Monday, October 3, 2016

Guest Post: Mysticism and the Coming World Religion- Pt1

By T.A. McMahon
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. —2 Thessalonians:2:3-4
And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? —Revelation:13:3-4
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. —Revelation:13:8
According to the Scriptures, in the last days prior to Christ’s return a religion will appear that will deceive virtually the entire world into following it. It will be led by the Antichrist (“the beast”), who will be worshiped as God.
Scripture also indicates, however, that the bride of Christ will be removed from the earth in the Rapture (Jn:14:1-3; 1 Th 4:16-18) before that religion is fulfilled. If true, then why would the knowledge of the coming world religion be of value for true believers in Christ?
There are a number of reasons. First of all, the biblically false content of the coming world religion doesn’t suddenly appear overnight. The seeds of it began in the Garden of Eden with Satan’s seduction of Eve (Gn 3:1). His first words, “Yea, hath God said…?,” set forth his strategy of undermining God’s commands and instructions. That has continued right up to this present time and is increasing exponentially. Secondly, Satan’s offer of godhood to Eve has manifested itself throughout history. Most of the religions of the Far East teach that God is everything or in everything, making everything and everyone God or part of God. Many of the Caesars and other rulers imposed the worship of themselves as deities upon their people. Those forms of idolatry will culminate in the worship of self, the Antichrist, and Satan.
Thirdly, Jesus characterized the days prior to His return for His bride as a time of great deception. He told His disciples, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Mt 24:4 - emphasis added). His warning included deceits such as false Christs, lying signs and wonders, and unbiblical doctrines and teachers. Some have wrongly concluded that Christ’s warning wasn’t for believers, asserting that verse 24 implies that it would be impossible to “deceive the very elect” (24:24). That can’t be the case because Jesus addressed this warning (v. 4) to His disciples—who were certainly His “elect.” Fourthly, the Word of God gives multiple instructions on how to protect ourselves from the lies of Satan that can adversely affect our fruitfulness in the Lord.
These seductive and deceptive devices of God’s chief adversary will increase prior to the Rapture, but God’s Word gives us the prevention program against being seduced by Satan’s lies: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pt 5:8).
The Apostle Paul pointed to a time in the history of the church when a condition would be prevalent that would greatly undermine the faith of professing and true believers: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tm 4:3 ). Sound doctrine—what is that? It’s simply the teachings given to mankind by God through His prophets. It is God’s written Word, His objective communication to humanity, containing information that comes directly from Him without the input of mankind. That’s what makes it sound doctrine. God, being infinite, has communicated to finite man what He wants him to know and do. That’s the only way finite humanity can truly know their infinite Creator and what He has in mind regarding them.
Undermining sound doctrine is Satan’s primary goal in his attempt  to shipwreck the faith and fruitfulness of believers. The strategy involves corrupting the Word of God by adding to it or subtracting from it. Thus the Scriptures are distorted through the input of fallen, finite man and the contributions of seducing spirits and doctrines of demons (1Tm 4:1). Such modifications demolish the objective truth of Scripture. The Bible no longer stands as God’s Word when “adjustments” are made by other sources. This is taking place today in unprecedented fashion, especially through the introduction (or re-introduction) of mysticism.
The antithesis of the objective Word of God, mysticism is defined by The Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience such as intuition or insight,” and adds that it is “vague speculation, a belief without sound basis.” Google gives this definition: “belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies.” A mystical worldview, which is intensifying in both the world and its religions, will be foundational to the coming one-world religion.
Among many reasons, the primary one is that mysticism has a universal appeal that will attract and unify all the religions of the world. Why? Because it avoids doctrine (rules, regulations, commandments, obligations, requirements, etc.). The doctrines of the Bible are given by God and are to be obeyed; not obeying them is rebellion, which is the state of the world as well as the state of many within the church. The religions of the world also have doctrines, albeit false ones, against which their followers often rebel. Doctrines divide because people don’t particularly like rules that demand obedience. The stricter the rules, the less attractive the religion. That’s a potential problem for the religion of the Antichrist because its goal is to attract other belief systems and draw all people into its spiritual web.
