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Grace Bible Church
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries

The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 08/13/06
The New England Bible Conference 2006
No matter where we live or how we grow up, everybody on earth seems to ask some explanation of five key questions: 1) Who am I? 2) Where did I come from? 3) Why am I here? 4) Where am I going? 5) How do I get there? This is because this is the devils' world, and many individuals have a distorted view of God. TLJC said in JOH 18:36-38, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm. Pilate therefore said to Him, So You are a king? Jesus answered, You say {correctly} that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" In 2CO 4:3-4 the apostle Paul said, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the best picture of God we'll ever get. We live in the Church-age, the intensified stage of the angelic conflict, and our enemy is invisible. Eventually, there will be the establishment of a one-world government, which is all about controlling the population, which is what the anti-Christ, indwelt by Satan, will eventually do. However, if you understand the love and mercy of God that is found in prophecy in the end times you will not have fear or worry. As David said in PSA 56:3, When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can {mere} man do to me?

It is important that we get a clear idea of the God who actually exists, for those who gain a good understanding of the merciful God of the Bible are quick to turn to Him, where they find comfort in their time of desperation. Those who have the wrong understanding of Who and what God really is find themselves facing both the present and the future with fear and dread. Knowing the true God, as He is revealed by the Hebrew prophets and by His Son TLJC, can be the most comforting experience in life. 2CO 1:2-7, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed {be} the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are {sharers} of our comfort.

It is important to gain the right understanding of Who and what God really is before we face that unknown tragedy that will inevitably come. Even though God is Spirit (JOH 4:24) and no one has seen God at any time (JOH 1:18), God has given us many ways to come to know Him, PSA 19:1, The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. God exists, He is all-powerful, and He is the Master designer of all things. Creation alone does not tell us much of who God is, what He is like, whether He is for us or against us. It is only in the Bible that we learn what He is really like and what kind of relationship we can have with Him. The apostle Paul spoke of two ways to know God: 1) Through the revelation the Lord has given of Himself through the Hebrew prophets. 2) Through God's only begotten Son, TLJC, who came into this world not only to die for the sins of mankind, but also to reveal God as the Father. In HEB 1:1-3, God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high;

The Son perfectly mirrors God; the Bible calls TLJC the exact representation of His nature or the express image of God. When TLJC walked on earth, everything He did expressed the true nature of God. He revealed Himself to be completely in tune with human sorrows, grief, and pain, HEB 4:15, For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all, all but the sin, and in so doing, He revealed how God the Father responds when we hurt. We see that He is a merciful God, longsuffering, compassionate, and forgiving. We see that God loves us and is for us which is a welcome thought in times of need. Sooner or later we will all face our own personal time of crisis. It may be self-inflicted, or it may occur simply because you are a human being living in the devil's world, fallen and made up of sinful men. Whatever the cause, you can turn from wherever you are, like the Prodigal son, and return home, to your heavenly Father. So, do not view God as a cruel taskmaster, standing at the gate of heaven to keep people out. Rather, see Him as the loving, merciful heavenly Father, who stands at the gate of heaven, seeking to draw the greatest possible number of men and women in. 2PE 3:9 says, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (see also 1TI 2:4). While all those who enter must come through faith in His Son's sacrifice for our sins on the cross and His subsequent resurrection, we can be certain that if there is any way to get someone through the pearly gates, God will make sure it happens! If you're like many people, the term Bible prophecy conjures up frightening images of doom, fireballs raining from heaven, and mountains crashing into the sea. Prophecies of hard times and coming judgment don't comfort people; they frighten them. TLJC, speaking of the end, told his disciples that when that time comes, LUK 21:25-26, "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken." Admittedly, such terrifying imagery doesn't bring comfort in the usual sense, but such terminology is designed to communicate God's immeasurable mercy, grace, and love, and is what we call crisis evangelism and really grace before judgment. God is not some celestial being who delights in inflicting catastrophe, but a loving Lord who does everything He can to help us escape divine judgment.ROM 8:32, He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? He uses Bible prophecy not to frighten us, but to prove that He exists; to warn us of the real dangers that lay ahead; and to encourage us into accepting His gracious offer of life and happiness. Many people don't want to hear about the negative things that are happening throughout the world. They are like those in JER 49:23, You have heard bad news and you are disheartened. There is anxiety by the sea, It cannot be calmed. They completely misread the loving nature of God, because they know little or nothing of what the Bible actually teaches about God. They have not rejected God, but rather have a monstrous view of Him that has become very common in our world, because Satan and the kingdom of darkness want to discredit and blind everyone from the love and mercy of God. However, if you understand the love and mercy of God found in prophecy in the end times, you will have a confident expectation of Him instead. Many people suffer under a wrong view of God, a distorted picture that sees the Almighty as angry, ill-tempered, and eager to distribute out horrific judgment. However, once you discover God is merciful, gracious, and looks on us with such inexhaustible love that He sent His Son, TLJC, to become the Savior of the world, your whole world changes. The Bible insists that when any of us make it to heaven, we do so only because God has made it possible JOH 6:37-44), "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven." And they were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, I have come down out of heaven?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."

