Ever since the year 2000, when all the Y2K doom and gloom predictions failed to come true, I have pondered the significance of the end of the 2nd millennium. There are of course those experts who claim that the Gregorian calendar which we follow does not even accurately reflect the number of years since Jesus Christ’s birth. Not many know that the AD or “Anno Domini” (“Year of the Lord” in English) dating system did not come into existence until the year 525 AD, when the Pope at the time decided that a new calendar was needed to replace the Roman calendar which had been in existence since the city of Rome was founded, and more specifically so that Easter could be celebrated on the right date. The job fell to a monk from Scythia (now Romania) by the name of Dionysius Exiguus, who did some historical research and calculations and came up with the year 753 on the Julian calendar as the year that Christ was born. From that, it was determined that in honour of Jesus Christ, the year would change from 1278 to 525 AD. And we have been counting the years in that fashion ever since.
 
Fast forward to the year 2017, just under 1500 years later, and experts are still debating whether Dionysius got it right. Mostly, they say he didn’t.
 
Some would say, so what? It’s ancient history. Some have even stopped using the AD designation and have changed it to CE to denote Common Era, presumably as they do not consider Jesus Christ to be worthy of recognition. As a Christian, of course I beg to differ. And for many Christians the calendar has more significance than just a way of counting the years. For those Christians who believe in the Millennial Day theory, the 6th millennial “day” or thousand year period, could end in the near future. In fact, according to the revised calendar theory set forth at BiblicalChronology.com, Jesus Christ was born in 15 BC, and therefore we are currently in the year 2032 since his birth, and by inference, the 2000th anniversary of His death can’t be far away. For those Millennial Day advocates who might accept this revised calendar, the 7th millennium could therefore start in 2017 or 2018, possibly as early as this Easter, if we assume that the 2000 year church age began at the time of Christ’s death, or perhaps at His resurrection. How soon the next millennium would begin really depends on the duration of Christ’s ministry, which is stated in the Bible to have begun at the age of 30, and could have lasted for 2 or 3 years, depending on which experts you believe.
 
We know that the 7th millennium is the age of the Kingdom of God, during which Jesus Christ rules and reigns for 1000 years. But what happens after that? I’ll let Jesus answer that question, as quoted in Matthew 24: 35-36.
 
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
 
Which brings me to a commonly held belief by many Christians, that Matthew 24:36 refers to the day and hour of the rapture. By reading the preceding verse, we see that the event referred to by Jesus was the passing away of heaven and earth, which clearly is not the day and hour of the rapture, because the earth has to continue for another 1000 years before passing away.
 
So could the rapture occur in 2017 or 2018? Possibly. Is it possible that Christians who are paying attention could know the day and hour of the rapture, given that Christ was speaking about a different event when he said “But of that day and hour knoweth no man”. Possibly. Do I think I know the date of the rapture? Possibly, but like everybody else I won’t know for sure till I hear the trumpet sound. In the words of 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17:
 
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
 
By a strange coincidence, Easter Sunday this year falls on the 16th of April (4/16/17), if we use the American way of abbreviating dates.
How serendipitous would it be if the dead in Christ were to rise exactly 2000 years after their Saviour rose from the dead, on 4/16/17, followed by “we which are alive and remain” being caught up together with them, just as outlined in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. What a way to kick off a new millennium. Then again, if I am wrong (it has been known to happen, quite frequently as my wife well knows), then I will continue with my life until either I pass away, or this generation passes away. (Matthew 24:34)
 
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
 
Which generation? Again, we need to read the preceding verses, just as in the other excerpt from Matthew 24.
 
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
 
Apparently, it is well known that the fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel, which began to come back into existence exactly 70 years ago. It is also commonly thought that 70 years, or “threescore years and ten” is the best estimation of the length of a human lifespan, or a generation, based on Psalm 90-10.
 
10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
 
I did some research on this, and while the official beginning of the modern state of Israel was May 14, 1948, it was exactly 70 years ago in April 1947 that Britain officially announced in the first special session of the United Nations that it was giving up its governance of Palestine, which had effectively been in existence since 1917 when Britain captured Palestine from the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the closing months of World War 1. Of course, it was already decided that the state of Israel (along with a proposed Palestinian state which never materialized due to the state of Israel winning the 1948 war of independence) would replace the Palestine mandate, and this was officially announced in the United Nations in November 1947. In fact, it was exactly 50 years prior to 1947 that planning for the modern state of Israel began,at the First Zionist Congress in Basel Switzerland in August 1897.
 
