Bowling Green, Ohio’s Black Swamp Arts Festival (with Pictures)


Bowling Green, Ohio, where my wife and I live, has a population of just over 30,000 people. Today (and for the next three days), however, that number is expected to balloon up to about 100,000 people. The Black Swamp Arts Festival has arrived.  

The Black Swamp Arts festival is a free three-day art and music festival in historic downtown Bowling Green, Ohio. Over 60,000 people attend to enjoy the art, music, and atmosphere. Downtown Main Street is lined with over 150 juried artist exhibits from across the country.  

The first Black Swamp Arts Festival was held in Downtown Bowling Green in the Fall of 1993. It was organized by a group of Downtown Business Owners and members of the community who had an interest in spotlighting the arts in Bowling Green. Each year, the Festival has grown: increased number of members who plan and organize Festival details, increased number of fine artists who display and sell their artwork, increased number of performing artists who entertain with all genres of music and stage performances, and an increased number of participants, both local and from out-of-town, who come to enjoy and support the arts.

Source: About Black Swamp Arts Festival, official page

Discover Ohio adds:

Historic Downtown Bowling Green is transformed into a vibrant three-day Music and Arts Festival. Each year new and exciting art work is presented by visual and performance artists… The Artists at Work booths are hands-on community art projects for adult visitors. Visual artists create on-site as visitors watch, and sometimes try their hand at the craft. Participating artists include water colorists, acrylics painters, sculptors, glass bead makers, woodworkers and potters who demonstrate, answer questions, and share their knowledge of how they take raw materials and turn them into art. Kids areas have music making and a multitude of  hands-on art projects to take home.

We moved here on August 23rd last year, only about two weeks before the festival began, so that Jasmine, my wife, could finish a degree she began here in Fall 2008. I had seen a sign indicating that a festival was coming, but it caught me by surprise anyway. The first day of the festival I tried to drive over to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get my new license plate tag and sticker. The next thing I knew I was helplessly stuck in traffic just outside of the city limits, surrounded by a woods on one side and a cornfield on the other. As soon as I got a chance, I turned around and drove back home, but we did walk downtown to the festival later that day. Here are a few pictures from our visit to the festival last year:

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View of the festival entrance from the south side of downtown

08Some of the pop-up food tents (we enjoyed some Thai food from one of them)

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Street preachers were determined to get their message out.

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Why is the festival named after a Black Swamp? 

Northwest Ohio and part of eastern Indiana used to be covered by a massive swamp. Historic Perrysburg describes the Great Black Swamp as “an oozing mass of water, mud, snakes, wolves, wildcats, biting flies, and clouds of gnats and mosquitoes” that covered an area nearly the size of the state of Connecticut. It stretched “40 miles wide and 120 miles long” from Perrysburg, Ohio in the north to Findlay, Ohio in the south, and from Fort Wayne, Indiana in the west to Sandusky, Ohio (now home to Cedar Point) in the east.

(Bowling Green is located halfway between Toledo and Findlay, along I-75, and Perrysburg is located just south of Toledo. Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Historic Perrysburg goes on to describe the history of this swamp:

Water, often up to the belly of a horse, stood on the surface until it evaporated in the hot summer months. When it rained, or thawed in the winter, it was water and muck. Much of the swamp was covered with an almost impenetrable forest of giant oak, sycamore, hickory, walnut, ash, elm, maple and cottonwood trees, except in a few prairie areas where limestone just under the surface would not support timber growth.

Not even native Indians went into the swamp except to hunt, and unless you could follow a blazed trail, it was easy to become hopelessly lost since you could only see but a few yards ahead.

The swamp was created 20,000 years ago when the last glacier retreated.

The enormous weight of the mile-thick ice pack pressed down and scooped out the earth beneath it to create a depression about 10 feet lower south of where Perrysburg sits on the river bluff. Thereafter, until it was drained, water stood in the silted wetland and clay in the ground prevented it from soaking in. When water was standing and flooding conditions occurred, large fish from the Maumee River and other streams could swim all over areas now covered by corn and soybean fields…

There was no end to the variety of sicknesses and maladies spawned from the mosquito-infested swamp. There was cholera, typhoid and milk sickness, but chief among them were malarial fevers generally known as “ague” for which people kept quinine powder on the table, along with salt and pepper, to sprinkle on their food.

The fevers caused people to have chills, or the shakes, and according to a doctor of the time it took them from three to five years to get over it. The shakes occurred from about the first of July until the first frost. They took hold of people and literally shook them up. The doctor wrote that so violent were the chills and shaking that when they came on, the very bed and floor would rattle.

The Black Swamp was Ohio’s last frontier, and beginning in the 1840s, it took several generations of determined farmers to drain it and make it the rich, flat farmland of today… It took back-breaking labor and construction of one of the greatest underground drainage systems in the history of the world to create the productive farmland we now drive by and take for granted just outside of Perrysburg.

According to Wikipedia, in the mid-1850’s it was a resident of Bowling Green, James B. Hill, who “made the quick drainage of the Black Swamp possible with his invention of the Buckeye Traction Ditcher.”

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Wormwood (Revelation 8): An OT-based Judgment Upon Unfaithful Israel


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and was adapted from our study of Revelation 8:

Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter” (Revelation 8:10-11).

Revelation 8 covers the first four out of seven trumpet judgments, poured out in response to the prayers of the saints (vs. 4; cf. Rev. 6:10). The first trumpet involved the burning up of a third of the trees and all of the grass (vs. 7), and the second trumpet involved a third of the sea turning to blood and the death of a third of the living creatures in the sea (vss. 8-9).  

Rev. 8:10-11, quoted above, details the third trumpet and speaks of a “great star” falling from heaven, “burning like a torch,” causing many deaths as a third of the rivers and springs of water become wormwood (bitter). As Steve Gregg, the author of Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary) points out, some futurists interpret this trumpet judgment symbolically, as referring either to a future Antichrist (e.g. Arno Gaebelein) or a future Pope (e.g. H.A. Ironside) who causes much corruption (Gregg, pp. 161, 163). Other futurist interpreters (e.g. Henry Morris, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord) see this as a literal reference to a burning meteorite or “a giant set of meteors” that will enter earth’s atmosphere “with contaminating influence upon the rivers and waters” of the entire planet (p. 165). Steve Gregg’s articulation of the Preterist (fulfilled) interpretation reflects my own understanding:

The turning of fresh water sources bitter and toxic may be in part a literal result of the decaying corpses that lay in the Sea of Galilee and in the river as the result of war [i.e. the Roman-Jewish War of 67-73 AD]. However, this fouling of the waters has symbolic significance, occurring as it does here to the nation of Israel. There is probably an intentional allusion to the promise (and implied threat) God made to Israel when they first came out of Egypt. When they came to the bitter waters of Marah, in response to Moses’ casting a tree into the waters, God made the waters sweet and wholesome… However, God’s promise/warning implies that their disobedience to Him will result in His placing upon them the same plagues that He placed on the Egyptians—the waters can be made bitter again [cf. Exodus 15:25-26, Deuteronomy 28:59-60]… It is noteworthy that throughout the pages of Revelation, the plagues that come upon the apostates are comparable to those with which God afflicted the Egyptians in the days of Moses [See the end of this article for a list of more of these parallels]. The star which was burning like a torch (v. 10) is reminiscent of the tree cast into the waters by Moses, but has the opposite effect (pp. 160, 162).