Mysticism avoids objective rules and requirements, whether biblical or not. It’s a belief system without a sound (objective) basis that majors on subjective experience, insights, intuition, dreamy confusion of thought (e.g., altered states of consciousness), speculation, and mysterious agencies. So the arbiter of what is right and true is how one feels: “If it feels right, then it must be right, and therefore ultimately true.”
In order for mysticism to become the foundational belief system of the one-world religion, it must include all the world religions. With rare exceptions, the religions of the Far East are fundamentally mystical, so little change is necessary for them. But what of the law-oriented religions of RomanCatholicism and Islam? Their combined numbers exceed two billion followers, so they must be included in the religion of the Antichrist. Yet they are both legalistic—Catholicism with its canons and decrees, inquisitions, and obligations, and Islam with its Sharia laws. Obviously this must change in order for them to fit in with the necessary ecumenism of the one-world religion.
Such a change will likely be facilitated by the roots of mysticism that have been a part of both religions for centuries. In Roman Catholicism, for example, the influence of the Desert Fathers began in the third century, just before Constantine, and continued past the time of Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries. These were hermits and mystics, living in seclusion, in caves, some of them attempting to imitate Jesus in His personal desert confrontation with the devil. Their fleshly attempts at overcoming Satan and his demons often led to madness. They lived in caves, isolated from the rest of civilization, which also led to altered states of consciousness. As we know today, that condition opens a person to communication with the spirit world, i.e., demons. An altered mental state often creates the illusion of oneness, or union, with God—the ultimate goal of mysticism.
This system of isolation was in place at the beginning of the development of the Roman CatholicChurch. It was furthered through monasticism, in which monks and nuns withdrew from society by entering monasteries. The idea was to fully commit themselves to God by separating from the secular world. Some monastic orders took vows of silence. That left them vulnerable to the spirit realm. (Silence, by the way, is a huge feature of and heavily promoted by the contemplative movement today.)
In the sixteenth century, a Spaniard named Ignatius Loyola, who was the founder of the Jesuits, fostered mysticism through his Spiritual Exercises. They are enormously popular among Catholics and contemplative evangelicals today. One Jesuit source tells us: “Ignatius was convinced that God can speak to us as surely through our imagination as through our thoughts and memories. In the Ignatian tradition, praying with the imagination is called contemplation” (Kevin O’Brien, The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius,  p.141). “Praying with the imagination,” by the way, is another term for creative visualization, a powerful occult technique that ushers the visualizer into the spirit realm.
Contemplative techniques have divorced the practitioner from the objective Word of God, leading one into the subjective arena of the imagination and feelings. This is what people like Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline) and Sarah Young (Jesus Calling) are promoting. The practical consequences of disregarding critical judgment are often disastrous. Yet that is and will be the outcome of a religious system that people will flock to in the Last Days.
Following the mystical practices of Ignatius Loyola in our day were Catholics Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. Both are deceased. Merton was a Trappist monk and priest; Nouwen was also a priest, and both were well-known mystics. They were paragons of the modern contemplative movement and greatly influenced leading evangelicals such as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, Beth Moore, Kay Warren, and others. Merton studied the Desert Fathers and the Christian mystics and recognized their connection with the meditative practices of Eastern mysticism in Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and Sufism, which he taught and practiced. Asked if he felt that “turning away from traditional Christianity toward the East” would cause “an eventual turning back to a different form of Christianity, one that might even be more genuine,” Merton replied, “Yes, I think so” (Merton, Thomas Merton: Preview of the Asian Journey, 53-54).
