As we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of Israel on May 14, 2018, we will have entered a historic and unique window of time, when Israel is celebrated, and God is pouring out His Spirit upon the world. No more business as usual! The fascinating history includes patterns of prophecy, and promises of God related to the founding and future of the nation of Israel—and the world. I wrote this article to celebrate this momentous time in history and would love to share it with you:
The news of Billy Graham’s passing has impacted thousands of people who have been touched and changed by the work God did through this man called by God. The news brought back a wonderful memory for me; a time when his ministry changed my life, as it has so many others.
In spite of the 1960s culture in which I grew up, my story is not dramatic or riddled with protest marches and drugs. I was a straight, clean-cut kid from El Cajon, California. I was pretty un-cool.
One hot, humid Saturday in 1967, when I was eleven, my mom rewarded hours of backbreaking, cruel yard work by allowing my brothers and me to go to a movie. We were excited to get out of the heat—but mostly to see the new James Bond flick. The old El Cajon Theater was glamorous and inviting, with its twirling spire, bold marquees, and cool, dark interior.
Imagine our adolescent disappointment when we skimmed the newspaper movie section and discovered James Bond had been replaced by some special showing for the weekend. What could be so special? We grumbled, but when my dad said, “There’s always more chores to do,” we headed for the car.
As we settled into our seats with popcorn and candy, we looked up to see Billy Graham loom above us on the silver screen. It was even more disconcerting to realize he was a preacher! An evangelist. I heard my one of my brothers groan. No James Bond. No fast cars and girls. Some sappy story that ended in a stadium. We’d been dropped off, so we were stuck.
We slouched down in our seats, eyes rolling in a sullen pout. In spite of myself, the story and the words reached me. When Billy, with those piercing blue eyes, looked straight into the camera, and seemingly into me, asked people to “come to Christ,” I stood up, right there in the theater.
I walked, alone, down to the front to ask Jesus into my life and talk to the lone counselor waiting. No one else responded. The walk back was long, and I avoided looking my brothers in the eyes. But I also knew something very real had happened between God and me.
Billy Graham continued to impact my life as the example of a man of God with integrity, passion, and an unwavering calling and purpose. I continue still to draw inspiration from his life and example.
Years later my wife, Vicki, and I became friends with Anne Graham Lotz, Billy’s gifted daughter, through Vicki’s work in bringing Anne to San Diego to teach. I love what Anne posted about her father today:
“When I think of him, I don’t think of Billy Graham, the public figure. I think of my Daddy. The one who was always a farmer at heart. Who loved his dogs and his cat. Who followed the weather patterns almost as closely as he did world events. Who wore old blue jeans, comfortable sweaters, and a baseball cap. Who loved lukewarm coffee, sweet ice tea, one scoop of ice cream, and a plain hamburger from McDonald’s. Who was interested in everything and everyone, from the small to the great. Whose mind remembered details that even a computer would have trouble recalling. But when I think of him I also think of his message because he was immersed in it. Saturated in it. He was his message…a simple man who had responded to God’s love by placing his faith in Jesus.” (You can read her whole post HERE.)
Today we honor and thank God for His great and generous servant, Billy Graham. We rejoice to think of him face to face with his Heavenly Father, home in Heaven, hearing those wonderful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I will always be grateful and humbled by the way God used Billy Graham in my life.
I thought you would find this interesting as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, heralded by a super star!
Astronomers find evidence of a magnificent star that hung over Bethlehem just over two thousand years ago
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world…” (Psalm 19).
Perhaps the greatest and most mysterious astronomical event in history is the Star of Bethlehem. After studying blood moons (lunar eclipses) and their historical and prophetic significance, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by celestial events as they relate to God’s Word.
The stars and celestial events carry messages to us from God, like traffic signals warning us that danger is coming or it’s OK to go, or something momentous is taking place. The Bible tells us “the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Studying and interpreting God’s creation is NOT the same as astrology, which the Bible strictly forbids. Astrology assumes that stars are causes of earthly events. The Bible declares that stars and celestial events can signal messages about earthly events. A star shone as a sign of the first coming of Jesus. As we anticipate His second coming, we are admonished to look up and watch, because “there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars…” (Luke 21:25-28).