Gregg also quotes from David Chilton, who adds,

The name of this fallen star is Wormwood, a term used in the Law and the Prophets to warn Israel of its destruction as a punishment for apostasy (Deut. 29:18; Jer. 9:15; 23:15Lam. 3:15, 19; Amos 5:7). Again, by combining these Old Testament allusions, St. John makes his point: Israel is apostate, and has become an Egypt; Jerusalem has become a Babylon; and the covenant-breakers will be destroyed, as surely as Egypt and Babylon were destroyed (Gregg, p. 164).

To further illustrate this point, it’s also instructive to consider the test for adultery under the Law of Moses, as recorded in Numbers 5:11-31. This test was to be administered by a priest in cases where a married woman was suspected of defiling herself in an adulterous manner (Numbers 5:11-14). The priest would mix dust from the floor of the tabernacle into holy water contained in a vessel, to create “the water of bitterness that brings the curse” (vss. 16-18). The woman would then take the following oath:

If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband’s authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you, then (let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman) the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your thigh fall away and your body swell. May this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away (vss. 20-22).

The woman would then say, “Amen. Amen,” and the curses would be written into a book and washed off into the bitter water. The woman would then be made to drink the water (vss. 23-26), with the following possible results:

And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children (vss. 27-28).

If this imagery and this procedure is the background of the third trumpet judgment, then this is one more indication that Israel had been found to be apostate. Many people died from the bitter water because they were indeed guilty of spiritual adultery, and were found to be in a state of defilement.

Sam Storms shares some interesting thoughts as well regarding how Revelation parallels the plagues which came upon Egypt, the enemy of God’s people at the time:

One of the fascinating things in Revelation is the way it portrays the experience of the people of God in terms very similar to what transpired for Israel in Egypt and the ten plagues of judgment. For example,

1) prominence of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:1-31) // 1) prominence of glassy sea (Rev. 15:2)
2) song of deliverance (Ex. 15:1-18) // 2) song of deliverance (Rev. 15:2-4)
3) God’s enemy: Pharaoh // 3) God’s enemy: the Beast
4) court magicians of Egypt // 4) the False Prophet
5) persecution of Israel // 5) persecution of the Church
6) protected from plagues (Ex. 8:22; 9:4,26; 10:23; 11:7) // 6) protected from wrath (Rev. 7:1-8; 9:4)
7) hardened/unrepentant (Ex. 8:15; 9:12-16) // 7) hardened/unrepentant (Rev. 16:9,11,21)
8] the name of God (Ex. 3:14) // 8] the name of God (Rev. 1:4-6)
9) Israel redeemed from bondage by blood // 9) Church redeemed from sin by blood
10) Israel made a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6) // 10) Church made a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6)
11) 7th plague (Ex. 9:22-25) // 11) 1st trumpet [Rev. 8:7]
12) 6th plague (Ex. 9:8-12) // 12) 1st bowl [Rev. 16:2]
13) 1st plague (Ex. 7:20-25) // 13) 2nd/3rd trumpet & 2nd/3rd bowl [Rev. 8:8-11, 16:3-7]

14) 9th plague (Ex. 10:21-23) // 14) 4th trumpet & 4th bowl [Rev. 8:12-13, 16:8-9]
15) 8th & 9th plagues (Ex. 10:1-20) // 15) 5th trumpet & 5th bowl [Rev. 9:1-12, 16:10-11]

Jesus so often described His generation in Israel as “adulterous”, “evil”, “wicked”, “vile,” etc. He predicted that they would be held to account and judged for shedding the blood of the prophets and saints (Matthew 23:29-38). The book of Revelation was written concerning “things which must shortly take place,” for “the time [was] near” (Rev. 1:1-3; 22:6, 10, 12). John saw the great city, where Jesus was crucified (Rev. 11:8) as an adulterous woman (a “harlot”), ripe for judgment because she was full of the blood of the prophets, apostles, and saints (see my studies on Rev. 16:4-6, 17:1-6, and 18:20-24).

First century Israel was full of adultery, and guilty of shedding much innocent blood. The terms of Israel’s law code, which was about to go up in flames with Jerusalem and the temple, called for “the water of bitterness that brings the curse” (Numbers 5:20). And Israel’s water was poisoned with bitterness, Wormwood, in her final hour before destruction came. Thank God that He had already prepared a bride, clothed in fine linen and adorned for Himself, her husband (Rev. 19:1-9, 21:1-3).

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All of our studies on the book of Revelation can be seen here.

Blessed Are the Warmongers? (When Christians Pray for War Instead of Peace)


Blessed are the warmongers*, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9, Christian Zionist version)

*Of course, Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the warmongers,” but rather, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” A watching world, however, could be forgiven for thinking that Jesus taught His people to love war, killings, and bloodshed when some of His professing followers say the things they do. 

A couple days ago, a good friend shared a link to an article titled, “Unite Against the Ceasefire.” This article literally contains a prayer asking God to “collapse” a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza so that Israel could “go back with full force into Gaza,” and Christians were asked to agree with that prayer. In other words, this prayer asked God to allow war and bombs to continue.

The article in question was posted on August 26, 2014 by Stan Goodenough at the Jerusalem Watchman website. Stan is or was connected with International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). As the website’s “About” page reveals, Stan believes that peace efforts for the Middle East are “always doomed to fail.” The following is the prayer that Stan asked other believers to pray together with him (I have underlined certain parts of this prayer and will comment on them at the end):

If the following resonates in your spirit, fellow believer, then stand in prayer with me right now, and get all you believe will agree to join with us. Call on Heaven to bear witness to the massive humanistic and Islamic effort to propagate the enemy’s plan, and pray – with the high praises of God in your mouths, the two-edged sword of His word in your hands, for the speedy and total collapse of the ceasefire that was set to begin at 19:00 tonight. (August 26, 2014)

More than 60 rockets were fired from Gaza in the hour leading up to the ceasefire. One Israeli was killed and five were injured in the barrage.

Arise, O Lord, in Your anger;
Lift Yourself up because of the rage of my enemies;
Rise up for me  to the judgment You have commanded!
So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You;
For their sakes, therefore, return on high. (Psalm 7:6-7)

This is my prayer:

Our Father in heaven, holy, righteous, glorious and eternal King,

Concerning Your determined, declared purpose to restore the kingdom to Israel, and in and through Israel to finalise the complete redemption of this world, may Your name be hallowed in and through all that is happening in and around Your land today; may Your will be done on the earth.

Lord God of Israel – Your ways are not our ways, and Your thoughts are not our thoughts. We do not presume to know everything there is to know about the outworking of Your plan – the methods You employ, the forces and currents You bend to Your will. You alone can see into the heart of man. You alone can see into tomorrow and into the future. Far be it from us to do anything to in any way hinder what You are accomplishing.

What I do see from Your Word – clear as the daylight – is that You have sworn that as long as the sun hangs in the sky, Israel will remain a nation before You.

What I see in Your Word, and what we see all around us in the world today – is that an apocalyptic battle is already raging against this nation, which You have physically reconstituted in Your land as You swore to do. The battle is raging to undo what You are doing, to reverse the restoration that You are bringing about.

It is a war against Heaven itself.

Tonight, from my post on the walls of Jerusalem where You have placed me (and many of Your children), I hear how Hamas is celebrating their “victory” over Israel and, LORD God of Israel, over You.

Just as the ancient Philistines once thought they had beaten You – and carried Your ark triumphantly down to Gaza, so too are the Palestinian Arabs today believing that their god has defeated You. Tonight they will sing his praises throughout the streets of Gaza as in their minds they believe they have triumphed over the armies of Israel.

Rise up, LORD God, for the sake of Your great name. I pray that You will bare Your holy arm in the site of the nations of the world who – in one accord, are pushing for this ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in their vain and bankrupt apparent belief that this is a way towards peace.

