Revisiting Genesis

    Genesis was apparently written by Moses after the Exodus, in the Middle Eastern language that came to Egypt with Joseph’s family. After 400 years, it probably varied somewhat from its original form. We assume there was an unbroken chain of manuscripts, each one carefully copied as the old one wore out, and as the characters slowly changed form over time. The oldest fragments of handwritten text are little more than 2100 years old, so at least 1500 years of previous scrolls have been lost. It seems that no scripture was put on clay tablets, but it was always kept in a portable form. Early Hebrew was an experiential language; its language and ideas were centered on behaviors and actions, rather than objects. The Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek in the third century BC by Jewish rabbis (the Septuagint), who had the difficult task of molding the general, context-sensitive Hebrew words into the very specific Greek language. The New Testament was written in Greek. Early English translations of the Bible relied heavily on the Greek text. The cultural impact of the Hebrew text in its native culture was diluted by each successive language translation into more specific and more modern terms.

    Most of what we know of the ancient Middle East comes from discoveries of clay tablets as old as 3400 BC made by the older urban cultures of the area; Ur, Ebla, Akkad, Sumer, Babylon, Egypt. Thousands of those have been excavated and deciphered, containing everything from business records and history to belief systems and poetry. Genesis 1-11 resembles some aspects of the origin stories of other Middle Eastern civilizations. They all reflect a way of thinking that is alien to the analytical Greco-Roman viewpoint common in Western civilization. The ancient cultures did not understand such things as weather patterns, the water cycle, and disease. They tried to explain events in terms of things that they could see or do. If water came out of the ground, there must be water under it. If water fell from the sky, there must be water up there, and something must hold it up there most of the time, and something must support that… and there must be some deities in control of all those functional elements. They did not have the extra resources to develop philosophy or science – productivity was low, most people were working hard just to live, and there were struggles between whatever earthly powers got far enough above the subsistence level to equip a small army.

    Those who accompanied Moses were just transitioning from an oral culture to a literate culture. Egypt used hieroglyphs to record history and tell stories, but had not developed letters to represent sounds. Chinese characters also represent ideas, not sounds. Some North American tribes wove symbols of people and events into records called wampum, which were mnemonic devices to preserve their tribal story. If those were lost, or if they were not recited frequently to each generation, that history ceased to exist. Such symbols are very difficult to interpret for people of other times and cultures.

Languages with a phonetic alphabet take more time to engrave or write, but can express more complex ideas and take extra thought to follow rules of grammar. A larger portion of the people are likely to use and understand them, so phonetic languages tend to endure over time.

Oral cultures tend to lose details, and use major events for cultural reference points. Big events are invested with meaning to make them memorable and to guide the culture. Details may be added for that purpose. Such events can endure in story form for millennia, and gain force if they become culturally important. This is well explained in ‘The Lost World of the Flood’ by Longman and Walton. Written language stops the loss of detail, and inhibits further embroidering on historical truth. Literacy brings a need for more copies, improving the chance of a culture and language surviving.

    Genesis varies from other Middle Eastern origin stories in some important ways. Genesis introduced a single divine personality who created everything step by step, rather than a group of competing deities with human-like personalities and needs. The creative steps in Genesis correspond to the sequence of events in Earth’s history as revealed by modern science, the others do not. Much is omitted that would have been foreign to the Hebrews’ experience, and therefore could not be expressed in their language. Genesis starts the human race with two individuals as God’s vice-regents given charge of the earth; other ancient cultures believed their deities created a large number of people whose duty was to build temples for the deities and serve their needs. God specified that he had no earthly needs, but he did supply a behavioral code that humans were to obey. Other cultures also had a story of a fall into violence, a flood, and some survivors. The flood appears to be a real event, dating to the filling of the Black Sea basin about 5600 BC, or perhaps the sea level rise at the end of the last Ice Age which flooded the shallow Persian Gulf. It seems to have covered whatever was the dominant culture of that time. These events seem to have preceded written language. Without written languages, the oral histories then diverge. The Tower of Babel story seems related to the building of ‘ziggurats’ next to temples by the old cultures; the Genesis story is interpreted as a divine correction of the idea that man could either ascend to the level of the gods, or get them to come down to man. At any rate, neither occurred and the peoples were scattered, after which God chose one group that he would associate his presence with. The ages given for the patriarchs may have symbolic significance, now unknown. The names of the first 10 patriarchs seem to tell a story. Since there are 10 patriarchs to Noah and 10 more to Abram, that may be a memory aid for telling the story in the old oral culture, one name per finger on our hands.

    Some consider Genesis 1-11 to be mythology or merely something borrowed from neighboring cultures. Others try to ’read the story literally’ and turn to young-earth creationism, with the universe being only a few thousand years old. This ignores translation problems and leads to a lot of unfounded assumptions. Old-earth creationism accepts current science and a universe about 15 billion years old, with the Biblical account as a summary, and interprets some verses elsewhere in the Bible as showing further scientific knowledge revealed long ago but not understood. The heart of the debate centers on random, unguided evolution versus the purposeful design and creation of the various life forms, and whether there is an immortal spirit in every human being to be evaluated by a creative deity. This cannot be decided by scientific research, because the basis of science is the use of material instruments. The fossil record still fails to provide the necessary intermediate, transitional forms to support evolution. Species seem to appear and disappear rather suddenly. It comes down to what each individual finds persuasive, and what evidence or testimony they are willing to accept. All the evidence is not now available, and never will all of it be. Those who can handle the concept of the Judeo-Christian God then can decide which variety of creationism makes better sense to them – it’s not a salvation issue. The Bible speaks of Adam and Eve in several places, but makes equally good sense whether they are taken as archetypes or as literal individuals. Several recent scholarly books by John Walton examine Genesis in the context of other ancient Near Eastern cultures, with titles beginning ‘The Lost World of…’.

    The story is being spread in our culture that science and religion are mutually exclusive. It is being told by some of the people on each side, in hopes of recruiting more people to their respective sides. It is also told by atheists who wish to use science to bash religion.This kind of polarization reflects the political battles of our time, and is equally counterproductive. Few of those who take a strong stand for either side are actually familiar with the other side. Let me present the case that they are complementary; neither can paint a complete picture of reality using only its own colors. Each one is necessary to fill the blank spots in the other. Special revelation, the Bible, gives ethics and morality and records examples and consequences. Science avoids those topics as it studies only the general revelation.  It discovers ‘how’ to do things, not ‘whether’ to do them. Religion alone deals with ‘why’ and with human relationships. Science and religion must come to common ground without bringing weapons.

  As a Christian believer, I seek to understand the Bible. As one interested in the world around me, I seek to understand it scientifically. Knowing that our present is a product of our past, I pay attention to history. After working in the computer software field, I have respect for logic. But language translation is tricky. Our modern languages are the product of a Greco-Roman world where abstract words are prolific. An abstract is a word or thought that cannot be related to one of the five senses; hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste. However, each Hebrew word is related to a sense, an object, or an action. A good illustration of the differences is the word anger which, from a modern perspective, is an abstract idea. The Hebrew word for anger is אף aph [H:639]but literally means “a flaring of the nostrils in anger,” a substance of action. In fact, the word אף aph [H:639] is also the same Hebrew word for the nose. Context makes the difference. Search for ‘early Hebrew language’ or ‘ancient Hebrew vocabulary’. Hebrew thought is more concerned with function whereas we, and our Greco-Roman thought, are more concerned with appearance. When we read the Biblical text we are constantly creating a mental image of what the text is describing but the original author is not describing an image of appearance but an image of function.

and this is how you are to make it, the length of the vessel is three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.

Is this description telling us what the ark looked like? Not at all, it is describing its function by telling us that this ark is very large and capable of transporting a very large load of animals. The Hebrew language used a small number of words; they had general meanings, and were made specific by their context.

    The purpose of religion is to form and maintain a relatively uniform culture with a common moral/ethical base. No culture can long survive without the mutual trust that is based on predictable behavior. The Bible specifically seeks to form and maintain a culture that honors the Judeo-Christian deity, Who inspired Moses to start the writing tradition that others added to historically and prophetically as they too were inspired. Job appears to reflect an inspired pre-Abrahamic religious and philosophical tradition. To hold a culture together, it is important to have a narrative of its origin which is plausibly true. When I was growing up, scientific knowledge seemed to contradict Genesis 1; we had not yet developed the tools and the observing power to reach far enough back into the past. The vocabulary of the early Hebrew language is also better understood today, and biblical translation brings somewhat broader meanings than before. It is now possible to verify the Genesis 1 narrative, adding scientific findings into the time sequence.

    Belief in the details of Genesis 1 is not a salvation issue for believers, but it can be one for nonbelievers if it blocks them from believing in God or from reading the Bible. Those who have rejected the idea of a Creator should be offered the scientific parallels to Genesis 1 which fill in the details that Moses was not given. This can help overcome the amoral, materialist attitude which our public education system advocates. In the last 20 years, science has gained new tools that tell us much about the earth and the universe. The general validity of Genesis 1 testifies to the existence of the Deity Who was able to express that information through a very limited language.

    Verse 1; “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. This includes the ‘big bang’ event; God worked from outside this universe, with an enormous burst of energy which also included the origin of our time and our three dimensions of space. The energy quickly separated into matter, mostly hydrogen, and electromagnetic radiation. The space expanded rapidly. Gravity pulled the matter together into stars, whose lifetimes depend on their size. Large stars burn more quickly and explode as supernovas, forming heavier elements. Stars are continually forming as gravity collects matter, and large ones still explode, forming elements that completed the periodic table. The debris from these earlier stars formed our current stars, with a rich enough supply of heavy elements to form planets in the rotating dust cloud around them. One of those planets was our earth, sweeping dust and larger debris out of its path as it orbited our sun. When it solidified and cooled, it was enveloped in dense clouds of gas and dust and was a smooth ball covered in water. Time to completion of verse 1, about 10 billion years of our time.

    Perhaps now we can see why Genesis 1 is so short; a lot happened in that verse, but it involved things for which Moses had no words. He was leading an early agricultural/herding culture, whose written language had about 10,000 words that covered only those things that they actually experienced; agriculture, trade, war, and simple craftsmanship. Any attempt to express the above would have been heavily symbolic and confusing. Psalm 19 points us toward astronomy as a path to learning about God; “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands”. Astronomers, with an array of expensive instruments, agree on the above narrative. God is a God of order and law, including the laws of nature. That is the principle upon which science is based. But God was not trying to build a technological culture then, so He did not explain everything.  He wanted to build a God-honoring culture near the major trade routes of the ancient world, to be a witness to Him and His principles. He told Moses truth, but He gave only the bare outline. Yet each of these steps is in the correct sequence according to modern science, and represents a substantial period of time in which important changes occurred. Only one of the ancient creation stories comes close, and it invokes a series of  conflicts among imaginary deities which finally created a mass of mankind to serve them. Genesis is alone in claiming one Creator and the creation of one couple who were given stewardship over the earth.

    Verse 2; “Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

The point of view here is not the astronaut’s view that we tend to think of, but that of the spirit on or near the surface. This point of view continues throughout Genesis 1. There are no topographical features yet, only a global ocean under an atmosphere of thick clouds. The planet has  cooled enough for liquid water to stay on the surface. The ocean contains minerals dissolved out of the underlying planet. Biochemical research indicates that life did not evolve by chance; the universe has not existed long enough for that to happen randomly. The word translated ’hovering’ also means ’brooding’ as a hen on a nest; that is consistent with God’s creation of the early anaerobic bacteria that metabolized the dissolved minerals and formed many of our deposits of iron, zinc and other metals. They do not need light or oxygen or photosynthesis. When the water has been cleared of poisonous minerals, those bacteria die off for lack of their kind of food, but some are still found in hot springs.

    Verse 3; “And God said, ’let there be light’, and there was light.”

