Some Say the Antichrist Has Already Come

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Famous Failures of Prophetic Interpretation

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Alexander the Great comes to Jerusalem

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Sharing faith with Muslims

Austrian trainOver 30 years ago I was on a local train in Austria, heading in to the capital, Vienna. Sitting across from me were two young men who seemed to be foreigners and they had a large Koran which they were reading. I struck up a conversation with them as they spoke English. After a while, I told them I’d read the Koran some and suggested they read Surah 3:55. They looked it up, read it, read it again, looked at each other, said a few words together and then looked back at me.

Surah 3:55   says, “Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection.”

I had studied the Koran just a bit and somehow remembered that reference which of course says things about Jesus of Nazareth which most people would never think would be in the Koran, including these two young Muslims.

That was one of my first experiences sharing my faith with, and talking about God with, Islamic people. During the 6 years I lived in Vienna, we’d rather often have Islamic people over to our house or would meet them while we were out.

Then years later I worked for 3 weeks at the Nagyatad refugee camp in southern Hungary where thousands of Islamic Bosnians were being housed during the Yugoslavian war of the early 90’s. Again my experience with those people was a positive one. My friends and I would daily go to this camp which was an old Russian army camp, deserted since the fall of Communism, which had be converted into this refugee camp.

At this camp was an elderly woman and her husband and she was considered the spiritual leader of the camp. As it turned out, there was a young Islamic woman at the refugee camp at the time who was obviously being tormented by spirits that were not of God. The spiritual elders of the camp had not been able to help this woman to be free from the torment of those spirits. Some of my friends had asked if they could pray for the tormented woman. Permission was granted and when my friends had prayed for the woman, she was delivered from her torments and possession and was made whole. So the woman who was the spiritual leader of the Muslims there told everyone that we were the people of God and that they should receive us from then on, which they did.

This woman was the spiritual leader at the refugee camp of around 2000 Bosnian Muslims in southern Hungary.

This woman was the spiritual leader at the refugee camp of around 2000 Bosnian Muslims in southern Hungary.

In the centuries that the Ottoman Turks ruled over southeastern Europe, the only people who converted from Christianity to Islam was a portion of the people who live in Bosnia. Sarajevo later became at one point the northern most Islamic city in that part of the world. But others in that area didn’t convert from Catholicism or Orthodoxy to Islam. And the animosity between these peoples has been a running boil that has festered off and on for over 400 years.

With my translator, Rebecca, a Christian from Sarajevo, at the Nagyatad refugee camp

With my translator, Rebecca, a Christian from Sarajevo, at the Nagyatad refugee camp

Perhaps the experience I remember most from being at that refugee camp was when my translator and I were invited into a room to talk to some people. As soon as we entered the room, my translator, Rebecca, said quietly, “Uh-oh.”

Sitting in the room were around 15 young men who looked to be around 25 to 35 years old. They were all sipping thick black coffee and talking  quietly with each other but I soon found that these were all front line fighters who’d fled the fighting. I knew I wanted to and needed to share my faith with these men but how could I do that? Through our conversation I found that several of them had seen their wives and children killed in front of them. They all had been in prolonged, often hand-to-hand combat recently. I could take it for granted that they’d all killed enemies of their people in combat.

What could I say to these ones? “Jesus loves you”? Well, yes. But how do I communicate that to these ones who were alive and mostly well on the outside but extremely traumatized on the inside? I searched deeply to find some way to connect with these soldiers and hardened combat irregulars. And the Lord led me to share with them what was for me the most traumatic and excruciating experience I’d ever gone through. I won’t relate what that was here but it very nearly killed me or permanently scarred me. And I told them that at that time, I had to find the grace, the love and the power of God in order to not let that event completely destroy me. I had to find a way to rise above that injustice I experienced and that unutterable pain that took the life and humanity out of me.

One of the young men I talked to from the group of fighters. His wife and children were killed in the war. He turned his face to the side here because he had a very large scar on the other side.

One of the young men I talked to from the group of fighters. His wife and children were killed in the war. He turned his face to the side here because he had a very large scar on the other side.

It was a very intense time and my translator was doing good to hang in there and translate what I shared with her to pass on to them. Because these guys were killers; violence was what they had lived in for years.

