Living Life in Anticipation – Part 5
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2007|
|Dr. Easley answers questions from the audience regarding end times and other topics.|
Living in Anticipation – Part 5
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
Dr. Michael Easley: Thank you. We have two that were submitted or maybe three now, in writing, so I’ll start there.
Question: You say not to worry about the dying, but what about the unsaved? I worry, am anxious about the unsaved. I pray for their salvation before they die.
Easley: I do too. You know, the Scripture is clear that worry is a sin. I think we sanctify it and say I’m concerned about someone. At least I do; maybe you don’t. I have family members that don’t know Christ. I empathize with you. I pray feverishly for them. I have buried countless people that don’t know the Lord, and I have no answers, other than to say you just keep praying. You just keep sharing.
I do think we need to be gentler in our sharing. I have noticed a polemic tone in the way we talk to people. And to be kind to my present audience, but to also be truthful, as we get older we get shorter in our patience. And sometimes we speak a little too King Jamesish, if you know what I mean. And I think if we could learn not to change the message, not to trickle down or dumb down, but if we could learn a little more diplomacy in the way we talk about people’s needs for Christ.
For you who have grandkids especially and maybe your son or daughter are not following Christ, are not training your grandchildren well, I think you have a powerful, powerful opportunity to love them carefully. But you have to respect your son and daughter and daughter-in-law and son-in-law and their parenting of those children. And if you do that graciously, memaw and pawpaw or grandma and grandpa can have powerful influence in the life of your grandson or granddaughter, a huge influence to pray for them, to write them cards, send them $5 in the mail, $20 in the mail. You can have enormous impact.
So you just keep praying. I’m worried too and I have a number of people very, very close to me that still don’t know Christ. And I pray. I’ve changed my prayer, though. I now pray for people who know them, not me anymore because I’m the youngest of the three. I’m the preacher boy. They expect me to sell them insurance so I don’t do that anymore. And I just love them and I pursue them and I chase them as much as I can and I try to share what Christ is doing in my life and leave it at that.
Question: As a Christian when I publically love a sinner how can I demonstrate to the unbelievers, to unbelievers that I love the person, but don’t condone their sin? Example: the daughter of the particular leader recently had a baby though not married. Our group had a shower for the child, etc. People outside the church responded negatively, and I answered of course, we love the sinner, but not the sin. However, I can understand the scarlet letter and so forth and so on.
Easley: Well, you’re onto it. I mean, you do love the sinner, not the sin. Again I think it’s a diplomatic issue. When you read Christ life it is quite unnerving that He went to the public and He went to the sinner. They accused John of being a teetotaler and Jesus of being a winebibber, you know. So, you can’t win is the point; your evaluation is not by the public and not even the Christian public. Your evaluation is by what Christ thinks of your actions and mine. The only model of the Christian life is Jesus Christ. Christians can help us in their models, but He’s the only one, so we want to be like Him. How did He do it?
I think the balance for me is to love truthfully. I want to keep a relationship. Now, when a person goes off into a sin and they turn their face toward that sin and in sort of, I don’t believe what you believe, I don’t feel the burden to continue a relationship with them anymore. I used to chase them and I’ve worn myself out chasing people who’ve chosen the life of sin. What I do now is as long as a person is on again/off again I will spend time with him or her. If they’re thinking about divorce; they’ve had an affair, they know what’s wrong. If they’re on again/off again, I’ll give them time. But once they have chosen a path I’ll meet with them one more time and I just say—if they’ll meet with me; usually they won’t at that juncture—and say, “Look, I love you. I’m praying you’ll be miserable. And I’m here to help you and God loves you and has a better design for you than this. The world’s taught you a lie. Your emotions have taught you a lie.”
In a situation like this and we have this with our kids too, when you have a young mother, we don’t give them information they don’t need. We simply say, “That’s not really what God wants.” And I think diplomacy in our culture goes far, far more than the polemic, you know, God hates it, it’s sin. And we bash the homosexual, we bash the girl that’s had an abortion, we bash, and we have been known for that. I’m not saying there’s not a place for that at a time, but I have chosen, as I’ve gotten older, to try to be a little more diplomatic and try to love them.
Question: Are the bodies we receive when we are dead new resurrected ones?
Easley: Yes. What about living Christians? They’re translated of some form. When do you suppose they change? Probably on the fly. From the bodies they’re living in. And, again, some of this is just speculation, sanctified speculation. We know the text, but the translation aspect of the body,… And the reason I say that is twofold. The transfiguration of Moses and Elijah, they were recognizable figures. So we know there was something about them that was similar. And when Christ returns in the ascension, pre-ascension body, when He eats fish, when He walks through walls, builds a charcoal fire, they know who He is. But when He was on the road to Emmaus they did not know who He was. And then they say weren’t our hearts burning?
So we know just again what the Bible tells us. We know some pretty concrete facts, Elijah, Moses were recognizable. That really is a mystery when you think about it because Peter and John, James, never saw Moses and Elijah. Maybe they had their, you know, nametags on. But they were recognizable people. And I do think we will be recognizable, but we’ll be transformed and we will have new glorified bodies. I’ll look a little more like Arnold Schwarzenegger in my dimensions, Woody Allen’s good looks.
Question: Pastor, if you would can you bring some clarity to me around Matthew 24:34 where it discusses the generation that sees Israel become a nation shall not pass. Can you bring some clarity to that to me?
