We Didn’t Know!

Following the Nazi’s surrender ending World War II in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered his troops to round up the civilians living around the German prison camps. Ike wanted nearby residents to take in the Holocaust’s horrors that had been carried out in their backyard. As soldiers escorted neighbors around, they saw the evidence of mass murder, starvation and other heinous crimes.

Afterward, conscience-stricken residents were reported to have said, “We did not know,” then they added, “because we did not want to know.” The term for this is “willful ignorance.”

Is “we did not know” an excuse? It is so often used, one would think it effectively absolves us from guilt. (“Officer, I didn’t know the speed limit” or “I didn’t know it was loaded.”)

Do we really think “We did not know” will work with God?

Rescue those being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? (Proverbs 24:11-12 ESV)

Do we have a responsibility to protect those in danger, to feed the hungry, or assist those in trouble? Only those we could help if, rather than be apathetic, we had opted to take action (cf. Luke 10:33-37, 6:31, James 1:27).

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:44-46)

Do not know if it is true, but I saw a survey that 17% of evangelical Christians read their Bible daily. If this low percentage is accurate, it means 83% elect to do something else with their time–like sleep for example. (That was me.)

We have this thing called excuses. The story was told of a man who asked to borrow his neighbor’s ax. “No,” he was told, “I have to make soup.”

Confused, the man asked “What does making soup have to do with me borrowing your ax?”

“Nothing,” his neighbor answered, “but if I don’t want to lend you my ax, one excuse is as good as the next.”

Do we really want to know what is in our Bible? There is no shortage of excuses when it comes to willful ignorance. We have teachers who say the 39 books of the Old Testament are no longer relevant, so why read them? In other words, ignore two-thirds of our Bible.

How well did the “follow the leader” excuse work at the Nuremburg trials? When Nazi’s were charged with war crimes, did their alibi “We were only following orders” earn any acquittals? The answer is always, “You should have known. The order was unlawful. It was your duty to reject it.”

Recently a friend was lamenting his son’s poor attitude. He shared that the young man refuses to read his Bible. He won’t open God’s Word because he wants “to have fun” like others in his peer group. The idea is that if he doesn’t read it then he cannot know what’s in it. Then, ignorance is bliss. He can then sin with a clear conscience, right? Wrong!

Isn’t that the bottom line? We don’t know what is inside the Word of God, because we know it will condemn us.

If we had hopes of being an attorney, would we leave unopened our text books on the law? Not if we wanted to pass the bar exam. Then why refuse to Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)? Why willfully reject that which pleases God (Ephesians 5:10)? We don’t know what’s inside because we don’t want to know.

Now about Bible prophecy. Why the disinterest in prophecy in general and, specifically, Old Testament prophets? Read on in Part 2.

The Federal Head-Two

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the rulers staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples…” (Genesis 49:10 ESV)

Exemplified above is a key concept in Biblical interpretation known as “the Federal Head.” Without understanding the term and how it’s applied, false meanings are guaranteed. Judah is not the sole beneficiary of his father Jacob’s blessing, his brothers were too. In the laying on of hands on Judah, Jacob is speaking a divine promise to his son’s offspring, the full manifestation of which is not David but Christ, the Head of His Church, the holder of the scepter and King of all Nations.

Examine the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ principle teaching on the end times. In it we find a Federal Head example.

“So when you see, the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15-16) 

“See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.” (Mark 13:5-7)    

“But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake... You will be hated by all nations for my name sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives (Luke 21:12, 16-19 ESV).

To properly understand prophecy or what is foretold by God, it is vital we link His promises of the past to the present and the future. Who is the Promiser? If we know the Promiser it is likely we will know the “who,” to whom His promises were made.

Rainbow

To whom is the oft repeated second person pronoun you or its possessive your (the Federal Head) referring in Luke 21? We then also know the who, when, what, where and why of the end of the age. Who are your Federal Heads to whom God made his precious and great promises? Answer that and you can teach prophecy accurately.

Though the answer may be obvious, within Christianity there remain differences of opinion. There are reasons for the differences. If certain popular doctrines accepted the plain meaning of the text, it would disprove their tenuous position. One prominent view believes that in the Olivet Discourse context, Jesus’ prophetic words only concerned Jews. Another side argues prophecy should not be taken literally. That group goes on to say that Jews have been replaced by the Church in God’s covenant (promises). The two sides thoroughly reject each other and poke holes in the other’s position. What the easily made holes suggest is neither is accurate.