The ceasefire will not lead to peace but only to more violence, more terror, more destruction and death.

Make every plan that dishonours You Lord come to nothing at all, no matter how big or how small, no matter who makes it, grind it into dust under the heel of Your Foot, I beseech You.

Stop it – LORD God, I pray. Command Your angels into the fray to bring about the undermining and collapse of the ceasefire as quickly and as irreversibly as possible.

Undermine the work of Secretary of State John Kerry and his boss Barack Obama. Confound Egypt’s Sisi. Expose the evil in the hearts of Turkey’s Erdogan and Iran’s Khamanei

I see Hamas nearly against the wall, LORD – hundreds of its fighters and commanders have been destroyed; years and years of plotting and working to build tunnels to carry out massive terror against the Jewish people have been nullified; its rocket stocks are nearly depleted; it is bordered by the powerful State of Israel and an Egypt today unsympathetic to its cause.

The heart of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also in Your hands – and You can turn it like the watercourses in the desert. Turn it. Turn him, Lord. Use the poll results that show he is massively losing support as Israelis see him failing to crush Hamas; failing to stop the rocket fire and terror. Use these results to reinvigorate him – to prepare him, when the ceasefire collapses, to go back with full force into Gaza, and to show Hamas no flag but the black flag – no quarter for the mujahedin in the armies of Allah.

Almighty God – do not enable Hamas to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Crush Hamas and, with it, humble Islam and shake the faith of the Muslim world.

LORD God of Israel – why should the Islamic world say, concerning Israel “Where is their God?” Why should the godless Russian and Chinese people say, concerning Israel, “Where is their God?” Why should the increasingly secular and ungodly United States, European and other western countries deride Your name and say, concerning Your people and Your land: “Where is their God?”

Show them where Israel’s God is, LORD. For the sake of Your name, arise, we beseech You. Do not forget Your promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to their seed.

Again, humbly acknowledging that we do not know all there is to know, I nonetheless pray this way with boldness and with faith, believing that, if our prayers are in line with Your will at this time, You will hear from heaven and move to secure, until you have completed it, the deliverance of Israel and her firm establishment in the land You gave her forever.

I pray this in Your name.

Redemption is available for this world, not “in and through” a nation in the Middle East (Israel), but in and through Jesus. This is the core message of the Bible. This is Christianity 101. This message is represented by probably the most famous verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). 

It’s both absurd and inaccurate to say that “Palestinian Arabs today [are] believing that their god has defeated [the God of the Bible].” Stan’s words here suggest that all Palestinian Arabs follow the same religion, Islam. Some Palestinian Arabs are Christians! Of course they don’t believe that the God of the Bible has defeated the God of the Bible. Furthermore, plenty of Arabs don’t support or appreciate Hamas, the public face of this recent war that made a declaration to this effect.

It’s ironic that Stan speaks of “the godless Russian and Chinese people” and “the increasingly secular and godless United States” in contrast to Israel and “their God.” Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, published a survey in 2005 revealing the top 50 most Atheistic/Agnostic countries in the world. Russia came out only slightly higher than Israel in terms of the percentage of its people who identify as Atheists or Agnostics (24 – 48% in Russia versus 15 – 37% in Israel). China, which is seeing an incredible and amazing movement to Christ, was well below Israel (8 – 14% Atheist or Agnostic), as was the United States (3 – 9%). There is all kinds of godlessness in Israel, including the brutality with which this recent war was carried out.

Who is “the God” of Israel? Well, according to Wikipedia, 55% of the people in Israel say they are traditional Jews, 20% are secular Jews, 17% are Zionist Jews, 16% are Muslim, 2% are Christian, and 1.5% are Druze. It turns out that only 2% share Stan’s faith in Christ. A notable survey carried out by the Avi Chai Foundation in Israel in 2009 actually found that 46% of Jews there describe themselves as “secular.” Interestingly, among American Jews nearly 50% doubt God’s existence while only 10 – 15% of non-Jews in America feel the same way (source).

I am grateful that God did not honor the prayer of Stan and others who agreed with it for a “total collapse” of the Israel/Gaza ceasefire “as quickly and as irreversibly as possible.” Thank God that a 50-day war, which caused more than 25% of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents to flee their homes and killed more than 2000 of them, is finally over. Thank God that humanitarian aid and goods are being allowed in now:

Vital humanitarian aid poured into Gaza on Thursday as residents began rebuilding their lives following a devastating 50-day war between Israel and Hamas that experts say left no winners.

Millions in and around the war-torn coastal enclave were enjoying a second day of peace after the guns fell silent.

The truce, which went into force on Tuesday evening, saw the warring sides agree to a “permanent” halt to seven weeks of bloodshed in a move hailed by Washington and the United Nations.

Israel agreed to immediately lift restrictions on fishing, allowing boats to work up to six nautical miles from the shore in a move which went into effect early on Wednesday.

It also pledged to ease restrictions at the two crossings into Gaza, Erez and Kerem Shalom, to allow the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials.

Debate on crunch issues such as Hamas’s demand for a port and an airport, and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel’s calls to demilitarise Gaza have been postponed for another month until the sides resume talks in Cairo.

The focus is catering for the immediate needs of the 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip, nearly half a million of whom were forced to flee their homes because of the fighting.

Jesus is known as “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and He has called His people to make peace, to “be peacemakers.” It would be nice if a watching world could know from our words and actions that we take that calling seriously.

Siblings Reunited With Their Family 10 Years After Indonesian Tsunami (Plus Pictures from Aceh)


In the midst of a lot of negative news in the media comes a wonderful story of two siblings, thought to be dead, reunited with their family 10 years after the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia that killed about 275,000 people. One sibling was found alive about three weeks ago, as this August 8th Washington Post article describes:

She had been holding onto her parents as they floated on a plank of wood when the tsunami hit her home, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur International. But Raudhatul and her then 7-year-old brother, Arif Pratama Rangkuti, slipped from their father’s grasp. The family never saw the two children again until Wednesday when Raudhatul, now 14, was reunited with her family.

“My heart beat so fast when I saw her. I hugged her, and she hugged me back and felt so comfortable in my arms,” said Jamaliah Jannah, Raudhatul’s mother, in an interview with Agence France-Presse

Young Raudhatul had been swept onto a remote island, when she was found by a fisherman who returned her to the mainland. For the next 10 years, that fisherman’s mother raised her by the name of Wenni, according to AFP.

Then one day in June, Raudhatul’s uncle saw a young girl who looked like his missing niece. He asked around and learned that she had been found on Banyak Island after the tsunami.

“My husband and I are very happy we have found her,” her mother told DPA. “This is a miracle from God.”

The couple’s other missing child would be about 17 years old now, and they believe that, like his sister, he may still  be alive.

“We will look for him on Banyak Island because we believe he is still alive,” Jamaliah Jannah said according to DPA.

If he did live, Raudhatul’s older brother would be among the luckiest. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 275,000 people according to the U.S. Geological Survey, making it the deadliest tsunami since the Renaissance Age.

Who Are the Jews in Israel Today?


Growing up under Christian Zionist and dispensationalist teachings, I took for granted that the following narrative that was presented to me was the correct one:

The Jewish people in Israel are direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God restored them to their land as a nation in 1948 in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are newly-arrived Arabs, mainly from Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, who flooded the land when they saw the Jews beginning to come back from Russia, Europe, and elsewhere.

Although it’s been a number of years since I learned that this narrative is far from correct, more recently I’ve learned some details that, if true, take this distortion to the next level. They show the claims of Christian Zionism and dispensationalism to be even further off-base, not only Biblically but also in terms of history. 