The Star that Astonished the World
For centuries the Star of Bethlehem has been the subject of wonder and debate among scientists and scholars. Some scientists consider the Star to be a myth, a legend. Scholars, unable to accept it literally, call it a literary symbol. Astronomers have searched the skies and recorded history for evidence of a supernova (exploding star), comet, or meteors—anything to explain the biblical account—but found nothing. Even theologians question whether the Star was a supernatural event, a miracle, or a spiritual metaphor.
But all that has changed in the past few decades. With new historical knowledge and the use of computers, we can create models of the universe as it existed 2000 years ago. The story of the Star and the famous wise men who followed it is proving to be real and scientifically demonstrated!
There are several great sources for the information I’m about to share, such as The Star That Astonished the World, published by Dr. Ernest Martin (1996), and more recently, a dvd and website which I highly recommend called The Star of Bethlehem.
Blood Moon Over Herod
What we know now is that some very remarkable celestial events took place in the Middle East beginning in the summer of 3 BC. King Herod, who ordered the killing of all male babies two years and younger in Bethlehem, died shortly after a total eclipse of the moon on January 9, 1 BC (you can check this out at NASA’s eclipse website here). This would put the birth of Jesus somewhere near 3 or 2 BC.
The ancient Magi or wise men of the Bible most certainly followed the celestial events of 3 and 2 BC. “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him,” they asked upon arriving in Jerusalem (Matthew 2:2).
Magi were often court astronomers whose duties included looking for signs in the skies. The “wise men” of the Bible may have descended from the Babylonian magi of the prophet Daniel’s day. They might also have been part of the Jewish remnant who had remained in Babylon, and most likely knew the prophecy in the book of Numbers:
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.”—Numbers 24:17
Matthew reports that the wise men were from the East, and Babylon is east of Judea. This would account for their interest in a Jewish king and for Herod giving them an audience, as well as his harsh reaction to their news.
What the wise men saw as they followed the star, was most likely a “conjunction.” At dawn of August 12, BC, the Magi watched as the planet Jupiter (known as the King planet) and Venus (known as the Mother planet) appeared to merge in the eastern sky, creating the effect of a super conjunction of planets. To the magi, this heralded an important event—such as the birth of a king!
In June, 2 BC, a conjunction of the same planets occurred again, only this time it was so close (one of the closest conjunctions ever to occur in the history of the world) that it would have astounded the people of the ancient world. What the Magi saw from their home in Babylon was a super star shining in the west, directly toward Jerusalem.
Other unique and dramatic celestial events took place during this time period. The planet Jupiter also rose to meet Regulus (the bright King star) on three different occasions and made a “halo loop” over the star. The Magi were undoubtedly convinced that a great event had occurred.
The First Christmas
As the Magi made their journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, they would see the Jupiter-Venus pair moving from east toward the south (the direction of Bethlehem) due to the rotation of the earth.
When the Magi first reached Herod in Jerusalem, they asked where the King of the Jews had been born. As they left the palace to look directly over Bethlehem, they would have seen Jupiter now appearing to have stopped, stationary in the heavens, mid-bodied to the constellation Virgo the Virgin and shining directly down on Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. This event happened on December 25, 2 BC, when some believe the wise men actually gave their gifts to the baby Jesus, some 15 months after His birth.
The Day Jesus Was Born
In the book of Revelation the apostle John describes a vivid scene portraying the birth of the Messiah:
“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” (Revelation 12:1-5).
A birth of astronomical significance occurred when the sun was mid-bodied to a woman, shown in heaven with the moon at her feet. Astronomers can easily figure out the time of year this was if the symbolic woman was Virgo the Virgin as John seems to suggest.
All this adds up to a day in late summer in 3 BC, the year many now agree Jesus was born. It would have been in the early evening on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, with a new moon in the heavens. Some believe His birth took place September 11, 3 BC during Rosh Hashanah, the Day of the Trumpets, or two weeks later during the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23).