Eventually the planet cooled enough that water evaporated more slowly and the fog thinned from opaque to translucent. Faint sunlight reached the planet’s surface at last. God created more life forms when photosynthetic life became possible in the ocean, and began to put oxygen into the atmosphere.

    Verse 4-5; “God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day‘, and the darkness He called ‘night‘. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.”

Instead of a permanent twilight, the planet now had a dimly sunlit side and a dark side. Light is good in the sense of supporting photosynthetic plant life, most likely still single-celled algae. ‘Evening’ to the Hebrews implied the end of a period of work, ’morning’ meant the beginning of another. The word translated as ‘day’ has more than one meaning, but still a definite period. (Genesis 2:4; Joshua 24:7, ‘a long time’.

    Verse 6-8; “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water’. So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse ’sky’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day.”

The surface cooled enough that fog and clouds lifted above Earth‘s surface, and the day/night temperature changes started the water cycle of evaporation and precipitation.

    Verse 9-10; “And God said, ”Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear”. And it was so. God called the dry ground “land”, and the gathered waters He called ‘seas’. And God saw that it was good.”

This is the beginning of plate tectonics. Heavy elements like thorium and uranium have settled to the core of the planet, generating heat that sets up convection currents in the Earth’s mantle. The top layer develops cracks and rigid plates that are moved by those currents and begin to slide under other plates, lifting them above the water. This became widespread about 3 billion years ago. The continents have slowly shifted positions since then.

    Verse 11-13; “And God said, ‘let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that produce fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.”

The next big step for life is a move to land and more complex structures. Algae don’t do well on dry land, so God made other plants as conditions changed; lichens were probably first.  Simple cell-division propagates algae, but requires huge populations to overcome the effects of genetic damage from cosmic rays. It was necessary to design specialized cells that can be combined from two different individuals; when combined, damaged DNA from one can be compensated for by undamaged DNA at the same location from another. There are so many locations in DNA that identical damage is unlikely. God invented sexual reproduction so that relatively small populations of a given species would not be lost to genetic damage, and so that the DNA would in fact continue as the same kind. The Hebrew phrase that is translated into ‘trees with fruit and seed’ is more of a broad category that can refer to any green plants. This is consistent with a long period of continuing creation.

    Verse 14-19; “And God said, ’let there be lights in the expanse of the sky…  the fourth day”.

The atmosphere finally clears from translucent to transparent, and there is no longer a continuous cloud layer. Rather than a daily bright spot in the cloud layer, the sun and moon and even stars can be clearly seen. Photosynthesis and oxygen production become stronger. Daily temperature changes are larger. Plant life can become larger and more complex. This probably includes much of the Carboniferous age. Nutrient production by photosynthesis can now produce enough food for land animal life as well, and bring atmospheric oxygen up to near present levels.. Time for verses 2-19,  4 billion years or so.

    Verse 20-23; “And God said, “let the water teem with living creatures… the fifth day”.

The mention of large sea creatures and birds clearly makes this include the time of the dinosaurs – there is a design linkage from them to birds. Animal life in the oceans is not a new thing, but becomes more plentiful and varied about 600 million years ago, with land animals coming about 400 million years ago. There do not seem to be any dinosaur fossils from the Middle East, so God had no reason to mention them to Moses. These ‘days’ have been substantial periods of time, and numerous species were created and became extinct and were replaced by others.

    Verse 24-25; “And God said, “let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds; livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals…”.

At this point the scene shifts to contemporary forms of life, those that people recognize now. It is the sixth day, and God creates animals that are designed to coexist with man. The Hebrew words designate three different general classes of animals:

  behema, long-legged quadrupeds that are easily tamed, like sheep, goats, or cattle

  remes, short-legged quadrupeds, like rodents or rabbits

  hayya, long-legged quadrupeds typically considered ’wild’

    Verse 26-31; Then God said ,”Let us make man in our image… the sixth day”.  This would mean modern man with free will and self-awareness, not Neanderthals or earlier hominids. Genetic researchers can deduce whether we originated from many or just a few individuals, and from how many locations. Their conclusion is, a very small population in one place. Using our mutation rate, they can deduce the time of that population. Using a genetic marker found only in females, they place the most recent common female ancestor at about 50,000 to  70,000 years ago. A marker found in males yields a date of about 42,000 to 60,000 years ago for the most recent common male ancestor; that would correspond to Eve and Noah respectively. If the mutation rate has not been constant, that would change those ages. Astronomers have found that there were four supernovas in the last 44,000 years that were close enough to increase the cosmic ray intensity by up to 40 times for years at a time, so those ages may be adjusted to more recent values.

Genesis 2-5, the family tragedy – sin enters the world. Free will and self-awareness now give the opportunity to turn against God’s will, and they do. The Fall is symbolically stated, in an effective communication for the early Hebrews. This narrative troubles our understanding of nature, but it offered an origin for sin which was easy for them to understand. More on that  in the post ‘Pondering Original Sin’. It gives a prefiguration of  ‘that old serpent’ as Satan is called in Revelation. The use of fig leaves as a covering is odd, since fig leaves leak an irritating sap and have a scratchy surface. But the fig tree became a symbol of Israel; its use might prefigure the mission of Israel, through Christ, to provide a covering for the sins of humankind at the Cross.

The description of Eden places it in the area of the Persian Gulf. The range of dates cited above is within one of the recent ice ages, during which the climate would be quite different and the sea levels dropped 200 to 300 feet due to the amount of water tied up in glaciers. Glaciers advanced and receded numerous times from 2,800,000 to 11,500 years ago. The Gulf seems to have been filled up as glaciers melted at the end of the last ice age. A similar flood occurred in 5500 BC when the Black Sea basin was filled.

The Persian Gulf is 615 miles long, covers 93,000 square miles, and is surprisingly shallow, with an average depth of 165 feet. The Persian Gulf area would have been a lush river-fed lowland of fertile soil with little rain and a mild climate, capable of supporting a sizable population if they did not become violent and wicked, but scripture says they did. The long lifespans are almost plausible if they stuck with a vegetarian diet as per Genesis 1:29. There may be a lost symbolism in the numbers of years given.

If the names of the first 10 patriarchs            can be properly translated as

                                    Adam                                Man

                                    Seth                                  appointed

                                    Enosh                                mortal

                                    Kenan                                sorrow

                                    Mahalalel                         The blessed God

                                    Jared                                  shall come down

                                    Enoch                                 teaching

                                    Methuselah                       His death shall bring

                                    Lamech                               the despairing

                                    Noah                                   rest (or comfort)    – (from Chuck Missler)

and this seems to be a very short summary of time up through the ministry of Christ, then what story is told in the names of the second 10, from Shem through Terah? Perhaps a summary of time after Christ? I have not seen any translation for those. The names above would have given the first four generations a poor self-image; I think this is a symbolic and prophetic sequence given to Moses as a prophecy of Christ, and the 10 names are a mnemonic aid, one name per finger.  They may not have been actual individuals.

Science Daily, May 2016:  The last Ice Age made much of the globe uninhabitable, but there were oases — or refugia — where people 20,000 years ago were able to cluster and survive. Researchers at the University of Huddersfield, who specialise in the analysis of human DNA, have found new evidence that there was one or more of these shelters in what is now Southern Arabia. Once the Ice Age receded — with the onset of the Late Glacial period about 15,000 years ago — the people of this refugium then dispersed and populated Arabia and the Horn of Africa, and might also have migrated further afield. The view used to be that people did not settle in large numbers in Arabia until the development of agriculture, around 10-11,000 years ago. Now, the findings by members of the University of Huddersfield’s Archaeogenetics Research Group demonstrate that modern humans have dwelt in this territory for far longer than previously thought. The new genetic data and analysis bolsters a theory that has long been held by archaeologists, although they had little evidence to support it until now. News item 7/17/18: Archeologists have discovered the burnt remains of a flatbread baked 14,400 years ago, more than 4,000 years before the advent of agriculture. The findings, excavated in northeastern Jordan’s Black Desert, reveal the oldest direct evidence of bread. Twenty-four bread-like objects were found at two fireplaces in a Natufian hunter-gatherer site known as Shubayqa 1.

     Genesis 6-9, Noah and the flood – this story is found in many cultures, with some variations.  The dates in the flood story seem to prefigure the Hebrew feast-days given later by Moses. Sea level rise is a gradual thing – some other factor would be needed to make it sudden enough to be remembered for millennia, perhaps an earthquake on faults to the north. Survivors would probably have moved up the river valleys toward Turkey. Forced onto less productive land without all the fruits and vegetables they were used to, high-calorie meat is made acceptable as food, and lifespans shorten.It must  have been very early, since ancient  dwelling sites all have animal bones near sites of fire. This may be when the telomeres were shortened, limiting lifespans to 120 years. Unfortunately, Noah seems to have carried the genetic predisposition for alcoholism.

    Genesis 10-11, the spread of mankind – after the Ice Age, people remained in the Middle East as their numbers increased enough to build cities. There may have been an event that dispersed them, or it could have been a desire on the part of family groups to depart from a culture that was continually going sinful; we see evidence of urban sociopathology everywhere as cities grow larger. Scripture says they were directed to disperse across the earth. That is more easily done as nomadic herdsmen, since their food travels with them. The ten patriarchal names from Shem to Abram seem to be another mnemonic or prophetic series; the time from the Ice Age to Abram is around 10,000 years, and their ages do not fill that gap.

    Genesis 12, the narrative enters recorded history with the details of Abram/Abraham’s life and the cultures of his time which are now known to archeologists. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the last ‘free-range’ Hebrews before Joseph invited them into the large and powerful Egyptian culture. Oral history would remember and celebrate the unique events in their lives after the Hebrews were immersed in the Egyptian influence. The deeds of the generations between Joseph and Moses went unremembered, along with most of those between Shem and Abraham, and must have been irrelevant for our lives.

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Pondering Original Sin

   Genesis 1-10 seems to be the ultimate ‘Reader’s Digest Condensed Book’. It covers a vast span of time and such critical events in a short discourse that could be easily written, carried about, and remembered by a nomadic and early-agricultural people. Much had to be omitted for that purpose, but some clues are given by which we may deduce the underlying story. There did, of course, have to be one original couple who were not just the fortunate offspring of an earlier version of man, otherwise they would have tended to regress toward the mean, just as is the case with the animal species. The time-scale is expanded by Dr. Hugh Ross in ‘Navigating Genesis’ with scientific evidence, including Noah’s flood as the infilling of a large basin by glacial meltwaters at the end of the last Ice Age, but the spiritual frame of reference has not been well explained by Christian theologians.

    There is only one historical truth. Different times and cultures seek it in different ways with different tools, find a little or a lot of it, and express it in different languages and worldviews. Reminds one of the story of the blind men and the elephant. We seem to have a pretty complete picture now of the material world, but where can we seek truth about non-material things? Do we choose to deny their existence? Still, we do have questions about them. We must look into the words given to us from God. They tell truth about the material world, why reject what else they say?

    Genesis was an effective communication on origins and principles for the Hebrews in their time and culture. The life and ministry of Jesus was an effective communication for the Greek/Roman time and culture.Today, Genesis in particular and the Bible in general are misinterpreted and mocked by a people who know little of history prior to their own life. The life and ministry of Jesus is considered out-of-date at least, and all supernatural aspects are rejected by secular, materialistic minds. Perhaps it is time to re-present the story in terms that are more meaningful today, and examine the things given to Paul and the apostles for the Greek mindset. God can anticipate future cultures and provide information to answer their questions, if they are willing to search His word. But language translation can bring its own cultural bias, and so can the reader.

