"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rest and Say, "There's No Other Way!" - Daniel 9

(UPDATE: After receiving several requests from people for a PDF file of this blog post, my secretary prepared an easy to print Microsoft Word paper (without pictures) of Rest and then Say, "There's No Other Way" which can be downloaded here).

When anyone receives a personal letter (or email), the mind subconsciously asks the question, "What is the writer's intent?"  Response to personal communication is guided by our perception of the sender's reasons for writing.

If you believe, as I do, that the Bible is the inspired, written word from God to us, then we are wise to ask the questions: (1). "What is God's intent in giving us His Word?" and (2). "If it is correct that 'The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,'  then what does God's word say about how we glorify and enjoy Him?" When we correctly answer those two questions, we have discovered the general theme of God's Word.

I propose the overall, general theme of the Bible--both Old and New Testaments--is God's expressed desire that His people rest in Him. "Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

God's preeminent desire for His people is not that we work; not that we serve; not that we worship; not that we love; not that we forgive; not that we pray; not that we witness; and not even that we glorify Him. God's preeminent desire is that we rest in Him. Only after we find our rest in Him will we have the desire to serve, to worship, to love, to forgive, to pray, to witness and to glorify. If this concept were in the form of a principle, it would sound like this: Our rest in Him becomes our glory of Him.

Rest in the Old Testament

Rest is the theme of the Bible from the beginning. God created the universe and then He rested. The Hebrew word translated "rest"  in Genesis 2:2 is  shabbat, from which we get our English word sabbath. God did not rest on the seventh day of creation because He was tired, for the Scripture says "The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary" (Isaiah 4:28).  God rested because His work of creation was a "complete and perfect" work, or as the King James translators put it - "very good." When God completes a perfect work that He performs, the appropriate response is rest.

When God chose the Jews as His people from among all the nations of the earth, He gave them a  commandment to rest on the seventh day of the week  (Leviticus 23:2-3). The weekly Sabbath rest from physical work was to be a picture of God's people resting in Him. Any Hebrew who violated the weekly Sabbath rest was put to death (Numbers 15:32-36). This penalty may sound harsh to modern ears, but the punishment definitely conveys God was either serious about the Sabbath itself or what the Sabbath ultimately pictured.

In addition to every weekly Sabbath rest, every seventh year became a year of agricultural rest (Heb. shmita) for the Hebrews and their land (see Leviticus 25:1-8). God's people could till, sow and harvest for six years, but they were leave the ground fallow and rest it from sowing and harvesting during the seventh year. God promised the Hebrews, "I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will be bring forth the crop for three years" (Leviticus 25:21). God's people were to rest and trust Him--His provision, His promises and His faithfulness.

Finally, in addition to a weekly rest and a seventh year sabbatical land rest, after completing seven sevens of agricultural rest--that means 49 years--God commanded the Hebrews to celebrate another entire year of rest called the Jubilee Year (the 50th year). The Jubilee Year began the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri) which was The Day of Atonement. The Jews called The Day of Atonement "The Sabbath of Sabbaths" and of all the sacred days in Israel, commencement of Jubilee was most sacred (Leviticus 25:8-17).  "This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families" (Leviticus 25:10 NIV). During Jubilee, captives were to be set free, debts were to be forgiven, and the Hebrews were to rest in God's perfect provision for them. Rest, not work, was the predominate theme of the Law of God.

The Hebrews were taught that "The Law was only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the reality themselves" (Hebrews 10:1). Just like seeing a shadow tells you that a real person is coming, so too the Old Covenant Law, including the commandments to rest (Sabbath Laws), was a shadow that prefigured the One who would come and give real, eternal rest. The major consequence of sin is labor, "sweat work," and "thorns and thistles" in the harvest. Sin produces the opposite of rest, and the Law foreshadowed God's determination to wipe out the destructiveness of sin through the Anointed One (Messiah).

The problem with the Jews is that they not only violated the Law of God when it came to rest, they ultimately rejected the One whom the Law prefigured.

The Hebrews Refusal to Rest

Moses led God's people in an exodus from Egypt in 1491 B.C.  Due to a lack of trust in God's faithfulness to fulfill His promise of bringing them safely into the Promised Land, Israel wandered for forty years in the desert. Again, the opposite of rest is restless, laborious wandering.

Finally, Joshua led the Hebrews in 1450 B.C. into the Promised Land. The Jews conquered and divided the lush land among their twelve tribes. Israel finally rested in God's abilities and not their own, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. When Israel became tempted again with the delusion of self-sufficiency, they labored on their own at Ai and lost the battle. God was teaching His people the principle of resting in Him even in time of conflict.

After taking possession of Canaan, the Israelites initially obeyed God's Sabbath laws regarding rest. But as time passed, the Hebrews began looking around at other nations, and they began to beg God for a king to rule over them. It looked easier from their perspective to trust in a monarchy rather than to rest in a theocracy. "Set a king over us like all the nations who are around us" (Deuteronomy 17:14). The Apostle Paul says, "When Israel asked for a king, God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years" (Acts 13:21).

Bishop Ussher's chronology places Saul's coronation as king of Israel in 1095 B.C. The crowning of Saul as king of Israel marks the exact year the Hebrew people stopped observing Sabbath rest. Institutional systems designed to give people security without promoting rest in God--regardless of whether the system is corporate, political, or religious in nature--will create within people a sense of self-sufficiency.

