I am what I am.

I am a Christian. This is the first and most important part of my life. If you understand what this means to me, it should help you to understand who I am and why I think like I think.

Being a Christian is a very simple thing, but it involves truth and commitment to ones beliefs. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I believe He came to earth and willingly went to the cross to take on all sin, for all those who would believe. This included and continues to include all past sin, all present sin, and all future sin, but only for those who accept Him for who He is.

The Bible tells us that all we have to do is believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we are saved. I believe will all my heart, and I freely confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So, I am a Christian, based on what the Bible tells us is required for me to be covered by the blood of Jesus.

Now, as a Christian, I have certain responsibilities to do the best I can to walk the path, which God has laid before me. I am not perfect, and I don’t profess to be. If I could be perfect, why would I need the forgiveness of Jesus? I still sin, regularly, but I recognize my sin, and I accept the forgiveness, which God so gracefully gives.

It is my responsibility, as a Christian, to support the teachings of the Bible, if I am to walk the walk in accordance with my Christian beliefs. I cannot, in this short text, explain all of those things, but I do want to cover a few, and show why I feel it so important to bring them up at this point in history.

I am the Way

FIRST: Jesus taught us that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” That is pretty black and white. The only way to God is through Jesus, the ONLY way. When I hear statements by others that we have to be tolerant of other religions, and when I hear our recent President, Barak Obama, state to the entire world that “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”, I must disagree. When it comes to my Christianity, I cannot bow to any other religion. God had entire nations destroyed, in the Old Testament, because they worshiped false gods. Jesus told us “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”

Now, this does not mean I need to hate people who worship other gods, but I cannot and will not bow to those folks, even in the name of political correctness. I thank God, daily, that we now have a man in the White House, who openly confesses a faith in the One True God.

The Bible is very clear.

SECOND: The Bible is very clear on “unnatural affection”. God called it an “abomination’, and the New Testament testifies to the sinful nature of those that partake in unnatural affection. Does that mean that I hate homosexuals? No, it does not. However, I cannot support any legislation that promotes these types of relationships. Today, we see gay rights being, not only supported, but pushed by our educational system. What will be next? There is currently a push for those who have a desire to have sexual relations with young children, in the name of tolerance. Where will this all end? As a Christian, I support those things I am taught by the Bible. I follow Jesus, and will not bow to political correctness. In Hebrews 13:8, we are told that “Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday, and forever.” God has not changed. Just because the political correctness in our country teaches tolerance toward these acts, God called it an abomination, and HE HAS NOT CHANGED HIS MIND.

Filled with the Holy Spirit

THIRD: The Bible tells us that John the Baptist was filled with the spirit in his mother’s womb. He jumped for joy, inside his mother’s womb, when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, came close to him. A child is a person, from inception. That is what the Bible tells us. As a Christian, I am anti-abortion. That being said, I feel it only fair to point out that God gave us all the ability to choose. Adam and Even had a choice about the fruit in the garden. We all have a choice to accept Jesus or reject Him. And, we each have a choice whether we take the life of an unborn child or opt to save that life. We each have a right to choose. I believe each of you have the right to choose to about the unborn, if you so desire. However, I do not believe it is right for you to take that option and then expect me, and others with my same beliefs, to pay for your decision with our tax dollars. If that were fair, then your tax dollars should pay for the birth of my child, should I opt for a pro-life choice. That only seems fair.

Rise from Your Sleep

FOURTH: The Bible teaches us responsibility and accountability. The Bible tells us “Go to the ant, oh sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise!” It also says “How long with you slumber, oh Sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?” Paul writes in Thessalonians, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.” I believe that we should care for the needy, but not create a state where anyone can live off the government, just because they don’t want to work. A helping hand is a good thing, when needed, but stops need to be in place to insure that our elected officials are good stewards of our tax dollars.

Be Good Stewards

FIFTH: We should all strive to be good stewards of our own funds. Establishing a budget, saving for the future, living within one’s means, are all Christian principles. I believe the government should be required to do the same things. They need to set a budget that does not take us further into debt, live within that budget, and stop spending foolishly for things that are not necessary to this country.

Support Israel

SIXTH: God tells us, many times throughout the Bible that “those that bless Israel will be blessed and those that curse Israel will be cursed.” As a Christian, I support Israel, PERIOD!

There are many more of these areas, in which I could continue my thoughts, but for now, I just wanted to post this so that you will all understand exactly why I stand for what I do. We all need to become more civil in our discussions and in the way we treat each other. I respect your right to believe in what you believe and to make decisions related to your own personal moral standards. With the recent election of Donald Trump as our President, and the move toward political correctness in lieu of Biblical principles, we have seen, within the past several weeks, a photo showing a comedian holding the bloody severed head of President Trump, Rosie O’Donnell with a new game lauding the killing of our president, daily attacks on the character of President Trump and his family, a Senator stating that he would kill the president, should he find himself within 10’ of him, and even idiots like Johnny Depp asking when the last time was that an actor killed a president, followed by his statement the “Maybe it’s about time.”

If you agree with 3 or more of the statements, which I have pointed out in this text, you have conservative values and need to consider where we are headed as a nation, and what we can do to insure a more civil tone in our country.

If you don’t agree with these statements, chances are you are following the liberal dogma being flooded across the airways, and taught on our college campuses. Needless to say, this text will fall on deaf ears.

As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

Proverbial Wisdom

Solomon was the son of David, and he was a wise man. When he ascended to the throne of Israel, God told him “Ask of me, whatever you would like.” Solomon requested “Lord, grant to me the wisdom, that I might rule over these your people.” The Lord was pleased with Solomon’s request, and responded “Because you did not ask for money or fame, but for wisdom, I will not only give you wisdom, but I will also give you money, riches, and fame.” Solomon was pronounced the wisest king that lived, both to that date and forward.
We are told in Kings that Solomon wrote 3000 proverbs, of which only around 1000 are contained in the Bible. The book of Proverbs begins with a short explanation, which should be a guide to each of us.

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
• To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
• To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity.
• To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
• A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.
• To understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.
• The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

A proverb will help you to be wise, to give you wisdom. It helps you to receive instruction. Proverbs contain deep and necessary understanding to life. The purpose of Proverbs is to provide us with wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity. In other words, it is used for instruction, to put the truth in a manner by which it can be remembered. It puts things in a clever way, so the wisdom sticks to you.

A young man can receive knowledge and discretion, while a wise man will heed it and use the wisdom to counsel others. Proverbs minister to the simple, to the young, to the wise, and to the men of understanding. The Proverbs of Solomon are written in a manner in which you don’t normally get the true meaning, the first time it is read. However, when you do get the wisdom, the truth is very clear. The truth of Proverbs is hidden, until it is drawn out through meditation.

The first 6 verses of Proverbs introduce the Proverbs, give the purpose of them, and explain what they can do for those who choose to seek and obtain the wisdom. Verse 7 give the foundation of the whole book. The Proverbs are meant to bring us into a reverential fear of the Lord. Verse 7 actually says that the fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING OF KNOWLEDGE.

I find it interesting that we, as a nation, choose to no longer seek the wisdom contained in the Bible. Most of us claim to believe in a Creator, but somehow do not seek the wisdom provided by that Creator through the wisdom of King Solomon.

David
Today, many folks make knowledge their god. Their education and what schools they have attended is a huge part of their life, their identity. They are constantly reading, constantly studying, constantly seeking to learn more and more. As they gain knowledge and understanding, they develop a snobbish sort of sophistication about it. With this as the main part of their identity, they still choose to avoid the knowledge contained in the Wisdom of Solomon, given him by God, personally.

Many of our educated, when asked about God, somehow take pride in announcing that they are ‘agnostic’. They believe that answer to be extremely wise and sophisticated. Many even try to exclaim it with a nasal sound, indicating an Ivy League connection. It is interesting that the word ‘agnostic’ is a Greek word. The Latin word for agnostic is ‘ignoramus’. So, the Harvard exclamation of pompous pride could be translated “I’m an ignoramus.” I find it a bit humorous that a person, who makes his intellect his god, somehow ends up with a confession of ignorance, when it comes to ultimate knowledge.

In Proverbs, we are immediately told the “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The “beginning” of knowledge is the fear of the Lord. Without that, true knowledge is simply not attainable. I have a lot of friends, who just don’t get me. They don’t understand my commitment to my faith, my constant references to the Word, my consistent insistence that we are living in the last days of earth, as we know it. I have many old friends who avoid me, because of this.

In the book of Proverbs, there are over 70 verses that refer to fools or foolish acts. The problem is that a fool doesn’t know he is a fool. It is difficult for a fool to receive wisdom and instruction, even from the wisest man who ever lived, simply because they don’t know that they are fools. Without the fear of the Lord, a fool despises wisdom and instruction. The fool believes that he already knows it all.