Theodor Herzl (the convenor of the First Zionist Congress) wrote in his diary (September 3, 1897):
 
“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”
 
How prescient, and how precise, those words turned out to be. Exactly 50 years after that first congress, the foundation of the modern state of Israel was already underway, and was certainly perceived by everyone that counted in international politics.
 
So here we are in April 2017. As I write this, the state of Israel is once again facing the possibility of a major war, as the war in neighbouring Syria threatens to escalate to a major conflict between the United States and Russia, along with their respective proxy armies. With multiple Islamic armies camped out in Syria, none of whom have much of a love for Israel and would love to “liberate” Al Quds (Jerusalem) at the slightest opportunity, the outcome of the Syrian war is going to be pivotal to Israel’s continuing existence.
 
But of course God has His plans both for Israel and the rest of the world, and the Kingdom of God is His solution to the governance of humanity. Regardless of what happens in the next 24 hours, we shall see God’s plan unfold in His perfect timing.

As I was leaving church today, I was musing on 2 separate questions which were teasing my mind, searching for answers. The first was the subject of the sermon, the well-worked dilemma between faith and works, which most Christians have mulled over at some point in their lives. The other was the subject of an earlier post on this site titled “World without Cancer“, in which it is claimed that cancer can be prevented or even cured by simply eating apricot seeds and other foods containing laetrile aka Vitamin B17.
 
Then it struck me like a lightning bolt: these two questions are linked in quite an interesting way. Here’s the thing: as covered in Garry Mac’s sermon this morning, the apostle Paul taught that “by grace are you saved, by faith, and not by works, lest any man should boast”, whereas James, another New Testament writer seems to argue this point by pushing the argument that faith without works is dead. How does this relate to a potential cure for cancer? Well, pretty obviously, the apricot seed cancer cure is controversial and disputed by the medical establishment, so for most people it is difficult to believe that the one incurable disease of modern times could be cured by something so simple and inexpensive.
 
But what if it were true, in spite of what the experts say? Very simply, if it were true, the only cancer patients who would benefit from the knowledge of that fact would be those who had faith in the cure – or so it would seem. But if, in spite of that faith, a cancer sufferer decided he was ready to die after so much suffering, and didn’t actually follow through and eat the apricot seeds he would die. Likewise, if that person just flat out refused to believe in the cure, he would also die, because he would refuse to eat the apricot seeds for a different reason.
 
But what if that skeptical terminal cancer patient was so angry with the perceived false hope he was being offered, that he thought to himself “I’ll show these quacks, I’ll prove this apricot seed thing is just a big scam by eating 20 apricot seeds a day, like they are saying, because I know it won’t work”. That person’s skepticism would then rapidly turn to faith as the cancer disappeared from his body.
 
So when applied to the cancer cure scenario, the faith vs works dilemma works itself out in an interesting way. Both Paul and James are right. Just knowing that there is a potential cancer cure is not enough; faith is an essential ingredient in applying the cure. But actually applying the cure is works. That’s the easy part, it’s no harder than swallowing a Panadol when you have a headache. But because so much more is at stake when a person has a life-threatening medical condition like cancer, there’s a lot more riding on the cure than when you are just swallowing a Panadol to cure a headache.
 
When it’s a matter of life and death, you would think that a person would try anything to give themselves a few more years of life and health on this earth. By the way, I have eaten apricot seeds, they are quite similar to almonds in their taste, and I didn’t get sick from them. I can’t say that I have prevented cancer in my own body, and as far as I know I have never had cancer so I can’t say I was cured either. However I have read testimonies of those who have so I am inclined to believe that it might be true. I can tell you one thing for certain though: if a doctor ever told me I had cancer, based on my experience that the apricot seeds have never done me any harm before, I would eat a fair few of them before I let the medical establishment loose the ravages of chemotherapy or radiotherapy on my body. If the apricot seeds didn’t have any effect I would have lost nothing: cancer would probably kill me anyway, and I could then choose to either take the slim chance that radiation or chemicals would cure me, or just die from the cancer.
 
But what about the deeper question here? What about the spiritual cancer of sin that threatens the life and eternal destiny of every human being? What if Jesus Christ were the cure to this cancer, as the writers of the New Testament taught? Naturally, as a Christian who has believed in Jesus Christ for most of my life, I actually believe that Jesus is the answer to any dilemma I could ever come across in my life, including the dilemma of death itself. As Paul wrote, “To me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” So even if in spite of believing in Christ, my physical body dies (as it most certainly will, unless the rapture takes me to Heaven before that time), I will gain eternal life in Heaven.
 
