Sunday, December 25, 2011

Another amazing find in Jerusalem

It seems that new archaeological discoveries from Jerusalem are being reported almost weekly. The latest find is rather fascinating. It was humorously identified by the Israeli Antiquities Authority as the original "store credit." And that's probably a good way to describe it!

What they discovered was a clay seal containing two Hebrew words from the time of Herod's temple. The seal appears to have been a type of marker or "proof of purchase" used as part of the temple services. The inscription on the seal, written in Aramaic, reads "pure to the Lord," using the first two letters of the name Yahweh as the abbreviation for "Lord."

The seal illustrates a temple practice mentioned in the Mishnah, which reads in part, "Whoever required libations would go to Yohanan who was in charge of the stamps and give him money and would receive a stamp from him in return. He would then go to Ahiyah who was in charge over the libations, give him the stamp, and receive the libations from him."

In other words, a person would pay for a specific ritual sacrifice at the "cashier's office" and receive a "proof of purchase" token that he or she would then take to the priest to exchange for the actual offering. This seal appears to be the first actual example of the "stamp," or clay impression, that served as the "proof of purchase" token.

The find is significant for two reasons. First, it helps illustrate and visualize the day-to-day workings of the temple. And second, it serves as one more small reminder that a Jewish temple indeed stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. That seems obvious to those of us who believe the Bible. But in the convoluted world of Middle East politics, it helps counteract the propaganda claiming the Jews have no legitimate connection to the city or the Temple Mount.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Declaration of Religious War?

Earlier today Hamas issued a warning that Israel's closure of the Mugrabi Bridge to the Temple Mount is a "declaration of religious war on Muslim Holy Sites." Lest you think this is propaganda from a single extremist terrorist group, it follows an earlier statement by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat who said Israel's plan to replace the current bridge “shows their determination to Judaize Jerusalem and to take over the city’s Muslim holy places."

These statements are false and hypocritical, and those making them know that's the case. They're intended to inflame the Muslim world and put pressure on Israel. We've talked about this gate several times on our program, most recently this past weekend.
Here are the facts for those who don't know the full story.

The Mugrabi Gate is the only gateway unto the Temple Mount that is open to non-Muslims, and it's located next to the Western Wall plaza. In 2004 the ramp up to the gate partially collapsed after a heavy winter rain. Israel constructed a temporary wooden bridge to the site that sits on metal scaffolding. (See the picture above from, which provides an excellent visual of the structure!) The bridge was only intended to provide temporary access until a more permanent replacement was designed and built.

In 2007 Israel tried to replace the temporary bridge with a more permanent replacement, but work was halted when charges were made that Israel was damaging the Muslim holy sites. (Note in the picture that the bridge is outside the Western Wall and doesn't get close to any of the Muslim Holy sites!) Israel halted work while the UN investigated. They concluded the charges were false, but asked Israel to once again postpone work on the new bridge. Israel agreed, and the temporary structure remained in use for another four years.

The problem now is that Jerusalem's city engineer has declared the current temporary structure to be unsafe and in danger of collapse. Israel's most recent decision to close the current bridge and replace it with a more permanent structure centers on safety. Like any responsible government, their primary concern is that a bridge used by thousands of tourists every week has been shown to be structurally unsound. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership appears to care more about scoring political points than they are about the safety of those forced to use a bridge that is structurally unsound. But one can be sure that when the bridge finally does collapse, they will be quick to blame the Jews!

This is another example of the appalling lack of leadership that characterizes both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. My advice to both groups is simple: Stop acting like demagogues and start acting like responsible leaders. The bridge is unsafe and needs to be repaired, and it is outside the Temple Mount area. Get over the fact that Israel is the one fixing it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Do the dots connect?

Iran's Fars News Agency is claiming that Iran brought down America's top-secret stealth spy drone through the use of a "cyberattack" by Iran's military forces.

Is this Iranian propaganda, or could there be some truth to the claim?

The United States has not officially commented on what happened, but there are some indications that Iran might indeed have used a cyberattack to bring down the drone. First, the pictures of the drone released from Iran show it to be remarkably intact...almost as if it had landed rather than crashed. Second, a report surfaced two months ago that the U.S. was struggling to control a computer virus that was infecting our Predator and Reaper drone fleet. The report only focused on these two specific drones...but one wouldn't expect it to identify other infected drones that are supposedly still top secret!

So could the Iranians have infected our drones with a virus that allowed them to intercept and override our control of this aircraft? It's certainly possible, and it raises two serious questions about the vulnerability of our entire fleet of drones. First, if Iran has the ability to hijack the RQ170, could they also intercept other drones, perhaps hijacking an armed predator and using it to attack our forces in the field? And second, what is the true level of electronic sophistication possessed by Iran? Do they really have the ability to infect and then control some of our most sensitive military hardware? And if they have that ability, who else might possess it?

