Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A More Powerful "Not Guilty" Verdict

One can only imagine how George Zimmerman must have felt when he heard the verdict “Not guilty” in a Florida court room last week. After a 14-day trial and 16 hours of jury deliberation, he was acquitted of murder on the grounds of self-defense and walked out a free man.

But even though Zimmerman will not receive a penalty for killing Trayvon Martin, he still has to live with the consequences. No court of law can change the outcome of the tragic night of February 6, 2012. The fact remains that Zimmerman did indeed take a life, and he has to live with that. Although he is free, there have been death threats against him and his family, and he may spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.

Spiritually-speaking, every person is guilty of sin and deserving of full punishment under God’s law. The Bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) No amount of spiritual legal wrangling or defense can remove the sin each of us is born with and which separates us from God. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23)

But there is a way to obtain a “Not guilty” verdict that does far more than the one George Zimmerman received – one that doesn’t just remove the penalty; it removes the crime itself.

That verdict is granted through the blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection power. Because Christ took the penalty in our place, when we put our faith and trust in Him we are justified – legally proclaimed righteous. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1) One explanation of justified is “Just as if I’d never sinned.”

Because of this, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son….” (Rom. 8:1-3) In the Greek, “no condemnation” is also a legal word meaning, literally, “no adverse sentence.”

God promises, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) David described it in Psalm 103:12. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Charles Wesley put it this way in the hymn And Can It Be?: “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine…”.

The concept is also found in the chorus of the old hymn One Day!, which has enjoyed renewed popularity with a different tune: “Living—He loved me, Dying—He saved me, Buried—He carried my sins far away; Rising—He justified freely, forever….”

If you are burdened with the guilt of sin, trust in Christ as your Savior. Admit that you are a sinner before a holy God and that a penalty must be paid, acknowledge that Jesus Christ, through His death, burial and resurrection became your substitute having paid that penalty on your behalf, and receive Christ into your heart through faith in prayer. You will be free from the penalty of sin, declared “Not guilty!” and certain of eternity in Heaven.

Gayle Virkler

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Egypt's Biblical Significance

NOTE: This post contains excerpts from David Virkler’s commentary “Egypt from Pharaohs to Prophecy”, which covers Egypt’s history and religion, its relationship with Israel, and the many references to Egypt in the Bible both historically and prophetically. A copy of the full 12-page commentary is available for a suggested donation of $3.00. Click here for an order form.

Egypt is once again headline news in another round of unrest and violence. President Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who has been in office just a year, has been deposed and a new government is being formed by the military. The Muslim Brotherhood is vowing to continue protests.

Most people know that Egypt is an ancient country. Many may not know is that Egypt is also a much-mentioned Bible country. From Genesis to Jude, Egypt is mentioned in 32 books of the Bible (27 in the Old Testament and five in the New Testament), and it has a prominent role in prophecy. One author says that 250 verses throughout the Old Testament are prophecies of events in Egypt.

Biblical Egypt is first mentioned when Abraham, then called Abram, went there in time of famine (Gen. 12:10). Abraham must have been quite far south at the time since the capitol of Egypt was then in Memphis, which is a bit south of modern Cairo and likely west of the Nile River.

The land covenant God made with Abraham went from the northern border of Egypt, known as the River of Egypt, in the present Rapha area up to the Euphrates River (Gen. 12:18). Abraham fathered Ishmael by Hagar, who was an Egyptian. She took a wife for Ishmael out of Egypt (Gen. 21:21).

In Genesis 38-50, we find the story of Joseph and the children of Israel in Egypt. Joseph was the favored son of his father, Jacob. His jealous brothers sold him to some Ishmaelites (Gen. 37:28), who sold him to an Egyptian officer, Potiphar, who made Joseph manager of his entire household. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph and then falsely accused him of seducing her when Joseph refused her advances.

Joseph was sent to prison where it was eventually discovered that he could interpret dreams. His jail term ended when he interpreted the dream of Pharaoh that indicated seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine. Joseph proposed a plan to prepare for the famine, and Pharaoh was so impressed that he appointed Joseph as second in command over all the land.

During the famine, Jacob sent his remaining sons down to Egypt, and Joseph provided the family with food. After forgiveness and a family reunion, Jacob’s entire family moved down to Egypt at Pharaoh’s invitation, and thus began the story of the Israelites in Egypt.