I recently read an article written by Schlomo Sand, an Israeli history professor at Tel Aviv University, whose parents were Polish Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. I don’t agree with Sand’s stance on the Old Testament, but he makes some interesting statements regarding the inhabitants of Palestine in the centuries prior to Israel becoming a nation in 1948:

“[After Jerusalem's destruction in 70 AD], apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.

Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea.

[See David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Eretz Israel in the past and present, 1918 (in Yiddish), and Jerusalem, 1980 (in Hebrew); Yitzhak Ben Zvi,Our population in the country, Executive Committee of the Union for Youth and the Jewish National Fund, Warsaw, 1929 (in Hebrew).]

Sand goes on to talk about the large impact of Jewish proselytizing, especially during the Middle Ages, when non-Jews, ethnically speaking, converted to the Jewish religion. He adds,

“The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine created a multiplicity of communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and from what is now modern Germany, they formed the basis of Yiddish culture.”

[Yiddish, spoken by the Jews of eastern Europe, was a Germano-Slavic language incorporating Hebrew words.]

Sand was an Israeli soldier for three years and fought in the Six-Day War of 1967, so it’s interesting what he says next:

“The Israeli forces who seized Jerusalem in 1967 believed themselves to be the direct descendents of the mythic kingdom of David* rather than – God forbid – of Berber warriors or Khazar horsemen. The Jews claimed to constitute a specific ethnic group that had returned to Jerusalem, its capital, from 2,000 years of exile and wandering.

…Since the 1970s supposedly scientific research, carried out in Israel, has desperately striven to demonstrate that Jews throughout the world are closely genetically related… By validating an essentialist, 
ethnocentric definition of Judaism it encourages a segregation that separates Jews from non-Jews – whether Arabs, Russian immigrants or foreign workers… But Jews worldwide have always tended to form religious communities, usually by conversion; they cannot be said to share an ethnicity derived from a unique origin and displaced over 20 centuries of wandering.

*Please note that I disagree with Sand when he says that David’s kingdom was mythic.

Arthur Koestler (1905 – 1983) was a Jewish author and journalist from Hungary (later a British citizen) who wrote a book in 1976 titled, “The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage” (available in PDF form here). Koestler’s thesis was that a majority of Jews today have ancestral roots in the ancient Khazar region (corresponding to modern SW Russia, Eastern Ukraine, and Western Kazakhstan), where many members of the Khazar royalty and also of the general population converted to Talmudic Judaism in the 8th century AD and adopted the Yiddish language, which is based on the Hebrew alphabet. Toward the end of Koestler’s book, he summarized its contents with these words:

“In Part One of this book I have attempted to trace the history of the Khazar Empire based on the scant existing sources. In Part Two, Chapters V-VII, I have compiled the historical evidence which indicates that the bulk of Eastern Jewry — and hence of world Jewry — is of Khazar-Turkish, rather than Semitic, origin. In the last chapter I have tried to show that the evidence from anthropology concurs with history in refuting the popular belief in a Jewish race descended from the biblical tribe.”

Koestler stated that his research undermined many accusations of anti-Semitism, since many Jews are not even Semitic. His work was understandably considered to be controversial. Some DNA experts were critical or skeptical of it, while others agreed. Dr. Eran Elhalk and Dr. Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin are two geneticists who agree with Koestler’s hypothesis. They conducted a 2012 study at John Hopkins University, finding that the European Jewish population featured a mix of Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries. Their work is summed up in this abstract published by Oxford University Press:

The question of Jewish ancestry has been the subject of controversy for over two centuries and has yet to be resolved. The “Rhineland hypothesis” depicts Eastern European Jews as a “population isolate” that emerged from a small group of German Jews who migrated eastward and expanded rapidly. Alternatively, the “Khazarian hypothesis” suggests that Eastern European Jews descended from the Khazars, an amalgam of Turkic clans that settled the Caucasus in the early centuries CE and converted to Judaism in the 8th century. Mesopotamian and Greco–Roman Jews continuously reinforced the Judaized empire until the 13th century. Following the collapse of their empire, the Judeo–Khazars fled to Eastern Europe. The rise of European Jewry is therefore explained by the contribution of the Judeo–Khazars. Thus far, however, the Khazars’ contribution has been estimated only empirically, as the absence of genome-wide data from Caucasus populations precluded testing the Khazarian hypothesis. Recent sequencing of modern Caucasus populations prompted us to revisit the Khazarian hypothesis and compare it with the Rhineland hypothesis. We applied a wide range of population genetic analyses to compare these two hypotheses. Our findings support the Khazarian hypothesis and portray the European Jewish genome as a mosaic of Near Eastern-Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries, thereby consolidating previous contradictory reports of Jewish ancestry. We further describe a major difference among Caucasus populations explained by the early presence of Judeans in the Southern and Central Caucasus. Our results have important implications for the demographic forces that shaped the genetic diversity in the Caucasus and for medical studies.

Khazaria in 850 AD, Map Source

Martin Trench, the lead pastor of Gateway Alliance Church in Edmonton, Canada, shared similar thoughts in a closed Facebook group recently and gave permission to quote him:

“[There is a] modern misunderstanding of the terms ‘Israel’ and ‘the Jews.’ Moses and the people of Israel who crossed the wilderness were not ‘Jews.’ They were Israelites. The Jews of the post-Babylonian period until the time of Jesus were also Israelites, with some Edomites mixed in too who lived in Judea, but not in Galilee. And the Jews of today are a different ethnic group – roughly 80% of them are an ethnic mixture of non-Israelites who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages and follow a different religion than the Biblical Israel. They follow the religion of Talmudic Judaism, which was developed AFTER the time of Jesus, not the Old Covenant religion of Israel which requires a Temple, priesthood, and sacrificial system.

The true Israelite Jews in Judea at the time of Jesus either accepted him as the Messiah and so fled to Pella before 70 AD; or they stayed on and fought the Romans in the 66-70 AD war, with many being taken as slaves to Pompeii (which itself was destroyed a few years later by Vesuvius). The survivors who weren’t taken as slaves (because the Romans did not do whole-sale exile, like the Babylonians and Assyrians did – they left most poor people behind) stayed in the land as poor peasants, and the Pharisees, etc. went to different places – mainly Babylon where they wrote the Babylonian Talmud (which is very anti-Jesus and is quite vile and blasphemous). Those were the genuine Biblical Jews, but they were very small in numbers. In the Middle Ages, the Khazar kingdom in Eastern Europe converted to Talmudic Judaism. They were pagans before, known as the “serpent people,” but they had Muslims on one side and Christians on the other, so they converted to Judaism so they could trade with both – they became Ashkenazi Jews, the vast majority of Jews today.”

Concerning the point about “Ashkenazi Jews,” see the Wikipedia entry on this subject for a lot of well-documented information. Notable Ashkenazi Jews have included Theodore Herzl, Albert Einstein, Anne Frank, and Golda Meir.

Concerning Talmudism, interestingly Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel, submitted a new Basic Law to the Knesset in early May of this year that “would establish the Talmud, the core work of Jewish law, as an official basis for Israeli state law” (Source:Report: Netanyahu Promises Talmud Will Be Israeli Law,” Israel National News).

To whatever degree the above information is true, it doesn’t make Jews today, whether they are Semitic or non-Semitic, any more or any less valuable, human, or worthy of respect. What it does likely do, however, is further confirm that key claims within Christian Zionism are false.