Easley: Let’s pick it up in 32: “Now learn the parable of the fig tree.” So we have an observation there: tender branches, leaves, “You too, when you see these things recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until these things take place.” There’s three times if I remember correctly, that “this generation” phrase is used. He uses it when He excoriates them for disbelieving, unbelieving generation, how much longer will I be with you? The third one escapes me right now. And there’s no simple answer.
I think contextually He’s saying this generation of believers, there are those who believe it is a component of Israel. There’s a third generational view and I cannot remember it. “Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will not pass away.” I know it’s not ethnos. I don’t have my Greek text. I know it’s not ethnos, with ethnic. There’s another word there that escapes me, sorry. I’ll look it up after the break though to see if I can find any more. That’s the best I can do off the hip. And by the way, many who would hold a mid-trib view will take Matthew 24 and 25 and say it does not apply for some of these kinds of reasons and I see where I am, the signs of Israel’s return are a little complex there.
Question: Do you know who John Paul Jackson is and his predictions for the next few years?
Easley: No, and no.
Question: What is your opinion on the books now being written on heaven—and I’ve finished Randy Alcorn’s on heaven—and giving others that have lost loved ones and words of encouragement using that as resources?
Easley: I love what Randy’s written. I’ve actually spoken with Randy on occasion and I love his thinking and writing. Is there something specific about his that you’re asking?
Question: Well, in particular, like those that have, you know, children in heaven and it’s been a time now and they’re still in the process of where they are and I had just encouraged them to read or listen to the audio.
Lady: And the book of Heaven, because I found it real encouraging.
Easley: Yes, and Randy’s done a great job. He’s done a great work that I think is a timely work. We don’t talk a lot about heaven, what it’s like. And no one knows if a child will be a full born mature individual. In my sanctified imagination they’ll be 33, and I think, I mean, I say that sort of tongue in cheek, but I really do. I think that is sort of maturation and I think if a child was you know, an infant, a stillborn, I choose to believe that stillborn are elect. I choose to believe that the aborted is an elect human being. I mean, obviously people disagree, but I have to throw myself on the mercy of God. And so if a child dies, an infant dies, I choose to believe they were elect. And that solves a great deal of tension. So if that’s true then I would find it makes sense that they would somehow be a mature man or woman in glory, but that’s way beyond my sanctified imagination. That’s as far as I can go. And I think we’ll recognize them. I think we’ll recognize our kids in heaven, certainly.
Question: Well, there’s a twofold thing. As far as babies, then you think they grow up?
Easley: I do. I believe, and again, no text I can prove, just from trying to get a picture of what heaven will be like. We won’t be marrying. We won’t be reproducing. We’ll be carrying on a life. Now is there a sense in which a child might be in the mother’s arms and see him or her grow up? Possibly. I mean, that’s not beyond God’s eternal plan. But I just believe they’re mature at some level of 33, when Christ died and they would be an adult in heaven, because we’re glorified and sanctified and age won’t matter. And this may be part of the, what is that ascension body like? And, you know, will we look like this in some glorified form or will look in some image, imago dei, of God that is a little more refined and perfect? Probably. I mean those of us who wear glasses, there’s a study done some time ago, if you wear glasses and you take glasses off, how bad your eyes look around. It’s because of the amplification of the UV rays, you’re magnifying these lens. You know, we’re decaying. What was it, William Buckley on his 80th birthday said, “How do you feel?” He said, “I’m decomposing.” You know, we live in a fallen world and a fallen context and a fallen environment. We’re aging and we’re falling apart. And I believe that ascended bodies are going to have dealt with all of that. So we will be different, but recognizable.
Question: I know you went over it in 1 Thessalonians 4:15. It says, “By the word of the Lord that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” Okay, those that have died, they’ve already gone to heaven, or…?
Easley: If you die, according to Paul’s teaching, you’re immediately in the presence of Christ. Paul, Jesus says to the thief, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” But our corporal nature, that which is buried or in the ocean or cremated remains, that is the reanimation part of the resurrection. So again, some of these artist renderings, although they’re speculation, where again the remains are coming together with this spirit entity, and they become this corporal being, then the ghosts of heaven. And what Paul’s saying there is, don’t worry about those who died. They will also make it to heaven. Now the time scheme is, do they go before us or do we, if we’re raptured now today, what about those who are dead? Those who are dead will not precede us. So it seems as though there’s a small,… I talked about the timing sequence, and I don’t think it’s that long. I think it’s like almost instantaneous. But they were worried about, did they miss the rapture? Don’t worry about that. Those who are alive and remain will be fine. Those who are dead, they’ll be raised. I hope that helps.
Question: You alluded to the fact that the term “rapture” is not in the Scripture.
Question: And I caught part of that. Can you kind of go over that again? And is the concept of the rapture then taught throughout the ages by the churches, or is that something that’s been preached just the last few hundred years or can you kind of give me a…?
Easley: Yeah, historically, and I have to go back on my gray matter a little bit, but historically we, I mean, reformers did talk about the rapture. Raptus is a Latin word for the Greek word which means snatched. Let me transliterate it for you; harpazo is the Greek word transliterated, and all that word means is snatch. It’s the same word used in John 10:29-31. He can’t snatch them from My hand. It’s the same word used in the reference to the Ethiopian eunuch, which I can’t remember, Acts something, where he’s snatched away from the presence. So that’s the word in Greek, the snatching word that is then used in 1 Thessalonians 4 17. We are going be “caught up.” That’s the word, “caught up together.” So that’s the word “snatched.” So the Greek word is translated by the Latin raptus. Raptus becomes “rapture” in English.
