and cultural development.
Why should the Great Tribulation
start with famines and earthquakes? / Commentary KR 00, 2014-05-03
The Rapture before or after
the Great Tribulation? / Anonymous 00, 2011-08-19
God’s third wave of destruction.
From Sodom up to the present day
- nothing has changed / God’s covenants by Jacob Damkan
The beginning of birth pangs.
Those who proclaim the Word of
People who are unable to believe.
/ Wilhelm Busch, Book WB 00, pp 123ff.
The eternal existence of every human being.
The biblical Trinity and some other specifics of the biblical Christian faith.
The cause of civil wars, famines
and earthquakes in the Last Days: the beginning of birth pangs.
The Protestant (AB) gay bishop of
St. Pölten, Austria: Lars Müller Marienbuirg.
World History: a week with days
of a thousand years
Table – World History: a week with days
of a thousand years
Ten thousand march in Gay
Pride parade in Tel Aviv. / SWI swissinfo.ch 00, 2014-06-18)
Admits True Purpose of Battle is to Destroy Marriage. / By Micah Clark
Do the acts of war in Syria have a
prophetic background? / Part 1 Discourse 113
Does the Bible predict the Syrian
civil war chaos for the Last Days? / Part 2
By now the more realistic minds among scientists recognize that all over
the world natural catastrophes – like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, tornados,
hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, massive hailstorms and days of prolonged rainfall
bringing mudflows and vast floods in their wake – have increased out of all proportion. Of
course such things have happened before, but only at intervals of decades or centuries –
not all together in the space of a few years. People are inclined to see global warming as
the reason for this, and without doubt that is a contributing factor.
But attentive observers cannot have failed to notice either that it is not just these environmentally determined incidents that have been occurring in recent years with greater frequency – people themselves too are increasingly becoming more radicalized and liberalized, that is to say they are liberating themselves from the "burdens" of peacefulness, honesty, reliability, trustworthiness and so on.
The consequence of this on the personal level is liberation from obligation: every second marriage ends in divorce, people are just going in for more life partnerships, so as to be able to switch again without any problem at the next opportunity. In a professional context as well (especially on the side of the employer), in these uncertain times people avoid entering into long term commitments as far as possible – instead we see part time work, employees working as sub-contractors and the like. And in the same way as parents today hesitate to instruct their children, so on the political level too people are wary of urging any kind of commandments, prohibitions, rules or laws – e.g. in connection with child raising, crime prevention (take tax fraud, for example), same sex marriages and so on.
It is interesting in this connection that here in democratic countries, where we have rule based on the majority vote – that is to say, decisions are supposed to be taken based on the will of the majority of the population – suddenly we find minority decisions being made (state recognition of same sex marriages and homosexual adopting rights, trivialization of tax fraud, basic security benefits for the unemployed and people who don’t want to work, almost unlimited preferential treatment of refugees etc.). And this is actually a contradiction, which is to be put down to the fact that not only many parents, but also and in particular many politicians have lost their feeling for the reality of opinion, and think that this kind of proceeding is what the majority of people want. With politicians, this error will be put right at the next election (see Angela Merkel and her refugee policy); with parents, the process takes rather longer.
Whereas in the democratic countries of Europe and in the USA this liberalization of character has become increasingly widespread among the population, in other countries of this world a radicalization has been taking place, which has led to civil wars, terror, oppression and torture on a scale never seen before. And now one might – based on the similarity of (bad) developments in the two cases – be inclined to favor the view that between these two areas (the increasing prevalence of environmental catastrophes, and the radicalization of the population) there exists a certain connection.
The following discussion, with a visitor from Germany and a lady visitor from Switzerland, endeavors to show, on the basis of the Bible, that this might indeed be the case. Not however, as would generally be supposed, by a kind of reciprocal action, but because on the spiritual level "he who (in the past) has restrained (both) has been taken out of the way" (2Thess 2:7).
I have read your interpretation of what in your opinion are
"the true prophesies of the Bible about the Last Days" (Discourse 1132:
"The true prophesies of the
Bible about the Last Days." / FH) and your argument seems to me
altogether plausible. I too have been concerned with this theme for some
time, and have come to quite similar conclusions. But what repeatedly
irritates me, and something for which I am trying to find an answer, is a
purely rational question: when it is written in Mt 24,7-8 that at the
beginning of the birth pangs that is to say, at the start of the Great
Tribulation "nation will rise against nation" and "kingdom against
kingdom" (which you interpret as the civil wars of the present day), and
then the text goes on to say "and in various places there will be famines
and earthquakes", I ask myself similarly to your having asked yourself why
there cannot be "nations against kingdoms" or "kingdoms against
nations" why famines and earthquakes, specifically, should be associated
with these events of war. Though one could still see the famines as the
consequence of the many wars and acts of destruction in these countries, it
seems exceedingly doubtful whether such things would be likely to trigger
earthquakes as well.
KR - Germany
Thank you for your visit to Immanuel.at and for your comments.
On one point I must correct your statements. I made my interpretation of "nations against nations" and "kingdoms against kingdoms" as the civil wars currently going on dependent on the question whether the earthquakes and famines which you inquire about are actually going to occur. Only then would I think that this prophecy of the Lord’s is being fulfilled in our days.
But I too have been exercised by this question of the links between these statements, and after quite extensive research I have now arrived at an explanation. But let us just first of all take a look at the biblical passage you quote:
Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.
Lk 21,8 And He said, "See to it that you are
not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The
time is near.’ Do not go after them. 21,9 "When you hear of wars
and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place
first, but the end does not follow immediately." 21,10 Then He continued by
saying to them, "Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against
kingdom, 21,11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places
plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
Lk 21, 9-11;
For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
Mk 13,5 And Jesus began to say to them, "See
to it that no one misleads you. 13,6 "Many will come in My name, saying,
‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. 13,7 "When you hear of wars
and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but
that is not yet the end. 13,8 "For nation will rise up against nation,
and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there
will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
Mk 13, 5- 8;
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
Mt 24,4 And Jesus answered and said to them,
"See to it that no one misleads you. 24,5 "For many will come in My
name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.24,6 "You
will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened,
for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 24,7 "For
nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various
places there will be famines and earthquakes. 24,8 "But all these
things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Mt 24. 4- 8;
Perhaps we should just make clear the facts which emerge from these statements. This passage forms a part of the Lord’s discourse on the Last Days, and he speaks here in Mt 24,8 of the "birth pangs". Based on the context and the parallel passages we can assume that this refers to the Great Tribulation (affliction), which he in fact mentions a few verses further on in Mt 24,29.
After the tribulation of those days they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky.
Mt 24,29 "But 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 the sky, and the powers of the
heavens will be shaken. 24,30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will
appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and
they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky with
power and great glory. 24,31 "And He will send forth His angels with a
great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four
winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Mt 24,29-31;
Here the Lord speaks of the end of this affliction, of the Great
Tribulation, and indicates that immediately thereafter he will come on the
clouds of the sky (Acts 1:9-11). So as we can understand from the statements in
Mt 24:21-22, it is a matter here of the coming of the Lord to rapture the
faithful in the Last Days. And this is a point on which many brethren, from a
very wide range of evangelical congregations all over the world (the big
churches rarely concern themselves with this theme), have a major comprehension
We can best recognize this in a query from a visitor to Immanuel.at going back to the year 2011, parts of which will be quoted here in order to make matters clearer.