For 490 years after Saul's coronation as king, God's people refused to keep the seventh year agricultural rest commandment. The reason for their refusal is not given, but it couldn't have been because of ignorance. The Law of God was clear, and it was clearly understood by the Hebrews. In spite of God's expressed command that they rest in Him on various sabbaths, the Hebrew people began tilling, sowing, and harvesting crops during the seventh year. Those 490 shabbat forsaking years (from 1095 B.C. to 605 B.C.) meant the seventh year agricultural land rest was not kept by Israel seventy times (70 x 7 years equals 490 years). When God initially gave Israel the Law on Mt. Sinai, He told the people what would happen if they refused to observe the Sabbaths.
"I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate...I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become wasted. Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of desolation while you are in your enemies land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it" (Leviticus 26:31-35).
490 years after Israel stopped practicing sabbath rest upon Saul's coronation as king (1095 B.C.), God raised up Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon to punish Israel. The year was 605 B.C.  It was King Nebuchadnezzar's first year on the throne. His father, King Nabopolassar, had defeated the Assyrians four years earlier (609 B.C.), leading Babylon to become the world's second great empire (Assyria had been the world's first). In 605 B.C. King Nabopolassar abdicated the Babylonian throne and gave it to his son Nebuchadnezzar II. King Nebuchadnezzar led his army to Jerusalem to make war against the Hebrews. God's judgment of Israel had begun.

God used King Nebuchadnezzar to fulfill the promise He made to Israel in Leviticus 26:31-35, a promise of judgment via desolation and destruction if the Hebrews violated God's Law regarding rest.  Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem in 605 B.C., the first of what would eventually be three Babylonian attacks on the Jewish capital city (605 B.C.; 597 B.C.; and 587 B.C.) In the first siege, Nebuchadnezzar captured Daniel and a handful of other young Hebrew men and took them back to Babylon to serve in his court (see Daniel 1). The prophet Daniel would never again return to Israel.

King Nebuchadnezzar came back to Jerusalem in 587 B.C. for his third and final attack against the capital city of the Jews. He laid siege to the city for several months and eventually succeeded in 586 B.C. in demolishing the Hebrew Temple and the city of Jerusalem Nebuchadnezzar carried away the rest of the Jews into Babylon.  586 B.C. marks the beginning  of what is commonly called the Babylonian Captivity for the Jews. Israel experienced God's promised judgment for their violations of Sabbath Law. Understanding the reason for the Babylonian captivity crystallizes one's understanding of the Old Testament, particularly the Law and the Prophets and the historical narratives, for all these writings deal with Israel's refusal to rest in God, as well as  God's promised judgment on Israel for their violations of His command to rest.

70 Years of Judgment for Babylon and for Israel

The number 70 is the number of years associated with God's judgment upon both Babylon and Israel. God promised He would raise up Babylon to desolate Israel for their sin, but He would only allow Babylon 70 years as a world power before He would make them become servants of other nations and free His people from their captivity. Throughout Scripture, God orchestrates pagan nations to accomplish His purpose, but then punishes those same nations for their free-will rebellion against Him. A sovereign God is able to orchestrate all events, even acts of sin which He never authors or originates, for an ultimate good purpose.
This is what the LORD says: 'When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you (My people) and fulfill my good word to you...' (Jeremiah 29:10).
"'When seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,' declares the Lord, 'for their iniquity...I will bring upon Babylon all My words which I have pronounced against it, all that is written in this book which Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations. For many nations and great kings will make slaves of  them, even them; and I will recompense them according to their deeds and according to the work of their hands.'" (Jeremiah 25:12-14).
Babylon became a world power when it defeated Assyria in 609 B.C., but 70 years later, in 539 B.C., just as God promised, God brought the Babylonian kingdom to an end. God used the Medes and the Persians and their combined armies under the leadership of the remarkable Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, to defeat the mighty Babylonians. Cyrus and his Persian engineers diverted the river running underneath the walls of Babylon and dried up the river bed. The Medo-Persian army then snuck into the walled city of Babylon,  breaching the impenetrable walls of Babylon, crawling on their bellies underneath the walls. The very night the Persians invaded Babylon, King Belshazzar and his 1,000 Babylonian princes were drinking themselves into a drunken stupor inside the Palace Walls of the Great Hall (see Daniel 5). The city of Babylon, fortified by walls people consider to be one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, fell to King Cyrus and the Medo-Persian army during one night of fighting.

The 70 years of Babylonian self-sufficiency were up (609 B.C. to 539 B.C.). The Hebrew prophecies of God's judgment against Babylon, prophecies given decades before Babylon's actual fall, are gripping portrayals of what happens to any person or country of people, whether Hebrew or not, who deem themselves sufficient and the Creator God unnecessary (see Isaiah 13:9-13 as an example of a prophecy predicting the downfall of Babylon).

God also judged His people, the Hebrews, with 70 years of desolation for their self-sufficiency refusal to rest in God. Of all the nations on the earth, Israel should have known better. In the last chapter of Chronicles, the chronicler describes the reason for 70 years of Hebrew desolation and exile at the hands of the Babylonians:
"The land (of Israel) enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.” (2 Chronicles 36:21).
Israel's punishment at the hands of the Babylonians was to be 70 years to make up for the 70 Sabbatical years of  agricultural rest that Israel refused to keep beginning with Saul's anointing as king (1095 B.C.) and ending with Nebuchadnezzar's first appearance at Jerusalem (605 B.C.).

Some believe this judgment of 70 years of desolation for the land of Israel began in 609 B.C.  In that year, King Josiah, one of the good kings of Israel's southern kingdom, refused the Egyptians permission to pass through Judah on their way to help the Assyrians fight their losing battle against the Babylonians. The Egyptian pharaoh was so furious with Josiah's refusal of safe passage that he led the Egyptian army to war against the Hebrews in what is called the Battle of Megiddo. King Josiah was killed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho at that battle  (see II Kings 23:29-30). God's judgment on Israel through the new world power of Babylon had begun. If the clock for the 70 years of promised desolation for Israel did indeed begin in 609 B.C., then the promised desolation of Israel ended in 539 B.C. with the fall of the Babylon and the decree from King Cyrus of Persia that the exiled Jews could return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-4).