And, you know, there were reformers who taught about the rapture. But it’s fallen on and off hard times and the whole amillennial structure really, guys like Hoekema and others who don’t believe in the millennium have very good reasons for it. But my systematic theology versus my biblical theology collide at that point, and I want to just go with what the text says, not with what necessarily the Reformers or church fathers said about the text. And that’s where I depart a little bit from some of the hard reform traditions or covenant traditions that I have great respect and love for, but I think they’re ensconced in a time.
I was talking over the break with someone. You know when we talk about Luther and Melanchthon and Zwingli and Calvin, they said, well, Calvin said this. I say, wait a minute. What was Calvin before he came to Christ? He was a Catholic. Well, he was a Catholic. These guys were Catholics. There was nothing else. So they’re coming out a Catholic system. And of course Catholicism taught limbo and purgatory and all this other stuff that they fabricated from the so-called Apocryphal books that are just nonsense. But they had reason for it, because you don’t want to throw a baby into hell, so you create a place called limbo and you make your Renaissance art with little fat cherub babies that aren’t angels. They’re babies because they said, well, I mean, they can’t just die. They can’t be annihilated. They can’t go to hell. Let’s make babies out of them, make baby angels out of them. So, you know, I mean, there’s merciful motivation behind that, misguided though it may be.
Question: You spoke about all the people that are going to be raptured or go up to meet Jesus in the sky. How about those that are not going in that direction? Are they coming up the same time to face judgment or are we all going to get judged at the same time?
Easley: That’s an excellent question. I’m going to give you a handout the next session that’s going to show you all the differences of that, but the rapture of the unsaved dead, resurrection of the unsaved dead that occurs, it’s a separate event. And the harsh truth of that part is you have to,… Now, this goes into a couple of tangents. If you believe in annihilation, which is becoming a more and more popular evangelical belief, that when a person doesn’t trust Christ he or she is annihilated, and many men I respect their writings for decades have adopted this view of recent years, which is very interesting to me. I hold to an eternal hell, that there is an eternal existence apart from Christ separated forever in torment and agony. And that’s very politically and now Christianly incorrect, but I still believe the Bible teaches that. To endure eternal punishment you will have to have a resurrected body.
So if you really parse this neatly, those going to heaven and those going to hell, we might say, have “the same clothes,” resurrected body, one to endure eternal life and one to endure eternal torment and punishment. So that’s the scary part of this doctrine. And it’s much easier to say, oh, I believe in annihilation because that thought is too chilling for anyone who has a loved one who doesn’t know Christ. But I’ll show you a judgment chart and different ones at different times and you can have a lot of fun looking those up, because sometimes we mix those up.
Question: What have you discovered, and if not, your speculation, about the time of the rapture and the start of the tribulation, the time period, in between, if any?
Easley: You mean like looking for events in my lifetime?
Question: Just, how close?
Easley: I think very close.
Question: The tribulation to the rapture?
Easley: I think it’s very close. I think, and I’ve read men I respect, I mean Dr. Charles Dyer and Charles Ryrie and even Sproull, some of his views on the millennium. And MacArthur has done a great work on his views of…. John MacArthur, who in many ways a complex individual, but he’s probably the most brilliant biblicist I’ve ever met. I mean, John just gets it right so many times. And they’ve put a very short window of time. So when I study what they have done, their spadework is phenomenal and I don’t think there’s a lot of time between the two events. I think it’s very quick. But I can’t give you, months, years, I don’t know. I do believe in a seven-year tribulation period; I do believe the rapture occurs prior to that; and I do believe in a literal 1,000-year, a literal reign of Christ of earth, which again, many don’t.
Question: You mentioned the annihilation. I’m not familiar with that. Can you expand on that?
Easley: Yes. Because the doctrine of eternal hell and suffering is so unpopular to many, there are those and for instance, John Stott has been one who has changed his view that believes that Christians, or non-believers are annihilated. In other words, they don’t exist forever in hell, that they are annihilated into nothing. And I’ve not read of all of the reasons Dr. Stott went in that direction in his thinking, but, I mean, I respect John Stott like crazy. So when a leader like that makes a change, it sort of makes me wonder why he changed his position. But you’ll find more and more Christians migrating to an annihilation view because the notion of eternal hell and torment and punishment just seems; how can a loving merciful God do that? Well, I always go back to a loving merciful God didn’t send people to hell. A loving merciful God died to remedy the situation, but when we have stiffened our neck and back and refused to trust Christ and refused the opportunities given to us, so we all deserve that eternal punishment. But it’s just not a popular teaching. So Randy Alcorn should write the book on hell next and talk about what that’s like. I’m kidding.
Question: Is there any biblical basis for annihilation?
Easley: I don’t know enough about their reasoning, their argument, to answer the question. Yeah, I think it’s more a throwing themselves on the mercy of God and thinking His love and compassion could not allow hell to exist. But Christ talks about hell. He uses a parable talking about Lazarus and Abraham, Father Abraham and the great chasm fixed in Luke 14. And that passage is hard for me to cut out of the Bible. There’s a great chasm fixed between the two and you can’t look. And He says if someone, you know, drop, what was it? A cool drop of water, go and tell them. And Jesus says if someone comes back from the dead they won’t believe him, you know. It just,… I can’t cut those parts of the Bible out. And that’s, again, where I beat it over and over and over, a biblical hermeneutic, how you study the Bible is more important than what good people, even like me, say about the Bible. Because you’ve got to go back to the Word of God is more important than Michael Easley or any other person’s opinion of the Word. So I read that passage and I have to make a decision. Is that what God is saying? In the context of my understanding, the best I can, I have to trust it. Call me simple.
Question: Do you think the rapture is the event that launches the Antichrist into world power?
