Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

Will a Star or Comet Crash into the Earth?

 

Wormwood”

What the Bible says About It is Truly Amazing!

By Ed Szalankiewicz

 

In the Revelation of Christ given to John we find a most intriguing prophecy often used to suggest that some kind of heavenly body will crash into the earth and do great damage. The prophecy describes this as a “great star” named Wormwood. Lets examine this concept in light of biblical support.

 

Rev 8:10-11 “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

 

In this article, we primarily use scripture and strict adherence to the Biblical admonition that the Bible should interpret itself.

 

Isa 28:9-10 “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk – those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept. Line upon line, line upon line. Here a little, there a little”

 

Now our challenge in understanding John’s vision is in defining what these images mean. If we ascribe a purely “literal physical” meaning to these things then we accept that a huge star burning brightly will crash into our planet but somehow the earth will not be destroyed. It will mysteriously manage to fall only on the rivers and aquifers – fully one third of them – which are scattered widely across the globe. No one will die from what would be a cataclysmic impact but rather from the water, which is poisoned (made bitter) from this star. Now when we consider a physical – literal interpretation of these things, we are confronted with events, which violate the laws our Creator God has set in motion in the universe. If we, on the other hand, cling to a strictly literal interpretation -but then “justify” our position by suggesting that God will violate His own laws to miraculously bring this to fulfillment then – aren’t we departing from a literal-physical understanding anyway in taking that position? It is clear that would violate the principle of biblical integrity and the consistency upon which the soundness of scripture is based.

 

This is an important and powerful message Christ is giving to John. Lets search the scriptures and see if the scripture itself (in perfect harmony with the laws of GOD’s creation) defines these images in John’s vision. What does the bible say? Is this a physical event yet to occur or symbolism of a spiritual event, which has or is about to happen? In other words, how does the bible itself define these images? They are:

 

  • A Great Star
  • Named “Wormwood
  • Falling from Heaven
  • Burning as a lamp
  • Falls Only on the Rivers and Fountains of Water,
  • These fresh water sources are Made Bitter by this great star.
  • It Causes Death of men because of these waters

 

Lets take these two verses in sections and see what we can find in the bible to support the meaning and context of these verses.

 

” . . . There fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp . . .”

 

We should emphasize that we are dealing with something (a “great star”) that is large and big or well known. Now we know that most of the population of the Earth lives along the banks of the thousands of rivers that exist. BUT NOTICE that no one dies from the cataclysmic impact of the star with the Earth in these places! They only die from the bitter waters, which were affected by the star. This fact is a major clue about what is being portrayed in this prophecy.

 

At this juncture, lets ask of our bible knowledge, “do we know of anything that was described as a star that fell and was somehow connected with “bitterness”. Lets look at a couple of scriptures now in our investigation.

 

Rev 12:3-4 “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a GREAT dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the THIRD PART of the STARS of heaven and did cast them to the Earth and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born”

 

In these verses we plainly see angels depicted as stars and we also see them “cast to the Earth”

 

Luke 10:18 “And he said unto them,

I beheld Satan as lightning FALL from heaven

 

Ok – We see angels described as stars and we see Satan also a mighty or “great” angel. If angels are described symbolically as stars he then is a “great star” who falls from heaven!

 

You will notice also that Satan fell “as lightning”. When lightning strikes we know that it “lights up the sky”. This also matches perfectly with the description we see in

Rev 8:10 “burning as it were a lamp”

 

Now lets go to verse 11: “And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

 

Can we find any other discussion in the bible about these things?

 

Jeremiah 9:14 à 15 “But (they) have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them; Therefore thus saith the Lord of host, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them even this people, with WORMWOOD, and give them WATER of gall to DRINK”

 

Jeremiah 23:15 “Therefore thus saith the Lord of Hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with WORMWOOD, and make them DRINK THE WATER of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.”

 

Let’s review some definitions from Strong’s

 

Wormwood = H3939 la‛an ah lah-an-aw’

From an unused root supposed to mean to curse; wormwood (regarded as poisonous, and therefore accursed): – hemlock, wormwood.

 

Gall = H7219

ro’sh rosh roshe, roshe

Apparently the same as H7218; a poisonous plant, probably the poppy (from its conspicuous head); generally poison (even of serpents): – gall, hemlock, posion, venom.

 

Fascinating isn’t it – now lets look at the “venom” from serpents (demons and devils) spoken of regarding the commission of the church found in Mark 16:18 “They shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them . . .”

 

Take up = G142 airo ah’ee-ro

A primary verb; to lift; by implication to take up or away; figuratively to raise (the voice), keep in suspense (the mind); specifically to sail away (that is, weigh anchor); by Hebraism (compare [H5375]) to expiate sin: – away with, bear (up), carry, lift up, loose, make to doubt, put away, remove, take (away, up).

 

 

Serpent = G3789 Ophis of’-is

Probably from G3700 (through the idea of sharpness of vision); a snake, figuratively (as a type of sly cunning) an artful malicious person, especially Satan: – serpent.