Others believe Israel the 70 year judgment of desolation for refusing to observe Sabbath rest begins with the destruction of the Temple and the Hebrews exile to Babylon in 586 B.C. From the time of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 B.C. to the dedication of the Second Temple by a few of the returning Hebrew exiles in 516 B.C. there was a period of time that passed of exactly 70 years. 70 years without the Temple. 70 years without  the Temple rituals. 70 years of desolation among the Hebrews.  Jeremiah explains, just as the writer of Chronicles did in II Chronicles 36:21,  that Israel's 70 years of desolation corresponds to the Hebrews forsaking the 70 seventh year Sabbath rests for those 490 years.
"The whole land will be a desolation and a horror...(until) seventy years are completed..." (Jeremiah 25:11-12).
Wherever you put the starting and stopping point of the 70 years of desolation for Israel--either 609 B.C. to 539 B.C. or 586 B.C. to 516 B.C.-- there can be no denial that God used the Babylonians to destroy the First Temple, to desolate the land, to scatter His people among the nations, and to fulfill His promised judgment against Israel for refusing to rest.

Daniel's Vision of Eternal Rest in the Eternal King

During the Babylonian exile, Daniel wrote the book that bears his name. Daniel states in Daniel 9:2 that he knew how long Jerusalem would be desolate because he had read Jeremiah:
"I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years" (Daniel 9:2).
Then, later in the same chapter, Daniel records an amazing vision that God gave him through the angel Gabriel. It is a vision regarding another 490 years. I'm sure Daniel must have caught his breath when he heard ("seventy sevens") because the desolation Israel was experiencing in his day was a result of Israel's previous 490 year period of refusing to rest.  He must have deemed his vision troubling for his nation because it spoke of an additional 490 years of sin, culminating in the final abolishment of the Temple, Jerusalem and the Jewish way of life. Yet the vision included some good news as well. The vision is found in Daniel 9:24-27. In the first verse alone (Daniel 9:24), six things are said to occur by the end of the 490 year time period:
"Seventy sevens (490 years) have been decreed for your people (the Jews) and your holy city (Jerusalem), to (1). finish the transgression, (2). to seal up sin, (3). to atone for wickedness, (4). to bring in everlasting righteousness, (5) to seal up the vision and prophecy and (6). to anoint the Most Holy Place. (Daniel 9:24).
Daniel was told by God in this vision that He would establish a set time table of another 490 years  to "finish the transgression." The Hebrew text uses masculine plural for these seven sevens (490 years) with a singular verb (i.e. "490 years is decreed"). The seven sevens are conceived as ONE UNIT OF TIME. There are no gaps. In the same way the first unit of 490 years of rest refusal was continuous (1095 B.C. to 605 B.C.), so too this second 490 year period of Israel's refusal to rest will be a continuous, single unit of time. God's people had already refused to rest for 490 years and the Jews as a result the Jews found themselves in Babylonian captivity. God came to Daniel while in captivity and said, "This is not the end for 'your people.'" God then set a second 490 year time period and said these "seven sevens" or 490 years were decreed for six reasons:

(1). "To finish the transgression." Earlier in the chapter Daniel had prayed to the Lord saying, "Israel has transgressed Thy law" (Daniel 9:11) It is a beautiful prayer (Daniel 9:5-11) where Daniel confesses Israel's sin of refusing to rest in God and violating His Law.  To "finish the transgression" at the end of this second 490 years will be Israel's ultimate resistance to, and rejection of, the Person to whom all the Sabbath Laws point-- Jesus Christ. Israel's rejection of the shadow of rest (the Law) was serious and brought temporal punishment at the end of Israel's first 490 year period of sin. Israel's rejection of the reality of rest (the Lord) brings eternal punishment at the end of Israel's second 490 year time period of sin.

(2). "To make an end of sin" or "seal up sins" At the end of this second unit of 490 years (seventy sevens),  Israel will complete her transgression against God. Again, their sin during the first 490 year period was a refusal to rest in God. Likewise, Israel's transgression during this prophesied second 490 year period of sin is their continuing refusal to rest in God, resulting in a rejection of the Messiah. Just prior to His death, Jesus said to the Jews, "Your house is left to you desolate" (Matthew 23:38). In the same manner the Hebrews experienced desolation at the end of the first 490 period of Sabbath neglect, so too the Hebrews would experience desolation at the end of their second 490 period of Sabbath neglect (i.e. "the rejection of Jesus, the true Sabbath rest"). This phrase "to make an end of sin" is literally "to seal up sins" and has its fulfillment at the end of the prophesied 490 years when the Jews  would reject God's Son and have Him crucified. Jesus said to the Pharisees just prior to His crucifixion, "Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started" (Matthew 23:32).

(3). "To make an atonement for iniquity." This is a very clear statement of the cross, the place where "God presented Christ as an atonement for sin" (Romans 3:25).

(4). "To bring in everlasting righteousness." Everlasting righteousness is the result of the at-one-moment and once-for-all death of Jesus Christ for sins (see Hebrews 9:12 and Hebrews 10:10). The atonement of Christ for sins is the ultimate place of rest. "For now the righteousness of God has been revealed apart from the Law" (Romans 3:21). "A righteousness that does not come from my obedience to the law, but that which is through faith in Christ" (Philippians 3:9). The everlasting kingdom of the eternal King is filled with sinners who have found their eternal rest in Him.

(5). "To seal up the vision and the prophesy." To seal up means to "fulfill and confirm" all the prophecies of the Old Testament related to the Messiah (see Luke 18:31). E.J. Young in his classic book The Prophecy of Daniel (Eerdmans, 1949) writes about this phrase "(The word) vision was a technical name for revelation given to Old Testament prophets (cf. Isaiah 1:1; Amos 1:1; etc.) The prophet was the one through whom this vision was revealed to the people. The two words, vision and prophet, therefore, serve to designate the prophetic revelation of the Old Testament period. This revelation was of a temporary, preparatory, typical nature. It pointed forward to the coming of Him who was the great Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15). When Christ came, there was no further need of prophetic revelation in the Old Testament sense." Jesus Christ "sealed up" the vision and the prophesy of the Old Testament Law and Prophets. All was fulfilled in Him.