According to the latest knowledge, the statement of the Lord up
here in Mt 24,9: "But immediately after the tribulation of those days"
means obviously not "after the great tribulation", but actually "after the
tribulation of those days", i.e. that time at the beginning of the great
(…) I read Dave Hunt’s book "The Occult
Invasion" some years ago. If I were to try to find the passage in his
book, I would probably never get around to even making a start with the
questions I want to ask you. I am very greedy for biblical commentaries like
yours, because it isn’t often that you get things so well explained and
substantiated. Perhaps actually the argument was from Roger Liebi and not
from Dave Hunt. At the time, you see, I was looking for indications as to
whether the signs and wonders movement of today is one of the things leading
us astray, or whether it emanates from Jesus Christ. To this end I consulted
many authors. Whoever it came from, this argument calmed my fears,
persuading me that I and my children would not have to worry about the Great
(…) At the time when I read Dave Hunt I was convinced by his argument about the Rapture coming before the Tribulation. Another argument too has stuck in my mind right up to the present day ‒ that if they are doing things like marrying and grinding and sleeping, these can hardly be times of affliction, it must be a time of peace when the Rapture takes place, otherwise they wouldn’t be going on with these normal activities. If it were a time when Christians were being persecuted, then the Christians would undoubtedly be in some kind of concentration camp already, they wouldn’t be sleeping in a bed or grinding alongside non-Christians… Then too the fact that he comes like a thief ‒ Dave Hunt thought this couldn’t be possible at a time when the Christians are desperately longing for the Lord’s arrival, in view of their affliction. But perhaps he comes like a thief only from the point of view of unbelievers?
(…) I’ve always been told ever since my conversion that the Lord Jesus could come back and rapture us any day. There wouldn’t be any conditions still needing to be fulfilled. This is also the doctrine taught by my Free Evangelical congregation.
From discourse 108: "Who or what still restrains the Antichrist?"
This visitor prefers to remain anonymous.
(See also Discourse 65: "Why
the Rapture is to be placed at the sixth seal, before the day of the wrath of God")
The questions of our visitor have been answered in Discourse
108. Here we just want to deal with that extract from it which is concerned with
the Rapture’s preceding the Great Tribulation specifically, the following
"(…) At the time when I read Dave Hunt I
was convinced by his argument about the Rapture coming before the Tribulation.
Another argument too has stuck in my mind right up to the present day ‒
that if they are doing things like marrying and grinding and sleeping, these can
hardly be times of affliction, it must be a time of peace when the Rapture takes
place, otherwise they wouldn’t be going on with these normal activities. If it
were a time when Christians were being persecuted, then the Christians would
undoubtedly be in some kind of concentration camp already, they wouldn’t be
sleeping in a bed or grinding alongside non-Christians…"
The visitor is here referring as does Dave Hunt to the passage in Lk 17,34-35:
There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left.
Lk 17,34 "I tell you, on that night there
will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 17,35
"There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken
and the other will be left. 17,37 And answering they *said to Him,
"Where, Lord?" And He said to them, "Where the body is, there
also the vultures will be gathered." Lk 17,34-37;
Dave Hunt’s basing his argument, however, on the supposition
"hat if they are doing things like marrying and grinding and sleeping, these
can hardly be times of affliction, it must be a time of peace" does actually
seem a trifle surprising. Does the author really think that people won’t be
either eating or sleeping in the time of the Great Tribulation? And as he refers
to concentration camps ‒ even in the Nazi concentration camps people ate
and slept, how could it be otherwise? And they did even get married after all! (The
marriage of Auschwitz / German)
But the basic error which Dave Hunt commits here is the error of all false interpretations: they take a verse out of context and use it as the basis for constructing a whole story. If Hunt had read Rev 7,14-15 he would not have made this error:
Rev 7,14 These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they
have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 7,15 For this reason, they are before the
throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread
His tabernacle over them.
When they come out of the Great Tribulation then they had been in the Great Tribulation and therefore had been raptured after the Great Tribulation. And if Dave Hunt had also read - and above all quoted! - the statements made by our Lord in Lk 17,26-30, just before this text (Lk 17,34-35) which he refers to, then his readers would not have any problems about understanding the matter.
It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building;
Lk 17,26 "And just as it happened in the days
of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 17,27 they were
eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in
marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and
destroyed them all. 17,28 "It was the same as happened in the days of
Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling,
they were planting, they were building; 17,29 but on the day that Lot went
out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.
17,30 "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
For here the Lord says that at this time of the Rapture it will be the same as it was in the time of Noah and in the time of Lot. And in both cases human beings had fallen away from God so far that God was compelled to annihilate them - in the time of Noah the whole of humanity but for eight persons, in the time of Lot all the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. And the very argument that Christians will be sharing a bed with unbelievers in fact proves that these are times where you are not in a position to choose your bedfellow ‒ as was the case, indeed, in the concentration camps of the past. Why do we suppose the Lord tells us, in Lk 21,12:
But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.
Lk 21,10 Then He continued by saying to them,
"Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 21,11 and
there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and
there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 21,12 "But before all
these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you,
delivering you to the synagogues(!) and prisons, bringing you before kings and
governors for My name’s sake. Lk 21,10-12; (See also Mt 10:17-18)
Are these then "times of peace" for Christian believers? Or
who are we suppose these persecuted people to be? Jews perhaps? Hardly! For Christ’s
name’s sake only Christians will be hated and persecuted. And then
the Lord also tells us: "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would
have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short."
These "elect" must be the congregation of the Last Days in the Great
Tribulation (Mt 24:22-31).
And the Lord tells them that when they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud (Acts 1:9-11), they should straighten up and lift up their heads, because their redemption is drawing near. This clearly must mean that up to this point they have been hanging their heads in fear and desperation as they wait for the coming of the Lord. So we can rest assured that these will not be "times of peace".
But when these things begin to take place, straighten up, because your redemption is drawing near
Lk 21,27 "Then they will see THE SON OF MAN
COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. 21,28 "But when these
things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your
redemption is drawing near." Lk 27,27-28;
And that is now the second fact emerging from this text and its
parallel passages: it is not just a matter here of the Great Tribulation, but
also of the Rapture of the Christian congregation of the Last Days after (!) the
Great Tribulation (Mt 24:30-31). But this leads to a further question,
which biblical commentators frequently fail to ask, and so do not answer it
either: why does God after the Flood and the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah
allow so to speak a third wave of destruction to come upon humanity in the form
of a Great Tribulation of this order (Dan 12:1; Mt 24:21)?
(See also Discourse 09: "The
Great Tribulation: an affliction of the faithful, or of the whole world?")
If we now consider the statements of the Lord in Lk 17,26-30
above, he speaks here of the fact that in the days of the revelation of the Son
of Man that is to say, the coming of the Lord for the Rapture of the faithful it
will be as it was in the days of Noah: "hey were eating, they were drinking,
they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah
entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all."
This situation not just before the Flood, but also in the Great Tribulation is something we have already commented on above. But what has not actually been sufficiently explained here is the reason why God at that time, in the Flood, annihilated the whole of humanity, short of eight persons. And here we would like now to look at a few biblical passages which may help us to clarify this question. First of all, the event of the Flood itself:
Thus God blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals .
Gen 7,19 The water prevailed more and more upon the
earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered.
7,20 The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered.
7,21 All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts
and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; 7,22
of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the
spirit of life, died. 7,23 Thus He blotted out every living thing that was
upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds
of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left,
together with those that were with him in the ark. Gen 7,19-23;
The question why God blotted out "every living thing that was
upon the face of the land" can be answered when we look at the following
The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.