The Eden story on original sin is often presented with a simplistic literalism that invites scorn from atheists, and has probably created some of them. ‘Everyone punished because of a talking snake? Really?’ Can the symbolism be unfolded, from the Bible text, into an intellectually serious understanding of original sin for the modern mind? The record of history, and our daily news, indicate the truth of the doctrine. Sin is inherent, and manifests in many ways, and Christianity does change lives for the better.
I have read that according to Christianity, the purpose of the universe is not to be morally or physically perfect, but to provide a place where spiritual creatures can choose to love or reject God – to live with Him forever in a new, perfect universe, or reject Him and live apart from Him for eternity. That seems to be a good general summary, but it has little value in talking with unbelievers. Materialistic public-school education creates some big obstacles to the use of the Bible, to belief in a soul, and even to the concept of sin itself.

Having lived a good many years and passed through the common youthful stages of atheism and science-oriented agnosticism into a large Christian denomination, I wonder if this view of original sin might prove useful in outreach. First, a few paragraphs of development.
In speaking with unbelievers, the idea of ‘original sin’ is a serious stumbling block. Many believe people are born basically good, or at worst a ‘blank slate’ prepared by evolution, and easily dismiss the idea of objective good and evil. They mock the Adam and Eve story, saying even if they did wrong, why should that condemn all their children? C. S. Lewis in ‘Mere Christianity’ developed the idea that man has a conscience that goes as far as being able to judge whether people are being ‘fair’ in dealing with each other, and that the universal sense of ‘fairness’ is proof of the objective existence of moral law. This sense of ‘fairness’ is a strong objection to the idea of original sin as presented in the Bible. ‘If they sinned, still I wasn’t there, and I didn’t, so why am I guilty?’ is the complaint. There doesn’t seem to be a gene to inherit for sin, and materialism has no place for anything not directly detectable. But what if each of us had sinned, even before Eve? What is our true origin as immortal souls? Do we really start out as sort of a spark between some combining chromosomes?

If our immortal souls are created at or after conception, either they are created perfect or they are created imperfect. A worthy deity can create them perfect. Why then install them in mortal bodies constructed with animal instincts and weaknesses? Just to observe us struggle and fight and often lose to the weaknesses of the flesh? If the flesh proves stronger than the spirit, that’s poor workmanship on the spirit; why then could the soul be rewarded or punished? If the soul is created imperfect, same objection. Thus, the soul must exist independently of the body before conception as well as after. Individual memory seems restricted to the experiences of this mortal life.  The conscious mind is still a mystery  to science. Our choices can be influenced, but not predicted. Scientists cannot create a thought in an experimental patient, or detect one. They can stimulate the brain to recall memories, but not predictably. They cannot create a memory. They cannot find the personality.

   I accept the Bible as inerrant in its original understanding, and believe it has been preserved with a remarkable degree of accuracy. It was not intended to explain everything. In order for the Old Testament to make sense to those to whom it was given, facts had to be reduced in volume, and expressed in a language that had a small (about 10,000 words) vocabulary which covered only the experiences of that culture. Otherwise, it would not have been copied and preserved. The culture had some basics to start from: there is a Creator, there is a moral law, people should find and follow that law to have fellowship with their Creator, individual  personalities continue to exist after bodily death. Can the narrative given in simple terms to them be unfolded into a more complete understanding for us?

Our understanding is clouded by centuries of cultural and linguistic change. The intelligent-design movement is opening new and fruitful frontiers of thought. After reading Hugh Ross’s book ‘Beyond the Cosmos’, one can see there is a very large story being revealed a bit at a time. God knows there is a limit to what a culture can understand and accept, and He does not dump excessive information before we are able to handle it. Genesis 1-11 is an alternative worldview that resembles that of other cultures of the ancient Middle East, but makes critical changes. It denies the existence of multiple deities, the pre-existence of material to build with, and that man was created to serve the deities. It states that one deity created the universe, that the earth was prepared for man in a specific sequence, and that mankind started as two people appointed as God’s viceregents on earth. He arranges for us to discover things about our world, and how elegantly it was designed, and lets the design force us to acknowledge the Designer. Those who start out by denying a Designer will spin fanciful tales to get around Him, but end in frustration. The evidence from modern science is that reality has at least nine space dimensions. This makes it unreasonable for materialists to reject the existence of unseen worlds. Furthermore, our own three dimensions of space and our one-way dimension of time had a specific beginning, and a cause that is outside of themselves, and may be just a temporary bubble within the greater reality. Those concepts were inexpressible to the Hebrews, and are difficult today.

Since ‘all Scripture is God-breathed, useful... (2 Tim 3:16)’, there must not be any useless loose ends in it; everything should fit into the story being told. Pulling on the apparent loose ends may prove useful. Genesis 2:2 says ‘By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.‘ If His work is finished, new things are no longer being created by God. See also Hebrews 4:3-11. There is a lot of creating being done by mankind, and all in a materialistic sense. We can even create and birth new people, but where does their eternal soul come from? That seems a most unlikely product of the intertwining of some DNA spirals. Only God can create something eternal, that image of God that each of us bears. We observe no ‘noetic’ phenomena from chemical reactions; Teilhard de Chardin’s idea of a ‘soulish’ component of matter was rejected.

God had created the animals to reproduce after their kind. They were mortal and were endowed with the necessary programming (often referred to as ‘instinct’) to survive and reproduce, and varying degrees of learning abilities. Man is made after that design with the addition of a spirit, the ‘imago dei’. In this, God gave His most daring gift – free will, which psychologists and politicians are trying to debunk and deny so they can use our lives in accord with their wills. While the animal survival-programming leads to competition and conflict, the spirit is supposed to control our animal behavior and bring our individual free wills and actions into compliance with God’s will. But the natural human spirit seems corrupt – even infants turn easily to lying and self-centered opposition. We need to acquire a new Spirit. This may be the internal conflict Paul speaks of in Romans 7:14-25 and Galatians 5:16-25, as the new Spirit in him struggles with the natural.

    The Genesis 1 overview speaks of Adam and Eve as designed somewhere other than in Eden, after the earth was created and prepared for them. But in the details of Genesis 2 Adam at first was created alone, apparently destined for immortality, and he enters the material world (Eden) with some privileges and a set of rules. Then God said in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Or perhaps Adam was to be the helper? Could the perfect man be useful in doing something God wanted done? This creation was declared in Gen. 1:31 to be perfect in God’s sight; ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’ Might there be some unfinished business from before Genesis that needed correcting? In Genesis 3 a third party, a created being with the ability and intent to deceive, seeks to turn their free will away from the rules – and man can no longer be trusted. We know evil only by living in it and seeing others live it. The living conditions of Eden are thus changed to those we know, and eternal life is withdrawn and guarded by a sword; might that be the sword of the Spirit in Ephesians 5?

    The story, as given for the Hebrew culture, goes – first there was perfection; then disobedience or rebellion; then a consequence of mortality (birth, troubles, physical death). But the tree of life still exists, where it always did (Rev. 2:7), for those whose lives earn entrance through the gate

    God and the angels existed in the heavenly dimensions before the creation of our space and time dimensions, and those dimensions are still separate from ours. God is not limited by our time, and the time sequence of prophetic events becomes indistinct and clouded by symbolism. The prophecies are usually phrased in the past tense. John in Rev. 12 speaks of a rebellion in heaven;
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.

7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Thus, God did create beings with free will (the most daring, valuable, and dangerous gift) aside from, and probably before, Adam. That whole chapter seems to be out of place in the narrative, sort of an explanatory flashback in time. One-third of the angels would seem to be a substantial loss. There is no clue as to the number of angels in heaven – it could be in the billions. Thus, there does exist a substantial pool of individual spirits separated from God. God has ceased His creative activities in this seventh day. But many people with immortal souls have been born in this seventh day. Man creates the body, but God gives the spirit;
Eccl. 12:7, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Zech. 12:1, The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person,…
I suggest that each human spirit (soul) is not a fresh creation, but is assigned out of a pool of previously disobedient ones to inhabit a human body. By their free will they followed one of their number, and by their free will they must free themselves from his power by choosing to adopt God’s will and imitate His character.
Isaiah 14:12-17 speaks of one who sought to usurp God’s throne and was cast down.
12 How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.
16 Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate:
“Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble,
17 the man who made the world a wilderness, who overthrew its cities
and would not let his captives go home?”

Captives? Apparently his desire was for power over others, a desire that lives also in too many of us.

And then there is Ez. 28:11-19:

“‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you:
carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.
Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.
14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created
till wickedness was found in you.
16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned.
So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, 
guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.
17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth;

That too is often interpreted as referring to Satan. Is it too much of a stretch to think that all 3 references speak of the same rebellion, and that it occurred somewhere before Adam? Those angels, spirit beings, freely chose to join Satan and separate themselves from God. Being in heaven, they knew only good. What could Satan promise to get them to follow him? Could it be that the knowledge of good and evil was Satan’s offer to those who would join his rebellion? That rebellion must have come before the banishment from Eden (Gen. 3:23-24), which I take as symbolic of the casting out of the rebels from heaven. Their sin (3:5) brought shame and fear (3:7-8) and they were sent to the earth sentenced to labor (3:17) and mortality (3:19). That history had to be framed in human terms to be expressed in the language of the early Hebrew culture.

In Luke 10:18, Jesus says “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven“, but He does not say when. God’s love for His immortal creations might lead Him to purpose this material universe for the recovery of His errant creations by bringing their free wills back into sync with His own will. This would require the creation of a limiting environment, (Romans 8:18-22): I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 

It required a physical body that a spirit could interact with, and a culture that could receive and transmit His word. He could then offer the opportunity for those who had joined the rebellion to enter into physical human bodies near the time of conception and learn their way back to compliance with His will, or make a final rejection of Him. Some would be chastened by their separation from God and accept, others would reject the offer and work demonically against God’s plan. There seem to have been some angelic ‘managers’ who also lost their way and fraternized with their subordinates, in Genesis 6:
2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them.
(These ‘sons of God’ may be the ones spoken of in Jude 1:6)
6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

After the fall, few mortals seem to have pleased God except Enoch. Finally He picked Noah and his family as the best of a bad lot, eliminated the rest, and started over. Eventually He noticed some redeeming characteristics in Abram and told him to leave his native culture and go to Canaan. Abram obeyed, later made a daring rescue and did not seek a share of the captured goods. Up until this point, Satan has lost none of the spirits that followed him except Enoch. The dead, in Sheol, are still his. But now God starts speaking to man and making promises; this is a threat to Satan’s power over them. Even after God had created this universe, prepared the earth to receive human life, and began routing the rebellious spirits through mortal life so they could learn from the general revelation, Satan had plenty of distractions and deceptions to retain his hold on them. The general revelation requires a lot of study before one can understand the patterns that show natural laws and point to the Designer and Creator. The sinful nature tends toward short-term thinking and self-gratification, not careful study. Misbehavior led to the Noah episode. When the mortal bodies met death, their spirits still belonged to Satan. Few were able to retain any contact with their Creator among the demands and limitations of mortal life. The spirits had no example to lead them away from Satan, who would not release them (Is.14:17), no power to resist, no memory of God’s love. God chose to take the initiative with Abram.

    In Genesis 15 we see a very curious covenant being made. When Moses wrote the Pentateuch, he had two sources available to him: the 400-year-old oral traditions passed down from Jacob, and God. The account of the covenant could have come from Abraham, or one of his 318 herdsmen who had gone to battle with him in Gen. 14, or from God. It must be both necessary and sufficient (2 Tim 3:16).
In the ancient world, the blood covenant was particularly strong. The parties to a covenant cut one or more animals in halves and walked together between them saying the words of their agreement and something like ‘if I violate this covenant may it be done to me as it has been done to this animal’. Each party consented to death should they fail to keep their agreement. Gen. 15:17, When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
Abram did not pass between the pieces, so the covenant was not with him. He was apparently in a deep sleep but yet heard God speak. Two other entities made the walk, and Abram was at best a witness – or perhaps the subject of the covenant. I suggest that the parties to the Genesis 15 covenant were God and Satan. Satan knew that God had all power and could take back all his followers, and felt threatened by this relationship between God and Abram. Satan had gained his followers by taking advantage of their free wills, probably making promises he could not keep, and believed that he could keep them separated from God if they retained their free will. I suggest that Satan wanted a covenant with God that neither of them would use supernatural powers to interfere with the free will of humans. This would leave Satan free to use deception, pleasures, earthly power and natural substances to hold his following.