Easley: Because I’m not a sequence guy I have to clarify, quantify the question with you before I begin. I do think we could see some of event coalesce, but as a pure pre-trib person I don’t look for those for the imminent return of Christ. Now, if we happen to see,… for example, I have friends in Israel. If you’ve been to Israel you probably have gone to the, is it the Jerusalem Institute where they’re actually building replicas of the basins and the candelabras. It’s fascinating to see what these people are reconstructing, because they’re getting ready for the reconstruction of the Ezekiel temple, which I believe is probably going to happen. I do believe that will be true. So if they’re going to rebuild this new temple complex to re-engage worship, you’ve got to have that, all that stuff built, all right. So they think they’re the ones ushering it in. They’re looking for some timelines. One of our great astronauts is looking for the foundations of the temple to be laid. There have been clandestine groups that try to lay the stone of the temple, as though that would bring back the Lord, you know. So there are all sorts of great clever schemes out there.
I just look for the imminent return of Christ being, how do I steward the gifts, talents, abilities, ministries He’s given me and be faithful in that? And I’m not really watching in the skies for Jesus’ return. Maybe I should be, but I’m trying to be faithful as a steward so that I’m found with my hand to the plow, or my hand to the hoe, you know. But I don’t know. My wife is convinced a certain person is the Antichrist and so we have a lot of fun about that.
Question: Yes, this question may not be necessary, but somehow when you talk of systematic and covenant theology, is biblical theology incorporating all those progressive theologies?
Easley: A very good question, very good question. And as I begin I want to be careful with this. If you were to ask a systematic or a covenant theologian, are they a biblical theologian, they would say, “Of course!” Okay, the way I’m nuancing it may be unfairly, but I don’t think so. When I read Owens or Calvin or Luther, if we talk about the tool; for example, when you develop a system of theology then you lay that over the Bible. Now that can be both good and bad. Systematic theology, nor covenant theology, nor dispensational theology should govern the interpretation of Scripture. These are the way; remember 22 volumes of a systematic theology to explain one book, so I’m a little bit of a heretic here, so be careful. But my point is, what are we struggling with? We’re trying to define God in one volume. You can’t do it. Now, they’ve made valiant attempts.
I love systematic theology. I love covenant theology. I prefer biblical theology and maybe that’s nuancing it too tightly. But what I mean by that is when I read Genesis I’m looking for first principles. I’m looking for the covenant that God made with Noah, with Abraham, with Adam, all these covenants and I’m seeing them not through a covenant theology lens, but how does progressive revelation unfold? Now, if a systematic theologian or a covenant theologian follows those as well, God bless them. But too often the hermeneutic of covenant theology drives the interpretation.
For example, Israel and the church. This is one the big differences. Those who would hold to a pure covenant theology would say that Israel is no more; the church is now Israel. I have a real problem with that because I can’t cut Deuteronomy 30 or Genesis 12:15, 17, 19 out of the Bible. When I read those passages, those passages tell me there was unilateral covenant made to Abraham that he would be a blessing to the whole world. And there were certain parts of that, one being the land: Go to a place I will show you, a land that I will give you, the land. I’m reading through Ezekiel, the land is mentioned dozens of times in there. We’re taking you back to the land. So I believe that little sliver of land still holds a part in God’s final plan. And I think God has a special place for Israel. So when I read Romans 9, 10 and 11, my covenant theology friends say, “No, that’s just the church, Michael, you’re confusing the church and Israel.” That’s where the system of theology, I, Michael Easley, believe, takes precedence over what the Bible’s teaching.
So that’s why; maybe I’m nuancing it too finely, but I think a biblical theology is a much better approach. Say, what does the Bible clearly say? The Bible says Israel has a part here and we’re grafted into Israel. And not Israel is Israel, and there’s a true seed here. And so when I go back and visit Israel like I like to do once a year I think God has a desire for that piece of property still.
I sat at a table a number of years ago in Washington D.C. with a bunch of Christian leaders and they were big names, except me. And we were all talking about nonsense and so I thought, well, let’s redeem the time. So I said, “What do you think Israel is: a piece of dirt or a plays a role in the end times?” And there were 8 or 10 very erudite high browed educated Christian leaders in the United States, some arch reform ones included. And they began to wax eloquent about their view of the land. And one said it’s just a piece of dirt. One said it didn’t matter anymore. One said, “Well, you know, God does seem to love Israel, but I don’t think it matters.” And on and around the room it went. And the last guy, Michael Cromartie, and some you know and have great respect for Michael. We disagree on this, but I have great respect for him. He said, “Well, given your criteria it’s more than a piece of dirt, but not much.”
Now where did they get that? They got that from their covenant training, those who hold that view. And I’m not, don’t hear me say I’m against covenant theology. Don’t hear me say that. I love covenant theology. But my point of question is, is that what the text says? And I can’t eliminate Deuteronomy 30. I can’t cut out that Abrahamic promise being a unilateral. Isn’t it interesting, the unilateral covenant given to Abraham, “You will be a blessing.” In other words, he didn’t have a choice in the matter. He was going to be used by God to be the father of this nation called Israel. The next unilateral covenant is what? What’s the next unilateral? All covenants are bilateral, “if you do this, then I will do that. If you don’t do this then I will do this to you.” I’ll bring the plagues of Egypt. That’s bilateral covenant. Unilateral is “I will be your God. I’m going to do this.” He walks through the sacrifice with Abraham, remember. Remember that? He doesn’t ask Abraham to contribute to the sacrifice. He has Abraham do the labor. He walks through and consumes the sacrifice because He’s the only one. That’s prefiguring Christ who will be the sacrifice.