The Day Jesus Died
And now, fast forward 33 years, to the day when the sun went dark and the Son of God, the Messiah, hung on a cross and died to save us. There is much compelling evidence that that day was April 3, 33 AD. Now, I will admit, this is not agreed upon by all researchers. Sir Isaac Newton proposed this day, but he also had April 23, 34 AD in mind. However, the evidence is compelling, and adding to it is the fact that on April 3, 33 AD, a blood moon rose in the evening sky, as a lunar eclipse finished the day. You can read the research in detail in several sources, including the Star of Bethlehem website, where the crucifixion is discussed.
God gives us many signposts along the way in life, through His Word, through His Spirit, and through the signs and wonders He places in His creation. Like poetry written in the skies, the stars and heavenly bodies proclaim His glory, declare His work, capture our attention and cause up to look up and watch for His coming.
Did the Jews Discover America?
As the darkness of the Medieval Inquisition swept through Spain in 1492, a momentous, history-changing event took place. Recorded in personal diaries, some of the details of this event became part of a relatively unknown book titled The Book of Prophecies. Published around 1501 the book is a collection of the author’s writing, favorite passages, deep spiritual insights, prophetic statements, and a passion for Israel. I was astounded when I discovered The Book of Prophecies. I’ve heard of the author all my life but never—I mean never—knew that he published such a book.
The author is Christopher Columbus. He wrote this book in the late fifteenth century during the terrible events of the Inquisition. This scourge spread through Spain and other parts of Europe. People were tormented, burned at the stake, and expelled from the country. No one was targeted more heavily than the Jewish population, which had multiplied considerably over the centuries in these European countries. Jewish conversos (converts) were arrested and accused of not being true Christians. They often didn’t know who their accusers were; evidence could be presented in secret. They were tortured until they confessed to being heretics, and then they were executed.1
Jewish immigrations into Europe had escalated after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. But even before Christ, Jews began settling in the Iberian Peninsula. They were referred to as Sephardim, from the Hebrew term for Spain, Sepharad, as mentioned in the Bible (Obadiah 20). The Jewish community had become so strong, that the Apostle Paul encouraged a need to minister there (Romans 15:24-28).
In the 1400s this community of Sephardim included Christopher Columbus, a man dedicated to his Christian faith. His ancestry also gives us evidence that he was Jewish. He had earned the favor of the Spanish king and queen with his vision and scientific knowledge. He raised the needed funds from Jewish conversos and embarked on one of the most significant voyages in the history of the world.
But it was a dangerous time for all Jews, even favored ones. Historians note that the voyage was originally scheduled for later in 1492. The Inquisition overshadowed all plans. An edict had been signed demanding the expulsion of all Jews by August 2, 1492, Tish B’Av, the Jewish day of mourning.
Columbus gathered his crew, boarded his ships that night, and set sail for the new world on August 3, 1492. With his action, Christopher Columbus obeyed the edict along with almost 300,000 fellow Jews.
The faith of Christopher Columbus has long been established, confirmed by much of his own writing. His Jewish ancestry has long been examined and hotly debated. Was Columbus truly Jewish? The evidence is compelling stirring passions among Moslems, Jews, and Christians alike for its implications. “The story of Jews in America begins with Christopher Columbus,” declares one anti-Semitic source.2
Several Jewish resources, including the Jewish American Hall of Fame, claim him as one of their own: “It was Spanish Jewry, not Spanish jewelry, that paid for Columbus’ voyage of discovery,” they insist. “There is no question that it was his Spanish-Jewish friends who were instrumental in arranging for his meeting with the Spanish monarchs in 1486 and who turned his dream into reality.”3
Here are more intriguing facts that have been noted in connection with Columbus’ Jewish heritage:
- There is evidence that Columbus spoke Spanish while still living in Italy, an unusual situation unless his family had originated in Spain. Spanish-speaking Jewish refugees from the Inquisition were numerous in the Italian area of Genoa.
- The form Colón, which Columbus adopted as the Spanish equivalent of his last name, was not the expected form (which would have been Colom or Colombo). It was, however, a common Jewish variation on the name.
- Columbus was known to frequent the company of Jews and former Jews, among whom were some noted astronomers and navigators, as well as his official translator. Marranos (another term for Jews forced to convert) figured prominently among Columbus’ backers and crew. Throughout his life he demonstrated a keen knowledge of the Bible and the geography of the Holy Land.