Gen 6,1 Now it came about, when men began to
multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 6,2 that
the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took
wives for themselves, whomever they chose. 6,3 Then the LORD said, "My
Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless
his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." 6,4 The Nephilim were
on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in
to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty
men who were of old, men of renown. 6,5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness
of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his
heart was only evil continually. 6,6 The LORD was sorry that He had made man
on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
6,7 The LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." 6,8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. Gen 6. 1- 8;
The angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode.
Jude 1,5 Now I desire to remind you, though you
know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the
land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. 1,6 And
angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode,
He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,
1,7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the
same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh,
are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Jude
1. 5- 7;
So it was the "sons of God", the angels, who also stayed on
the earth before the Flood and begot children with the daughters of men the
giants on earth (the "sons of Anak", Num 13:33) and so indulged in
immorality with "strange flesh". But also the wickedness of the time, and
above all the godlessness of human beings, caused God to annihilate the human
race that was living then.
God brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter.
2Pet 2,2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 2,3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2,4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 2,5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 2,6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes,
having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;
2Pet 2, 2- 6;
And just as the Lord in the above passage (Lk 17,26-30) compares
both "he days of Noah" and "he days of Lot" with the coming situation of
the Great Tribulation, so here too Jude and Peter refer to these two events, and
prophesy that they are an example of the way things will again go in future (in
the Great Tribulation) for the godless of this world, "who in the same way as
these indulge in gross immorality and go after strange flesh".
Paul too in his letter to the Romans refers to ungodliness and immorality as the reasons for the wrath of God. First of all he condemns those who deny the existence of God, "because that which is known about God is evident within them" and nonetheless they are not thankful to God, but worship idols in human form made of wood and stone (Buddha, the Hindu "gods", the Catholic Mary, Isa 44:16-17, or the Catholic dead "saints", a cult of the dead, Isa 8:19-20 etc. etc.).
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
Rom 1,18 For the wrath of God is revealed from
heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth
in unrighteousness, 1,19 because that which is known about God is evident
within them; for God made it evident to them. 1,20 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. 1,21 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. 1,22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 1,23 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.
And then Paul tells us here below, in Rom 1,24 that this
ungodliness is the reason why God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts.
And if we need convincing that these statements then of Paul’s in Rom 1,29-31
are not just to be regarded as "old hat", we can look at a few current
Corruption: e.g. Berlin’s BER airport.
Fraud: e.g. Uli Hoeness (president of the
German football club "Bayern München") having admitted tax fraud to
the tune of 28 million euros, sausage manufacturer Ulrich Hoeness still has
assets to the value of at least four hundred million (!!) euros. Some
mathematically challenged FC Bayern fans can shed big tears, if they like, at
the prospect of this fraudster spending three and a half years behind bars.
Greed on all levels: e.g. bank managers’
Wanton prurience: e.g. the Carnival in Rio.
Homosexuality: e.g. the Live Ball in
The men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another.
Rom 1,24 Therefore God gave them over in the
lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored
among them. 1,25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie,
and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed
1,26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 1,27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
1,28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,
1,29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,
1,30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
1,31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
1,32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. Rom 1,24-32;
But of course Paul has not just made this up he is referring here to the Old Testament, and to the commandments of God relating to marriage and purity, where homosexuality comes right alongside sodomy (sexual intercourse with animals).
You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
Lev 18,22 ‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. 18,23 ‘Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion. 18,24 ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 18,25 ‘For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 18,26 ‘But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you 18,27 (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); 18,28 so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. 18,29
‘For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people.’
18,30 ‘Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not
practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so
as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.’" Lev
What Paul in the above passage (Rom 1,29-31) now lists among these "degrading passions", in addition to homosexuality, sounds like a description of the behavior of some of our contemporaries:
"Unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of
envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of
God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful…"
So that was how things were already before the Flood, and the
same kind of thing also applies naturally to the people in Sodom, as the Bible
tells us. Because there too, in the Jordan valley, wickedness and homosexuality
(also sodomy perhaps?) were so widespread, God decided to annihilate all the
cities in the valley of the Jordan. The only obstacle to this was Lot and his
family, who lived in the city and whom God wanted to spare because of his
connection with Abraham, Lot’s uncle.
Therefore God sent two angels to Lot in Sodom, with instructions to get him and his family his wife and two daughters out of the city and save them from the coming destruction. What the angels however had not anticipated was the absolute wantonness of these homosexuals. And here "wanton" - in German "geil" - is not to be understood as in today’s German teenage idiom of bashful self-disclosure meaning "good" or "cool", but rather in the original plain and down-to-earth sense of "sexually insatiable".
Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.
Gen 19,1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the
evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to
meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 19,2 And he said,
"Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and
spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your
way." They said however, "No, but we shall spend the night in the
square." 19,3 Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and
entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread,
and they ate. 19,4 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of
Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every
quarter; 19,5 and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the
men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations
with them." Gen 19, 1- 5;
The homosexuals in Sodom were so wanton that they even wanted to
rape these angels who were spending the night at Lot’s house. Lot, who was
aware that his visitors were angels, naturally wanted to prevent this, and in
his desperation even offered his two virgin daughters to the horny pack of gays
as a kind of "substitute".
Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you.
Gen 19,6 But Lot went out to them at the doorway,
and shut the door behind him, 19,7 and said, "Please, my brothers, do not
act wickedly. 19,8 "Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had
relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever
you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the
shelter of my roof." 19,9 But they said, "Stand aside."
Furthermore, they said, "This one came in as an alien, and already he is
acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them." So they
pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door. Gen 19, 6- 9;
But as these perverts were fixated on men, they were not prepared to agree to
the swap, and they even threatened to "know" Lot himself (in the archaic
biblical language, the term used for a man’s sleeping with a woman) if he did
not hand over the two men to them. The formulation of Gen 19,9 "they pressed
hard against Lot" makes it very plausible to suppose that they actually did
subject him to rape.
In the end the angels could only save themselves by striking the entire pack of gays "both young and old", as we are told in Gen 19,4 with blindness, so that none of them was able to find the way into Lot’s house. And on the following morning they took Lot and his family out of the city, and God rained brimstone and fire on the entire valley of the Jordan, so that all the inhabitants of the cities were destroyed.
Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.
Gen 19,24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and
Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, 19,25 and He
overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the
cities, and what grew on the ground. 19,26 But his wife, from behind him,
looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. 19,27 Now Abraham arose early in
the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the LORD; 19,28 and
he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the valley,
and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a
furnace. 19,29 Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the
valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the
overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived. Gen 19,24-29;
So we can see that in both cases in the Flood, as in the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah the wickedness and ungodliness of human beings was the reason why God gave them over to degrading passions, such as homosexuality, wantonness, greed of all kinds, envy, murder, fraud and so on.
Rom 1,24 Therefore God gave them over in
the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be
dishonored among them.
Rom 1,26 For this reason God gave them
over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function
for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the
natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men
with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due
penalty of their error.
Rom 1,28 And just as they did not see fit to
acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do
those things which are not proper,
And from all this we can conclude that in our own day, likewise,
the worldwide prevalence of all these modes of behavior, along with other
prophecies of the Last Days, is a quite concrete sign for determining where we
are in the Bible, based on the state our society has reached.