The New Testament already clearly refutes the Christian Zionist idea that ethnic Jews (rather than followers of Christ) are God’s chosen people (see this post and this post and this post and this post for more on this). The New Testament also refutes other such ideas that emphasize Jewish ethnicity over faith. Christian Zionism stands strong on the idea that many of the plans, purposes, and promises of God flow to the ethnic descendants of Abraham, even those who despise God’s Son, Jesus. This is despite the fact that Scripture says all of God’s promises are made to Jesus and His followers (e.g. Galatians 3:16, 28-29). Christian Zionism has also chosen as its foundation the assumption that modern Israel is nothing less than the national gathering of Abraham’s ethnic descendants in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.* Biblically, these claims are far-fetched, and they are looking to be far-fetched historically as well.

*See this article for a refutation of the idea that Israel became a nation in 1948 in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

All of our studies related to Christian Zionism can be seen here.

The Zionist Story by Ronen Berelovich (Video and Notes)


I recently watched a documentary called “The Zionist Story” and ended up taking notes while watching it. This film was produced by Ronen Berelovich, a former Israeli soldier, “someone who has spent his entire life in the shadow of Zionism.” There are a couple statements in this 75 minute-film that I would like to verify further, but it was an informative and gripping film. I learned a few new things about the history of pre-1948 Palestine, the formation of Zionism, etc. I’m posting this as a reference for myself, as well as for anyone who may be interested. My notes are below this video, and I did my best to keep my emotional reactions to myself (I had plenty):

In case this video is ever taken down for any reason, it’s also available here, here, and here.

0:48   “For over 1,300 years, since the very beginning of Islam, Jews and Muslims lived together in an unprecedented religious and cultural harmony in Palestine, North Africa, and Spain.”

2:30     Basel, Switzerland was the location of the first Zionist Congress in 1897. “Zionism was a national revival movement that sought to unite all Jews in a national homeland.” Prior to 1897, proposed settings for such a homeland included Uganda, Alaska, and Madagascar. The 1897 Congress decided on Palestine as the setting for a Jewish homeland. 

3:55     Concerning the Arabs already living in Palestine: “Theodor Herzl, considered to be the founder of Zionism, wrote in 1895, ‘We shall try to spirit away the penniless population across the border.’ Leo Motzkin, one of Zionism’s most liberal thinkers, wrote, ‘The colonization of Palestine has to go in two different directions: Jewish settlements in Eretz Israel and the resettlement of Arabs in areas outside the country.’ Chaim Weizmann, the head of the World Zionist Congress and future president of Israel, proclaimed the Palestinians to be ‘the rocks of Judea, obstacles that need to be cleared on a difficult path.'”

6:15    In the early 20th century, Zionists began campaigning for Jews to come to Palestine. Zionists also began buying land from Palestinian absentee landlords, and evicted Palestinians living on that land, in a process called “Judaifying the land.”

7:35     In 1917 the British conquered Palestine from the Turks. The Balfour Declaration came out that same year.

8:50    The Palestinians launched two uprisings against the British, who were aided by the Zionists, in 1929 and in 1936, resulting in thousands of lives lost. “The British also exiled the Palestinians’ leadership and dismantled all Palestinian paramilitary units. The Palestinians were left defenseless and leaderless.”

11:21   “Then in the 1940’s the cards turned. Following a string of British pro-Palestinian policies, the Zionists launched terrorist attacks on British personnel and facilities.” In the bombing of the King David hotel, 88 people were killed and “a good deal of the British high command was wiped out. Their goal was to drive the British out of Palestine. The mastermind of the King David bombing was Menachem Begin. He would become Israel’s Prime Minister. His accomplice, Yitzhak Shamir, would also later become Prime Minister… At this point the British have had enough, and they transfer the matter of Palestine to the United Nations.” 

13:30     In late 1947 the United Nations officially recognized a partition of Palestine into two states. “In 1947 the Jews owned 5.8% of the land. In the UN partition plan, the Jews ended up with 56% of the land, almost 10 times what they actually owned… [The population of the Palestinians] was split into two, half of it living in the Zionist state as a minority.” 

15:48   “David Ben-Gurion, the leader of the Zionist movement in Palestine [and who became Israel's first Prime Minister], wrote in 1937, ‘The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.‘”

17:04   “Towards the end of 1947 the Zionist leadership came together and drew Plan Dalet. Plan Dalet was about securing the borders of Israel by cleansing, expelling, and destroying Palestinian towns, villages, and urban neighborhoods. The plan was implemented by the Zionist armed forces.” Quoting Professor Charles Smith, a historian at Arizona University: “In March [1948] they began a push to ensure their control of areas that would become Israel under the partition, and as that happened you began to get many more Palestinian Arabs fleeing. Particularly after a massacre of a place called Deir Yassin… Begin and the Irgun and the Stern gangs (Yitzhak Shamir was part of that) – there was a combined attack on a Palestinian village that massacred a lot of people (107)… After that you had mobile radio bands that Begin put into play threatening more Deir Yassins if the Arabs didn’t flee – in other words you’ll be massacred just like Deir Yassin.”

18:34   “Between the 30th of March and 15th of May 1948, 200 villages were occupied and their inhabitants expelled. In some villages, such as Deir Yassin and Ain al-Zeitun, horrible massacres were perpetrated. The towns of Tiberias, Haifa, ???, Bayside, Jaffa, and Akra fell into Zionist hands. As a result, more than 250,000 Palestinians were expelled. All of this took place before the 1948 war even started.”

19:33    Professor Salaman H. Abu Sitta, from the Palestinian Land Society in England, tells his story of becoming a refugee in May 1948 when he was 10 years old. Among other things, he tells of Zionist soldiers terrorizing Arab farmers and shooting at them from Jeeps as they were working in the fields. Several weeks after his boarding school was shut down in fear of it being attacked, his home was attacked and blown up by about 24 tanks which came to cut the Gaza Strip in half. The school that his father built in 1920 was also blown up, along with the well that his village used for drinking water and to irrigate their fields. 

25:44   The Zionists declared independence on May 14, 1948 and David Ben-Gurion became the first Prime Minister of Israel. The next day seven Arab countries declared war on Israel and invaded, citing Zionist aggression that had caused more than a quarter million Palestinian Arabs to be made homeless and to seek refuge in neighboring countries. 

29:05  While the war of 1948 was going on, Zionists continued to expel and massacre Palestinian villagers. In one city, more than 50,000 Palestinian Arab villagers were expelled in one day, and 426 men, women, and children were killed. Yitzhak Rabin was the general in charge of this operation, and he later became a Prime Minister of Israel for two terms. In many cases, surviving villagers were systematically stripped of all their belongings and sent off as homeless refugees. The Zionist militias destroyed 531 Palestinian villages, 11 urban neighborhoods and towns, and cleansed approximately 750,000 Palestinians.

34:30    (A discussion of the 1967 War and its aftermath)

35:03    (Interview with Professor Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian at Exeter University) 

43:30   Discussion of two Palestinian uprisings or Intifadas – the first was in 1987 and the second began in 2000: “The first Intifada was put down by the Israeli government with so much brutality that the UN condemned Israel for violating the Geneva Convention. The Intifada succeeded, however, in bringing the Palestinian case to the attention of the world. It also heralded the schizophrenic path that the Palestinian resistance would take from now on. While peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations were conducted, suicide bombers entered Israel and blew up buses packed with people.”

45:36    Elections took place in the West Bank and Gaza, with Hamas emerging as the elected victor. Around this time, 10,000 Jewish settlers were evacuated from the Gaza Strip, and Gaza was sealed shut, becoming “the largest prison on the planet. Israel controls all sea, land, and air access to Gaza. It regularly cuts off all food, water, and power supply to the Strip in order to punish the population for their defiance. In response to bombing by F-16 jets, and Apache helicopter gunships and targeted assassinations, Palestinians fire homemade rockets at Israeli settlements.” 