This brings me, finally, to my point. With the move to all but eliminate God from our schools, courts, and even from our lives, the ‘fear of the Lord’ is no longer present in our country or, for the most part, our family lives. When I was a boy, God was a no-brainer. We went to church, prayed in school, and most folks could get along, even in disagreement. My mother was a democrat (days of Kennedy), and my father was a republican. I have always been registered as ‘unaffiliated’, because I was taught to vote my morals, not my party. With God in our home, this was not difficult to manage. It seems to me, that we have slowly eliminated teaching morals to our children and have replaced morals with opinions, most of which are based on our political affiliation. The problem with this is that the fear of the Lord has been replaced by political correctness, meaning we are blocking from our children the ‘beginning of knowledge’.

Sadly, most homes today teach their children to follow the beliefs of their political party, choosing to ignore the basic morals contained in the Bible. The first problem is that, just because something is believed to be politically correct or along party lines, does not mean that it is morally right. Secondly, when the person has no ‘fear of the Lord’ they do not realize they are foolish in their support of immorality because of political correctness.

One of my favorite scriptures, and one that sums up what I am trying to say, is Proverbs 26:11. If you are ‘agnostic’ and are content in your own ignorance, you may not understand. However, if you can try to remember that these are words that God, Himself, gave you to increase your knowledge, and for those Christians who still acknowledge the truth of the Word of God, you just need to let the truth of it find you.

Proverbs 26:11 — As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.

It’s a sickening thing to think about, but a dog, when it gets sick, will usually eat grass and then regurgitate whatever might be causing their sickness. After a while, you will see the same dog licking and eating their own regurgitation. THINK ABOUT IT!!!!!

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

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Reality of My Creator

When you look around you, no matter where you live, you can see the beauty of nature. You see, the universe in which we exist, and the planet that serves us as home, are equally complex and beautiful, even perfect, in their design. They literally shout out the existence of the Designer.

Psalms 19:1-2 state exactly that fact. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.”

So many things about our home, the earth, shout out the existence of my God. Think about the earth, itself. The size is perfect. If the earth was smaller, it would be impossible to hold an atmosphere. Earth would be more like Mercury. If the earth was larger, free hydrogen would be prevalent in the atmosphere. Earth would be more like Jupiter. Earth is the only known planet, where we find a perfect atmosphere for the preservation of life. The atmosphere of our home planet is composed of the perfect mixture of gases to sustain life.

The earth is located the perfect distance from the sun to insure against freezing or burning up. A longer distance would cause us to freeze, and a closer distance would cause us to burn.

Our moon is also the perfect size and distance from the earth to provide the necessary gravitational pull to move the oceans and keep them from becoming stagnant, while keeping them from flooding across the continents.

Earth is the only object in the universe, on which we know there exists water. Water is an essential ingredient for sustaining life. The earth contains the perfect hydrological system. The salt water of the oceans evaporate, leaving the salt behind. The evaporation forms clouds, which distributes the water content as rainfall over the continents.

On top of these key universal designs, the complexity of the human brain and eyes are a subject well worth studying. Animal life and plant life are both equally complex in design in every phase.

The complexity of DNA is equally amazing. In every cell of our bodies, there exists this complex and detailed instruction code. It is equivalent to a miniature computer program. This code is a program of 3 billion letters, which tells each cell how to act. It is our cellular operational manual.

When you look at just these few things, which I have described, how could such complex designs be the result of chance? Is it even remotely possible that this is all the consequence of some chance explosion, as presented in the big bang theory? Physics tells us that explosions result in chaos, not in orderly creation.

Yet, we are bombarded with the opinions of scientists, PhDs, and educators that this grand design is simply an “accidental product of evolution.”

So, to fairly compare the big bang theory to a real life experience, let me present a similar concept. Let’s say that I stand, with you, in front of Mt. Rushmore and declare to you, and to all others within hearing distance, “Isn’t it amazing that this wall of rock has re-created the faces of 4 of our countries presidents, all produced accidently by erosion?” Would you declare me a fool? Science would.

Yet, those same scientists present their incredible theory that every bit of perfection found is the result of an accidental explosion.

Psalms 53:1 tells us “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

There is a great book, by Ray Comfort, titled “You Can Lead a Scientist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think!”

A truer title could not have been chosen to discuss atheism.

I choose to accept the reality of my Creator, being my God, not some freak explosion creating order, instead of chaos. I chose to believe that I am made in the image of my God.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

Judges 2 – With Don Stephens

JUDGES – Chapter 2 – Teaching Notes – Don D. Stephens
So the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I said, that I will never break my covenant with you. But you shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; you shall throw down their altars: but you have not obeyed my voice: why have you done this?
Here, I believe the Angel of the Lord is Jesus, simply because the language is speaking for Jehovah in the first person. And, the message from the Lord is that they have not obeyed Him, and He wants to know why. They are not conquering, they are not taking the complete victory. The Lord, Himself, is now rebuking them for this failure.
Wherefore as I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a snare to you.

The Lord is telling them that, because they haven’t fulfilled their part of the bargain, they are going to have a problem, from this point forward.

And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spoke these words unto all the children of Israel, the people lifted up their voices, and wept. And so they called the name of the place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.

Bochim means “weepers”. This is amazing! They cried, had an emotional experience, and sacrificed to the LORD. However, they did nothing about their condition. They didn’t go back and drive out the inhabitants. Often, when a person is under the conviction of the Spirit, God is dealing with them on the issues of their life, and they see their failures. When this happens, they have an emotional experience, sometimes even weeping. The problem is that the weeping is of no value if they don’t change. Unfortunately, most people feel that the crying is enough. But, they do nothing after they cry. They don’t change the circumstances, they don’t repent, and they don’t change. The just continue doing the same thing. The children of Israel did the same thing. They cried and offered sacrifices, but there were no changes.

When the people of Israel had a time of great emotional distress, they would tear their clothes. It was a common practice to show grief, sorrow and remorse. Later in their history, God told them “Rend your heart, and not your garments.” God doesn’t want to see an outward show, he wants to see changes. I believe it is actually possible that a person can cry away the conviction of the Spirit on our hearts. God wants changes.

Because they just wept, but there were no changes, the people they let survive become a thorn in their side. Their gods became a snare to them, and they were drawn to worship the gods.

Now when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man to his inheritance to possess the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all of the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen the great works of the LORD, that which he did for Israel.

So, as long as this generation was alive, they served the LORD. As long as these men, who saw the marvelous miracles of God, who saw the works of God in the wilderness, who were able to relate to them their eyewitness accounts, were alive, the children of Israel served the LORD.

When Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being a hundred and ten years old. They buried him in the border of the inheritance of Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all the generation were gathered to their fathers: there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

Here is a great tragedy! There was a failure, on the part of the parents, to adequately communicate to the children what God had done. God said that they were to gather the children, rehearse it in their ears. They had all kinds of memorials, like the pile of stones down near Gilgal, next to the Jordan River. The idea of these memorials was for the passing down of stories of what God had done for Israel, to each of the new generations. When a child saw the pile of stones, they would ask about them, giving the parent or grandparent an opportunity to express the story of how that was where they first crossed over into the Promised Land. It was an opportunity to share how the river was stopped in flood time, allowing the folks to cross over on dry land. They could express that these very stones came from the center of the river and, most importantly, that God was with them. The whole idea was to rehearse to the children the marvelous works of God. But, somehow, they failed to communicate to their children.

This is a very unfortunate thing. Revival rarely goes into the second generation. God works among a generation, among a people.
There is a powerful, glorious work of God. The problem is that, rarely does that work of God go into the next generation. This is a sign of the failure of the parents to pass on the heritage to their children of the wonderful works of God.

Even in the early church we find the same thing. When the apostles began to die off, the love began to grow cold. The Lord said to the church of Ephesus, “You have left your first love.” So often, this is the case.

Here, in Judges, we see the failure of the parents to adequately communicate to the children the power of Jehovah, whom they served. They did not fully obey God in driving out all of the inhabitants of the land, settling for something less than total victory, which, in turn, brought the great sorrows to them.

As the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they began to serve Baalim: and they forsook Jehovah God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they followed other gods, the gods of the people that were round about them, and they bowed themselves unto them, and they provoked Jehovah to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and they served Baal and Ashteroth.

Baalim is the plural of Baal, just as Ashteroth is the plural of Astoreth, the goddess of the Ephesians. So, they began to worship these male and female deities of the people of the land over which they had conquered. It is truly tragic, that the Truth didn’t go into the next generation. Somehow, there was a failure of the transmitting of God’s power.

And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, he delivered them into the hands of the spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. [They deserted God, God deserted them.] And whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto the judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: and they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. And when the LORD raised up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of the enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; and they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.

This is the continuous tragic story of these people. This part is really the prologue to the book of Judges. This gives us a view into what we are going to be looking at, as we cover this sad period of history. Israel falls into the worship of the false gods, God delivers them into the hands of their enemies, God raises up a judge, who inspires the people spiritually to turn back to the LORD, and during the lifetime of that judge there is spiritual revival. When the judge dies, Israel turns back to these other gods, and they go back into captivity. This is that cycle, which we are going to follow, the tragic cycle of the history of the nation of Israel.