Jacob Damkani the well known Messianic Jew and preacher of
of Salvation to Israel takes a similar view in his Letter of Instruction
In Genesis 19:11 we see an amazing verse. This has nothing
to do with the covenant, but I want to bring it to you. This verse gives us
a picture about what type of people we are dealing with in this world. It
was like that at that time of Sodom and Gomorra but it is the same even now,
at this time of history. Nothing has changed. The heart of man has remained
the same. This is an astonishing verse: "hen they struck the men who were
at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could
not find the door."
After they had been so struck with blindness, you think they would search themselves and realize with whom they had come in touch with: Almighty God. But no, they keep looking for the door. Blind, and keep looking for the door. When man is being consumed with sin, he has no eyes to see, no heart to think, no mind to use. It is unbelievable. These guys have been struck to blindness and rather than walking away shamefully, with really understanding that they have something to deal with, they keep looking and trying to find the door. What does that tell us? That people are so consumed with sin that you can really share the gospel with them day and night and they just will not listen. They just will be careless.
From discourse 1111: "God’s covenants by Jacob Damkani/Sodom."
(See also Discourse 1114; "The
teaching of the Messianic Jews - the Analysis.")
But in the light of these biblical events we can also get a
glimpse of the not too distant future. Although acts of rape by homosexuals,
such as was standard practice in Sodom, are unthinkable in our modern times, a
similar situation could occur under certain circumstances. The homosexual
movement is becoming bigger all the time worldwide, and it will not be long
before it actually forms itself into a political movement. And with so many
adherents, it would be quite possible for this political party to constitute a
majority at least at local municipal level.
And just as men who wanted to settle in Sodom (see the angels) evidently had to undergo an "acceptance test", so the homosexual party in parliament, with its democratically elected majority, might pass a law which would oblige all citizens on pain of losing the right of residence in the city to testify to their solidarity, so that in order to be accepted by gay city councils they would be forced to attend a kind of "Live Ball party" in order to demonstrate their homosexual allegiance.
The new tolerance.
For some time now people have been preaching - all
over the world and at all levels - about the
new tolerance. In itself a laudable objective, in recent years
this attitude of mind has nonetheless turned around into its
opposite. Instead of integrating unfairly marginalized persons and
attitudes in society, various groups have taken advantage of this
favorable opportunity in order to raise their own views - which in
the past were quite rightly rejected - into a standard.
Alongside this biblical "sign of the times" here above which gives us
some indication of the position our society has arrived at such an
interpretation has an even more interesting aspect for biblical commentators:
namely the fact that the formulation telling us that "God has given them over"
(Rom 1:28-29) does, after all, imply as an inverse corollary that up to this
point God has in some fashion restrained people’s wickedness, their passions
and their degeneracy.
This question was already treated by a visitor to this site in Discourse 108, quoted earlier, but not in association with the consequences which are here realized for the very first time. In Discourse 108 Paul’s statement on this subject from 2The 2,1-12 was quoted, and we may reproduce the text below in the interest of better understanding.
The mystery of lawlessness will not be revealed until he who now restrains is taken out of the way.
2The 2,1 Now we request you, brethren, with
regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,
2,2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by
a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of
the Lord has come. 2,3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not
come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed,
the son of destruction, 2,4 who opposes and exalts himself above every
so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of
God, displaying himself as being God. 2,5 Do you not remember that while I
was still with you, I was telling you these things? 2,6 And you know what
restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.
2,7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 2,8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 2,9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 2,10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 2,11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 2,12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 2The 2, 1-12;
On the one hand Paul is here responding to the question of the
Thessalonians about the day of "he coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our
gathering together to Him" in other words, the Second Coming and the Rapture.
And he assures them that this day will only come when the man of lawlessness,
the son of destruction i.e. the Antichrist is revealed and comes to power.
And then, in 2The 2,5, Paul speaks somewhat cryptically of the fact that he had apparently said something to the Thessalonians on his last visit, which he asks them to remember. What that actually was, we unfortunately do not know. We can only infer from the statement in the following sentence (verse 6), "And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed", that he evidently communicated to them a revelation which was concerned with the fact that something "restrains" him (the Antichrist) at present, so that he will be revealed "in his time".
But in the next verse, 2The 2,7, we are then given another point of reference: "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way." So there is somebody here too who is doing the restraining. But who is this "what" the "what restrains him now" of 2The 2,6? Unless we willfully try to separate these two statements of Paul’s in 2The 2,6-7, it seems pretty plain that he is not speaking here of two different subjects, as many commentators suppose. In both cases, quite simply, one and the same person is meant namely the Holy Spirit.
Here the "what" stands for the activity (even with the Greek neuter gender! cf. Phil 2,13) of the Holy Spirit in human beings this is what restrains, both in the faithful and also in unbelievers, so as to hold back in the latter the ripening of the seed of evil and prevent the appearance of the Antichrist, with the Great Tribulation, before the time appointed by God.
And on the other hand "he who now restrains" indicates the person of the Holy Spirit himself, functioning through his activity as the restrainer. If we just take another look at Paul’s statement below, this interpretation along with all the logical connections seems a whole lot more accurate.
The mystery of lawlessness will only be revealed if he
who now restrains is taken out of the way.
2The 2,5 Do you not remember that while I was
still with you, I was telling you these things? 2,6 And you know what
restrains him now (the work of the Holy Spirit in
man/FH), so that in his time he will be revealed. 2,7 For the mystery
of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains (the
Holy Spirit/FH) will do so until he is taken out of the way. 2,8
Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath
of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 2,9 that
is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power
and signs and false wonders. 2The 2, 5- 9;
The seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent
out into all the earth.
Rev 5,6 And I saw between the throne (with the four
living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven
horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all
the earth. Rev 5, 6;
These seven eyes of the LORD range to and fro throughout
Zech 4,10 "For who has despised the day of
small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line
in the hand of Zerubbabel – these are the eyes of the LORD which range to
and fro throughout the earth." Zech 4,10;
So if we compare these statements of Paul’s in Rom 1,24.26.28
and in 2The 2,5.7 above with the pattern of behavior in our human society of
today, we can most definitely draw the conclusion that God has withdrawn him "who
restrains" i.e. the Holy Spirit from godless humanity, so that they can give
free rein to the lusts of their hearts, their degrading passions and their
But as we can infer from the two other judgments of God on humanity, Noah too was obliged to watch the goings on of his godless fellow human beings for years and only then was God’s wrath so great that he decided to annihilate humanity altogether. And when he told Noah, as the one righteous person, to make the ark, probably a few more years would have gone by until Noah and his sons had cut and shaped enough wood to build it.
Lot likewise, as the one righteous person, was obliged to observe the perverse goings on in Sodom on a daily basis, and "felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds". Only when the homosexuals of Sodom went too far, by trying actually to rape angels, did God bring the judgment upon them.
The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.
2Pet 2,7 and if God rescued righteous Lot,
oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 2,8 (for by what he saw
and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul
tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 2,9 then the Lord knows
how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under
punishment for the day of judgment, 2,10 and especially those who
indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring,
self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties. 2Pet 2,
So it would be stupid to suppose though some preachers proclaim
it that the Second Coming of the Lord and the Rapture could happen any day.
Quite to the contrary, here again the statements of the Bible confirm that the
Christian faithful will first have to go through this Great Tribulation, and
only after that can they look forward to being saved on the Second Coming of the
(See also Discourse 71: "Is
the next major event of world history for the faithful the Rapture?")
So that is how it looks in the world today, in the light of a
detailed scrutiny based on the Word of God. But in many Christian congregations,
people still do not get it. On the one hand, of course, people are so caught up
with the world in their day to day living, and on the other, many congregations
have degenerated into clubs where you come together to "share" with one
another and swap news, not so much to study what is written in the Bible.
