It had been a long day, and I was exhausted. Going to bed early so as to rise early to start the day in the presence of the Lord had long since been my practice. I’ve learned to love this practice, but at my age it takes its toll, especially after dinner hour. A spirited game of hide and seek followed by kick ball with the grand kids didn’t help things either, O’ that I had the energy I had 20 years ago at the tender age of 50. Isn’t growing old fun? Well I admit the grand kids make it worth it all.
I had been intrigued all week attempting to grasp a better understanding of the 70th week of Daniel, commonly known as the great tribulation. It seemed that everywhere I turned some “Reverend” was trying to sell his congregation on the rapture being the next great thing on God’s agenda. A good many of them would go so far as saying that God is not a wife beater, therefor if he allows the church, His bride go through this tribulation then that somehow makes him a wife beater. Well sorry, but I just don’t buy it. In my Bible study this morning I counted at least fourteen references that Jesus made squarely putting his followers, the elect, front and center in the tribulation in Matthew chapter 24.
Jesus told his disciples in that very chapter that in the last days false teachers and prophets would be on the rise. Somehow, I instinctively knew that behind the scenes God was at work creating a tapestry as it were of these truths interwoven with the book of Daniel, and the book of the Revelation. Exhausted, I comforted myself by saying Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I leaned back in my easy chair, and drifted off to sleep. What took place next in a dream I couldn’t have imagined in a million years. In this dream I found myself at Riverwalk, one of my most treasured places to read, write, meditate, and so on. The winding path that follows the contour of the river is usually busy with joggers, bikers, and just common folk looking for a little break from the rat race of the city. Once a month on the last Sunday of each month the city holds a free Jazz festival for all who are so inclined. Whenever possible it is my habit to partake in this spirited festival, it’s a real treat.
So, there at a picnic table I sat feeding the squirrels with some peanuts that I always keep in my clove box, from my peripheral vision I spotted an elderly gentleman making his way down the path. As he approached, I knotted and politely said good morning sir, and he responded with a greeting as well. A little to my surprise he paused and said, “do you have the time my friend, the battery in my watch seems to have gone dead.” “not a problem sir, it’s 10:48 am, I replied” I guess I expected him to continue down the path, but when he asked if it was OK to sit with me awhile at the picnic table I replied, “certainly”, I always enjoy good company. “HI, my name is Billy, and yours’s sir?” “Raphael” he replied, “but folks just call me Raphie” “what ethnicity is your name” I asked? He replied “Hebrew, my name is Hebrew to the bone, and it means God heals” “wow I’m a little jealous”, “and why is that” he asked. Your one of God’s chosen people, I responded, and by the way isn’t the name Raphael one of the names of Gods great and mighty Angels? Yes, I suppose so, Raphael said in agreement. What, are you that angel I asked? Well let’s just say that I’m part of a holy delegation that is assigned to helping Gods people make sense out of the crazy world in which you live. Great Raphie you’ve come to the right picnic table, where do we begin. First Billy I must ask you the same question that you asked me, what is your name and what does it mean? Well sir I responded Billy is my nick name, my real name is William, and it means great provider, great protector. And what about your last name William? Well Raphie by law it is Rask, but my father was adopted very late in life, my last name by blood is Bergeron, and I just found out recently that it means Shepard. Hmmm, you know William, in God’s economy names have meaning for a reason. Quite often a person’s name is who and what they are. I’ll bet you a twenty-dollar gold coin that the questions you have for me are directly related to your journey to understanding, who you are and what you are here for. It’s all about purpose, right? I’m busted Raphie, your so right on, I’m fighting back tears just thinking about it.