    God has always existed as three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I suggest that God knew a way to use that covenant and still triumph. By that time, Satan had been dealing with humans for so long that even he was probably thinking in earthly terms. His intent was that God be kept from displaying His supernatural powers, His love, and even His existence, to man – and he thought that a violation of his intent would be a violation of the covenant, and that God does not violate promises. But looking at the big picture, there are two ways to keep such a covenant. One is to accept the limitation on actions, the other is to reject the limitation and accept the penalty depicted in the butchered animals – a bloody and violent death without resistance. A true violation would be for neither of those two to occur. The choice before God was (A) do no miracles; Satan keeps his captives forever, God need not die: or (B), continue speaking and showing miracles to man, try to awaken their spirits to God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness as they live mortal lives, but God must suffer death. He was promising to do either A or B. The second person of the Trinity came to live as Jesus. He chose to manifest His fullness as the Son in the human body of Christ and go to the Cross.

    The Crucifixion fulfilled the price agreed upon by the holder of captive souls (Satan) and the seeker (God) for the right to display God’s love and power in a fallen world whose people were under Satan’s power. The divine death proves God’s love, the Resurrection proves His power. Satan thought such a high price would prevent the purchase. God knows that death is an experience, not a state of being. He passed through the experience, He lives and continues His works among mankind, having paid the price of sin although He had no sin. That price bought for us the right to become children of God (John 1:12) as we learn and follow His example in our own mortal lives. If we believe in the Resurrection, we have been freed from Satan’s power – we can appeal to God for His help and guidance in following Him and serving Him and our fellow man.

    Each human soul, then, is an active, learning, creative being with free will and an eternal existence. Each of us chooses how to act, what to learn and create. Such a being could do an infinite amount of good, or evil, over its eternal time. God limits us to 120 years. Beings must be individually evaluated (judged) by some moral principles, and some separation must occur after a time, or there would be eternal conflict and victimization. Christians have faith that there is such a Judge, Who is just and righteous in His decisions. The Church, or at least those who choose to believe in the Holy Spirit, is His agent. God still respects our free will, our right to choose, even when we choose evil. He has the power to force surrender (... every knee will bow…and every tongue acknowledge, Romans 14:11) but He prefers that we come of our own free will as did the prodigal son. Having once chosen to separate ourselves from Him, we are exposed to danger, disappointment, damage and death by the self-serving actions of others. Satan, however, is limited in his actions against us. The covenant is still in force, and fortunately the price of violation is still too high for Satan to pay, for Satan cannot form a body to live in, he will not humble himself to experience death, and he cannot resurrect a body that has died. Satan must get voluntary cooperation or an invitation from humans to manifest in this world, but there are always those who will seek the dark side to get something they want. Some people seek to avoid judgment by claiming they are influenced by Satan or mistreated by society. It’s up to each of us how we think of or personify that predatory principle that seeks power over others, but such personalities are clearly at work in this world and must be opposed.

    In the Bible, Satan is referred to as a liar, a deceiver, a devourer of souls. One might think that the victims of deception would be worth an attempt at enlightenment and rescue. That could be the meaning of Matt. 18:11, and Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
He is obviously speaking of human souls. “That which was lost” logically implies that those souls once were “not lost”, but an event occurred which caused them to become “lost”, i.e. separated from God. He also knew His mission went beyond Judaism: in Matt. 15:21-28 He did honor the Canaanite woman’s request, and in Matt. 8:5-13 He healed the centurion’s servant, who would not have been a Jew, since Jews did not associate themselves with Gentiles in that manner. The prophecies of His coming were addressed to Jews, but they did include the blessing of all the peoples of the earth.

Jeremiah 1:5 – ‘Before I knit you together in the womb, I knew you
may imply that spirits have some character prior to having a body, and can be assigned to a body whose circumstances offer the kind of choices that can lead it back, or give the opportunity to serve God.
Psalm 139:
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
– knit together, woven together – a spirit assigned/intermeshed with the flesh?

    When God makes Eve from Adam’s material with a few modifications, after designing both in Gen. 1, He does not specifically breathe His spirit into her. Did He begin then with assigning the deceived angels to enter into flesh, or would that have begun with their children? This would explain all the sin and evil since Cain slew Abel. Thus, our original sin is that each of us once rebelled and rejected God, and all our efforts and frustrations are part of the process of proving to ourselves that God’s will and God’s word are the true object of our own free wills. It gives real meaning to the parables of the prodigal son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep in Luke 15.

    A summary, in modern terms: Each of us is an immaterial spirit that has been led astray and captured. We cannot be trusted in heaven. (Genesis 3, the archetypal story). Earthly life is a POW camp owned by a rebel against God. (Eph 2:1-2). We are fenced in by the limitations of a material world (Rom 8:20-21). Judaism was a plan to develop leadership for an escape (1 Pet 1:10-12). There were many poor leaders. Christianity is the escape plan. It takes discipline and work. We have this lifetime to find our way out. Unsuccessful escape attempts bring consequences (Luke 9:62, 11:24-26; Heb 6:4-6). This cannot be proved, only deduced from incomplete evidence. That’s why the escape plan requires faith, not evidence.

    This places real responsibilities on all of us. Those who become parents must in fact train up their children with respect for God and His word, because Satan does exist along with his fallen angels. They have used deception, pleasures, earthly power, and natural substances to lure people away from God. Many cultures have used natural hallucinogens to access what they considered to be the ‘spirit world’. Nowadays people use both natural and unnatural substances to alter their consciousness and relinquish self-control – thus voluntarily opening the mind to evil influences as well as loosening restraints on the fallen nature. It is worth noting that the word translated ‘witchcraft’ in the Bible is ‘pharmakeia’ from which our word ‘pharmacy’ is derived. The results of psychotropic drug use are consistent with, and tend to confirm, that condemnation of witchcraft. Peer pressure is often used to lure the young into drug use. All of us, in our own self-interest, must apply peer pressure and social pressures against ungodly behaviors, else we will be robbed of the personal liberty and security intended for us by God and established for us by America’s founders. That process of robbery is already far along, and is being advocated by drug legalizers and many activist groups whose cause is in opposition to one or more of the Ten Commandments.

    Christianity spread rapidly throughout the Roman empire. When the empire fell, Satan devised a counter-move against Christianity. Knowing that Jewish law had been so difficult for man, Satan through Mohammed doubled down on it and denied grace, emphasized works, authorized his followers to oppress women and unbelievers, and then offered fleshly rewards for death in battle. That way warriors would get their objective for sure – a win-win proposition. They offered Arab tribes a common enemy in Jews and Christians, who were more likely to be engaged in peaceful trade and less experienced as fighters. This system of martial dictatorship disguised as a religion dominated their known world, except northern and central Europe, for a thousand years.

     Thus it appears that Satan must be the deity of Islam; their deity’s self-description given in the Quran (3:54, 8:30, 27:50, 13:42, 10:21, 14:46, 43:79) is that he is the greatest of deceivers. He commands his followers to kill, steal, and destroy. (2:193, 8:39, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4) In the Reformation, a corrupted Christianity returned to its holy book and got serious about following it. The Muslim fundamentalists are already following their holy book, so reformation is not an option. Islam endorses the use of deception for personal and religious advantage. (3:28, 16:196) Be careful what Quran translation you seek, Muslim translators are likely to use taqiyyah in their work. Taqiyya and kitman, or not showing their faith openly by means of pretense, dissimulation, or concealment, are a special type of lying which is taught and used by Muslims. ‘nasikh’ is used to resolve contradictions; later writings are considered to abrogate (nullify) earlier writings. (2:106, 16:101) Mohammed’s writings show a change in attitude; the earlier writings are often peaceful and are cited in conversations with non-Muslims, the later ones are warlike and rarely admitted. This ‘abrogation’ shows that someone changed their mind, which God does not.

    The development of science brought another opportunity to weaken Christianity by attacking the idea of a recent creation, and then the idea of a creative deity. Materialism and secular humanism in the 1800’s then denied the existence of anything that could not be manipulated by material tools. Next, human pretensions turned to denying reality itself and entering the psychological delusions of existentialism and post-modernism, with the help of alcohol and drugs.

    Satan also seems to be the inspiration behind such secular ‘isms’ as socialism and communism, which are dependent on lies, deception, and man’s continuing quest for power over others. These are more easily excused when people do not believe in God. People who promote those socio-economic systems do all they can to suppress churches, make life difficult for believers, and promote ungodly behavior through government actions and media pressure. Since they deny the existence of the soul, they consider human life expendable in pursuit of their earthly goals. These characteristics are also found in the zealots of capitalism and environmentalism, who are willing to sacrifice ‘the little people’ and their God-given rights in pursuit of the elite’s secular goals.

Science is an interesting pursuit, as it discovers more and more detailed information about the material universe. This has little  to do with the questions that pertain to our consciousness and its destiny. Research continues on the human brain, which is thought to be where consciousness ‘lives’. It clearly controls the autonomous nervous system through an electro-chemical signaling system, Specific areas are associated with sensory functions. Memories can be recalled under some electrical stimulation, but the mode of storage is not understood. The brain may be temporary storage or cache memory for portions of an individual’s memories, but those memories are not permanently stored in a temporary structure like the human body. There are indications that information can be acquired while the consciousness is absent from the body, and also indications that  memory  can actually transfer from a deceased body to another body born later. These must either be disproved, or incorporated into any truly complete worldview. For further research, see ‘Life After Life’ by Raymond Moody and ‘Life Before Life’ by Jim B. Tucker.

O Tempora! O Mores!

As Cicero lamented the decline of the once-great Roman Republic, history repeats itself.

Western civilization is now attacking the religion that gave birth to it. The Bible has been under attack since Darwin, and the secularists have now gained control of our ‘representative’ government. That government now wishes to impose its own moral value system on our society, and scoffs at the idea of God being a higher power than itself. The Christian Church, created to carry the word of God to the world over time, has largely changed its mission from evangelism to social justice and self-affirmation, and now is becoming subservient to secular government’s demands. In not denouncing moral failures, we legitimize them – now pornography plagues many of our families, and the coarseness of TV and movies inhabits our minds and mouths. Secular media mock those who seek to follow the Bible. The moral flaws tolerated by the culture seem too numerous to attack, and they all spring from violation of one or more of the Ten Commandments. Whole denominations are deciding which parts of the Bible they no longer wish to follow. Lawyers attack a legal system based on the Bible, mock that moral basis, and legalize what it forbids. Secular law is turned against religious practice, and the people submit because the pulpits are silent.

Even as science finally learns enough to verify and develop the details of Genesis 1 (see ‘Improbable Planet’ by Hugh Ross, or www.reasons.org), and the Intelligent Design paradigm shows intellectual maturity, postmodernist ‘philosophers’ attack the basic idea of a rational, cause-and-effect universe. Universities abandon free inquiry and debate, and become ‘safe spaces’ devoted to propagating political correctness or the most destructive ideologies of recent centuries. Strange things happen when people have too much time on their hands, and little need to work productively to earn their bread.

Church and state were separated so that secular authority could not cloak itself in religious power. The Church is to represent an authority higher than any secular government, and has the duty to defend God’s value system whenever government violates it. If that duty is not carried out, then the Church merits God’s punishment along with government. That punishment can come as obvious results of the Church’s disengagement, such as crime, social and racial conflicts, addictions, and general dishonesty. Another form of punishment is ungodly government, a consequence of electing people who are not grounded in Biblical principles and beliefs and who then use secular power to impose their own will and values on the nation. We have clearly arrived at all of the above.