Homosexual marriage finds support, and in some places homosexuals who have "partners" are even appointed as leaders of the congregation. Tax dodgers and adulterers sit on the council of elders, and it is their influence which determines how the congregation develops. And if for once in a way a preacher shows up who addresses the brethren in their conscience, and confronts them just once in the week with the more important statements of the Bible, he won’t be asked to preach again. These people are paid, after all and you don’t want to pay good money just to be landed with problems.
But even if somebody from the ranks of the brethren preaches a sermon and encourages people not so much to read the Bible with quantitative goals ("Who has read the most books of the Bible by the end of the year?") but rather to engage with topics, on the basis of all books of the Bible, and then meet regularly in small groups to discuss these themes, and finally bring forward their qualitative conclusions in the assembly of the congregation as a whole this approach too is frequently boycotted because it is too laborious and not sufficiently entertaining.
So they prefer to invite well known preachers and evangelists who are going to come up with some drivel about the infinite and unconditional love of God, and then we are all happy and - as it seems - on the safe side, and can go home and look forward to the next week’s work.
The infinite and unconditional love of God.
If the love of God were to be infinite and
unconditional, this God would have to forgive all human beings of
all ages (infinite time!!) all their sins, without any conversion or
repentance on their part (unconditionally!!). There would then no
longer be any need of a redeeming sacrifice and Jesus Christ would
not have had to die on the cross.
Even in evangelization campaigns, preachers use this kind of
dictum to attract people who would not in their wildest dreams ever be genuinely
contrite or do penance, just in order to increase the numbers of the
congregation. Nobody ever thinks to make it clear to these people that
Christianity has not so much to do with fun and amusement, but much more with
intelligence and discipline.
These preachers of a gospel of affluence avoid anything which could frighten people off. They have clearly taken the Catholic Pope Francis as a model, who recently, when visiting the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, tucked the cross on a chain which he wears on his chest into his belly band beneath, because it would have been offensive to Jews if visible.
(See also Discourse 1152: "Did
Pope Francis conceal the cross from chief rabbis?")
But even in the foreign missions we often find young Christians
some of them with families (!) being sent to countries like Turkey, and financed
by their missionary organizations. Here they "belabor" the Turkish Muslims
with the gospel until such time as the latter finish them off with 160 stab
wounds, and the wife and three children are left all alone in a foreign Islamic
(See also Discourse 753; "Are
Christians obliged to love their enemies? - Part 3: The Christian foreign mission")
As we can see from Mt 10,14-15 below, our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to act quite differently. But that is something that brethren who get excited about foreign missions are likely to sweep under the carpet "What kind of a mission would it be, if you just leave it up to the other person?" And getting information from the Bible in order to prepare themselves for the tasks of their mission abroad or even for an evangelization campaign is something these young people are regrettably unlikely to do.
Whoever does not receive you, nor hear your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.
Mt 10,8 "Heal the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
10,9 "Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10,10
or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the
worker is worthy of his support. 10,11 "And whatever city or village you
enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave
that city. 10,12 "As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 10,13
"If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not
worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 10,14 "Whoever does not
receive you, nor hear your words, as you go out of that house or that city,
shake the dust off your feet. 10,15 "Truly I say to you, it will be
more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than
for that city. Mt 10. 8-15;
To say it in the words of the Lord in the above passage people
don’t first investigate to find out who is actually interested or is prepared
to convert and do penance. Instead they set up their "stall" and offer the
Christian faith wholesale as a cheap opportunity, guaranteeing people the
complete salvation package entirely free of charge. For everybody, that is, who
just happens to come along, and is then surprised to see that this method serves
to draw in the biggest liars and fraudsters, for whom repentance and contrition
are quite out of the question, while people who decline this sort of "conversion"
are simply irritated.
This is also the reason why in many congregations the quotas the numbers of members, that is continue to rise, while the total number of genuinely converted, correctly believing brethren is actually in decline. After a few vain attempts to point out the facts of the situation to the preachers and leaders of the congregation, they get frustrated and will soon be thinking of leaving.
What is needed, in connection with evangelization, is to have regard to the above injunction of our Lord’s:
"Whoever does not receive you, nor hear your
words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet."
The well known evangelist and author Wilhelm Busch (sadly
no longer with us) once put it very well in one of his excellent sermons:
(…) The second group consists of those who say "I just
can’t believe!", but in reality, if they were completely honest, they
would have to admit that what they really mean is "I just don’t want to
believe!" This is because if they were to come to believe they would have
to change their whole lives. And they wouldn’t like that. They know that
everything is wrong with their lives. If they were children of God, they
would have to come into the light. But no, they don’t want that. Besides,
it might make them look silly in the eyes of their colleagues. And what
would their nearest and dearest say, if they suddenly became Christians? No,
definitely not! So if you come across people who say "I just can’t
believe", take a closer look, and see if they shouldn’t really have said
"I just don’t want to believe!"
There is a devastating story in the Bible. Here is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus, sitting on the Mount of Olives. In the valley below him is the city of Jerusalem in glorious sunshine. Over there the Mount of the Temple stands, with the glorious Temple built on it, of which even the heathen said that it was an edifice that really had to be counted among the wonders of the world. All this is outspread below him. But all of a sudden, the disciples see to their horror that tears are running down his cheeks. They turn to him in surprise and puzzlement. And then these words break from the Lord Jesus: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling. Now you are confronted with the judgment of God. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!" (a free quotation from Mt 23,37-38). This is one of the most devastating sayings in the Bible: "But you were unwilling". The people of Jerusalem also doubtless said, "We just cannot believe" - but actually they did not want to.
Look - if you don’t want to believe, you really don’t have to! Can I tell you something? In the church there are still all kinds of compulsions enforced. In the Kingdom of God, there is only an absolute freedom of the will. If you want to live without God, you can do it! God offers himself to us. But we can refuse him. Do you want to live without God? You may. Do you want to live without having made your peace with God? You may. Do you want to live without prayer? You may. Do you want to live without the Bible? You may. Do you want to transgress God’s commandments? You may. Do you want to profane the Lord’s Day, be sexually promiscuous, drink, lie and steal? You may. Anyone who does not want this Savior whom God has sent to save sinners is at liberty to turn him down. Anyone who wants to go to hell can do just that.
With God there are no compulsions. But please be clear on one point - you will have to live with the consequences. In Jesus God offers you peace, and the forgiveness of your sins. You can say, "I don’t need it! And I don’t want it either!" And you may live accordingly. But then you are not to suppose that in the last five minutes of your life, when you are on the point of death, you will still be able to grasp what God has been offering to you for the length of a whole lifetime. You are free to reject God’s offer of peace in Christ Jesus, but then you must live for all eternity without having made your peace with God. And that is hell.
Hell is the place where you have finally and truly succeeded in getting rid of God. You are no longer invited. There is nothing calling you any longer. Perhaps you may want to pray, but you can’t do it any more. Perhaps you may want to call on the name of Jesus, but you can’t remember it any longer. You don’t need to accept this message I have for you. You can forget about converting to belief in Jesus, if that is what you want. But be clear about what you are doing, because you are choosing hell - and you have absolute freedom to do so!
"But you were unwilling!" Jesus tells the people of Jerusalem. He did not compel them in any way. But what they chose was horrible!
Wilhelm Busch (1897-1966) was a Pastor and youth worker in
Essen, an evangelist, preacher, writer and author.