And so the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; he said, Because these people have transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, they have not hearkened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: [‘okay, I’m through: I’m not going to drive out any more. You’ve disobeyed, you’ve broken the covenant.” And so, God withdraws His support and His strength] that through them they might be tested, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; and neither did he deliver them into the hand of Joshua.

God says He is through, He is not going to drive out any more nations for Israel. They have disobeyed and broken His covenant, so God withdraws His support and His strength.

Now, beginning in Chapter 3, we begin the prologue, with the first apostasy, the servitude, the first judge, followed by the second apostasy and the second judge. We will see some pretty gory stories in Chapter 3, when Eglon gets his message from the Lord.

What did you learn from Chapters 1 & 2? We learned to seek total victory, with no compromise with the flesh. We learned we need to live completely after the Spirit. We learned whatever we sow, we will, in kind, reap. We learned that we need to sow seeds of mercy, goodness, and love, so that we might reap the same.

May God lead us all into victory over those areas of the flesh that have held sway over our lives for so long. Don’t make a covenant with your flesh. Don’t decide that you’re just going to have to live with certain characteristics of your flesh. Though you’ve been troubled for a long time, and though you’ve tried so hard, turn it over and let God help you. Claim the victory through the power of God’s Spirit, and begin to walk fully after the Spirit. Strive for that rich, full, abundant life that God wants you to know as you walk in fellowship with Jesus our Lord.

The Great Tribulation

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how close we are to the period of time referred to as “The Great Tribulation”. I believe that, during this 7 year period of time, we will see the earth revert back to the time of Judges in our relationship with God. You see, we are told that “He that letteth with let, until He be taken out of the way. And, then shall that wicked be revealed…….”

This is a representation of the Holy Spirit in the church. When the church is raptured (taken out of the way), the antichrist will be revealed and the tribulation will begin. When that happens, there will be no further Christian leadership on the earth. The Holy Spirit will not work through Christians in guiding others to the Lord, as He does now, and this is why I believe the Lord will speak to those remaining on the earth through Judges sent to guide and lead folks to the Lord, before it is too late, and the Lord returns in final judgement.

Because of that, I believe it is every Christians’ duty to review and study Judges to see how things might be during the tribulation. It will be far worse than anything in Judges, and the calamities will all be of Biblical proportion. Persecution of those who accept the Lord as Truth, during this time, will be severe, and most will have to starve or be beheaded, should they refuse to accept the Mark of the Beast.

So, I am going to do another teaching on the Book of Judges, and invite you all to join. I am posting the introduction at the end of these comments and, depending on how many of you decide to join me, I will cover a chapter a week, and take questions and comments.

There is one exception: If anyone begins to become belligerent or post inappropriate comments, I will simply delete the comments and block them from the teaching page.

Judges can teach us many thing about how to live, how to remain committed to our beliefs, and how to prepare for those things to come. The main thing we can do is to pass along this wisdom to our family and friends. Even if they do not accept the Lord in time to make the rapture, they will be better prepared to handle those things to come. There are some amazing stories in Judges. Most folks know about these heroes of the Bible, but some are far less known than others. For example:

The third Judge, Shamgar, is mentioned very little, so we know very little about him. There’s only one verse devoted to him in Judges, and just a mention of him in the song of Deborah (who was the first and only woman Judge).

After him the [third judge] was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: he also delivered Israel.

The ox goad was a pole, about 8 foot long, that had a sharp metal end, with which they would prod the oxen, as the oxen were plowing. This was to keep them going. Some of these ox goads were as much as 6 inches thick. It would take a pretty strong man to wield one of those ox goads. This guy did it. With it, he killed six hundred of their perennial enemies, the Philistines.

Later, we will see that Samson killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. This guy was of the same style as Samson, even though we get little information about him. We know his name is Shamgar, and we can see he is an interesting character. He is strong, and God used him to deliver Israel. Too bad we don’t know more about him. He was special, because God called him and used him.

2017 – Book of Judges

In the history of Israel, and the Middle East, many of the kings followed the pagan practice of offering children as live sacrifices to the pagan gods. I fear for our nation, because we have made such a strong move in that direction. With the kings of Israel, like Menessah, it all began with his walking in the ways of the kings of Israel, making these molten images for Baalim.

Man has always found himself worshipping the sexual body. With some of the rituals associated with such worship, the result was unwanted pregnancies. The sexual reproductive worship was practiced as the worship of Ashorem. The sacrifice of the unwanted children was done to Molech. This is all very similar to how premarital sex has become an accepted practice today, and abortions are the mechanism to rid the unwanted pregnancies. In our time, we have seen a tremendous liberalizing of our attitudes towards sexual relationships. We now sacrifice the unwanted pregnancies to the god of Molech. We call abortion the more humane way, because the child is destroyed while it is still in the womb being formed. We don’t give it the opportunity of ever being born, as though it is less sinful then, than it would be later. I cannot be convinced of that, and I believe that this nation will have to answer to God for this worship of Molech.

He offered his own children unto the pagan god, Molech, the god of pleasure. Burning his own children alive was meant to somehow show devotion and love unto Molech. This was their form of abortion in those days. Whenever you open the door to pornography, and man’s passions, and sensual desires are aroused, you then have that pressure towards promiscuous sexual relationships. It follows a pattern, and promiscuous sexual relationships lead to unwanted pregnancies. Unwanted pregnancies lead to pressure for abortion, or the getting rid of the product. In those days, they had not the sciences of abortion, as we have today, thus they would bear the child, but then they would take the baby and place it alive, in the fire.

They’d burn it, cremate it.

Our courts opened the doors for pornography, when the Supreme Court said that they were unable to define obscenity. Because it was an indefinable term, it was the result of the influence of existential philosophy. Existential philosophies declare that there are no absolutes, what may be obscene to me may not be obscene to you. If there are no universal morals, or universal standards, then you cannot have a true definition of obscene. So, the court, buying into the existential philosophy, declared “We cannot define what is obscene”.

Their inability to define obscene, opened the door to all types of sex magazines with explicit types of sexual pictures, designed for the purpose of arousing and inflaming a man’s passions, stirring a person in a sensual way. When someone gets involved in pornography, there is a satanic force and power that gets hold of them. It is the worship of a pagan god! In the old days, they called it Ashorem. Paul said, “They that sacrifice to these idols, are actually sacrificing to demons”. When you start getting into these things, a demonic hold comes upon your life, and you develop a desire for more and more. Soon, just a female form standing there nude isn’t enough. You begin to search for something that is a little more tantalizing, and enticing, and arousing. The pornography becomes worse, and it deepens its hold on your life, until you become a slave to it. At that point, you are led into all types of perverted sex, for any sex outside of a commitment within a marriage vow, is perverted sex. Pornography is a perversion of God’s intention for the purpose of giving to us the capacity of sex, and giving to us the enjoyment of sex, and giving to us sexual drives. God gave this to us for the purpose of creation of a beautiful intimacy between two persons who have committed their lives to each other. “For this cause a man shall leave his mother and father, and cleave to his wife, and they two become one flesh.” God’s purpose, God’s design, is to create a beautiful unity, an oneness, to create total intimacy between the two in a sacred relationship. Homosexual and lesbian relationships are a perversion of what God intended. Any use, outside of that God intended purpose of the bond, and intimacy of marriage, is a perversion! That leads to unwanted pregnancies.

The next thing the courts decided was that anything that consenting adults wanted to do was alright. They obliterated all of our laws against adultery and against homosexuality. They got rid of all of those laws, meaning anything that consenting adults want to do is permissible. Suddenly, we began to have hundreds of thousands of unwanted pregnancies. The court was then obligated to rule that abortion is okay, if a woman desires it. And we began to sacrifice our children to the fires of Molech. Millions of babies each year, in the United States alone, have been sacrificed on the altars of Molech. For this, God brought the nation of Israel into judgment. For this, God brought the heathen nations into judgment. For this, God will surely bring the United States, and our world in which we live today, into judgment.

You cannot just go on continually defying the laws of God, and thinking that you’re not going to have to pay! There’s a price for this kind of licentiousness, as this nation will surely discover. “He caused his children to pass through the fire.”

Now, with that said, I believe that we are indeed living in the last days. There are no events remaining, which have to occur, before the Rapture of the church and the beginning of the Tribulation period. During the Tribulation period, I believe we will see the world, especially Israel and the Middle East, fall back into the time of the Judges of Israel. In fact, we are told that there will be “two witnesses”, who will prophesy for 1,260 days, before being slain in the street. They will have their bodies remain in the streets for 3 ½ days, and we are told that “those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”

After the 3 ½ days, they will rise and ascend into Heaven in a cloud while the world watches. I believe these two are actually Elijah and Enoch, because they both went to Heaven without tasting death, and I believe their role is similar to the role played by both the prophets and the judges of the Old Testament. At this time, the “time of the Gentiles” will be over, and the Jewish folks will have their eyes opened to the true Messiah, Jesus. These two men will be here to witness to the world, and specifically to the Jewish nation, of the fact that they rejected the one true Messiah in Jesus, and bring them into repentance and acceptance of their error.

