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What will happen to Iraq?
The Empty Chair Symbol
Baptism of the Spirit and Speaking in Tongues

What will happen to Iraq?

Iraq is at the heart of what is often referred to as Mesopotamia, or "the Cradle of Civilization." In the Bible it is called Babylon.

Nowadays Iraq is drawing much attention today from interested people all around the world. Daily, our attentions are riveted to that part of the world where once existed the “Garden of Eden.”

Students of Bible prophecy have been searching the Scriptures for answers to what may be another “rumor of wars” (Matt. 24:6), where nations rise against nations (v. 7). This is done with good reason. Bible prophecy refers to Babylon second only to Jerusalem and Israel in the number of mentions about cities and nations. If you want to understand to some extent the signs of the times, you must keep your eyes on the developments in the Middle East.

Let me begin by describing to you a problem that will not go away – ISRAEL! That’s right. Israel is prophesied to become an intolerable problem that world leaders think must be eliminated before there can be peace in the Middle East and in the world. This is all part of God’s wonderful design to bring the nations of the world to the Middle East for one last show-down, a campaign called “Armageddon.” It is also designed to bring Israel to her knees so that she will one day look up and cry out for her Messiah.

Listen to what the Scriptures teach: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" (Zechariah 12: 2-3).

But why has God chosen Israel to be the center of the world’s problems? Because God has a plan. He is going to put “hooks” in the mouths of many nations to draw them out of their region to the land of Palestine. Just listen: “And the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. "I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords” (Ezek. 38:1-4).

Now here is what I want you to see: Notice the list of nations mentioned that will take part in this invasion on Israel – “Gog of the land of Magog” (Josephus identified this as the land of the Scythians, the region North and North-East of the Black Sea and East of the Aral Sea, the place now occupied by RUSSIA!); Persia is modern day Iran; Ethiopia (northern Sudan), Put is Libya; Gomer may refer to the eastern part of Turkey and the Ukraine, and Beth-Togarmah, the part of Turkey near the Syrian border.

This invasion will come from the North of Israel (vv. 6, 15; 39:2). Why? To capture spoil or to seize the wealth of Israel (38:12). When will this occur? “In the latter years” (38:8), or “on that day” (v. 10, 14, 18; 39:11), and “in the last days” (v. 16). Some have placed this at the middle of the Tribulation Period, and that could possibly be the case. It may start the campaign of Armageddon. By the way, remember this: Armageddon is not a SINGLE WAR, but a campaign or a series of wars that occur in the Middle East Region.

You say, “What does any of this have to do with Iraq?” Notice that the list of countries are not all located north of Israel. For example, Iran and Ethiopia are not located north of Israel. Yet they appear to be part of the northern coalition that comes down upon Israel. The countries listed are not on good terms with the U.S. One can imagine them defying the U.S. and also the U.N. and coming down upon Israel on their own volition. However, what I find interesting is that IRAQ, who is not a friend of Israel or the U.S., is not part of this coalition as well. Why? Could it be that our present operation of Iraqi Freedom will neutralize this country so that they will not play a major role in terms of military might in the last days?

"Armageddon" is the Biblical term most everyone thinks of whenever war begins to look imminent in the Middle East. Armageddon is prophesied in Revelation to be an incrementally stepped-up war, rather than a single battle. It will be a conflict that progressively involves more and more nations, until the military forces of all nations of the world come together in a triangular valley called Jezreel, near an ancient place called Megiddo.

Will Iraq take part in this war? Maybe not in a military way. Will the war involving Iraq that is apparently about to erupt bring on Armageddon? I believe the war against Iraq will move the world ever closer to the beginning of the conflict called Armageddon. Armageddon, according to the Bible, will be Satan’s attempt to completely eradicate Israel, and to try to prevent Jesus Christ from returning to set up His millennial throne atop Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Hussein’s development of weapons of mass destruction--the purported reason the U.S. wants to remove him--is aimed at getting enough power to destroy Israel. Such a feat would make the Iraqi dictator the Nebuchadnezzar of his time in the eyes of Israel’s enemies. This is recognition he desperately wants. In that sense, it will bring history one minute of the prophetic clock closer to Armageddon.