Bible prophecy reveals God's kind nature as almost nothing else can. Even now God is carefully and relentlessly at work, supervising the course of world events in order to bring about the glorious future He has foretold. In spite of the fact that REV 12:9, the great dragon who is called the devil and Satan deceives the whole world; and 1JO 5:19, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one, God is still in control. God uses Bible prophecy not to frighten us, but to encourage us into accepting His gracious offer, so that you can say with the apostle Paul in PHI 1:20, On the basis of my intense concentration and confident expectation [a personal sense of destiny] that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but with all confidence, Christ shall even now [in time] as always [in eternity] be glorified in my body, whether by life or by death.

Everything happening to Paul while in jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether he lives or dies. Paul turned his life into his very own pulpit. The same is true of you; you can turn your life, adversities, and circumstances into your very own pulpit (2CO 3:2-6). Your life's message can have a tremendous impact on others. You can actually be read by others and bring glory to God because of what you've gone through, and how you persevered and did not quit in spite of all the obstacles. If you have a disadvantage in life, you must replace passive self-pity with active courage. If you have a disadvantage, take advantage of it! That ability to overcome that great obstacle makes you stronger. God can take any type of evil situation and convert it into divine good as Joseph said in GEN 50:20, and as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. Or in DEU 23:5, the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you.

When TLJC wanted his audience to grasp the passionate love of God for them, He told them three short but powerful stories in Luke 15: The parable of the lost sheep; The parable of the lost coin; The parable of the lost son. All of these illustrate the Father's longing to find and bring home all of His lost children. In the third of these stories, a young man from a wealthy family demands and gets his inheritance long before the death of his father. He leaves home and spends his entire fortune on wild living, eventually winding up broke and friendless. So he sets off for home, determined to ask his father for work as a hired hand. Meanwhile, his father sits patiently on the porch scanning the road and praying each day to see his wandering son return home. On this day, while the son is still a long way off, the father recognizes the tired silhouette of his boy hobbling down the road. The father leaps off the porch and runs to his son, embraces him, covers his dirty face with kisses, and treats him to a homecoming party, complete with the best fresh beef in the county. The real story is not so much the prodigal, but the father of the prodigal. TLJC was portraying God as the prodigal's father. Our Lord wanted us to realize that His Father, God Almighty, was just like the merciful father in this story. God isn't sitting up in heaven, arms crossed, trying to prevent people from entering. Instead, He stands with arms wide open wide. MAT 24:1-3, And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He answered and said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down." And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, [the temple not having one stone left upon another and torn down] and what {will be} the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age [The Second Coming]?" TLJC told His apostles to look for the following signs prior to His Second Coming and the end of the age. 1) False prophets and false Christs inMAT 24:5, "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many." MAT 24:11, "And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many." Prophets ceased with the completion of the canon of scripture, and the false prophets are a prelude to the antichrist. 2) Wars, in MAT 24:6, "And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for {those things} must take place, but {that} is not yet the end." Rumors of wars in all areas of the world now occur frequently thanks to instant media coverage. 3) Famines, inMAT 24:7, "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines," A large portion of the world suffers from a shortage of food. 4) Earthquakes, in MAT 24:7.....and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 5) Predictions of future tribulations (MAT 24:8-9). Christians are also under attack throughout the world today. In the United States, Christians still enjoy freedom to worship God, however in many other countries Christians suffer much greater persecution for their faith. During the tribulation this suffering will be worldwide and will continue even to the point of martyrdom. 6) The Gospel will be preached throughout the world. MAT 24:14, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come." This prophecy is being fulfilled through television, radio, missionaries, the translation of the Bible into many languages, and the internet. 7) There is also the prophecy of two characteristics of the end of the age from the apostle Paul: Godlessness in the last days (2TI 3:1-5), and Apostasy, or falling away from the faith (1TI 4:1-5). 8) Redevelopment of the Roman Empire (European community), Dan 2:32-33,40-43. The nations of Europe since the Roman empire dissolved have never formed one empire, but the European Union now has over 15 Member States and is preparing for 13 more. The Roman empire is being revised once again. 9) In the last days there will be the return of the one pure language, Hebrew, to Israel. ZEP 3:9, For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him shoulder to shoulder. Prior to the restoration of Israel in 1948, Hebrew was a dead language, but today it is spoken throughout Israel. 10) There will also be the rebuilding of the temple, the restoration of temple worship, and animal sacrifices in Jerusalem. For several end time prophecies to be fulfilled, the temple will have to be rebuilt. In REV 11:1-2, And there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, "Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. And leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months." Those 42 months are the last three and a half years of the tribulation. There are many groups already working on preparations for the new temple. Attempts have been made to lay the cornerstone of the temple; the only thing standing in the way of the construction of the new temple is Islam's third holiest site, the Dome of the Rock. 11) There will also be the appearance of the red heifer after 2000 years. NUM 19:1-2, Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying, Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an unblemished red heifer in which is no defect, and on which a yoke has never been placed. A red heifer will be required to be used in the process of purification described in the book of Numbers. In May 1997 the first Red Heifer was born in 2000 years. 12) Increase in knowledge and travel, DAN 12:4, "But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase." 13) Return of the Ethiopian Jews to Israel (ZEP 3:8-11). 14) The rise of Russia (Eze 38:2,4,8). In order for some end time events to occur Russia will have to be a strong nation with a strong military. Don't buy the lie of the lying sleeping giant. 15) Return of Russian Jews to Israel (JER 23:7-8). 16) Technology for the mark of the beast, REV 13:16-17, And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead, and he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. There are already thousands of people who have received the biochip implant. What is significant is that people are being softened to the idea of a mark or an implant as a means of maintaining security, providing medical information, and regulating a more interdependent world. 17) Plans for the one world government. The United Nations, World Trade Organization, and other agencies are preliminary steps to the formation of a one world government. We now have the communications technology, transportation, and the pro-globalization media necessary to usher in the one world government headed by the antichrist. The increasing terrorist threat will only quicken the formation of this governing body as fear and promises of better security make more people willing to give up their national sovereignty. 18) There's the prophecy of instant communication around the world.

So, we have been looking at God the Father not as a God of judgment, but as loving God filled with mercy and compassion. John 14, the night before our Lord's death, reveals how TLJC was a visible manifestation and a visual aid to understand God the Father. Joh 14:1-3, "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, {there} you may be also." Our Lord was actually addressing this to Peter because of what Peter said in JOH 13:36. In JOH 14:5 we have the question of Thomas, Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" Thomas is not really inherently stupid; he is simply ignorant of Bible doctrine. Once a person becomes a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and neglects or rejects doctrine, he appears to be stupid because he's in reversionism, which is going backward in the spiritual life, rather than forward (PRO 14:14). So in Joh 14:5-7, Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. If you had known Me [second class condition: but you didn't], you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." To see the Son, TLJC, is to see the Father. TLJC is about to depart; however, He will leave His thinking behind and they will still be able to see God with the eyes of their soul. The Lord can't stick around and teach them; He must go forward with the plan of God and leave a legacy of Bible doctrine, so that future generations will be able to see the Father through the Scriptures. Once Christ ascends, the plan of God the Father is seen through His word. So our Lord's answer to Thomas, JOH 14:7-11, "If you had known Me Thomas, [but you didn't], you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and {yet} you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves."

Philip was slow to learn because he was side-tracked and unable to concentrate. What the Lord has just said to Thomas completely passes over the head of Philip. For the Lord just said to Thomas, JOH 14:7, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." In JOH 14:9 is a rebuke of divine sarcasm, Jesus said to him, [Sadly enough this a statement could be said to the majority of believers today] "Have I been so long with you, and {yet} you have not [ouk] come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say 'Show us the Father'?" JOH 14:10, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. The Lord is saying that through the word of God the Father, and the power given to Him, He was able to do the works that God the Father called Him to do, and this is what the Church-age is all about. Every believer is to take the word of God and mix it with the power of God and perform the works that God the Father calls him to perform. Again, JOH 14:10, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?" This is co-equality, coeternity of essence; the Father and the Son have identical essence. Whenever the Scripture says God is one, it is talking about the essence of God. When there is a distinction between the members of the Godhead, we are talking about a principle of distinction, which is personality, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. So He says, "I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me." The same thing is true about the Holy Spirit; all 3 have identical essence: the same eternal life, the same omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, sovereignty, justice, righteousness, love, veracity. They have identical essence and are one in essence. No one can see the essence of God with human eyes or human viewpoint, but you can see it with eyes of the soul. EPH 1:18, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. You can only see God with the human spirit and the left lobe of the soul, your spiritual eyes. You can are going to see the Father, where Philip could have, through words!  JOH 14:10, "The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works."

In verse 11, there are 2 commands, both designed to try to get Philip to apply the doctrine he has just heard. JOH 14:11, "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves." Think about how many times the Lord came through for you in your hour of difficulty and trial even though you were totally unworthy; He was always there for you. The Lord not only sustains the mature believer, but also the passive, slothful, backslider. The problem that a lot of believers have is failure to recall the blessings and the promises of God. So, TLJC now hits Philip right between the eyes. JOH 14:12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do [divine good], shall he do also; and greater {works} than these shall he do; because I go to the Father." The Greek word meizona means greater in quantity but not quality. We will do more works only because we have more opportunity to produce divine good. JOH 14:13, "And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

One of the most important books of prophecy is the book of Revelation which says in REV 1:3, Blessed [or happy] is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. God promises in His Word to give a special blessing of happiness to all those who seek to grasp what He has revealed about the future. If you understand the love and mercy of God found in prophecy in the end times, you will have an inner joy and happiness, excited about what is happening in these last days. Those who neglect the prophetic plan of God lack something essential in their lives, particularly in relation to their understanding and appreciation of TLJC. The Book of Revelation does not merely disclose future events, but is particularly "the Revelation of The Lord Jesus Christ." REV 1:1, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John. If the Scriptures teach us anything about God, it's that He is for us, not against us. He calls us to obey Him because He wants to bless our lives. From cover to cover, Bible prophecy powerfully proclaims the grace, mercy, and love of God to those who believe in Him. Only moments after Adam and the woman took a bite out of the forbidden fruit, God declared to the evil one who had enticed them to sin, GEN 3:15, "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." Even before His creatures had sinned, God already had designed a remedy, a powerful solution for their separation from Him, REV 13:8. Only God Himself, in the person of his Son, TLJC, could die for the sins of the whole world. How hard could it be to love a God like that? God has blended this gracious principle of prophecy all the way through the Bible. The word grace first appears in Scripture in GEN 6:8, "Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD." The last book, Revelation, opens with a reference to God's grace (Rev 1:4) and closes the same way (REV 22:21). The middle of the book reminds us of the greatest act of grace in history, that TLJC was "slain from the foundation of the world," (REV 13:8). The last verse in the Bible says in REV 22:21, The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. This focus on grace is to give us courage, strength, and hope, particularly in uncertain times like these. Prophecy tells us that from the very beginning of history to its end, God shows Himself to be merciful, gracious, and loving beyond all imagination.

Bible prophecy reveals a kindhearted God who is merciful and gracious beyond all expectation, but perhaps most marvelous of all is the open invitation He gives to each one of us. PSA 66:5, Come and see the works of God, {Who is} awesome in {His} deeds toward the sons of men. ISA 66:18, "For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory." JER 29:11-13, "For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find {Me,} when you search for Me with all your heart." The testimony of the prophets on the nature of God is crucial because these remarkable servants really were the best God had. They were called "holy men of God!" (2PE 1:21). Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, David, and Moses were not only the special servants of God for their generation, but all of them were also prophets. If we listen to their testimony regarding the nature of God, we will see the light burning at the end of our own tunnels. Everyone has problems and we all look to God for solutions. How about calling upon the God whom the prophets knew so well? Look at Jonah, the rebellious prophet. In his time, Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, had become the greatest city in the world. God told Jonah to go to that lavish city and proclaim (JON 1:1-17). Assyria had long posed a threat to Israel, and as a prophet perhaps Jonah could see that one day this powerful Gentile nation would destroy Israel (this did occur in 722 B.C.). So when God told Jonah to call the Ninevites to repent, he feared that they really might. The entire population of Nineveh repented; God saw their change of heart and relented from sending destruction. JON 3:5-6, Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered {himself} with sackcloth, and sat on the ashes. The Book of Jonah reminds us what kind of God we serve; He is the sort of Lord who loves to show mercy to everyone. Still, while the repentance of the Ninevites greatly pleased God, it didn't please Jonah at all. JON 4:1-4, But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, "Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my {own} country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life." And the Lord said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?" This prophet used by God to spark a great revival now bitterly complained about it, because from his perspective the recipients of God's grace were from the wrong nation and didn't deserve it. Jonah wanted God to wipe the Assyrians off the face of the earth, and instead he spared them. True to form, however, God wasn't through with this prophet. Jonah lingered for a few days outside Nineveh, hoping that God would change his mind and destroy the city. JON 4:5-6, Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. However, early the next day, God sent a worm to decay the vine, which made Jonah even more furious (JON 4:7-11). That's when Jonah learned a second lesson about God's kindhearted and merciful nature. Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." Then the Lord said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work, and {which} you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know {the difference} between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" Jonah felt compassion for a plant that helped him feel comfortable; God felt compassion toward a people that for many years had scorned and blasphemed Him. If you understand the love and mercy of God found in prophecy, you'll have confidence, freedom, and security that He is for you. Despite himself, Jonah tells us a great deal about the nature of God. Jonah wanted judgment; God wanted mercy. Jonah rooted for death; God championed life. God won!

A century or so before Jonah, another Hebrew prophet named Joel ministered to the people of Judah. A terrible locust plague had engulfed his nation, and Joel used the calamity to encourage his countrymen to turn back to the Lord. He declared that if they refused to repent, a plague even greater than mighty locust armies would devastate the nation on the great and terrible "day of the LORD" (Joel 2:11). Joel pled with his nation to turn away from their rebellion and return with their whole hearts to the God of their fathers. In Joel 2, a great believer teaches about the goodness of God. JOE 2:12-13, "Yet even now," declares the Lord, "Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping, and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, And relenting of evil." The prophet didn't shrink from warning his people that God would soon judge their sin, but the ultimate reason Joel gave to his countrymen for returning to God was, "For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, And relenting of evil." The prophets Amos and Malachi also referred to their merciful God as "gracious." Major prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah referred to him as "merciful." God described himself to Jeremiah in these words: "I am merciful, I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity." (Jer 3:12-13). What comfort this is to sinners in any age, to know that they can find mercy when they admit their sin to God. God Himself said so! There is no better guarantee of forgiveness than that given by God himself. David mentioned the mercy of God no fewer than fourteen times in his writings, not counting Psalm 136, where twenty-six times he declared that God's "mercy endures forever." Long before Jonah, before Joel, before Elijah, David extolled the infinite mercy, grace, and love of the Lord. The psalmist of Israel could never get over the boundless mercy of his God, and he eagerly set to music his joyful understanding of God's love. No doubt these prophets opened their scrolls of Torah to learn from Moses, the lawgiver himself. Approximately seven hundred years separated Moses from Jonah, yet their testimony about the loving nature of God does not vary in the slightest. In Exo 33, Moses gave us a remarkable account of his unique interaction with God. By this point in the narrative, the Israelites already had left Egypt, camped at Sinai, received (and broken) the Ten Commandments, and suffered their first deadly bout with idolatry. Moses had angrily shattered the first set of tablets containing the commandments, and God had summoned him once more to the mountaintop to receive a new set. Moses also had a tiny request of God: EXO 33:17-18, And the Lord said to Moses, "I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight, and I have known you by name." Then Moses said, "I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!" Moses wanted to see God, to know him intimately. What an enormous request Moses made of the Lord, but more astonishing still, God gladly honored the request. When the Lord would make His glory pass by, He promised to put Moses in a cleft in the rock of the mountain and cover him. In EXO 33:19, And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion."  In EXO 34:6-7, Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." An amazing picture of God, painted by the Lord himself for one of his chief prophets. If you understand the love and mercy of God found in prophecy, you will also have a revelation of the graciousness of God. God's nature overflows with mercy and grace, love and faithfulness. Neither Jonah nor Joel, nor any other prophet, originated the idea that God was merciful; this truth came from God himself when he called Moses into His service, "The LORD your God is a merciful God," He declared (DEU 4:31).

Too many people suffer under the mistaken notion that our God is a God of judgment. It is true that He will discipline His people for their sin, but only as a last resort. Yet because He is a God abundant in love, He longs to deliver us from discipline and judgment by calling us to repentance and faith. God freely offers His mercy to all mankind, but always upon the condition that they obey Him. If they choose to disobey Him, He cannot guarantee them His blessing. History shows that those individuals and nations who disobeyed Him either received His judgment or failed to receive the mercy and blessings they could have enjoyed. Such people often regard God as cruel or mean spirited. They seem unable to understand that they cannot do their own thing, disregarding His will and plan for their lives, and still receive His mercy. Those who disobey His will and His commandments look up to God and say, He is a God of judgment. Those who obey Him look up to Him and say, He is a God of mercy. Your view of God depends on where you stand, in obedience or disobedience to Him. From Adam and Eve to King David, from the thief on the cross to Saul of Tarsus (who became the apostle Paul), and to you and me, He makes this matchless offer: In love and mercy I sent my only Son to die for your sins. I raised Him from the dead so that you would know I accepted His sacrifice. All you have to do is call upon me for forgiveness and salvation, and I will give you eternal life. Nothing could be more gracious than that. In the final analysis, God leaves the decision up to you. He and His prophets declared His mercy, and now you can accept it or reject it. DEU 30:19-20, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."

God knows the end from the beginning. There are more than one thousand prophecies in the Bible, five hundred of which already have been fulfilled, the others are yet to come. No mere human could forecast the future with the detail and accuracy that God has demonstrated. As far as God is concerned, prophecy is nothing more than history written in advance. Only God knows the future. No wonder He describes Himself with words like ISA 46:8-11, "Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; {I am} God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure' Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned {it, surely} I will do it.'" Beginning in ages past, God has seen fit to forecast the future, and everything always happens just the way He said it would. In fact, that is one way we know He exists and He cares for us. God has told us how history will wind up; who can do that, but God alone? Yet, people throughout history choose to abandon the Word of God and cling to the fantasies and lies of lesser authorities. The Bible is unique among the religious books of mankind in that it dares to predict future events in great detail. Other religious writings such as the Koran do not contain detailed, specific prophecies. It is only when we come to examine the Bible that we find hundreds of detailed prophecies concerning various nations, events, and individuals covering thousands of years. Modern day secular prophets do dare to make predictions, but they have a very poor record of accuracy. The more specific their prediction, the more certain it is to be wrong. DEU 13:1-4, If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him." (see also Deu 18:18-22). Anyone who attempts to prophesy specific events will be confronted by the staggering odds against success created by the inescapable laws of mathematical probability. However, when we examine the prophecies in the Bible we are confronted with a different phenomenon of staggering mathematical proportions. The Bible contains hundreds of incredibly accurate predictions of events which historians and archaeologists have verified. God declares boldly in His Word that these prophecies and their fulfillments are His signature upon the Bible and His verification that the Bible is truly the inspired (God-breathed) Word of God. God threw forth His challenge to false prophets and false religions that has remained unanswered for over twenty-five hundred years: In ISA 41:21-24, "Present your case," the Lord says. "Bring forward your strong {arguments,}" The King of Jacob says. "Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; As for the former {events,} declare what they {were,} That we may consider them, and know their outcome; Or announce to us what is coming. Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods; Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. Behold, you are of no account, And your work amounts to nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.

The Lord declares that accurate prophecy belongs to God alone, and that He alone can prophesy accurately the future of mankind. The precision of fulfilled prophecy therefore becomes not only an irrefutable proof of God's foreknowledge and sovereignty, but it also proves conclusively that the Bible is the revelation of God's truth. Statistical theory shows that if the probability of one event occurring is one in five and the probability of another event occurring is one in ten, then the probability of both events being fulfilled in sequence is five multiplied by ten. Thus, the chance of both events occurring is one in fifty. Throughout the O.T., there are hundreds of specific prophecies in which God promised that He would send a Messiah to save humanity from their sins. 1) The Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, one of the 12 tribes descended from Jacob (GEN 49:10; LUK 3:23-34). Probability = 1 chance in 12. 2) He would be born in Bethlehem, (MIC 5:2, MAT 2:1). Probability = 1 chance in 200; there were over 200 cities He could have been born in. 3) He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (ZEC 11:12, MAT 26:15). Probability = conservatively, 1 chance in 50. The Combined Probability of these prophecies: 12 X 200 X 50 = 1 chance 120,000. There is only one chance in 120 thousand (conservatively) that any one man would fulfill all three prophecies by chance. Out of many hundreds of prophecies concerning the promised Messiah, some four dozen are quite specific, including these three. Here are eleven Messianic predictions made more than four hundred years before they were fulfilled. The promised Messiah would: Be born in Bethlehem. Probability: 1 in 200. He would be preceded by a messenger: Probability: say 1 in 20. ISA 40:3 is fulfilled in MAT 3:1-3, Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!" He would enter Jerusalem on a colt. Probability: 1 in 50. O.T. prediction:ZEC 9:9, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout {in triumph,} O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. N.T. fulfillment: LUK 19:35-38, And they brought it to Jesus, and they threw their garments on the colt, and put Jesus {on it.} And as He was going, they were spreading their garments in the road. And as He was now approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" He would be betrayed by a friend. Probability: 1 in 10. O.T. prediction: Psa 41:9. N.T. fulfillment: JOH 13:18, "I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but {it is} that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.'" 5. He would have His hands and feet pierced. Probability: 1 in 100. O.T. prediction: PSA 22:16, For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. N.T. fulfillment: LUK 23:33, And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 6. He would be wounded and whipped by His enemies. Probability: 1 in 25. O.T. prediction: ISA 53:5, But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. N.T. fulfillment: MAT 27:26, Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he delivered Him to be crucified. He would be sold for thirty pieces of silver. Probability: 1 in 100. O.T. prediction: ZEC 11:12. N.T. fulfillment: MAT 26:15, and said, "What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?" And they weighed out to him thirty pieces of silver. He would be spit upon and beaten. Probability: 1 in 10. O.T. prediction: ISA 50:6, I gave My back to those who strike {Me,} And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. N.T. fulfillment: MAT 26:67, Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him. He would have His betrayal money thrown in the Temple and given for a potter's field. Probability: 1 in 200. O.T. prediction: ZEC 11:13, Then the Lord said to me, "Throw it to the potter, {that} magnificent price at which I was valued by them." So I took the thirty {shekels} of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the Lord. N.T. fulfillment: MAT 27:3-7. He would be silent before His accusers. Probability: 1 in 100. O.T. prediction: ISA 53:7, He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. N.T. fulfillment: Mat 27:12-14, And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He made no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?" And He did not answer him with regard to even a {single} charge, so that the governor was quite amazed. He would be crucified with thieves. Probability: 1 in 100. O.T. prediction: ISA 53:12, He was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. N.T. fulfillment: MAT 27:28, At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. When you multiply the combined probability that one man could fulfill just 11 of these prophecies it is equal to one chance in 10 to the 19th power or 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000. Scripture says, 2PE 1:20-21,  But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God's Word. One half of the Bible's prophecies have already come to take place. Therefore, if one half of them have happened as He has said, we should have no reason to doubt that the remaining ones will happen exactly as God has said! This helps us to see that when God says something is going to happen, you can take it to the bank. You can see why this book has been attacked so much over the years. There is nothing like it.

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