So, because there is coming a return to the times of the Judges, I felt it appropriate to again provide teaching notes on the book of Judges, for anyone who wants to take the time to read them. I did this last year and it began well, but folks fell off, as other things in their lives kept them from the study. I will set up a group called “Judges-2017” and open it to anyone who wants to let me know they have an interest. That way, if you miss one of the chapter teachings, or fall behind, you can go to that group and read the notes on your own schedule. I know you will find a study through the Book of Judges not only informative, but satisfying.

The book of Judges covers the historic period of the nation of Israel from the time of the death of Joshua, to the beginning of the rule of the kings of Israel. We don’t know just how long a period of time that God actually used judges, but most scholars agree that the period of time was between 300 and 400 years.

During this period of history in Israel, there were thirteen different judges, who God raised up in those times of spiritual weakness. When God raised up each judge, Israel would see spiritual revival. During the time of spiritual revival, God would give Israel victory over their enemies. Eventually, each time, the revival would fade, the folks would turn to false gods, and the nation of Israel would fall into captivity. You can see that the nation of Israel was in a bit of a roller coaster ride, because there were 13 judges. This means there were 13 revivals, 13 falls into sin, 13 periods of captivity, and 13 periods of deliverance from the oppression of the enemy. There are vast and valuable lessons to be learned from the book of Judges. I plan to cover each chapter in Judges, one lesson at a time, so that we can all see some of the valuable lessons to be learned from this period of history in Israel.

For those of you who are students, or regular readers of the Bible, you will recall that the book of Joshua began with the words “Now after the death of Moses.” The book of Judges begins much in the same way, with the words “Now after the death of Joshua”.

It is interesting that the book of Judges does not follow a precise chronological order. It begins with the words “After the death of Joshua”, but the death of Joshua is actually recorded in Chapter 2. It also goes back to pick up a little of the book of Joshua, including Caleb’s capture of the city of Hebron.

I invite any and all of you to simply request to join the Facebook page “Judges-2017”. I will also post my teaching notes on each chapter on my regular page, but I would encourage you to go to the group page to post regular discussion on each of the lessons, including questions about the text. I will attempt to answer to the best of my ability and knowledge.

Anyway, I will create the page tonight, and will add any and all who wish to join over the next week or so. Then, we can do a chapter a week for 21 weeks, or work and a slower or faster rate, as desired by the group.

Just my invitation to share my thoughts in a 2017 study of the Book of Judges!

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

The Great Apostasy – Evil Lurks

THE TERRORISM IN GIBEAH

The other day, I watched a video of some of the violence occurring in European countries, caused by the massive influx of immigrants from Islamic nations. Murders, rapes, and terrorism is running rampant in these areas. With opponents of extreme vetting putting up every blockade possible to stop the necessary actions to insure against the wrong type of immigrant gaining access to this country, we may soon be in the same boat as many of our European neighbors.

Thinking on this caused me concern about things that might happen in America, which would have been unimaginable just twenty years ago. My thoughts went back to a teaching I did several years ago about a tragic story in the Book of Judges.

In Chapter 19 of Judges, we see what seems to be a familiar story. It is similar to the story of the angels of God, who went to warn Lot to leave Sodom, at least the circumstances are very similar.

We are told that there is no king in Israel. It was God’s intent that He be the king over His chosen nation, so that they can be like no other nation on the earth. This was a period of anarchy in Israel, as everyone was pretty much doing what they thought was right in their own moral character. They had a philosophy similar to that of America today, “If it feels good, do it!” Israel had rejected the rule of God, and thereby the law of God.

We begin the story with a Levite, who was living in the area of Mount Ephraim, and he took himself a concubine from Bethlehem Judah. Now, a concubine was a wife, but without all the privileges of a wife. The woman was unfaithful to the man, and went to her father’s house in Bethlehem Judah. After 4 months, the husband went after her, to her father’s house, in hopes of reconciliation. He brought with him, his servant and two donkeys. She invites him in, and her father is overjoyed to meet the guy.

He stayed for 3 days, and tried to leave several time, but the father-in-law kept delaying them, so they stayed for two additional days, and even got a late start on the day they finally left. It’s about 5 miles from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. At the time of this story, Jerusalem was occupied by the Jebusites. In fact, it was not until the times of King David, that the city was taken from the Jebusites and occupied by Israel. Now, because it is getting late, the servant suggest that they stop in Jerusalem for the night, but the man says that he does not want to stay in a place not occupied by Israelites.

So, they traveled another 2.5 to 3 miles past Jerusalem toward Ramah. It was too late to make the full journey to Ramah, so they stopped in Gibeah, about the time the sun was setting. Gibeah was occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, Israelites.

Now in those days they didn’t have motels, where you could pay a fee and spend the night. A major part of life then was hospitality. It was extremely important to them to be hospitable to travelers. Even in our present day, the Bedouins have strict rules concerning hospitality. If you receive guests into your home, you are honor bound to shelter and protect them, for as long as they are under your roof.

It doesn’t matter if you hate them so badly that you wish they were dead, you can’t mistreat them, as long as they are your guests. As long as they are under your roof, you are honor bound to entertain them, to treat them like royalty, and to defend them. Not to show hospitality was a great sin. So, the people of Gibeah were not hospitable to this man, his wife, and his servant. They were sitting in the streets of the city, because no one took them into their house for lodging.

Now, this old man, who was also from mount Ephraim, came in from working in the fields and began to talk to the man about where he was from and where he was going. The man told him of their travel to Bethlehem Judah and that they were on the way home, but no one offered to lodge them. He explained that he had adequate provisions for his group and his animals, but the old man insisted that he be allowed to lodge them for the night.

After they had eaten and drank, they were making merry, when the men of the city surrounded the house and beat on the door. They asked the old man to bring out the man, so that they could have homosexual relations with him. In response, the old man went out to them and told them not to do this wicked thing to the man, because he was a guest in the old man’s house.

This scene is very reminiscent of what happened in Sodom. If you will remember, the two angels of the Lord came to Sodom, on a mission from God to destroy the city. This destruction was because of the wickedness of the citizens of Sodom. The two angels were received by Lot, into Lot’s house, and were his guests, and therefore his responsibility. In the evening, the men of Sodom circled the house and demanded that Lot send these two men outside, so that they could actually have homosexual relationships with them. God destroyed Sodom because of this sin, and here we see the same thing happening, this time in an Israelite city, among the tribe of Benjamin. The same heinous sin that perpetrated the destruction of Sodom is now happening among God’s people. The moral decay into which the nation of Israel had sunk is obvious and evident in this story. The homosexuals of the city are so brazen as to openly parade themselves in the streets of the city, and demand their rights, which are not really rights at all. The old man recognizes it as wickedness, as folly. He begged them “Don’t do this wickedness, don’t do this folly.”

Because of the custom of hospitality, and because women in that culture and time had very little rights, the man did something that is quite unthinkable to us, today. It’s difficult for us to relate to this, because our culture is so entirely different. IMHO, our culture has been vastly affected by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One thing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has declared, and has promoted, is equal rights. Christianity recognizes women as equal with men, in the sight of God.

You see, in Christ there is neither male nor female. We are all one, together in Him. The New Testament of the Bible has done so much to elevate the place of the woman, giving honor to the woman, and demanding respect for the woman.

Now, as the years of Christian influence has affected our culture, we have such a high regard for women.

Sadly, as the pagan influences begin to prevail in our society, we see women again being degraded by a society that is trying to erase Christ, Christianity, and the Christian influence. Women are again being looked upon as objects for men to lust after. Pornography has added to the exploitation of the woman’s body, effectively degrading women, and planting seeds of lust in both men and women.

The woman’s place of honor, respect, glory, and modesty is rapidly disappearing.

If this trend of erasing Christ from our society continues, and the influences of religions such as Islam are allowed to forge their way into the base of our society, women are quickly heading on a straight track to where they once were, looked upon as an object for the gratification of a man’s sexual lust.

Then, the story takes us to a place that is even more difficult for us to understand. The man offers his virgin daughter and his concubine to the men in place of the man they are requesting. He is willing to sacrifice his own daughter. This is a grand example of a world without the influence of Christianity, a world without a king, a world without moral law, without moral principles to govern. The man recognizes this horrible sin, and he tell them “but unto this man, do not so vile a thing.”

So, these men took the traveler’s concubine, and they raped her and abused her all night. In the morning they released her, and she came and fell down at the door of the man’s house. When he arose in the morning, he opened the door and saw her fallen down, with her hands on the threshold. Did he help her? Did he check to see how she was? No! He just told her to get up, so they could be on their way. She didn’t answer, so he loaded her on his donkey, took her home, and then cut her into 12 pieces with his knife and sent one part to each of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Now, this story ends with the following statement “And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.”

So, the message sent out to all of Israel was: “Hey! Look at this evil deed that has happened in an Israelite city. This has never happened before, since we became a nation. Consider this, speak your mind, and let’s get together.”

Most folks, who read this story in the Bible, simply write it off as an interesting (or, weird) story, with no real moral. I have a bit of a different take on it.