(6). "To anoint the most holy place." The title "Anointed One" translates the word Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew). Jesus the Anointed One experienced His anointing by the Holy Spirit at His baptism and the beginning of His public ministry. "To anoint the most holy place (or one)" is either a reference to the Spirit anointing Jesus at  the River Jordan or Jesus anointing the Holy of Holies in heaven when He entered after His resurrection with "His blood" rather than "the blood of goats and calves" (Hebrews 9:11-14). Either way, this sixth item is a reference to Jesus the Anointed One.

The prophecy of Daniel 9:24 states that all six things above are decreed to occur within the 490 time period. The next three verses, Daniel 9:25-27 tell us when this 490 year time period begins and ends.


The Prophecy that Precisely Predicts the Time of the Coming of Messiah

Daniel's vision and prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) that God gave him regarding another 490 year time period (i.e. 70 sevens or 70 weeks of years) is the most amazing prophecy in the Old Testament. It names the date of the Anointed One's appearing. It is most likely the prophecy that sent the Magi from the East to Jerusalem asking Herod, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2). The Magi, coming from the area of ancient Babylon and Persia, would have been familiar with Daniel's famous prophecy, because for centuries all the trained Magi in the east learned to revere the ancient Jewish seer named Daniel due to his legendary interactions with the powerful Babylonian kings. Once Daniel arrived in the east in 605 B.C., he never went back to Jerusalem. Some believe Daniel is buried in Susa, Iran.

The timetable of Daniel's Messianic prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 is 490 years (seventy sevens). At the end of Israel's first 490 time period of rest refusal (1095 B.C. to 605 B.C.) there came temporary judgment from God (70 years), but at the end of this second 490 year period of Israel's rest refusal Daniel's vision prophesied an even more severe judgment for Israel because of their rejection of the Anointed One who gives real rest. The first time, Israel rejected the Law (the shadow of reality); the second time, Israel rejected the LORD (the reality of the shadow). Here is the prophecy of the timing of the second 490 year time period given to Daniel by God while in captivity in Babylon.
"(25) So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven sevens (49 years) and sixty-two sevens (434 years); it (Jerusalem) will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. (26) Then after the sixty-two weeks (comes the 70th week) the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and (as a result) the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its (Jerusalem's) end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. He will confirm a covenant with many (in the) one 'seven.' (27) In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." (Daniel 9:25-27)
The 490 years of Daniel's vision,  known as the 70 Weeks of Daniel, begins with "the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem." This decree to "restore and rebuild Jerusalem" was given by Persian King Artexerxes Longimanus in 458 B.C.

458 B.C. is the year when the clock begins for Daniel's 70 Weeks. King Artexerxes was the fifth Persian king to rule Persian since Cyrus the Great. Artexerxes was the son of the famous Persian King Xerxes. Sadly, many Christians know very little of Artexerxes Longimanus, so named "Longimanus" (Latin) because his right hand was longer than his left. Kids today know of his father, Xerxes, because of the popular movie 300,  but Christians should know about Artexerxes because he is mentioned multiple times in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

The dates for Artaxerxes' reign as king of Persia are well documented by ancient sources. These sources include all the Greek historians, Ptolemy's Canon, the Babylonian business tablets, and the Elephantine papyri from Egypt. From these documents we know that Xerxes was killed in late December of 465 B.C., and the reign of Artaxerxes begins at that time. This is why the decree to restore and build Jerusalem, issued in the seventh year of Artaxerxes' reign, is confidently identified as the year 458 B.C. 

The entire decree of Artaxerxes is found in Ezra 7:7-26 and it includes:

(a). Artexerxes permission for "any of the Israelites...including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with" Ezra,, to go (Ezra 7:13).
(b). Artexerxes giving to Ezra large portions of "silver and gold" (Ezra 7:15-16) for the work of restoring Jerusalem. The walls, gates, and roads were all in horrible disrepair.
(c). Artaxerxes declaring that Ezra would have "everything he asked" (Ezra 7:7) in fulfilling the decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem. Thirteen years later when Nehemiah made it to Jerusalem (445/444 B.C.), he was surprised and disappointed to hear that Jerusalem's walls and gates were still in disrepair (Nehemiah 1:1-3).  Ezra had been given by Artaxerxes the authority and the resources to rebuild and restore Jerusalem, but it seems Ezra was too busy with social and religious restoration to get the city rebuilt. With Nehemiah's help, Jerusalem's infrastructure was finally restored..

The 490 Year Prophecy of  Daniel 9:24-27 Is Separated Into Three Continuous Time Sections:

(1). The first section of time is 7 sevens, or seven weeks of years (49 years). Since this prophecy beings in 458 B.C., the 49 year section has its termination in 409/408 B.C. when there was the dedication of the restored Jerusalem. This 49 year time period is described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the last chronological books of the Old Testament.

(2). The second section of time is 62 sevens, or sixty-two weeks of years (434 years).This section of time flows immediately after the first section of 49 years. This 434 year section of time covers what is called the inter-testament time period (the time between the testaments) and the first portion of the 1st century AD. This is the period for the rise of the Pharisees and Sadducees and the Sanhedrin among the Hebrews--an ever increasing institutional rebellion against God.  Since the 7 sevens of years and the 62 weeks of years flow as one time unit, the 483 years they total indicate a VERY SPECIFIC YEAR.  Start with 458 B.C. and the decree of Artaxerxes, recognize that from 1.B.C. to A.D.  there is only one year (there is no year "zero"), and count off 583 years and you arrive at A.D. 26 - the year of Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism and commenced His three and a half year public ministry. Jesus' baptism and anointing mark the beginning of the final seven years of the vision (see below).

(3). The third and final section of time is 1 seven, or one week of years (7 years). This last 7 year time period is the final section of Daniel's prophecy and is often called Daniel's 70th Week. As stated above, these last seven years begin with Jesus baptism and anointing. Some Christians believe there is a "gap" between the 69th week and the 70th week, but that defies logic because God never mentioned to Daniel there is a gap between the 69th and 70th week, the Hebrew language treats the entire 490 period as one unit of time (i.e. "seventy weeks is determined"), and the first 490 year time period to which this second 490 year time period corresponds had no gaps.

