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Distress Of Nations Foretold
"And upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." Luke 21:25 and 26.
Jesus spoke these words in a prophecy relating to the end times. We need not spend time here trying to relate to you just how distressed and perplexed the global, national and local governments are, for the news media has been doing that quite well since the terrorist attack on September 11th. Yet it is of interest to make note of an Old Testament prophecy written over 2,500 years ago that states:
"Proclaim ye this among the nations, prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up, beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong." Joel 3: 9 and 10.
Yes, the weak are saying they are strong. What an appropriate description of these seemingly insignificant terrorist groups and the small countries that seem to support them. They dare to challenge the superpower nation of earth and even western society itself!
Men and women's hearts are fearful for many different reasons, among them the realization that financial and psychological devastation is far more sweeping than the localized physical destruction.
Jesus said the powers of heaven would be shaken. This represents the various religious leaders and how many are at a loss to try and explain why God has allowed such tragedy, and what we should expect in the future. What should we as Jesus' disciples be doing now. Let us offer some Scriptural answers to these questions.
Why does God permit such tragedies?
God in His infinite wisdom had devised a plan in which all of mankind would be created with a free will ?- that is, the ability to make conscious choices. This is more satisfying than making mankind mere robots. God can create only that which is good, so mankind was created perfect. Yet God foreknew that before long man would make a choice for evil (sin) and this would bring upon mankind the death penalty (the loss of life). Man's choice for evil was because of his lack of experience with it. God had allowed for all of this by also preplanning to have a Redeemer for mankind, one who would take the place for father Adam. That Redeemer was Jesus Christ. Please consider the following verses:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. . . . And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. . . Genesis 1: 27, 31;
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:16, 17
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. Genesis 3:6 (see also verses 7 - 24)
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. I Peter 1:18 - 20
. . . the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Rev. 13:8
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Romans 5:11, 12.
Education by experience
In Ecclesiastes 1:13 and 3:10 we read: "And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail (trouble) hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it."
Travail or trouble humbles us. It helps us to sympathize with others in their hardships. The contrast between good times and bad times teaches us to appreciate the good, and helps us to learn the benefits of choosing good rather than evil.
Education of the World
What about those who lived before Jesus, or who are not Jesus. disciples now? How has the permission of evil benefited them? The Word of God is clear. Jesus died a ransom for all and all in their graves shall come forth. All shall learn the Truth, so that all mankind can have one fair trial to demonstrate their acceptance of Jesus and their obedience to the principles of God, and so gain life eternal. Consider the following verses:
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour: who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 1 Timothy 2:3 - 6
For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. I Timothy 4:10
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. John 5:28, 29
For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17 -19
And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. Acts 24:15
With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:9.
This is why all need to be resurrected from the grave, to be able to make use of this education by their experiences with the trouble God has permitted.
Education for the Christian
"Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better." (Ecclesiastes 7:3.) Yes, the heart or character is made better if one is rightly exercised by these troubles. This takes effort. When we realize that this lifetime is for our education, for our hoped for eternal life, then this becomes much clearer. The Apostle Paul wrote: " For our light affliction which is but for a moment (this life), worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (the next life)." 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Of Jesus it is written that "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). And for us as Jesus' followers we have similar experiences as our Master. The Apostle Peter wrote: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ' sufferings, that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy." 1 Peter 4:12, 13
What do we expect for the future?
The Scriptures are clear, there will be more birthpangs as the new order of Christ's kingdom is established in the earth. In 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and 3 we read: "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail (birthpangs) upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape." Yes, the trouble will increase in severity and come with greater rapidity until the present governments of earth shall fail and mankind will be more than ready for the peaceable kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
See Revelation 11: 15 - 18; 2 Peter 3:10 - 13; Matthew 24:21, 22
We might liken mankind to a very sick and dying patient. The disease (dis-ease) is sin. The symptoms are suffering and death. The great physician is God and the operation involves many painful incisions and cuttings. This is the time of trouble. The recuperation and healing process for mankind will be during the peaceable part of the Millennial reign of Jesus with his Bride, the Church. God wounds to heal, man's extremity will be God's opportunity. Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:1 - 5, Psalm 38:3
What should we be doing?
What should we as Jesus' disciples be doing? We should be sympathetic to our fellowman, especially remembering that they do not have the faith and hope that we do. "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep (dead), that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13) "Weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15) "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves…" (Romans 8:22 and 23) Jesus wept at the grief of others. John 11:35
We should rejoice because as we see the trouble increasing around us we also recognize the nearness of our deliverance and the deliverance of all mankind. We quote Jesus from Luke 21:28, 31 and 36: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads for your redemption draweth nigh. . . So likewise you, when you see these things come to pass, you know that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. . . Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."
These troubles should draw us nearer to the Lord and help us to get our priorities straight. Paul writes in respect to our day that, "Whose voice then shook the earth (at Mount Sinai), but now he hath promised, saying, yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear,." (Hebrews 12:26 - 28) Only the kingdom of God shall remain and thank God that it shall be so. The intended effect upon us shall be a greater desire and striving for grace, holiness, godlikeness and reverence. They will help us to realize that all the temporal things of this life are of very little value and will not give us true peace of heart. It is true that we must provide the things necessary for our loved ones, and ourselves, but perhaps we can be better at "redeeming the time for the days are evil" Ephesians 5:16.
We can be bright and shining lights to those around us. "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:14 - 16
It is a wonderful privilege to take advantage of this psychological moment of fearful mankind and give them first and foremost a living example of a faithful, hopeful and rejoicing Christian. As well let us give them hope by either our words or the printed page. They need direction now more than ever.
My Kingdom is NOT of this World
While we recognize the right of nations to defend themselves in a just manner (Romans 13:1 - 7), yet we remember that Jesus our Master said before Pontius Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world, if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now is my kingdom not from hence." John 18:36
We are "ambassadors for Christ." (2 Corinthians 5:20) "Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come." (Hebrews 13:14) We belong to"the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven." (Revelation 21:2,10). Our allegiance is to the King of Kings, and our home is in heaven. We are to be peacemakers and leave the nations to their own devices. We are thankful , very thankful, to live in this land of liberty, but we have learned from the Word of God that even here liberties will be rescinded because of security fears.
Mention must be made regarding an unfortunate development. since September 11th, a book on the so-called prophecies of Nostradamus has been on the current best-sellers list. Nostradamus was a Frenchman who lived in France from 1503 - 1566. He was a noted physician as well as an astrologer. He penned rhymed prophecies that are so obscure and symbolic that many different applications can and have been applied. His writings are not inspired by God, nor do they have a practical application. It is disappointing that so many people would turn to such a far-fetched resource as this. Peter tells us that, " knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the holy spirit." (2 Peter 1:20,21) And from Paul, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Timothy 3:15 - 17
Dear Readers, may we have a laser-like focus on serving first the Kingdom of heaven, trusting that all our needs will be met. Let us take advantage of these unique opportunities to give praise, honor and glory to our triumphant King of Kings, who is still marching on!
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And God Cried
What is This World Coming To
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