- Columbus began the official report of his first voyage to America, addressed to Ferdinand and Isabella, with: “And thus, having expelled all the Jews from all your kingdoms and dominions, in the month of January, Your Highnesses commanded me that…I should go to the said parts of India.” This is a strange fact to mention in this context, and it is not even correct: The order of expulsion was not signed until March 31. It appears that Columbus was privy to information about the expulsion of the Jews, and made his plans accordingly.
- The fact that the expulsion of Spanish Jewry and Columbus’ voyage coincided is telling. Even when Columbus was scheduled to set sail on August 3, he insisted that his entire crew be ready on board a full day earlier. August 2, 1492 was the day that had been ordained for the last Jews of Spain to depart the country. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported from Spain on that dark day.
- When this coincidence of dates was first noted by the Spanish biographer S. de Madariaga, the English Jewish historian Cecil Roth also commented on the “coincidence” of August 2, 1492, coinciding with Tish B’Av, the Jewish fast of mourning. It was as if Columbus had arranged to remain on board ship for that ill-omened day, and to depart only afterwards.4
- Columbus discussed particular dates and phrases unique to Hebrew people. When writing about the fall of Jerusalem, he said “the destruction of the second house,” referring to the temple.
Chosen for a Mission
Suddenly, for me, a whole new light was shed on the discovery of America and on some of our current politics.
When I read The Book of Prophecies by Columbus, I realized that he truly believed he was on a mission from God. Over and over in his written logs he dedicated his voyage to the Lord Jesus Christ. He brilliantly combined and used the practical knowledge gathered by scientists of his time, but in the letter he drafted to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to make his appeal, he said, “I base what I say only on holy and sacred scripture.”5
Columbus possessed a sense of destiny, that he was chosen for a mission, confirmed by his name, Christ-Topher (“Christ-bearer”). He was motivated by prophecy as much as a longing for discovery. In his Book of Prophecies he collected passages from the Bible that inspired him to plan his voyage: Proverbs 8:27, which speaks of the earth’s surface as being curved; Isaiah 40:22, the spherical earth; and the ocean currents in Isaiah 43:16. He later described his discovery of the New World as “the fulfillment of what Isaiah prophesied,” in describing “isles beyond the sea,” in Isaiah 24:15 and 60:9. 6
He also at the very least suspected the existence of the American continent. He appears to have owned the 1472 edition of Bibliothecae Historicae, written by Diodorus Siculus, a first-century BC Greek historian who spoke of “a very great island many days sailing from Africa.”
Even beyond the geographical evidence Columbus collected, The Book of Prophecies shows an uncanny knowledge of prophetic events, vision for the future, foresight, a deep faith—and a mission. Columbus wanted nothing less than the universal conversion to Christ of all people. 7
The book was compiled with the help of an anonymous Italian scribe to whom Columbus indicated which passages he wanted copied, including several passages from the works of Augustine.
Apparently Columbus owned an anthology of the works of Augustine, published in Venice in 1491. Columbus also loved the book of Isaiah from which he quoted at length; he included lengthy commentary by a fourteenth-century Franciscan monk on the prophetic eighth chapter of Daniel. Columbus specifically picked passages from various sources that seemed to lend support to his personal role in fulfilling the prophecy.
Here are a few passages from The Book of Prophecies I find spiritually and historically amazing.
- “In the final year you will come to the land that has been returned by means of the sword and has been created by many peoples upon the mountains of Israel” (from Ezekiel 38; p.229).
- “The sons of Ishmael…will be the leaders of the persecution of Christians in the final days of the world…” (p.24).
- In the introduction to The Book of Prophecies editor Roberto Rusconi writes: “Columbus began to view the goal of the liberation of Jerusalem from Moslem domination in a more apocalyptic sense…the discovery of the West Indies became identified in his mind with one of the events which would precede the end of the world…and the universal conversion of the peoples to the gospel of Christ” (p. 33).7
- Think about this quote from Augustine: “With these and similar prophecies it is shown that what we know to have been fulfilled by Christ has been predicted: the God of Israel, who we know to be the one true God, will be worshipped not only by the one nation that is called Israel, but by all people, and that He will throw out the false gods of the Gentiles from their temples and from the hearts of their worshippers” (p. 163). When this passage was written and later quoted there was no physical nation of Israel—and there hadn’t been since AD 70.
