Matthew 24

Vs. 3 , “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  It is probably Tuesday on the Passion week of Christ.  Jesus and his disciples are returning to Bethany for the evening.  They rest at the Mount of Olives and look down upon the beautiful city and temple.  The disciple’s comment of the beauty of the temple (vs. 1-2) and it is here that Jesus uses this opportunity to warn His disciples of the future.  Bear in mind, these prophecies had both meaning for their near future (destruction of the temple) and the End Times in which we live today.  We must be careful to watch out (vs. 4-14) for these things: false prophets, wars, famines, death, martyrs, world chaos, and a good one, the spreading of the Gospel.  Brothers and sisters, we are so close to the Gospel being preached to all nations (vs. 14)!  Jesus not switches gears and points to a specific prophecy (Daniel 9:27) concerning the abomination of desolation (vs. 15-28).  This description has a double-meaning for the destruction done in 70 AD, but also the Tribulation that is yet to come.  Jesus also reminds them again of false Christ’s and false prophets.  Jesus then gives all of us a preview into His second coming (vs. 29-31).  The fig tree (vs. 32-35) reminds us to ultimately be ready because the signs point towards Jesus’ return.  Jesus uses the days of Noah and the flood as an example of people being told, but not realizing when (vs. 36-41).  Just as a homeowner must be diligent to keep watch for a thief at night, we too are to be alert (vs. 42-44).  This is a very easy example to take for granted because we think that surely Jesus won’t come back now.  The last example/parable is the good servant vs. the wicked servant (vs. 45-51).  This is more about the heart of each person, one takes for granted that Jesus will return while the other’s heart stays true.

Regarding application…Love Growing Cold.  Vs. 12, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”  This is a startling statement of truth from Jesus!  It’s a sobering thought because He spoke of the time that we live in.  I’ve heard people blame the media for over-exaggerating the atrocities of this world.  Our excuse is that it’s always been that way, so don’t be alarmed.  I would concur that a sinful world has been evil, but Jesus makes it quite clear that IS getting worse.  The concern for us Christians today is that the increase of wickedness is affecting the church.  We see the sinful world and then we look at the imperfect church and we grow disillusioned by it all.  Brothers and sisters, don’t let your love grow cold.  It is this very day that Jesus showed the full extent of His love by washing His disciples feel at the Last Supper on Thursday night before His death on the cross.

Revelation 4

Vs. 1, “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”  We now move into a section of Revelation that will speak to the things that will happen in the future.  It’s a pretty humbling and awesome glimpse into the events that will happen in heaven.  Reminiscent of the prophets before (Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) John language and vision is similar.  John is transported immediately to the throne in heaven (vs. 2).  Contrary to great detail of other prophetic pictures of a God in His throne room, John actually doesn’t elaborate too much.  This actually adds to the mystery and reminder that God is not impressed by earthly grandeur.  Question: Who are the twenty-four elders?  We are not given specific detail, but their purpose is clear; worshipping God.  Some say angels, some say a mixture of Old & New Testament believers, others think it could be the twenty-four priests over the course of time (I Chronicles 24:4).  These elders represent us, much like congress represents their people in their state.  Question: What about the four living creatures?  Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1) also gives us his version of what these creatures looked like.  They are beyond human description, yet John does his best to explain them.  The fact they have eyes all over their body denotes that nothing is hidden from them.  Their purpose we see here is to proclaim the holiness of God.  The twenty-four elders response of falling down before the Lord reminds all of us that He alone is worthy of praise (vs. 10-11).

Regarding application…How Great is Our GodVs. 8, “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”  God deserves our worship and praise.  Notice, how the twenty-four elders lay their crowns at His feet.  All that we have and all that we are must be laid down before the Lord.  God isn’t just great because He is the creator of the universe.  God is worthy of our worship because of the lamb that was slain for us.  God created us in His image with mind, will and emotion.  We have the ability to grasp the great love and sacrifice He Himself gave for us.  Now the onus is upon each of us to respond to our great God.  How will you respond?  Will you lay down your crowns?

Acts 5

Vs. 1, “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.”  This is reminiscent of Achan’s sin in Joshua 7.  Question: What happened here?  It was a very big sin of lying and the early church needed to make a statement.  More than likely, the Holy Spirit had revealed to Peter this deception.  We can only speculate that it was God’s immediate judgment, but one thing we can deduce is that we see how important it is to deal with problems in the church.  Our churches today should follow this example of dealing decisively with sin.  This was a time in the early church where God still worked in very powerful ways (vs. 12-16).  We then see the persecution of the Apostles led by the Sadducees and brought before the Sanhedrin (vs. 17-42).  I preached a message from Daniel & the Lion’s Den today and spoke about the jealously of the Persian leaders towards Daniel.  This is kind of what was happening in response to all of the attention the Apostles were receiving.  The Sanhedrin thought they had gotten rid of Jesus, but there were certainly very wrong!