Henri Nouwen has become the favored mystic among evangelicals. One of his most popular books isBehold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons. It’s an instruction manual on how to use imagery as the window of heaven in order to enter into the deeper things of the soul. Nouwen espouses mysticism because he sees it “as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” That doesn’t seem to faze Rick Warren, who quotes him favorably in his best-selling Purpose Driven Life, or Kay Warren, who recommends Nouwen’s books, or Philip Yancy, who sings his praises in Christianity Today, or Chuck Swindoll, who is enamored with his contemplative teachings, or Tony Campolo, who calls the deceased Catholic priest “one of the great Christians of our time.”
Of late there is Pope Francis. Surging ahead at an ecumenical and mystical speed that thrills the world’s religions and has left traditional Catholicism in its wake, the pope and his ecumenism has many professing Christians flocking to Rome at his personal invitation: Kenneth Copeland, James Robison,Rick Warren, Geoff Tunnicliffe, John Arnott, and Joel Osteen, to name a few. After meeting with the pope, Osteen said, “I like the fact that this pope is trying to make the church larger, not smaller. He’s not pushing people out but making the church more inclusive. That resonated with me.” Luis Palau has been a long-time friend of the pope, and Timothy George wrote an article for Christianity Today titled “Our Francis, Too: Why we can enthusiastically join arms with the Catholic leader.”
The most influential evangelical pastor today, Rick Warren, refers to him as “our new pope.” Pope Francis is certainly the man for the renewal of mystical Roman Catholicism. He’s a Jesuit, fully rehearsed in the Spiritual Exercises. In his address before the US Congress recently, he praised mystic monk and priest Thomas Merton.
Many were appalled that one of the first overtures of the new head of the Roman Catholic Church in regard to winning and influencing evangelicals was to send a personal greeting to a conference led by Kenneth Copeland. Was the pope clueless about Copeland’s false doctrines, his charismatic abuses, his prosperity distortions of Scripture, not to mention his con-man-like greed? I think not. Why? Because it doesn’t really matter. Doctrines, whether true or false, take a back seat—or no seat at all—in mysticism. Remember, as noted, doctrines divide. Therefore they need to be pushed aside in order to make room for what helps people to get along, what encourages relationship building, what feels right. That was the gist of the Christianity Today article, “What Evangelicals Like about Francis.” Never mind the theology of the pope. It’s how he makes everyone feel. More and more, it seems, this is what’s important to people.
Fewer and fewer evangelicals today seem to care that all the feel good stuff that Francis reflects personally won’t save him or anyone else. Neither will the gospel of his Church save anyone —whether it’s the new or the old Catholicism. The following quotes in the official Catholic catechism have been a mystery for quite a while. Many within and without the Church have been at a loss as to how to interpret them: “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God....The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods” (CCC paragraph 460). What is now becoming apparent is the way those statements fit perfectly with the foundational objective of mysticism: union with God.
The seeds of mysticism have certainly found fertile soil within legalistic Roman Catholicism, but what of the even more oppressive Sharia law that is foundational to Islam? Are Muslims therefore impervious to mystical beliefs? [To Be Continued]

Monday, September 5, 2016

Guest Post: God of Jacob, God of Israel Pt2

By Dave Hunt

Last month we noted that the only true God, the Creator of the universe and all things therein—the God of the Bible—has linked His name with and tied His integrity to Israel. Yet many evangelicals, including well-known leaders, insist that Israel is of no significance to God any longer, having been cut off for rejecting Christ and now having been replaced by the church. There are even groups (not only among white supremacists or cults such as Herbert W. Armstrong’s die-hard followers today) who persist in the ridiculous theory that the “Ten Lost Tribes” of Israel migrated to the British Isles and that therefore all those of British descent are the true Jews today. Some go so far as to say that all of the “white races” are the true Jews—as though not only England but all of Europe and Russia was uninhabited wasteland until these remnants of the “Ten Lost Tribes” settled there.
We have proved that the ten tribes taken to Assyria (2 Ki:17:6-23) were not “lost” but make up most of those called Jews today (see 2 Chr 34,35; Q&A Nov ’92, May ’96). Far from Israel being cut off, hundreds of prophecies foretell Israel’s importance in world affairs in the last days, the attack of all the world against her at Armageddon, her rescue by the Messiah, and her glorious final restoration in the Millennial Kingdom. Nor is there ever a reference to Israel anywhere in Scripture that could possibly be interpreted as meaning the British Isles or the British people, much less the “white races”!