But what about the non-Christian who says “That’s just religion, God does not exist, there is no Heaven or Hell, and nobody can prove otherwise”? Well, actually, an atheist could prove to himself for sure whether or not God exists by actually taking the same step of faith as the terminal cancer patient eating the apricot seeds. But here’s the thing: you actually have to believe you have a life threatening condition before you actually start looking for a cure. The irony of this is that the one argument used by atheists to prove that God does not exist, is actually a tacit admission of the terminal sin problem we all share as human beings. The argument is this: if God exists, why would He allow so much evil and suffering in the world? The only thing missing in the atheist’s question, is the obvious question following on from that: “what actually causes evil and suffering in the world, and if God exists, how would He do something about it?”. Clearly, evil and suffering exist; no one can deny that. But what if God has a plan which enables human beings to overcome evil and suffering, and it is a lot simpler than the assertion that God could just stop it from happening in the first place?
 
For starters, I don’t believe that God causes sin and its consequential pain, suffering and death. But He does allow it for one simple reason: He has given us both the prevention and the cure for the sin cancer. No, it’s not apricot seeds. The prevention and cure of sin is a spiritual treatment, for the simple reason that sin is a spiritual disease. Jesus stated: “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you can have no part in Me.” So what does this mean? Should a person who has sin in their life which is messing them up, just pop down to their local church and take Communion, eat some bread and drink some wine to symbolize the eating of Christ’s body and the drinking of His blood? If you can do that in faith, yes. But the bread and wine in itself has no power to cure your sin, or prevent you from sinning. A person could believe in the saving work of Christ and never take Communion in their life, and they could have victory over sin in their life, and would go to Heaven when they die. At my church, we take Communion every time we meet together, that’s how crucial we consider the Body and Blood of Christ are to us as a prevention and cure for our sin.
 
So I’ve come full circle, back to the question of faith and works. As I understand it, faith alone saves (cures) us from the eternal consequences of sin (eternal death and separation from God). But on this side of the great divide, faith also can prevent sin from happening in the first place, if that faith is placed in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross, not on our works. Garry Mac put it this way this morning, “Works without faith is dead”. This is the difference between “Good Works” and “Dead Works”. As Jesus asked the religious leaders of His day (who both hated and envied him for His many powerful good works including healing the sick, feeding the hungry and raising the dead) “Why do you call me good? Do you not know that only God is good?”. By this Jesus was subtly restating His claim to be the Son of God, and also questioning the sincerity of those who knew they were not perfect as He was, yet denied His divinity. And the great thing is that Jesus told His disciples, “even greater works than I have done, shall you do”, leaving open the possibility of Christians experiencing the power of God in their lives in an amazing way.
 
This is the reason I live: not only do I get to experience Heaven when I die, but as a youth pastor stated in a sermon once when I was a teenager, “Eternal life starts now”. What a tantalizing possibility, yet so often as Christians we undervalue that possibility and settle for the status quo of business as usual. What better way to prepare for eternity that to be open to letting God do some “good works” which are really “God works” through the power of Jesus in your life. Swallow those apricot seeds, don’t just think about it! What can you possibly lose? Even if you are an atheist, what have you got to lose by giving Jesus a try? If nothing happens when you pray and ask God to prove that Jesus is the answer to your questions about the pain and meaninglessness of life, you can alway say “I told you so”. But think about it: just as the cancer patient has to swallow the apricot seeds and keep consistently doing so to get better, so do you have to make a decision to follow Jesus by taking His life into your body, mind, soul and spirit, on a consistent basis. Trust me, this will change your life, it did mine.

I came across a video on YouTube recently which I found quite amazing. A former US Navy submariner recalls an incident which happened in 1980, when he was stationed on a nuclear submarine which went on full nuclear alert (a very rare occurrence) because of a very serious incident involving the movement of 10,000 Russian troops into the mountains of Turkey. This so alarmed the Americans that they hit the panic button, but the reason for it, and the incident itself was never reported, and remains classified to this day. What was this incident?
 