The 70th Week of Daniel Is About Christ

The 70th Week of Daniel--the last 7 years of the 490 year time period--begins in AD 26 at Jesus' baptism and anointing, goes 3 and 1/2 years until His crucifixion, and then concludes with the stoning of Steven--the first Christian martyr--in AD 33. Right before Jesus was crucified He decreed the destruction of the Temple and the Jews, but the fulfillment of that decree would come 40 years later. God judged Israel for their first 490 year period of rest refusal with Babylonian Captivity, but the judgment of God after this second 490 year period of rest refusal would be much more severe. God is serious about  rest. The person who refuses to rest in the Jubilee that comes from heaven experiences severe judgment.

Before we look at the judgment that came to Israel for rejecting the Messiah, let's see what happens within or shortly after 70th Week of Daniel. I will take the events of the 70th week in chronological order of their historical occurrences as we examine Daniel 9:25-27:

(1). "He will confirm the covenant with many (in) one seven"  (v. 27).

The "He" here is Jesus Christ, not any anti-christ. There is nothing in the text that would lead us to believe the He "who confirms the covenant" is anyone other than Messiah the Prince of the previous verse. God makes covenants. This covenant is the New Covenant, the same covenant Jesus described to His disciples when He held up the wine and said, "For this is My blood of the covenant which is to be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Luke 22:20).

(2). "The Messiah will be cut-off and have nothing" (v. 26)

This is, of course, referring to the crucifixion of the Messiah which occurred 3 1/2 years into Daniel's 70th Week. At His death, Jesus was stripped of all His possessions and buried in a borrowed tomb.

(3). "In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering" (v. 27)

Christ does this by His death. By the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God put to an end to the Old Testament economy of blood sacrifice and grain offerings. Though the Jews continued with their ritual sacrifices for one more generation, the cross put an end to God's recognition of such. Jesus fulfilled the Law, and never again would heaven appreciate any blood sacrifice that takes the place of God's Son.

(4). "Desolations are determined" (v. 26)

When Jesus cleared the Temple with a whip, overturning the tables of money changers, He said, "Your house is left to you desolate" (Matthew 23:38). This was on Monday of Passion Week. Messiah Prince decreed the destruction of the Temple, the desolation of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews (Matthew 24), the judgment of God upon the Hebrews for rejecting the Jubilee. The text simply says desolations are determined. The fulfillment of God's decree to desolate Israel would wait 40 years (a generation) and be completed in A.D. 70 by the Romans when Jerusalem and the Temple were utterly destroyed.

(5). "And the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary" (v. 26b).

The prince is Messiah the Prince. The people who come to destroy the city and the Temple are His agents. It is no more unlikely that the sovereign God could use the Romans in A.D. 70 to destroy the Temple, the city of Jerusalem and scatter the Hebrews than it is that God could use the Chaldeans, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians to do the same thing in terms of judgment on His people in the Old Testament. The apocalyptic language of judgment used by Jesus in  Matthew 24 as He describes the impending destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem (i.e. "within a generation") is exactly the same imagery used by the Hebrew prophets in the Old Testament to describe the of God judgment on various other nations (see Joel 3:15).

(6). "And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war" (v. 26c).

When Jesus described the coming judgment on Israel in Matthew 24, He said "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars... but that is not yet the end." The Romans fought the Jews for nearly three years, and all the way to the very end, when the Temple and the city were finally destroyed, there was war. The reference to "a flood" is Hebrew apocalyptic language used to describe God's judgment and an outpouring of Divine wrath (see Nahum 1:8).

(7). "And on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate" (v. 27c).

It is said by Josephus, the captured Jew who served as historian for the Roman general Titus, that when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70, they used pulleys and ropes to pull every stone so that not one was left standing on another. They set fires to melt the gold and silver in the Temple down, and slaughtered any Jew who did not run to the hills.

This judgment of the Jews was "decreed" by God. It was very similar to the desolation and destruction of Israel by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The difference, however, is clear. There will never be another Temple built by God. There will never be another sacrificial system reinstated by God. There will never be another favored nation.

Those who rest in Christ are the Temple of the living God. Those in Christ, Jew and Gentile, are "the chosen nation of God." Those who rest in Christ are "the royal priesthood." The New Covenant abolishes the Old Covenant. The New Covenant does a much better job of showing what it means to rest in God by faith, receiving a righteousness that does not come from the Law, but comes from God and is found by faith in Christ.

 APPLICATION: Christ is the Fulfillment of the Law; He is My Jubilee

God abolishes the Old Covenant Law and institutes the New Covenant through His Son. The Law is only a shadow of the eternal realities that have come in Jesus Christ. Everything in Old Testament Scriptures--the Law, the Prophets, the sacrificial rituals, etc...-- point to the Messiah. The Anointed One fulfilled the Law, every jot and tittle, and then God abolished the Old Covenant, including all the Sabbath commandments of rest, and now encourages the world to embrace ("kiss") His Son. God's intention has always been to promote the Person who gives real rest, not to crystalize the shadow (the Law) that only prefigured real rest. Legalism is ultimately a turning away from that which is real through the embracing of the picture rather than the Person whom the picture is intended to represent.

When a sinner finds real rest in God through trusting the Person and work of Jesus the Anointed One, the sinner is displaying faith that God will perform a good work--similar to the work of Creation--for sinners, in sinners, and through sinners. This work of God in delivering us from our sins will result in God's declaration of "Very good!" Yes, that's right, God alone takes the chaos of a sinner's life and makes something very, very good.

