journey West of Israel. And archeologists have proven that the Phoenicians and Danites traded with the American Indians for many centuries -- until the Romans destroyed the Phoenician fleets. We don't know for certain if verse 6 includes the USA. But we know that the same folks who hate Israel also hate the USA and are planning terror attacks.
So is there any silver lining in all this future gloom and destruction? Yes, there is. The Lord made sure that Ezekiel 39 verse 6 was deliberately vague. The coastlands don't necessarily include the USA. This country will go through the seven years of the Tribulation Period, but it won't necessarily be nuked. There is hope for this country.
We have hope for many reasons, but I'm only going to share two right now. The first is expressed by the same prophet Jeremiah, who prophesied the fall of Judah and then lived through the desolation afterwards. Amid the rubble of the nation, Jeremiah wrote Lamentations 3, verses 21-25:This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. 22 Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. 24 "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. 26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
We have hope for the same reason that Jeremiah had hope: because the Lord loves you. He loves each of us, personally and passionately. And He promises a blessing to those who wait for Him and who seek Him in their Scripture study and prayer life.
We also have hope because the Lord Himself gave us a foolproof way to recover from backsliding and thereby cope with terrorists and corrupt government leaders. We find that in the book of 2 Chronicles, chapter 7 and starting in verse 12:Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
So we have hope because God has given us a simple cure for backsliding, for terrorism and for bad government. That cure is right here, in front of you. If God's people, who are called by His name, will humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways -- this country will experience revival now and be spared the worst of the Tribulation Period. Because the Lord that we serve is just hoping that we will answer His call. Then He will hear from heaven, will forgive our sins and will heal our land.
If you would like to ask further questions or discuss this in more detail, please feel free to send an e-mail by clicking the "mail-to" link below. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can (assuming the first rapture event hasn't already happened).
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, I confess that I have been a backslider and that I dwell in a country of backsliders. Renew my heart to follow the leading of Your Holy Spirit, to draw closer to You. Help me become salt and light in a world that is desperate for any glimmer of hope. And help me be an encouragement to my brothers and sisters in Christ, that they may awaken to the peril of these Last Days and experience their own renewal. I pray these things in the mighty name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.
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