This is how the Federal Head works: Promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are cumulative and apply to their heirs. Prophecy over Jacob’s children included the promises made to their ancestors. For example, the promise inherited by Judah also applies to his offspring, David, and his son Solomon. All is, of course, conditional upon obedience, and still is. David’s son Jesus was heir to all of it. As heirs of all this and promises made throughout the New Testament, if faithful Jesus’ disciples of every generation have accumulated all the promises made to the aforementioned Federal Heads, and their spiritual and physical seed as well, until time is no more.Their job was to reproduce themselves and teach others who will teach the promises to each succeeding generation.

Consider Matthew 24:9-10, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me,” who is the “you?” It is obvious by the phrase “hated by all nations” that the original disciples were not the ones hated globally. Their seed is pictured afterward in Revelation 7:9, those who came out of the midst of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:14). 

When properly applied, the Federal Head principle clarifies that what is promised to heirs is based on familial relationships. So if you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus, the Son of the Promiser, to whom does the “you” in prophecy refer, be it good or bad?

Disclaimer

Disclaimer: Despite The Prophets of God name, neither I, John, nor my close associate, Elijah, refer to ourselves as prophets. We claim no title of “Prophet.” We believe prophecy–as in foretelling the future–ended with the last chapter and last verse of Revelation. It was there that Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon.” It is our task to rightly interpret and declare “last things” as spoken through the Bible’s prophets.

Our blog began as a continuation of the book The Prophets of God: Recognize them, Listen to them, Follow them. The book was written as a primer on “prophets.” The blog was our way of building on the book while interacting with our readers as well as current events.

This is our purpose: From Scripture, we desire to exalt the prophetic word of God to its place of highest importance. We labor to teach the saints Scripture’s warnings as well as its promises. Next, we are committed to helping God’s people recognize true prophets when they appear. Finally, for those called to be last day’s prophets, we desire to be a valuable resource for their ministry. This was the purpose of The Prophets of God book in 2012 and for theprophetsofgod.com blog in 2018. The equipping of God’s people never stops.

A Fine Man

What was the American president, Mr. Obama, like? You worked closely with the man. You were a member of his personal security detail. What opinion of him did you have?

In general, these were the questions asked by cable TV’s Tucker Carlson recently of Dan Bongino, a former U.S. Secret Service Agent. Mr. Bongino said President Obama always treated him well. “He was a real gentleman; it was his policies I didn’t like.” When the president’s guard couldn’t take it any longer he made an exit. Bongino added at the end, “To answer your question, I thought President Obama was a fine man, but the world is full of fine men.”

Mr. Bongino’s statement is worth considering. In our day people prefer style over substance, smooth talk over common sense and immediate gratification over long-term solutions.

Our image-conscious society finds it harder to fault the celebrity or those pleasant to the eye than the one deemed unattractive. We may have great affection for the pastor who looks good behind the pulpit. They are sincere and preach with passion. They are judged by all as a fine person. That counts for a lot, but what if their actions or beliefs conflict with Scripture? Will we overlook the vital because of the superficial? With what criteria does God judge?

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:6-8  ESV)

Nations that elect their government leaders get what they deserve. Danger lies in attaching too much value to personality. The world is full of politicians and preachers with good looks and charm, but look at the mess we’re in. There is no premium on ugly, but it is time we, like the Lord, focus on the heart rather than outward appearance.

Winston Churchill grated on England’s ruling class. In the years prior to World War II, he was nearly “silenced for life” (a form of censure) in Britain’s Parliament. He drank incessantly and was quick with the insults. In short, he was flawed. Yet Churchill was absolutely right about Hitler and his plan for world domination. When no one else had the foresight or fortitude to sound the alarm, he did!

Britain did not need another fine, cultured gentleman during the early war years, they urgently sought someone with vision, principle, courage and the ability to inspire, so they turned to Churchill. They needed a combative person, a fighter, whose love for country and freedom was greater than his love of life.