Have you been told why France and Germany refused to help the U.S. coalition to fight in Iraq? Of course, now that the war appears to be coming to an end, both France and Germany want to offer their help in re-building Iraq so they can claim their piece of the pie. However, the main reasons France and Germany have opposed America’s efforts to get most of the UN on board in its war on Saddam Hussein’s terror-regime are as follows:

1) France and Germany have sold military equipment and munitions to the dictator, and don’t want the extent of their dirty deeds known; 2) Those two European Union (EU) countries have extensive oil and commercial deals with Saddam, and to overthrow his regime will mean the dissolution of those deals. 3) France and Germany want to work to diminish the U.S. as a superpower so that the EU can climb to the top. They want to then be the dominant members of that European power.

A major war that removes Hussein would most likely disrupt that rebuilding effort. Then there are some who believe that once Saddam Hussein is taken away, then the process of rebuilding Iraq – the New Babylon into a true symbol for world unity and world peace. Some believe that even the United Nations might be moved to a rebuilt Babylon as a gesture of world community and harmony. Perhaps this will be Iraq’s new role in the end times. Instead of being a country housing a dictator that has much of the world against it, Iraq will be the center for world unity that the AntiChrist will set up as a means of unifying global peace. In someway, this war may hasten the need to bring about a SEVEN year peace pack with Israel set up by the AntiChrist. Perhaps, this war with Iraq may bring his soon appearance even sooner than we expect.

If you glance below at the history of Iraq, you will see that this Arab country has been active and infamous since its birth. I see no reason why Iraq will not also continue to play a significant role even after the U.S. and Britain gets through with her. But what that role is, we just don’t know for certain.

5000 B.C.: Farming spreads into southern Mesopotamia, the ancient name for the territory of Iraq. The world's first great cities develop along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Two regions become dominant: Akkad in the north and Sumer in the south. 3500-3000: The Sumerians develop the wheel, writing, counting and calendars.2334-2279: Sargon the Great establishes the Akkadian Empire.1792-1750: Hammurabi establishes Babylon as the region's power center. Hammurabi is best known for a code of laws that bears his name.1400: Assyrian, Babylonian, Hurrian and Elamite kingdoms flourish and vie for ascendancy.722-705: Sargon II strengthens Assyrian rule and builds a palace-temple complex near Nineveh.612: The Assyrian Empire collapses suddenly; Chaldeans take control.597: Nebuchadnezzar II captures Jerusalem. Under Nebuchadnezzar, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are built. Nebuchadnezzar's is the last home-grown government in Mesopotamia until the 20th century.539: King Cyrus of Persia captures Babylon.331: Alexander the Great seizes Babylon, declares it his capital and dies there in 323 A.D.226: The Persian Sassanid dynasty is established.637: The Arabs defeat the Sassanids in the battle of Qadisiya and bring Islam to Iraq.762-63: Mansur founds Baghdad. Probably the world's first completely planned city, Baghdad becomes the center of Islamic civilization.1258: Mongols sack Baghdad.1534: The Ottoman Turks, under Suleyman the Magnificent, seize Iraq.1800s: Britain begins to exert its influence in the Persian Gulf to protect trade routes with India.1914-18: The Ottoman Empire sides with Germany against Britain, France and Russia in World War I.1919: The League of Nations gives Britain a mandate over Iraq.1921: Prince Faisal, who had fought with T.E. Lawrence against the Ottomans, is brought to Iraq and chosen king in a referendum.1932: Britain grants Iraq its independence.1958: Gen. Abdel Karim Qassem topples the monarchy in a military coup.1979: Saddam Hussein becomes president.1980-88: Iraq-Iran war.1990: Iraq invades Kuwait.1991: Persian Gulf War.1998: U.N. weapons inspectors leave Iraq.2002: President Bush calls for a 'regime change' as he seeks to disarm Saddam Hussein.