Now what’s the other unilateral covenant? The new covenant. Jeremiah 31, the new covenant. The new covenant, in other words, doesn’t mean if I don’t do my part God’s going to abrogate His part. You follow me? Making sense? So if the new covenant promise of Jeremiah 31, which is Acts 2, the Spirit is poured out on mankind. We are sealed, sphragizo, by the Spirit of God. That’s the confirmation. Jesus says, “I must go to send the Spirit.” What’s He saying? I have to go to fulfill the new covenant. We have the communion. This is the new covenant in My blood. We died for that, He died for that. He paid for it. He has to go away so He can send the Paraclete, the Paraclete indwells you and me. When you trusted Christ, we’ll put it this way, you can’t break the covenant.
So if there’s two unilateral covenants in the Bible, the Abrahamic and the new covenant I’m constrained to say He still has a part for Israel. Sorry, I’m preaching now. Get in trouble, get in trouble. So that’s what I think. That and $2 will get you a cup of coffee.
Question: I read this article on replacement theology. And it started listing people who believed in this replacement theology, like you said, I mean, turning their back basically on Israel, in my opinion, the land and I don’t know. But if I’m not mistaken when I read this article it said something about Moody Bible Institute.
Easley: No, no, no, no, no.
Question: And I, that’s I just wanted,…
Easley: If they do they won’t be there very long, I assure you. Dr. Dyer will kick them to the curb.
Question: I mean, do you think that’s part of everybody turning on Israel, the world turning on Israel, all nations go against Israel?
Easley: Well, first of all, let’s define Israel. Who is Israel? Is it Benjamin Netanyahu? Is it the Knesset? Who is Israel, you know? I mean you have to; does the pure Zionistic movement, Michael Rydelnik, my good friend who teaches Jewish studies at Moody? Michael Rydelnik is a Zionist at heart. His wife Eva is more of a Zionist. All Jews should move back to Israel and be ready for the kingdom. You know, I appreciate that. I wasn’t born Jewish so it doesn’t course in my blood like it does in his. And then you have those as I mentioned it, have nothing to do with it. I think we have to be careful.
The right, politically, in our country has often lined itself up with being pro-Israel for many good reasons. The left in our country has distanced themselves from Israel for many good reasons. A: Israel’s governmental systems are just corrupt as any other nations. So just because you get you know Benny, who’s back in office, or Ariel Sharon, does not mean they’re going to be a godly Yahweh believing group of governing officials, you know. And so we have to be careful.
Now personally, Michael Easley thinks we should support Israel strictly from a military world perspective, period, regardless of your eschatology or your Christianity, because that’s your only ally you got over there. Then as if this thing does braid down it’d be nice to have a place to land some planes. It’d be nice to have some allies over there to help, and they have been an ally to the United States. And, you know, if we ever need Israel’s help I think they’d help us. So I like that. Now that’s the right wing part of me. Forgive me if you disagree with me. I’ll pray for you. The Christian part of me believes that that piece of land is protected by God for a reason, because His return happens there. I believe there are certain events that happen there.
When you go to Har-Megiddo, when you go see the Kidron Brook, that where Elijah fought the prophets of Baal, one of my favorite places in Israel; you drive up this little kind of Texas hill country road and you find yourself almost looks like mesquite trees, you find yourself a little Catholic church and the nuns come and shush you and then you go up on top and you look over the Valley of Har-Megiddo. And you stand there and all the military guys, the first time I went there, were sitting around. How could you get a 144,000 troops here, you know, looking at this valley? And then when it’s a clear day you see there’s a big X on the ground. Well those X’s are runways. There’s a whole fleet F-16’s underground in the Valley of Har-Megiddo, which sounds like Armageddon. That’s the same word. Now coincidence? Maybe so, but they’re sure ready.
And when I look at the land and I see the events that happened and I see the prophetic, so many things happen in these same pieces of land year in, year out, year in, year out. And again, I shared, I mentioned my devotions, I just got into Ezekiel 40 and following, and I’m going crazy reading about the new celestial temple, and looking at all this going I think it’s going to be over there. I believe it’s going to be over there. Call me naïve. Call me whatever. So I want to be a friend of Israel. And more importantly, I want to be a friend to the believer in Israel who’s trying to share Yeshua in Israel. Because he or she is the one that needs our help and prayer, not just military and aligning them and helping them to be allies, which I think is important. It’s more important that I help my brother and sister in Christ who’s trying to share Christ over there through all sorts of creative outlets. And there’s a lot of Christians over there. If you’ve not been you can, you can worship, even in Jordan you can worship in some amazing churches over that love Jesus desperately. And they’re trying to share the gospel and probably one of the hardest places in the world to share the gospel.
Our friend Samuel Smadga, some of you traveled there, he owns one of the companies that we use. He grew up over there in Nazareth and he says if you ask three rabbis their opinion you’ll get five answers. And he goes, so understand that is to understand the Jew.
So you know, it’s a complicated wonderful beautiful tumultuous place, and I think when you look at it geographically all was—the W.A. Criswell sermon, he went “the Perrizites, the Ninevites, the,” you know, all the nations—name me one “ite” that’s still around. Only the Israelite is still around, you know, the long list. All those people groups are gone and they’re pushing them into the Mediterranean Sea. And if you stand back on a Google map you’re talking this little tiny, 3% of the world’s population’s probably Jewish. Three percent. You think that would account as a remnant? Let’s say 1% of that 3% are Bible believing evangelical Jews. I think we’ve got a remnant. So anyway. What do I know?