Elijah and John the Baptist were this type. They never dressed in fancy clothes nor did they live in palaces. They weren’t applauded but hated by the authorities. No one called them fine men. John wondered out loud why Jesus wasn’t attracting more negative attention from Herod and the Jews. Prophets, including Jesus, came to upset the status quo, to expose the sham and to turn Israel back to God. That hasn’t changed.

This is no time for pastors and leaders to stick the moistened finger in the wind of popular opinion to see which way it blows. Fine men though they may be, they will not tell us what we need to hear, namely, “at any moment” the man of lawlessness is coming. He will be clever, fawned over by the media, as smooth as silk, a silver-tongued orator and a hundred times worse than Hitler. There we are. We’ve been warned.

Past tense makes no sense

While recently visiting with our son Jeremy, he and I decided to go fishing.  His choice was to fish off a wooden pier on a nearby lake. It was there that we met Eugene. Since his retirement ten years earlier, Eugene said he spends a lot of time doing what he loves, fishing for “bream” (pronounced like “brim”). In our case, the bream were black crappie bass. In that part of the country the bigger fish were also called “slab.”

We arrived about an hour before nightfall. Eugene had been sitting at his favorite spot since ten that morning. He would remain there until he had his limit or he felt like going home.

After learning a lot about Eugene’s life as a sharecropper’s son who came of age in the racially divided south of the 50’s and 60’s, the conversation then came around to Jesus. “I was brought up Holiness,” he said. “Daddy was a deacon and the ten of us had church all day on Sundays. I was saved as a boy, so I know where I’m going. I used to read the Bible for Daddy. He wasn’t much good at readin’.” Eugene was quick to add, “Don’t go to church much these days, but I never stopped believin’. Nope, I never lost that.”

Five days later and in a different state, something similar was said at a store where I had gone on an errand for son John. This time it was Scott I encountered. After he helped, Scott began opening up about his 30 year-old son Nathan. Five times in and out of jail, Nathan was due to be released, yet Scott was afraid, because he had tried everything. When I offered a little Christian counsel, Scott chimed in that years ago everyone in his family got saved, all six, including Nathan. Scott didn’t know why his son turned to drugs. All he knew was that Nathan needed help that recovery programs failed to give. Hours from home and in a strange town, I did the only thing I knew how to do. We prayed.

I started to ponder the way Eugene and Scott spoke of their spiritual experience as something in the past. “Saved” was something that happened long ago like buying a life insurance policy. It was purchased then filed in a drawer. One hopes it is still good whenever they pass.

Past tense salvation (“I was saved; therefore I still am”) makes no sense. It is not what the Bible teaches. Churches are the main disseminators of this false notion that getting people saved is the all in all. (“If you know when and where you saw the light then you’ll be alright.”) An emphasis on a decision, emotional or intellectual, without growing up in our salvation makes us, in Peter’s words, ineffective or unfruitful in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:8 ESV).

Salvation must begin with a decision, but it cannot end there. We are saved (past tense) to serve (continuous action into the future). In His Great Commission, Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples (other followers and learners), not converts. It is the difference between having babies and the commitment to raise healthy children.

To our God, there is no past or future. He envelopes time, so that a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. Time, as in days and nights, seasons and ages, did not exist before creation nor will they remain after the consummation of all things. After all is accomplished, time will be swallowed up by eternity.

It is people who become caught in the time trap, especially when it comes to salvation. (“I was saved years ago” or “I’ll get saved after I’m done living it up.”) Salvation is a process referred to as sanctification (being made holy or set apart for Christ). It can be compared to running a race. Being saved (past) places us among the runners. Salvation (present) is our reward for service pleasing to God (i.e. running to win). Salvation (present) can also mean correction for the Father loves those whom he chastises. If we repent, the Lord extends grace and mercy then helps us get back into the race. Salvation (future) is when we cross our finish line and receive the victor’s crown. Not until then are we really saved.

We may be ahead with the end in sight, but still fall short. We may have enjoyed all the benefits of God’s salvation then go astray. It is like crossing a deep crevasse. Almost making it does not count. Paul, an accepted authority on salvation, saw the personal danger.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV)

Paul, disqualified? This only makes sense if he saw salvation as a continuum, something that began on the road to Damascus and carried him through his momentary suffering until, at last, he attained his prize (Philippians 3:13-16).