First, I see it as a necessary story, to assist us in understanding the times in which Judges were being used, if not only to show us what terrible sins and depraved lifestyles with which they had to deal on a regular basis. When we read about how a city of Israel has become so depraved in their way of life, it makes it a bit easier to accept the actions of a Judge, like Samson, using the jawbone of an ass to slay 1000 Philistines.

Second, and most importantly, is the fact that the nation of Israel, who had such rules regarding hospitality towards guests, could also be the home of such perversions. A whole lesson could be taught on the way this story could relate to how sin can come into a nation and destroy it from within.

Hmmmmmm! Is it possible that our own nation has already become indoctrinated into such perversion? Billy Graham was once quoted as saying “If God doesn’t punish San Francisco, He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology!”

Imagine the sin and perversion that may rear its ugly head, when an event, such as the Rapture of the Church, suddenly removes all obstacles in the path of satanic forces!

2 Thessalonians 2

The Great Apostasy

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

What Next

This is a long lesson, but I pray you will take the time to read. It should provide some ease to those of us at or near retirement age, and perhaps even those who have thoughts of what is to come. Comments are encouraged.

What Next?

As I get older, I recognize more and more, just how quickly this life is. It truly is just a vapor, which rises up and is gone. Recognizing that simple fact can be life changing, at least it seems to be, at this point in my life. Many things go through one’s mind, as the reality of mortality really kicks a person in the head, but there are three basic feelings than envelop you, and three basic thoughts that stand out over all the rest.

I have a constant feeling of wonder. I have a regular feeling of anxiousness. I have an occasional feeling of fear. From these three feelings, come three thoughts. Wonder at what is happening each day, creates curiosity at what might come next, which ends up as desire to seek the truth of what might be in store hereafter. I want, actually I need to know what to expect now, at the time of my death, and after I pass through. This is basic thought number one.

When I consider thought number one, I begin to get anxious. This anxiousness is not just a mental thing, it affects my body. I get anxious legs, when I think about it, and I can’t get them to calm down, until I find comfort, either in a Word from the Bible, or in a calming from inside that comes from somewhere outside of my physical body. The anxiousness leads me to question things. How long do I have, what is my purpose here, what will I have to look forward to after I pass on, am I ready, how can God even care about one person on a personal basis, when there are so many people in the world, and do I even really matter? This leads to an overall desire to know these things, making basic thought number two a question. How do I fit into the overall picture?

Usually, I begin to study at this point. I read what other folks have to say on these subjects, I do word searches through the Bible.com to seek references and guidance from the only One who has all the answers, and I try to reach an end that makes sense, while giving me comfort. As I do this, I read of things that have happened to other folks, both in scripture, and in current events. This causes the mind to think of the details of what is to come, and fear sets in on so many levels.

What if I die, while I am doing something I should not be doing? What if the rapture takes place at a time, when I not paying attention? What if I am one of those that are told that He never knew me? What if it hurts to die? What if I get scared and don’t man up when those I leave behind need me to be a strong example? What if? Thought number three has various forms, but the same substance. What do I need to do to make me capable to leave this earth under the same circumstances and confidence as Paul? I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.

Let me try to shed some light on all the questions I have forged into your mind.

Let’s talk of Heaven and things to come.

I know of very few people, who do not feel, deep within themselves, that there is something more than just this short excursion through life. There is something beyond all this. The Bible, as my final source of knowledge and guidance, supports this belief.

Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

This scripture supports the feelings I have inside me about this subject. I have, inside me, knowledge that there is something about me and this life that goes way beyond my current existence. God had to have placed that feeling there.

What that something more is, my mind and body are just too puny to understand.

1 Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ears have heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those that love Him.”

We, as humans, are living within the confines of time. Heaven and the hereafter are eternal, not held to the strict discipline of time. This explains why we cannot conceive of the eternal. Life is similar to living in the womb of our mother, awaiting our entry into this world. We are limited to the simplicity of life as it is now, and not how it could be. Butterflies have four stages. Egg, caterpillar, cocoon, and then, finally, butterfly. Our stages of life are similar. Blastocyst, embryo, fetus, baby, toddler, elementary, and adult. There has to be more.

I am certain that a fetus, in the womb, is very warm and comfortable and, given a choice, would probably have opted to remain where it was comfortable, rather than go through the pain of the birth. However, upon arrival, we begin to develop a comfort in our new environment, even though someday, we will face a similar re-birth into eternity. We fight the notion, and avoid having to leave this world, with every breath, but the end of this period in our development is inevitable, no matter our level of comfort in our current location.

Some of us recognize the signs that demonstrate a further stage beyond this current life. Others do not. The old saying “Ignorance is bliss” is appropriate, when it comes to our next life stage. Some of us feel our immortality and look for signs of the next stage, while others become comfortable in their ignorance until mortality hits them in the face. When those signs become pressing, fear sets in.

Fear of the unknown can be intense. There are many reasons for this fear, and the Word assists in our search for answers.

One reason for fear is that life is short, and the older we get, the more obvious this becomes.

Psalm 144:4, “Man is like a breath, his days are like a fleeting shadow.”

One breath, and that is it. That is the extent of your life. This life goes by almost that quickly. I have read that a person relives their life at the moment of death. At the very end, I imagine the fact that your whole life is now gone, like that vapor would seem as if only a breath.

Hebrews 2:15, “Those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

With life being as a vapor, and death always looming out there somewhere, within range of our sight, we seem to find methods of trying to avoid it, to not think about it. I assume we do that, thinking that if we can’t see it, it can’t see us.

The fear that we all have about death has to be, at least partially, due to all the misinformation and misconceptions about death and dying. Seems that most of our lives, we are led to believe that Heaven is the place where we go to get our wings. Satan is a guy dressed in red, with horns and a pitchfork. Movies portrait many different descriptions of Heaven and Hell, and never really touch on the one true way to achieve Heaven and avoid Hell. Star Wars taught us that we could become one with the force. The Matrix showed us that we can become superhuman, simply by opening ourselves to the power within. Today, the news and even pulpits send out mixed messages about how there are many roads to Heaven, leaving one to question if immortality in the good place can be achieved by simply being a good person and doing good things. We’ve got all these ideas coming at us from all these different directions giving us different views. The misinformation can leave a person extremely confused and can cast doubts, even on the believer.

Misconceptions form in our own minds, mainly because we have become “womb” comfortable, and we just don’t have enough information, causing us to begin guessing on some of the missing details. Here is a very important piece of information. We don’t have to totally guess about any of this. A large number of details about the afterlife can be found in Scripture. God put those details into the Bible, so we would not have to guess.

1 Corinthians 2:9, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neighed have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

In the Bible, God shares a taste of what He has prepared for us related to living our lives now and for living after this life. This can help in clearing up some misinformation and the resulting misconceptions.

One common misconception is that of annihilation. Atheists insist that there is just nothing after this life. When you die, you are just gone. Nothing is left, and there is nothing to look forward to. This is an interesting concept, and there is certainly no data to back it up. How would anyone know such a thing? Where would one get the credible information to support the fact that this life is all there is to existence? I have often thought to myself how silly they are to hold such a ridiculous belief, and how ignorant they are to hold to this claim. If my belief in Christ, salvation, Heaven, and the afterlife is wrong, and their theory is correct, then the worst that can happen to me, is I die and there is nothing. And, they won’t be there to tell me I was wrong and they were right, will they? On the other hand, if I am right, and they are wrong, then my I will live in Heaven for all eternity, and they will have a huge surprise, and not a pleasant one. Seems to me my approach is just the safer method to take. And, my reference guide has some great information, contrary to what they’re claiming.

Jesus explained that there is an afterlife. One of my favorite accounts is located in Luke 16.

Luke 16, 19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

This is NOT a parable. When Jesus told parables, He did not include names. In this account, He uses real names. I believe it is an actual account of an actual happening, not a parable. There is a wealth of information contained in this account. Separation of good and evil, recognition of persons, the inability to go back and fix what you have lost, no mechanism to send a warning back to those left behind. This passage contains loads of good information that could become a whole sermon on its own.

Another good resource is contained in Revelation 20.

Revelation 20
1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Many Eastern philosophies teach reincarnation, that we come back again and again to rid ourselves of the bad karma. This bad energy, that is supposed to be all around us, had to be erased, so that we can become a god force. This is contrary to scripture.

Hebrews 9:27, “Just as man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment.”

We are destined to die but once, then to be judged.

One belief in the Catholic Church is they you are sent to Purgatory, because you have to suffer in some place of torment to purge yourself of your sin before God will let you into Heaven.

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one will boast.”

1 John 1:17, “The blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from sin.”

Jesus has cleansed us from our sins, all at once, on the cross. There is no need to burn our sins off for a time somewhere, to earn the right to enter Heaven.

Another big myth is soul sleep. This is a popular belief, but is false teaching. The misconception here is that when you die you go into the ground and take a long nap, longer for those who died thousands of years ago, but long enough for anyone. The teaching is that your soul remains unconscious, until someday when you rise again. I actually get those anxious legs at night, when I am lying in bed, because I don’t like spending 8 hours unconscious, much less years, decades, centuries.