Question: The Jews that do not accept Jesus, I’ve heard that God so loves them that He’s going to overlook that. The Jews have been bad boys you know over and over again.
Question: And He has redeemed them so?
Easley: Very good question. Does a believing Jew who believes in Yahweh Elohim, who believes in God, Adonai, of the Old Testament, but does not believe in Jesus, is he or she saved? I do not believe they are. I believe they must embrace Messiah. Jesus came unto His own and His own knew Him not and then He went to the Gentiles. So the gospel came for His own people He chose. And there’s supportive language in the Old Testament, could there be a more stubborn stiff-necked people than the Jew? Well, I got a little Italian and German in me and I can be stubborn and stiff-necked too. But the point is, He did not pick the easiest people to work with, we might say. Why? It’s an illustration of His grace, an illustration of His choice, which goes back to the doctrine of election. He chose, you might say, the worst of the litter. He chose a difficult people to show Himself Yahweh. So if that’s the paradigm, God chose an ilk of humanity representing all of us stubborn sinners, all. Do they get an advantage because they were born in a piece of dirt called Israel? No. Yes, they get an advantage because they should know their Messiah. But if they reject Him; I have friends who have lost Jewish mates and they say I know he believed and he loved his Judaism. He went to the synagogue, and I say, I’m sorry, if he didn’t embrace the Messiah he didn’t embrace the religion of Yahweh, the trust of Yahweh.
Question: The Bible talks about the Asian countries and the European countries and the Near East and all that. There’s no mention of the North and South America. What do you think will become of all this.
Easley: I don’t know. I remember when John Walvoord wrote about Gog and Magog and oil and he identified Russia as Gog and Magog, and I believed it all when I read it, you know. Well, it’s a little different today, so I think what we do know is as European descendants you know, we probably align ourselves with that part of the Scripture. The other thing is we may not play a role. And I’m not an optimist of our future. I think things are going to get worse and worse and worse. And, you know, those of you who lived through World War II could tell me stories. One of the best books I’ve read in the last 10 years was Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation. Whatever you think of Tom Brokaw it’s a marvelous read. And to see what the country felt like during World War II and what we feel like today on the so-called war against terrorism is, it’s just mind boggling to me. We don’t care is what it boils down to. It’s all about self and civil rights and personal wants and freedoms. There’s no coalition.
In some ways we need a good enemy just to recalibrate who we are. My daughter was in Lake Braddock School District in Virginia when 9/11 struck. I was serving in the Washington DC area at a church then, and I’ll never forget. She came home, she said, “Dad, prayer made it back in the public school today, and nobody stopped us.” And it illustrates, you know, because we have, as Lincoln talked about, this unbroken chain of successes. And all that we have endured and enjoyed, we’ve lost our moorings. So I think Islam will become a continuing challenge and continuing threat. And not all Muslims; that’s like saying all Christians believe X. Well, that’s a dumb statement. All Christians don’t believe anything, right, but all Muslims don’t believe anything, so. But there are certainly extremists who would happen to be Islamic who are not interested in world peace. And there are other factors and forces at play. So if Esau and Jacob become the warring entity in a new form, you know, who knows what it’s going to be.
But I don’t fear. I love my country. I hate what’s happening to it, but I don’t fear, because my hope is not in the flag, my hope is in the cross. And as much as I like to drape a flag on the cross, I don’t. Crawford Loritts, some of you know the great friend of mine. He preached for me one time in the church when I served, and the church in DC was full of a lot of military and elected officials and otherwise very important people. And Crawford came and preached and we had that big flag on the back. It was like some Memorial Day celebration we had done, and sang a bunch of good patriotic music and then we sang, “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb,” you know. And he stood up and he’s preaching this great sermon and Crawford’s getting into it. He says, you know, I want to tell you something. He goes, Jesus Christ does not stand up when we sing the National Anthem. And in that audience there are about half of them going, hmm, I don’t know. I’ve got to think about that a minute, because I go, whoa, you’re really challenging my categories right now. But he’s right. Jesus doesn’t stand up when we sing the National Anthem.
So for those of us who love our country and hold it dear, we have to put it subservient to the theocracy, to God’s government and God’s kingdom. Any of you have Facebook? A few of you. You have the section where you put your religious preference or whatever and you go through and you pick all your things. I put theocracy in mine when I started my Facebook page and you wouldn’t believe all the questions I got when I first started. What’s a theocracy? It was a great way to talk about government and politics.
Question: Doesn’t the Bible say that those who bless Israel will be blessed?
Question: And those that don’t will be cursed?
Question: And since our Savior was a Jew and were it not for the Jews we wouldn’t have our Bible,…
Easley: Yes, yes and yes.
Question: …I personally believe that we should support Israel.
Easley: Let’s go back to the first context. In the Old Testament Israel was to be God’s chosen people, a seperatistic nation. They were not to intermarry. They were not to have a king. Let’s just stop there; a lot of other things, but those are four really important ones. When they moved to have a king because they wanted to what? Be like the nations around them. What did Yahweh Elohim, Adonai want? I want to be their king. They should trust Me through the Levitical priesthood system and following the statutes and the laws and the memorials and the ordinances that I’ve given them. And if you will do this Israel I will take care of you completely. And if you don’t I’ll bring the plagues of Egypt on you.
Well they’re stubborn and stiff-necked so they didn’t follow Him. Had Israel followed the theocracy and we see God’s mercy again and again, even fairly well, I believe He would have protected them. But again and again and again they made idols, they intermarried, they went after kings. The kings were corrupt and evil. They did evil in God’s sight. What do we have, 38 kings, and 19 at some point did evil in the sight of the Lord? You know, what an epitaph. This is the king of a theocracy. And you’ve got a few shining stars. You’ve got Josiah and David and others, but most of them were at some point evil in their ways. So they failed as a nation.