Briefly, an unusually warm summer caused the snow and ice on the top of Mount Ararat, in Turkey, to melt, exposing a large ship-like object to the all-seeing eyes of both US and Russian satellites. So the Soviet government decided that their people (and the rest of the world) needed to be protected from this dangerous revelation that the Bible story of Noah’s Ark was true, exposing state-sponsored atheism as a big fraud, so they promptly dispatched 10,000 troops with big ice-cutting saws to cut the Ark up and remove it from the mountain with heavy-lift helicopters. Fortunately God decided enough was enough and sent a snowstorm as they were preparing to remove the 2nd piece of the Ark which was in another location further down the mountain, so the Russians left at this point, which is why there have been persistent reports over the last few decades from people who have been up Mt Ararat and seen what remains of the Ark. To hear the full story, you can watch the video below…
 

 
So now we know that Noah’s Ark did actually exist. But what actually is the story of Noah’s Ark, and what is the significance of it for us today? Well, according to Bible experts, 47 days after the death of Methuselah, that venerable ancient who passed on at 969 years, Noah packed up his family and a whole bunch of animals into the massive ship he had built (think Evan Almighty, but this happened in 2458 BC).
 
You see, God was fed up with the sin, but particularly the violence that was happening on planet Earth, so he decided that as humans were going to end up killing each other anyway, he might as well give them all a warning and a chance to escape from the inevitable. But atheism was just as prevalent in Noah’s day as it is now, so nobody listened to Noah’s preaching except his own family, and God, true to His word, went ahead and gave mankind a more humane death than the slaughter they were wreaking on each other, and, via Noah’s 3 sons and their wives, and the animals on board, mankind had a chance to start again in a new world, purged of all the atheists.
 
Fast forward a little over a thousand years, to 1445 BC. Another great man of God you may have heard of, Moses, is busy building another Ark, but this time it’s a lot smaller, and has a different purpose. The Ark of the Covenant, believe it or not, was a secret weapon used by the ancient Israelites to fight the many battles they became embroiled in. Violence had reared its ugly head on the earth again, so God decided that He would provide a new Ark (which contained the 10 commandments on tablets of stone as given to Moses) as a receptacle of His own presence on the Earth. When King David’s men carried the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them, victory was assured. So in a kind of a way, it DOES have the same purpose as the first Ark: inside this wooden box was the key to man’s peace and victory over the enemies of God. The Israelites (the word Israel means man or people of God) had to fight for their survival in a world of atheists who hated God. Are you seeing the common thread in this story?
 
Fast forward almost 1500 years, and the atheists are getting the upper hand again. Israel is occupied by the Roman army, and the city of Jerusalem is about to be destroyed and the people of Israel dispersed from their promised land. But before this happens, God decides to come down to Earth and live among His people for a while. For about 33 years in fact. God’s son Jesus (or Yeshua as he was actually called at the time) was born as a baby and grew up to be a man. Shortly before the Romans and the religious atheists executed him, Jesus brought up the subject of Noah (recorded in Matthew 24:37-41):
 
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”
 
What’s this? Does this imply that God is warning us about a future flood-like event of judgement when once again He will rescue His people before the hand of judgement falls? I believe so, but this time He won’t use a boat, or even a secret weapon. This is the big one. When the atheists eventually take control of the planet and destroy all Godly government on the earth, the Bible predicts there will be a huge battle in the last surviving country standing up for God on the earth. Sure enough, God has collected his ancient people together again in the land of Israel. Fast forward 2000 years to a time the Bible calls the Tribulation. And the rescue plan revealed by Yeshua, and also mentioned in other parts of the Bible, has been labelled the Rapture, although the word rapture was never used in the text of the Bible itself.
 
By the way, it was never mentioned in the Bible, what happened to the Ark of the Covenant. Here’s one possibility…

 
Below is actual video footage of the excavated area where it is claimed the Ark of the Covenant lies sealed in a cavern below the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. The man who discovered it in 1982, Ron Wyatt, cooperated fully with the Israeli Antiquities Authority in his excavation, and the cavern has been sealed off since then. Unfortunately, 6 Israelis died not long after this, in an early attempt to remove the Ark from where it was hidden by the prophet Jeremiah during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586BC. This is not surprising, as those unauthorized to touch the Ark in the biblical narrative, also died…
 

 
Interestingly, Ron Wyatt also claimed to have visited the site of the first Ark’s final resting place on the mountains of Ararat in Turkey. So, to round off the tale of the 2 arks, here is his account of his exploration of the Ark site. This does raise questions with regards to where the Ark really ended up, as there is a conflict with Dudley’s story of an Ark perfectly preserved in ice. Ron claims that there isn’t much left of the ark, just fosilized wood. I’ll let you decide which story to believe.
 