 

Deadly thing = G2286

Thanasimos than-as’-ee-mos

From G2288; fatal, that is, poisonous: – deadly.

 

So we see in Mark 16 that there are these demon or devil spirits who spew out this venom or poison, which is given as something to “drink” or imbibe. “Connecting the dots” we see that demons spew out poisonous venom and also see that “gall of wormwood” is described in scripture as poisonous and deadly – it kills men.

 

Matt 23:27 ” But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness”

 

1 Peter 4:6 “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

 

Finally – we need to deal with the second half of verse ten. ” . . . and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters . . .” There is a clear distinction made here in that these are “fresh water” sources – not the “sea” or oceans which are not fresh (drinkable) water sources.

 

In these “end times” – arguably the very time time-setting of John’s message – the demographics now show that the Christian religion makes up exactly ONE THIRD of the religions of the Earth. Attached to this article is a chart showing the breakdown of the religions as a percentage of the population of the entire earth – and – oddly, (perhaps not so oddly) exactly ONE THIRD of the world claims to be “Christian”. This amazing information supports our understanding that Satan has indeed infiltrated the Christian community (“the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters.”) setting up deception from within its gates. He has been changing and conscripting the message. He has effectively “camouflaged” the THRUTH OF GOD and HIS Kingdom? Now notice these verses:

 

Isa 14:13 “For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of GOD:

 

But notice reading further that he has a second part to this malicious agenda:

 

“I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north”

 

Now notice further: 2 Thes 2:4 “Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”

 

Notice also this part of John’s vision:

Rev 13:7 “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”

 

But we know that GOD wins! He is not intimidated by any of these tactics and simply moves HIS plan forward. Christ said HE will come again with HIS First Fruits and will establish HIS Kingdom.

 

Isaiah 60:3à5 ” And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising, Lift up thine eyes round about, and see all they gather themselves together, they come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shall see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; be enlarged; because the abundance of the SEA shall be converted unto the, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. Notice it – a large multitude of people are referred to as “the sea” and they will be “converted to” the saints who “rise” when Christ returns. Here we clearly have water “the sea” used as a symbol of a multitude of mankind.

 

God is a loving GOD certainly not “bent on the destruction of HIS creation” Luke 9:56 “For the Son of man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them”. God will soon bring to fruition HIS powerful plan that calls for the atoning blood of Christ to cover the sins of the repentant.

 

Notice also Revelation 8:8 “And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;

 

What is interesting here is the definition of the word used for blood.

 

Blood = G129 Aima hah’ee-mah

Of uncertain derivation; blood, literally (of men or animals), figuratively (the juice of grapes) or specifically (the atoning blood of Christ); by implication bloodshed, also kindred: – blood.

 

Rev 16: 4-5 “And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of water and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous O lord which are and was and shalt be because thou has judged thus.” (Notice that the angels are not mourning but rather they are praising GOD for this act. This seems to indicate there is a very positive aspect to this pouring forth of this blood.) Again “blood” here is the same word as “the atoning blood of Christ” Strong’s Greek 129. So a question now arises – is this a literal event where water turns into blood as in the plagues of Egypt or in this vision of John is he seeing an event which is symbolic of Christs blood covering not just all of the “rivers and fountains” (Rev 16:4-5) but also a “third part of the sea“(Rev 8:8) which have been poisoned by the gall of this “wormwood bitterness” which is the deception and hateful venom emanating from Satan? Of this – we can not be certain – but it certainly beckons further consideration and fits with what we have uncovered in the biblically supported understanding of the symbols shown in the wormwood star.

 

So what shall we conclude about this prophecy? Is it foretelling that an actual “great star” will crash into the earth? Lets look at Gods laws in His universe next.

 

In 1994 astronomers observed the Shoemaker-Levy Comet crashing into Jupiter. They were able to observe that enormous damage was done to the planet by a small comet, which fragmented into many smaller pieces. Now consider that Jupiter is the largest of all the planets and is eleven times larger than the Earth. A “comet” is a relatively small heavenly body compared to a star. Yet the description in Revelation 8 is that of a “GREAT STAR“. If we are going to hold to seeing this prophecy in a purely physical way then we can’t rationalize away the meaning of “great star” to “force it to fit” what we believe is being described here. If an actual star collided with the Earth – let alone a “great star” – scientists assure us that the Earth could not survive such an event. God is the creator and has set in motion the laws that govern HIS universe. To believe and teach that such a thing could occur is to set aside the laws God has set in motion and revealed to us. We have seen significant evidence of what happens when heavenly bodies collide and know for certain that nothing described as a “great star” could literally collide with earth and fully two thirds of humanity survive the event. So using the bible itself and the laws of God’s creation WE MUST ASK – is this prophecy described for us by John in Revelation 8 a physical or spiritual event?

 

Many of the lessons we learn from scripture are based on actual physical occurrences. But we also know that God teaches us “spiritual lessons” as well thru these events.

