Wednesday, September 04, 2013

"Perilous Times": Rome, Damascus and Biblical Prophecy---Is This It?

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Paul, the Apostle, has arguably had more influence on the world and its culture than anyone except Jesus Christ Himself.

What we know as the book of II Timothy in the Bible is actually the last letter Paul wrote to Timothy and the Christian church at large. A farewell letter to the millions of Christians of that day, and to billions of us who have since read it.

He probably wrote it in the spring of AD 68. Nero killed himself in early June of that year and Paul was put to death, most likely, just before that date.

He is telling Timothy and the Christian church there will be some rough times, "You therefore must endure hardships as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (II Tim.2:3).

His characterization of what he called the "end times" certainly described the conditions in Rome at the time of Nero's suicide and Paul's murder.

But he says these conditions will exist at the time preceding the coming of the Lord. History tends to repeat itself.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

The conditions of his time are well known as the historic Fall of the Roman Empire. They, in many ways, parallel the conditions of our times.

Are we approaching the historic "end of time"? Would the destruction of Syria or Damascus fulfill any biblical prophecy related to the end times? Even Time Magazine has joined the conversation.

Paul labels these times "perilous" (II Tim. 3:1-9) and lists why he considers them so.

He describes a very narcissistic time with people being so self absorbed that they actually love themselves and their activities and pleasures and passions more than they love God Himself, with many claiming to be "Christians."

He says this manifests itself as "lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong and haughty."

This is the profile of a people and a culture that has lost its way.

Paul says these people "are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." He says, "They have a form of godliness, but they deny its power."

I want to direct you to 2 articles written this week, which I recommend you read.

Matt Barber, an attorney with Liberty Counsel Action, has written an article this week titled, "America's Fall: The Modern Day Roman Empire."

He says, "Hannah Montana is what America once was. MTV Miley is America today. She 'evolved' because we 'evolved.' You saw it on display. It’s ugly. It’s Satanic. It’s 'progressive.'"

“Throughout the book of Romans," Barber says, "Paul warned of God’s unfolding wrath against the Roman Empire." He says, "Approach Paul’s words with a modicum of objectivity and the reader is left with this dreadful realization: The words of Christ’s hand-picked messenger likewise paint an eerily accurate portrait of America, A.D. 2013. The negligible difference is that ancient pagan morality has been sanitized with a new euphemism: postmodern 'progressivism'.”

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them,” he wrote. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-20).

He say, "Paul is noting that knowledge of God’s existence, eternal power, divine nature and moral law are self-evident. His truths are written on the hearts of every man, woman and child – Jew, Christian and pagan alike. Those who deny this reality are 'without excuse'.”

Barber says, "Yet, excuses we make."

He tells his readers to, "Pull your eyes from your smartphone, America. Look around you. God’s wrath is 'being revealed from heaven' once more."

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:21-25).

"Furthermore," he says, "while good earthly stewardship is a sound biblical principle, the pantheism and idolatry of which Paul warned (worship of creation and/or false idols over the Creator) prospers yet today in its contemporary, totalitarian forms: radical environmentalism and new ageism."

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones (lesbianism). In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27).

Barber wonders, "Was Paul rebuking 'progressives' on the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama, liberals in Congress and other cheerleaders for these 'shameful lusts' and 'unnatural relations' – or was He just describing the disproportionately powerful and 'inflamed-with-lust' homosexual lobby they represent?"

"Probably both," he concludes.

There's more. If possible take a moment and read the article.

And then there's this:

With President Barack Obama working tirelessly to garner congressional approval for attacking Syria for its use of chemical weapons, some Christians are debating if it could lead toward the fulfillment of end-time prophecies in the Bible.

There is so much conversation about it, Time Magazine is quoting Christian blogs. They have published an article titled, "Some Evangelicals See Biblical Prophesy In Syrian Crises."

In it they quote Isaiah 17:1, "See, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins. Her towns will be deserted forever."

Time quotes one Christian website blog saying, "The long prophesied end days are here," and another saying, "It may not be long before this prophecy from Isaiah 17 becomes history."

I don't believe Time Magazine has a great interest in the truth of God's Word, however, they do have an interest in sensationalizing this kind of conversation. And their interest reflects the public interest in this matter.

The Christian Post, an evangelical website affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, has addressed the debate of whether this present crises and possible entrance of the US bombing Syria could be the fulfillment of Isaiah 17.

They quote Jan Markell, founder of Olive Tree Ministries, Carl Gallups, a pastor and radio host and Bill Salus, an author, as people who see this as the possible fulfillment of Isaiah 17.

However they quote Dr. Charles Dyer, a professor at Moody Bible Institute, as feeling it may not be the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy even if the US or Israel should destroy the city.

Dr. Dyer told the Chicago Sun Times that Damascus was destroyed in the 7th and 8th centuries and he doubts that any modern day devastation of Damascus would directly relate Isaiah 17.

A couple of things I'm absolutely certain of.

1. Human events are aligning in ways that are consistent with biblical prophecy and the culture is reflecting the "times" Paul spoke of. The Lord will return, just as He said.

2. Damascus has already played a significant role in many of us knowing Jesus Christ personally.

Saul had become well known for his attacks against the followers of Jesus Christ. He mocked them, he took them to court and saw their death as often as possible.

The biblical narrative in Acts chapter 9 says, "Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord" acquired letters from the high priest of the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way [Christians] whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem."

As he traveled on the road into the city of Damascus, a bright light was turned on him and he fell to the ground. He was blinded. A voice spoke saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"

Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The answer: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. It's hard for you to kick against the goads."

The people traveling with Saul heard the voice, but couldn't see anyone. Saul asked, "What do you want me to do?" The Lord told him to arise, go into the city and he would be told what to do.

Acts, Chapter 9, continues to tell the story of the miraculous conversion of Saul. The Lord said to Ananias, who was afraid of him because of his reputation for persecuting Christians, "He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."

Ananias laid hands on him and he was healed of his blindness. He became Paul. And he changed the world with the message of the gospel.

No one knows what President Obama may do in regard to bombing Syria or the city of Damascus. We are unsure if the bombing and destruction of the city would or would not be a fulfillment of Isaiah 17.

Of this we are certain:

Paul wrote in his last letter before he was executed, (II Tim. Chapter 1), "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me His prisoner...I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that day."

Be Committed. Stand firm. Fear Not. He Is Able.