Regarding application…Rejoicing in Suffering.  Vs. 41, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”  In my Seminary class last week, we had talked about the passage in James 1:2 where we should consider it joy when we receive trials.  While this “joy” is not necessarily an emotion that we jump up and down when we lose a loved one…this case of rejoicing from the Apostles, is certainly an oxymoron.  Question: How can you rejoice when you just got flogged and almost put to death (vs. 33, 40)?  They were putting all their trust in the Lord!  It brought them so much joy that they were counted worthy to be persecuted (Matthew 5:10).  Brothers & sisters, let us be ready to rejoice in all circumstances!  Have a blessed week!

Daniel 12

Vs. 1, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.”  A couple of questions come up.  Question: Who is Michael?  When is this time?  Michael & Gabriel are the only two angels mentioned by name.  Michael is an archangel (Jude 9) and is quite seasoned in battle.  He is the one that will cast satan out of heaven (Revelation 12:7-9) during the tribulation.  To answer when is this time, we are talking about the time that is yet to come.  When live in the last days (after Jesus was resurrected, but before He returns a second time).   This vision to Daniel is chronicling the end of the last days.  The man clothed in linen could very well be Jesus (vs. 7) and the other two are angels (vs. 5).  God gave Daniel an outline of the future that is full of details and even hope (vs. 9-13).

Regarding application…What Should We Do?  Vs. 10, “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”  It’s a fair question.  Daniel asked questions too, but God would give him this response for all of us to read.  Because God’s ways are not our ways, His ways are not always going to make sense to us.  Daniel didn’t understand these prophecies, but by the time John on the island of Patmos received further revelation, we see that Daniel’s prophecy starts to make more sense.  My point is that we must be patient and wise in our process of growth and understanding.  Notice how the wicked will never understand.  But, we who are being refined, wise and holy must not grow discouraged in such times.  The last thing we need to do is worry about the future distress.  God is on our side and He is greater.  Let’s do our best to have faith in this future that is growing nearer.  It won’t happen like the Mayan calendar predicted, but make not mistake…God’s prophecies will come in a time when we least expect it!  Let’s be faithful & wise in the meantime!

Daniel 11

Vs. 31, “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.”  It’s almost dizzying to review the numerous rise of leaders and wars that transpire in this passage.  God is giving Daniel and us a history lesson before the history happens!  In the first half of the chapter, Nations like Syria in the north and Egypt in the south as well as Greece are mentioned throughout.  The Persians would rule for a few generations until Alexander the Great would rise up from Greece.  Then we see the southern kingdom Egypt rise up again in Ptolemy I Soter.  The daughter of the King of the south (vs. 6) was Bernice, daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus and the king of the North at the time was Antiochus II Theos of Syria.  Investigating further, the history books are full of deception, intrigue and adventure that rivals any movie of today.  Cleopatra is mentioned in vs. 17, and sent as a spy, however she ended up falling in love!  Then Antiochus Ephiphanes, ruler of Syria, comes into the scene (vs. 21), he is considered the precursor for the antichrist in the End Times.  He came with deception and peace only to kill many including over a hundred thousand Jews (vs. 28) and took over the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem.  Look at our aforementioned vs. 31 to see that he came with the first abomination that causes desolation.  It was a very difficult time for God’s people (vs. 32-35).  And lastly, Daniel now goes into prophecy that has not yet happened even for us (vs. 36-45).  Question: Who is this king that exalts himself?  None other than the antichrist!  This is the man who will come saying he is the Christ, but he is a wolf disguised as a lamb. He will bring much violence and war upon many.

Regarding application…Resist the Enemy.  Vs. 32, “With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.”  It is no secret that we live in a battlefield.  Question: What is this battle?  A battle for souls.  History has a tendency to repeat itself and all this conflict is only going to get worse.  We have this notion that we live in a peaceful world because the US has not been invaded since Pearl Harbor.  But, there are literal battlefields that are the cause of deception, corruption and pride.  As Christians today, we must not live in denial of such things and things to come.  We must be ready to resist the enemy.  Regardless if we are raptured up in heaven or not, we must be prepared!  Look once again at vs. 32, how do we resist the enemy?  By knowing God!  Brothers & Sisters, be encouraged by what Peter tells us, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Daniel 10

Vs. 1, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.”  Question: What was this vision?  Why would Daniel mourn and fast for three weeks (vs. 2)?  By the third year reign of Cyrus, the decree to allow God’s people to travel back from Babylon to home is already in effect.  However, a vast majority of people were wanting to return.  Daniel was now old in age, probably his mid-eighties and God had raised up people like Ezra & Nehemiah to help the rebuilding process.  Perhaps Daniel was too old to make such an arduous trip back home.  Nevertheless, Daniel is praying and we are given insight to an encounter with who many biblical scholars as well as myself believe was Jesus himself.  The response of Daniel seems to help us realize it had to be Jesus in His preincarnate form.  In this appearance, we are reminded that our fight is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6).  We then have a most unusual event, an angel appears to Daniel (vs. 10) after his deep sleep and informs him that  the moment Daniel started praying three weeks earlier, God had sent the angel.  However, someone tried to stop him.  Question: Who was this?  The prince of the Persian king, this was not a person, but a demon!  This delay was the effect of a spiritual battle that is still going on.

Regarding application…Do Not Fear.  Vs. 19, “Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong…”  Question: What was Daniel afraid of?  There is war going on that is full of casualties.  There is an enemy that is certainly formidable.  There are powers in this world both seen and not seen that can bring much fear in our lives.  Notice, that Daniel’s companions had fled the scene out of fear (vs. 7).  God is looking for those of us who will not falter under the fears of the enemy and this world.  God is looking for people who will be obedient in prayer.  God is looking for people who are willing to stand up!  I talked about “Making a stand” in Sunday’s message and look how the angel gave Daniel strength to stand up (vs. 18).  Question: What sort of fears are you facing as this week unfolds?  Do what Daniel did, pray.  Yes, pray.  Prayer is a major weapon in the spiritual battle.  Have a blessed week of trusting in the Lord.  Call upon His name and be saved from whatever traps of fears that keep us from standing up for God!

Daniel 9

Vs. 21, “while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.”  Question: What was Daniel praying about?  This was a prayer of repentance.  A prayer of repentance because God’s people had sinned.  I love how Daniel looks to another prophet Jeremiah’s prophecy (vs. 2) and seeing the fulfillment of the Babylonian invasion and the specific seventy years of captivity.  Since the return to the Promised Land in Egypt nearly 500 years earlier, God’s people turned away from Him.  Question: What would happen to God’s people?  What was this “seventy sevens” reference (vs. 24)?  The seventy sevens refers to 7 times 70 which equals 490.  It was 490 years since the exodus out of Egypt.  The sixty-two sevens refers to the difference of time between the seventy sevens which would be the time it took them to rebuild the second temple upon returning from Babylon.  And some stretch it to the prophecy of years before Jesus would be born.  Daniel seems to pointing to the antichrist rising us during the seven years of tribulations (vs. 27).  I know it gets a bit confusing in this, but the overarching theme God is in control of our future!

Regarding application…Answered Prayer.  Vs. 23, “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision.”  Wow!  Isn’t that a beautiful picture of God hearing the prayers of his beloved!  Sometimes it’s easy to begin to think that God has more important things to attend to our prayers.  I think it’s important to understand the humility of Daniel’s prayer and confession before God.  It is when we humble ourselves that God is able to open the eyes of our heart to see Him.  Certainly, God’s answered prayer is not always going to be instantaneous to us, but I do believe God has an answer nevertheless.  Perhaps you too have heard that God sometimes says, “yes, wait, or even no.”  Whatever the answer to our prayers, the most important part is the picture of relationship that we have to our Father in Heaven when we pray.  We can’t do this thing called life without communicating  to our Father!  Thank goodness that our connection is not dependent upon a cell tower.  Stay connected to the Lord today!

Daniel 8

Vs. 16, “And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”  Gabriel makes his grand entrance and comes to shed some light to this very perplexing vision.   Daniel gets magically transported 200 plus miles east of Babylon to the capital city of Persia (present day Iran).  Some of the prophecies mentioned in this chapter have already been fulfilled.  The ram with the two horns (vs. 3) represented the Medes and Persians who would a few years later come and defeat Babylon.  But then we see a goat of all animals (vs. 5) come from the west.  This goat represented the Greece and the horn was specifically referring to Alexander the Great.  But Alexander the Great would die from pneumonia at the age of 33, the horn was broken off (vs. 8).  Out of the four horns that were replacing the large horn, one of them grew in power (vs. 9).  Biblical scholars point to this horn as representing Antiochus Ephiphanes.  Question: So, what is going on here?  An evil ruler would rise up in 175 B.C.  He was an incredibly evil man who killed tens of thousands of Jews and ransacked the Temple in Jerusalem.  But like many prophecies, there was a dual meaning.  This horn would also represent the antichrist.  The antichrist and Antiochus would present themselves as being God.  But Jesus would come to be victorious (vs. 25).

Regarding application…Suffering.  Vs. 27, “I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.”  Question: Why do we suffer?  It is one of those ageless questions that has perplexed us.  Many have rejected this notion of suffering because they just can’t reconcile a God who would allow such things to transpire.  However, one of the things I encourage you to recall is that Jesus is known as the suffering servant (Isaiah 53).  The enemy prowls like a lion to bring suffering and doubt to God’s people (I Peter 5:8-9).  None of us deserve salvation and the Lord knows we are sinners at the very core.  That is why we should never ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  “Good” people is an oxymoron when it comes to our standing before God.  Only by the blood of Jesus can we become the righteous of God (II Corinthians 5:21).  Take heart dearest brothers and sisters in Christ.  Our lives are but a vapor in the wind, so let’s do our best to endure the hour of suffering because a time of joy and eternity awaits us!

Daniel 7

Vs. 1, “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.”  As you might have noticed, this chapter is not chronological.  This dream of Daniel’s transpired before the death of Belshazzar in chapter five.  The theme of this dream is similar to that of the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had in chapter two.  In this dream, we get a preview of the End Times.  Again we have this image of four beasts (four kingdoms vs. 17) that Daniel would see.  There are differing views regarding who these nations are and the ten horns and the little horn (vs. 20).  Most scholars point to the same nations that were mentioned in my comments in chapter two.  Question: What do the ten horns and the little horn represent?  They represent the resurrected Rome in the form of a new leadership in the world and the little horn is the antichrist!  No wonder Daniel was troubled, but praise God that the ending is in our favor!

Regarding application…Jesus is Here  Vs. 13, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.”  It must have been a frightening vision to say the least for Daniel, but we get a cameo appearance from Jesus Himself!  Notice that during this time, which is in the tribulation years, there will be suffering from the saints.  But, God will not forsake His people.  Think about your own life for a moment.  If we search our hearts, there is probably some fear going on about a unknown future.  Fear that it may get tougher before it gets better.  But Jesus is here.  I remember the poignant scene in Lord of the Rings where Gandalf had to fight the fiery monster.  The fellowship of the Ring members witnessed Gandalf fall to his seeming death.  As they grieved for him, there was a fear about what to do next.  Many of us know that Gandalf came back and helped them in defeating evil.  But Jesus is bigger than Gandalf.  He not only will come back, but He is already here through the promised Holy Spirit!  Not only can you have comfort today, but comfort in a future that promises we will triumph in the end!

Daniel 6

Vs. 3, “Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”  Remember from yesterday’s chapter, we read how the Babylonians were defeated by the Medes and Persians.  Like many suspenseful movies of our time, we now see intrigue, corruption and a story so unbelievable!  King Darius found favor in Daniel who was now in his eighties.  There was jealousy among the ranks (vs. 4).  Question: What would they do?  They conspired to trick the King who was none the wiser to issue an edict purposefully to have Daniel killed (vs. 7).  They knew Daniel was a man of faith and integrity to His God.  The enemy is always looking for ways to win some battles.  It’s surprising to see King Darius’s genuine concern for Daniel as he realizes he had been duped (vs. 14).  The event that would transpire is the very well known story of Daniel and the lion’s den.  God’s hand of providence was upon Daniel and He intervened to close the mouth of lions (vs. 22).  And later we would see that nothing was wrong with these lions, for they feasted upon the conspirators (vs. 24).

Regarding application…No Compromise.  Vs. 10, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”  Question: How would you respond?  Jealousy from the enemies of Daniel brought upon this conspiracy.  Here in the United States, we enjoy the freedom of religion.  We can pray at our schools, workplaces, churches and homes without the fear of being put to death.  Some of you may be aware of our National day of Prayer (May 3rd) that is held annually each year to promote prayer.  Question: How faithful are you?  What if the law of the land issued an edict for thirty days forbidding us to pray with the consequence of death?  This is what Daniel faced.  He would not compromise, even if it was only thirty days.  God came first.  Question: Is there anything in your life that you are compromising with God on?  Find encouragement from Daniel today to make the right choices to put your complete faith in God!