We discussed the rapture in church the other day, and I learned a new passage that describes when in God’s timeline it will happen. It always helps me to talk through what I learn to make it stick in my mind. So, here it goes…
What is the Rapture
The word rapture is nowhere in the Bible. The concept on the other hand is. This passage describes what we call the rapture:
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:51-57 [KJV]
For those of you who know your Bible, does this scare you? Does it sound like something from Revelation?
Revelation 13:16 — And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
So, we should just make sure that we don’t put the “digital tattoo” on our right hand or forehead, right? Could this really be the mark of the beast? Well, first of all, the mark is not a swirly mark. It is the name of the antichrist or his number:
Revelation 13:17-18 — And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
I think that the most important part about the mark is that it is an act of worship of the beast or the antichrist. It seems that every time the mark is mentioned, it is mentioned in conjunction with worshiping the beast.
Revelation 13:15-16 — And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
Revelation 14:9 — And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
Revelation 14:11 — And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Revelation 16:2 — And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
Revelation 19:20 — And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Revelation 20:4 — And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
So, is the digital tattoo wrong? I would argue no. It has nothing to do with worship. Instead it is a convenience and security feature. It makes it easier to unlock your phone. In fact, it helps you make it so that you are the only one who can unlock your phone and access your sensitive information.
I’ve met some people to refuse to get credit cards and fear this technology that has any hint of the “mark”. I think this is the point they are missing: the mark of the beast is an act of worship. It’s not just a technology of convenience.
The “mark” probably will be given in the guise of convenience though. The Bible does say that the people will receive a delusion and will get tricked into taking the antichrist’s side. If you don’t choose God now, don’t think that you will choose him when the end comes.
II Thessalonians 2:11 — And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
Revelation 13:14 — And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
Still, I think that God will make it clear that those taking the mark are making a choice. It will be a choice between God and the antichrist.
With the progression of technology, we can see how these marks might work though. It makes sense that the “mark” will include some sort of RFID technology. The Bible says that you will need the mark to buy and sell. The NFC chip in the Google phone is a perfect example. You can simply swipe your phone across the credit card scanner to make a purchase tied to your credit card. So, it makes sense that the mark might have similar technology.
Revelation 13:17 — And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
The chips embedded in pets are an example of how such technology might be embedded into a living thing for tracking purposes. So, all of the technology is available. What remains is the component of worship. Thankfully, there is no cause to use this technology as an act of defiance against God yet.
So, use your technology, and enjoy it. Let’s just make sure we use it for God and to further His kingdom.
This past Thanksgiving, I put together a quick little Sunday School lesson on the Pilgrims. I wanted to save my notes out here in case it helps anyone. At least maybe the links below will give you some good places to look. Elaine Hansen Cleary’s Mayflower was the most help in imagining and understanding the Pilgrim’s story.
In recent news, the world political scene has been changing. Just recently, we learned of Venezuela’s Chavez’s death. That brings uncertainty to the country and rest of the world hopes that new leadership will benefit the country. On the other hand, North Korea just went through a similar loss of a leader when Kim Jong-Un succeeded Kim Jong-il after his death. With the recent threats of nuclear attacks, I’m not sure that the change made much difference.
If I were to teach a Bible lesson on July 4th, I think it would have to start with this verse:
John 8:33-36 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
On the 4th of July, we celebrate breaking free from an abusive nation and establishing our freedom as a country. In the spiritual realm, we have a greater freedom to be concerned with. We may think we are choosing our own way and doing what we want to do, but any sin slowly slides around our wrists and becomes shackles that take us toward an eternal separation from God.
Our only hope of independence is to place our trust in Jesus Christ. He died on the cross to pay the punishment for all of the wrong things that we have done. The only thing we have to do is believe Jesus did that for us, and then, the “Son” will make you “free” from that sin.
A Story to Match: Ehud
Almost all of my lessons have been to kids, and choosing a good story seems to work well. Probably all of the stories from Judges work well, but I chose Ehud. You can find his story in Judges chapter 3:12-30.
The amazing thing about John 8 is the Pharisees’ statement: “We … were never in bondage to any man”. Well, what about King Eglon? Does this verse sound like they were never in bondage?
Judges 3:14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
Furthermore, In John 8, Jesus makes it clear that He is talking about our sin holding us bondage rather than any physical leader. Well, Judges makes it clear why the Israelites where in physical/national bondage. They had forgotten to serve God, and did evil:
Judges 3:12 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
A Story to Match: American Independence
Our Independence isn’t a perfect fit or parallel, but it does have some parallels. You can read the Declaration of Independence, and I think that you’ll get the feeling that we were a nation in bondage. I don’t know that you can say that we had necessarily forgotten God to bring us to the point of bondage, but many of our people did move to our country to get away from religious persecution.