Most of the more than 2,000 references to Israel or Israelites in the Bible and the thousands of prophecies (already fulfilled or yet to be fulfilled) pertain to the historical land of Israel in the Middle East, whose boundaries are clearly described (Gn 15:18-21), or to the people who lived there for nearly 2,300 years, were cast out under God’s judgment, and will be brought back by God so that not one ethnic Jew will be left outside Israel (Ezk 39:27-29).
We know who the Jews are today by DNA testing. The Israeli Immigrant Liaison Bureau requires DNA tests where there is some question as to the authenticity of claimed Jewish ancestry. Such tests would draw a complete blank if applied to the average person of British descent, and prove British-Israelism to be utter folly. No other ethnic group without its own land and scattered around the world for more than 2,000 years has or could maintain its DNA identity as have the Jews.
It is not important to know who is an American, German, Arab, Greek, et al. In contrast, it is vital to know who is a Jew. Why? About 70 percent of the pages of Scripture are taken up in recounting Israel’s history and prophesying her future: her continued and unrepentant rebellion against God, His reluctant and long-delayed but finally severe discipline (the worst of which is yet to come), the Jews’ worldwide dispersion, their re-gathering from all over the world back into their own land in the Last Days, hundreds of prophecies concerning Israel’s present key role in world affairs, of her greatest trial just ahead (Jer:30:7) when two-thirds of all Jews on earth will be killed (Zec:13:8,9), and of her final restoration under the Messiah (Zec 12-14). Unquestionably, Israel is the major subject of God’s Holy Word. To be wrong about Israel is therefore to be wrong on almost everything in the Bible.
The One whom the Bible 203 times calls “the God of Israel” has sworn by an everlasting covenant that Israel, three times called the “apple” of His eye (Dt 32:10; Lam:2:18Zec:2:8), will never cease to exist as a nation : “Therefore fear thou not...O Israel...though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I...will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jer:30:10-11). “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the city [Jerusalem] shall be shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever” (Jer:31:38-40). The language could not be clearer here and throughout God’s Holy Word.
These and hundreds of other promises from God to Israel recorded in Scripture are a sharp rebuke to those such as Hank Hanegraaff, D. James Kennedy, R.C. Sproul, et al., who teach that the church has replaced Israel. “Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by night...if those ordinances depart from before me...then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever...” (Jer:31:35-36); “While the earth and night shall not cease” (Gn 8:22); “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger...and I will bring them again unto this place [Israel], and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them” (Jer:32:37-42).
 Israel has failed to fulfill her calling to be an example to the world of holiness in dedication to God (Lv 20:22-24, 26; Dt 6:4-5; 7:6, etc.). While there are many believing Israelis, some even within the military, Israel today as a whole remains as wicked and godless as America and the rest of the nations. God’s “chosen people,” living once again in the Promised Land in fulfillment of many specific biblical prophecies, refuse to honor in their daily lives the God of their fathers who has brought them there. Even in the present distress related to Gaza and Lebanon, the vast majority of Israelis trust in their own arms and determination instead of trusting the only One who can protect them and has promised to do so.
The triumph of tiny Israel in every war and against impossible odds is admitted by many in the IDF as defying ordinary explanation. Military officers giving pep talks to new recruits often tell of amazing events they have witnessed in past wars, but rarely is God’s intervention hinted at, even when no other explanation would be possible. Israel as a whole has not yet been humbled to the point of acknowledging what the Psalmist prophesied: “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say...when men rose up against us: then they had swallowed us up quick.... Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth....Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps:124:1,2,6,8). At Armageddon, however, this prophecy will become a reality to all who survive.