So when we talk about Israel we must understand context. In the Old Testament there was a contextual grid about what was Israel. Once Israel lost its way and, I mean, the illustrations of the end of the Chronicles, in Samuel and Kings is that Ichabod is gone. The glory has departed the nation. God has, we would say, abandoned His people because He fulfilled His promise that if you don’t do this I will do that, and He did that. So they’re dispersed, they’re in exile, they’re in captivity, on and on we could look at this story. So when we look at the end. I was at one of these big conferences in D.C. years ago and the big verse was, you know, about those who bless Israel and I said, you know, that’s not what context says. The context is talking about at that particular time, and we can’t extrapolate that say, oh, that means today, bless Israel. Because what was Israel then is not Israel today.
Now all that said, I agree. I’ve said earlier I think we should support them as an ally. I think we should support them because there is a piece of geography there that is going to be part of the end times scheme. And most importantly there are believers there trying to share Christ with those who don’t know Christ. And so those are the three reasons that I, not necessarily in that order, but I align with the support of Israel. But I think we have become overly zealous in some of these ambitions. And we’re supporting in some ways very corrupt groups. And if you spend any time in Israel you see that pretty quickly. You know, if you spend time with the locals,… some of you have lived over there. I love the land, I love going over there. Going over there next March. But we have to be careful of just sort of rubberstamping some of these passages out of context. I’m a biblicist. I want to say, what does the passage say in the context? Context covers a multitude of interpretational sins. It’s like clock you know, it’s inside the context.
Question: Would you please expound on Isaiah 54:17?
Easley: That’s an ambitious question. Isaiah 54, verse 7. I don’t even have my study Bible. This is not fair. Let’s start at verse 1: “Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; break forth into shouting joy. Enlarge your place; stretch out your tent; lengthen your cords, strengthen your pegs.” The blessing, verse 4, “Fear not, you will not be put to shame; nor be humiliated. Your husband is your Maker whose name is the LORD. For all the earth has called you like a wife forsaken in grief. For a brief moment.” All right, verse 7. “‘For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for the moment, but with an everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer.” That’s the passage you asked me about?
Question: No, verse 17.
Easley: Oh, I had an answer for that one. All right, “‘No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,’ declares the Lord.” Okay we’re talking about Zion, so in Isaiah you always have a future look of Zion. He’s not talking about them in the context typically. The warnings and the prophetic judgments are Israel of the day. But most of His futuristic talk of Zion and I would argue this chapter is looking forward to that, shout, barren, O joy of barren, break forth; they’re not experiencing that now, right. “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper. And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.” So there is some point in their future history where Israel will be unassailable. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.” This is the heritage probably related to inheritance. “And their vindication is from Me.” The best I can give you. I’ve got to look that one up in Matthew 24. Did you have a particular question about it or just want me to look like an idiot for a while talking about it? I’ve already been an idiot, thank you. I’m okay.
Question: No, many people including myself, have used that scripture against personal enemies and I just wondered if that was correct?
Easley: Oh, I see where you’re going, yeah, yeah. Application versus interpretation. One of the rules of Bible study is the meaning of the verse in its context has to be established before we apply the verse. So, you know, if it has to do with Zion, if it has to do with something about this future fight they’re going to win, and then how do I apply that? I am more cautious today about verses in context than I’ve ever been. Now, that said, John Hannah, I mentioned last night when one of my professors says that he’s going to write a book one day called Misapplied Verses God Has Greatly Blessed. I think God is very patient with us.
When people come to me, for example with Philippians 1:6, which I think has nothing to do with sanctification. It’s about money. I’m confident of this, that He who began a good work with you will continue it till the day of Christ Jesus. And we sing songs about it. But we sing it as a sanctification verse. It’s not about sanctification. It’s about the fact they had made a pledge of financial commitment and hadn’t fulfilled it. It’s participation. I’m confident that you’re going to fulfill your obligation. So it’s a verse about money which preachers like more. And so I hear people quote that verse all the time about sanctification and they get so upset when I say that’s not sanctification. I say, tell you what, go find a verse that is about sanctification. Say, go find a verse that talks clearly, and don’t hear me being disparaging. I don’t mean to sound that way. I’m sorry if I do.
That says this is a verse that I know He’s going to be with me. You know, I cast my cares upon Him. He knows me. He’s protecting me. I do think we can apply, you know, He knew us in our mother’s womb. I think when Jeremiah is picked and chosen, we’re not Jeremiah, but if He knew Jeremiah, did He know you and me? He cares for us; the one another passage underscored again. So I just think we need to be careful. And we’re better Bible students when we look at the context than we are just sort of ripping them out of context and saying, “If My people will repent and come, call themselves and then I will bless them.” And the great American verse; it’s not about America. It’s about theocracy.
Question: How should the modern Christian answer the charge by the Muslim world that Allah is the greater of the two gods?
Easley: This is the greatest issue facing the church right now and we are asleep at the wheel. Basically, how do we relate to Muslims in relationship to their view of Allah being the one true God, the one great God and above Jesus Christ? I think number one, we have to be very wise. We’re not dealing with Church of Christ Scientists or Unitarians or even Scientology, which will sue you if you talk anything poorly about them. We’re talking about a very different force. We’re talking about one of the larger people groups in the world. We’re talking about a religion that is certainly empowered by a strong evil influence. And so we’re up against an interesting enemy.