(This extract and the photo are taken from the book "Jesus unser Schicksal" ["Jesus our Destiny"], by W. Busch, Schriftenmissions-Verlag Gladbeck/Westfalen [Scriptural Mission Publications, Gladbeck/Westphalia], ISBN 3-7958-0364-0)
(See also Discourse 55; "Why
does God permit suffering?")
To state clearly once more what this blessed man of God says in
the sermon quoted above:
"With God there are no compulsions. In the
Kingdom of God, there is only an absolute freedom of the will."
Consequently too all questions why God "allows" all these
dreadful things, like war, murder, crime, fraud, corruption etc., are being
delivered to the wrong address. It is not God who allows all these things to
happen, it is human beings who bring it all about with the complete freedom of
will and action that God has granted them!
God only ever steps in when humanity is at risk of annihilating itself. So far the Holy Spirit has always held back the worst things from happening, e.g.:
Downfall of the Third Reich: according to the
estimates of international experts today, if the Nazis had been in power for
just two or three years more, the armaments they were in the process of
developing (the atom bomb, V1 and V2 rockets, stealth airplanes) would have
enabled them not only to win the war in Europe, they would also have been a
menace to the whole world.
Cuba crisis: If John F. Kennedy, not regarded
up to that point as particularly resolute, had not withstood the urgent appeals
of his generals to attack the Russians, and if Khrushchev who for his part was
known to be extremely impulsive had not on this occasion shown a whole lot of
restraint, the world would have slid into its first atomic war.
Collapse of the Soviet Union: For seventy
years the leaders of the Soviet Union were obsessed with the dream of a
Communist world empire. Only Gorbachev brought about a turning point, so that
both the dream and the Soviet Union itself collapsed.
And there have been many other "coincidences" from ancient
through to modern times which we could point to in this connection. In this way
God wants to give another chance to those human beings who come to see the
light, and recognize that humanity is itself responsible for its actions and
omissions. But unfortunately, even at present, there are still very few persons
of understanding who are capable, in the light of all these events in the world,
of grasping the situation and who decide to put their trust in this
The eternal existence of every human being.
Every individual human being who leaves the amniotic sac
of his or her mother alive in being physically born – who is "born of
water" (amniotic fluid), that is to say (Jn 3:5) – receives a human
spirit (1Cor 2:11) from God (Jn 4:24) with eternal existence (Mt 25:46).
In the first, temporal and earthly part of their existence – in their
life, human beings have the possibility of deciding, in complete freedom,
without any compulsion and with the help of the spirit given them by God (Gen 2:7; 6:3),
whether or not they will give this God, the creator of all life, their
complete trust and entire love.
God will give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Rom 8,11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised
Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead
will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in
you.. Rom 8,11;
In the Resurrection (Rom 6:4-5),
from the spirit" (Mt 19:28; 1Pet 3:18; Jn 3:7), human beings are
again given a body (Mt 22:30; Jn 3:8; Rom 8:10-11), similar to that of
the Son of God after his resurrection (Jn 20:26-27).
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
1Cor 15,42 So also is the resurrection
of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable
body; 15,43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it
is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 15,44 it is sown a natural
body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is
also a spiritual body. 15,45 So also it is written, "The first MAN,
Adam, became a living soul." (Gen 2,7) The last Adam became a
life‒giving spirit. 15,46 However, the spiritual is not first,
but the natural; then the spiritual. 15,46 However, the spiritual is not first,
but the natural; then the spiritual. 15,47 The first man is from the earth,
earthy; the second man is from heaven. 15,48 As is the earthy, so also are
those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
15,49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image
of the heavenly. 1Cor 15,42-49;
With this spiritual body the human being
will then stand at the Last Judgment
before the Son of God, who has been given the task by God (Jn 5:22, 26-27)
of judging every human being on the basis of their earthly deeds and their
decision for or against God while still alive (Rom 2:16).
The Son of God said:
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know
Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." Jn 14,15-17;
In the light of this, the well known evangelist and preacher Wilhelm
Busch said to his hearers, "You don’t need to accept the message I am giving
you. You can choose not to convert to Jesus. But just be aware that this means you
are choosing hell! You have complete freedom – it’s your choice!" (People who are unable to believe)
(See also Discourse 22: "Is
there such a thing as the immortality of the soul?")
For all those who would like to have it short and
The Biblical Trinity
There is just the one and only God in his three
authorities: God the Father as the legislative authority, comparable
with the legislature in human society; the Holy Spirit as the
authority of execution, similar to the political executive arm; and
the Son of God as the judicial authority, like the court of justice.
God has given human beings the law and the commandments (Ex 24:12),
the Holy Spirit registers the extent to which people observe them,
but only intervenes when human actions might otherwise contravene
God’s plan (2Thess 2:7), and the Son of God will judge every
single human being (Jn 5:22) at the Last
God is spirit, and those who worship
Him must worship in spirit and truth. (Jn 4,24)
So the biblical Trinity is not the
activity of one God in three persons, but conversely, the immanence of three divine, spiritual
entities ("persons") – of different identity and in hierarchic
relation – in one spirit,
which is God.
And it is this same integrative property of God, difficult
as it is for us human beings to understand, which is conveyed – leaving
any kind of human grammar wholly aside – in the formulation "He
who created the earth was – the Gods" (Bereshit bara Elohim).
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?
Jn 14,10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative,
but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 14,11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Jn 14,10-11;
The Biblical Trinity and some other specifics of the biblical Christian faith
Unlike all other religions in the world, biblical Christianity is not
a religion. It is a relation. A relationship with – or
connection to – God, as our Father in Heaven. That is why our Lord
Jesus Christ told us:
Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
Mt 23,9 9 "Do not call anyone on earth your
father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Mt 23,9;
So, in biblical Christianity, we do not call anyone on earth
our Father – the one and only Almighty God in heaven is our Father. In fact
God created not only us but all human beings, with Adam and Eve, our archaic parents, and is
therefore the father of us all. But very few people want to know anything
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
Jn 4,23 "But an hour is coming, and now
is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth;
for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 4,24 "God is
spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
And as Paul also confirms to us in his first letter to the
Corinthians, God’s Spirit dwells in us if we are God’s children.
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
1Cor 3,16 Do you not know that you
are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
3,17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the
temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. 1Cor 3,16-17;
So this is a very similar connection to the one the Son of God had with the Father during his mission on earth:
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?
Jn 14,10 Do you not believe that I am in the
Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to
you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding
in Me does His works. 14,11 Believe Me that I
am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of
the works themselves. Jn 14,10-11;
Finally, the Lord Jesus himself also tells us that the one
who loves him will be recognized by the fact that he will keep the word of
his Lord. And therefore the Father will love him, and both Father and Son
will come and make their abode with him (in his spirit).
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
Jn 14,22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him,
"Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to
us and not to the world?" 14,23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If
anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We
will come to him and make Our abode with him. 14,24 "He who does not
love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine,
but the Father’s who sent Me. 14,25 "These things I have spoken to you
while abiding with you. 14,26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the
Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to
your remembrance all that I said to you. Jn 14,22-26;
So, let us summarize: Paul tells us above, in 1Cor 3,16,
that the Holy Spirit dwells in us if we are children of God. The Lord Jesus
tells us above, in Jn 14,23, that the Father and the Son will come to us and
abide with us if we love the Son.
Thus we have united Father, Son and Holy
Spirit in our spirit!
