The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Called to Endure


"Let us run with endurance the race set before us" - Hebrew 12:1
 
In Hebrews 12:1 we are called to endure when it states, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . . .”  These first three verses of Hebrews 12 contain the key to enduring in our walk with the Lord. Let’s look at them and see if the Lord won’t open them up for us.

What is “endurance”? The Greek term translated “endurance” is hupomone and means enduring, patience, perseverance, constancy, continuing. Webster’s Dictionary defines “endurance” - the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity e.g. a marathon runner’s endurance. The Enhanced Strong’s Concordance describes endurance as the New Testament characteristic, “of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”

 

At the onset of WWII, England soon found itself the last bastion of hope against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. At one point when Germany had overrun Europe and England stood alone, Winston Churchil the Prime Minister of England summoned his countrymen to endure and press on in the fight at all costs. These were some of his words:

 

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say; It is to wage war, by sea, by land and air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory – victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

                    

The Bible says we are in a war of even more momentous proportions than the one Churchill and England faced. It is a battle against principalities and powers and rulers of this dark age, a demon hoard (Ephesians 6:12). Quitting is not an option. If we quit the demons of hell will ravish us and smear the name of the Almighty. That is unacceptable. We are called to endure and we must endure.

When we look at the context of this verse  we need to recognize is that Hebrews twelve follows Hebrews chapter 11. In Hebrews 11 we have the Hall of Faith. Much like we have Halls of Fame in sports, the Bible has a Hall of Faith where a summary list of people from the Bible who were exemplary in their faith. But the key thing to note here is that their faith enabled them to endure. The purpose of faith is to enable us to live lives pleasing to the Lord (Hebrews 11:6). It is faith that enables a person to endure because faith is the “substance of things hoped for,” (Hebrews 11:1) it is the ground or foundation that provides a path from the present to the future. Moving from the present to the future is what we call enduring. Faith is the “evidence of things not seen,” it enables us rise above doubt, emotional stresses, depression etc., and press on. But how do we practically press on and endure? This is where Hebrews twelve comes in.

First, understand that God will help us endure just as He helped those in the Hall of Faith chapter. Hebrews 11 has a long list of those who pressed on and endured in their faith even when buffeted and torn by trials and hardships of various types. The testimonies of the faithful ones in the Hall of Faith are very impressive and awe inspiring. But Hebrews 12:1a starts out by saying, “Therefore we also, . . .” which tells us there is a way to follow in the  enduring footsteps of these giants of the faith.

Second, the key to enduring begins by laying aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1b). To endure you have to travel light. Don’t allow excess baggage to weigh you down. Prioritize your life with heavenly priorities and don’t allow yourself to be ensnared or tangled up in the sins of the world.

Third, to endure we need to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 11:1c). Someone has said that in order to win a race you have to be in it to win it. You can’t just drift to the side or get off course, you have to stay on track and run “the race that is set before us.” Get in to the action, jump into the fray with both feet. Serve the Lord in some way! Faith by its very nature and definition is an action. Faith that is alive is not stagnant but active (see James 2:14-26). Faith actively endures. And also, we should focus on the “race set before us,” in other words you can’t run a future race or a past race, but only the one in the present. Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough problems of its own (Matthew 6:34). Paul was inspired to tell us to forget what lays behind us in our past (Philippians 3:13). You don’t endure by dwelling on past victories or defeats or by worrying about future races or opponents, you endure by keeping your focus right. And what is the right focus and the most important aspect of enduring in our faith?