Sources: The New York Times, Knight Ridder Tribune, Associated Press, CIA World Fact book 2001, 'Iraq: Enchantment of the World' and 'Iraq: Old Land, New Nation in Conflict'

How does one prepare for the end times? The best way to be prepared for the future is to receive Jesus as your Savior, as He has promised to be with His children to protect and provide for them and be their Guide through perilous times. I believe very soon the next great prophetic event is the Rapture of God’s people (1 Thess. 4:13-18). If this is so, you don’t have to face the end times and the campaign of Armageddon and all the other crisis that goes with being “left behind.” Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to come into your life right now. He will and you will be one of His. You have the choice of choosing the winning side. You will choose either a losing or winning team? Your choice will say much about you and your eternal destiny.
 

The Empty Chair Symbol

A family, a city, and an anxious world are basking in relief and joy over the return of Elizabeth Smart to her family. After being kidnapped nine months ago, she was rescued when alert citizens spotted a suspect in her case and called police. Very rarely do child-kidnapping cases have happy endings.

The morning after Elizabeth's release, CNN's Paula Zahn reported a conversation with Elizabeth's uncle from the evening before. The topic was the Smart family's persistence in seeking the girl. Ms. Zahn voiced her amazement that the family never lost faith, or gave up hope. Then she quoted Elizabeth's uncle as saying that her mom, dad, and five siblings continued to set a place at the table every night over those awful months for the missing teen.

The EMPTY chair and place setting made it impossible for the Smarts to ignore her absence. Both reminded everyone to pray for her safe return. Both were visuals that served alternately as sad relics and hopeful images. They prodded the people hurting most to keep her story before a larger public. They were symbols of love and hope.

When I heard this report, I thought about how this could also be transitioned into the church. For example, at a Bible study or care group meeting, always have an EMPTY chair set up to remind members that someone who needs this group is not present. It is the duty of all the members to pray, hope, and love the missing person into the group. We should have a similar passion for the lost as we would for one of our own family members.

This can also apply to the church as a whole. The leaders of the church where I fellowship practice the 20 percent rule. At all the main services, they keep at least 20 percent of the chairs empty. So if the church is running 1500 members at a service, they set up for 1500 plus 20 percent more! The mindset is to make it where the people always feel the need to invite more of their friends and family members. If people within the church sense that it will be too crowded or that their guests may not get a seat, they may not be enthused to invite others to the services.

The empty seats serve as a reminder that someone important is missing from our family. What a wonderful symbolic gesture when you think about it! So, at your next Bible study, care group meeting, church service, mid-week, single meetings, married couples, ladies fellowship and or men's ministry, set up more extra chairs than usual to remind the folks that some very important people are missing from the family and it is all of our responsibility to hope, pray, and reach out to them in love.
 

Baptism of the Spirit and Speaking in Tongues

Dear Believers:

Here's an age old issue that we all have sought clarification on from time to time. The questions and issues come from a guy I met for the first time about two weeks ago at a Men's Bible Study. He's a real super guy with a big heart. You'll like the issues he raises, probably more than my response to those issues. But anyway, I submit this to you for your edification.

Blessings,Rich

-----------------------------------I had become a Christian in 1992 and this was about a year later. I would like to hear some of your views on the matter as I think I may now have a stigma about the gift of tongues.

It was at a men's retreat and the way the spiritual gifts, and the emphasis on speaking in tongues was presented bothered me quite a bit. What bothered me was that we were encouraged to start speaking in tongues and to allow the baptism of the Holy Spirit to take place. I was not move to speak in tongues and after a while I looked about the crowded room, maybe 200 people, to witness that most were speaking in tongues. One of the leaders, came up and laid hands on me and began praying for and talking to me about the gift of tongues. What he told me was speaking in tongues is evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that there was sin in my life that was holding me back and that when I allow the Lord to wash my sin clean, I will be able to speak in tongues.

