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Thursday, 4 January 2018

Looking for a sign?

It was in Glasgow, this morning, that I was faced with the question in the heading! It was on a large billboard - and was actually advertising said billboard. However, the question set my mind off! I thought of the year that has passed, and the number of "signs" each of which was going to be, we were assured, the sign that heralded the "end of the world"! Of course, as I am here today, typing this, I must assume that all of those signs were, to put it as delicately as possible, "misread"!

People, it would appear, are always "looking for a sign". It may be the special gift that signifies "I love you". It may be the "Well done" that signifies that the boss is pleased with one's efforts. It may be the 'look across a crowded room' that signifies a romantic interest. It may be the handshake that signifies that a deal is acceptable to both sides. There are even those who claim to be experts in body language and who can tell more from the movements of my hands; the way in which I am standing; the look in my eyes; than from the words that I actually speak.

Not surprisingly, the written Word of God - the Bible - mentions signs more than once my online concordance has almost 250 references to "sign" and its associated words!). Right at the beginning we read: "And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, ..." (Gen.1:14). Later on, and after the Flood, God says to Noah: "I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth." (Gen.9:13).

Many of us recalled one of those signs just a couple of weeks ago! In Isaiah 7, we read of the word of YHWH to Ahaz, king of Judah (the southern kingdom), when the latter refused to ask for a sign from YHWH. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Imman′u-el." (v.14). Now I know that the Hebrew word "almaah" may be translated simply as "young woman"./ However, God the Holy Spirit, Who inspired the Biblical writers made the situation crystal clear for even sceptical people in the 21st century AD. When the seventy (or, possibly, seventy-two - six from each of the twelve tribes) translators of the Hebrew text into the more common Greek language in use in the 3rd century BC, came to that verse, they used the Greek word "parthenos" - and that can only mean "virgin".

However, one of the most important references, in terms of what was being claimed over the past year, is found in Paul's second letter to the believers in Thessalonica: "Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet Him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and destroy him by His appearing and His coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wondersand with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2:1-12; emphases added).

Whatever 2018 may hold, I will state, with Biblical authority, that the day of the Lord will not take place until the signs that have been prophesied as preceding it have taken place. I would encourage you to read all of Matthew 12, Matthew 16, and Matthew 24, (and the rest of the Bible, for that matter!!) but here are just a few verses from each of those chapters: "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from You.” But He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." (12:38-39); "And the Pharisees and Sad′ducees came, and to test Him they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So He left them and departed." (16:1-4); "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (24:29-31).

May you know the blessing of Almighty God throughout this coming year - and may you be among those who seek "... to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for Himself a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:12-14).

A blessèd New Year to one and all.

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