Of course, we all are in bondage to sin. We all need Jesus to set us free from that bondage.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Paul uses the word bondage in Galations when describing our situation in sin:
Galations 2:3-5 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Also, just like the Israelites, when we forget God, He will do something that will bring us back to Him:
Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Introducing the Story
One of the key elements to Ehud’s victory was the fact that he was left-handed. You can ask the kids how many are left-handed. You could play a little game to see how many know their left hand from their right hand, and how well.
Another left-hand right-hand game you can play is to set up a maze with the chairs and elements in the room. Blindfold a kid and have another give them verbal directions through the maze. See if they can use left and right to make it through the maze.
Also, the gross part of the story can be used to peak kids’ interest.
Here’s the outline of the story:
Israelites disobeyed God and did evil
God strengthened Eglon, king of Moab
Eglon allied with the Ammonites and the Amalekites
Israel served king Eglon for 18 years
God sent Ehud to deliver them
Israel chooses Ehud to bring the tribute to the Eglon
Ehud makes a dagger
Ehud straps the dagger hidden on his right thigh
In Moab, Ehud gives the tribute to the people and has them take it away (gets rid of some of the people)
Ehud tells Eglon he has a secret message (Eglon dismisses everyone else in the room)
Ehud says he has a messsage from God and stands up out of his seat
Ehud pulls the dagger out with his left hand and runs it into Eglon’s belly
The blade went in so far it got stuck
Ehud left and locked the doors behind him to slow anyone from finding out
The servants thought he was using the bathroom since the doors were locked
The servants waited a long time before getting the key and opening the doors
Meanwhile, Ehud escapes to the Israelites
Ehud gathers an army and attacks Moab
Israelites kill 10,000 Moabites and gain freedom
The Bible says that Eglon and his allies attacked “the city of palm trees”.
Judges 3:12 And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
With a cross reference, we can tell it is probably talking about Jericho
Deuteronomy 34:3 And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.
As best I can tell, this is the location on the map showing Ammon and Moab attacking Jericho:
Judges 3:16 But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
Another point that stood out to me was that Ehud made the dagger himself.
I also like the fact that Ehud practically calls the sword a message from God.
Judges 3:20b And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
Ehud’s Secret Weapon
The Bible makes a special point to tell us that Ehud was left-handed. As a result, he strapped his dagger on his right hip. When he pulls it out, the Bible again reminds us that he used his left hand to pull it off his right hip. I think the point is that if the Moabites were to check for a weapon, they would assume him right-handed, and check only his left side.
In telling the story, I imagine the Moabites frisking Ehud several times. First, as he enters the gates to the city, the guard would probably check him. Then, as he enters the palace, another guard would probably check him. I can imagine the adrenaline rush that Ehud would have as guards inspect him, knowing he had a hidden weapon.
I couldn’t find much information about Eglon, but here are a few facts:
First, we know he was king of Moab. Moab is mentioned throughout the Bible. For example, Ruth came from Moab.
We know that Elgon was extremely fat. That’s significant because it required Ehud to make a large enough sword to cut through the fat.
The Enemy Nations
The three nations that came against Israel where Moab, Ammon, and Amalek. Here are some resources:
One the the fun parts of this story, is the disgusting nature. The Bible indicates that the contents of Eglon’s bowels came out as the sword got stuck in his fat.
Judges 3:22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.
I think this is a great attention-getter. Warning the kids that we have a gross story for the boys will peak their interest. You could even suggest that the girls cover their ears as Eglon gets stabbed. I think their curiosity will make them cover their ears in a way that they still can hear.
While it is fun to play with the gross part of the story, it is also important to point out that it was real, and that death is never fun. It was caused by sin. Sin is serious and never pretty. The grossness of the story is the result of sin, and a nation who did not worship God. The act had to be done because the Israelites had forgotten God, and needed to be reminded how much they needed Him.
There are a number of things that you can learn from this story. I think that it is important to apply the story as you tell it. If you apply it at the end, the audience may turn you off.
Most importantly, sin places us in bondage. Just as Ehud had to go through a disgusting act of war to free the Israelites, Jesus had to go through a painful death to pay the punishment for our sin.
God is in control. The Bible makes it clear that God strengthened and allowed the Moabites to oppress the Israelites. God also chose and used Ehud.
We can’t afford to forget God. The Israelites made that mistake over and over throughout Judges. The result was bondage to other nations. We can be sure that even as Christians, if we forget God, we will be bound by sin. Nothing can take away our gift of eternal life, but sin can weigh us down.
God uses peculiar people. Is it possible that Ehud was made fun of because he was different? Obviously left-handed people were not common. The Bible makes it clear that Ehud’s left-handed trait was the key to his success. What we may see as odd and different, God can use for His glory.
Since the end of school, I’ve been thinking of this verse, and I thought kids could use some encouragement to finish the race strong. When you come near the finish line, a good runner will push his body harder rather than ease up and coast across the line. The same should be true in life including nearing the end of a school year.
So, I think studying races and sports analogies in the Bible was very fitting and encouraging. A great place to start is Hebrews 12:1-2:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
These are some of the thoughts I had on this verse:
Story: Peter strikes Malchus with his sword and Jesus heals his ear back
Passage: Luke 22:45-54; Matthew 26:45-56; John 18:1-14; Mark 14:42-50
“Most Important Thing”: Jesus want us to love our enemies
Jesus goes to the garden to pray knowing his most important task is drawing close
A large group of people enter the garden with force
Judas leads them to Jesus and kisses him (like a handshake)
One disciple asks if they should fight back
Peter doesn’t wait for an answer; he draws his sword and begins fighting
Peter swipes Malchus’ ear off
Jesus said to let them take him
Jesus heals Malchus’ ear with a touch
Jesus points out that he had been teaching in the temple, and they couldn’t arrest or kill him there. He is letting them take him: there is no need for force.
Think of the pain that Malchus must have been in. I can’t help but think that this must have been a fatal wound. Could they have stopped the bleeding enough before he lost too much blood? Was Malchus thinking this was the end? Then, suddenly he felt the touch of Jesus. Surely, all eyes were on Jesus since they had come to take him away. As Jesus placed the ear back in place, all the pain went away. Malchus was a new man! Little did he know that just as Jesus healed his ear, Jesus was about to heal his heart’s sin problem by paying his punishment on the cross.
Proverbs 27:6 — Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Romans 12:20 — Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Matthew 5:44 — But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
We have 5 Sundays until Easter Sunday, and so, I need 5 stories for Sunday School/AWANA. I figure I may as well plan this out in the open — maybe someone else will need some story ideas, too.
Easter is an important time for me. It is a great time to worship God in reflecting on what He has done for us. At the same time, it is a great way to communicate the salvation plan to the kids. It was in preparing for Easter story lessons two years ago that my oldest son opened his heart to God and put his faith in Jesus.
February 26th: Demoniac of Gadara
The element of the pigs just makes this a fun story. At the same time, the story is a stern warning that the demonic world is nothing to play with. Satan is real, and is a lion waiting to devour.
Bible Location: Mt 8.28-34, Mk 5:1-20, Lk 8:26-39
Key Verse: I Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
March 4th: Raising of Lazarus
A couple weeks ago, we talked about how Jesus could control His creation and stop the wind and the waves. This story brings it to an even more personal or human level — Jesus controls our life and death. This story is filled with emotion and potentially funny moments as we have to figure out how to get the burial wrapping off.
Bible Location: Jn 11
March 11th: Triumphal Entry
I think this is a good one to act out. The kids would enjoy acting out welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem and learning how the Jews “rolled out the red carpet”. I am realizing, too, that the story of Jesus driving out the money changers comes directly after. That might be worth including in this story as well.
This is a fun story. Of course, Malchus probably didn’t think so at first, but I don’t have to get too gory. I love hearing the kids laugh, and the idea of an ear sitting on someone’s shoulder leaves plenty of room for that. Plus, this is a good opportunity to teach the kids the concept of loving your enemy.
Bible Location: Lk 22:45-53
March 25th: Crucifixion Story
Good Friday is the next Friday. This is the perfect Sunday to talk about Jesus dying on the cross. Of course, the emphasis for the story is that our sin must be punished, and Jesus took that punishment for us. Now, if we put our trust in Jesus, our sin no longer needs punishing, thus allowing us to spend eternity in heaven.
Bible Location: Mt 27, Lk 23, Mk 15, Jn 19
April 8th: Easter! Resurrection Sunday
I have two different illustrations that I enjoy. Everyone seems to do the Easter eggs with the different parts of the crucifixion and Resurrection story. Even so, I can have the kids tell the story since they usually can’t wait to say “I’ve heard this before”. The best one I enjoy is the drawing of an Easter bunny that you can rotate sideways and turn into an open tomb scene.
While reading through Noah’s study, this one verse caught my eye. Since we are just coming out of Labor Day weekend, it seemed very appropriate.
KJV: Genesis Chapter 5:28-29 And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.
I didn’t realize Noah’s name was born out of a frustration with “work”. It goes back to this promise:
KJV: Genesis Chapter 3:17-19 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
So, that “Monday Morning Syndrome” (or, for this week, the Tuesday Morning Syndrome) is really all due to our sin. The whole reason “work” has that bad connotation is because our Adam’s sin, or our sin nature.
What’s the good side? One day, when this life is over, sin will be gone. I think we can look forward going to work one day and loving it. Will it still be called “work” in heaven?
Until then, we need to count our blessings when we enjoy our work here on Earth. When we are successful in finding pleasure in earning a living, we are enjoying a blessing from God.
Still, that verse deserves one more thought (or maybe question). Was work before the flood worse than now? Did Noah somehow bring some sort of relief from the toil that they were experiencing before the flood? In that perfect environment, maybe weeds could grow even better than they do now. Of course, with technology, we do have more tools to make farming work easier. We can till the weeds under with tractors, and we have chemicals that can make weed control easier. I am not sure how to find the answer; maybe I’ll have to ask when I get to heaven.