Often, we can see how these spiritual lessons would be virtually impossible to understand if we did not have a physical lesson to foreshadow what they are meant to teach us. Consider how we learn from the physical aspects of the Holy Days.

But God also uses many “symbols” in parables, visions, and dreams given to His servants (John in this case) to help us understand spiritual concepts. If a star really did crash into the Earth – there would be no Earth! Our GOD (who loves us) knows how to get our attention and how to safely teach us – HE knows what HE is doing!

 

We can see a clear reference where physical things foreshadow spiritual concepts in 1 Cor 15:46 “Howbeit that was NOT first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; (Physical) and afterward that which is spiritual”

 

We see many spiritual things portrayed in physical symbols. At the end of this article you will find a short list of some of these physical symbols portraying spiritual things found in scripture. It is very clear that God uses these symbols prolifically to teach us.

 

Certainly, one can argue that GOD can do anything including changing his laws of nature any time HE chooses to do so. But we don’t find where GOD has specifically given a physical prophecy with great detail and then caused it to happen while ignoring those same details. We clearly do see HIS purposeful intervention and we often see a prophecy fulfilled in a spiritual way in strict compliance with physical symbols GOD used to explain the event. The awesome physical image of Daniel’s vision portraying many empires is an excellent example of this. It is very clear that GOD is concerned about the integrity of HIS word. We see this reinforced in scripture in many verses. Here are three places all spoken directly by Christ Himself which show this – John 17:12, John 19:24, & John 19:28 – “that the scripture might be fulfilled“. The biblical support for the explanation of what is happening in the prophecy of the wormwood star conforms perfectly with the integrity of all of scripture. Certainly God could set aside HIS laws to cause this prophecy to be fulfilled – but isn’t that departing from a strict physical fulfillment that so many cling to.

 

In my view, HE has already explained this vital passage in HIS word with perfect integrity and clarity. I further believe that HE has given us this understanding as a “key” to unlock many of the mysteries of these end-time prophecies and see things more from HIS vantage point than from our own natural, human, and carnal perspective.

 

In many of the prophecies of the end times, GOD cautions – “he that has and ear – listen to what the spirit says to the churches” or “He that has an ear — let him understand.” He calls for us to “anoint our eyes with eye-salve (at the end-time) so that we may see” Apparently, there is a lack of spiritual vision at this time. It seems that understanding these things requires a special spiritual vision GOD gives to those who are in “sync” with HIS plan, purpose, and inspiration.

 

Conclusion: This prophecy appears to describe the eviction of Satan from heaven. He is thrown to the Earth with one third of the angels, which had rebelled and are now his demons. They actively attack the Christian community, which comprises one third of the people on Earth by spewing out their poisonous venom using a false message designed to pervert and counterfeit the true gospel and the true message of the Kingdom of GOD. ~~~~~~~~

 

Some Signs & Symbols Used In Scripture

Anointing = Receiving Holy Spirit

Bad figs = Bad people

Bad tree = Bad leader

Baptism = Death, burial, and resurrection

Beam in your own eye = Great sin in yourself blinding you

Branches = True Brethren

Candle upon a Lamp-stand = Godly example

Captain of Salvation = CHRIST

CHRIST knocking = Encouraging repentance of the Church

Chief cornerstone = CHRIST

Clay = Teachable people

Crowns = Authority – Rulership

Daniels image = Ruling empires

Drink deadly things = Saints able to see thru false doctrine

Eye salve = Healing our spiritual vision

Early rain = Gods word to 1st ecclesia (Physical Israel)

Fiery cloven tongues = Holy Spirit descending on men

Fire coming down from heaven = Holy Spirit entering men

First fruits = Elect

Fertile ground = Person who is teachable

Good figs = Good people

Good fruit = Evidence of Holy Spirit in individuals

Gold tried in the fire = Character built in sincere repentance

Good tree = Good leader

Hills = Small nations

Holy temple = Spiritual church

Lamb = CHRIST

Lambs blood on door-posts = CHRISTS blood protecting us

Lamp oil = Holy Spirit in sufficient supply

Lamp unto my feet = God’s word and Law are like this

Latter rain = Gods word to 2nd ecclesia (Spiritual Israel)

Leavening = Sin that “puffs-up”

Leavened bread = Sin in mankind

Light unto my path-way = God’s word and Law is like this

Luke warm = Lacking zeal

Mountains = Larger nations

Noachian flood = Baptism

Open door no man can shut = Gods work unhindered

Olive oil = Holy Spirit

Pearl of Great Price = Kingdom of God

Pearls before swine = Explaining godliness to the ungodly

Poor, blind, & naked = Unaware of your own faults

Potter = Creator God

Pure drinkable water = Holy Spirit

Rainbow = Symbol of Gods promise not to repeat the flood

Refiners fire = Purifying our character

Rich & increased with goods = Arrogance of self assurance

Rivers & fountains of water = Global Christian community

Rivers of Living Water = Spirit led truth

Roaring lion = Satan

Rock = CHRIST

Rocky ground = Person who is not teachable

Sand = Uncertain foundation

Salt of the Earth = Godly people

Scorpions = Demons

Sealed = Sanctified by God

Serpents = Demons or devils

Seven-lamp-stands = 7 Churches

Seven-stars = 7 Angles

Sheep = Brethren

Shew bread = First fruits from the 12 tribes of Israel

Smoke ascending from incense = Prayers of the saints

Sowing seeds = Teaching people GOD’s word

Spews out of CHRISTS mouth = Separated from CHRIST Splinter in someone’s eye = Small sin you see in others