In contrast, Britain, along with America, will be among those “all nations” that God will gather and destroy at Armageddon (Jer:30:11; Jl 3:2;Zec:12:9, 14:2, etc.) for their mistreatment of Israel, and especially for dividing His land. In fact, Britain played a key role in robbing Israel of its land and giving most of it to the Arabs for oil. Both Britain and America have betrayed Israel many times, and the U.S. State Department and British Foreign Service have opposed Israel from the beginning, as we document in Judgment Day . Those facts alone prove the lie of British Israelism.
So why would God faithfully help faithless Israel? He makes it clear to Israel from the very beginning, “...because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out...from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt...” (Dt 7:8). As we noted last month, referring to her ultimate restoration and blessing (which He has promised through the Messiah), the God of Israel declares: “Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel...I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it” (Ezk 36:22,32,36, etc.). In spite of Israel’s present disregard of Him, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Ex 3:15,16 and ten other places in the Bible) is fulfilling His promises to those patriarchs through their descendants—and the day is coming when all Israel who survive Armageddon will believe.
Most Jews worldwide await the Messiah’s first coming, unaware that He already came and was rejected and crucified. Jesus warned the Jews, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (Jn:5:43). Tragically, it will take Armageddon for the surviving Jews to repent, turn to the God of Israel, and embrace the One who comes in His Father’s name. In that greatest distress ever faced by Israel, God declares that the one-third whom He will bring alive “through the fire...refine[d] as silver is gold is tried [shall] call on my name, and I will hear them” (Zec:13:8,9).
When they see with their own eyes the Messiah come to rescue them, and discover to their shame who He is, “...they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him...a great mourning in Jerusalem...” (Zec:12:10-14). Why such extreme sorrow at being rescued by the Messiah? The God of Israel declares: “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (12:10)!
At Armageddon, when Yahweh comes to the rescue, He reveals Himself as the One whom Israel has pierced! Pierced?! When and how could Israel pierce the One who told Moses, “there shall no man see me, and live” (Ex 33:20)? God, “a Spirit” (Jn:4:24), cannot be pierced—but the Messiah coming as a man could be. Jesus, who fulfilled every Messianic prophecy, was pierced on the cross. Why was He crucified? For claiming to be God (Jn:10:30-33)!
Yahweh is speaking in the first person, yet two persons seem to be involved: “...they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him ....” This him seems to be another person—and yet He must also be Yahweh! Is Yahweh two persons? In fact, He declares Himself to be three in one! Consider this: “I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I...” (Is 48:16). Surely the one speaking must be God because He has been speaking from the very beginning. Yet He adds, “The Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Ibid.). Here we encounter God, the Lord God, and the Spirit of God.
Could this be what the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle John to write, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”? Surely this One called the “Word,” who existed from the beginning and is God, must be the same God to whom Isaiah refers who speaks from the beginning.
But the similarities in these two verses don’t end there. Both raise almost identical questions. In Isaiah, how can God be sent by God; and in John, how can God be with God? There is only one solution: the Messiah must be God. When Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (Jn:10:30), the Jews accused Him of blasphemy. When they picked up stones, Jesus asked why they wanted to kill Him. Their instant reply was, “for blasphemy...thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (vv. 31-33). For the Messiah to declare His deity was the ultimate heresy, worthy of death? No!
According to the Hebrew prophets, the Messiah had to be God and, at the same time, the Son of God. If God has a Son, who Himself is God and one with His Father, that would dissolve the rabbis’ objections. We encounter God’s Son a number of times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Speaking prophetically, the Psalmist presents God as declaring of one who is to come, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (Ps:2:7). Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who deny Christ’s deity take this as referring to Christ’s birth on earth as the beginning of His existence. That cannot be the case, however, because God speaks of His Son as already existing and warns a God-defying world, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry....Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (v 12).
That the Son of God already existed before His incarnation is clear from a number of other statements by the Hebrew prophets. Solomon quotes the prophet Agur asking this question: “Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment?” The obvious answer is “God.” Then he asks, “what is his son’s name...” (Prv 30:4), proving that the Son of God already existed at that time. Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into a huge furnace so hot that the flames killed those who threw them into it. Nebuchadnezzar, astonished to see these three Hebrews walking alive in the flames, observes another with them and in wonder exclaims, “the fourth is like the Son of God” (Dn 3:25)!
