Tag Archives: Prophet Ezekiel

Biblical Prophecy and Discerning the End Times.

Scripture has a great deal to say about the future, often referred to as the Last Days, End Times, or the Day of the Lord. From Old Testament prophets Ezekiel and Daniel to Jesus’ apostles John and Paul in the New Testament, numerous men of God describe signs of the end times in varying degrees of detail. They address the emergence of an evil antichrist, the establishment of a world system that flourishes worldwide, and a growing global conflict that comes to an explosive conclusion in Israel. And many of them highlight social trends that will surface in the last days.

Peter describes it like this: “In the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! … These teachers oppose the truth [and] have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are” (2 Timothy 3:1-9, NLT).

But prophets and apostles aren’t the only biblical figures who prophesy about the future. Jesus spends a great deal of time talking about future and providing a number of clues that signal the world’s end and foreshadow his return. As his ministry and life near their end he offers this response to a question about the signs of those events. “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.“Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time. “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near. “Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven” (Matthew 24:4-31, NLT).

But the book of Revelation remains the most prominent book of prophecy in Scripture for many believers. It goes into considerable detail about the last days, the antichrist, Babylon, and God’s judgment of a sinful world. Millions of committed Christians, casual churchgoers, and non-believers alike have studied the words contained therein in hopes of discerning the timing of Christ’s return, the identity of the antichrist, and the nations involved in Armageddon. They read books from experts and scholars who proclaim to possess insight into how it all ‘goes down’ in those last days. Sadly, many of these ‘insights’ conflict with Scripture and paint a picture that is easily digested by a trusting and desperate audience.

The fact is many of the details regarding the end times will not be made clear until those days are upon us. And many of those details will bear little resemblance to the narratives offered by many self-proclaimed experts and religious charlatans.

So how should we read and study prophecy? With an eye toward understanding the big picture and broad trends without concerning ourselves too much with learning granular specifics, much of which will remain a mystery until the Lord returns.

My new novel, A Town Called Babylon, offers one portrait of how the world will look in the end days, how society will tempt Christians to compromise their faith to remain in good standing, and how the antichrist might emerge. It is not meant to be a definitive treatise on the end times.

Rather I hope to galvanize readers to think critically about biblical prophecy and consider the possibility that widespread views propagated by popular pastors and authors may not be accurate. I want to encourage readers to investigate Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they seek to understand prophetic passages and, especially, the book of Revelation. And I hope to entertain readers in the process with a compelling story, colorful characters, and a hopeful conclusion.

You can purchase a copy at Amazon in both paperback and e-reader formats. I hope you enjoy the read. Here’s a link for your convenience.

Casual, Cultural Christianity is Corroding the Church

Polls consistently find an overwhelming majority of Americans refer to themselves as Christians. Those results seem surprisingly high against the backdrop of news stories splashed across the paper each morning and reported on by news anchors each night. Acts of greed, arrogance, hate, selfishness, violence, and debauchery appear to grow exponentially, and often in increasingly brazen ways, while acts of mercy, love, forgiveness, selflessness, humility, and self-restraint seem to occur with less and less frequency. And while the media certainly emphasizes the former while ignoring the latter, that doesn’t dismiss the fact that, as a nation and as individuals, we appear to pursue with growing regularity behaviors, attitudes, priorities, passions, and worldviews that collide head-on with God’s standards as outlined in the Bible.

How is it possible for a country to profess fidelity to Christ, claim to follow Him, and insist He is Lord, and yet find itself hurtling down a path of destruction littered with escalating amounts of sin? How can we reconcile the explosion of immorality crippling the nation with findings that two-thirds or more of Americans embrace Christianity? The answer lies in the type of Christianity much of the nation pursues. Many chase a casual, cultural Christianity that comports with societal standards instead of a fervent faith rooted in Scripture and aligned with Jesus’ example. The two expressions of Christianity have nothing in common, yield followers with dramatically different lifestyles, and lead to very different eternal destinations.