I tend to believe Ron’s story more, as there is very little to back Dudley Thomas’s account. I did my best to validate Dudley’s story by contacting as many ex crew members of the USS Casimir Pulaski as I could, through the website which was set up by and for ex crew members. I did manage to find a senior officer who remembered him and validated that he was on the submarine, but couldn’t remember the incident he describes. So at the end of the day, if there was an intelligence magazine as he described, which contained the story of the Russian dismantling and removal of a preserved Ark, the truth of that account depends on the truthfulness of the writers, and that has to take into account the political/intelligence purpose of the report, whether it was intended to enlighten or deceive, as much intelligence information is. Then again, perhaps Dudley himself may have his own reasons for fabricating such a tale. I did also contact Dudley by email through his Youtube channel, and subsequently he removed the video from his Youtube account, promising to replace it with a modified version at a later date. As of today, that video has not appeared. However, there are multiple copies of the original online, so the story will continue to circulate, I am sure…


 
Keith Green – “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice”
I was watching this Keith Green song on YouTube tonight, about 30 years after I would have first heard it played on vinyl as a teenager in the early ’80’s. The title of the song comes from a verse in the Bible, from 1st Samuel 15 in fact. Keith refers to the story in his intro to the song. What actually happened is that King Saul of ancient Israel went to war to fight the Israelites’  arch-enemies the Amalekites.  The Bible takes up the story here:
 
1. Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”
 
But of course Saul knew better than God; the story continues in verse 9:
9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

So what was all this about? Surely God would be happy that Saul and his men showed some mercy and gained some spoils for themselves and also fulfilled a sacrificial religious obligation at the same time?
 
Not according to the prophet Samuel:
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
 
What I get from this story, and I think that it’s pretty clear to anyone who considers the actions of Saul, is that materialism got in the way of literal obedience to God for this ancient king. And of course, being the king of Israel he took his whole nation down the same path. If he was going to go to war and kill X number of people (it hardly makes a difference how many), he should have realized that the reason why God commanded him to kill in this situation was to bring an end to the hostilities once and for all. He wasn’t being a nice guy by choosing to kill Y number of people instead, while enriching himself and ensuring that the blood feud between Israel and the descendants of the Amalekites would continue into the future. God actually knew better, and Saul stuffed up. And Saul set the spiritual tone for Israel by making the decision to be half-hearted in his obedience, which in effect became disobedience.
 
So what does this have to do with us in 2011? Well, 3000 or so years later, not much has changed. Materialism still clouds our judgement when it comes to a lot of things. After another of the Keith Green songs I listened to tonight, in wrapping up the concert he challenged the audience to “Make it easier for Jesus to come back this next year, by living the life he asked you to live so that others don’t have to make excuses for the reason why Christians don’t live the way Jesus asked them to”.
 
That song, “Make My Life A Prayer To You”, answers a lot of the questions posed by the first song. A lot of Christians who listen to the words of “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice” feel demoralized and condemned by the seeming legalism behind it. And yet it was Saul’s semi-obedience/disobedience, and his justification for it, that is really legalistic.
 
And we are often like that too. We stuff up and then defend our actions in religious terms as if God can’t see through our childish excuses for the reasons why we don’t listen to what He has told us, and do it. I often find this same scenario playing out even in my relationship with my wife. She tells me carefully how I should carry out a particular task around the home that I am not familiar with, and I half listen but end up doing it my own way, and then when it doesn’t turn out all that well, I give Leanne my reasons as to why I did it the way I did it. Usually, she isn’t all that impressed, and just asks me why I didn’t listen to her because she told me the way to do it in the first place.
 
Listening is what obedience is all about, in fact some versions of that scripture use the word “hearken” in place of “obey”. And “hearken” is just another word for “listen”. If you think about it too, making your life a prayer involves both talking to and listening to God. The only thing holding God back from having the gospel preached to all nations, so that he can return,  is our obedience. Food for thought in 2011, as the world we live in digs itself deeper into debt, geo-political turmoil, and rebellion against God’s purposes for peace and prosperity on this planet.
 
When will we start preaching (and living) the good news of the Kingdom of God? Jesus Christ set the spiritual tone 2000 years ago, for His Kingdom, by being fully obedient to the Father in everything He did. All He asks of us is that we spread the good news that He is coming back to inherit his Kingdom, which he will rule with an iron rod, ensuring peace and prosperity for 1000 years. And for those who are obedient in 2011 we can experience a little taste of that peace and prosperity now – not by being greedy as Saul was, but by simply giving up our right to do things our own way, and accepting that God knows better…


Keith Green – “Make My Life A Prayer”