While promising salvation through the coming Messiah, Yahweh repeatedly declared that He himself was the only Savior: “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior” (Is 43:11); “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Is 45:22). And yet this salvation goes to “the ends of the earth” by another who must Himself be God and the Messiah: “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Is 49:6). Of whom does God speak?
Unquestionably, the Hebrew prophets all agree that God exists as a tri-unity: three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but one God—and that in the Messiah He becomes man without ceasing to be God. Christ’s claims that He was God and man, and one with His Father, agree with the prophets. Isaiah declared: “For unto us a child is born...” (Is 9:6). This refers to His humanity, derived, as foretold, from His virgin mother, Mary: the “seed” of the woman (Gn 3:15). But Isaiah adds, “unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder....Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David...” (Is 9:6,7). Surely the Son given must be the already-existing Son of God—and He must be the Messiah, because He will rule on David’s throne.
But Isaiah declares that the Messiah is God! His name is “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God.” And He is also “The everlasting Father.” Here is the same mystery: God is both Father and Son, and He alone is the Messiah! Most Jews still refuse to recognize this identity of the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” This is one place where they agree with their bitterest enemies, the Muslims. The Qur’an condemns to hell anyone who believes in the Trinity (Sur 5:72-74)!
So the fact that Yahweh has come as a man who was pierced to the death, resurrected, and will return to rescue Israel at Armageddon is in perfect agreement with the Hebrew prophets. When Israel sees her God in this form coming to her rescue, it will be painfully clear that He has been to earth before, where He was rejected and pierced to the death. So Jesus was only echoing the prophets when He said to the inhabitants of Jerusalem as He was being “brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7) on the way to the Cross: “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt 23:39). At last they will understand “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”—and “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom:11:26)!
Hunt, Dave. (2016, September 1). God of Jacob, God of Israel Part Two. Retrieved September 5, 2016 from

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Guest Post: God of Jacob, God of Israel Pt1

By Dave Hunt
According to the latest Fox News polls updated June 26, 2006 (other polls basically agree), “fully 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God”; only 5 percent say they don’t, while the remaining 3 percent are not sure [ed. note: the numbers have not changed substantially today]. In How We Believe , Michael Shermer, director of the Skeptics Society and publisher of Skeptic magazine, claims that “Never in history have so many, and such a high percentage of the [American] population, believed in God. Not only is God not dead as Nietzche proclaimed, but he has never been more alive.”
This statistic, however, is not as encouraging as it sounds. When we ask what respondents mean by “god,” very few believe in—much less know— the God of the Bible . Yet belief in a false god is no better and could be even worse than believing in no God. For many, “God” is simply a “higher power.” Higher than what? Power ? What kind? And how could a “power” of any kind have the infinite intelligence (or anyintelligence) to design the atom, the universe, imprint the written instructions in a coded language on DNA for constructing and operating every cell, and create intelligent, personal beings with a moral conscience and a passion for purpose?
The very thought of a “power” creating anything is ridiculous! Then why is belief in a “power” so appealing? Did the Star Wars slogan, “May the Force be with you,” have that much influence? It went a long way toward changing movie fans’ thinking, especially among American youth. Of course, this has always been a popular idea because a power/force can’t impose moral laws, demand obedience, or judge and punish anyone—instead, it can be used for one’s own ends. Clearly, the true God who created us for a purpose holds mankind responsible for creation’s witness to His existence and for obedience to the moral laws He has implanted in every conscience (Rom:1:18-25; 2:14-16). He will not be used .