So what does casual, cultural Christianity look like and why does it thrive in our country? And what guidance does the Bible offer, to help us identify characteristics of this faux-faith so we can avoid embracing its dangerous doctrine? Fortunately, Scripture frequently addresses the subject of counterfeit faith and reveals its shortcomings in unambiguous terms – to keep us from falling victim to it. Does your faith mirror any of the attributes of artificial Christianity outlined below? If so, repent and ask God to restore you into a proper and healthy relationship with Him.

1] Casual, cultural Christianity focuses on self instead of God. It concerns itself with what it can get rather than what it can give. It desires (and demands) all the benefits God offers His people but dismisses His expectations and standards for them. It says yes to God’s mercy, healing, forgiveness, salvation, and material blessings but shouts no to obedience, trials, sacrifice, holiness, worship, and surrender.

Casual, cultural Christians proudly proclaim their faith but only when it drives more customers to their business, enhances their standing in the community, allows them to influence others, provides ‘cover’ to pursue secret sins, or furnishes power they can wield to advance their own agendas. In contrast, authentic believers publically profess Christ as Lord even when it costs them their job or financial security, soils their reputation in the community, results in the loss of freedom, subjects them to persecution or discrimination, or compromises their safety.

2] Casual, cultural Christians excel at talking about religion, attending church, and flattering the pastor and church leaders. But they refuse to answer God’s call on their lives and fail to follow His ways. We see an example of this in the Old Testament with God’s people, the Israelites. They happily encouraged each other to “come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord” (Ezekiel 33:30b, NKJV), publically expressing an interest in knowing God and His word and regularly attending temple services.

But God informed the prophet Ezekiel that the Israelites “sit before you as My people, and hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not do them” (Ezekiel 33:31-32, NKJV).

The Israelites said all the right things, voicing love for Ezekiel and God. But their outward enthusiasm was not matched by inward obedience. They had no intention of following God and obeying His message. Instead, they planned to pursue personal agendas predicated on selfish gain. Similarly, many of us verbalize love for Jesus in the public square but harbor ulterior motivations grounded in greed and selfishness. Emphasizing outward appearance while leaving the heart fallow has consequences, however. Like the Israelites more than two millennia ago, judgment and ruin awaits those who feign faith in Jesus.

3] Jesus confronted this disconnect directly during his discourse with the Pharisees. In response to their assertion that His disciples transgressed tradition by not washing their hands before they ate, Jesus exclaimed: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Mark 7:6-7, NKJV).

Casual, cultural Christianity sounds authentic because it honors God with the lips. What makes it faux-faith, however, is that it proceeds from a heart filled with rebellion and ruled by self (the flesh). Casual Christians never surrender their heart, soul, and lives to God, never express genuine repentance, and never undergo a life transformation by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They simply go through the motions of the Christian faith, play church, and act religious.

Consequently, Jesus explains that whatever worship they exercise toward Him is in vain; it is worthless. They might as well not even waste their time. Unless we worship and honor God with our hearts, and not just our lips, we face the same rebuke. How do we know the difference? If we embrace as doctrine the commands of men instead of scriptural truth, then our hearts have not engaged Jesus. Unless we offer to Him our lives and not just our words, we are not truly His.

4] The ancient church of Laodicea struggled with casual Christianity. They lived compromised lives that produced diluted faith that was barren and bore no spiritual fruit. More than that, they were so far from God they failed to understand their spiritual condition. They mistook their material prosperity as a sign God was pleased with them and approved of their faith. But Jesus issued a harsh warning to them, correcting that misperception.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked … As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:15-17, 19-20; NKJV).

In many ways the American church mirrors the Laodicean church. Too many of us possess lukewarm faith that is neither on-fire for the Lord nor offers cold refreshment to the lost and hopeless. We, too, have misinterpreted our wealth and self-sufficiency as a signal that God is pleased with us and approves of our faith. Little do we know how “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” we are in our faith.

Like the Laodicean church, we must repent and open the door of our heart to Christ and invite Him in. Then, let us take up the call of Christ and follow Him as passionate disciples. Only then will the casual, cultural Christianity that plagues the church be replaced by a healthy, energetic, and powerful faith that not only transforms our lives but also transforms the culture around us. What could be more fulfilling?