47:36    (Ilan Pappe speaking again)

51:08    Discussion of the security wall enclosing the West Bank and 3.5 million Palestinians, Palestinian Arabs living in Israel as second-class citizens subject to discrimination, illegal settlements, Zionism’s seeming untouchability, more interviews, narrator’s conclusion, etc. 

The Son of Man Will Come… With His Angels


I first published this article two days ago in The Fulfilled Connection Magazine (tfcmag.com):

In the book of Revelation the word “angel(s)” appears a total of 76 times, according to Strong’s Concordance (and based on the King James Version). In the majority of these instances, angels had the role of announcing or pouring out judgments. Why is this significant?

Six days before Jesus was transfigured on a high mountain (Matthew 17:1-8), He made some detailed predictions about His coming, telling His disciples that some of them would live long enough to witness it:

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to His works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:27-28).

In Matthew 16 Jesus said He would come with His angels to judge. In the book of Revelation, as we will see, angels are directly connected with a multitude of judgments poured out on the harlot (see Rev. 11, 16, 17, 18), the great city where Jesus was crucified (Rev. 11:8). I didn’t initially make this connection between Matthew 16:27-28 and Revelation on my own. In early 2011 my friend, Mark Church, introduced himself and this Scriptural connection when he left this comment on my blog:

“Has anyone else ever seen the imagery given by Jesus in Matthew 16:27 about Him coming with His “ANGELS” and the imagery given in the whole of the book of Revelation? Preterists claim that much of what Jesus spoke of on the Mount of Olives was related to the book of Revelation. THEN NOTICE ALL THROUGHOUT REVELATION, THAT IT WAS ***ANGELS*** POURING OUT THE JUDGMENTS UPON THE NATION OF ISRAEL!!! He came back with His ANGELS and poured out His Judgments that He decreed would come upon them! WOW!”

In another post last month, we explored how Jude predicted that Jesus would come with thousands of angels to judge those who were presently troubling the church, and how Enoch predicted that this judgment would take place 70 generations after his time (confirmed in Luke 3 to be the generation in which Jesus lived). Before examining the prevalence of angels in the book of Revelation, let’s break down the four elements of Jesus’ coming which He predicted in Matthew 16:27-28.

1. IN THE GLORY OF HIS FATHER: As Don Preston well points out, this can be understood to mean that just as the Father had come in the past, Jesus would also come in the same manner. Don gives as an example Isaiah 64:1-3, where the writer declares that God had “come down” numerous times in the past:

“Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood, and the fire causes water to boil – to make Your name known to Your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things that we did not look for,You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.”

2. WITH HIS ANGELS: Compare this to what Paul promised the Thessalonian believers when he told them that they could expect relief “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance (II Thessalonians 1:7), in order “to repay with affliction those who afflict you” (verse 6). This was imminent in their day, for Paul said that the wrath of God had already come upon the Jewish persecutors (I Thess. 2:14-16). He knew this to be true because Jesus had declared in no uncertain terms (Matthew 23:35-36) that the blood of all the prophets would be required of His own generation. As we will see, all throughout the book of Revelation God’s angels pour out judgment upon “the great city” where the Lord was crucified (Revelation 11:8) – that is, Jerusalem, the city marked as a harlot because of its shedding of the blood of the saints and martyrs (Rev. 17:1-6), apostles, and prophets (Rev. 18:20-24).

3. TO REPAY EACH PERSON: The context of Jesus’ promise to come and “repay each person” for what they had done was His foretelling of [1] His own death and suffering at the hands of the Jewish leaders (Matt. 16:21-23) and [2] the suffering that His own disciples would experience (verses 24-26). In other words, Jesus would come to vindicate this very persecution. In Revelation 6:10, the “souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held” cried out for this very thing: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

4. IN HIS KINGDOM: Jesus promised to come in His kingdom before all of His disciples had died. This echoes His earlier promise to come before His disciples could pass through all the towns and cities of Israel (Matthew 10:23). It also fits perfectly with the following prophecy given to Daniel: “And in the days of those kings* the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people” (Daniel 2:44). [*Many scholars agree that the four kingdoms in Daniel’s vision were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Since Rome was destroyed in 476 AD, the kingdom had to be set up before that time.] A first century fulfillment fits; a 21st century fulfillment doesn’t. Furthermore, the kingdom was to be given to the saints (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27). This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the Parable of the Tenants that the kingdom of God would soon be taken away from the Jewish leaders and given instead “to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43) – i.e. the body of Christ. This was to happen even as the stone was to crush those who would fall (verse 44) – 1.1 million Jews killed in August/September 70 AD by the Romans would seem to qualify as a fulfillment of this prediction.

Let’s now examine the prevalence of angels in the book of Revelation. What follows is a record of all 76 instances where angels are mentioned in Revelation. This is lengthy, but you can skim it, use it as a topical study tool, or skip ahead to the conclusion (if it appears small, press the Control and + keys together on your keyboard to increase the size on your screen):

Instance

Reference

Scripture Text

#1 Rev. 1:1 “And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John…”
#2 1:20 “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches…”
#3 – #9 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14 “To the angel of the church of
Ephesus / Smyrna / Pergamos / Thyatira / Sardis / Philadelphia / Laodicea write…”
#10 3:5 “He who overcomes… I will confess His name before My Father and before His angels.”
#11 5:2 “Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’”
#12 5:11 “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands…”
#13 7:1 “After these things I saw the four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth…”
#14 – #15 7:2 “Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea…”
#16 7:11 “And all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God…”
#17 8:2 “And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.”
#18 – #20 8:3-5 “Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.”
#21 8:6 “So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”
#22 8:7 “The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth…”
#23 8:8 “Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood…”
#24 8:10 “Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water…”
#25 8:12 “Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that  a third of them were darkened; and a third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.”
#26 – #27 8:13 “And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’”
#28 9:1 “Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. And to him was given the key to the bottomless pit.”
#29 9:11 “And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.”
#30 – #32 9:13-14 “Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great River Euphrates.’”
#33 9:15 “So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.”
#34 10:1 “And I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.”
#35 – #36 10:5-7 “And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his hand to heaven and swore… that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.”
#37 – #39 10:8-10 “Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, ‘Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.’ So I went to the angel and said to him, ‘Give me the little book.’ And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’”
#40 11:1 “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.’”
#41 11:15 “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’”
#42 – #43 12:7 “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought…”
#44 12:9 “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
#45 14:6 “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth…”
#46 14:8 “And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’”
#47 – #48 14:9-10 “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.’”
#49 14:15 “And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’”
#50 14:17 “Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.”
#51 – #52 14:18-19 “And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.’ So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”
#53 15:1 “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.”
#54 15:6 “And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen…”
#55 15:7 “Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.”
#56 15:8 “The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.”
#57 16:1 “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”
#58 16:3 “Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.”
#59 16:4 “Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.”
#60 16:5-6 “And I heard the angel of the waters saying: ‘You are righteous, O Lord… For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.’”
#61 16:8 “Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire.”
#62 16:10 “Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness…”
#63 16:12 “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.”
#64 16:17 “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’”
#65 17:1 “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters…”
#66 17:7 “But the angel said to me, ‘Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.’”
#67 18:1-2a “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen!’”
#68 18:21 “Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.’”
#69 19:17-18 “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings…and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’”
#70 20:1-2 “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years…”
#71 21:9 “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’”
#72 21:12 “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.”
#73 21:17 “Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.”
#74 22:6 “Then he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’ And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.”
#75 22:8 “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that…’”
#76 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

As we can see from these texts, a different angel was assigned to pour out each seal judgment, each trumpet judgment, and each bowl judgment. The “Revelation of Jesus Christ” was given in the first century to show God’s servants things which would “shortly take place” (Rev. 1:1, 22:6), “for the time [was] near” (Rev. 1:3). Jesus also said in Revelation 22:12 that He would come quickly, and He added, “My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” This is identical to what He told His disciples in Matthew 16:27-28, i.e. that He would come with His angels, while some of them were still alive, to judge everyone for their deeds.

Jesus, John, and Paul clearly predicted that Jesus was about to come in vengeance, with His angels, in their generation. Indeed, before their generation passed, angels presided over a series of judgments in the events leading up to and including Israel’s downfall and Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. The book of Revelation gives a clear picture of just how deeply the angels would be involved, and everything came to pass just as Jesus said it would.

The Enlarged Tent of Israel (Isaiah 54:2), the Church


About a month ago, John Eckhardt posted the following poem in The Eschatology Forum, a Facebook group I belong to, and I think it’s worth sharing. Isaiah looked ahead to this present, everlasting new covenant age and saw a vision of the nations coming in to “a tent” that was much larger than the nation of Israel: 

The Enlarged Tent of Israel (Isaiah 54:2)

“Enlarge your tent and stretch forth your curtains,
You will break out on the right hand and on the left.”
Isaiah spoke this to Israel,
That the nations were coming.
The Tent of Israel was not large enough to receive them,
The Gentiles were coming in,
A new tent God would raise up,
The church would be the place.
On the Day of Pentecost the new tent began to form,
Thousands came into it,
And a new community was born.
Ten years after Pentecost Cornelius heard the call,
Peter went to his house and preached,
The Holy Spirit began to fall,
On the Gentiles came the mercy of God.
The multitudes began to come into this tent,
To the Gentiles the apostle Paul was sent,
Many nations heard the Word,
They came into the church to seek.
This tent expanded throughout the world,
There is no limit to who can come,
This tent is here today,
The Church is that enlarged place.
This tent is large enough to house your city,
This tent can house a nation,
There is plenty of room for souls to enter,
The LORD has made the space.
Let us believe for the multitudes to come in,
Let revival come to our land,
Multitudes are coming to this tent,
They are being brought in by the Lord’s hand.

If there’s any doubt that Isaiah foresaw the Church of Jesus christ, take note of how the apostle Paul applied Isaiah 54:1 in his analogy of two covenants, two women, and two Jerusalems in Galatians 4:21-31.

John Eckhardt is an apostle and church overseer based in Chicago, and founded IMPACT Network in 1995.

Sarah of Jerusalem (1st Century AD): A Story by David Collins


Following this introduction is a neat story by David Collins from Auckland, New Zealand which I would classify as part Biblical and part realistic fiction. Titled “Sarah of Jerusalem,” this story is told from the perspective of Sarah, a grandmother living with her daughter and her family in Jerusalem two years before the city was destroyed by the Romans. It explores how believers in Jesus at that time may have resisted efforts by Judaizers to bring them back under the law of Moses, how they may have reacted to the book of Revelation and the book of Hebrews, how they may have been affected by the murder of Peter and Paul, etc. Following this story are a few of my own notes, indicated by numbers in red.

Sarah lives in a small apartment in Jerusalem. The year is 68 AD. [1] She is the oldest of three generations of her family crammed into the small space in the middle of this bustling city. Many baby girls of her generation bore the name, Sarah – a reflection of the love they all had for Abraham’s wife from whom their beloved nation had been born a good 2000 years earlier.

Sarah was the mother of Tom, who also lived in the apartment with his wife Ruth and their twin daughters. Sarah’s husband had not been seen for thirty years – it was assumed he had not survived after a gang of thugs had broken into their home all that time ago … a proud Pharisee named Saul had led this unruly band [2] – they especially relished breaking in as the believers – disciples of the Nazarene – sang their hymns together. Dragging Sarah’s young husband away, along with other men-folk from the group … Sarah could still remember Saul’s mocking laughter, even though she had long ago forgiven these men and happily immersed herself in the life of the community of believers, and her little family.

For thirty years, Sarah had been rebuilding her life – but it had been far from easy. In the mayhem of those early years of faith, large numbers of her friends had fled Jerusalem for the towns and cities that surrounded the eastern Mediterranean. In those days the Christ community numbered close to 20,000 devotees, but was radically reduced to just a few thousand by the effect of Saul’s persecution against them.

But making new friends was not hard for Sarah – they needed one another, they loved one another and through all the trials shared laughter, song and many a good meal together. [3] They never ceased to wonder at how Jesus healed the sick among them – their fellowship was simple, yet full of the wonder of His presence. And then there was that report that Saul himself had met Jesus on the Damascus road – and had been baptised a believer, but had not been heard from since – a most curious business.

Despite the conversion of Saul, the persecution from the Temple rulers and their gangs of zealots continued. Many of Sarah’s friends, along with many of the community leaders, found that they could lessen the threat to their lives and livelihoods by reintroducing some of the Temple practices into their lives – circumcision, observing the holy days of the Old Covenant and abstaining from certain foods. It wasn’t long before some of their preachers were demanding this of them, and telling them that true salvation couldn’t really be enjoyed without these observances. [4]

This disturbed Sarah greatly, the message of the Christ had been so liberating for her – the rituals of the Temple had been just that – lifeless forms, but when she heard of the free grace of God and the love and freedom of which Jesus had spoken – and then the miracle of miracles of his resurrection and ascension to heaven … well Sarah, Tom and Ruth held firm to the simple things that had brought them freedom and refused to bow to the pressure from the Temple and the compromise that had infiltrated the Jesus community.

If all that wasn’t enough, everyone in the region were finding it hard
to make ends meet. The farms surrounding Jerusalem were not doing well, it was dry and crops were failing – this had effected everyone’s livelihoods, and those who started with little were now barely able to feed their families. Without a hubby, Sarah was struggling. [5]

There would be three times in Sarah’s life that a knock on her apartment door would change everything. The first was hardly a knock, more the brutish force of Saul and his gang bursting in on their worship. The second was completely different – this time it was in the midst of the famine, and the visitor had come from one of the servers in their faith community. [6] She told Sarah how Saul, now named Paul, had turned up in Jerusalem bringing with him money and treasures from the northern gentile churches. This was a great relief to all in Jerusalem who were in hardship [7] – but, Paul had also passed on a list of addresses where he asked that special favour be shown in supplying their needs. Sarah’s little apartment was on the list, as were all the homes where 20 years earlier Paul had once entered with murderous intent.

The leaders in Jerusalem were full of gratitude and good news that
they shared with Paul – thousands in Jerusalem have believed in the Lord, However, they are all zealous for the law of Moses. Paul was known to have stood firmly against these Jerusalem zealots who had insisted that old Jewish laws be adhered to by the Christ communities wherever they were –
he was in hostile territory and a clash was looming. [8]

Sarah, her family and a growing number of her friends were now Paul’s strongest supporters – they were not about to surrender the unconditional love, the grace and freedom they had experienced. Some of Paul’s writings had filtered into the city, and now there was a stark choice in Jerusalem: be part of a free, but persecuted, community of Christ; or join the drift back to the Temple for safety’s sake.