Furthermore, just as human beings are jealous of their individual identities, obviously the true God would insist on being properly identified. He will neither reveal Himself to, nor enter into a relationship with, anyone who will not acknowledge Him as He truly is. Nor will He look with broad-minded favor on those who call Him a “higher power.” To do so is an insult to the true God! The God of the Bible (whose existence we have infallibly proved in prior articles) declares to wayward Israel, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer:29:13). Those who hope to find a god that suits their imagination will not find the true God.
It is common sense that the true God would only reveal Himself to sincere and earnest seekers who want to know Him in truth in order to obey Him. The first prerequisite to knowing God is the willingness—indeed, the passion—to know Him as He really is, not as one imagines or would like Him to be. It is no less idolatry to create an imaginary god in one’s mind than to make one out of clay, wood, or stone. So, who is the true God who proves Himself by unfailingly foretelling the future in the Bible?
As we have seen in past articles, the Bible identifies Him as “the God of Israel” 203 times, “the God of Jacob” 28 times, “the God of Abraham” 17 times, and “the God of Isaac” 13 times. Never is He called the “God of any other ethnic group.” These designations are foundational to everything the Bible teaches, including the very character of God. To profess to believe in God and at the same time to hold a prejudice against God’s chosen people, the Jews, or against Israel, which turns these clear biblical identifications into meaningless titles, casts doubt upon whether one really knows the true God.
In His refutation of the Sadducees’ denial of the resurrection, Christ’s primary argument was based upon God’s statement to Moses: “I AM...the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob...this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Ex 3:14-15). Clearly, this was the identity of the true God then; it is now and will be forever. God never changes.
Notice Christ’s reasoning: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God....[H]ave ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt 22:29-32).
Christ is saying that if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will not live eternally through a resurrection, then it would be a mockery for God to be identified with them eternally. He would be the God of, and have identified Himself with, beings of limited existence—scarcely a blip in eternity. To be called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, if they no longer existed, would demean God.
If the nation of Israel is dead, or has been replaced by the church and does not have an eternal future, then the very term “God of Israel” would not be to God’s glory but a slur upon His character in view of His many promises that Israel would never cease to exist. Yet that is the position taken by those who say that Israel has been replaced by the church. In The Last Disciple (p. 88), Hank Hanegraaff has a key character say, “The covenant between God and Israel was broken with the rejection of His Son.”
Hank gives no explanation how an “everlasting covenant” could ever be broken, nor how Israel’s rejection of Christ could break a covenant that was not conditional upon her accepting Him, for which there were never any conditions Israel had to fulfill, and which God said He would bring to completion in the last days.
Indeed, at the same time that God promises eternal blessings to Israel in a full restoration in the last days, He also recites her unfaithfulness to Him without a hint that the many sins of Israel and the Jewish people would be any deterrent to His fulfilling all of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:
"...the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them...the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever....I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities....For I will...gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land...and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord....I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it." (Dt 1:8; Jer:7:7; Ezk 36:11, 22-26, 32-36)
Here again, as elsewhere (as we have said), it is quite clear that there are no conditions for Israel to fulfill, but God will, for the integrity of His name, fulfill every promise in spite of Israel’s rebellion against Him. Furthermore, the prophets foretold that the Messiah would be rejected by Israel and crucified, yet in all of those prophecies there is never a suggestion that because of this rejection God would break His everlasting covenant with Israel. The covenant was made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—not with their descendants (Gn 12:1-3; 15:7, 18-21; 17:7-8, 19, 21; 26; 28:13; 1 Ch 16:14-18, etc.); it was never conditioned upon the obedience of their descendants, and therefore could not possibly be broken by anything those descendants did or failed to do. It is a slap in the eternal God’s face to say that Israel has been replaced!
Scripture records literally hundreds of promises from God that Israel as a nation would never cease to exist (Jer:31:35-37, etc.). These cannot be annulled even by God himself. To do so would make Him a liar. Nor can they be spiritualized away as though the land of Canaan, which became the land of Israel, could simply mean the heavenly inheritance of the church.