The book is full of numerous prophetic references to Muslim domination and the conflict between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. These statements are extremely politically sensitive in today’s climate. Columbus held the same passion and regard for Jerusalem and God’s people as many Christians do today.
Columbus remains a mysterious and controversial figure. I’ve read enough to know that he has been variously described as one of the greatest mariners in history, a visionary genius, a mystic, a man of faith, a hero, a failed administrator, and a naive entrepreneur. He has also been described as a ruthless and greedy imperialist.
But was he Jewish? I think the evidence points heavily in that direction. We know he had a unique call on his life, and he fulfilled that call. He holds a permanent place among the great cloud of witnesses in the timeline of God’s prophetic plan. Christopher Columbus’ mission, begun in the crucible of persecution, was fueled by his passion to evangelize the world in anticipation of the second coming of Jesus.
The implications of his Jewish origins are anathema to those who hate Christians and Jews: America was founded by a Jew, influenced by Jewish thought, and is perpetuated by Judeo-Christian ethics.
America has a prophetic role to play today, a destiny to fulfill. The prophecies Christopher Columbus envisioned are coming to pass in our time. Jews around the world are “coming home” to Israel, drawn by circumstances and national longing.
We are seeing the moving of the Holy Spirit for this last great “exodus,” called in Hebrew Aliyah. The Christian church a part in this last great adventure. He has a plan.
- Henry Ford, The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem (1920, reprint, Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 33. See alsohttp://archive.org/details/TheInternationalJewTheWorldsForemostProblemhenryFord1920
- See “Christopher Columbus (1451–1506),” Jewish-American Hall of Fame, www.amuseum.org/jahf/virtour/index.html#columbus.
- See Eliezer Segal, “Columbus’s Medinah?” From the Sources, Jewish Free Press, October 14, 1991, http://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/911014_Columbus.html .
- Christopher Columbus, ed., The Book of Prophecies, 3, Repertorium Columbianum, ed. Roberto Rusconi, trans. Blair Sullivan (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2004), 18–19.
- See Chuck Missler, “Mysteries Behind Our History: Was Columbus Jewish?” (1996), Koinonia House, www.khouse.org/articles/1996/109.
- Columbus, Book of Prophecies, 3:20.
We are about to enter a very significant month, which begins on a very important day: August 21, 2017, the day of the solar eclipse.
Last year we decided that from now on, besides the Feast of Trumpets, as a church, we will observe all the fall feasts on the Jewish calendar: the Feast of Trumpets, then ten days later, Feast of Atonement, followed by the joyous Feast of Tabernacles.
The ancient Hebrews, however, began their preparations for the fall holidays with a thirty-day period of meditation and personal repentance during the month of Elul —which starts Monday, August 21. Count thirty days until the Feast of Trumpets, then add ten days between Trumpets (September 21-22) and Atonement, and there is a forty day preparation for the national the day of Atonement
Elul is actually an acronym in Hebrew for, “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.” Elul is a time for God’s people to return to their first love and to prepare for the call of the Trumpet and the Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles. The significance of all this is causing me to rejoice in God’s meticulous plans for His people. Moses spent forty days on the mountain receiving God’s Words. Jesus spent forty days fasting in the wilderness, confronted by Satan.
Forty days is no coincidence.
And neither is the appearance of a solar eclipse on the first day of Elul.
According to Hebrew scholar Mark Biltz, “It was on Elul 1 that Jonah left for 40 days to tell Nineveh to repent. It was on Elul 1 that Moses went up to Mt. Sinai after the sin of the Golden Calf, trying to make atonement while Israel was repenting for that. It was on Elul 1 Jesus went out into the wilderness for 40 days, coming out on Yom Kippur. Elul 1 starts the month of repentance and to have the solar eclipse happening at this time, is of huge significance!”
The heart of Elul is expressed in Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?… One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”
Let’s rejoice together!