Stones of temple = Saints

Take up serpents = Saints able to withstand demons

Talents = Special abilities

Tares = False brethren

Thorny ground = Person preoccupied with worldliness

Two edged sword = Word of God

Two-olive trees = 2 witnesses

Unleavened bread = CHRIST’S flesh

Unleavened bread = Man without sin

Using fullers soap = Repentance

Vessels of Honor = Righteous person

Vine = CHRIST

Vinedresser = CHRIST

Virgins = Church

Wave sheaf offering = CHRISTS sacrifice

Wheat = Brethren

White fields to harvest = Conversion of men

White robes = Righteousness

Wine = CHRIST’S blood

Wolves clothed as sheep = False ministers

Wormwood = False preaching

I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.” But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue;

 

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere hand breadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.

Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools. I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this. Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth- each man is but a breath.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were. Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.”

So overcome with his all pervasive sin nature, David begged the Lord to look away from him so he could enjoy at least one moment’s peace during his life on earth without the Holy Spirit pointing out his sinful behavior. He wanted to know how long his life would last so he would know how long he would go on disappointing himself and the Lord. Even when he kept his mouth shut his thoughts betrayed his sinfulness. Such was the state of man before the cross.

But then God sent His Son and everything changed. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation … (Col. 1:21-22). It no longer matters how badly you messed up yesterday, your future with Him is secure. All you have to do is confess and you’re forgiven, immediately and unconditionally, and purified from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

As David so clearly demonstrates, guilt is one of the most debilitating emotions we feel. Reading Psalm 39, you can almost feel the weight he was carrying. Only forgiveness brings relief. Our Lord’s death has reconciled you to your Father in Heaven and pre-paid the penalty for all your sins. The law of double jeopardy now exempts you from God’s punishment and guarantees your forgiveness. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) No condemnation from God and no self-condemnation of the type David was feeling. No more guilt, the burden gone. If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36) It’s one more thing to be thankful for.

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

If you follow our “Ask a Bible Teacher” feature, you know how many comments I’ve received lately that question the Doctrine of Eternal Security (aka Once Saved Always Saved or OSAS). Based on their content I’ve concluded that many people neither understand OSAS nor have they considered the alternative.

 

Let’s Begin At The Beginning

It’s time to set the record straight once and for all. What does it take to be saved? I think the best answer to that question is the one the Lord gave in John 6:28-29.

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Here was a perfect opportunity to list all the things we have to do to meet God’s requirements. Jesus could have rattled off the 10 commandments. He could have repeated the Sermon on the Mount. He could have listed any number of admonitions and restrictions necessary to achieve and maintain God’s expectations of us. But what did He say? “Believe in the one He has sent.” Period. It was a repeat of John 3:16, confirming that belief in the Son is the one and only requirement for salvation.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

A few verses later in John 6:38-40 He said that this wasn’t just His idea, as if that wouldn’t be enough, but that His Father was in complete agreement. And not only would our belief suffice to provide us with eternal life, but that it was God’s will that Jesus lose none of those who believe. You and I have been known to disobey God’s will, but has Jesus ever done so? And isn’t He the one who’s been charged with the responsibility for keeping us? Let’s read it.

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40)

Just in case we missed this promise, Jesus made it again even more clearly in John 10:28-30. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Father and the Son have both accepted responsibility for our security. Once we’re in Their hands, no one can get us away.

I have purposely only used words straight from the Lord’s own mouth to make this case because I can already hear the choruses of “Yes Buts” mounting as those who refuse to take them at face value get ready to trot out their favorite verses denying Eternal Security, misinterpreted though they are.

The one characteristic of God’s that gives us the most comfort is knowing that He can’t lie or change His mind or contradict Himself. He can’t say something in one place and then say something entirely different in another. He’s consistent. If He says that we’re saved solely because of our belief in Him, and that He’s accepted responsibility for keeping us so, then we can count on that. As we’ll see, anything in the Bible that seems to contradict these simple, straightforward statements has to be talking about something else.

But first, since He puts so much emphasis on belief, let’s take a closer look at that word. What does He mean when He says “believe”? It must be more than just a casual thing because reliable statistics show, for example, that 85% of those who come forward to “receive the Lord” at a crusade or other evangelistic outreach never form any connection with a church or Bible Study or in any other way demonstrate a relationship with the Lord afterward.

And Jesus spoke of the seed that fell on rocky places. He said, “This is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.” (Matt. 13:20-21) If these people were saved and then fell away, all His promises above have been broken. There must be more. So what does it mean to believe?

The Greek word for believe is “pistis.” According the Strong’s Concordance, it’s a “conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it.” In connection with the Lord Jesus, it means “a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God.”

The Apostle Paul gave us valuable insight into the nature of this belief. He wrote, If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

This isn’t just some intellectual thing that carries us away on the words of a captivating speaker, only to leave us flat a short time later. It’s a conviction that’s formed deep in our heart, the realization that Jesus is not just a man. He’s the Lord Himself, and He took upon Himself the penalty due us for our sins, which is death. And to prove that God counted His death as sufficient, He raised Jesus from the dead to be seated beside Him in the Heavenly realms. (Ephes. 1:20) Since God can’t dwell in the presence of sin, and since the wages of sin is death, every one of our sins has to have been paid for. If even one remained unpaid, Jesus would still be in the grave. We have to believe that Jesus rose from the grave in order to believe that we will.

It’s that kind of belief that gets you saved and keeps you that way, because it sets in motion a chain of events that’s irreversible. There are four links in this chain. You supply two and the Lord supplies two. You hear and believe, and the Lord marks and guarantees.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

The word translated “deposit” is a legal term. Today we would say Earnest Money. It’s a down payment that constitutes a legal obligation to follow through with the purchase. If you’ve ever bought any Real Estate, you’re familiar with the term. If not, here’s another example. It’s like we’ve been put on “lay away.” The price has been paid and we’ve been taken off the display shelf until the one who has purchased us returns to claim us. In the mean time we cannot be bought by anyone else, because we legally belong to the one who has paid the deposit. “You are not your own,” we’re told. “You were bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

All of this happened at our first moment of belief, before we could do anything to either earn or lose our position. The man on the cross beside Jesus is the prototype for this transaction. Having done something bad enough to get himself executed, he was promised a place in Paradise solely because he believed in his heart that Jesus was the Lord of a coming Kingdom.

Paul made it even clearer when he repeated this incredible promise in 2 Cor. 1:21-22. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

This time He removed all doubt as to just Who it is that keeps us saved. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. What could be clearer?

Union And Fellowship

If the Doctrine of Eternal Security is so clear then why all the disagreement about it? I’ve found two reasons. The first is the two-sided nature of our relationship with the Lord. I call one side Union. It’s Eternal and Unconditional, based only on our belief. Ephesians 1:13-14 describes our Union with God, sealed and guaranteed. Once we’re born again, we can’t become unborn. It’s good forever. The Holy Spirit is sealed within us from our first moment of belief until the day of redemption.

I call the other side Fellowship and it’s a bit more complicated. Fellowship is that state of continual closeness to God that enables Him to bless us in our daily lives, by making things happen for us and protecting us from attack. It’s like He’s teamed up with us to give us a supernatural advantage. Fellowship is defined by 1 John 1:8-9 as being both Earthly and conditional upon our behavior. Even as believers, as long as we’re here on Earth we’ll continue to sin. Since God can’t abide in the presence of sin, our unconfessed sins interrupt our Earthly relationship with Him and may deprive us of blessings we might have otherwise received. We’re still saved in the eternal sense, but out of Fellowship here on Earth.

When we’re out of Fellowship, we’re legitimate targets for our enemy’s mischief, just like Job was. His sin was self-righteousness and because he wouldn’t confess it, God had to let Satan afflict him in order to bring him to his senses. For a New Testament illustration, look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32) Like the younger son, we’ll still belong to our Father’s family, but won’t receive any of its blessings while we’re out of Fellowship. And like both Job and the Prodigal, when we return to our Father and confess our sins, we’re immediately purified from all unrighteousness and restored to Fellowship.

One reason that many Christians live such defeated lives is that having only learned about the Union part of being a believer, they only know that God has forgiven their sins and that they’ll go to be with Him when they die or are Raptured. They don’t realize that they still need to confess every time they sin to stay in Fellowship. And so, being deprived of God’s providence, they may become discouraged and even stop praying and attending church. Other believers, who don’t understand the dual relationship either, look at the mess they’re in and think they must have lost their salvation. Like Job’s friends, they look in God’s Word for confirmation, and by taking verses out of context, believe they have found the proof.

Union and Fellowship are not just New Testament ideas. In the Old Testament, even when Israel was being obedient in thought and action, doing their best to please God, the priests still had to sacrifice a lamb on the altar every morning and every evening for the sins of the people. 1 John 1:9 is the New Testament equivalent of those daily sacrifices for sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. It was written for believers who are already saved, but are in danger of being out of Fellowship because of their sins.

The Gift And the Prize

The other reason people get confused is that there are two types of benefits in Eternity. The first is the free Gift called Salvation that’s given to all who ask in faith irrespective of merit and guarantees our admission into the Kingdom. Ephesians 2:8-9 is the model, saying that salvation is a Gift from God.

The second consists of Heavenly rewards we can earn for the things we do as believers here on Earth. Philippians 3:13-14 are good verses for explaining this. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. In addition to the Gift, there’s a Prize.