Recent government policies and actions have brought us to the point that everyone must choose between speaking for and living out Biblical principles and beliefs, or accepting the moral chaos of secularism. When all have made their choice, it will be God’s choice whether the nation deserves revival or punishment. But revival comes when people seek God, and it appears that not only are unbelievers not seeking God, but also the Church (for the most part) is not even trying to get their attention. If God has not forsaken us, He will get our attention by making life so difficult that people do earnestly seek Him because the difficulty is beyond our ability to handle. I think this nation was called into being to fulfill Matt. 21:43 and Matt 24:14. Even as our technology handles the latter task (the Jesus film now showing in 1455 languages), it is being misused to undermine and attack Christianity. This contradiction tells me that this nation should be deprived of its technology and reduced to a level that requires everyone to live simply and work hard in order even to eat. There are several ways this can happen, either from our own irresponsible fiscal conduct or from outside influences.

We have been brought to a time of division and conflict, groups of people turned against each other – races, religions, social and economic classes, age groups, political views – every difference of interest is being exploited by secular government for its own advantage. Our division must be healed. The only way a common interest can develop is if that interest is survival itself. There is no human power that can unify people who have been so polarized, there is no societal institution to which all have some allegiance, since the Church has become impotent. God has precedent in His dealings with the northern and southern kingdoms of ancient Israel. He appoints another power to conquer or disable the apostate nation.

Actual physical conquest of such a large land mass would be difficult and invite nuclear extermination, but we are vulnerable to newer kinds of attack. Cyber-attacks can confuse our financial system. Another oil embargo could stress our economy and force us to default on the national debt. Most effectively, a single nuclear bomb exploded a few hundred miles above Kansas could destroy our electrical grid, internet, communications, and entire economy silently without fallout or structural damage. See futurescience.com/emp.html for details.

After that, hardly anything would still work – phones, cars, cash registers, or industries. Three unfriendly nations can now do that, Iran will be a fourth, and we would not even know who to blame. Estimates are that over half our population would be lost to starvation, riots, and disease. Read ’One Second After’ by W. Forstchen. The survivors would have to re-create civilization, and only the Christian model has a chance of working well. This could be how God restores character to America – and the rest of the world may have to send missionaries here to help. If some of us plan to soften that worst-case scenario, and make some preparations for it, any lesser form of divine retribution would also be more easily handled.

 

Testing the Prophecies

The ups and downs of human culture seem to be getting more extreme. The historical record, back into the Old Testament, documents the swing back and forth between allegiance to the OT’s ethical and religious principles and allegiance to other deities (or none). It shows flawed humans struggling with selfishness and selflessness, and records the consequences. It even admits the errors of its heroes, a thing seldom done in our own time. Archeology has not contradicted its record of the past, as far as archeological dating of past empires and customs has gone. Ruins are hard to interpret any farther back than their language can be translated, and successive empires have pretty well ruined the records of the Middle East. Lack of outside evidence is not proof of absence.
The history of civilization offers a test of Biblical truth; what religious/ethical system results in relative peace, productivity, and eventual prosperity? This test is muddied by human power-seeking which often uses religion as a step in gaining secular power. It is also a temporary test, as prosperity has always led to corruption and laziness, so the pace of constructive change is as much of a consideration as its duration. The pace of change has obviously been greatest in western civilization, since the Reformation made the Bible available to the general public and the literacy rate rose.
Another test is found in the prophetic aspect of a large part of the Bible. If predictions do come true, there must be an underlying truth or intelligence at work. The first definite predictions of future occurrences are in the blessings of Jacob upon his sons and grandsons. In the Bible, the names of Jacob/Israel and his sons are used in 4 different ways depending on the context. They may be:
– information on participants in then-current events
– designating the tribe/family groups descended from them
– designating the land occupied by that tribe
– speaking of the tribe’s posterity in a prophetic way.
Prophecies may be for near-term events, near-term and as a pattern for farther on, or for the far future. Some references are broadly worded, as ‘the house of Jacob’ or ‘all Israel’. ‘House of Joseph’ would include descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. ‘House of Jacob’ would include all 12 of his children, including Joseph. Some Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in New Testament events, others still seem to await. New Testament prophecies are mainly for the ‘last days’ or ‘the end of the age’.
Jacob’s blessings for Judah and Joseph offer the most detail, and can provide clues to follow in seeking evidence of fulfillment. Moses repeats them in Deuteronomy 33 with few changes. Joseph’s blessings must be considered as given to his first two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as well (Genesis 48-49). Manasseh was to become a great nation; but no record exists after the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom. We do find today a tribe in eastern India who call themselves ‘B’nai Menashe’ and have curiously Hebrew traditions; they may be the last of Manasseh not to be absorbed into the Indian culture and gene pool.
Time-sequence for some Old Testament people:
Before 1400 BC – times of Jacob
1010-970 BC – David’s reign
970-930 BC – Solomon
853-841 – Obadiah
760-750 – Amos
740-710 – Micah
722 BC – Northern Kingdom falls to Assyria
753-715 – Hosea
700-680 – Isaiah
586 BC – Southern kingdom, Judah, falls to Babylon
593-571 – Ezekiel
520 – Zechariah
Ephraim became the leading tribe of the northern kingdom after Jeroboam split it away from Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Their name became the generic reference to the Northern Kingdom even before the Assyrian conquest, which scattered its survivors and brought in Assyrian occupiers to replace them. The name was used in prophetic references by both major and minor prophets, before and well after they were scattered into Eurasia. In that scattering, they must have mingled their blood and their blessings with the peoples they encountered. Ancestries cannot be traced that far back, but we can look for the fulfillment of the blessings. This is a key point in the way that Gentiles were grafted into the Judeo-Christian family tree (Romans 11). Genesis 22:17-18 ‘Through your offspring will all the nations of the earth be blessed’ – the dispersion of the northern kingdom was necessary for the spread of the Gospel, because it spread some aspects of the language and the cultural ethics even without the temple priesthood as they traveled. Many pagan cities had a synagogue and a Jewish neighborhood. These provided a more fertile soil for the growth of Christianity when the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus. After that point, people of any background could join the family of God (and Ephraim) by adopting Christianity even without knowledge of its Hebrew roots.
The split after Solomon can be seen as a prefiguration of the American Revolution. Solomon had great wealth and wisdom, but became a tyrant as he built his wealth and palaces. His son decided to become more of a tyrant, igniting Jeroboam’s rebellion. England became a great commercial empire and produced great philosophers and scientists, but treated the colonies badly, bringing the American Revolution. Let’s see if Europe and America fit the prophetic picture for Ephraim. I first found the idea of tracing Ephraim in ‘The Covenant’ by Tim Ballard.
This is the background we might see in the discovery and colonization of America, the Revolution, the Constitution, and the inauguration of George Washington and the first Congress. The Ephraim heritage connects with the Abrahamic covenant, the blessing of Joseph, Jeroboam’s split of Solomon’s kingdom, and Washington’s renewal of the covenant (which also claims the blessing of Ahijah on Jeroboam in I Kings 11). Jonathan Cahn speaks of the inauguration in Chapter 19 of ‘The Harbinger’. This is why our economic cycles have been connected to the Hebrew Sabbath-year cycle. They were consciously making a covenant with God; actually, unconsciously renewing  the one with Jeroboam which Jeroboam failed to keep, with the results that Amos warned about. They claimed His blessings for America, and we have received them, but now we are falling away and that will bring once more His retribution. This too is explained by Jonathan Cahn in ‘The Mystery of the Shemitah’. Our current Shemitah ends on 9/13/2015. It does not seem that America will voluntarily return to the covenant before our punishment begins.

Biblical references, and comments, follow.  Looking at the apparently-prophetic references using my concordance, from the NIV version of the OT, out of the total references to Joseph (14), Ephraim (68), Manasseh (7).
Jacob’s prophecies & blessings:
Gen. 48:

17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.
18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.”

20 He blessed them that day and said, “In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’ ” So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
(Jacob’s two most detailed prophecies are for Judah and Joseph)
Gen. 49:

8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness–who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.

12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.

23 With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
(Judah is the line from which came Jesus. Joseph: a vine (spreading); climbing over an obstacle (ocean). Joseph’s two sons were to become nations. Let’s see if the blessing of Joseph has been fulfilled.)

References to Joseph in the Psalms, and the prophetic books
Ps 77:

14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.

15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
(this seems to indicate some division, not real unity, else it would suffice to mention only Jacob’s descendants, which include Joseph’s)
Ps 78:

67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;

68 but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved.
(Psalms  predate the division of the kingdom after Solomon’s reign,but foresee the time when Jeroboam set up temples in the north to compete with Jerusalem)
Ps 80:

1 Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth

2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.
(Ephraim and Manasseh were the major parts of the northern kingdom which was conquered and dispersed by the Assyrians; this seems to indicate that the writer was aware that the kingdom would be split and those tribes need future guidance)
Ps 81:

3 Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast;
4 this is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.

5 He established it as a statute for Joseph when he went out against Egypt, where we heard a language we did not understand.
(Apparently speaking of the Feast of Trumpets, by the God of Jacob, a statute for Joseph; again that distinction between Jacob and Joseph, with the implication that the Feast of Trumpets would be important in the future of both)
Ez 37:

15 The word of the LORD came to me:
16 “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’
17 Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.
18 “When your countrymen ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’
19 say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph–which is in Ephraim’s hand–and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’
20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on

21 and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.
(a prophecy that Judah (conquered by Babylon, but not extinguished; they remained in the Middle East, which the survivors of the Northern Kingdom mostly did not) and descendants of Ephraim (scattered and mingled with other peoples) would come together to restore a Hebrew nation, now Israel). England and America were the prime movers in the establishment and defense of Israel. This would imply that they are in some way descendants of Ephraim.)
Ez 47:
13 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “These are the boundaries of the land that you will  divide among the twelve tribes of Israel as their inheritance, with two portions for Joseph. 14 You are to divide it equally among them. Because I swore with uplifted hand to give it to  your ancestors, this land will become your inheritance.
(a far-future prophecy, two portions for Joseph’s sons per Gen. 48: the two portions seem consistent with Gen. 48:19, Manasseh a great nation and yet separate from Ephraim’s group of nations)
Ez 48:
32 “On the east side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin and the gate of Dan.
(one gate for each of Jacob’s sons; note that the tribe of Dan is replaced in the end-time evangelist tribes of Rev. 7 by Manasseh, so Dan apparently has no role in the Tribulation while Manasseh [India? China?] does. Joseph’s prophecy for Dan did not sound good. The absence of Ephraim in Rev.7 may imply that Ephraim (believing Christians) is taken away in the Rapture, leaving the field to Messianic Jews)
Amos 5:

Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire;
   it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it.
15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
   Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.
(prophetic warnings about the impending Assyrian conquest)
Amos 6:
You put off the day of disaster and bring near a reign of terror.
You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches.
  You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions,
    but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.
(denouncing complacency in the apostate, near-pagan Northern Kingdom, and a valid warning for any nation whose success leads to laziness)

Obadiah 18:

15 
“The day of the Lord is near
for all nations.

   As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.
16 Just as you drank on my holy hill, so all the nations will drink continually;
   they will drink and drink  and be as if they had never been.
17 But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy,
    and Jacob will possess his inheritance.
18 Jacob will be a fire and Joseph a flame;
   Esau will be stubble, and they will set him on fire and destroy him.
   There will be no survivors from Esau.” The Lord has spoken.

(A last-days prophecy; Descendants of Jacob and of Joseph will lay waste a large portion of the Middle East. Are they Israel and America?)