2 Corinthians 5:8 tells us, “To be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Thank you, Lord. Paul’s words have helped me to feel better about this nonsense of being frozen in unconsciousness upon death. Whew!

I couldn’t tell you how many times I have heard folks make comments about how a loved one, who has passed on, is up there flying around with the other angels.

If that were true, and God created the angels, why was I put here on earth, and have to earn my way to get my wings, while the created angels just get them?

Doesn’t really seem fair, does it?

Hebrews 1:14, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”

1 Corinthians 6:3, “Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of life.”

God created the angels for a purpose, completely separate from our creation and placement on this earth. We don’t become angels. We have a higher destination.

Another misconception teaches of an ethereal world, where we’ll end up as spirits, sitting on clouds and playing harps all day long. Sounds a bit boring, doesn’t it? One of the greatest deceptions around today is that Heaven is going to be boring. Even our children are exposed regularly to this concept. If you had occasion to see a movie called All Dogs Go to Heaven, you will recall that the lead character spent the entire movie trying to escape from Heaven, because he is afraid that it will be boring. Believe me…….Heaven is not going to be boring.

In my mind and heart, I am convinced the most dangerous of all misconceptions is the method in which we can arrive. The concept that just being a good person will get you in the gates of heaven is not only misleading, it is dangerous. Many good people will fail to reach the desirable eternity, because they have fallen for the constant propaganda that you just need to be good, no matter your beliefs.

This danger is because we all fall into sin, and need cleansing before we can reach Heaven. Not by works, lest any should boast. It is Jesus who saves us from that road to Hell and pulls us in the direction of Heaven. That is why it is called “being saved.” He is rescuing us from something. He is rescuing us from our sins which send us to the final destination of Hell.

John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. But whoever rejects the Son will not see life, because God’s wrath remains on him.”

If you were in the ocean, drowning, and a lifeboat came by to pick you up, would you not reach out and accept a helping hand? Or, would you just remain in the ocean, having been told by the Captain that the cruise was perfectly safe, and no one would be in any danger on the trip? That seems like a silly question, but it is a true comparison. Jesus is reaching His hand out to save you. If you are smart, you will take His hand.

All misconceptions, and there are a lot of them floating around, seeking to devour you, are meant to confuse the reality of how to guarantee your place in eternity. If you are rescued from the punishment of our sins, and if you are saved from God’s wrath, because you have accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation, you can find comfort in knowing what life will be like for you after you die.

If you were to die today, as a saved Christian, the sequence of events will be as follows:

Immediately after death your spirit will go right to Jesus, escorted by angels into His presence.

Luke 16:22, And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

When you get to Heaven, you will be given what is called an “intermediate body.” It’s a real body. You are not just a spirit being. God alone is spirit, but the rest of us have bodies. You are in Heaven with a real body.

John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Your intermediate body will also be recognizable. The people who are up there with you will be able to recognize you. We can see examples of that from the Bible, including the story in Luke 16 that I gave as an example earlier, where the rich man recognized Lazarus and Abraham. Samuel was recognized by King Saul, when he came back. When Moses and Elijah came with Jesus to the Transfiguration, Peter offered to build them a tent. If they were spirits, they would have no need for a tent. They were clearly in recognizable, physical bodies. The Martyrs in the Tribulation are described as wearing white robes.

They have physical bodies, and so will you.

If you live in Heaven at the time of the Rapture of the Church, you will get to experience your own personal resurrection, as your earthly body (still in the ground, ocean, or ashes) will be combined with your intermediate body, and you will receive a resurrected, glorified body.

At the Rapture, the dead in Christ will rise first, before those that are alive.

However, the twinkling of an eye is the entire time it takes for all this to occur, so being first in line is not going to be of concern to anyone.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

While we, in our new bodies, are in Heaven with the Lord, the earth goes into a period of Tribulation. This is a seven year time period, the final 3 ½ years are referred to as the Great Tribulation. During this period, the world is punished for its continual rebellion against God. This punishment is only for those on the earth and not for those who are up in Heaven.

During the Tribulation, those in Heaven will experience three events. First is a judgment call the “Judgment of the Just.”

2 Corinthians 5:10, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

This is not a judgment for salvation. You are in Heaven, so you are already saved.

This is a judgment of what you were doing while on earth. We were each created in this life to do good works. We were created in Christ Jesus to do on His behalf.

So, you should be asking yourself just what are you doing with all your time and energy?

At the Judgment of the Just, we are going to be rewarded, based on the quantity of our good works, how we used our time and talents, how much effort we really put into trying to do a good job of reaching people for Christ and serving others in His name. In addition, we will be judged on our motivations. Did we do those works to glorify ourselves, or did we do them for someone else? It is to be a great reward ceremony.

The second event is a party, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. It will be a welcome to Heaven party. God loves a good party. He’s not all gloom and doom, as some would like you to believe. Jesus went to parties all the time, while He was on earth. God is going to throw a big party, a celebration, for those of us who are in Heaven, reunited with Him forever.

The third event will be our preparing to return to earth with Jesus.

Revelation 19, 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

Since Jesus will be fully decked out in warrior apparel, I have to assume that we, too, will get some kind of armament. We are going to get a horse to ride. It has been a long time, since I have ridden, but I am looking forward to that ride.

The next thing in our new life that we’ll experience is Jesus Second Coming.

There are about 500 prophecies in the Old Testament and one in 25 verses in the New Testament concerning Jesus’ Second Coming, so there’s a lot of description of this event.

We are told that we will accompany Jesus when He returns. Revelation 19:14 describes this event. “The armies of Heaven were following Him, riding on white horses, dressed in fine linens, white and clean.” Well, there is my answer; I am not returning in my cherry red 55 Chevy, I’m going to have to ride a horse.

When we get to Earth, we are going to watch Jesus all by Himself defeat the worst scoundrel in the history of the world. This guy is ten times worse than Hitler, and he will be referred to as “the Antichrist.” He is the eventual conqueror of the earth, but his rule will be short. Jesus, upon His return with His church, will defeat the Antichrist and his army at a battle called Armageddon. With just a word, Jesus will destroy all those armies that follow Satan.

We will witness Jesus order an angel to take Satan, have him chained, and drop him into a pit. Satan will no longer torment the world; he will be in a deep pit for 1,000 years, a long, long time.

For those who are saved, we are looking at the events, which will be after death.
After Jesus ends the Tribulation in victory, He is going to usher in what is called the Millennial Kingdom. During this 1,000 year time period, Jesus is going to physically reign over all the earth. For the first time, the earth will have a grand era of peace, pure righteousness, and justice. Because of all the damage and destruction during the Tribulation, Jesus will need to cleanse the world of the impurities, including radiation, poisoning, and death. All the ecological problems will go away. The Earth will return to the beautiful paradise, just like the Garden of Eden.

Jesus will rebuild Jerusalem and rule the world from there.

The faithful, in glorified bodies, will reign with Him over all the people, who still living after the tribulation in earthly bodies. The people, who have accepted Jesus as their Savior during the Tribulation and have physically survived the Tribulation, are going to pass through what is called the Sheep-Goat Judgment.

They will be permitted to live into the Millennium and to have children and repopulate the planet. I have to assume that, our roles will be as governors, administrators and teachers, as we reign with Jesus. We will be there to help folks, and I look so forward to my role, no matter how small it may be. How could anyone be bored having a role in the rebuilding of a perfect world?

At the end of the Millennial Kingdom, Jesus will release Satan for one final battle.

Folks, who have been born during this 1000 year reign of Jesus, will be given freedom of choice, just as we have been given. Those that choose to rebel against God, will be allowed to follow Satan in this one final battle. You see, even after being given a paradise in which to live for 1000 years, folks will choose to rebel against God. They would rather ‘do their own thing’ in contrast to God’s moral laws. Just the spoken word from Jesus will bring the final defeat of Satan and his followers. Revelation 20 seems to describe them as just melting away.

At the end of the Millennial Kingdom, there will be a final judgment for all those who throughout human history have rejected God. This is referred to as the Great White Throne Judgment, and is also called the Resurrection of the Unjust.

Everyone who has shaken their fists against God and rose up in rebellion will be resurrected. As Philippians 2:9-11 explains, this final resurrection will finally cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that Jesus is Lord.

This will be the end to all who have rebelled against God. Those, not having come to God in faith in life, will be sentenced to death in Hell. God will have complete and total victory over all His enemies. Period!

After Satan’s final rebellion, any mess caused to the planet will be cleaned up, as God will reform Earth into something much larger, totally free of sin and death.

The new eternity will be populated by a group of people from throughout all of human history, who have loved God and want to live with Him forever. God doesn’t want to spend eternity just talking to Himself. God created everything, because He wants to live in perfect relationships with people who want to be with Him forever, and we will be part of those people.

What is Heaven like? If it is not a ghost town and it’s not a place where we play a lot of harps, then what is it like?