A gift is something given out of love, irrespective of merit, and is never taken back. A prize, on the other hand, is something we qualify for and earn. And if we’re not careful we can lose it. (Rev. 3:11) Paul had already received the Gift of salvation, it was behind him. Now he was focused on winning the Prize as well.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he explained the difference in greater detail. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

No Olympic athlete was satisfied just to have qualified to participate in the games. Everyone wanted to win the victor’s crown. Likewise, we shouldn’t be satisfied just to have received the Gift of salvation. We must now live our lives as believers in such a way as to win the Prize as well.

The Bible calls some of these prizes crowns, and while the athlete’s crown soon wilted away (it was a wreath of ivy) the crowns believers can win last forever. They’re worth making some sacrifices for. That’s why Paul said, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Cor. 9:27) The crowns are identified as the Everlasting Crown (Victory) in 1 Cor 9:25, Crown of the Soul Winner in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thes 2:19, Crown of Righteousness in 2 Tim 4:8, Crown of Life in Jas 1:12 and Rev 2:10, and the Crown of Glory in 1 Peter 5:4.

The difference between the Gift and the Prize is also seen in 1 Cor. 3:12-15. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

At the judgment of believers, the quality of our work on earth will be tested by fire. Only work that survives the test will bring us a reward. But notice that even if all our work is destroyed in the fire, we’ll still have our salvation. Why? Because it’s a free Gift, given out of love, irrespective of merit.

The Lord mentioned other rewards as well. In Matt. 6:19-21 He advised us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

There are things we can do as believers while here on Earth that will cause deposits to be made to our heavenly account. Some believe that this passage refers to the way we use the money we’re given. Do we use it to enrich ourselves, stacking up possessions that far exceed our needs? Or do we use it to further the work of the Kingdom? Here’s a hint. Our tithe is what we owe to God. It’s what we do with the money we have left that really counts. And with the measure we use, it will be measured to us. (Luke 6:38)

To summarize, in the New Testament there are verses like Ephesians 1:13-14 that talk about Union. There are verses like 1 John 1: 8-9 that talk about Fellowship. There are verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 that talk about the Gift and there are verses like 1 Cor 9:24-27 that talk about the Prize.

Those that stress belief, explain the permanent nature of our bond with God, and are directed toward eternity are Union verses. Those that involve grace and faith are Gift verses. Those that require work and are directed at the quality of our lives on Earth are Fellowship verses, and those that require work and involve eternal rewards are Prize verses.

When you view Scripture from this perspective, all of the apparent contradictions disappear and you no longer have to wonder why God seems to be saying one thing here and something different there. The issue becomes one of correctly identifying the focal point of the particular passage you’re looking at. Determine the context by reading verses around it, and assign it to one of the four categories.

Give Us An Example

Hebrews 6:4-6 is a passage often cited in opposition to Eternal Security. The entire letter is to Jewish believers who are being enticed back into keeping the Law, so the context is New Covenant vs. Old. And in verse 9 the writer hints that he’s been talking about things that accompany salvation. That tells us that verses 4-6 are not related to salvation but things that accompany it. More importantly the idea that a believer could do something to irretrievably lose his salvation is in direct contradiction to the very clear promise that the Holy Spirit is sealed within us from the very first moment of belief until the day of redemption.

So what could these believers be in danger of falling away from due to their sins? Fellowship. And what could prevent them from being restored? The practice of Old Covenant remedies for sin rather than invoking 1 John 1:9. They’d be relegating the death of the Lord to the same status as that of the twice-daily lamb. The Law was only a shadow of the good things to come, not the realities themselves. Once the Reality appeared, the shadow was no longer effective. And what would be their penalty? Living a defeated life, bearing no fruit, all their works burned in the judgment of 1 Cor. 3. But still saved? Yes. Hebrews 6:4-6 is a Fellowship passage.

Suppose There Is No Security?

In closing, let’s look at the alternative. What are we faced with? If Hebrews 6:4-6 for example applies to our salvation then if we ever sin after being saved we’ll be lost forever with no way back, because the Lord would have to be crucified all over again to retrieve us. The New Covenant would be worse than the Old, not better. They were condemned for their actions. According to Matt. 5 we’d be condemned for our thoughts. They couldn’t murder. We couldn’t even be angry. They couldn’t commit adultery. We couldn’t even have a lustful thought. Think of it. No anger, ever. No lust, ever. No envy, ever. No idolatry, ever. No favoritism or discrimination, ever. No impure thoughts or deeds of any kind, ever. Is this the Good News, the incomparable riches of His Grace? Did God become man and die the most painful death ever devised only to put His children into an even more untenable position than before? Are we saved by grace only to be placed under the constraints of an even more severely administered law? I can’t believe so.

Some take a more moderate view of this saying that God would never take back the gift of salvation, but that we can return it. To justify this position they have to put words in the Lord’s mouth. When He says in John 10:28, “No one can snatch them out of my hand,” they have to insert the phrase “but us” after “no one”. Same with Romans 8:38-39.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. They have to insert the phrase “but us” after “in all creation”.