But they listened. OK, maybe it helped that I was a little older than them and that I was an American. I just told them that for their own sakes, they somehow had to find the grace of God to not let their experiences conquer their hearts and souls and turn them into permanently evil men.

A question I was asked by one of them seared my soul. I had told them of what I felt had been a crushing injustice I’d suffered and which nearly snuffed out my soul and my heart. One of them then in the group spoke up and quietly, very sincerely, asked me, “Why didn’t you kill him?” I had to answer that question, with God’s love and wisdom, as well as with humanity and reality.

Yes, they were Muslims and they knew we were Christians, the people they’d been at war with. But, in that room that afternoon, God brought us all to a deeper level. We were all human beings. We were all wanting to find and take the high road of life. We found that we had a common ground of empathy and even faith in God that we could look toward together.

Even these Muslim “killers” were human beings. They listened to me and my friend, responded and asked questions. I believe the Lord used that time to at least plant seeds of His love in their hearts that day. We need to be “always ready to give an answer of the hope that lives within us” (I Peter 3:15), even to Muslim warriors.

 

Fear them not

fear them not flattenedMost Christians shun pornography. They know they aren’t supposed to be alcoholics, or steal or kill. But how many Christians are violating a direct commandment of Jesus Christ every day and reveling in it? In Matthew 10:28, Jesus commanded “And fear not them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

I’m going to be a little blunt and frank. It seems to me there are millions of Christians who are just in love with fear and are obsessed with it. But is that God’s will? For me, I would emphatically say no. I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear. Because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.

The Bible almost strangely says, “I wisdom dwell with prudence” (Proverbs 8:12) or in another place “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10). In the same way, fear has companions too. One of fear’s biggest companions is hatred. And sadly you hear a lot of Christians talking about, not only their fears, but their hatreds.

fear them not 2 flattenedI should be even more plain here. Often the fear and hatred that Christians are encouraged to embrace has to do with Islam and people from the Middle East. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t see some panicked publication with the latest shrieking dread concerning how much we should be afraid of and hate Islamic people. And it seems that basically no one stands up to these things or calls them out. There’s a real thriving market for fear and hatred. And of course confusion and ignorance jump onto the wagon too.

“But Mark, they hate us! Think about 9/11! Think of the atrocities!”

What would I say to you?

“Think about Jesus Christ. Think about the Word of God. Establish your opinions and reactions on the eternal Word of God.”

It’s an outright sin, and a major one, to instigate fear, panic, and the obsessive observance of the most negative elements of anything or anyone. But how many Christians daily tune in to some news outlet or web site that is serving up a big dish of fear, hatred and prejudice, along with a supersized helping of ignorance, sprinkled with confusion? Millions are gulping this down and going right back to the serving line for more. “They love to have it so.” (Jeremiah 5:31)

But the Bible says, “Neither fear ye their fear: sanctify the Lord in your hear and let Him be your tread and let Him be your fear.” (Isiah 8:12b & 13)

“But Mark! What should be our reaction to these things? The dangers are real, Mark!”

If you are a Christian, haven’t you heard of the people of God for the last centuries who loved their enemies, whether those enemies were Godless, Christ-less communists or religious persecution that took place in Europe in past centuries? Have you heard of the ones who won their hellish enemies with the love of God?

Citizenship in heaven-flattenedSome Christians today are very seriously planning to take up arms against …whoever. I’ve repeatedly been in Sunday school groups where the conversation turned almost totally towards guns and preparations for armed conflict here in the States. And these are Bible believing, consecrated people.

How strongly can I say that I feel and know that this is not the way to go? You’re afraid of Islam and Muslims? How much do you really know about them, really? Not the propaganda, name calling and hyperventilating that you get daily from news channels or web sites.

mans problemsIf you are a Christian, you are actually commissioned by Jesus Christ to witness and win the world for Him. And yes, that includes Muslims. Could you share your faith with them, where they also really felt and knew that you loved them and had something to share with them that could change their lives, as it changed yours? Is your TV network or favorite web site instilling hatred, fear and even terror itself into your heart on this subject? Or is it teaching you how to love and win the World for Jesus through love and the power of His Word and His truth, including how to love, understand and win Muslims to the Lord?

If you’re in love with fear and stoking the fires of hatred in yourself and others, then I suggest you really take time to check out the condition of your heart. Is your hatred and fear “the fruit of the Holy Spirit”? (See Galatians 5:22 & 23). Is your “wisdom from above”? (See James 3:14-18). Our job as Christians is not to incite, promote and guzzle down fear and hatred of anyone. Our job is to love the lost and win the world to Him through His power and His truth. And we can. Because He can.

Get off the fear and hate train. It’s going to hell.

Future Powers and “1130”

Sometimes I write things and really wonder if I should publish it or not. This is an article like that. matrixI’ve wondered if it is just too “out there”, too far out for most people and they’d wonder about my sanity. So I’ve held onto this one for several months. But now I’ve decided to go ahead and publish it. As they said in the movie ”Matrix”, “Buckle your seat belt because Kansas is going bye-bye.”

*****

One of the strongest dreams I ever had in my life was when I was in Copenhagen, Denmark in the 70’s. I woke up from it because it was so electrifying. Then, when I went back to sleep again, I went right back into the middle of it. The dream was about the very End Time, in the Last Days or the final years before the Second Coming of Jesus. It also was about movies.

In my dream about the future, it had happened that so much spiritual truth and knowledge of the spiritual world had come into the modern world through movies that the world had become a much more spiritual place, both for good and for bad. In the dream I could feel that my friends and I had incredibly enhanced spiritual powers, with powers to do miracles like in the Bible. But also, at the same time, the ungodly and the unsaved had also acquired powers from the dark side.Moses and snake

It was like the time in the Bible when Aaron cast his rod at the feet of the Pharaoh and it became a serpent. But then Pharaoh’s priests cast their rods the same way and their rods also became serpents. As they all watched, then Aaron’s rod which had become a snake ate the rods which had become snakes of the Pharaoh’s priests.

two snakesGod’s representatives and Satan’s representatives had powers then to do miracles which in our times most folks don’t even believe can happen. But in my dream of the future before the coming of the Lord, the world had become such a spiritual place that both my Christian friends and I, and the godless, had powers to do mighty miracles.

Another amazing thing I remembered from the dream was what year it was or at least what time. It was “1130”. No, not 1130 AD but Daniel chapter 11, verse 30. This is the last verse in that most significant chapter before the verse that Jesus personally referred to nearly 600 years later.

Matthew 24 21-a for blog postWhen Jesus was asked by His disciples about His return to the earth, He told first of a number of signs of the last days. But then He said, “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the Holy Place … then will be great tribulation…”. (Matthew 24: 15 &21)

And the specific verse that Jesus was referring to was Daniel 11:31. But in my dream, the future time I was living in was just one verse before that, Daniel 11:30. In other words, it was just at the last days, weeks or months before the beginning of the last 3½ years spoken of repeatedly in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation (see Revelation 13:5).

In my dream, we were telling what time or year it was by where we were in the series of events spoken of in Daniel chapter 11, the most complete chapter on the End Time. Do you think that in the future to come, things will be so traumatic, confusing and chaotic that the only way we’ll even know where we are in time is by knowing God’s Word and prophecy so well that we will know by events happening around us where we are in the countdown in God’s Word to the very final days before the return of Jesus?

she was dead-flattenedIt was such an incredible dream. Like I said, it woke me up but when I finally went back to sleep, I went right back into it. It was a very incredible feeling to know that you had powers to do the miracles spoken of in the Bible. But also that the workers of darkness had powers to do miracles through the power of Satan. In the future, things would become more spiritual in our world and people would be greatly enhanced with spiritual powers both for good and for evil because the overall level of faith would be raised and the awareness of spiritual things would be more common. And of course in many ways, we are already to that point in time.

But one of the strangest things was this. In this dream it was clear that movies would be a medium by which the world would become more aware of the spiritual world. In my dream, there had been a movie that contained so much spiritual truth and insight that it had basically changed people into believers, for good or for evil.

And in many ways, that has happened. It hasn’t been one movie but many which have raised the world’s awareness of the spiritual world, perhaps more than any other single medium. At the end of my dream, somewhat was telling me, “You really need to see more movies”.

Daniel 11 32b  for blog  siteAnd looking at it all 40 years later, it still rings true. We are moving still forward to the final days and they are going to be very spiritual. The Bible says of the people of the last days, “the people who do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32) and “they that understand among the people shall instruct many” (Daniel 11:33).

God’s people, some at least, will be strong, doing “exploits”, miracles, and they will be teaching and instructing many. If you want to read some specifics, read Revelation 11 about two special witnesses during the final endtime who will have miracle working powers similar to the prophet Elijah of the Old Testament.

But at the same time the book of Revelation says that the Christ-rejected mockers and defiers of God will also have powers to do miracles through “that old serpent, called the Dragon and Satan.” (Revelation 12:9) Those times will come and in many ways are just very near.

So much “truth” is conveyed through movies now. It’s not the fully pure and holy truth that we find in God’s Word. But some movies pull back the curtain on the spiritual world, often showing much more bad and evil than good. But still, many realities of the spiritual world are portrayed there. Those realities are observed by millions and they are held accountable for the reality and truth they see there.

So, just make sure you chose the good side. Chose the God of light, “the Father of Spirits” (Hebrews 12:9). Get your powers and knowledge from the God of Love and His Son, not the evil, seducing dark side that leads us to doom and death. Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that lives and believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoso believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25 & 26)

He’s coming soon. I hope you’re prepared to meet Him.

Luke 24 & Acts 1 Live Class Audio

In a recent blog post, I wrote about the series of live classes I’ve started here in Austin on the book of Acts. That’s off to a good start; recently I’ve edited the audio recording of the first class and you can listen to the class here.

The Apostle Peter, speaking to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost

The Apostle Peter, speaking to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost

A few months ago I went through the books of Daniel and Revelation with the same group of friends. That series was so heart gripping as we were able to see again, not only all the fulfilled prophecies of the past, but the ones yet to be fulfilled. It seems to me at least that current events in our world today dovetail so clearly with the conditions described by the prophecies which are yet to be fulfilled in the lead up to the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth.

But it’s not good to get so caught up in Bible prophecy that we lose sight of our own call to Christian discipleship that’s at the heart of the New Testament. That’s why for me the book of Acts is perhaps the best book in the Bible (after the four Gospels of course) which can make plain what it should mean to be a Christian.

In opening this series, I wanted first to set the stage and the background for the beginning of Christianity after the resurrection of Jesus. So we started the class with Luke 24, the last chapter in the book of Luke. It’s clear from the first verses in Luke 1 and the first verses in Acts 1 that they’re written by the same man, “Luke the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Luke 24 just tingles with the atmosphere of the time between the Lord’s crucifixion, His rising from the dead 3 days later, and His ascension 40 days after that.

I just wish some movie could or would really do justice to that time and how it became clear to the disciples that Jesus had actually risen from the dead. In our class on this chapter, we also covered how that Jesus made clear to them that He wasn’t a ghost when He appeared to them, saying “handle Me and see for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see Me have.” (Luke 24:39)

From Acts 1, verses 10 & 11

From Acts 1, verses 10 & 11

Then in the class we went on to the book of Acts, which sort of overlaps the last verses of Luke. And Bible prophecy even comes into the picture. The two angels who were with the disciples on the Mount of Olives as they saw Jesus ascend up into heaven told the disciples that “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven”. (Acts 1:11) This is what was said in the Book of Zachariah 500 years before, speaking about the Lord’s ultimate return to the earth, “His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with You.” (Zachariah 14:4 & 5)

But perhaps the biggest thing in Acts chapter 1 was the promise of the Holy Ghost which Jesus said the disciples would receive in a few days after He had ascended. Such a ringing verse, “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. And you shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8) The Holy Ghost was not to be given as some kind of virtual toy for Christians to be proud about. But it was to be given as a source of power to increase their effectiveness in their primary purpose and duty: to witness to others about the Lord.

The class has been edited down to just under an hour. Since it was a live class, it isn’t the same type as the videos on the book of Daniel have been. Those are all scripted beforehand while this one was just given as it came and so there are more “rabbit trails and ramblings” than are in the Daniel videos. But several people abroad have asked if these could be made into some kind of audio class so that they can have the opportunity to be in on the classes and the atmosphere of a live Bible study.

Here’s a link where the audio can be listened to. I hope this class and the ones to come will be a blessing to you. With love, Mark

 

PS  In the last few days here we’ve had the funeral for my dad. There have been more relatives here than at any time since my parents 50th wedding anniversary in the late 90’s. It’s been a sad time but also a very nice time that so many have been together again. My four kids from Europe have been here and one of my grandsons.