Zech 10:

“My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders;
  for the Lord Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah,
    and make them like a proud horse in battle.
From Judah will come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg,
  from him the battle bow, from him every ruler.
Together they[a] will be like warriors in battle

  trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets.
They will fight because the Lord is with them,
    and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame.

“I will strengthen Judah and save the tribes of Joseph.
   I will restore them because I have compassion on them.
  They will be as thoughI had not rejected them,
   for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.
The Ephraimites will become like warriors, and their hearts will be glad as with wine.
   Their children will see it and be joyful; their hearts will rejoice in the Lord.
I will signal for them and gather them in.
   Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before.
Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me.
   They and their children will survive, and they will return.
(More last-days prophecy; well after the northern kingdom is scattered, it is prophesied that they will remember their God even after assimilating into pagan cultures. Last mention of Joseph until Rev 7:8)

References to Ephraim, from Psalms thru Zechariah:

Ps.60:
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;
    Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter.
(Ephraim – Paul refers to the helmet of salvation in Ephesians 6:17 –
could imply that Ephraim will be the carrier of Christianity?)

Ps. 78:

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.
(the author opens by declaring this is prophetic)
The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.

(predicts that the northern kingdom will fall away from faith [and it may apply to America too].
the next verses are history; Jeroboam who led the rebellion of the ten tribes was of Ephraim’s tribe, and set up two temples to compete with Judah’s Jerusalem site. God intended the split, but blessed only one temple site – Jerusalem.)
67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever.
Ps.80:
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.
 You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might; come and save us.
(shine forth – awaken them to Christianity after the dispersion?)
Ps.108:
Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine;
    Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter.   (See Ps.60 – a partial repeat)

(Isaiah: before the conquest of the northern kingdom by Assyria – partly current-events, partly prophetic; leaving out the current-events part)
Is. 9:
The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel.
All the people will know it— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—
   who say with pride and arrogance of heart,
10 “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
   the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.”
(Made famous by ‘The Harbinger’ – the near/far parallel of Assyria and our 9/11)
Is. 11:

12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel;
   he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.
13 Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies[d] will be destroyed;
   Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.
(This seems to speak of the reconciliation of the Israel of today with their Messiah, in the days of the Tribulation)
Is. 28:
1 Woe to that wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards, to the fading flower,
his glorious beauty,
set on the head of a fertile valley—
   to that city, the pride of those laid low by wine!
See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong. Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind,
   like a driving rain and a flooding downpour, he will throw it forcefully to the ground.
That wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards, will be trampled underfoot.
That fading flower, his glorious beauty, set on the head of a fertile valley,
   will be like figs ripe before harvest— as soon as people see them and take them in hand,
    they swallow them.
(Warning of the fall of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria? And perhaps a prefiguration
of the fall of America? The loss of earthly power?
)
Jeremiah 7:
15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of            Ephraim.’
(Warning Judah that they will follow the Northern Kingdom into exile)
Jeremiah 31:
See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth.
   Among them will be the blind and the lame,
    expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return.
They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back.
   I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble,
   because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son.
(this speaks of the rebirth of Israel in 1948; the new Jewish state, created with the assistance of Ephraim/America, the bearer of Christianity (Christ, the firstborn)
Ez 37:
15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Joseph (that is, to Ephraim) and all the Israelites associated with him.’ 17 Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.
18 “When your people ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’
19 say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick. I will make them into a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’
20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on
21 
and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.
(Ephraim represents all the ten tribes, and helps in the birth of Israel in 1948. America was the first nation to recognize Israel.)

Hosea speaks of the impending conquest of the Northern kingdom by Assyria, using the word ‘Ephraim’ to refer to all the ten tribes
Hos. 9:
The prophet, along with my God,
is the watchman over Ephraim,
   yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.
(perhaps implying that Ephraim is on a long, long journey through the centuries)
13 I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place.
    But Ephraim will bring out their children to the slayer.”
(with a vision of their future home in America, but then our fall into Moloch worship [abortion])
16 Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit.
    Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.”
17 
My God will reject them
 because they have not obeyed him;
    they will be wanderers among the nations.
(Verses 16-17 speak of their then-current state; the ten tribes were conquered and scattered after this prophecy)
Hosea 10:
10 When I please, I will punish them; nations will be gathered against them
    to put them in bonds for their double sin.
11 Ephraim is a trained heifer  that loves to thresh; so I will put a yoke on her fair neck.
    I will drive Ephraim, Judah must plow, and Jacob must break up the ground.
12 Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love,
    and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord,
    until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.
(the ten tribes will be enslaved and scattered, Ephraim has a task to do, Judah (Christ) will be the plowman that guides Ephraim, and the Jewish faith must keep its values and traditions alive until the latter days [latter rains?])
Hos. 11:
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms;
   but they did not realize it was I who healed them.
(Jeroboam was appointed by Ahijah to lead the ten tribes, but quickly fell away from worshiping God
)
My people are determined to turn from me.
    Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them.
“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
   For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities.
10 They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion.
   When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
(Ephraim may be spared future devastation – perhaps revival comes, or rapture?)
12 Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, Israel with deceit.
   And Judah is unruly against God, even against the faithful Holy One.
(but at that time, they will both require some punishment)
Hos. 12 gives further reasons for the Assyrian conquest, and
Hos. 13 adds the southern kingdom to the punishment list. The only hope is at v. 14:

1 Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: “Forgive all our sins
   and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses.
   We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made,
    for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
(‘Israel’ includes Ephraim, Jacob’s grandson: this echoes ‘they will beat their swords into plowshares’ and an end to worshiping the material things of life)
Ephraim, what more have I[c] to do with idols?
(alternative phrasing: What more has Ephraim to do with idols?)
    I will answer him and care for him.
    I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.”
(implying perhaps revival in America or the West)

14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.
   Where, O death, are your plagues?
    Where, O grave, is your destruction?
(this is echoed and answered in 1 Corinthians 55:)
  

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of  God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—
 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53 
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

(Zechariah speaks in part of the end times and the final peace)
Zech. 9:
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
    and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
(but first there is the final battle)
13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim.
    I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece,
    and make you like a warrior’s sword.
(This echoes Revelation 6 – the rider with the bow. In Zechariah’s time, Greek culture was present throughout what is now called Turkey and the Middle East, now held by Islam)
Zech. 10:

“My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders;
   for the Lord Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah,
    and make them like a proud horse in battle.
From Judah will come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg,
   from him the battle bow, from him every ruler.
Together they[a] will be like warriors in battle
    trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets.
   They will fight because the Lord is with them,
    and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame.

“I will strengthen Judah and save the tribes of Joseph.
    I will restore them because I have compassion on them.
    They will be as though I had not rejected them,
    for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.
The Ephraimites will become like warriors, and their hearts will be glad as with wine.
   Their children will see it and be joyful; their hearts will rejoice in the Lord.
I will signal for them and gather them in.
   Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before.
Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me.  
They and their children will survive,
and they will return.
(the Ephraimites scattered among the peoples in distant lands will remember the Lord; this seems to speak of a great revival of faith in nations which today are falling farther into secular materialism and atheism. That would logically follow some event like a serious terrorist or EMP attack, or a major economic collapse that reveals the corruption of their economic or banking system – which could lead to the Ezekiel 38-39 events, then coming into Revelation 6 at about verse 5. It appears that the crowd beneath the altar of Rev. 6:9-11 is already beginning to gather, as ISIS rampages through the Middle East.)

The First Horseman, updated

The rising level of conflict in the world among people, groups, and nations, brings one to question our future. Technology brings ever more powerful, and some more subtle, forms of destruction. Both Christianity and Islam predict vast confrontations and destructive wars followed by a transition to a new kind of life. The Bible offers some prophetic symbols that may fit into recent history. Previous posts seek to reconcile secular observations with the Judeo-Christian worldview. This one is prompted by the question, “So who is the first horseman or when does he appear?”.

The Bible often personifies tribes, nations, or movements as individuals. The symbolism can be understood in hindsight for past events by seeking parallels in history. Those without a good parallel remain for the future. Looking at the rider with a bow, I think the first horseman has come, and we missed him because we thought in the wrong context.

The First Horseman of the Apocalypse
Rev. 6:2, New International Version
I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

That’s an odd image; holding a bow, but no arrows, when he arrives. But Jesus’ followers were to conquer by persuasion and example, and they did so before Constantine. After Constantine chose Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church was co-opted by secular governments (given a crown). It shared power and wealth with various rulers, and served to legitimize and enforce feudalism. The seven churches of Rev. 2-3 predict the gradual changes, strengths, and weaknesses in the institution through the Reformation and into the present.
Ephesus – the apostolic church
Smyrna – the persecuted church
Pergamum – the early Roman church – the first three are now gone.
Thyatira – the Roman Catholic church
Sardis – the major churches of the Protestant Reformation
Philadelphia – the faith-filled churches of all later denominations
Laodicea – the modern, casually apostate churches, falling away, Jesus on the outside (3:20)

– the last four coexist and compete for followers. The Catholic church seems to be approaching its end according to the prophecy of St. Malachy, with this being the last Pope.

Revelation 4 & 5 set the scene for revealing more future movements and events. We meet the rider on the white horse again in Rev. 19:11, as the conquering Christ, after the seals and trumpets and bowls. But as the church began, Ephraim was still scattered (no arrows). Europe becomes Christian, and America is called into being as a literate, Christian nation. Missionary activity finally begins to move into new languages and think seriously of the Great Commission.

After the Reformation broke the dependence on Latin scriptures, the different denominations spent most of their energy on persecuting each other. While the conquest of South and Central America perpetuated the old feudal system, some North American colonists began to translate Scripture into the native languages and teach them about Christianity. This was the first effort in about a thousand years to spread the faith into other languages and cultures.
After the religious wars had burned themselves out in Europe, the British empire realized it could not impose military control over the huge populations of India and all its other territories. They set about establishing the institutions of western civilization within the context of other languages and cultures. The basis of that civilization was Christianity, so it became necessary to translate the Bible into other languages rather than attempt to impose English on all those cultures and language groups. Also in the early 1800’s, the first missionary societies were founded in England and America for the purpose of translating and teaching the faith in alien cultures. This proved useful for the empire, and worked well in India; less so in Africa and elsewhere.
Europe and later America appear to be places where some of the ‘lost ten tribes’ of the northern kingdom ended up after the Assyrian conquest; they were referred to by later prophets as ‘Ephraim’ (Ez. 37, Hosea 5-14, Zech. 9-10, Jeremiah 31), in terms that imply God had not forgotten them. See also ‘The Covenant’ by Tim Ballard.   These missionaries were the far-flung descendants of Ephraim, carrying salvation to the world.

Interpreting the rider with the bow: Christ, as the head of the tribe of Judah, energized Ephraim to serve the faith in the missionary movements which began in England and America in the early 1800’s. Old Testament references to the bow clarify this:

Zechariah 10:4 New International Version
From Judah will come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler.
Zechariah 9:13a New International Version
I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim.
English Standard Version
For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow.
The Ephraim reference connects to others:
Ps.60:7
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet,
Judah is my scepter.
Eph. 6:17, the armor of God:
17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:8
8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

The crown also signifies secular power, and those arrows of Ephraim fought for righteousness in the Civil War and World Wars I & II. President Truman, more Christian than politician, even rebuilt the old enemies and set them free. He also led in recognizing the rebirth of Israel as a nation. After that our military has been guided by the grand designs of politicians, and the sacrifice of our troops has largely been in vain. Christian witness is now being punished in our military. The missionary task continues; the Jesus film is out in over 1100 languages, Wycliffe translators and others continue their labors. So, the first horseman of the Apocalypse came forth as the church began, acquired arrows abut 1800, and his ride continues, but he is pursued by the second horseman:

Rev. 6:4 New International Version
Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

Now we see the entry of the second – Islam. Satan’s countermove against growing Christianity was to form a new religion that mocked or reversed many aspects of Christianity and Judaism, but relied on force and earthly rewards. It subdued most of an early Christian world with the sword, and for a thousand years ruled much of their known world and threatened Europe. Recently the Islamic Ottoman empire, defeated in WW I and dismembered by the Sykes-Picot Treaty, is taking shape again as ISIS. This takes us into the vast overview of history in Revelation 12-13, and the seven heads of the beast. Those represent the seven major empires of history (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia,  Greece, Rome, Islam) and the wound was the Sykes-Picot treaty. The rise of ISIS begins the healing of the wound, and the Caliphate will be the eighth king of Rev. 17:11.