None of this defense of Eternal Security is intended to condone sin. As an indication of our gratitude for the gift of salvation, believers are continually admonished in Scripture to live our lives in a manner pleasing to God. Not to earn or keep it, but to thank the Lord for giving it to us. And to help us do that, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us to guide and direct us, and to pray for us. Since the Spirit of God lives in us we are no longer controlled by the sin nature and can choose to please God by the way we live. And even though we do this out of gratitude for the Gift He’s already given, which is Union with Him, He blesses us both here on Earth (Fellowship) and in Eternity (the Prize).

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

In the past couple of years it has become even clearer that Isaiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Damascus will soon come to fulfillment, perhaps being part of the Psalm 83 scenario I’ve written about.  If so, it would explain why Syria is not included among the coalition of Moslem nations who will gather against Israel in the Battle of Ezekiel 38. Updating our study of Isaiah 17 seems a fitting conclusion to our recent reviews of Ezekiel 38 and Psalm 83.

Emboldened by the outcome of the 2006 Hezbollah Israel war, Syria has become ever more bellicose in it’s behavior toward Israel, as if inviting confrontation.  Aggressive acts have included moving large military forces onto the Golan, opening the crossing that gives Syrians access to Israel for the first time since 1973, forming and training a Syrian terrorist force to infiltrate Northern Israel, and openly helping Hezbollah re-arm in violation of UN resolution 1701.  Now Hezbollah and Syria are building a massive fortified wall, 22 kilometers long, that promises to be one of the biggest fortified structures in the Middle East. It is designed as an obstacle against any Israeli tank forces heading through Lebanon toward the Syrian capital, Damascus.  And most recently, Syria has moved 800 long range missiles into firing position and updated targeting coordinates for specific locations in Israel in preparation for war.

It’s been known for some time that Syria has one of the world’s most advanced chemical weapons programs, even though such things are illegal, and is probably in possession of the bulk of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs that the MSM (main stream media) delights in telling you never existed.  Recent satellite imagery suggests significant efforts to update Syria’s known chemical weapons facilities.  They’ve also mobilized reserves, set up alternate communication centers, and moved all official historical and legal documents out of Damascus. They did this because they believe that Israel will respond to a chemical attack by destroying Damascus with nuclear weaponry. They’ve recalled all their citizens living in Lebanon. They’ve purchased Russian arms and defensive systems costing hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to protect Damascus.

Going Nuclear

In July 2007, a chemical warhead exploded at a Syrian missile facility while being fitted to a Scud missile, killing dozens of Iranian and Syrian technicians. The only likely target within range of the missile was Tel Aviv.  Then, just 2 months later, the Israeli bombing of a secret Syrian facility deep inside the country made headlines and demonstrated Israel’s ability to render the Russian state-of-the-art anti-air defenses ineffective. These systems were sold to both Syria and Iran to protect against US or Israeli attacks by air. The presence of nuclear materials at the Syrian base has been confirmed, so it might have been the location of at least a dirty bomb assembly plant and perhaps even a clandestine nuclear weapons facility.  The North Koreans were heavily involved in this, and are suspected of still helping Syria to develop some kind of nuclear weapons capability.

More recently Syria has purchased even more offensive and defensive weaponry from Russia and  Iran, making every population center in Israel a viable target.  Passing a portion of this weaponry through to Hezbollah, they’ve all but transformed this terrorist organization into a regiment of the Syrian army, and made Lebanon their first line of defense against Israel.  In my commentary on Psalm 83 I mentioned the Command and Control center Iran has built in Damascus to coordinate rocket and missile attacks against Israel by Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

For all these reasons Israel has justifiable cause to consider Damascus a prime target, whether preemptive or retaliatory.  And while some of this is more than the MSM has been willing to share with you, it is a matter of public record.  My guess is that there’s a lot more going on that we don’t know about, making matters even more urgent.  So let’s take another look at Isaiah 17, An Oracle Against Damascus, while it’s still prophecy.

An Oracle Concerning Damascus:

“See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid. (Isaiah 17:1-2)

Because of the language of these verses, many scholars believe that this prophecy was only partially fulfilled when the Assyrians defeated the Arameans and overran their capital, Damascus, in 732 BC. To this day Damascus is thought to be the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city with a 5000-year history and a population close to 2 million, yet Isaiah 17:1 indicates that it will one day cease to exist.

Some believe the phrase “cities of Aroer” refers to Aramean territory east of the Jordan River around the Arnon River, which flows into the Dead Sea in southern Jordan.  However, the Jewish Encyclopedia claims that this phrase in Isaiah 17:2 is probably translated incorrectly  because the geographical distance from Damascus is too great.  While they say it’s possible that there may have been another Aroer near Damascus, it is more likely that the passage should be rendered “the cities thereof shall be forsaken.” If that’s the correct translation, it would include the Hezbollah stronghold in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, which was part of Aramean territory in Isaiah’s time, and is in a direct line between Beirut and Damascus.

