During the current Hebrew month of Elul, the shofar sounds daily, reminding us to look to the state of our souls. Are hurricanes, earthquakes, monsoons the sound of God’s shofar?
Can we KNOW He is “near—right at the door”?
It’s been quite the week here at Five Stones and a Sling.
It’s been quite a week in the whole world… 🙁
First a small bit of good news! I’ve been awarded a book deal for my Christian World War II novel! The Plum Blooms in Winter is slated to launch from Mountain Brook Ink in October 2018. That’s pretty fast by publishing standards! 🙂
I’ve been a busy blogger too. There’s just so much going on, and… maybe writing is how I process?
This Divine Appointments series is themed around exploring the lessons the Jewish calendar holds for today’s believers. It may seem like I’ve strayed a bit from that… The stars… The weather… But I promise I’ll tie it all back together in a few paragraphs if you’ll bear with me.
But first I have to share this, which smacked me in the face yesterday morning.
Over the years I’ve looked at Matthew 24, a key passage on end time events, quite a bit. But for some reason I’ve spent less time in the parallel passage in Luke. I went to Luke yesterday and what Jesus says there really struck me.
And they [the Jewish people] will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:24-28)
The first verse gives you the fall of Judea to Hadrian, and the 1800-year Jewish diaspora, in a single sweeping sentence! Then the context jumps to the end of the Age of the Gentiles (Church Age).
Check out what Jesus says will mark the end of the Age of the Gentiles.
Based on Acts 2:19, I’ll add another item to the list of end-of-the-age transition markers: smoke.
And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke….
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
(Acts 2:19-21, quoting Joel 2:30-32)
The hurricanes have the headlines, so not everyone’s aware that in the Western U.S., dozens of wildfires burn. As of 9/5/17, the National Interagency Fire Center reported:
Extreme fire weather conditions caused many fires in Montana, Oregon and California to gain thousands of acres yesterday. Currently 81 large fires have burned 1.4 million acres in nine western states. More than 27,000 firefighters and support personnel are assigned to wildland fires in the West.
The thing that strikes me as unusual about this year’s fires is the smoke. Smoke reached hazardous levels in major Western U.S. cities from Seattle to Portland to Denver to Phoenix.
Hmm… It occurs to me that the animation above shows the smoke covering much the same ground the eclipse did! Could that be significant? I don’t remember it from prior years.
I’m not going to say that we’re absolutely seeing the ultimate and final fulfillment of these prophecies. I admit I always pictured them being more global—although what’s happening now is pretty darn big!
I have more to say about this (see my next post), but for now I’ll just make one point. In the discourse I’ve been quoting, all three of the synoptic gospels stress the element of mystery surrounding the timing of end-time events:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matt 24:36)
But what was the Lord’s purpose in this? So we could go about our business, ignoring the possibility of impending judgment (sleeping)? Or dismiss it altogether (scoffing)?
Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. (Matt 24:42)
For this reason you also must be ready… (Matt 24:44)
Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. (Matt 25:13)
Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 24:34-36)
The Lord’s goal was for us not to be caught unaware—for the day not to come on us “suddenly like a trap.” We’re to keep on the alert, watching for these things and warning about these things.
Matthew’s version of the discourse moves on to explore the theme of someone taken unaware from several angles. And in every case, there’s peril and loss involved in getting surprised—particularly for those not doing what the Lord intended.
We may not know the day or the hour, but let’s not kid ourselves. That day will come and there will be a big downside if we take our eyes off the ball.
Yet when I laid out an expectation of divine judgment in my post When Storms Rage, here is how some responded:
“The fear in this article is palpable. I’m almost afraid to say I disagree lest any negative thing to happen to me… be interpreted as from ‘God.’ But I’m not afraid. God is love and love, perfect love drives out fear.”
So… no fear of judgment—for himself or for others. Is this guy “on guard,” “ready,” “on the alert”? No! He’s a “sleeper.” (Plus, it’s easy to talk about “perfect love casting out fear” when you’re not in the monster storm’s path. I’m going to assume this fellow isn’t! A woman I know who is says, “I am terrified.”)
“Doesn’t understand the New Covenant. Pouring new wine into old wineskins.”
This gentleman either a) doesn’t believe God will judge the nations based on His eternal covenant with Israel, in spite of the many assurances in God’s word that He will; or b) doesn’t believe God will judge at all. Another “sleeper.”
This reaction was my favorite (not really…)
“Weather catastrophes have been happening since the beginning of time (just ask Noah). These aren’t the first and won’t be the last. Unfortunately weather s*^% happens.”
Are you kidding me? So… the Genesis flood was just s*^% that happened? In other words, we’re scoffing at the idea that God ever judged?
Sadly, the people who wrote these comments are “churched.” All of them referenced scripture in their replies. But… two sleepers and a scoffer! Ouch!