The Hebrews were God’s chosen people to bring His name before the nations (Ex. 19:4-6) but eventually failed; the effort was renewed by Paul (Acts 9:15, 26:16-18). Who believes in God must also believe Satan exists. Satan has long sought to destroy the Hebrews, and if God is using Ephraim (the lost tribes) to carry His name to the nations then Satan will seek to destroy Ephraim. We are not conscious of our ancestry as Ephraim, but God and Satan are. Once more Ishmael comes against Isaac, Esau against Jacob. This is what inspires Islam. The Bible speaks of Satan as a liar, a deceiver. In the Quran, Allah describes himself as ‘the greatest of deceivers’ (3:54, 7:99, 8:30). The Islamic principles of kitman, taqiyya, hudna, and nasikh are quite useful in deception (google them). Islam may have a point in its claim that the whole world once belonged to its deity (see Genesis 6:5-7). That deity’s character as revealed in the Quran is the opposite of the Judeo-Christian deity, who does not lie (Num. 23:19). After the fall of man as presented symbolically in Genesis 3, Satan did control the human world. God decided to win us back one soul at a time, and started with Abraham. Satan resists, most effectively with deception.

Deception has been at work in America for a long time, and the pace went to double-time in the 1960’s. Our media have become expert at emphasizing favored topics and ignoring others. Now we have reached the point of re-electing a dedicated Marxist (himself a master of deception) who uses his position to facilitate the expansion of ISIS and brings in the Muslim Brotherhood as advisers. The end-game is near; even now souls are gathering under the altar of Rev. 6:9-11. Human effort alone will not change this; watch for some divine orchestration of events along about September.

Turkey seems to be taking the course predicted by Walid Shoebat in ‘God’s War on Terror’. Its military would enable it to take charge of whatever develops to its south. The Shiite goal of global chaos to bring the 12th Imam may not fit with Turkey’s ambitions, so that remains to be seen. ISIS will surely try to take terrorism to the Western nations in the short term, and that has long-term consequences. But Ezekiel 38-39 may take down ISIS and leave the field to Turkey as the controlling interest in the Caliphate. The ISIS interest in terrorism brings the circumstances in which the third and fourth horsemen can enter.
Rev. 6:5-8 New International Version
When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”. I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Without peace, commerce of all kinds becomes difficult. Large-scale governments cannot control or assure it. Disruption of electrical and energy supplies would cause food shortages and healthcare problems as symbolized by the other horsemen. Peace will have to be established within defensible local borders from which it may be expanded. It cannot be imposed from the top down; only tyranny comes that way. Failed government systems will have to be revised, and those areas which best handled the crisis must be the models for the revision.

P.S. Nov-2018: The Jesus film is now out in over 1500 languages. Every cell phone with internet access can carry the Gospel. ISIS is less powerful, as Iran and Turkey vies with Saudi Arabia for the leadership of Islam. Israel is still under threat of attack. Europe struggles to retain its laws and institutions as Muslim immigrants outnumber Europeans in many areas. America is threatened internally by the ‘democratic socialism’ advocates, who now control the budget and will spend the next two years opposing the President and Senate. Leftist forces inside and outside drive domestic conflicts and reduce America’s credibility as an international player. Christianity makes progress in Africa, will survive against Chinese repression, but fades in Europe and America. This is reminiscent of first-century Israel, rent by conflict and rejecting its Messiah, but with Christianity spreading among its expatriates. The plant of Judaism died back, but the seeds were spread. It seems possible that secular humanism will triumph here, but the seed spread by the missionaries will prosper as we too collapse.

Assembling the Puzzle

It has been evident for a few years that things political, and their economic consequences, are not being conducted on a logical, or even rational, basis. Mere ignorance would not continue to drive policies in such unethical and destructive directions. Evil intent, its consequences being observed, should arouse counterforces within the political arena which would use rational thought in ethical ways to show the sources of error and correct them – but this does not occur. The American republic depends on voters being well enough educated to evaluate information and act on moral principles, but education has faltered and the entertainment media mock every moral principle. It became evident in 2007 that both the culture and the government were on a course toward failure. In a species endowed with intelligence and reason, why repeat history’s worst mistakes? It brought to mind the Biblical phrase ‘a strong delusion’ from 2 Thessalonians 2:11, but I hesitate to blame God when the human motivations are obvious. Eventually a friend recommended ‘The Harbinger’ by Jonathan Cahn. (New paragraph, 12/17

    ‘The Harbinger’ got me looking at the Hebrew calendar, then Hagee’s new book ‘Four Blood Moons’ led to more searching. I found  http://www.redmoonrapture.com (useful also for the Hebrew calendar and feast schedule) and the hour-long video from Pastor Mark Biltz at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e25L8YA9KX8 which is well worth taking notes on, even if the video lighting is poor.  Then add in Tim Ballard’s ‘The Covenant’  and a larger picture of history emerges. Readers are encouraged to do their own reading to see what conclusions they draw. This is a summary of how the puzzle pieces fit together for me:
                          –                                                  –
    Hagee’s book focuses on the ‘blood moon’ tetrads that began in 1493, 1949, 1967, and 2014. These sets of lunar/solar eclipses all fall on Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles of two consecutive years of the Hebrew calendar. They are the only four such occurrences since 1000 AD. These are years of considerable significance for Israel; the first he takes to mark the discovery of the Americas, where the U.S. was destined to become Israel’s defender and friend. The second marks the birth of the modern state of Israel, the restored Jewish homeland. The third, the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli control (Luke 21:24, so the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled except for the Islamic control of the Temple Mount?). The fourth must mark some major new development for Israel or the Jewish faith.
     Each tetrad spans almost a year and a half; the relevant event occurs in a short period of time in or near the tetrad. They are events that occur in a cultural context, and it is not easy to discern the buildup of forces or the relatively minor events that were the trigger events that set the major event in motion. The second and third tetrads seem to mark the completion of their event; the first seems to mark the beginning. For 2014-15, watch and wait for it – it should be very interesting.
     Hagee’s point is that events associated with  these rare astronomical events must indicate that God’s Old Testament promises to Israel are still in force, that the solar  system was designed to mark ‘signs and seasons’ and that God’s designated ‘Feasts of Israel’ were to keep Israel looking for those signs.
                         –                                                  –
    In ‘The Covenant’, Ballard’s thesis is that God’s promises to Israel were made to all twelve tribes, and that He has also been working with the ‘lost ten tribes’ who were conquered by Assyria and scattered well before the Babylonian captivity.  They had already fallen into worshiping other gods, and no longer honored the Levitical priesthood or the Jerusalem temple. The Assyrians would have dispersed them mostly toward the northwest, away from the growing Babylonian empire. They probably traveled as family or tribal groups, but with limited resources they would not be likely to retain their written language. Their agricultural skills would have helped them assimilate into other groups they found. Well after the dispersion, the prophets of Israel still spoke of them as ‘Ephraim’ and prophesied concerning them. (Ez. 37, Hosea 9, Zech. 10, Jeremiah 31). If they spread to the northwest they would have gone into Austria, Germany, France, and England. Although they had lost the original culture, they were still heirs of Jacob – the promises had been made, the prophecies remained.
                              –                                                      –
    Ballard associates them with the British believers who rejected the divine pretensions of their earthly royalty and fled as Puritans and Separatists to New England. That began a considerable migration from Europe of like-minded people, and the eventual founding of the United States and the establishment of our Constitution. The numerous miraculous occurrences during the Revolutionary War bear witness to some divine favor.
    He then contends that the inauguration of President Washington and the first Congress was the re-establishment of a covenant with God by the lost ten tribes in their new homeland. (See also The Harbinger.) The prosperity and power which followed was due to the national character which was based on obedience to the Biblical moral laws which inspired much of the Constitutional Convention’s debates.
                              –                                                       –
    The five ‘blood moon’ tetrads during the first millennium are ignored in Hagee’s book. He focuses on the present-day nation of Israel, but those earlier tetrads are quite significant for Ballard’s ten tribes.  See http://www.redmoonrapture.com for more details.
Tetrad 1, 32-33,  related to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Tetrad 2, 162-63, great persecution under Marcus Aurelius drove monotheistic believers out of Italy to the northern and western provinces where they had more liberty. Christian believers would have encountered the lost tribes there.
Tetrad 3, 795-96, Charlemagne stopped Muslim moves toward France and secured Europe’s western borders against them.
Tetrad 4, 842-43, Muslims came up Italy and sacked Rome; Italy unified to defeat them in a naval battle at Ostia and discouraged any further attacks from the south.
Tetrad 5, 860-61, Byzantine forces defeated the Muslims at Lalakaon, securing Europe’s western borders for the next 750 years – giving Europe time to discover America (the 1493 tetrad).
    The major turning points at which Europe was protected from Muslim conquest all come at or near those feast-days tetrads, but Israel had been largely depopulated after the 70 AD seige of Jerusalem by the Romans. Jerusalem was indeed trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, for a long time. They had no significance for Israel but had much importance for the ten tribes, which seems to be a confirmation of Ballard’s thesis.
                              –                                                        –
    ‘The Harbinger’ by Jonathan Cahn uses three fictional characters to explain from history, both recent and ancient, a pattern of events which is clearly still in progress. It starts in Isaiah’s comment on the fall of the northern kingdom, when the ten tribes were conquered. It is a Biblical pattern, and the parallels are remarkable.
    The current side of the story leads to these facts; the economic impact of the 9/11 attack was felt when the stock markets next opened after that day. The Dow fell by a record 684 points. That date was September 17, 2001: 29 Elul 5761 in the Hebrew calendar used by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That was the final day of the year in the 7-year Hebrew economic cycle (see Leviticus 25) designated for the settling or remission of debts. The attack caused a recession, the government resolved that we would come back stronger, and Americans were asked to keep spending to boost the economy. To emphasize our strength we initiated wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, seeking to change ingrained cultures over a thousand years old. The cultures remain unchanged, and our national debt increased by 5 trillion dollars while a real-estate bubble built up and was marketed world-wide in the form of ‘derivatives’. Domestic unrest built up over the war expenses and caused the candidates in the 2008 elections to remain personally unexamined while the media diverted attention to other matters. That ‘year of remission’ began with the first sign of economic trouble – the failure of Northern Rock Bank in Britain. When the real estate values behind the ’derivatives’ began to decline due to non-payment of the underlying loans by unqualified buyers, the debt bubble collapsed. That came on September 29, 2008 (29 Elul 5768 in the Hebrew calendar) when the Dow dropped 777 points, 7% of its value, 7 full Hebrew years after its fall in 2001. The nation’s founding covenant with God seems to also put some aspect of our fate on God’s old Hebrew calendar.
    As Israel’s stand-in for this act of the play (per Matt. 21:43) for the purpose of Matt. 24:14, we should take note that all of what we call ‘western civilization’ is rapidly abandoning its Christian roots. Even history itself is being rewritten, and we become ever more irresponsible in our moral, ethical, and financial behavior. As Israel fell to Assyria, so can we fall. We have been warned. The Apostle Paul in Romans 11:17-23, and indeed in all of Romans 8 thru 11, describes our times well. Anyone who follows the news can see the approach of the events of Ezekiel 38-39, and Ezekiel 39:29 matches up with Romans 11:26-29. At our current rate of cultural decline, it may take divine assistance even to survive until the next ‘year of remission’, and divine mercy to actually endure it. Divine retribution is not limited to economic affairs; the whole of nature is at God’s command.
    The next ’year of remission’ begins on September 25, 2014 (Hebrew 1 Tishri 5775) and ends on September 13, 2015 (Hebrew 29 Elul 5775). A major event on that last day could not be dismissed as coincidence. That may be what it takes to get the attention of a secular world. The events related to the lunar tetrads do not seem to be as date-specific as America’s economic events were.
    Is there any indication that the 7-year Tribulation coincides with the 7-year economic cycle? It might seem fitting that it would start after an economic collapse and escalate through the next ‘year of remission’. It might also be that it would start with a ‘year of remission’ and escalate until the next one (5782), which is a ‘Jubilee year’ (divisible by 49). Leviticus 25 terms a jubilee year the year to ‘declare liberty throughout the land’. That one begins Sep. 7, 2021 and ends Sep. 25, 2022.  The book mentions that Israel’s northern kingdom only survived about 20 years after their first warning. Are we on track to repeat that too?  In that context, it may be noteworthy that the first Hebrew year of the Revolutionary War (5537, from 9/14/1776 to 10/1/1777) was also a Jubilee Year. (Dates from http://www.hebcal.com/converter – Wikipedia says there is dispute about whether Jubilee was the 49th or 50th year, but there seems a better case for  49).                                                      –
    It appears that the Maker of the universe has indeed set signs in the heavens, and that they do portend major events for His chosen people. America partakes of His blessings as a portion of His chosen people – unless we fall away from the faith and the covenants by which we have been blessed. Such a falling away is obviously far along. If we do not soon claim a Master greater than man, we will soon have a man as our master.
    The implications of this history: God desires that mankind be free to choose, and that we be taught to choose responsibly; that we recognize and avoid the evil options; that in our freedom we do not limit the freedom of others. In the Ten Commandments, the first five deal with man’s relationship with the Creator and our personal creators, our parents – the authority figures. We are to be humble. The second five deal with man’s relationship with others, in a list of ‘thou shall not’ commands which are all examples of power-seeking activities. Can it be that the two basic sins are: rejecting the Creator, and seeking godlike power over other people? The defeat of evil would then be the destruction or discrediting of the institutions of power, and the defeat of every effort to gain or hold power over others. The power-seeking personality type must either be eliminated, or given a powerful warning that inhibits seeking power over the lives of others.
    Enemies of man and God, then, are those who seek power to control the lives and choices of others; all who would use force, threats, or lies against them. Today, many governments prosper by using envy, lies, force, and ungodly laws. They subvert people by legalizing and encouraging what God forbids. They seek to replace God as the ultimate moral authority. They will not end well.
    Each of us is a participant in an ancient, continuing war for our own souls. It is a privilege to be present on the field of battle at such a time as this. We must choose our side and our actions carefully, the consequences are eternal and anyone could be taken out of the battle at any time with no chance to change sides.
    Check the two earlier posts in this blog for more background thoughts that I will not repeat here. The conclusion:
    It appears that the worldly elites are building a huge trap of debt, regulations, and government power, and when it goes off they intend to be the masters with the rest of us as slaves. (Global warming, Agenda 21, ‘quantitative easing’, Common Core, Obamacare, open borders, gun control, surveillance) But there are other pieces that they ignore lying around the trap, and God is arranging those, and there is a clock involved that they know not of. About the time they plan to set off their trap, they will find themselves caught in a bigger one and believers will be away at a wedding. Let us do all we can to make the guest list longer.