It is irrefutable that Israel once possessed a physical, historical land that was given to her by God’s eternal decree. It is equally an historical fact that she was expelled from this land by God himself for her rebellion. And it is no less an historical fact that Israel became a nation once again, May 14, 1948, and that millions of Jews have since returned to that Promised Land from more than 100 countries, just as Scripture foretold. This can be nothing less than the beginnings of God’s promised restoration of Israel so that her latter end would be better than her beginning. A very few of God’s many promises follow:
"Unto thy seed will I give this land...forever...from the river of Egypt unto the...river Euphrates....I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee...for an everlasting covenant.... And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed...all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession...for unto thee [Isaac], and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father...the land whereon thou liest, to thee [Jacob] will I give it, and to thy seed.
"Be ye mindful always of his covenant...which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; and hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant....Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance...."(Gn 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:7,8; 26:3; 28:13; 1 Ch 16:14-18)
Citing the hatred of Israel’s neighbors at that time, Psalm:83:3,4 foretells the Muslims’ openly and oft-stated plan to wipe Israel off the map: “They have taken crafty counsel against thy people....Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation....” In the same effort to destroy her, Christian denominations have initiated a boycott against companies that do business with Israel. Replacement theologians such as D. James Kennedy, R.C. Sproul, and many others allied with them have rejected modern Israel as of any significance in the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In “An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel,” they declare:
The inheritance promises that God gave to not apply to any particular ethnic group, but to the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel....The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the “Holy Land” cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua. [See Judgment Day, pp. 276-77]
An everlasting covenant fulfilled under Joshua, who only lived 110 years?! Hundreds of “promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament” had not even been foretold by Israel’s prophets until centuries after Joshua died! Even the prophecies made by Moses during the lifetime of Joshua that Israel would sin and be cast out of the land were not fulfilled “under Joshua.” This declaration by Kennedy, Sproul, et al., is such a defiance of the God of Israel that one finds it unbelievable coming from biblical “scholars”! Here is the Word of the Lord:
"Therefore, behold, the days come saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt [in Joshua’s day]; But, the Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country [Russia et al.], and from all countries whither I had driven them...."(Jer:23:7-8)
This is being fulfilled in our day. When God told Moses that He would destroy Israel and make of him a great nation, Moses reasoned with God that He would be going back on His Word if He did that, and His critics would say that He was not able to keep His promises. If even one failed, it would reflect on all His other promises. (Ex 32:9-14). Yet today, growing numbers of those who claim to be Christians are declaring that God’s eternal covenant with Israel has been annulled!
If the everlasting covenant that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob swore to these patriarchs of Israel is not kept, then God has denied Himself. The same holds true for the literally hundreds of promises God has made that He would restore Israel fully to her land. If just one fails, then God has denied Himself and is not worthy of our trust. Here are a few of the many that could be cited:
"As a shepherd seeketh out his will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered...and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of a good pasture....I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away...therefore, will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey....I will set up one shepherd over them...even my servant David [i.e., the Messiah]....And I the Lord will be their God...there shall be showers of blessing...they shall be safe in their more be a prey to the heathen...none shall make them afraid...And...I better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord...neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any more...for I will...gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land...that I have given unto Jacob...and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes...and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore...."(Ezk 34:12-16, 22-28; 36:11, 15, 24, 27; 37:25-28)
If “everlasting,” concerning Israel, doesn’t mean everlasting , then how can we trust the promise in John:3:16 of everlasting life to those who believe on Christ? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, is the only true God. The Messiah promised to Israel by Jewish prophets of God came 2,000 years ago. He is the Savior of all who believe on Him as the one who, in fulfillment of what the Hebrew prophets foretold, died for the sins of the world, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father’s right hand. He is coming in power and glory to punish the world for its abuse of His people Israel and to rule the world from David’s throne in Jerusalem. Let us stand firm on the truth of Scripture and preach the true gospel of God, to the Jew first, then to the Gentile.
Hunt, Dave. (2016, August 1). God of Jacob, God of Israel - Part One. Retrieved August 2, 2016 from