This is by no means true for everyone, but I think for many “No one knows the day or the hour” has become a reason to doze… and then to snore… and then to forget that when Jesus saved us, He not only saved us to something (eternal life, adoption into God’s family–John 3:16, John 1:12) but also from something (Divine wrath, which will come on the world–John 3:16-18, Romans 1:18).
This kind of reaction (sleeping, scoffing) is not what the Lord was after when He told us we couldn’t know the day or the hour.
In a previous post, I highlighted the very somber time we’ve entered on the Hebrew calendar. The forty days leading up to Yom Kippur are observed by practicing Jews as a special period of repentance. This begins with Elul 1—which this year was August 21, Total Eclipse Day.
I’ve felt from the beginning that the fact that the Lord has chosen to punctuate this year’s Forty Days of Repentance with
would seem to indicate this year won’t be “business as usual.” As I write this, we’re about midway through this year’s Forty Days of Repentance. And the picture keeps building. Harvey… Monsoons… Irma… Jose… Katia… Maria…
And this just in when I first wrote this post. The Mexico quake. At magnitude 8.1, it’s the strongest quake to hit Mexico in a century. It also triggered a three-foot tsunami.
I had a weird thought after hearing this tragic news from Mexico. I mentioned earlier the Jewish practice of sounding the shofar daily during the Forty Days of Repentance as a reminder to look to the state of our souls, in preparation for the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur to come.
Hurricanes, earthquakes, monsoons, massive wildfires seem to unfold almost daily. Could these be the sound of the Almighty’s shofar, warning us to look to the state of our souls?
Yesterday a second quake hit Mexico, more deadly than the 8.1 magnitude quake mentioned above. And Hurricane Maria gained strength rapidly yesterday, threatening to become another monster. Honestly, I no longer have the heart to keep updating my graphic.
You might notice a new and different kind of addition near Tishri 1 on the picture–something Mark Biltz has flagged. Every September 21, the U.N. celebrates an International Day of Peace. This year, that date happens to fall on the Feast of Trumpets!
The Feast of Trumpets is observed starting at sundown on Sept 20 in Israel, which is noon in New York City. NOW. It continues through sundown on Sept 22. So irrespective of time zone, every observance of the International Day of Peace will fall while the Jewish people observe the Feast.
Guess what the theme is for this year’s U.N. International Day of Peace?
For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. (1 Thes 5:2-3)
By the way… “come like a thief in the night” is also a Jewish idiom. It refers to a bridegroom coming to “steal away” his bride! See my most recent post for more on that.
I *think* I know a couple of things. (Although I reserve the right to be wrong, even about those!)
First, I am confident that the Lord will rapture His church on a Jewish feast.
Second, I am cautiously confident that it will be the Feast of Trumpets—emphasis on the cautiously. (Some people who study these matters and are much smarter than me make a case for Passover or for Shavuot / Pentecost.)
But this year? Next year? In a decade? That, I don’t pretend to know.
Five reasons I believe the Lord will rapture his church on the Feast of Trumpets—some year soon.
So the bottom line on today’s topic? Perhaps we can’t know the exact day and hour of the Rapture, but scripture says we can and must recognize when He’s “right at the door.”
Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. (Matt 24:29)
So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. (Luke 21:31)
But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” (Matt 16:2-3 And hmm! There we go with storms as a picture of judgment again!)
In context, the “these things happening” refers to the Parable of the Fig Tree. Which is in turn a clear reference to the rebirth of Israel. Many signs are listed among the “birth pangs.” But when we see Israel reborn, we know He is “right at the door.” I cover that a bit more systematically here.
Doesn’t “right at the door” put one in mind of another verse??
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev 3:20)
Many Bible scholars believe that the seven churches in Rev 2-3 have a symbolic meaning as well as their literal meaning. Symbolically, they represent the phases of church history, and the Church of Laodicea is a general picture of the church in our era.
Notice that Yeshua isn’t even inside the church! He’s outside the door, knocking!
Be watchful. Be alert. And if He’s knocking at the door of your heart, let Him in!
If you’ve never done that, it’s the simplest thing in the world. Sincerely pray something like this, in your own words. “Lord, I confess I’m a sinner—I’ve missed the mark God has set for me. I admit my sin has cut me off from relationship with the Living God and has condemned me to spiritual death. I know I need a Savior. Thank You for giving Your life for me on the cross. I want to follow You with all my heart. Come be my Lord and Savior.” That’s it! “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Rom 10:9)
We may not know the exact day or the hour of the Rapture, but given everything the Lord is bringing on during these Forty Days of Repentance, I think this year is making a decent case for itself!
Brothers and sisters, make no mistake. He is “right at the door”!
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev 3:22)
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23), that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.
A sincere thank you for devoting your time and attention to this fourteenth post in the series on Divine Appointments: Insights from God’s Calendar. Here’s an invitation to a free eBook, and to subscribe to the rest of the series:
Here is the full list of posts, if you’d like to check them out. I’ve bolded and put asterisks on a couple that I think are critical reading right now!