The Israelites’ exodus from Egypt is covered in Exodus 1-14. Eventually, a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph became ruler, and the Israelites numbered so many that Pharaoh feared an uprising. He made them slaves in terrible bondage, but their numbers still increased, and Pharaoh instructed midwives to kill newborn boys. To prevent the death of her son, Moses’ mother hid him in a basket on the riverbank, but he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and adopted into the royal household.

The 10 horrendous plagues sent by God to show His power to Pharaoh ended with the slaying of all firstborn children in Egypt. The Israelites were spared by shedding a perfect lamb’s blood and applying it on the doorway and eating its flesh. This was the Passover when God’s destroying angel passed over them. The Israelites left Egypt in the miraculous Exodus.

The Jews were not gone from Egypt forever, though. Jeroboam fled from Solomon to Egypt (I Kings 11:40). Despite God’s specific warning not to, some Jews at the time of the Babylonian captivity took refuge in Egypt with tragic consequences (Jeremiah 42-46). History records that Jews taken captive when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 were sold back into Egypt.

There is a positive side to the Jews in Egypt. It was there that Joseph and Mary fled from Bethlehem with the young child Jesus to avoid King Herod’s wrath (Matt. 2:13–19). They lived in Egypt for about two years and returned to Nazareth after Herod’s death. Matthew states that this was in fulfillment of Hosea 11:1, “... and out of Egypt I called My son.”

I believe God has a remarkable plan for Egypt in the end times because it gave refuge to Jacob’s family and the young Christ child and also because it was the first Arab nation to recognize the state of Israel. However, that blessing will eventually come only after horrendous judgments. Two significant sections in the Bible outline future troubles for Egypt in the end times.

In Isaiah 19:2, the Lord says, “I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians, city against city and kingdom against kingdom.” I can’t say that the commotion in Egypt is direct fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, but it surely comes close. 

Verse 4 says, “And the Egyptians I will give into the hand of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them.” In verse 11, we read that the rulers’ advice is totally erroneous or, literally, stupid. Verses 5–9 speak of horrendous judgments upon the Nile River. The Nile dries up, the vegetation along the banks is badly damaged, fishermen are terribly upset, and the textile industry is tragically damaged.

There are some other incredible chapters that refer to Egypt in the end times. Ezekiel 29-32 is an astounding prophecy of God’s judgment on Egypt including marine creatures in the Nile being thrown into open fields to decompose, the land becoming utterly waste and desolate, and Egyptians scattered to finally return after 40 years.

Is there anything in our day that would correspond to the fulfillment of these prophecies? In a word, yes! It has to do with the Aswan Dam and huge Lake Nasser that was created behind it. Unfortunately, the Aswan Dam has all but wrecked Egypt. Space does not allow a full description, but present conditions of the dam and lake are such that they could cause the scenario of decimated agriculture. Ezekiel 30:8 says that the Lord will set “a fire in Egypt”. If that fire is a nuclear attack on the Aswan Dam, a flood of radioactive waters would surge through the Nile Valley and surrounding countries making the land uninhabitable, perhaps for 40 years.

There is good news for Egypt, however. Following the dire prophecies in the first part of Isaiah 19 are verses that outline a sweeping and glorious national revival to come. Verses 16–25 forecast something never yet seen—Israel, Egypt and Assyria (modern Syria and parts of Turkey and Iraq) will worship together and be a blessing!

“…for they will cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty one, and He will deliver them. Then the Lord will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day, and will make sacrifice and offering; yes they will make a vow to the Lord and perform it … In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance’” (Isaiah 19:20b-21, 24, 26).

Arabs and Jews will worship Jehovah together, and the worship will be centered in Israel. It sounds like the Millennium when Christ reigns in Jerusalem.

If developments in Egypt over the last couple of years are even a small part of the end-time forecasts of Isaiah and Ezekiel, then we are truly rushing closer to the return of Jesus Christ for His redeemed Church since the most dramatic prophecies are likely to be fulfilled in the subsequent Tribulation and beyond.

If you do not know Christ as Savior and are unprepared for His return pray the sinner’s prayer, “God be merciful to me the sinner” (Luke 18:13). Invite Jesus Christ into your heart in simple faith. Romans 10:13 promises that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It is high time to seek the Lord Jesus Christ and, having found Him, to serve Him.