Our past is no indication of our future unless we allow it. It is not how we start out in this Christ-life, Eugene and Scott, but how we finish. My friends must get back in their race and run like they mean it.

I did not start out well, but I want to finish well. The race does not belong to the swift but to those who keep on running. As Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 24:13, “… the one who endures to the end will be saved.” 

A Parable of Future Kings

Ruling over a kingdom of happy, prosperous people was not something Arndt the Bold ever thought he would do, but there he was, on his bench of judgment, with his royal counselors and dedicated servants, each eager to carry out his will. He knew how to choose excellent ministers. He selected those who reminded him of who he once was. There were often moments Arndt missed those exciting days when everything was new, but he never wanted to repeat them.

Bursting into the throne room was a young child. Running past the guards and royal stewards and onto the king’s lap was his son. “Whoa! To what do we owe this pleasure?” Arndt asked as the boy’s arms squeezed his neck. After a few bounces on the royal lap, the king feigned a serious expression. “My prince, what is it you want? Request anything, Harmon, up to half the kingdom.” (His son’s name honored his beloved elder and mentor, his host in the city and the hero who led their escape.)

“I want to be a king,” Harmon answered.

“My, my, you very well should be one day, but for now…”

“But Daddy,” the boy interrupted, “you weren’t always a king, were you? How’d you get to be the boss?”

“If you must know right now, I can end our business for today and tell the story.” The council was dismissed but none of the king’s officials felt compelled to leave. They all wanted to listen and hear the amazing tale again.

Arndt began, “It was a dark night, black as pitch, but Harmon, your namesake, led me and thousands by torchlight through a secret passage out of the city. We followed a winding path up a mountain and toward a cave. There to greet us were the city’s poor, those who had welcomed and took us in the fellowship into their humble homes. Among them were the elderly, women with babies and too many small children to count. No sooner did we reach the cave’s entrance then the sky lit up. A gigantic ball of fire was falling from heaven. We could make out Leonidas, Jacob and another man, climbing toward us. How glad we were. The brilliance was blinding, but we managed to witness the fireball make a direct hit on the city’s high tower. When it collapsed inwardly, fire went in all directions. The hill was engulfed in flames. We found out later the only section spared was where the town’s poorest people lived; though just those on the mountain survived. The temple, the dark priests’ tower, Regents Hall, the guard’s barracks and the fancy homes of the courtiers and those belonging to the Dark Lord, were all burned to ashes. All who served the evil lords perished.

“In the morning, smoke was still rising from the city’s glowing embers when Leonidas and a man called ‘The Stranger of the Wood,’ summoned everyone. They led in worship as we fell to our knees in thanksgiving and raised our hands in praise. Later we took in every word they said knowing it was from God.

“Leonidas would enter the city of his birth as king. Lady Sharik would be his queen and Jacob would serve at his right hand. A group of survivors would remain to help rebuild the kingdom. One day their hard work would pay off. The city would flourish.

“Then came the anointing. Tongues of fire fell upon the men and women who had been together since before the first steps of the journey. We began glorifying God in a strange language. I found myself talking in the language we are speaking now.

“Our instructions were to find the two members of the fellowship with whom we could communicate and form a triune bond; one a king, one the queen and one the counselor. Of course, the queen was your mother. As soon as I saw her and I knew, even before she uttered a word. Our counselor was your Uncle Leister, our highly esteemed and wise prime minister.

“Leonidas said the counselor would know which of the four winds to follow. ‘From those on the mountain, take the men and women who wish to follow’ (That’s when, with his wife, my old friend Harmon stepped up and took my arm telling me he was with me to the end. And he was.) ‘As you go teach them everything you learned from me. You will be led by the Wind to the people and kingdom speaking your new language. Your speech will come naturally because your origins were among those same people, just as mine beginning was in the city seen now smoldering before you.'”

“Leonidas finished by saying, ‘You did not choose me. You were chosen by the Heavenly Father to bear royal blood. Though a crown and kingdom is your destiny, it will require much for you to gain it. As it was with Jacob and me, it will be with you. The way to your throne is through much suffering. At the depths of your sacrifice, the Stranger of the Wood will appear, then you and those you came to serve will be saved. Those who did evil by holding their countrymen in bondage will be judged accordingly. Be faithful, and you will receive your kingdom.'”