So, tell me now Mr. William Bergeron, what’s troubling your weary soul, my brother? Trust me I’m completely aware of how things get confused in a world spinning out of control. Well Raphie, I know instinctively how the false prophets, the end of days, and especially the 70th week of Daniel along with the book of the Revelation are intrinsically connected. Yet somehow it sometimes can be a blur, so help me to connect the dots if you will, Sir. OK Billy boy let’s start with the false prophets and teachers. I’m sure Billy that in your day you have witnessed a lot of madness pawning it’s self-off as God-ordained Revelations. Back in the seventies there was the time share scandal with Jim And Tammy, some Christian TV host and guest were pawning off splinters of wood, supposedly from the cross of Christ, Holy water from the Jorden River, anointed oil, prayer clothes, and basically anything they could get a buck for. And of course, the big pay back from God was always the hook. As the years passed the schemes were modified so as to appear “fresh from the throne room of God!” yet to the real lover of truth these schemes rang hollow. None the less as long as there was a following of people lining up for their “Fix” of the feel good gospel of hope, wealth, happiness, success, and prosperity, their fearless leaders were more than happy to play their role as Monty Hall, and provide curtain #1, #2, or #3, as long as the bottom line was paying for their mansions, Rolls Royce, vacation getaways, and Oh, did I forget their Lear jets. All this in the name of taking the gospel to the four corners of the earth so that Jesus can come back sooner of course.
Well Billy I would like to tell you that this kind of behavior was new to the faith, but the truth is that these charlatans, and frauds have been around with their charmer’s snake oils for thousands of years. Their common denominator is always the same, self-serving interests, prominence in the community, and lining their pockets with that green stuff. Jesus went toe to toe with them constantly, they were always trying to trap him for the purpose of shutting him up, and separating him from his growing number of disciples, which of course presented them with a threat to their “job security”. Jesus, my son was always poised to doing his father’s business. He set the record straight for all believers recorded in Matthew 23. He leveled a scathing review to the charlatans that should have bowed a knee to him. He categorically dissected them piece by piece. They were whitewashed tombs full of dead man’s bones. In chapters 12 & 13, Ezekiel also leveled a scathing review to the false prophets of his day when he accused them of practicing “flattery divination”. Flattery Billy is of course undeserved praise for the purpose of personal gain. Divination is witchcraft in its various forms, mind control being at the top of the list. The only thing that’s changed between now and then, are the names and faces. The “tools of the trade” will always remain the same. In Daniel chapter 11:32 speaking of the man with evil intent, it records with “flattery” he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant. You see what I’m saying Mr. Bergeron, we could go on and on about these frauds, there schemes are endless, and they typically hide behind traditions of men as their justification.
So now William, allow me to ask a very revealing question. Have you ever asked yourself…? However, in good conscience can these charlatans blaspheme the name and image of God so easily the way they do? I replied, All the time Raphie, all the time. The answer to that question might surprise you, but I really don’t think so. Can you dare to guess, Billy? I would have to say Sir that it all boils down to them not having the “fear of the lord”, or better put the absence thereof. Bingo Billy, Raphael said with excitement. Here is how it works, the “fear of the lord” is the beginning of wisdom, Correct? Undoubtedly Raphie. So, if a person is replete of the fear of the lord, then it stands to reason that this person is also void of wisdom… can I get an amen Billy.? Amen, Amen, and a thousand Amens. Conversely speaking if a person possesses the real and true fear of the Lord then he or she could never come out with these kind of blasphemies… and I do say Blasphemies with intent. Let’s take it a step further, before we move along. And yet another question if you don’t mind Billy? I like your kind of questions Raphie, fire away as many as you like. What did Jesus mean when he said, “if you have seen me, that you have seen the Father?” that’s a great question Raphie, I can’t wait for the answer. It is best answered Billy by the following analogy, what is the first thing you do when you get into your car? Well that’s an easy one Raphie, you fasten your seatbelt, and adjust your mirrors. Bingo Billy, you’re getting good at this, why is it so important to adjust your mirrors Billy? So, you can get a perfect view of what is behind you and alongside of you. EXACTLY, you trust your mirrors to accurately tell you what is behind, and beside you so you won’t have an accident. In like manner Billy whenever Jesus said or did anything at all you can trust that deep within his spirit, he was seeing his Father doing and saying the same. The image that he projected was always an accurate image of the Father. The true Sheppard’s of gods flock carry a huge responsibility to reflect an accurate image of God, and the only way to do this is to be firmly grounded in the “fear of the Lord.” So, let me say as a caveat to this very weighty subject, the consistent image that the charlatans project is that God is a first cousin to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth fairy, Ya know son It’s Jesus for hire, a sad state of affairs, but true. And on that note Billy boy it’s time to move on, give me your best, he said.