"For we are His workmanship," (Ephesians 2:10) and "If any one is in Christ, He is a new creation" (II Corinthians 5:17). The ultimate response to a perfect work of God is rest. The entire intent of God in giving us His word is that we rest in Him! For those of you who wish to work, labor and toil for God's acceptance and love,  and find it difficult to rest in God and embrace with joy the fact that God deems you good because you are His work, I would encourage you to realize the seriousness of your dilemma.

If God punished Israel for refusing to rest in Him under the Old Covenant dispensation, "How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29).

When Jesus began His public ministry, He preached his first sermon from Luke 4:18-19. He read out loud for all the Jews to hear:
 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."
The text Jesus read was from the scroll of Isaiah. The prophet was describing the events for the Jubilee year in Israel, events called for by the Law (release of captives, forgiveness of debts, etc...). After Jesus read from Isaiah during his inaugural ministry sermon:
"He  rolled up the scroll, handed it to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. Jesus began by saying to them, 'Today, this Scripture is fulfilled'" (Luke 4:20-21).
Jesus told his disciples "Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. I have come to fulfill them!" (Matthew 5:17). Jesus Christ is the reality of rest. The shadow of the Law only pointed to Him. God gave Jesus Christ as an atonement for sin to set sinners free. God gave Jesus Christ as an atonement for sin to forgive sinners' debts. God gave Jesus Christ as an atonement for sin in order to fashion "a new creation," for every sinner in Christ is "the workmanship of God." Just like God rested after the initial creation, He "who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion" (Philippians 1:6), and when it is completed, He will say "Very good. Well done. I am pleased." Why?

Because your deliverance is a perfect work of your God. He never fails.

Rest.

The intent of God in giving us His word is for us to rest in Him. Rest in Christ. Rest in His work. Rest in His performance. Rest in His faithfulness.

Rest.

Rest in knowing you are deemed perfectly righteous because He has given you a righteousness that is not your own and does not come from your obedience to any Law; He has given to you a righteousness that comes from God and is found by rest in Christ

Rest and then say, "There's no other way!"




Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We Are Family: Racial Prejudice and the Superficial Division of Skin Color

Richardson Twins
"From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands." (Acts 17:26)

With racial prejudice and ethnic hostility on the rise in America, it is good to remember that every human being comes from one man. We human beings--black, white, beige, red, yellow--are all people of color; we just have varying amounts. Science has not been able to determine what causes human skin pigmentation, but within us all, there is the biological potential for every kind of skin color. Truth is, skin color is one of the most superficial division of humans there is. For example, the Richardson twins pictured above, Kaydon and Layton, share the same mother and father, and were born on the same day in July of 2006.  Modern geneticists are proving what the Bible has long declared: All male genetic markers can be traced back to a single male and mitochondrial DNA in human beings go back to a single female. To be prejudiced against someone else because of his or her color is to reject your own family.

The Hodgson Family
Another example is the Hodgson family (pictured to the left). Mrs. Hodgson gave birth to fraternal "black and white" twins, Remee and Kian, in April of 2005. Mom and dad have a darker color of skin pigmentation, but modern genetics have shown--and the Hodgson family proves--that skin color can vary within a generation. The idea that we are "different" from one another because of our "skin color" is foreign to logic, genetics and the Bible. We come from one man, and therefore, we are one family. Christianity has long advocated the belief that every human being is related to every other human being, but in a world dominated by the false teaching of human evolution, racial superiority becomes the norm. Now, science is catching up with the truth of Scripture.

The Durrant Twins
A stunning example of the ability for color in human beings to vary within a single generation--and an anecdote that reinforces the superficiality of  dividing over skin color--- is the Durrant twins. Dean and Alison Durrant, gave birth to TWO sets of fraternal twins. The first differing colored twin girls (pictured to the right), were born in 2001, and the second set of differing-colored twin girls (the two baby sisters held by their older sisters) were born in November 2008. The four cute Durrant girls share the same father and mother, but all four vary in their individual degree of skin color. The cultural biases of our youth may linger with us and make us uncomfortable around people from other cultures, but the next time you are tempted to think someone is different than you because of "skin color," you need to remember your Bible and this little post on genetics. We are all family. We share the same father.

The Bible describes a common ancestor for all the nations, and in Genesis 10 we have the Table of Nations which traces the spread and boundaries of the nations from the three sons of Noah--Shem, Ham and Japheth. The descendants of Shem are the Semitic peoples, the descendants of Ham are the African peoples (the original name for Egypt was Ham), and the descendants of Japheth are the Indo/European peoples (see map). God he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands, but we are one family who share a common ancestor.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stop It!

A person who watches the Sunday morning Bible study from Emmanuel Enid via the Internet noticed I said "Stop it!" during last Sunday's message on Hebrews 13:7 and it reminded her of a classic Bob Newheart comedy routine, which she forwarded to me. I laughed out loud. This is not only the kind of counseling I would attend, it is the kind of counseling I would prefer to give, all things being equal.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oklahoma's Historic Fort Arbuckle

Colonel Norman A. Lamb, United States Army (retired), is pictured here sitting on top of the state marker announcing the location of  the historic U.S. Fort Arbuckle (est. 1851) in south central Oklahoma. Norman's military background is quite impressive. He was the U.S. Army liaison to West Point from Oklahoma for over a decade,  the Secretary of Veteran Affairs for a record setting nineteen years (serving in this cabinet position under three separate governors), and a multi-term Oklahoma state senator, holding various legislative leadership positions in the state assembly. His son, Todd Lamb, is the current Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, and in the opinion of many (including me), the next Governor of Oklahoma.

I've met very few people who are able to converse on Oklahoma and United States history with the ease of Norman Lamb. Norman is 78 years young. He went with me yesterday as I made hospital visits in OKC and then on to Falls Creek, the world's largest youth encampment. Norman had mentioned to me that he wanted to see the location of the historic Fort Arbuckle. Over the last decade I've become friends with the homeowners who live on the grounds of the former fort as I did research for Red Earth Courage and Enid's Night of Generals.