To me, the larger story isn't the capture of the drone, as serious as that might be. It's determining how Iran was able to accomplish it...and making sure they can't do it again!

Friday, December 2, 2011

So what does happen when we die?

We've received several questions/comments on our toll-free Listener Comment Line (877-611-5282) and at our e-mail address ( dealing with the issue of what happens when someone dies. Most have centered around Jesus' raising of Lazarus in John 11. Jesus said Lazarus was "asleep" but then goes on to say Lazarus was really dead, indicating that "sleep" was a metaphor for death.

One recent e-mail took exception to the answer I gave on air. The writer said, in part:
Unfortunately, the first and most convincing lie ever told to humans continues to reverberate down through Earth’s chambers, from one generation to another, thousands of years later: Ye shall not surely die. This cunning lie is unknowingly repeated every time folks are convinced that although a love one dies, they really don’t die, rather they continue to live-on in the presence of God forever. While this may be comforting to each of us, it is a deceit of the devil. To believe that one continues to live forever is to give credence to the immortality of the “soul.” Humans are not immortal. We are mortal. See Job 4:17. Romans 6: 12. Romans 8: 11. 2 Corinthians 4: 11. Man does not have immortality. Immortality is granted to man only at the second coming of Christ. See 1 Corinthians 15: 51-53.
So do humans cease to have a conscious existence at enter into some kind of unconscious "soul sleep" or spiritual "suspended animation" that lasts until the second coming of Christ? The writer was sincere, but the verses cited don't teach such a belief. Here's my response to this person...and I hope it's an encouragement to you if you want to know what the Bible says happens to us once we die.
I have to disagree with your line of reasoning. Lazarus did indeed die, which I believe we all agree on since Jesus said that clearly. But he didn't cease to exist at that time. I base that statement on at least four specific passages that describe what happens when someone dies.

The first passage is Luke 16 where Jesus shared the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Though this is a parable, it is still an accurate description by Jesus of what happens to someone at death. Whether the rich man and Lazarus represented real people or were simply "fictitious" names supplied by Jesus as part of the story doesn't matter. A central truth of the parable is the reality of a conscious existence after death. Jesus said that after death righteous Lazarus went to "Abraham's bosom" (v. 22), while the rich man went to "Hades" (v. 23), which is a place of conscious torment. In the parable Jesus taught that both individuals had a conscious existence after death.

The second passage is 2 Corinthians 5:8. "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." Paul's clear point in the passage is that the moment someone dies (and is thus "absent from the body") that person is in Christ's presence in heaven. The person isn't experiencing "soul sleep" or some other form of suspended existence; he or she is transported into the presence of Christ…and Christ is in heaven! It would be hard to state this truth any more clearly than Paul does here.

The third passage is Philippians 1:21-24. Paul was facing the possibility of imminent death, and his prayer was that Christ will be exalted whether he lives or dies. He then explained why the choice was so difficult. To remain alive meant continued service for the Lord, though his personal preference was "to depart and be with Christ." In other words, were he to be put to death, Paul would "be with Christ." And again, where is Christ? He's in heaven!

The fourth passage is Revelation 6. This passage describes individuals who will be killed during the future tribulation period. In verses 9-11 we are introduced to a group who are said to be under the altar in heaven. Specifically it says they are the souls of those who have been slain in the tribulation period. That is, they are dead martyrs. But then the passage says they cry out to God and ask that their deaths be avenged. In response, they are given white robes and told they need to wait a little longer until the rest of their brethren who are to be martyred have also been killed. My point here is that these dead martyrs are said to be in heaven and are described as being conscious and able to communicate with God. They are not in some sort of soul sleep or lack of conscious existence.

This list of passages is not exhaustive. I could go on to mention the fact that Moses and Elijah (who were both dead) were able to return to earth to speak with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17) or that Stephen cried out as he was dying "Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit!" in Acts 7. But my point is that numerous passages in the Bible clearly teach the conscious existence of humans after death.

While the Bible uses sleep as a metaphor to describe death, it also goes on to say much about the conscious existence of humans who have died. And their place of existence—in paradise/heaven or in hades/hell—depends on their personal relationship to God while in this life.

But what about your larger concern that the soul is not "immortal." I can partially agree with you that humans are not "eternal" (I prefer this word over "immortal") in the sense that we have not existed from eternity past. We have a specific "starting point" for our existence at conception. But the Bible does teach that we continue to exist after our physical death. And that existence continues throughout eternity, as Revelation 20 makes clear. We will experience eternal life or eternal death…but both are eternal!