My main concerns are that do you think that I am accurate in saying 1.that gift of tongues is one of the evidences of speaking in tongues, but not the only one. 2. you don't have to have the gift of tongues to have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. 3. That speaking in tongues is not an indication of spirituality any more than any of the other gifts or fruits of your labor and relationship with Christ.



-----------------------------------------Dear _________,

Great issue you brought forth here. By the way, you're not alone. Everyone to some degree who has been a Christian for some time goes through this if they are truly searching and not afraid.

Let me begin with a clarification: There is NO Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Does this shock you? Find me one place in the Bible where the Holy Spirit does any baptizing. JESUS does the baptizing, NOT the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11). What or who does Jesus use to baptize with? The Holy Spirit.

When someone gets baptized in water, it isn’t the water that does the baptizing, it is the person who uses the water. A church's Pastor will baptize someone using water. We often say, “Water Baptism,” but this of unfortunate. Water doesn’t baptize. Water is the means by which a person is baptized but not the agent. A man or woman who does the actual dunking in water is the agent.

Same with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the one who baptizes USING the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit never on His own baptizes anyone. Check it out.

Go to 1 Corinthians 12:13: Many people are confused at this point. The Greek en heni pneumati could be translated "for,” by,” or “with” one Spirit. The safest and most consistent translation in the context of the New Testament is to use the word “with.” We are baptized “with the Holy Spirit.”

One word that never could be used here is “of.” The phrase that you hear so often, the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” appears nowhere in Scripture. That is not a scriptural term. In fact, I would go a step further and say that there is no place in the Bible where you can find that the Spirit does the baptizing.

Read: Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33, 34; Acts 1:5 – Who is the baptizer? In every instance, it is Jesus Christ.Read Acts 2:32-33 – Who has poured forth the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? Jesus did.

Therefore, my point is this: The first place to begin in order to clear up some of this confusion about the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to realize that it is Jesus who does the baptizing, not the Holy Spirit.

Some people say this: "We have been baptized by Christ in conversion, but the baptism of the Spirit comes later." This isn’t true. There is no baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you use 1 Cor. 12:13 as your text, you have to explain a couple of things: First, what is the kind of baptism Paul is talking about? It is placing all sorts of people who have become Christians into the body of Christ. It doesn’t matter whether one is Jewish or a Gentile, we are members of one body.

Second, how do you explain the “all?” If there is first a conversion to Jesus Christ, followed by a baptism of the Spirit, then how come not “all” are baptized? Some attend meetings and go away not having been baptized. But Paul said here that all have been baptized.The whole point of 1 Corinthians 12:13 is to show the unity of the body of Christ that ALL believers are members of.

If someone were to say to me, “Rich, have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” I would tell him, “No. How can I receive something that doesn’t exist? However, if you mean have I been baptized “WITH” the Holy Spirit (Jesus being the baptizer), then yes, of course – I am a member of the body of Christ.”

Hey, it’s late, but so what – let’s tackle the tongue issue.

There are only two major books in the New Testament where the gift of tongues is taught: Acts and 1 Corinthians. Have you ever ask yourself why? Hey, there are 27 books in the N.T. but the gift of tongues is only mentioned in TWO. (Note: Tongues is mentioned briefly only in Mark 16:17). This should already tell us something.

Now, here’s something that I normally don’t hear explained enough, but when it is, it helps to clear up a lot of confusion. The book of Acts is a transition book. Some things done early in Acts are not meant to occur as a standard operational procedure.

Let me explain: When did the church have its birth? Was it not Acts 2? What were the believers doing before Acts 2? Waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). Now must we do this today? No. Why? Because the Spirit has already came. He lives within each of us (1 Cor. 6:19). So you can’t use Acts 1 as a standard operational procedure for today, because we already have been given the Spirit.

Now, since the Holy Spirit is a person in Spirit form, how is one to know when He actually comes? Well, there has to be some visible manifestation that points to the Holy Spirit’s arrival. Thus you have tongues! When the Holy Spirit came upon the Jews in Acts 2 to form the church, the visible sign of His coming was their ability to speak in tongues. But one shouldn’t use Acts 2 as a standard operational procedure because the church is already been born. This is why Peter said in his sermon in Acts 2:14ff – “Hey, these men are not drunk. It’s only 9:00 AM. But what you are observing is talked about in Joel 2.”

Now here’s the key: To explain the flow of tongues in the book of Acts, we need to take a look at 1:8: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in JERUSALEM and all JUDEA and SAMARIA, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

In this one verse, we have an outline of tongues in the book of Acts. Let me show you: God wants to build His Church (Matt. 16:18). In building His church, He wants to gather all sorts of people. So He starts with the Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 2). Tongues occurred as a sign that the formation of the church has begun.

Second place the Gospel was to spread was in Judea. This also occurred in Acts 2. See verse 14. Same sign because this was the same group – JEWS!

Third place was in Samaria (Acts 8:4-17). Now here, tongues is not mentioned, but it is assumed. Why do I say this? Because of the signs and miracles that were taking place (v. 13). So now the newly formed church had not only Jews but also Samaritans included into the body.

Fourth, after Samaria we come to the uttermost parts of the world – The Gentiles (Acts 10:44-47). Tongues is again displayed as a sign to others that the Gentiles have also been inducted into the church.We have fulfilled the sequence of Acts 1:8.

However, there is one more group we need to see. Acts 19:1-7 – the disciples of John the Baptist. They, being the last of the O.T. saints, now become part of the church and therefore New Testament Saints. They too speak in tongues as a sign that they have been inducted into the church.

This is it. Tongues is not mentioned again until you come to 1 Corinthians 12-14. Remember this: In each instance in Acts, tongues occurred only as a sign that the Holy Spirit was adding to the body of Christ a new people group.

1. Started with the Jews – Acts 22. Continued with the Samaritans – Acts 83. Continued also with the Gentiles – Acts 104. Completed with the disciples of John the Baptist – Acts 19

In the first three of these instances, tongues was given as a sign to “UNBELIEVERS.” Now watch this carefully. Who is tongues a sign for? UNBELIEVERS (1 Cor. 14:22). Prophecy (which is simply preaching) is a sign for who? “BELIEVERS” (1 Cor. 14:22b).

Now why is it a common today, to practice tongues among believers (which Paul states is a sign for unbelievers) and to preach (prophecy) to unbelievers (which Paul states is for believers)?

If tongues is a sign for unbelievers, then shouldn’t it be practice among the unsaved? And if preaching is for believers, then why do we take is to the streets?

ONE MORE QUESTION: If tongues is a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (of which ALL partake according to 1 Cor, 12:13), then why did Paul say: “All do not speak in tongues, do they?” (1 Cor. 12:30). The answer is no.

Well wait, I’m confused. If tongues is a sign of the baptism of the Spirit, and all Christians are said to be baptized with the Spirit, then how is it that according to Paul, not all speak in tongues? Does this mean that some are not meant to speak in tongues? If so, does this mean that some are never meant to be baptized with the Spirit? Where does it all end?

Finally, you ask: “Rich, do you speak in tongues?” Yes I do. But it wasn’t because I receive the baptism of the Spirit. It was because I earnestly desired to pray.

You see, in 1 Corinthians, there are two forms of tongue speaking: First, tongues as a known language. Second, tongues as a prayer language (1 Cor. 14:14). The reason I pray in tongues (not speak in tongues, but PRAY. Speaking in tongues would mean that I have the gift of tongues to speak in a known language – I do not) is to edify myself (1 Cor. 14:4).

Praying in tongues I believe is not a gift, but a “learned ability.” Like praying in public, one doesn’t just get saved and start praying sensational prayers in public. He has to learn through practice how to pray. Same with praying in tongues. WITH PRACTICE any Christian can learn to pray in tongues. The baptism of the Spirit has nothing to do with it.

I hope this at least provides a broader perspective on this most controversial topic.

Love in Christ, Rich

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