So yesterday Norman and I made our way to the site of the old fort. We ended up having a wonderful visit with a woman named Porte (pronounced Porshe) who has lived on the grounds of the old Fort Arbuckle  for over fifty years. Her husband's parents lived on the site of the old fort as well, and that is where her husband was born over seventy years ago. After giving her a copy of one of my books, she gave me a pistol ball from an old Patterson "cap and ball" revolver that had been embedded in the grounds of the old fort. She also gave me one of the earliest .44 caliber bullets made for the infamous Smith and Wesson revolver that won the west, also discovered on the grounds of the fort.

Fort Arbuckle was established April 19, 1851 by Captain Randolph B. Marcy. He chose a location on Wild Horse Creek, just west of the creek's mouth at the Washita River, in what is now south central Oklahoma. The location was just north of a range of mountains that the French trappers and Indians called the Ouachita Mountains, but the soldiers spelled phonetically  "Washita" Mountains (same with the river that runs near the mountains). Captain Marcy named the new frontier fort he established Fort Arbuckle in honor of the respected General Matthew Arbuckle who had died of cholera just a little over a week earlier (April 11, 1851) at Fort Smith (Arkansas). The Ouachita Mountains south of the fort would eventually take the name Arbuckle Mountains because of their close proximity to Fort Arbuckle.

Fort Arbuckle was built by the United States army to protect the recently relocated eastern civilized Indian tribes--primarily the Chickasaws and Choctaws--from the native Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne Plainsmen Indians who did not take kindly to other Indian tribes encroaching on their lands. The United States had signed treaties with the civilized tribes that guaranteed their protection in "Indian Territory" and Oklahoma's earliest history is the story of the locating and establishment of military forts (Fort Smith, Fort Gibson, Fort Towson, Fort Washita, Fort Arbuckle, Fort Cobb, Fort Sill) for the purpose of protecting civilized Indians from Plainsmen Indians. The soldiers stationed at these forts also ended up protecting wagon trains that crossed through "Indian Territory" on their way to the gold fields of California (think Lone Ranger).

In the 1820's, 30's, 40's and 50's the finest graduates of West Point were assigned as officers to Indian Territory, to the land that would eventually become Oklahoma. Though Oklahoma's Native American history stretches back for centuries, the earliest white settlers in Oklahoma were soldiers. Most people don't know that as late as 1801, 2 out of 3 white Americans lived within fifty miles of the Atlantic ocean.  There were only four roads over the Appalachian Mountains that headed west. Anything west of the Appalachians was considered frontier, and no American lived west of the Mississippi until after 1803 and the Louisiana Purchase. Our nation has exploded in growth in a short 200 years. It's hard for young people today to fathom what America was like as late as fifty years after Independence Day (July 4, 1776).

Fort Arbuckle was closed in the spring of 1870 when a new fort opened, the massive and still existing Fort Sill. Because of Fort Arbuckle's short tenure as a military fort, most people have forgotten about it. The old fort was located seven miles west of the today's Davis, Oklahoma just north of Highway 7. Even today, when it rains hard, you can find treasures that surface from their burial places on the grounds of old Fort Arbuckle. My friends have found pistols, rifles, plates, perfume bottles, forks, knives, and a host of other artifacts. Fort Arbuckle is a state treasure trove of history. Though there are many things I could tell you about why Fort Arbuckle has an important place in Oklahoma and U.S. history, I'll give you just four:

(1). Captain Marcy, who founded Fort Arbuckle on April 19, 1851, would explore the headwaters of the Red River (the river that divides Oklahoma and Texas) the following year (1852). Accompanying Captain Marcy for that Red River exploration was a young lieutenant named George B. McClellan.  Young George would eventually fall in love with Captain Marcy's daughter Mary Ellen (Nelly) Marcy, and the two would marry. McClellan would later be promoted to General at the beginning of the Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln would eventually appoint McClellan as the General-in-Chief of the entire Union Army. Lincoln famously fired McClellan for not being aggressive enough in taking the fight to the Confederates, a trait of reticence probably developed back when McClellan and Marcy made a major mistake in charting the Red River. McClellan, however, was a proud man and took offense at his sacking. He ran against Abraham Lincoln in 1864 for the Presidency of the United States. McClellan would lose the Democratic nomination and Lincoln would be assassinated in April 1865. General's McClellan and Marcy had the beginnings of their long relationship in the Indian Territory that we now call Oklahoma and the old fort we call Arbuckle.

(2). The first secret mission of the Civil War (as recorded in the Official Records) had as its target destination Fort Arbuckle. Young Lieutenant William Averell was commissioned by Abraham Lincoln and Winfield Scott to dress as a confederate and make his way from Washington, D.C. by train to St. Louis (where the railroad ended just west at Rolla, Missouri), from Rolla to Fort Smith via stage coach, and then from Fort Smith to Fort Arbuckle on a horse. Averell carried a handwritten order that Union troops stationed in Indian Territory were to evacuate to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and then to other locations to the east. Lincoln needed his finest officers and troops to help defend the Union. In essence, the U.S. government's commitment to protect the Indian nations was abandoned. The story of Averell's horseback ride through Indian Territory to Fort Arbuckle, chased by confederates the entire five day journey from Fort Smith, is one of the most amazing unknown stories of the Civil War and forms the basis of the two books Red Earth Courage and Enid's Night of Generals. The mile and a half train of troops and dependents that left Fort Arbuckle on May 3, 1861 and headed north (guided by the legendary Delaware Indian Black Beaver) would include many future Union Generals and Medal of Honor recipients who would help defeat the Confederacy.

(3). Most Americans have forefathers who came to the plains of the Midwest and the west coast of the America's during the 1849 Gold Rush or later. These western pioneers usually rode by wagon train in groups of 50 to 70 people. The mandatory guidebook for that journey west of the Mississippi was written by Fort Arbuckle's founder Randolph Marcy. The book was entitled The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions. The United States government printed it, every wagon train had multiple copies of it, and it told in detail how to spot peaceful or hostile Indians, how to find water, how to start a fire, how to protect the camp at night, and a host of other invaluable guidelines. A first edition copy of this book, originally published in 1859, will cost you thousands of dollars. It was the best selling book in America from 1860 to 1885. The author was the founder and first commander at Fort Arbuckle.