Spring 2013, after reading ‘The Harbinger’

The first English settlement to survive in America was in 1607 at Jamestown, VA. It was a commercial venture, a business proposition with the King of England. It was a communal operation, with each person sharing equally in the output, and failed because they did not share equally in the input. Success came when they divided up the land and made it clear that each would prosper according to their own efforts.

The second settlement in 1620 at Plymouth, MA started out as a communal religious community, and also failed until each family was given its own parcel of land and could keep or trade their own products. The learning process is summarized in Bradford’s journal of the settlement.

Individual responsibility and individual property rights became the norm as other colonies were set up. The exception was in areas where particularly good agricultural conditions, and large-scale demand for tobacco and cotton, led to introduction of the European and African tradition of slavery, with eventual disastrous consequences. The European traditions of class privilege and arbitrary taxation of commerce were not well received by the growing population of people who could clearly see that they had earned everything they had, and were not inclined to surrender it to people who had not earned it. At a safe distance from Europe, they began to think independently.
    After rejecting the dictatorial rule of King George III, the states still had their own conflicts. They were aware of the need for commonly accepted rules, and sent their most respected citizens to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. This group was well educated in history, religion, and recent trends in political philosophy. They considered everything that had been tried in history, selected what seemed to have worked, and devised a way to divide and balance power within a government. This was a new kind of government – no church had any position in government, the government had no power over any church, the citizens selected those who would govern and changed them periodically, and those who governed would become ordinary citizens after their term of office.
    Something this new met with objections, and these were discussed in the newspapers of the time and published as The Federalist Papers and The Anti-federalist Papers. Farmers and merchants of that time read and understood them, but lawyers of today find them difficult. After the necessary number of states ratified the new Constitution and held elections, the first meeting of the new government occurred on 4/30/1789. George Washington took the presidential oath of office in New York, and led the entire government to St. Paul’s Chapel where they consciously made a covenant with God to follow His principles. See “The Covenant” by Timothy Ballard.
    America grew to become the most prosperous and powerful nation in human history. But as with nations before it, too much success brought self-indulgence, pride, and corruption. The Constitution designed by and for “a religious and moral people” was circumvented by officeholders elected for other considerations. As the citizens fell away from religious ethical values, so did their elected representatives. Now we find ourselves in difficulty. As a nation founded in commercial enterprise, but losing the values that sustain commercial success, our punishment comes first in terms of commerce.
    Meanwhile, behind the scenes:
Some things which are too remarkable to be coincidence are pointed out in ’The Harbinger’ by Jonathan Cahn. The book uses three fictional characters who explain from history, both recent and ancient, a pattern of events which is clearly still in progress.
    The current side of the story leads to these facts; the economic impact of the 9/11 attack was felt when the stock markets next opened after that day. The Dow fell by a record 684 points. That date was September 17, 2001: 29 Elul 5761 in the Hebrew calendar used by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That was the final day of the year in the 7-year Hebrew economic cycle (see Leviticus 25) designated for the settling or remission of debts. The attack caused a recession, the government resolved that we would come back stronger, and Americans were asked to keep spending to boost the economy. To emphasize our strength we initiated wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, seeking to change ingrained cultures over a thousand years old. The cultures remain unchanged, and our national debt increased by 5 trillion dollars while a real-estate bubble built up and was marketed world-wide in the form of ‘derivatives’. Domestic unrest built up over the war expenses and caused the candidates in the 2008 elections to remain personally unexamined while the media diverted attention to other matters. That ‘year of remission’ began with the first sign of economic trouble – the failure of Northern Rock Bank in Britain. When the real estate values behind the ’derivatives’ began to decline due to non-payment of the underlying loans by unqualified buyers, the debt bubble collapsed. That came on September 29, 2008 (29 Elul 5768 in the Hebrew calendar) when the Dow dropped 777 points, 7% of its value, 7 full Hebrew years after its fall in 2001. The nation’s founding covenant with God seems to also put some aspect of our fate on God’s old Hebrew calendar.
    The nation continues on its secular course. No revival of ethics, morality, or religious fervor is in evidence. A new real estate bubble starts as the government’s bank regulators change policy to let loans be made on the basis of unemployment compensation and/or welfare payments instead of earned income. The annual federal deficits continue at about a trillion dollars a year, and most states have large debts and/or unfunded pension liabilities. The federal government continues to ’buy’ its own debt by simply printing more money, with unavoidable inflationary results. Economic policies of regulation and taxation become ever more counterproductive, and penalize individual effort and excellence. Social policies destroy initiative and subsidize failure. Cultural relativism is promoted, but social and racial differences are emphasized. Local and state politicians evade responsibility and seek guidance and subsidies from higher levels of government, all the way to the United Nations. The media who are supposed to keep us informed actually avoid stories that put their favorite people and causes in a bad light, then fill their time with increasingly coarse and violent entertainment.
    We observe that our Marxist president feels that we have been an evil colonialist nation and should be punished by taking our standard of living down to that of Africa. The punishment involves wasting tax money on failed green-energy companies, locking up our natural resources, using regulations to cripple our productive and inventive industries, changing the rules of the financial system, weakening military forces, and basically making the citizens serve the government rather than vice versa. What may be going on behind the scenes? Perhaps God’s purpose in permitting this is to break the national pride that is based on power, end the idea that value can be created without work simply by printing money, eliminate the debt-based currencies that permit people to be easily manipulated, force us to start learning from history again, and turn us back to faith in and reliance on God’s power and His laws.
    As Israel’s stand-in for this act of the play (per Matt. 21:43) for the purpose of Matt. 24:14, we should take note that all of what we call ‘western civilization’ is rapidly abandoning its Christian roots. Even history itself is being rewritten, and we become ever more irresponsible in our moral, ethical, and financial behavior. As Israel fell to Assyria, so can we fall. We have been warned. The Apostle Paul in Romans 11:17-23, and indeed in all of Romans 8 thru 11, describes our times well. Anyone who follows the news can see the approach of the events of Ezekiel 38-39, and Ezekiel 39:29 matches up with Romans 11:26-29. At our current rate of cultural decline, it may take divine assistance even to survive until the next ‘year of remission’, and divine mercy to actually endure it. Divine retribution is not limited to economic affairs; the whole of nature is at God’s command.
    The next ’year of remission’ begins on September 25, 2014 (Hebrew 1 Tishri 5775) and ends on September 13, 2015 (Hebrew 29 Elul 5775). Both the dollar and the Euro are now weakened. The 2001 attack primarily affected America; the 2008 drop was felt in Europe also. The next economic shock may collapse the currencies and the financial structure of the whole world. The consequences would include riots, disruption of major industries, international strife, famine, and unavailability of medicines and medical care. Sounds like Revelation 6.
    Are there any implications for our coming election cycles? Continued Democrat and Progressive control would would fit in with the predicted dictator/caliphate type of world government. But opposition to Antichrist is predicted. This could indicate that some significant nation does not fall into line with a world government. Europe is too fragmented, and its Islamic minorities too unruly. It is possible that economic circumstances could lead to loss of Democrat control in 2014 or 2016, but so many senior Republican officeholders have been so lacking in principle for so many years that the party’s image is discredited. A viable third party in the near future seems unlikely. In any event, several very difficult years are now inevitable. The ability of governments to provide or control the spectrum of services now being attempted will surely be shattered. Individual and community efforts will provide the models for workable future governments; the ambitions of state and national-level government will be greatly chastened by their now-impending failures.
    Is there any indication that the 7-year Tribulation coincides with the 7-year economic cycle? It might seem fitting that it would start after an economic collapse and escalate through the next ‘year of remission’. It might also be that it would start with a ‘year of remission’ and escalate until the next one (5782), which is a ‘Jubilee year’ (divisible by 49). Leviticus 25 terms a jubilee year the year to ‘declare liberty throughout the land’. That one begins Sep. 7, 2021 and ends Sep. 25, 2022.  The book mentions that Israel’s northern kingdom only survived about 20 years after their first warning. Are we on track to repeat that too?
In that context, it may be noteworthy that the first Hebrew year of the Revolutionary War (5537, from 9/14/1776 to 10/1/1777) was also a Jubilee Year. Time grows short. Read the book and pass it on to a friend or neighbor.