During this time, bands of Jewish militants had launched random
attacks on garrisons of the Roman occupation. The deranged Roman emperor, Nero, was looking for an excuse to move against everything that threatened his rule. In 64 AD a massive fire destroyed large parts of Rome and Nero, seizing the opportunity, unleashed a cruel and massive campaign against the communities of Christ all over his Empire – after all wasn’t this Jesus a Jew? They must be responsible for the fire. There was every reason why the believers started calling Caesar Nero, The Beast. [9]

Three years later – well 67 AD seemed like the worst year of Sarah’s
life. Now 59 years of age, she is more grateful than ever for the loving support of Tom and Ruth and their girls, plus that of her believing friends in Jerusalem – but this was the year that Sarah learned that the Roman’s had murdered the beloved Peter and her spiritual hero, Paul the apostle of grace. Both murders needing the help of the authorities in Jerusalem. On top of that John, whom they called the apostle of love, had been exiled to a prison island [10], and now 60,000 Roman troops are marching through Judea, killing as they go, headed for Jerusalem.

In the New Year there’s a knock on the apartment door – this was
number three. She opened the door to a true brother in Christ, one who was doing the rounds of the believer’s homes in Jerusalem. He had with him three scrolls of parchment. Sarah was not alone that evening, some twenty of her believing neighbours would cram every corner of her house, often five times a week – they jokingly called it their “New Covenant love nest.”

The first parchment was read aloud in the room. It had come from the beloved John – a vastly ranging account of visions and picture scenes and images – the violence and turmoil portrayed looked a lot like the world they were living in, but by the time the visitor had read the final paragraphs, Sarah’s apartment had filled with praise and shouts of victory at what was told. There was Jesus, there was His New Covenant Bride, there were the nations walking in the precious light of the Lamb of God. [11]

The second parchment contained none of the mystery of the first. It
was a letter to them, and to all the Jews who had put their trust in the Messiah and in Him alone. The letter had come from a friend, an apostle they loved and respected greatly. Don’t throw away your confidence in Jesus, the letter urged, don’t forsake gathering together as you do … we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, run with endurance the race God has set before you … keep your eyes on Jesus, who because of the joy awaiting him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. [12]

Soon there’s a room full of people holding and hugging one another – speaking with true affection to one another – encouraging and praying over one another. There’s tears aplenty, but all of them of pure beauty.

The third parchment was at least ten years old, and looked like a copy
of a copy of a copy. It had originally been written by the old tax collector from Galilee who had become a disciple of Jesus. It was Matthew’s whole story of Jesus’ life and the things he’d heard Jesus say. Sarah’s visitor went straight to the middle of the scroll, and when he finally locates the bit he wants to read them, begins:

Jesus, as a good farmer, has planted good seed in his field … people who love the King and love his Kingdom. But an enemy has also been at work, sowing false seed, tares among the wheat, people working for another kingdom – one of bondage and wickedness. This enemy is the devil. But this mixture in the field is coming to an end; at harvest time there will be a furnace of fire into which these tares, these offenders will be burned. They will wail and gnash their teeth as they are thrown from God’s field. Then those whose righteousness is by grace alone will shine forth … they’ll come out of the shadows and shine as bright as the sun in the Kingdom of their loving Father. [13]

With that, the small crowd in Sarah’s apartment grew silent as they pondered what lay ahead of them. The Roman troops were now spreading out around the city, the well tested strategy of conquer by siege was beginning to form.

An old man started to speak; as a Jew he’d been taught to memorise the Torah from a boy: “They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the Lord your God has given you.”

The mood in the room was becoming decidedly somber until Sarah’s
visitor, the bearer of the three parchment scrolls spoke up. “Dear friends, I’ve come to show you that none of what has happened or is about to happened has escaped the understanding of our Lord, nor that of his servants who have written these things. Jesus has always known that your faith would be tested that the enemies of His grace would seek to trample it out. But as far as he is concerned, their opposition is soon coming to an end, as is the old law with which they have sought to bind you.”

And then looking directly at Sarah, her two grand daughters in her lap, he says, it won’t be long now, Sarah, and it’s your time to shine without the shadow of the Judaizers, the Pharisees, the Temple rulers to hinder you. Somehow, dear ones, you’ll escape all this and will then be free to live in the ever advancing Kingdom of the Son. Sarah, all of you, get ready to leave this city – God will make a way – and get ready to shine as the sun.

As they returned to their homes, there was hardly one of them that
wasn’t wondering how the rest of this would play out … and they wondered what it was going to be like for people in every generation to come, all over the earth, to live fully new creation lives in the grace – and grace alone – of their loving God.

[1] Sarah and her family are followers of Christ. My understanding is that the believers fled from Jerusalem about 3.5 years before Jerusalem fell, which would have been late 66 AD/early 67 AD. See these posts (one, two, and three) for a timeline and details on these and other events from this time period.

[2] See Acts 8:1-3.

[3] See Acts 2:46.

[4] See Acts 15, Galatians 1-6, Colossians 2:11-23, etc.

[5] See Matthew 24:7, Acts 11:28-30, Revelation 6:5-6.

[6] See Acts 6:1-7.

[7] See I Corinthians 16:1-4.

[8] See Acts 21:15-25.

[9] See Revelation 13:5-7 (and this post featuring evidence that Rev. 13 concerns Nero and Rome). 

[10] According to Tertullian (160 – 220 AD), it was Nero who banished John to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. Nero banished John after first attempting to boil him alive in oil.

[11] This was the book of Revelation.

[12] This was the book of Hebrews.

[13] See Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

Sarah of Jerusalem

The Land of Palestine From 1896 – 1948 (Two Videos)


Here are two videos portraying life and society in Palestine from 1896 to 1948. This is great history.

The first video is 2.5 minutes long and features footage from 1896 when there were about 500,000 inhabitants in Palestine, including about 30,000 people in Jerusalem. Jews made up roughly 50% of Jerusalem’s population, but less than 5% of the population elsewhere. Outside of Jerusalem, where more than 90% of Palestine’s population lived, Muslims made up about 85% of the population and Christians made up about 10% of the population.

The second video is 10 minutes long, and features quite a number of still photos spanning the decades prior to Israel becoming a nation in 1948. There are universities and colleges, sports matches, and other evidences of a vibrant society. The music that this video is set to is pretty neat too. This video footage was included in a French documentary called “Palestine, Story of a Land.”

This footage might bring to mind the expression that has been attributed to early Zionists, that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Within the last couple of years I’ve learned some things about the origins and development of this expression. As Diana Muir points out in a well-written 2008 article, it appears to have its roots in a statement made

“by Church of Scotland clergyman Alexander Keith in his 1843 book The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. Keith was an influential evangelical thinker whose most popular work, Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy, remains in print almost two centuries after it was first published. As an advocate of the idea that Christians should work to encourage the biblical prophecy of a Jewish return to the land of Israel, he wrote that the Jews are “a people without a country; even as their own land, as subsequently to be shown, is in a great measure a country without a people.”

Muir goes on to give examples of other Christian writers and leaders adopting this phrase in some form before Israel Zangwill in 1901 apparently became the first Zionist to use it, saying, “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country.”

In any case, as these videos show, Palestine had much more of a thriving society before 1948 than many people have been willing to acknowledge. By numerous accounts, Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs also got along quite fine during that time period. For example, Elias Chacour, a Christian Palestinian Arab who was nine years old when Israel became a nation, wrote about a childhood experience he often witnessed in the village of Biram:  

“Many of these Jewish neighbors came to Biram to trade as well. When they stopped by our house for figs, father welcomed them with the customary hospitality and a cup of tar-like, bittersweet coffee—the cup of friendship” (Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers, 2005, p. 24).

If one looks past the awful headlines that are currently dominating the news concerning this part of the world, one can find examples of Palestinians, Jews, and others actively working for peace there. Elias is one of them. May the people of this region soon experience the healing and the restoration that they need.

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A reader, PJ Miller, pointed out another interesting video depicting life in Palestine, this one being nearly 180 years old: