Great Delusion

Paul, in 2 Thess 2, writes of a time when God Himself will send a great delusion, so that people will believe “the lie”.

I have come across a variety of claims about the nature of that “great delusion”, including some that insisted it had already happened and others that suggest it is happening now.

The first example I saw was on a Christian forum, where a contributor claimed that God had already sent the great delusion upon America, and therefore sharing the gospel with Americans was a fruitless exercise. That person (while in my opinion misguided on that issue) did at least put his belief into action and moved to South America as a missionary.

More recently on a bible teacher’s blog, it was suggested that the current, widespread  normalisation of homosexuality and the idea of gender flexibility could be the “great delusion”. I can understand his concern about the way such thinking seems to have flooded western culture so suddenly and so widely; but is that  the great delusion God Himself will send?

I don’t believe so, although Romans 1 does include the warning (repeated several times) that God will give people who reject Him over to their vile passions, to uncleanness and to a debased mind; and homosexuality is specifically mentioned in regard to that giving over. But I see that is separate to Him sending “great delusion”.

In context, Paul’s warning about God sending a great delusion relates to something still in the future. The great delusion he writes about  comes after “the lawless one” (commonly referred to as The Antichrist) has been revealed. I suspect there’s significance in the fact that Paul starts this section of scripture with an admonition not to be deceived about end time events and their timing.

The “great delusion” relates to acceptance of that lawless one, who comes:

“according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth,”

His lawless agenda and how he carries it out are based on everything contrary to God and God’s character, and yet people will willingly fall for him. But how and why would they do that?

Firstly, people (including professing Christians) love to follow a man who promises answers, even if those answers (and methods) may be contrary to the purposes of God.  For example, it seems like many find it easy to get caught up in things related to national pride and patriotism, especially when they are dressed up in Christian rhetoric which makes them seem gospel (and God) friendly. Be wary of references to any nation’s “Judeo-Christian” foundations. Things were never as rosy in the past as they are made out to be, no matter how many pockets of genuine believers there may have been in a nation.

Secondly,  it is unlikely that people will accept “THE lawless one” without prior conditioning, without first being seduced by “lawless-lite” leaders, precursors to that ultimately lawless leader.  So before that end-time, satanically empowered man arrives in the world, his way may be made smoother, easing people into accepting the lawlessness he will personify. Look out for those seeking or gaining power through falsehood and deception. In other words liars who are effectively able to make lies acceptable, or can deflect attention away from their own lies, by portraying them as the real truth (or “alternative facts”) insisting that it’s others who are the deceivers.

The only way to ensure not falling for that kind of deception is to receive the love of the truth. Embrace truth and there will be no desire to excuse lies or liars.
We need to become familiar with GOD’s purposes and know what direction GOD is taking with HIS creation; instead of getting mixed up with human political schemes that exalt men (or A man) that have no relationship at all with God – not matter how often and how strongly they attempt to  use the name of God to justify ungodly schemes.

Cashless

“The cashless society is a con – and big finance is behind it “
By Brett Scott

Banks are closing ATMs and branches in an attempt to ‘nudge’ consumers towards digital services, says campaigner…

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/19/cashless-society-con-big-finance-banks-closing-atms

I often find the comments section of the Guardian is more enlightening than the articles themselves. They show how people are thinking and feeling about issues.

This one in particular shows how the idea of a “cashless” society has gained strong support – something that seemed unlikely back in the 70s when the idea of cashless transactions were being predicted by those with an eye on end time prophecy.

[The beast] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name (Rev 13).

While I didn’t doubt that interpretation of the mark of the beast, it seemed like something that would face widespread resistance. The comments after the above linked article shows that 40+ years later that widespread resistance clearly isn’t there and cashlessness is increasingly being lovingly embraced.

I don’t base my faith on the validity or otherwise of what people were saying 40 years ago when they predicted a cashless society. Maybe they were mistaken about the interpretation they applied to the mark of the beast. Whether the world goes cashless or not isn’t a “deal breaking” factor with relationship to the gospel – I just find it interesting how easily it COULD be the right understanding of the above quoted scripture verses. And it’s VERY interesting how comfortable people are getting with the very idea that once seemed so uncomfortable.

It shows how easily people can be seduced to accept and celebrate things that were once viewed with suspicion or even horror.

“All Israel Will Be Saved”

I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

 

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I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.

The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them.” ’

“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name — after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid.

When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.”

 

Recognition of Israel

The fact that scripture forewarns of terrible things ahead for Israel indicates to me that the current political state is only one of a number of steps towards the fulfilment of prophecy and not the actual fulfilment of prophecy regarding the return of the people of Israel to the Promised Land.
It is a mistake to view today’s Israel as if it has already attained its promised return.

The present day nation Israel relies upon its geographical territory, political power and the strength of its armed forces to ensure its ongoing security and the safety of its people. The slogan “Never Again” has been used to declare they won’t allow a repeat of the Holocaust.
However if we are to take scripture seriously – especially the words of Jesus, there will not only be an “Again”, but the horrors of the Holocaust will be surpassed.

I believe one reason for the time of Jacob’s Trouble, what Jesus describes as great tribulation, is to bring Israel to the recognition that their only hope is in Him.
Everything that gives them security will be shown to be worthless and stripped away, leaving them no place to turn.

THEN God will intervene and “the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward“.

I want to ask whether evangelical interest and support of post 1948 Israel (as well-intentioned as it may be) in reality takes attention away from something potentially more significant.

If we focus our attention on a place or a political entity rather than a people, might we miss something important?
Maybe we need to consider the question: who or what is Israel in God’s eyes? When we refer to God’s promise to Abraham (“I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you”) who is the “you” referring to?

To what extent has International politics and evangelical eschatology blinkered the definition, making it primarily a reference to a political entity in the Middle East? And as a result, how much has that made evangelicals reluctant to say anything “critical” about the State of Israel and what it does?

Shouldn’t the definition of Israel be much wider – to cover the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob wherever they are?

In that case the majority of Israel remains in exile and will do so until after the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Great Tribulation) which will be experienced by Jews outside of the Promised Land (Amos 9) as well as those within its borders (Zech 13). Israel will experience great suffering at the hands of the nations before the Lord intervenes.

Amos describes this period as a sifting, through which “all the sinners of [His] people will die by the sword”
Zechariah describes it in the terms of refining, through which two thirds will be “cut off and die”.

But despite the predicted horrors, there are promises of salvation, there are promises of the complete and permanent return of Israel to the land that God promised them; a fulfilment completing the partial return reflected by today’s imperfect political reality. A return of a complete nation, all of whom recognise and accept their Messiah. (Zech 12:10, Matt 23:39)

Unlike today’s imperfectly governed state that like any other nation is prone to injustice and unrighteousness (the reason they ought not be set on a pedestal and denied scrutiny by those professing Christ), that future return of the people will be to a land ruled by their just and righteous King, their Messiah, Jesus.

And instead of nations gathering to wage war against them, the nations will honour their King and celebrate with them, or face significant consequences. (Zech 14: 16-18)

Carte Blanche or Held to Account? (What should a friend think?)

This isn’t an easy post to write. I know some will find it offensive because it will be critical of Israel, and as anyone who has seen the inside of US style Christian evangelicalism will know, Israel is beyond criticism. Anything critical said or written against Israel, or what Israel does, is seen as an attack against the apple of God’s eye.
The unfortunate thing about that view of Israel is its unconditional nature – that Israel must be supported no matter what, as if Israel can do no wrong.

In recent days, Israeli troops have been responsible for the deaths of dozens of barely armed Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border.
There was a lot of rock throwing, and while that can sound relatively benign, (what boy hasn’t thrown a few rocks at some time in their lives, particularly in childhood or adolescence) but TV footage clearly shows something a lot more potentially lethal, with the rocks being thrown from slings as per David when he killed Goliath.

I have been to Australia’s War memorial in Canberra many times over the past few years. One of the displays is a series of marble sculptures, carved into the shape of folded flags. Depicting the national emblems presented to the families of soldiers killed in action. There are 41 of them, representing the 41 Australia servicemen who were killed during the war in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014.

Note the number: 41 and the period, around 13 years; and note these were servicemen, who signed up in the armed forces and they were combatants in a war zone.

Compare that number to the at least 58 dead (at time of writing) and thousands wounded (including 116 in serious or critical condition) IN A SINGLE DAY on the Israel Gaza border, where the dead were not trained military personnel and were not armed with sophisticated weaponry. And note that some were killed from a distance by IDF snipers and not in open, close conflict.
https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Unprecedented-violence-in-Gaza-leaves-55-Palestinians-dead-thousands-wounded-556424

I fully recognise that God chose the people of Israel as a special people of His own. I fully recognise that Israel has an ongoing place in God’s purposes, culminating in a permanent return to the land He promised to their ancestor Abraham.

But that does not mean that Israel, as God’s chosen nation has been given carte blanche, free from all consequences of their actions.
Scripture shows that Israel has always paid a price for any transgression of God’s standards. Their relationship to Him comes with conditions, with consequences: blessing or cursing dependant on their keeping of those conditions or not.
There is a standard of behaviour required of them.

Since 1948 when the nation of Israel was restored to the world’s maps, it has been interpreted by evangelicals as a fulfilment of biblical prophecy, the realisation of ancient promises made by God. But one significant part of prophecy about Israel’s return to the Promised Land is missing: the restoration of their relationship to God through recognition of their Messiah Jesus.

So Israel is not yet the nation that God intends them to be.
That doesn’t happen until after events that Jesus described as a time of:

“great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be”.

In other words after the most terrible period of human history that will exceed every other atrocity including the Holocaust.

Jeremiah calls this time “Jacob’s trouble” after which God promises the people of Israel:

I will save you from afar,
And your seed from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet,
And no one shall make him afraid.

Amos describes that time in this way:

For surely I will command,
And will sift the house of Israel among all nations,
As grain is sifted in a sieve;
Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.
All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword,

It is worth reading the rest of Amos 9 to see what happens AFTER the sinners of God’s people have been killed.
It is after that deadly sifting that restoration to the land comes, culminating in the promise that:

I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.

From this I find it clear that the current political state is not the culmination of God’s plan for His people Israel. While the political establishment of that nation has taken us a step towards that culmination, it is still NOT the Godly, Messiah serving people revealed in various Bible prophecies, so should we consider them and treat them as if they are?

The nation of Israel today is a secular and significantly Godless nation, just like the other nations of the earth; and as such they should not be excused for their unrighteousness any more than any other nation should be excused.

Godlessness is Godlessness whether it’s done in the name of Israel or any other national group. If we are representatives of God’s Kingdom we cannot legitimize injustice even if it’s Israel’s injustice. If anything we should expect of them a higher standard because of their historical (and future) relationship with God.

As a people they know better, and as followers of Jesus Christians should know better than to excuse un-Godly behaviour no matter whose behaviour it may be.
By excusing a person’s or a nation’s sin, we are not being a friend to that person or that nation.

Who Steers Prophetic “History”?

It seems that US evangelicals in high places think they can bring about fulfilment of God’s prophetic word through their own manipulations.

Middle Eastern prophecy: Is Trump a reincarnated King Cyrus, destined to herald the end of days?

RIOTS. Killings. War. At the centre of this chaotic scene is Donald Trump. And his evangelical supporters are hoping he will bring on Armageddon.

(see full article at link below)

Maybe the irony will be that their manipulative acts might bring on that fulfilment, but I think they would be deluded to believe they will be on the right side of prophetic “history”.

God can (and does) use the evils of man to bring about good, but that doesn’t mean that He caused, ordained, or even wanted those evils to be done. He doesn’t allow the evils of man to prevail but He will steer the outcomes to serve His purposes.

I think about the understanding I gained from my reading about WWI.
The war and the way it was fought was evil through and through, and yet God used what man did, and He reshaped the religious and political landscape to strengthen the foundations of a future nation to be named “Israel”.

Likewise, man’s evils in WW2 helped to change the world’s “emotional” landscape, creating enough empathy (and maybe more than a little guilt) to lead the UN to agree to the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people within the land promised by God.

Move on to the present day, the same thing could happen. Man’s misguided (and sometimes evil) political ambitions, even the ambition to bring about fulfilment of biblical prophecy, can be redirected by God to further HIS agenda in HIS timing.

According to the article to those “evangelicals” in high places see:

…chaos in the Middle East is interpreted as a good thing. To them, it’s a sign that the Second Coming is at hand. Peace efforts are simply postponing God’s will.

http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-eastern-prophecy-is-trump-a-reincarnated-king-cyrus-destined-to-herald-the-end-of-days/news-story/8fce69eacebd929b482ee00c895f37dc

While the article is at times confused and ill-informed, my own observations lead me to think it makes an important and legitimate basic claim about “evangelical” desire to hurry the world to Armageddon.

I intend to look at related issues in my next posts (with a particular focus on Israel), and I know some of it won’t be easy to write as it will address some difficult things.

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Addendum (another excerpt from the article:

The Trump presidency makes a big thing of its weekly bible study group.

It’s run by Capitol Ministries.

Its focus is openly apocalyptic…

…Earlier this month, Capitol Ministries issued a sermon directly relevant to current administration issues, including Iran, Syria and Israel.

Titled The Bible on When War Is Justifiable, it argues violence is justifiable because the Apostle Peter ordered all men to submit “to every human institution”. It also emphasises that God himself “judges and wages war”.

In their perspective, every human institution is the US administration. And God’s agent is President Trump.

Therefore Trump has God’s authority to do whatever he wants.

Take the evolving climate change crisis.

One argument goes something like this: The Bible says Earth was created for man. Man should not be ashamed to exploit it. Therefore, Capitol Ministries insists in its Trump administration bible studies group, environmentalism must therefore be a heretical religion. There’s nothing to worry about, it argues: God will “continually renew the face of the earth until He forms a new heaven and a new earth in the end times.”