Fourth, to endure the most important thing is to keep our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:2a states, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, . . .” There is something transformational that takes place in the one who fixes their gaze on Jesus. You see when we try to endure without fixing our eyes on Jesus, we begin to look at those around us and that can be bad. We begin to wonder if we measure up to others or if they measure up to us. If we take our eyes off Jesus and look to our self, we begin to wonder why we aren’t getting the recognition we think we deserve for all the sacrifices and hard work we are doing as we endure in our faith. The easiest way to get sidetracked and in a ditch  that will threaten our enduring is to get our eyes off of Jesus. When we look at Jesus, when we fix our eyes on Him, when we fix our gaze of faith on Jesus, everything is put in its proper place. As we look at Jesus we realize Who we are serving and who we are not serving (Colossians 3:17, 23-24). Yes, this is the major key and why in verse three it states, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:3). When we keep our eyes on Jesus we thwart the temptation to be discouraged or depressed. When we keep our eyes on Jesus we learn how and why we are enduring. When we keep our eyes on Jesus our priorities fall into place and we stay on track.

To grow in our faith and endure we must come close and stick close to Jesus. Knowing Jesus is what eternal life is all about (John 17:3; 1 John 1:1-4). The key to enduring in your faith is coming close to Jesus. The closer you come to Jesus the more clearly you will see your sin (Isaiah 6). The closer you come to Jesus, the more power you will have over sin (1 John 3:6a). The closer you come to Jesus the more strength you will have to endure the trials of life. The answer to endurance is coming close to Jesus and sticking close to Jesus.

Fifth, to endure we need to realize that Jesus victoriously has endured to the end ahead of us and for us (Hebrews 12:2). This truth paves the way for us to endure as more than a conqueror. Paul mentions that in Christ we are “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37). What does that mean? Well, a conqueror is a brave soldier who confidently goes into battle hoping he will survive and win the battle and war. There is some uncertainty with the mere conqueror. But someone who is more than a conqueror is someone who goes into the battle certain that the victory is theirs. Because Jesus endured and went to the cross before us, we can endure in His steps knowing nothing can separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39). Because Jesus went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins are graciously forgiven. The security we have in the finished work of Jesus enables us to endure with a certainty that the victory is ours in Christ (John 19:30). Which leads us to the final key to enduring.

Sixth, to endure we need the joy of the Lord (Hebrews 12:2). It says Jesus endured, “for the joy that was set before Him.” That is another key. Joy is not mere happiness. Happiness depends on happenings or circumstances. Joy depends on Jesus. Jesus endured in His redemptive mission to and through the cross with joy. Joy in this sense is the confident expectation that victory is secure. Jesus had it all under control and knew what His cross work would graciously provide for sinful humanity. Now our joy is not confident in ourselves but in Jesus. Jesus endured no matter what; no matter the betrayal; the false accusations; the mocking; the beating; the trial and hardship; the injustice; He endured it all. He endured because He knew God was in control and nothing would befall Him that was beyond the will of God. That is the joy set before Him. In the same way we can endure with joy in that we know that nothing is going to befall us that God has not allowed and if He has allowed it He will also provide help to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, we endure because the issue of our relationship with Jesus is settled in our hearts. Leaving or forsaking or giving up is not an option. The only option is finishing well, and we will if our joy is in the Lord, if we keep our eyes fixed on Him.

There are many example of enduring faith in Scripture. Here ae  few for your further study:

 
  • Abraham and Sarah endured (not perfectly – Genesis 16; 20) and when God faithfully came through for them they birthed “Laughter” i.e. Isaac (Genesis 21).
  • Joseph (Genesis 50:20)
  • Paul (2 Corinthians 4:8-11; 11:23-28
  • Hebrews 11
At the end of WWII Winston Churchill was invited to speak at a university and share the key to the victory in the war. When he rose to speak he slowly approached the podium, paused an scanned the crowd. Then he said these simple words:

 
Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

 
We are called to endure. We must endure. In the strength of a close walk with the Lord – we will endure – for His glory!


[1]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G5281). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Will the Temple Be Rebuilt?

“The son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”

– 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

 

Will a Temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem? The book of Revelation gives us strong evidence that it will. Jerusalem is arguably the most religiously and politically volatile place on earth. The mere mention of building a Jewish Temple where the Muslim Dome of the Rock is creates a worldwide stir. But the Bible tells us that not only will the Temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the Tribulation but a Millennial Temple will likely be built to replace the Tribulation Temple.  