I replied, why do so many preachers teach that believers won’t face the great tribulation, when Jesus said over and over in Mathew 24 that they will? Also, in CH 18 of Revelation it specifically says while deep on the tribulation, “come out from her my people.” Unfortunately, Billy the truth is that it doesn’t fit the mold of the feel-good gospel, the truth makes people uncomfortable, and it also requires drastic change. “The feel-good gospel” fills the pews. And filling the pews translates of course into bigger offerings, a sorry state of affairs I might add. True freedom, not freedom defined by the constitution, but the one that Jesus said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”, always requires a confrontation with truth. Our wills being challenged by the painful truth, and when truth wins out true freedom remains. Freedom defined by scripture means that we are free to obey God, and to do his will, something you were never able to do until the painful truth came up against your stubborn will, and truth won, and freedom was realized. If you could quote the constitution by memory and possess all of the amenities of the free world, that doesn’t automatically make you free as God defines freedom.
And so, my son, let’s move on to your next question. Ralphie, why all the mystery surrounding the 70th week of Daniel? well Billy let me first say that in Bible terminology, a week does not equal seven days, it is a week of years, as in seven years, Understood? Yes Sir, understood. He then said, you can spin your wheels never understanding this 70th week until you answer why. Why is there a tribulation, and what is its purpose? To answer this question, you must first understand the answer to one very paramount last question. Here it is Billy boy, “what does God hate the very most, even more than sin itself, and indeed he hates sin with a passion?” Raphie I’m gonna go out on a limb here and venture a guess. I was just marveling at this the other day while reading about the seven churches in the book of revelation. John speaking for God of course said to the church of Laodicea, the Luke-warm church that I would rather you be hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm, I will vomit you out of my mouth. Ding ding my son William; you’ve just won the grand prize for the one and only correct answer to the mystery of the great tribulation. God hates the duplicity of the lukewarm fence of mediocrity more than even sin itself, and the reason for this is “half-hearted pretense”. The lukewarm condition gives the appearance of or the form of Godliness, but it denies the power. What power you ask? The power to transform lives. Never forget Billy that tradition has zero power over sin, which is why you were called out of darkness. Tradition my son, the appearance of something that it is not, the illusion, the presence, the duplicity. Of course, God always prefers that you are hot, but if in truth you are not, being cold is much preferred by God than the falsehood lukewarm fence of mediocrity. At least their exists honesty, and the possibility of repentance, but when you are blinded by this lukewarm condition, no hope exits. The traditions of man will be the #1 tool in the great tribulation to keep people “asleep behind the wheel”.
In Daniel CH 12:9 we read Daniel’s question to the angel concerning this 70th week, “My lord what will the outcome of all this be, The angel replied, go your way Daniel because the words are closed up, closed and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” Did you catch it Billy? The righteous will be refined and become more righteous, and the wicked will continue, and become more wicked. No more fence of mediocrity Billy, holiness or wickedness are the only choices, No more fence of mediocrity! Praise God! You see Billy the seven churches received their report card so to speak, there condition ranged from the healthy church of Phillipi to the putrid condition of the church of Laodicea, and yet they were all told to be overcomers. The obvious conclusion is that we are all to be overcomers until our last breath, this is our lot in life.
So Raphie, I know it’s getting late and you have been more than helpful, but if you don’t mind, I have one last question. Mind! Said Raphie, fire away son. You’ve got me intrigued about the problem with tradition. Can you elaborate on that little? Well Billy your average person considers tradition to be harmless, and in some cases like celebrating Mother’s Day it is. Yet in Matthew CH 23 much of what Jesus exposes the scribes and Pharisees for is their love affair with tradition. He exposes them, telling them everything they do is done for men to see. Let’s just take a modern-day practice so as to see my point more clearly. Nicodemus a ruling member of the council came to Jesus all alone by night stating that Jesus was a teacher come from God. Let me first of all say that the scribes and Pharisees ran in packs like dogs, and never alone. They felt power in numbers. Nicodemus coming alone by night said to Jesus that his questions were sincere and not an attempt to trap him. Jesus’ reply as most all know was that no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he be “born again”. In a twenty-first century spin, and through the wonders of tradition we have boiled Jesus’s answer down to a “repeat after me alter call, rite of passage”. Jesus was in fact telling Nicodemus the cost involved in following him. Paraphrased Jesus was saying the kingdom of which you hear me speak along with the miracles that follow can only be understood by tossing out your traditions that you hold on to so dearly, and the blindness that follows are so diametrically opposed to this kingdom. Then and only then will you be born again to the kingdom of God. Wow Raphie, that’s deep and I might add that on a grass roots level this is sure to offend a lot of people. Let it be Billy, it’s all part and parcel to preaching and walking in the true kingdom of God here on Earth.
So, William if you can buy it to that, and you have, let’s take it one step further and talk about paradigms for a moment. The definition of this word means a “model, or pattern” of something. So, to amplify this point, let’s consider and American folklore Rip-Van-Winkle. As the story goes Rip slept for twenty years and when he woke up, he was amazed to see how much the world had changed. So, let’s give it a twenty-first century spin now Billy, let’s suppose that this guy Rip fell asleep in 1960 and when he woke up in 1980 you were the reporter assigned to take down his story. You invite Rip over on a Sunday to hear his incredible story, but something threw a wrench into the plans, your computer mouse broke. When Rip came by for the interview you had to tell him, sorry we have to wait until tomorrow to do your story, my mouse died. Obviously, Rip would be wondering to himself how can the death of a pet mouse possibly stand in the way of the interview. You see Billy Rip was under a very different paradigm than you were. The apostle Paul wrote “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” it happens all the time Mr. Bergeron, twenty-first century preachers routinely teach their people from a twenty-first century paradigm, and don’t even consider that possibly this paradigm is far different that a first century paradigm. I’ve already given you the example of the words “freedom and born again”, but the examples are almost endless. I’m not trying to be cute, but the truth is so many churches need to be born again, throw out the Jesus for hire wine skins and start from the beginning. Painful indeed and yet just what the doctor ordered. Allow me if you will one more crazy example about the traditions of men, let’s just say that a very mean fairy came into your bedroom while you were asleep and turned your pillow into a giant piece of chewed Bible gum. When you awoke much to your surprise every inch of your hair was covered in bubble gum, so I ask what is the one and only solution to your problem? The obvious answer is to shave off all of the infected hair. In like manner so is the solution to being steeped in tradition, again throughout the wine skins and be born again.
OK Billy time to wind things down. God will be the first to admit that it is time to bring all of this insanity to a conclusion. Please understand my son, everything is done in God’s timing. He is not dead as some say and yes, God does care very much in spite of what some people say of him, and yet it is His wisdom to accomplish everything when and how he deems necessary. Never forget Billy he has set forth a precedent when he declared “judgement begins in the house of the lord”. Be not afraid to speak the truth at any personal cost. My final concern is that as many believers as possible understands what looms just around the corner. There are those who have been hard at work in preparation of a three-pronged assault across the world that would catch most off guard. #1 a one world government, commonly known as the new world order, #2 a one world economy which will spearhead the mark of the beast, and #3 a one world religion which by designed is cleverly crafted so as to sound like the solution to all the world’s spiritual needs, via the use of half-truths as always.
And at that I awakened and found myself wet with perspiration, I immediately began writing down my conversation with Raphael, and thanking God for sharing these matters of the heart with me. The choice is yours my brothers and sisters, I have said and done what I believed to be the word of the lord. The following poem admittedly is quite caustic and yet I believe it serves its purpose well. May God be with you in your hour of contemplation.
All my love Billy the pen.