And now Paul writes to us above, in 1Cor 3,16, not only that
the Holy Spirit dwells in the children of God, he also says that we are the
temple of God. And in the same way as God once dwelt with the Israelites, in
the Holy of Holies of the temple in Jerusalem,
now God dwells again in a temple.
However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands;
Acts 7,48 "However, the Most High does not
dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says (Isa 66,1-2):
7,49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is the footstool of my feet; what
kind of house will you build for me?’ says the Lord; – Or what place
is there for my repose? 7,50 Was it not my hand which made all these
things?’ Acts 7,48-50;
In the biblical Christian faith, therefore, there is no rite, no liturgy, no
"masses", no priests, bishops, cardinals, popes or anything else like that.
Biblical Christian believers themselves are God’s temple and in their spirit
have immediate and direct connection with their heavenly Father.
For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
2Cor 6,14 Do not be bound together
with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness,
or what fellowship has light with darkness? 6,15 Or what harmony has
Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
6,16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
And it is also this spirit of the children of God who will
live after the resurrection as a spiritual being in the eternal dimension
with our Father in heaven, after he has walked the path that our Lord Jesus
Christ has already gone before us as the first fruits (1Cor 15:20-28).
But you, when you pray, go into your inner room and pray to your Father who is in secret.
Mt 6,5 "When you pray, you are not to be
like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and
on the street corners (or on the "Wailing Wall"! / FH) so that they
may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
6,6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door
and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees
what is done in secret will reward you. 6,7 "And when you are praying, do
not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that
they will be heard for their many words. 6,8 "So do not be like them;
for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Mt 6,5-8;
But now finally to answer the question of the commentator quoted at the start of this discourse:
(…) and then the text (Mt 24:6-8) goes on to say
"and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes", I ask myself
similarly to your having asked yourself why there cannot be "nations against
kingdoms" or "kingdoms against nations" why famines and earthquakes,
specifically, should be associated with these events of war. Though one could
still see the famines as the consequence of the many wars and acts of
destruction in these countries, it seems exceedingly doubtful whether such
things would be likely to trigger earthquakes as well.
Here I think that these statements of the Lord’s likewise need
to be analyzed more closely. There is probably no question that a causative
connection is meant, but on the other hand a purely causal dependency with
famines and earthquakes as the consequences of war also seems to me inadequate
as an explanation.
If we think of the situation in Sodom at that time which we quoted earlier, the homosexuality of the inhabitants of these cities in the Jordan valley was not, after all, the cause of the rain of fire and brimstone (Lk 17:28-29). This may have been the trigger, but it was not the cause. The cause was the godlessness of human beings and their refusing to observe the commandments of God.
Now here it might be objected of course, with good reason, that the Bible was not around in the time of Lot and still less in the time of Noah so how were people at the time supposed to know what the commandments of God were? But that is again short-sighted. You don’t need the Bible in order to recognize the fundamental commandments of God for human societies and for the successful propagation of humanity.
God created fertilization between male and female creatures so that they should "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:22). No act of sex between two male or two female beings has ever resulted in the birth of progeny. So it could not be more obvious here what the will of God is. But although human beings "know the ordinance of God" (Rom 1:32), they acted in their godlessness in accordance with their own will, their own wishes and lusts in the past as they do now.
And precisely that is the true cause then as now: the godlessness of human beings. They do not believe in a God who holds the destiny of this planet in his hands. They claim that there is no God. In cases where intelligent planning cannot be denied, they tell a pack of lies about "chance and greatly extended time periods", and so suppose that they have no need of God because they already have everything under control.
And because God grants human beings free will on all levels, he responds to this wish of human beings as well: he withdraws, step by step and for a period, from his creation. Where hitherto God with his Holy Spirit has "restrained" everything (2Thes 2:7) and kept it within bounds, such as:
o the wickedness of humanity (with wars,
murders, crimes, fraud, corruption etc.),
o the unpredictability of the environment (with
plagues, epidemics, pandemics, swarms of pests etc.) and of the weather (with
hot periods and wildfires, heavy rain and flooding, destructive hurricanes,
climatic catastrophes and all the consequences for the infertility of the fields
and resulting famines), as well as
o the activities of our planet itself (with
earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions),
now all these things quite in response to the wishes of humanity are left to the "keeping" of the godless. The catastrophes that result from this (Rev 6:8), then, are caused by human beings, not yet by the judgments of God with billions of deaths (Rev 9:15). It is the "beginning of the birth pangs" as the Lord says in Mt 24,8 and not yet the "birth" itself this is only due to happen later!
But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
Mt 24,6 "You will be hearing of wars and
rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take
place, but that is not yet the end. 24,7 "For nation will rise against
nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines
and earthquakes. 24,8 "But all these things are merely the beginning
of birth pangs. Mt 24. 6- 8;
Lk 21,9 "When you hear of wars and tumults,
do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end
does not follow immediately." 21,10 Then He continued by saying to them,
"Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 21,11 and
there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and
there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. Lk 21, 9-11;
While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will
come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child.
1The 5,1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you
have no need of anything to be written to you. 5,2 For you yourselves know full well that
the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 5,3 While they
are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly
like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 5,4 But you, brethren, are not in
darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 1The 5, 1- 4;
And to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that
men would slay one another.
Rev 6,4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it,
it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great
sword was given to him. Rev 6,4;
Isa 26,9 At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit
within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments The
inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Isa 26,9;
(See also Chapter 03: "The
And if we now look at this prophecy by the Lord in Mt 24,7,
"For nation will rise against nation, and
kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and
we can recognize a quite different, much more serious and
fundamental implication than just this matter of wars, famines and earthquakes.
God has left this world for a time to human beings, so that they may recognize
just how evil, helpless and incapable they are without God.
The biblical fact that homosexuality will be a trigger of the Great Tribulation is a new realization also for me, even after nearly 50 years of studying the Bible. After all, you don’t spend every day focusing on the perversity of the godless.
It was the same with the realization that "going after strange flesh" (Jude 1:7) is such an abomination to God (Lev 18:22), deserves to be "cut off from among the people" (Lev 18:29) and was actually the cause both of the Flood and of God’s annihilating the people of Sodom (quoted earlier).
And yet the apostles did prophesy this kind of thing to us in relation to the Last Days:
That they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.
Jude 1,17 But you, beloved, ought to remember
the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1,18 that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be
mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." 1,19 These are the
ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. 1,20 But you,
beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy
Spirit, 1,21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy
of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 1,22 And have mercy on some, who are
doubting; 1,23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have
mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
As we are told in Jude 1,23 above, the correctly believing
Christian should "hate even the garment polluted by the flesh" the very
clothing of a homosexual. But in some Christian congregations, they don’t even
have anything against the person of homosexuals themselves. On the contrary,
such people find a place in the congregation as leaders, elders or preachers.
It is also interesting to see that there are heterosexual persons in our society whom one would never dream of reproaching for the slightest sexual affinity with the same sex but who, as a result of the "mass dumbing down by the media" (Peter Scholl-Latour), are uncritical enough to let themselves be influenced to such a degree that they see homosexuality as something that is "perfectly normal".
At some point, though, the question is going to be asked: "If homosexuals are normal, then, doesn’t it follow that heterosexuals, who after all (in the truest sense of the word!) are the exact opposite in sexual terms, must be abnormal?" One wonders whether gays and lesbians will then be willing to tolerate this kind of "abnormal" in their society?
"In the way of the world, people couldn’t give a damn if some men love men or some women love women."
With the short presentation of the Second Coming of the Lord and the
Rapture in discourse 122, we can at least see the sequential arrangement of these two individual events.