 

The Bible speaks of a rebuilt Temple stating, “Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the Lord; Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’. Jesus is “the BRANCH.” The Temple He will build is the Millennial Temple. He will rule from this Temple during the Millennium (Revelation 20). The Temple built during the Tribulation is built by man and will be defiled by man. So there’s going to be two more Temples? Confused? Maybe we should look a bit at the history of the Temple.    

 

The first Temple was built by Solomon around 1050 B.C. (2 Chronicles 3-4). It took him 7 years to build (1 Kings 6:38). It was constructed in reverence (1 Kings 6:7). It was built 480 years after the Exodus (1 Kings 6:1, 37-38). This Temple held the Ark of the Covenant (1 Kings 8:1-9). But because of the spiritual idolatry of Israel God allowed the Temple to be plundered and burned by the Babylonians around 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:9-17).

After 70 years of captivity a second Temple was built. God through Persian king Cyrus allowed His people to return and rebuild the Temple under the leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel (Ezra 1:1-4; see Jeremiah 25). The glory of this second Temple was nothing compared to the glory of Solomon’s Temple (Ezra 3:12). The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Malachi discuss the rebuilding of the Temple of God and some of the problems faced in the process.

In 20 B.C. king Herod, in an effort to find favor with the Jews, ordered a Temple renovation that restored much of its past glory. This renovation was so extensive that it is sometimes referred to as the third Temple.

In A.D. 70 the Roman Titus rode into Jerusalem and put down a rebellion of the Jews.  Titus ordered the Temple be left alone. But a drunken Roman soldier threw a torch into the Temple setting it ablaze. The fire melted the gold in the Temple. The Roman soldier’s ripped every stone apart to get at the gold thus destroying the Temple. This fulfilled Jesus prophecy made 30 years earlier (Matthew 24:1-2).

From that point Jews were dispersed throughout the world and persecuted severely for nearly 1900 years. On May 14, 1948 they miraculously returned to their homeland and were reestablished as the nation of Israel. This was an incredible fulfillment of prophecy (Ezekiel 36-37).

It wasn’t until the 1967 war that Israel gained control of Jerusalem. Inexplicably general Moshe Dian allowed the Muslim caliph to remain in control of the Temple mount. If this hadn’t happened the Jews might have rebuilt the Temple, then and there. But God had another plan. It will take unprecedented political ability and charisma to work out an agreement that will allow the Jews to rebuild their Temple.  Who could broker such a deal?

We don’t know when the Antichrist will come to power (Daniel 9:26-27). But when he does Daniel tells us Antichrist makes or will “confirm” an existing covenant (Daniel 9:27) for a 7-year period with Israel. He will break that covenant at the midway point (Daniel 12:11). This covenant will allow for the Temple to be rebuilt and sacrifices reinstated. But “on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,” in other words the Antichrist will not only betray his covenant with Israel, but will desecrate their Temple (Matthew 25:15-16). Indeed, what Jesus referred to from the book of Daniel as “the abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15) will occur when, “. . . the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). In order for all this to happen a fourth Temple will have to be built in Jerusalem. 

Today in Jerusalem Jewish yeshivas (priestly schools) train students to be temple priests. The Menorah to be used in the Temple along with all the other utensils have been made. In Israel there is a Temple Institute devoted to preparing for the rebuilding of the Temple. There is a group called The Temple Mount Faithful committed to rebuilding the Temple. People are ready now to rebuild the Temple.

The Temple Mount today is a 35-acre flat platform. It has only become one of Islam’s most holy sites since the 1967 war. In the late 600s A.D. a man named Omar built a mosque referred to now as The Dome of the Rock. Muslims believe the rock around which this mosque is built is where Muhammad on his magical horse ascended to heaven.  How could a Temple be built on this site? The mosque might be removed, (an earthquake or terrorist attack?). It is certain that any terrorist attack on the Dome of the Rock would lead to a jihad bloodbath of Biblical proportions. There is another possibility.

The first two verses of Revelation 11 give us important evidence about the next Temple. It states, Now I was given a measuring stick and told to go and measure the temple of God, . . . But do not measure the outer court,” I was told, “for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the Holy City for forty-two months.”   Why would the outer court not be measured? This would significantly reduce the space needed for the Temple to be rebuilt.

 

In the March/April 1983 issue of The Biblical Archeological Review Dr. Asher Kaufman reported on his 16-year study of the Temple Mount. He theorized the Dome of the Spirit, (a gazebo like structure in the northwest corner of the Temple Mount platform) was the spot where the Holy of Holies of the Temple had been located. This could have great implications. Remember the instruction of Revelation 11:2, “But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. . . . ”  Given the positioning of the Temple with the Holy of Holies placed at the point of the Dome of the Spirit, the Temple inner court area would fit on the Temple Mount at this moment! The outer court area apportioned to the gentiles may be for the Muslims and their mosque. If this is true, the Temple could be rebuilt right now! All that remains is for a persuasive and cunning politician, (like Antichrist) to negotiate a treaty between the Jews and Muslims to allow for this.

In Daniel chapter 9 we are told of one who will arise and be “cut off.” This is Messiah Jesus. He was cut off “not for Himself” but for us on the cross. The Antichrist is the “prince who is to come.” The antichrist will oppose Christ and all He stands for but will do so in a deceptive way. The Antichrist will present himself as an alternative to Christianity. He will say something like, “Religions in general have been too intolerant and the root cause of wars and rumors of wars throughout history. Christianity in particular has been too intolerant of other religions. I’m here to present you with a new religion of tolerance.” He will preach tolerance. He will encourage religions to peacefully coexist side by side.  What better example of this than to have two historically intense religious arch rivals like Islam and Judaism set up their holy sites side by side on arguably the holiest site on earth?

But even if such a scenario seems too outlandish to you there’s another more recent option. In 2014 with the publishing of the book Temple – Amazing New Discoveries that Change Everything About the Location of Solomon’s Temple (Life Bridge Books, Charlotte North Carolina) by author and archeologist Robert Cornuke, still another possibility for rebuilding the Temple was postulated. It is Cornuke’s belief that what we think is the “Temple Mount” of today was really where the Romans legion of Jerusalem was garrisoned and not the Temple Mount. He believes the real “Temple Mount” was to the south in the City of David which is under excavation right now. Cornuke’s theory has been met with a lot of opposition by those holding to the more traditional view. It’s still an interesting and thought provoking hypothesis. Something for us to prayerfully and prophetically consider. The jury is still out. But if Cornuke’s claims are true, the next Temple could be erected as soon as contractors could be commissioned paid to do the job!

No matter where the Temple placement is, what we need to see is that the mere consideration of such a rebuild of the Temple is evidence we are in the End Times. Before the Antichrist is revealed and Temple rebuilt, the Rapture of the Church will occur. We shouldn’t be reduced to looking for Antichrist. Instead we should be looking for the return of Jesus Christ! Jesus is coming to take genuine born again believers out of this world before the wrath of God is poured out on a Christ rejecting world (1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11; Revelation 3:10). God’s promise is that Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

 

Scripture clearly states that “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Since the time of the Tribulation (described in Revelation 6-18) is a time of God’s and the Lamb’s outpoured wrath (cf. Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1), it would not be just for those “saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9) to go through the Tribulation period. This was prefigured in the Old Testament account of the removal of Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33). And it is seen in the context of the New Testament. Logically, when we consider scripture as a whole, inductively, it leads us to the expectation of being removed out of this world via the Rapture of Christians by Jesus before the Tribulation.

 

Are you ready? Look around you, see the signs. The time is at hand. You don’t want to be left behind to experience the Tribulation. Make your salvation sure (1 John 5:13). Turn from your sins and trust Jesus as your Savior (Acts 3:19; Romans 6:23; 1 John 1:9). If you see the Temple being rebuilt, it’s likely too late for you to escape, you’ve probably already been left behind. But at least you know what to expect.  God has provided an entire Book of Revelation to help you through. And though times will be hard and scary, the Lord will help you through. “And they overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11).