Secondly I would say we do have to love the Muslim person in our country. We fear them instead of love them and that’s complicated for obvious reasons. And I do think we need to be loving of them. In Washington DC post-9/11 we had a mosque right next door to the church, an Afghan mosque, and after 9/11 Fairfax County Police cars barricaded the little mosque because they were afraid what would happen to them. We had built somewhat of a relationship with the imam and, I don’t know what you call them, but I’d say four of his elders. In fact, one of our pastors, John Malone, who’s now with the Lord, had reached out and met these Islamic friends of ours and neighbors. And because of Fairfax zoning they had no place to park their cars, so we allowed them, because we had a big parking lot, to park their cars on our lot on Friday. So on a Friday afternoon our church looked like a cab depot. There were hundreds of cabs. And then all the men would walk across to go worship at the mosque. And we had a number of meals with the imam and with some of his leaders. And it was icy. It was cold. It was hard. And we tried to love them and we tried to reach out to them.
After 9/11 they came over and they had a media gadfly group over there and they said, “Will you come and say something? Will you come and say something?” And I hate that kind of stuff. And I said, long story short, I went over there and I was standing in the shadows as the Unitarian guy and his outfit was talking about we all just need to get along and then the Red Cross came up and talked about getting people help. And there were probably 250 of the mosques there and about 100 people from our church were there standing kind of in the shadows. It was a hot day. And then when the imam saw me he begged me to come up and say something.
Now, right before I had spoken he had gotten up and said the Islamic blessing. There’s one true God, Allah, no other god, you know, for all that type of thing. And so I’m sitting there going, what do you say to this group? So I got up, and this is one of the few times, I might have missed it, but I think God did say, you need to say this. And I read John 14:1-6. And I said, “You know, the same country that gives your imam and you the freedom to worship here as Muslims, to say there’s only one God and his name is Allah, is the same country that affords me the freedom to say Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life and there is no other before Him.” And, you know, but my point was I want to be a neighbor, and I want them to say,… And it was, you talk about a cold reception. And I said, “I want to be your neighbor.” And I said, “Your imam and I have broken bread. We have eaten together. We are neighbors. We are American friends. You park in our parking lots. We’re happy for you to do that.” I said, “But I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who lived and died,” and I shared the gospel. Our relationship changed dramatically after that. And part of it was post-9/11. So I think we have to love. I think we have to be wise and careful and not naïve. But if we don’t share Christ with our Islamic friends, we’re not doing our job.
The last thing I’ll say about that, and this is one of the things that just continues to blow my mind. When I first heard this I thought it was nonsense. You know there’s this movie out about this Muslim dream going around. Have you heard about his? There’s a dream that Jesus is coming to Muslims in their sleep. And these Muslims were having a recurring dream about Jesus coming to them. And the description of Jesus coming to them in the dream is frighteningly similar. When this first happened John Malone, again, I asked Pastor Malone. I said, “John, have you heard about this?” He said, “Oh yeah, it’s really big.” I said, “You’re kidding me.” And he’s less of a mystic than I would ever be. I mean John’s, he was a marine. There you have it, you know. And he says, “Oh yeah,” he said, “and, interestingly, women are coming to Christ clandestinely in Islamic cultures, but they can’t say anything because they’ll be killed. And so they come to Christ and they sort of cloister and they find out clever ways who are other Christian women in these countries. And it’s now breaking into a lot of Islamic men are coming to Christ through this dream.”
Have you all heard of this? And the name, you know the name of the video? It’s, you can watch it on YouTube. They have DVD clips of it. But it’s to give to your Muslim friends. And the first time I heard it I thought it mystic mumbo jumbo nonsense and you know. But then the more I heard it and talked to Pastor Malone about it, a thought came to me, the stones will cry out. You know, in some strange way, if we don’t share the gospel God will use a dream. I mean, you know, He’s not going to not share Himself with everyone He loves. And He loves the image of God that He created Him. So we have to move past being afraid of and hating any people group is wrong. We should know that of all people.
We are to take the gospel to all ethnos and that was told to Jews, Greeks, Parthians, Scythians, Medes, 13 dialektos are recorded in Acts chapter 2, if I remember correctly, 13 dialektos, and the language was to take the gospel to all ethnos, Jesus said. And He’s talking to Jews primarily, “Take it to all ethnos.” And if we don’t take it, I mean, we’re one of the ethnos recipients. And if we don’t take it to those who don’t know Christ,… So Samuel Naaman, a Moody Bible Institute faculty member, is doing some extraordinary ministry with Muslims in the Islamic Study Center, lots of good groups out there. If you Google Samuel Naaman, Samuel sent a group up to Washington DC what was it, 20, had the big 50,000 march on DC. You remember this thing? It was a total bust. Yeah, there weren’t many people. But Samuel Naaman and the group from Immanuel I think and a group from Tennessee went up there. And they handed out this DVD along with the Jesus DVD. And they just went around the fringes and didn’t cause any trouble, just handed out the gospel to these people that tried to have this Muslim call on our country. So you know there are some good people.
But don’t be afraid. Share Christ. And our security is not in the flag, as much as I wish it was, it’s not in the flag. It’s in the cross. I love my country. I love the people that serve it. But Christ is bigger than our government.
Prayer: Father, thanks for these men and women. We all have lots of questions and we just don’t know the answers. We hazard to guess from time to time. But remind us again and again we’re living in between. We’re living in anticipation of Your return. Help us to be confident and faithful where You’ve put us and to know that You’ve overcome. In Jesus’ name, amen.