(4). The historic Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry were stationed at Fort Arbuckle after the Civil War. I will be writing a future post on the importance of these freed slaves who served in the United States army at a later date, but their presence alone at Fort Arbuckle makes this fort extremely important.

So, yesterday was a very interesting day for me with Norman Lamb. It's great to have friends who are as interested in connecting the historical dots as I.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Female Empowerment via Classy Modesty

Whether you agree or disagree with the premise and/or solution, one has to admire a young, female MBA who sees a problem and provides a solution. Jessica Rey is known among many for her role on television as one of the White Power Rangers. Her new book, Decent Exposure, is causing a stir in the culture. Jessica's video is nine minutes long and well worth your time to watch.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

God Needs Not the Help of a Material Sword of Steel to Assist the Sword of the Spirit in Affairs of the Conscience

Independence Day in the United States is a time for national celebration and reflection. This year evangelical Christians in America may be feeling somewhat subdued because it seems that our civil government is abandoning some of the fundamental principles upon which our country was founded. I'm not so sure but that our focus is wrong. It is vigorously argued by some that America was not founded as a Christian nation. I tend to agree.  America was founded on the principles of liberty and freedom--freedom of conscience; freedom of religion; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom of commerce, etc...

Evangelicals maybe should be more concerned that Americans never lose their individual freedoms. I  don't think we ought to be as dismayed that our civil government loses an alleged allegiance to Christian principles. For example, when our civil government recognizes the equality of gay marriages, or takes "In God We Trust" off of our coinage, or removes the Ten Commandments from public display in government buildings, or is led by a President or others who might be atheists, Buddhists, Muslim or followers of any other religion but Christianity, I think we Christians should not be nonplussed. Our civil government was founded on the principle that the power of government resides in the people, and truth be known, we now have people in America who want gay marriage recognized; people who are not Christians, and people who say they are tired of being treated like second-class Americans because they are not Christians. We now have leaders in America who reflect the religious pluralism and societal paganism of the majority of Americans who put them in office.

Again, we evangelical Christians in America should be unfazed by these changes.

God needs not the help of a material sword to assist the sword of the Spirit in affairs of the conscience. That sentence (and this post's title) comes from a line in Roger Williams' 1644 treatise The Bloudy Tenant of Persecution. Roger Williams (1603-1683), founder of Providence, Rhode Island and the first Baptist congregation in America, wrote his treatise after being evicted from the Massachusetts Bay Colony because he disagreed with the merging of the church and the civil government in that colony.

Roger Williams did not get along with John Cotton, the preeminent Anglican minister in Massachusetts who believed in the merging of the church and the government.  Cotton believed that all Americans should Christians, and the government should use capital punishment for those who denied the fundamental Christian teachings of the church. Roger Williams left Massachusetts and wrote The Bloudy Tenant as a refutation of Cotton's Presbyterian and Anglican church polity that advocates the merging of church and civil government.

During this 4th of July week, as we evangelicals think about America and the freedoms we enjoy, I would encourage us to reflect on the biblical arguments of Roger Williams as to why the people of God should never be too concerned about living in a country where the civil government or civil leaders do not recognize the Judeo-Christian God of the Old or New Testaments or any of the teachings found in the Scriptures. I have updated Roger Williams archaic English, but you can read the original text of The Bloudy Tenant of Persecution here.
"Abraham lived among the Canaanites a long time, yet he believed contrary to the Canaanites regarding Religion (see Genesis 13:7. and16:13). Again, Abraham also lived in Gerar, and the pagan King Abimelech gave him freedom to abide in his land (see Genesis 20, 21. 23,  24).  
Isaac also dwelt in Gerar, yet he believed contrary to King Abimelech regarding Religion (see Genesis 26).
Jacob lived 20 years in the same house with his Uncle Laban, yet he believed differently than his uncle when it came to Religion (see Genesis 31).
The people of Israel dwelt for 430 years in the infamous land of Egypt, and afterwards 70 years in Babylon, during which time they differed in Religion from the heads and leaders of both States (see Exodus 1, 2 and 2 Chronicles 36).
Coming to the time of Christ,  the people of Israel lived under the Romans, where there were different sects of Religion, like the Herodians, the Scribes and that of the Pharisees, as well as the Libertines, the Thudaans and the Samaritans, besides the  common Religion of the Jews, and that of Christ and his Apostles--all of which differed from the common Religion of the State of Rome which was the worship of Diana, which almost the whole pagan world then worshipped.
All these lived under the Government of Caesar, and their religion was not hurtful to the commonwealth of Rome, for they rendered to Caesar that which was his (taxes), and as to their Religion and consciences towards God, Caesar left them to themselves,  having no dominion over their souls and consciences."

If someone objects to Williams' observations of Rome by saying it was the Roman civil government who put Christians to death after the resurrection of Christ, it must be remembered that the orthodox Hebrew Jews were the first to persecute the followers of Jesus (one religion persecuting another), and only when the Jews revolted against the civil government of Rome by force did the Romans come to put down the Jewish revolt (70 A.D.). Later, when Roman emperors left the principles of individual freedoms upon which the Roman empire had been built, Christians began to be persecuted.

It is the loss of individual freedoms that will eventually cause any country to collapse upon itself.

So, as we celebrate July the 4th and Independence Day in America this year, let us evangelicals not make the mistake of moaning the loss of Christian America. Any god that requires the sword of government to demand allegiance from a country's subjects is not the one true God of Scripture. Roger Williams understood this, and so should we.

That which we must guard against in this country is the loss of ndividual freedoms as well as increasing government intrusion into--and coercion of--the individual, regardless of a citizen's religion or lack thereof.