It is amazing, and it is rarely taught in churches, but the Bible teaches us that Heaven will come down to a restored earth. The earth has gone through lots of changes over history. During the pre-fall period, before Adam and Eve sinned, the earth was perfect. After the sin, a curse was put on the earth, and the whole earth changed. The earth we know today, came after Noah’s flood, with the new atmosphere and environment a little different than it was during pre-Flood times. After the coming Tribulation, Jesus will rebuild the earth so that it will last during the millennial time, but that will get trashed again, at the last battle. 2 Peter 3 tells us that God will renovate the earth with fire, back to the pre-fall state. It will return to a paradise, perfect, with no curse on it ever again.

On this eternal earth, Heaven will pay a visit. It is a city that Jesus built called the New Jerusalem. John 14:2 says “In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you.” Jesus continues promising. “I am coming there to prepare a place for you.” This could possibly be a double reference. The first reference is to our eternal bodies, and the second to our house in the New Jerusalem. If you think about it, God made the whole universe in six days, and He has been preparing our eternal homes for 2,000 years. Those bodies and that New Jerusalem will be beyond awesome.

Our home is going to come down to earth. After all, this place our earthly bodies are only temporary, and we are strangers on this evil world. As for the New Jerusalem, it is described in Revelation 21.

Some teach the city as 4-square, and other believe it to be shaped like a pyramid.

We can’t be sure, as we are only told that it is 1500 miles wide, long, and high.

That description fits both a square and a pyramid. As a reference, the mileage would require the city to stretch equivalently from Canada to Mexico and from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Colorado. It’s that big! If each of 20 billion people got an area 70 acres cubed, they could all safely and comfortably live in the New Jerusalem…….it is that big!

Revelation 21 describes what the New Jerusalem is made out of, and God did not spare any expense. The city is made of pure gold, as we are told in Revelation 21:18 and 21.

The city rests on foundations made of twelve layers of precious jewels like emeralds, sapphires, and amethysts. The Twelve Apostles are honored by having their names engraved, one on each foundational layer.

There are twelve gates to this city, each made out of a pearl. Some of these angels we read about in the Bible are big folks, so we are not talking about little pearls or little gates. The gates are huge, and made from pearl. Can you imagine the size of those oysters?

God has His throne in Heaven. The few people in the Bible who have seen it, report back that it looks like an emerald with a rainbow around it. God has four living creatures, angelic in nature, perched in front of it. They have never been seen anywhere else in the world. There are 24 elders taken from time, and they sit in their own little thrones, circled around God’s throne. Millions upon millions of angels fill the chamber, all worshiping God.

Out of the middle of God’s throne flows the River from the Tree of Life for the healing of the nations. The tree produces twelve crops of fruit. This is the same Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden, and we will see it again. It produces those crops of fruit once every month.

Our Creator, our Father, God Himself lives with us in the New Jerusalem. God is radiantly bright, and He is the light source of the city. The sun, moon and stars will still be out and active, but God will provide the pure light of the New Jerusalem.

As far as our bodies, they will be glorified. 1 Corinthians 15:42-50 describes them. “The body that is sown is perishable…….” In other words, it can be destroyed. “…….it is raised imperishable…….” It can’t be destroyed. “It is sown in dishonor…….” Our sin weighs us down, like we are covered in filthy mud. “…….but it is raised in glory…….” It is raised in purity. “It is sown in weakness…….” Our bodies get sick, they get tired. “…….but it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” We will be in a Holy Spirit powered body. “And we will bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” The man from Heaven is Jesus Christ, and we will bear His likeness.

Our glorified bodies can’t be destroyed. We will be immortal. We will live forever. We will be powerful. We will be Spirit controlled rather than sin controlled. We will be tangible, in that you can touch and feel our bodies, just as the disciples could touch and feel Jesus, after He was resurrected.

You will be recognizable, but your body will be perfect. Hopefully, I will more easily shed these extra pounds, and stretch back to the height of my youth, but I will be fine looking like this forever (maybe a bit younger), so long as I am in the New Jerusalem and am recognizable by those I love. Another important point is that we will have no weaknesses. None!

The Bible describes how Jesus did some pretty remarkable things after He was resurrected. He would occasionally appear out of nowhere. Jesus ascended into Heaven. I hope we can fly, or just think of where we want to be and magically appear there. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Everything on earth degrades, and our bodies are no exception. All of our senses weaken, as we grow older. Our taste, touch, sense of smell, and our eyesight all become weaker. In Heaven, these senses will be perfected. I have often thought about the brightness of colors, and even some new colors we might be able to see in Heaven. We might be able to see outside of this light spectrum and into the ultraviolet. With the perfected taste, we will be able to savor the flavors of certain foods, and I often long to taste the twelve fruits on the trees in the New Jerusalem. I love peaches, and I can’t wait to taste those new fruits. An increased sense of smell might allow us to smell things that we are totally unaware in this present body. Even the concept of a new sense of touch makes one’s mind wander as to how it will be different especially knowing it will be better than what we have now. There will be no limits on our senses.

When we get up to Heaven, Jesus has rewards for us for the good works we’ve done in His name while on earth. Our getting to Heaven is not dependent on good works, but there are rewards for our actions. One of those tremendous rewards is God gives us glorified bodies made in Jesus’ image. We won’t be like God and we can’t be like God, but we will be like Jesus’ resurrected body physically.

Jesus promises crowns as a reward to us. These crowns are physical representations of how our life here on earth was spent. What you are doing here and now on earth, in making good use of your time and talents, will be turned into physical manifestations that we can display eternally. This isn’t to selfishly brag on ourselves, but to give back to Jesus. The 24 Elders who sit around God’s throne in worship place their crowns in front of God and say, “Holy, holy, holy.” Our works are an eternal reminder of our sacrifice to the Lord and a forever act of worship.

The Bible says we’re also going to be given robes. They most likely will be white, but I’m certain there will be options, so we don’t look like one eternal toga party.
I think it is amazing that we will be given new names. Seems like my life has been filled with Dons. I had two brothers in law named Don, and a pack of cousins, nieces and nephews who shared that name in one way or another.

Donna Sue, Jerry Don, Dawna Rae, and the list goes on. I had at least 7 friends in high school named Don. So, when we named our kids, we wanted them to have unique names, not shared by every other student in class. My first was Kiier, then Kiiler, then Kiiedon (the Don got in that one), and we have two great grandsons named Kiilan and Kiilys. They don’t share names, and I am looking forward to seeing what my new ‘Heavenly’ name will be.

Revelation 2:17 tells us that God puts our new name on a white stone. It may even be a marble stone. Our new names will most likely represent who we really are. I expect some will have names like Power, Faithful, Brave, or even Honest.

Jesus was always renaming the people he ran across during His earthly ministry.

What would it be like to have Jesus name you with a name that reflects how He sees you, and to have that name represent you for the rest of eternity?

The great reward for me is being allowed to live in a place like Heaven, a place of comfort with no tears. Matthew 5 and Revelation 21 describe this to us. We will never have to worry about crying or hurting anymore. The Lord will always be there to comfort us, to give us mercy, and to finally give us true justice.

Also, as a reward, we will be given authority. We will have ruling authority during Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom. We will be administrators, teachers, executives, majors, captains, and governors. We will NOT be legislatures, because Jesus Himself will make the law. God has authority in the whole universe, not just in one small city. So, we may very well be put in a position of authority (as a representative of God’s law) over any part, large or small, of the endless universe.

I don’t know how anyone could find that boring, do you? I have worked in government all my life, I look forward to working for one that is honest, fair, and just. The possibilities put real meaning behind the verse that says no mind can comprehend what God has prepared for us.

As a reward, we are given salvation, from sin, from the Tribulation, and from the Second Death described in Revelation 2:11. We are saved from death into eternal life to have everlasting life. Salvation is a pretty impressive gift!

Another reward is honor. We will receive the honor of living in Heaven, the very home in which God dwells.

Matthew 10:32 and Revelation 3:5 tell us that we are confessed by Christ to the Father. God isn’t sitting up on a throne somewhere so far away that we have to look up for miles and never get to talk to Him or be near Him. Instead, John 12:26 tells us that our Father comes to us and honors us with His presence and words.

Can you imagine getting honored by God the Father? It is not honor for us, particularly. It is honor for what Jesus accomplished and for what we accepted in Him.

Romans 8:23 tells us that we are adopted as children by the God of the Universe!

What will life be like on the New Earth? What are we going to be doing throughout all of eternity? Are we truly going to be playing harps and singing all day long?

First, the very reason we were created was to have fellowship with our Creator God. John 4:23 tells us that we were made to fellowship with God forever. It is a choice that we make in life if we want to spend eternity with God. We can opt not to do so. He has not and will not ever force us to have to live with Him forever.

We will have to work in the afterlife. We will have lots of work to do. I know that the work will be fulfilling and satisfying. We are told this in Matthew 5:6. All of us work here on earth, but we don’t all find it fulfilling and rewarding. I believe that we will find our positions in the afterlife completely rewarding and fulfilling. In fact, I believe our position in the afterlife will complete us. We will be in our sweet spot, doing what we love to do. It may be work, but if you love to do it, it just doesn’t feel like work, does it? God will have some great works planned for us to do.

God has given each of us special talents, abilities, and gifts, all of which enable us to achieve goals while we work here on earth. In eternity, those will be augmented, making them better and better, with no limitations made by our human bodies.