The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus; the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the Israelites,” declares the LORD Almighty. “In that day the glory of Jacob will fade; the fat of his body will waste away. It will be as when a reaper gathers the standing grain and harvests the grain with his arm- as when a man gleans heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. (Isaiah 17:3-5)

This segment speaks of the defeat of Damascus in 732BC and the destruction of Samaria 10 years later (722 BC).  Damascus continued to exist as part of the Assyrian Empire and is still here today, but the ruins of Samaria are just now being excavated out of the sandy soil of Israel.  The systematic relocation of the ruling classes to the far reaches of the Assyrian Empire is also in view here, symbolized by the fat of Jacob’s body wasting away.  This was standard Assyrian policy to reduce the likelihood of subsequent rebellion among their conquered peoples.   Jacob and Ephraim are alternate names for the Northern Kingdom, and Samaria was its capital.

Yet some gleanings will remain, as when an olive tree is beaten, leaving two or three olives on the topmost branches, four or five on the fruitful boughs,” declares the LORD, the God of Israel. (Isaiah 17:6)

Not all the people were dispersed.  Farmers were left behind to tend the crops and protect the harvest for their new rulers. They were joined by refugees from other parts of Assyria and their combined descendants were known as the Samaritans in the time of Jesus.  (A quick reading of 2 Chronicles 11:16 shows that all the faithful from the 10 northern tribes moved south at the time of the civil war that divided the nation after King Solomon’s death 150 years earlier.  From then on, all 12 tribes were represented in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, so the 10 tribes from the North weren’t totally lost.  The Lord has always preserved a believing remnant from all the Tribes of Israel.)

In that day men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made. In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation. (Isaiah 17:7-9)

This is another passage that’s problematic for those who try to consign the whole passage to history. There is simply no reason to believe that the Assyrians turned to God following their conquest of Aram and Israel. And far from abandoning their cities because of the Israelites, it was the Israelites who were defeated and dispersed. The yet future Jewish attack on Damascus causing the destruction and abandonment of Syrian cities, and the eventual return of the survivors to their God is a much more likely fulfillment. And it could happen soon.

You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines, though on the day you set them out, you make them grow, and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud, yet the harvest will be as nothing in the day of disease and incurable pain. (Isaiah 17:10-11)

Asshur, father of the Assyrians, and Aram, father of the Arameans were both sons of Shem. Aram’s son Uz is the traditional founder of Damascus. (The setting for Job, the Bible’s oldest book, is the Land of Uz.) The knowledge of God in the memories of these patriarchs cannot be questioned. It wasn’t that they never knew Him, but that they had forgotten Him, abandoned Him in favor of the Canaanite gods of the region, Baal and his consort Ashtoreth (aka Asherah, Astarte, Ishtar, Aphrodite, Venus.) Currently Syria is almost totally Moslem.   Until they return to their Maker and Savior none of their plans and schemes will prosper in the long run, no matter how promising they seem at the beginning.

Oh, the raging of many nations- they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples- they roar like the roaring of great waters! Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters, when he rebukes them they flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the hills, like tumbleweed before a gale. In the evening, sudden terror! Before the morning, they are gone! This is the portion of those who loot us, the lot of those who plunder us. (Isaiah 17:12-14)

Having conquered most of the Middle East including the Arameans and the Northern Kingdom,  the Assyrians set their sights on the Southern Kingdom, Judah. Assyria’s King Sennacherib brought his armies almost literally to the gates of Jerusalem, so close his commanders were within speaking distance of the Jewish defenders. On the night before they were to attack, the Lord sent His angel into the Assyrian camp on Mt. Scopus to slaughter 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Before dawn they had packed up and fled, ending 44 years of conquest. (Isaiah 37:36-38) This time in Israel’s history so parallels the Jewish view of the End Times that Sennacherib is seen by them as a type of the anti-Christ, while Judah’s King Hezekiah models the Messiah.

But notice that Isaiah speaks of many nations raging against God’s people, not just Assyria, leading us once again to consider Sennacherib’s defeat to be a partial fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

The phrase “rushing of many waters” is often used to describe the sound of loud voices and today many nations are stirred up.   The cry of anti-Israeli sentiment can be heard around the globe.  The various Mid-East “peace” conferences combined with the Gaza war and the recent boarding of the Turkish/Terrorist flotilla  have left Israel standing alone against all but irresistible pressure to negotiate away its very existence. Syria and Iran are dead certain that Israel will attack soon, and are preparing accordingly.  Israel’s other next-door neighbors are also preparing for war, and indeed many nations are taking sides.

Israel is not blind to these mounting threats, but until lately seems to have been ignoring them.  That’s about to stop.  Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has told the world he will not apologize for defending his country and will continue to do so even if it results in more confrontations.  We can easily envision a scenario that escalates into the final fulfillment of Isaiah 17, the destruction of Damascus.  Once again there will be sudden terror in the evening, and before morning they will be gone.  If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.