Eyes went to the open door as the queen entered with Princess Maura showing everyone her newly acquired ability to walk. Not ready to join her and in the arms of the queen’s maid was her twin, Prince Leister.

The king returned to his story. “We all knew we would meet again,” Arndt said. “We were part of Leonidas’ kingdom, for as you heard me say many times, he is the king of all kings. What more can I tell? It happened exactly as was foretold. While Uncle Leister and I were being flogged, the man beating us stuffed a letter into my pants pocket. Days later, when I opened the bloody thing, I read his apology. The master of the flogging, revealed he was sorry. but orders were orders. However, he also gave us a record of our royal ancestors and what happened to them. Sadly, he had also drawn a map to show where your mother’s parents, Uncle Leister’s and my father and mother were laid to rest.

“So there you are, my beloved prince. Knowing all this, do you still want to be a king?”

“If I can be king like you, Daddy” Harmon answered, “then, yes, it’s worth it.”

As his family lovingly gathered round him, Arndt sat back and smiled. To himself he said, “Leonidas, and beloved friend Harmon, you taught me well.”

*The End*

Dear Aunt Anna-Pt. 2

Running through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport terminal with bag in tow, I knew I had cut it close. Locating the departure gate, I ran down the ramp. The door was closed. Waving through the window, I tried to catch the pilot’s attention as he went through his final flight checks. It was no use. My flight home backed out slowly and soon was gone. How could I have allowed this to happen?

Dear Aunt Anna had always been late. I can still picture her hurriedly arriving at a family reunion with her casserole and dessert, while the clean-up crew cleared the tables. Someone always brought her some fried chicken and enough leftovers to fill her plate. What made this more laughable was that the reunions were often held fifteen minutes from her house. After she lost track of time, she hurried “like the dickens.” Though the last to arrive, our dear old aunt never missed out.

It seemed like Aunt Anna received a lot of grace. My missed Sunday flight from O’Hare many years ago taught me not to bank on grace. Sooner or later, being irresponsible brings painful consequences.

Take for example the foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1. They were unprepared for the bridegroom’s delay. They needed to buy oil for their lamps. In the meantime, the bridegroom arrived and went into the banquet hall with the five wise bridesmaids. What made these bridesmaids wise? It was because they anticipated a delay. With the extra oil, their lamps remained trimmed and burning when he finally came.

What makes this parable stand out is the absence of grace. First, the five wise refused to share their oil with the five foolish bridesmaids. Seems unchristian like not to share, does it not? They refused to risk being late for the bridegroom due to someone else’s poor planning. What makes fools what they are is they are never prepared, they are always taken by surprise and always have excuses galore. Warnings are plentiful in prophecy. Fools err by convincing themselves grace will be granted despite their unbelief and ignorance of the signs of Christ’s coming.

The wise know the ways of the bridegroom. They understand they have to be ready for the common perception Christ will not return (2 Peter 3:3). He will come, but it will be at a time wicked fools do not expect him–like the middle of the night for instance (Matthew 24:44).

When the five foolish bridesmaids finally arrived at the wedding hall, they knocked because the door was shut tight. “Sir! Sir!” they said. “Open the door for us!”

They may have been wonderful young women. They may have attended synagogue every Sabbath. They may have had a sob story, but they never got to plead their case. Perhaps a sympathetic doorkeeper would rescue them. They could use their charm. They could talk their way in, but no. It was not to be.

“But he [the bridegroom] replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.'” (Matthew 25:11 NIV)

The bridegroom himself stood at the door. There was no grace, for grace is unmerited favor. If it is unmerited, how can it be owed. God’s grace is expressed in giving us His Word in prophecy, the warnings as well as the rewards (Psalm 19:11).

When God orders the door shut, it stays shut (Genesis 7:16). For He said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Exodus 33:19)

Expect a long delay while great distress tests the saints’ endurance. Everything stated in Scripture must happen. Once all is fulfilled, Christ’s appearing will catch the wicked off guard like a thief in the night.

The wise will understand because Scripture makes them wise. Fools, however, will not understand (Daniel 12:10). The prophetic word of Christ will judge them.