We will have eons of ages to learn the vast sums of God’s library. I have always wanted to learn new languages, but have had difficulty making the time to concentrate on that task. In Heaven, we may not need languages, but I can see how I would be able to improve on my music skills, and even play my guitar, until I became extremely proficient. There is so much I want to know, and I will receive all the answers to life’s questions, when I get to my eternal home.

We will also mature. I won’t have stupid immature thoughts, or say stupid things, or react immaturely. It’s not that we will become all stuffy and boring, but we will mature into the truly developed humans that we were meant to be. No matter how old you are on earth, in God’s eyes you are a child who needs to rid yourself of immaturity. We will have all of eternity to mature.

You know, we will be in eternal worship. However, you have to understand the true meaning of worship. Worship is thanking God for all that we are given.

Knowing that the rewards will continue throughout eternity, we will, no doubt, be constantly thankful, and will naturally worship. And, it will be something for which we look forward. We have all received something from someone during our lives, for which we were extremely thankful, to the point where we could not wait to get to that person and thank them. That is what Heaven will be. When we arrive, we will only then realize the extent of our thanks, finally seeing what we have received through grace. We will want to proclaim with all our heart, “Oh, Lord, Holy, Holy, Holy is your name!”

There is a great big universe out there to explore. God created so much, and we are only just beginning from our little pinpoint in the universe to fathom where it starts. We will have an eternity to explore what God has created. Imagine, eternity (never ending), doing what you enjoy most, and having all your questions answered.

How can you not look forward to that? Hope I see you there.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

Bible Study in Judges

The other day, I watched a video of some of the violence occurring in European countries, caused by the massive influx of immigrants from Islamic nations. Murders, rapes, and terrorism is running rampant in these areas. With opponents of extreme vetting putting up every blockade possible to stop the necessary actions to insure against the wrong type of immigrant gaining access to this country, we may soon be in the same boat as many of our European neighbors.
Thinking on this caused me concern about things that might happen in America, which would have been unimaginable just twenty years ago. My thoughts went back to a teaching I did several years ago about a tragic story in the Book of Judges.

In Chapter 19 of Judges, we see what seems to be a familiar story. It is similar to the story of the angels of God, who went to warn Lot to leave Sodom, at least the circumstances are very similar.

We are told that there is no king in Israel. It was God’s intent that He be the king over His chosen nation, so that they can be like no other nation on the earth. This was a period of anarchy in Israel, as everyone was pretty much doing what they thought was right in their own moral character. They had a philosophy similar to that of America today, “If it feels good, do it!” Israel had rejected the rule of God, and thereby the law of God.

We begin the story with a Levite, who was living in the area of Mount Ephraim, and he took himself a concubine from Bethlehem Judah. Now, a concubine was a wife, but without all the privileges of a wife. The woman was unfaithful to the man, and went to her father’s house in Bethlehem Judah. After 4 months, the husband went after her, to her father’s house, in hopes of reconciliation. He brought with him, his servant and two donkeys. She invites him in, and her father is overjoyed to meet the guy.

He stayed for 3 days, and tried to leave several time, but the father-in-law kept delaying them, so they stayed for two additional days, and even got a late start on the day they finally left. It’s about 5 miles from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. At the time of this story, Jerusalem was occupied by the Jebusites. In fact, it was not until the times of King David, that the city was taken from the Jebusites and occupied by Israel. Now, because it is getting late, the servant suggest that they stop in Jerusalem for the night, but the man says that he does not want to stay in a place not occupied by Israelites.

So, they traveled another 2.5 to 3 miles past Jerusalem toward Ramah. It was too late to make the full journey to Ramah, so they stopped in Gibeah, about the time the sun was setting. Gibeah was occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, Israelites.

Now in those days they didn’t have motels, where you could pay a fee and spend the night. A major part of life then was hospitality. It was extremely important to them to be hospitable to travelers. Even in our present day, the Bedouins have strict rules concerning hospitality. If you receive guests into your home, you are honor bound to shelter and protect them, for as long as they are under your roof. It doesn’t matter if you hate them so badly that you wish they were dead, you can’t mistreat them, as long as they are your guests. As long as they are under your roof, you are honor bound to entertain them, to treat them like royalty, and to defend them. Not to show hospitality was a great sin. So, the people of Gibeah were not hospitable to this man, his wife, and his servant. They were sitting in the streets of the city, because no one took them into their house for lodging.
Now, this old man, who was also from mount Ephraim, came in from working in the fields and began to talk to the man about where he was from and where he was going. The man told him of their travel to Bethlehem Judah and that they were on the way home, but no one offered to lodge them. He explained that he had adequate provisions for his group and his animals, but the old man insisted that he be allowed to lodge them for the night.

After they had eaten and drank, they were making merry, when the men of the city surrounded the house and beat on the door. They asked the old man to bring out the man, so that they could have homosexual relations with him. In response, the old man went out to them and told them not to do this wicked thing to the man, because he was a guest in the old man’s house.

This scene is very reminiscent of what happened in Sodom. If you will remember, the two angels of the Lord came to Sodom, on a mission from God to destroy the city. This destruction was because of the wickedness of the citizens of Sodom. The two angels were received by Lot, into Lot’s house, and were his guests, and therefore his responsibility. In the evening, the men of Sodom circled the house and demanded that Lot send these two men outside, so that they could actually have homosexual relationships with them. God destroyed Sodom because of this sin, and here we see the same thing happening, this time in an Israelite city, among the tribe of Benjamin. The same heinous sin that perpetrated the destruction of Sodom is now happening among God’s people. The moral decay into which the nation of Israel had sunk is obvious and evident in this story. The homosexuals of the city are so brazen as to openly parade themselves in the streets of the city, and demand their rights, which are not really rights at all. The old man recognizes it as wickedness, as folly. He begged them “Don’t do this wickedness, don’t do this folly.”

Because of the custom of hospitality, and because women in that culture and time had very little rights, the man did something that is quite unthinkable to us, today. It’s difficult for us to relate to this, because our culture is so entirely different. IMHO, our culture has been vastly affected by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One thing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has declared, and has promoted, is equal rights. Christianity recognizes women as equal with men, in the sight of God.

You see, in Christ there is neither male nor female. We are all one, together in Him. The New Testament of the Bible has done so much to elevate the place of the woman, giving honor to the woman, and demanding respect for the woman. Now, as the years of Christian influence has affected our culture, we have such a high regard for women.

Sadly, as the pagan influences begin to prevail in our society, we see women again being degraded by a society that is trying to erase Christ, Christianity, and the Christian influence. Women are again being looked upon as objects for men to lust after. Pornography has added to the exploitation of the woman’s body, effectively degrading women, and planting seeds of lust in both men and women. The woman’s place of honor, respect, glory, and modesty is rapidly disappearing. If this trend of erasing Christ from our society continues, and the influences of religions such as Islam are allowed to forge their way into the base of our society, women are quickly heading on a straight track to where they once were, looked upon as an object for the gratification of a man’s sexual lust.

Then, the story takes us to a place that is even more difficult for us to understand. The man offers his virgin daughter and his concubine to the men in place of the man they are requesting. He is willing to sacrifice his own daughter. This is a grand example of a world without the influence of Christianity, a world without a king, a world without moral law, without moral principles to govern. The man recognizes this horrible sin, and he tell them “but unto this man, do not so vile a thing.”

So, these men took the traveler’s concubine, and they raped her and abused her all night. In the morning they released her, and she came and fell down at the door of the man’s house. When he arose in the morning, he opened the door and saw her fallen down, with her hands on the threshold. Did he help her? Did he check to see how she was? No! He just told her to get up, so they could be on their way. She didn’t answer, so he loaded her on his donkey, took her home, and then cut her into 12 pieces with his knife and sent one part to each of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Now, this story ends with the following statement “And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.”

So, the message sent out to all of Israel was: “Hey! Look at this evil deed that has happened in an Israelite city. This has never happened before, since we became a nation. Consider this, speak your mind, and let’s get together.”
Most folks, who read this story in the Bible, simply write it off as an interesting (or, weird) story, with no real moral. I have a bit of a different take on it.

First, I see it as a necessary story, to assist us in understanding the times in which Judges were being used, if not only to show us what terrible sins and depraved lifestyles with which they had to deal on a regular basis. When we read about how a city of Israel has become so depraved in their way of life, it makes it a bit easier to accept the actions of a Judge, like Samson, using the jawbone of an ass to slay 1000 Philistines.

Second, and most importantly, is the fact that the nation of Israel, who had such rules regarding hospitality towards guests, could also be the home of such perversions. A whole lesson could be taught on the way this story could relate to how sin can come into a nation and destroy it from within.
Hmmmmmm! Is it possible that our own nation has already become indoctrinated into such perversion? Billy Graham was once quoted as saying “If God doesn’t punish San Francisco, He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology!” Imagine the sin and perversion that may rear its ugly head, when an event, such as the Rapture of the Church, suddenly removes all obstacles in the path of satanic forces!

2 Thessalonians 2

The Great Apostasy

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens