Discernment in Spiritual Warfare

 

What is Discernment?

What does it mean to have discernment?  The Apostle Paul gives us an exhortation that demonstrates the need for discernment in the following verses: 

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.  (Philippians 1:9-11)

By exercising discernment, Paul writes, our love for others will grow and abound through the true knowledge of God, for it will be based on the will and wisdom of God.  Consequently, we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness, our right-standing with God, and we will be without blame, having walked in the paths of righteousness.  We will know which turns to take that will lead us to Him.

Discernment is described in slightly different terms in the following exhortation by Paul: 

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”  (I Thessalonians 5:21-22)

Thus, the word discernment is typically defined as the ability to distinguish, or judge, between good and evil, true and false.   It is impossible to do so, however, unless we have help from God, particularly since there are no true standards for what is good or evil in the world today.  We live in an age when truth is relative, and it is the particular situation that decides what is right and wrong, at least to those who advocate “situation ethics.”  This is why we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to reveal what truly  comes from Him.   

The apostle John issues a warning about the false prophets who have been teaching the heresies of gnosticism, for example, a philosophy that was based on the idea that all matter is evil; therefore, Jesus could not have appeared and died physically, much less resurrected, in the flesh.  

John writes, 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.  (I John 4:1-3)

True discernment is Holy Spirit inspired, yet the writer to the Hebrews declares that we can become so aware of the differences between good and evil that even our senses may become adept at knowing the difference:

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.  (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Thus, the Word of God is the basis of our training, first with the “milk” of the word, the fundamentals of the faith, followed by the “solid food” that is linked to the “word of righteousness,” the deeper truths of the Word that reveal to us the mysteries and secrets God desires for us to know about His plans and purposes.

 

The Spiritual Gift of Discernment

Both the “milk” and “solid food” of the Word of God, therefore, are significantly important in the exercise of discernment, for we must know the difference between what is good and what is evil.  In the realm of spiritual warfare, therefore, the Holy Spirit has given the Church the gift of discernment: the “distinguishing” or “discerning” of spirits (I Corinthians 12:10).  

This spiritual gift is important when it comes to “testing” the spirits to see whether they come from God, particularly when various teachings and prophecies come forth into the Body of Christ (I John 4:1). This is why we need all of the spiritual gifts described in I Corinthians 12.   If anything, we need the gift of discernment as much today as in the early Church age to help us uncover the darkness that is in our world, as well as the false teachings and false prophecies that are constantly coming forth, even in the churches.

Yes, the Word of God is the foundation of our faith, and it alone is the final arbiter of what is true and false doctrine. However, the Word alone is not enough for those who are infants in terms of their spiritual growth and development, those whose senses have not become trained to discern good and evil.  And especially in the realm of spiritual warfare, we desperately need the gifts of discernment, knowledge, and wisdom to uncover false teachings and the hidden evils of Satan, who disguises himself even as an angel of light.  

Paul writes about this problem in his letter to the Corinthians:

For such men are false apostles,deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness,whose end will be according to their deeds.  (II Corinthians 11:13-15)

My Sheep Hear My Voice

One story in the Gospel of John speaks to this issue of discernment, specifically with those who refused to believe in Jesus.  They ask Him, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24).  Jesus replies that He has already told them, but they did not believe, for the works and miracles He has performed in the Father’s name testify of Him.  

These skeptics have not exercised true discernment, however, for Jesus did not always speak literally in words, but He also spoke through signs and wonders.  They do not believe because they, like the false prophets the Apostle John describes, do not believe that Jesus has come in the flesh, even when He is standing in front of them.  Jesus tells them, 

But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:26-28)

 

The Plot to Capture Elisha

Having discernment means that we can see beyond the natural world and into the realms of the spirit.   And the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, or of the flesh, but they are mighty to the pulling down of demonic strongholds, even though we cannot see them with our physical eyes.  

This kind of discernment is emphatically demonstrated in the story of Elisha, who was being hunted by the King of Aram.

The enraged king sent for his servants, demanding to know which of them had betrayed him to the Israelites.  It seemed that every time he and his armies waited in secret places to attack, the Israelites always avoided the surprise attack. The king is sure that there is someone in his house who is a spy, and he is determined to find out who it is.

Fearful that they will be put to death, one of the servants finally tells the king what he knows, “No, my lord, we are not guilty of treason.  O king; Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”

The king decides that an attack against Elisha will solve his problem.  Therefore, when Elisha’s servant arose early one morning, he was stricken by what he saw, an army, along with many  horses and chariots, circling the city.  He ran to Elisha, saying, “What shall we do?”

Seeing the army of the king of Aram surrounding the city, Elisha replied to his servant, “

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.  O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.”

In response to Elisha’s prayer, the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Then Elisha prayed again to the Lord saying, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.”

The Lord heard Elisha’s prayer and struck the armed soldiers and charioteers with blindness.  

Then Elisha said to the army, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” 

And Elisha brought them to Samaria, where their eyes were opened to find themselves captured by the King of Israel. 

In the marvelous ending to the story (see the full account in  II Kings 6), we learn that the King of Israel takes Elisha’s advice and instead of killing his captives, he gives them a great feast and lets them return home.  Consequently, we learn, the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel.

 

What You See Is Not What You Get

One focus of this story about Elisha concerns seeing and not seeing, on using true discernment to know how to walk in the light, to know right from wrong, to test the spirits. And what we learn is that our battles in this life should be fought with spiritual weapons, not fought with the weapons of the flesh.  

 

Spiritual Discernment and Scriptural Interpretation

 

Growing up, I loved to watch cowboy films, not in movie theaters but on the only television in our neighborhood, right across the street.  Occasionally, however, my sister and I saw a movie in town at the theater, a place that scared me so much that on one occasion I refused even to get out of the car to go inside.  

The previous time we had watched a rather violent seafaring film that entailed a flogging.  I was so upset afterwards that I resolved to stay in the car while the rest of the family watched the movie and ate popcorn, a situation that my parents strongly disliked.  They left me alone in the car, hoping I would change my mind.  When I didn’t, we all had to go home, and I was put to bed early while the sun was still out!

When I was older, I later was intrigued with what a “league” was after seeing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but I couldn’t conect its context with what I knew for sure, a league in baseball or football!  

But it was in another seafaring film that I first heard the word “fathom,” although I had to wait until we got home to learn what it meant.  I recall the sailors in the film taking depth findings, so I gathered that a fathom had to do with how deep the water was.

Many years later, I read the same word, or at least a similar form of the word, in the following Bible verse:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  (Romans 11:33)

It wasn’t difficult for me, therefore, to realize that the term unfathomable in this context meant “deep, impossible to fathom, incapable of being fully explored or understood, mysterious.”

Based on this verse in Romans, we learn that the depth of the riches of both the wisdom of God and the knowledge we have of Him are impossible to completely determine, or fathom.  To say, therefore, that anyone may fully or completely understand any of the verses or chapters in the inspired Word of God, the Scriptures, is impossible, as the following prophecy of Isaiah declares: 

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Nor is it logical to believe that the Scriptures, the unfathomable Word of God, must only be interpreted literally, or according to the most basic kind of reading like I learned in first grade.  

Yes, some passages are clearly intended to be read literally, such as the following:

  • The Ten Commandments
  • For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
  • “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Other passages are most definitely to be read figuratively, including the following:

  • The 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
  • If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24, et al.).
  • Jesus’ parables.
  • The story of Zachaeus in the tree.

I understand that many theologians and Christian leaders are anxious to discourage heretical teachings in the Church. Therefore, they try to limit the possibilities for misreading unlimited, bottomless, or unfathomable repositories of Christian doctrines, including the even more obscure Biblical mysteries. 

Perhaps a better standard for biblical interpretation is “true” rather than “literal,” an approach with which I agree, for truth may be expressed and understood in many ways, all of which provide additional insight and depth of understanding.      

 

The Holy Spirit is Our Teacher

To prevent heresies in the Church,  however, the Holy Spirit has been given to distribute gifts of discernment and wisdom to Believers to be used to judge the teachings and messages of teachers and preachers in the Body of Christ.  Yet these gifts have been restricted in the Church today because the users of these gifts have been mistrusted, or these gifts of the Holy Spirit somehow have been misused.  Some theologians have even taught that the gifts have passed away and are no longer distributed to the Body of Christ today because they supposedly ceased after the Bible was completed.  

The logic of this reasoning is fallacious, for these gifts were given by Christ Jesus through the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who was given to lead all believers into the ways of righteousness until Christ comes again. At that time we will no longer be like children, led astray by every wind of doctrine, we will  see no longer as in a mirror “dimly,” but then face to face:  “Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).  

Unfortunately, without the powerful help of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, the one called alongside to teach and empower us, we are left with earthly tools and methods, carnal ways of learning and understanding spiritual truths from the Scriptures.  The Apostle Paul’s message to the Church in Corinth directly condemns these carnal approaches, however:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

         “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
         And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. . . . Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.   (I Corinthians 1:18-25)

Ironically, Christ taught His disciples that they needed to be like little children to discover the secrets of the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:14-16).  In fact, the inability to peer into the mysteries of God’s Kingdom arises from the foolishness and pride of the human mind and intellect, as Paul says in Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  (Romans 1:18-20)

It is highly ironic, therefore,  that rather than finding the unfathomable wisdom of God through the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the mysteries of His Word, or even God’s creation, humans have turned the omniscient and omnipotent God into any number of literal idols and have worshipped the creation rather than the One Who made all things:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:20-23)

Unfortunately, some believers have unknowingly carried these idols into their tents, for they continue to use the world’s wisdom to understand the deep mysteries of God.  Likewise, some Bible teachers base their favorite teachings on literal renderings or other kinds of misinterpretations based on spurious readings.  The following are some of the missteps that lead to false doctrines:

  • Imposing a meaning onto a scripture (eisegesis) rather than drawing out a meaning from the scripture itself (exegesis). 
  • Not considering the genre or kind of writing that is being interpreted.  Poetry should not necessarily be read literally but figuratively, as poetry, for example, and a dream should not necessarily be interpreted the same way a historic event is understood.    
  • Not reading from the perspectives of the authors and time periods when the Biblical books were written. Reading the descriptions of the creation of the universe from a modern scientific perspective, for example, may result in incorrect interpretations.  
  • Imposing one definition of a certain word in Scripture onto another passage of Scripture. The word “day,” for example may indeed refer to twenty-four hours, but it may also be understood as one-thousand years (see Psalms 90:4 and II Peter 3:8).  

 

The Apostle Paul’s Perspective

The Apostle Paul makes clear the perspectives of interpretation emphatically throughout his letters, but most clearly when He is writing specifically about the mysteries, or ‘hidden wisdom,” that the Lord desires for us to know.  

Read carefully the following passages taken from I Corinthians.  First, Paul relates that his wisdom is directed to those believers who are mature in Christ, those who are walking in the Holy Spirit and are receiving the “mysteries” or insights only God may give.  These insights are not understood by the carnal methods used by the “rulers of this age,” for these methods are only transient, or “passing away.”   

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (I Corinthians 2:6-8)

These mysteries, or secrets God desires to reveal, are given through the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (our Advocate, Helper, or Teacher).  Only the Holy Spirit has the insights we need, for He is One with God the Father and God the Son (He is also called the “Spirit of Christ”).  And these insights are not taught “by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit.”

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.  (I Corinthians 2:10-13)

Thus, God’s wisdom is received by combining “spiritual thoughts with spiritual words,” a process that is much more genuine than merely reading and interpreting the Scriptures literally.    

Paul summarizes his teaching by relating that a “natural man,” one who thinks according to human wisdom and uses the methods of the intellect rather than the spirit, does not understand these mysteries, for they may only be spiritually discerned:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.  (I Corinthians 2:14-16)

We must align our means and methods of interpretation to those of the Apostle Paul, therefore, and begin thinking with the “mind of Christ,” thinking not according to carnal wisdom or human methods, however wise they may seem.  They are not wise, according to Paul, and they may even be foolish, leading us into error.  It was this same kind of thinking that led the rulers of this world to crucify the Lord of glory.

 

Christian Cannibalism?

For example, in Matthew’s Gospel we read about the Last Supper, when Jesus gave His disciples the bread and wine:

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying,“Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.  (Matthew 26:26-28)

We cannot read this passage and interpret it literally without falling into the false doctrine of transubstantiation, which states that the bread and the wine used in the sacrament of the Eucharist become in actuality the body and blood of Christ, not merely the signs or symbols of His body and blood.

Also, in John’s Gospel, we find another example.  After feeding the five thousand, the crowds follow Him and try to get Him to continue feeding them.  Jesus says they are only following Him because they “ate of the loaves and were filled.” He then says, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35).  

Are we to take His words literally?

Later, the skeptics among the Jews question Jesus’ statements, having misunderstood Him and indeed taken them literally:  

Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 

Jesus responds with the following statement, which is even more obviously not to be taken literally:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:53-56)

This passage from John is sufficient for many unbelievers even today to accuse Christians of advocating and practicing cannibalism, all because Jesus’ words have been taken literally, first by the skeptical Jews who heard His words and later by misguided Christians who have also taken the written words in the Gospels literally.  

One blog article I read even surmised that this is actually what happened to Jesus’ body:  He didn’t actually rise from the dead.  Instead, the disciples ate His body because He had commanded them to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  This is what comes from taking the words of Jesus, or the entire Bible, literally rather than spiritually.

Blood Moons and Whirlwinds

Year of the Whirlwind

In a recent article in Charisma magazine for February 2015, Lisa Great, a minister, blogger, and former Malaysian pastor, wrote what she believes is a prophetic message about future events and the implications for Christians (http://www.charismamag.com/life/women/22316-a-prophetic-look-at-2015).  

Lisa Great writes in her article the following explanation:  

In the Hebrew calendar we are in the year 5775, which is the Year of the Whirlwind. Five is the number of grace and 7 is the number of completion, which means we have double completion of grace this year. 

Great’s message is based on the idea that the “Year of the Whirlwind” in the Hebrew calendar, as well as the appearance of four lunar eclipses during this same year, both signal significant events coming in the world. 

This year is going to be a whirlwind year, the Hebrew calendar says it is, the signs in the heaven [sic] are declaring it with the four blood moons, which mean change in a way that is unprecedented.

Great then adds further evidence of the significance of these signs in the heavens by referring to a “double tornado” that struck Nebraska in June of 2014, for when there is “double,” she writes, “it means it is going to happen.” Great’s evidence for this statement is Christ’s use of the “verily, verily” phrase in His messages:  

Jesus would say, truly, truly or in some versions, verily, verily I say unto you. I believe God is speaking through the prophets and the signs in the heavens, truly, truly this is the year of the whirlwind.

Astoundingly, Great then relates how she received further insights into this message:

When I was inquiring of the Lord about the year of the whirlwind, He reminded me of the movie The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was in her house, when the whirlwind came and took her into a world she could not even have imagined or dreamed of. Her whole life changed forever.

Great concludes with what she believe God’s message to be overall:

I believe we are on the tail end of one age and on the precipice of another. This end is going to mean a season of discipline for some who did not repent (change the way they think), and a season of rewards for others who endured the flames of the last season and came out as vessels of honor.

 

Test the Spirits

The Apostle John speaks to all believers in the Church, writing the following:  “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (I John 4:1).

Therefore, I believe we need to exercise discernment, testing the spirits, whenever we encounter such “prophetic” messages, whether personally delivered, read in Christian publications, or seen in television broadcasts or films.  

Personally, I believe that the spiritual gift of prophecy and the prophetic ministry gift are both still valid and viable in the Church today, for before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave the disciples the following teaching about the Holy Spirit:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Connecting this admonition to what ultimately occurred on the Day of Pentecost, we find that he outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the consequent gifts and ministries provided were to be needed and necessary, not just in Jerusalem and nearby countries, but also in “the remotest part of the earth.”  This statement more than covers both the geography and chronology of the Church today.  

In addition, the Apostle Paul wrote the following instructions, not just for the Church in Corinth, but also for “all the churches of the saints,” in his words: 

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (I Corinthians 14:29-33)

It is clear that Paul’s primary concern is about doing everything “decently and in order” (I Corinthians 14:39-40) when the Church assembles, but the context of these teachings also gives us the parameters for the operation of the prophetic gifts and ministries in the church until Christ comes again.

What might we discern from Lisa Great’s message, therefore, a message which purports to be a prophetic message to the church?  

I have a number of concerns and cautions, including the following points.

While I understand that the Holy Spirit speaks in the languages we all understand when He is speaking to us prophetically, as opposed to the gift of prayer in an unknown language, to use a Hollywood Judy Garland film to emphasize His message’s meaning seems a bit like using a Star Wars character like C3PO or Darth Vader to reveal spiritual exhortations. 

Note the following admonition the Lord give the nation of Israel after coming out of Egypt and before entering the Promised Land:

When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. (Deuteronomy 18:9-11)

Two notable prohibitions in this passage are “divination” and the interpretation of “omens.” These include the following practices as described in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary: 

  • “Divination” is “the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers.” 
  • “Omen” is supposedly a “sign or warning of something that will happen in the future.”

These occultic practices may be discerned subtly in Lisa Great’s “prophecy,” for she uses the framework of the ancient Hebrew calendar and even numerology to proclaim these portents, or “omens.”

 

The Four Blood Moons 

Significantly, Lisa Great’s message mirrors somewhat the teachings of other more visible teachers, including John Hagee, Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational evangelical church.  

John Hagee has been at the forefront of  the “Four Blood Moons” teaching, and he currently has a book and a film on this topic titled Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change.  In fact, Lisa Great even alludes to this teaching in her written prophecy, as follows:  

This year is going to be a whirlwind year, the Hebrew calendar says it is, the signs in the heaven are declaring it with the four blood moons, which mean change in a way that is unprecedented (I encourage you to study the four blood moons and what they are saying to the earth).

As evidence for his claims, Hagee uses the conjunction of the lunar eclipses with a Passover feast or Sukkot feast:  

“The sun and the moon and the Earth are controlled by God almighty,” Hagee said. “He is the one that is getting them in a direct alignment on a certain day at a certain time — but each time, it’s a Passover or Sukkot. . . .In the past, the rare appearance of four blood moons on these feast days has coincided with major events for Israel and the Jewish people. (Multiple Sources)

One problem with this approach is that the Jewish feast days were scheduled around a lunar calendar, particularly the full moon when eclipses occur, but another problem is that the significant events Hagee mentions, such as the 1967 Six-Day War, do not occur during an eclipse, much less four blood moons. (see https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/oh-bloody/)

 

The Comet Ison

Then we have the prediction that the comet Ison is a sign of Christ’s coming, as Steve Fletcher, PPSIMMONS Ministry Contributor, relates in his online site.  

(See http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2013/09/is-comet-ison-the-sign-of-christs-coming-amazing-details-2753180.html).  

Fletcher relates that this comet will become visible to the naked eye on the first day of Hanukkah. Oh, wait!  Hold the presses or your tablets!  

This comet appeared in 2013.

 

The Shemitah and Isaiah 9:10 Teachings

This teaching is also similar to the “Shemitah” teachings of the Messianic Jewish Rabbi Jonathan Cahn in his book titled The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, a New York Times bestseller.  This book concerns the Shemitah, which he defines as follows:

“Shemitah (shemee-TA), or Sabbath year…the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the land of Israel. Understanding this seven-year pattern is essential for understanding the prophecy and mysteries of the Bible that are still applicable today. (http://www.sign.org/product/mystery-shemitah)

In addition, Cahn’s DVD titled The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment:  Is There an Ancient Mystery that Foretells America’s Future, links so-called prophetic end-times events to the verse in Isaiah.

In his writings, Cahn reveals what he calls “an ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future and the collapse of the global economy.”

“Before its destruction as a nation, ancient Israel received nine harbingers, prophetic omens of warning,” he says. “The same nine harbingers are now manifesting in America with immediate ramifications for end-time prophecy.”

The key to decoding the harbingers, he says, is found in understanding the seemingly innocuous words of Isaiah 9:10, what it meant to Israel, and how the history seems to be repeating itself in America today.  Below, see the passage in context:

The Lord sends a message against Jacob,
And it falls on Israel.
And all the people know it,
That is, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
Asserting in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with smooth stones;
The sycamores have been cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”
11 Therefore the Lord raises against them adversaries from Rezin
And spurs their enemies on,
12 The Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west;
And they devour Israel with gaping jaws.
In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away
And His hand is still stretched out.

13 Yet the people do not turn back to Him who struck them,
Nor do they seek the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 9:8-13)

In this passage, Isaiah quotes Jewish leaders’ responses in verse 10 to an attack by Assyria, an attack Isaiah declares a judgment by God against apostasy intended to stir Israel to repentance.  Nevertheless, a link between ancient Israel and modern-day America seems unclear to say the least.

 

What Does Jesus Say?

Admittedly, such teachings as these by John Hagee, and Rabbi Cahn sell a lot of books at best and attract people who are being led by the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit at the worst.  These seekers are looking to things seen rather than things unseen, or walking in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. Notice what the Apostle Paul says,

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  (II Corinthians 4:17-18)

In Paul’s teaching on walking in the flesh, Paul includes both idolatry and sorcery in his list of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:20), and he exhorts believers, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (v. 25). 

Therefore, if walking in the Spirit is the will of God, it’s difficult to do so by being directed and moved by physical, earthly, physical events, signs, or omens, following the practices forbidden by God even under the Old Covenant.

To put this dilemma in a true context, however, we must also consider Jesus’ prophecy concerning the end times:

There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on 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. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  (Luke 21:25-27)

This prophecy seems to condone what Lisa Great, John Hagee, and Jonathan Cahn are proposing that we investigate and follow for our lives.  

We must consider, however, that Jesus does not deliver this prophecy to declare how true believers should govern their lives.  Yes, these signs will appear in the heavens and upon the earth, yet we still must not be led into occult practices, follow the practices of divination, or imitate those who interpret omens.

 

Bible Verses Warning About Astrology

  1.  And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:19)
  2. “If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host,which I have not commanded, and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death.   (Deuteronomy 17:3)
  3. “You are wearied with your many counsels;
    Let now the astrologers,
    Those who prophesy by the stars,
    Those who predict by the new moons,
    Stand up and save you from what will come upon you.
    “Behold, they have become like stubble,
    Fire burns them;
    They cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame;
    There will be no coal to warm by
    Nor a fire to sit before! (Isaiah 47:13-14)
  4. Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord,“Do not learn the way of the nations,  And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them.  (Jeremiah 10:1-2)

 

Abraham’s Greatest Act of Faith

At two significant times in his life, Abraham was tested.  His faith in the promises of God was ultimately proven, but only through years of not even seeing what was promised.  Yet his faith endured and the fulfillment was seen in his later generations, and it even resulted in the full appearance and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ Himself, our Savior.

First God tested Abraham when He called him at the age of seventy-five to leave his home in Haran in Ur of the Chaldeans to the land promised him.  The Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

God made a number of promises, including a land in which he and his descendants would dwell. Abram would also be the father of a great nation in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.

These were magnificent promises, but Abram had to wait a significant amount of time before they were fulfilled.  As it was, for example, he was called to leave his home with his wife Sarai without knowing where he was heading, as it says in Hebrews: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

Second, Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham by God, also demonstrated his great faith when he believed God for a son, even though he was nearly one hundred years old and his barren wife was ninety years old.  (We studied this story in the last article titled “Speaking or Praying in the Name of…”  http://biblicalmysteriescom.ipage.com/2015/01/31/speaking-or-praying-in-the-name-of/

Both Abraham and Sarah were amused at the thought that they would have a child at their age, yet God demonstrated the surety of the promise.  These promises was sealed by God in the cutting of a covenant, a mystery we studied in another article titled  “A Great Mystery”:  http://biblicalmysteriescom.ipage.com/2014/12/22/a-great-mystery/

In an even greater test of Abraham’s faith in God’s promises, however, the following story is told in Genesis 22: 
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” (Genesis 22:1-2)
The Lord God’s directions came a number of years later after Isaac’s birth because Abraham had his son carry the wood for the burnt offering, and while preparing for the sacrifice, Isaac also realized that they had no lamb for the sacrifice:
Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”  (Genesis 22:6-7)

Did Abram Lie to Isaac?

In response to Isaac’s question, it appears that Abraham has lied to Isaac, saying, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (v. 7).   Yet we find another interpretation based on the summary found in the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament. 

According to this version, Abraham had such faith that Isaac was indeed the child of promise, through whom the nations of the world would be blessed, that Abraham believed that even if he did sacrifice his son, the Lord God would raise him from the dead:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.  (Hebrews 11:17-19)
God does not specifically promise Abraham such a miracle, and it had never been known that a person had been raised from the dead, particularly one sacrificed like a lamb and burned on an altar.  Yet Abraham believed God’s promises for Isaac so strongly that he believed God would work a miracle and raise his son from the dead to fulfill those promises.

What Was Isaac Thinking?

I’m sure Isaac must have been horrified when Abraham bound him and told him to lie down on the pile of wood he himself had carried to the place of sacrifice.  

As I visualize the story, I can see the terror in Isaac’s eyes as Abraham lifted the knife to plunge it into him.  And I can see the knife actually beginning its descent after Abraham had stretched out his hand and taken the knife to slay his son.  At that moment, however,when the voice of the “angel of the Lord” is heard:  

Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (Genesis 22:10-12)

Notice, however, that the “angel” in this passage speaks in the first person (I/me), as though he were God Himself:  “. . .for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”  

As seen in the last article in this Biblical Mysteries Revealed blog, the message the messenger delivers is in the same voice as the original speaker; in this case, God is speaking through the angel, and it’s as if the speaker is God Himself.  This is what it means to pray or preach or witness in Christ’s name.  And this is why we were instructed not to think about what we would say if called before the authorities because the Holy Spirit would give us the words to speak.   

 

Abraham’s Faith

A number of evidences of Abraham’s faith are significant in this story.  

  • Abraham told his two servants who came with him and Isaac that both father and son would return:  “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (Genesis 22:5).
  • When Isaac asks Abraham about the missing lamb for their sacrifice, Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8).
 In fact, when the Lord told Abraham not to stretch out his hand with the knife to harm Isaac, Abraham lifted his eyes and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket.  So Abraham caught the ram and used it for the sacrifice, freeing his son Isaac.  The Lord God then spoke again to Abraham, commending his faith and renewing his promises concerning the seed of Abraham:
By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice. (Genesis 22:16-18)

Why Was Abraham Tested In This Way?

Those skeptics and critics of the Scriptures who do not understand God’s plans and promises may be greatly critical of this story, particularly the seeming cruelty of the tests which God uses.  For example, why would God tell Abraham to sacrifice the very son of promise given to him after many years and countless severe tests and temptations?  In light of Abraham’s age and the fact that he had finally succeeded in having Isaac, in spite of all the obstacles he had faced and the numerous times he had failed or was misled, this final test of God seems especially cruel indeed.

A fuller understanding of God’s purposes in testing Abraham’s faith is necessary, however, for God was using Abraham’s faith to bring into existence His magnificent plan for redeeming a fallen world back from the hands of Satan.

It must be remembered that when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they had essentially handed the glorious world God had given them over to Satan, who wanted himself to “be like the most High”

“How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
“But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’    (Isaiah 14:12-14).  

Once this transfer of authority occurred, God could no longer simply intervene in human affairs without permission, any more than a landlord can just enter a tenant’s home at any time without permission.  The sending forth of God’s Word and the need for the Word to be received, believed, and acted upon was the permission God needed.  

In fact, the entire system of sacrifices brought about under the Old Covenant laid the foundation for allowing God to bring forth the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ, Who became the Lamb of God that took away the sin of the world.  Jesus could not have become that Lamb unless a chosen nation of people had been set apart who did not follow the false religions of the pagans.  The Jews were a people who believed that the shedding of blood would atone for sin.

God’s plan for redeeming the world was instrumentally allowed by Abraham when he showed he was willing to sacrifice his only son in obedience to God, even though Isaac was the son he had been promised.   Indeed, Isaac carried the wood to the place of sacrifice in the same way Jesus carried His cross.  Plus, the faith Abraham exercised to believe that God would raise Isaac from the dead was the same faith that allowed God to raise Christ Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, from the dead as well.

Mount Moriah, the place of Abraham’s testing and near sacrifice of Isaac, was the site of the Temple in Jerusalem many years later, and it was also near Mount Calvary, where Christ was crucified.  Thus, God did indeed provide the lamb for the ultimate sacrifice, in response to Abraham’s statement to Isaac:  “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Hebrews 22:7).

Because of Abraham’s obedience on Mount Moriah, God told Abraham that his faith and obedience would bring about the coming of the Savior through whom the entire world would be blessed.

    

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