But we are still lacking (and this has likewise been the case in previous interpretations
along these lines) any concrete allocation of these events to our own real temporal
dimension. We know that all this will happen in the future. But in what future? In a
thousand years, in ten thousand years, in a century or in a decade?
Hitherto in biblical exposition it has not been possible to find a halfway concrete – by which we mean realistic – interpretation which would be subject to scrutiny (especially and above all in the light of the Bible). Those "biblical researchers" had a quick way of putting the kibosh on such attempts, by quoting Matthew’s "But of that day and hour no one knows" (Mt 24,36).
Now, however, it has proved possible – here at Immanuel.at – to anchor
this kind of approach in Scripture and as a result to develop an interpretation that
accords with reality. In the following table Peter’s statement that "with the Lord one day
is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day" is taken as the basis, and
combined with the biblical count of years (still included to the present day in the Jewish
calendar). This is then supplemented by the biblical circumstance that the Millennium, the
thousand years Kingdom of Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is "that rest" (Heb 4,3-6) and
the Sabbath of God (Israel will dwell in security, Jer 23,6; 33,16; Isa 38,14; Micah 5,3;
Zach 14,11), they will no longer learn war ( Isa 2,4; Micah 4,3). And finally we are also
faced with the consideration that the judgments of seals, trumpets and bowls in Revelation
are likewise based on this "weekly scheme" of a unit of 6+1 "days"..
(See also Table 14: "he Great Tribulation – classified by events.")
So if the last thousand years of this world are the "Sabbath of God" and a
thousand years with the Lord are like one day, then the six thousand years before this
(according to the biblical / Jewish count of years) correspond to the six days of the
week. And so it becomes possible to present the time of world history from a biblical
point of view in a frame of seven thousand years, and to arrange relevant events of a
worldly and biblical nature in a "real time" perspective.
day of the week
THE MILLENNIAL WEEK
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 2Pet 3,8; (Ps 90:4)
day of the week
Creation of Adam and Eve
Death of Adam
Birth of Noah
Dispersion (confusion of languages in Babel)
Birth of Abram
Death of Noah
Death of Abraham
Birth of Moses
Exodus (Ex 12:1-20)
Death of Moses
Destruction of the Solomonic Temple
Jerusalem is being rebuilt (Dan 9:25)
Birth of Jesus Christ
Death of Jesus Christ
Destruction of the Herodian Temple
Bar Kokhba Revolt - Israel in the Diaspora
End of the Western Roman Empire
Start of the Crusades
Discovery of America
The Great Tribulation (Rev 6:1 – Rev 20:6)
Start of the Millennium
They shall not enter My rest.
The end of the world
The Resurrection / The Last Judgment
(See also Table 20: "World history: A week of millennial days.")
(See also Table 01: "Chronological table from Adam to Jacob.")
In Israel, at the annual Gay Pride parade through Tel Aviv,
ten thousand people demanded equal rights for sexual minorities. Accompanied
by music and rainbow flags, the march passed peacefully through the streets
of the city.
Around 30,000 tourists had specially traveled here to attend the parade, which has been going since 1998 and is thought to be one of the biggest of its kind in the world. "We still want to be able to raise families, get married and basically just be like the rest of the world, with the same rights," said 25 year old Maor Rozdoba from Tel Aviv. The city council signaled its solidarity by lighting up the town hall at night in all the colors of the rainbow, and painting some sidewalks in bright polychromatic tones.
The call for "equal rights for sexual minorities" also
includes child abusers, sodomites, sadists and masochists. They are all -
thank God - still minorities. And now we are being told they should be given
The assertion "We still want to be able to raise families" completely ignores the purpose of the family. The family serves for the propagation of the human race - in the truest sense of the word, it is a necessity of life for humanity and it is barred to couples of the same sex in the very nature of the case. The "family (…) with equal rights" which the gay brigade dreams of is an ongoing homosexual sex party, with the full financial support of the tax payer.
Ten thousands at the Gay Pride parade in Istanbul / Krone.at 23.06.2014
You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion. Lev 18:22-23;
Even knowing that there are radicals in all movements, doesn’t
lessen the startling admission recently by lesbian journalist Masha Gessen.
On a radio show she actually admits that homosexual activists are lying
about their radical political agenda. She says that they don’t want to
access the institution of marriage; they want to radically redefine and
eventually eliminate it.
Jewish journalist and lesbian activist Masha Gessen
Here is what she recently said on a radio interview:
"It’s a no-brainer that (homosexual
activists) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s
a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. …(F)ighting
for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with
marriage when we get there - because we lie that the institution of
marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie. The institution of
marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t
think it should exist. And I don’t like taking part in creating fictions
about my life. That’s sort of not what I had in mind when I came out
thirty years ago. I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and
I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I met my new
partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is
my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in
Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five
parents break down into two groups of three… And really, I would like to
live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t
think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage."
For quite some time, the defenders of natural marriage have
attempted to point out that the true agenda behind the homosexual demands
organizations is not marriage equality; it is the total unraveling of
marriage and uprooting traditional values from society. (This will
ultimately include efforts to silence and punish some churches that openly
adhere to their religious teachings about marriage and sexual morality.)
While few have been as vocal as this lesbian activist was in this interview, we do have numerical examples proving her point. When given the opportunity to marry, after laws have been struck down relatively small percentages of homosexuals actually bother to marry compared to their heterosexual counterparts. This raises question about the true need to unravel marriage for the "fair" extension its benefits. Only 12 percent of homosexuals in the Netherlands marry compared to 86 percent of their heterosexual peers. Less than 20 percent of same-sex couples already living together in California married when given the chance in 2008. In contrast, 91 percent of heterosexual couples in California who are living together are married.
Clearly this is about cultural change and tearing down the traditional family ethic, since it seems that most homosexuals living together neither need nor desire to marry, though they do desire to radically change marriage.
Gays and lesbians are free to live as they choose, and we live in a society which roundly applauds them doing so like never before in our history, but they do not have the right to rewrite marriage for all of society.
In order to make sense of the statement of this Lesbian
journalist - "So the five parents break down into two groups of three" -
we may have to embark on some painstaking analysis, but in fact she is correct.
The child to whom her partner has given birth has been fathered by her brother,
and in her and the partner has two mothers. And likewise her daughter and her
adopted son have two mothers - herself and her partner - as well as a father
in the "man who lives in Russia".
Now it is altogether understandable that she should observe, "And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality." Every tax fraudster would be equally happy to live in a legal system that made tax fraud the norm rather than the exception.
But this of course makes it glaringly apparent that it is not the legal system that is at issue - it is simply the fact that some people just do not want to abide by the principles agreed by society, and then they complain that the legal system cannot reflect the deviant "reality" that they have created.
The institution of marriage has proved its value in western society for almost two thousand years, and its right to exist (denied by the lesbian journalist) is based on the indisputable fact that human society can only continue through the begetting of progeny, and two women or two men together do not have the natural capacity to beget progeny in this way.
This natural law is the basis of the institution of marriage, and anyone who denies it has either had a defective sexual education or is endeavoring to lead society by the nose. As Micah Clark, the author of the above article, quite correctly writes, in our society gays and lesbians can live in any way they like. But that does not entitle them to dictate to those members of the population whose proclivities are normal that they must adapt their ethical principles and sexual mores to those with abnormal (that is to say homosexual) proclivities.
Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! For
His lovingkindness is great toward us
And the truth of the LORD is everlasting.
Praise the LORD!