Responding to Persecutions (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

How will they make the charges stick? With lies (Ps 119:86)! Sometimes it is even without cause (Ps 119:161), as society has descended to lawlessness:
Ps 119:86 All Your commandments are faithful; They have persecuted me with a lie; help me!
• Ps 119:161 Princes persecute me without cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your words.

What should the Christians’ attitude be?
First, remember ultimately God will deliver us and punish those who persecute us:
Deut 30:7 The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.
• Ps 31:15 My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.
• Rom 12:9 “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY”, says the Lord. (Also Heb 10:30)

Secondly, our response to the oppressors should be to bless:
Mt 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
• Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

What should Christians do? That depends on how far the persecution has gone. If it is possible, flee (Mt 10:23). It is no heroism to wait around and be caught. If we can’t escape, endure and persevere (1 Co 4:12; 2 Thes 1:4; 2 Tim 3:11):
Mt 10:23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
• Mt 24:15-16 Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
• 1 Co 4:12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;
• 2 Thes 1:4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
• 2 Tim 3:11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!

If we have the opportunity, witness for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit:
Mk 13:9-11 But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. (Also Mt 10:18-20; Lk 12:11-12)

One final warning. If you are a shallow Christian, like the seed sown on rocky places, you will fall away when persecution arises:
Mt 13:21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. (Also Mk 4:17)
So develop firm roots before it’s too late. Otherwise the consequences are fatal.

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Responding to Persecutions (1 of 2)

Q. These days we often hear that the end times are fast approaching and that Christians will be persecuted. What should we do when this happens?

A. Let me answer this in sections:

When?
Actually, persecutions exist throughout church history, not just in the end times:
Mk 10:30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
It’s only when it happens to Christians elsewhere and not in N. America, we don’t pay as much attention.

Who and Why?
The persecutors include “people” (Mt 5:11) and government authorities (Lk 21:12). The former took place, for example, when Communists, Socialists and dictators mandated citizens to report on their friends’ and neighbors’ suspected “subversive” activities. Even family members will turn against each other:
Mt 10:21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.

The reasons for persecution are many, but primarily because of Christ (Jn 15:20; 2 Co 12:10). Christians are persecuted for His name’s sake (Lk 21:12), for the cross of Christ (Ga 6:12), for righteousness’ sake (Mt 5:10), and for desiring to live godly in Christ Jesus:

Mt 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
• 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.
• Jn 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
• 2 Co 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
• Ga 6:12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
• 2 Tim 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

What?
What form will the persecutions take? There are many forms, including:
• Verbal: insults (Mt 5:11; 2 Co 12:10), false accusations (Mt 5:11);
• Loss of freedom: imprisonment (Lk 21:12);
• Beatings: struck down (2 Co 4:9);
• Starvation: famine (Rom 8:35);
• Humiliation, cold: nakedness (Rom 8:35);
• Death: sword (Rom 8:35).

2 Co 4:9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
• Rom 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

(To be continued)

Kept from the Hour of Testing

Rev 3 10 d

Q. What does Revelation 3:10 mean and is it talking to the church in Philadelphia or to end-time Christians?

A. First, the immediate context is Rev 3:7-13, the message to Philadelphia. John was writing to a church in his days, not one over two thousand years in the future. So of course he was talking to the church in Philadelphia, although the message also applies to end-time Christians.

Second, the text:
Rev 3:10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Most scholars agree that the “hour of testing” coming upon the whole world refers to the Great Tribulation. But what exactly does “keep you from the hour” mean?

Those who believe in a pretrib rapture argue that since Jesus will keep the church from the hour of testing, not just the testing itself, He must snatch them away before tribulation begins, to avoid the time period altogether. Others note that the context is perseverance (v 10) and “hold fast” (v 11). Therefore the Lord’s keeping should mean protection as the church goes through the testing, because if they had been raptured away, then endurance would not be necessary.

Which is correct? There are precedents of both modes of protection in Scripture:
• Escape prior to judgment e.g. the angels whisking Lot’s family away before He rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19).
• Protection through the hour of testing e.g.
o Noah’s family in the ark during the Flood (Gen 7),
o The Israelites during the plagues (Ex 8:22-23; 9:4-7, 25-26; 10:23; 11:5-7; 12:12-13)
o Those with the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev 7:3, 9:4).
While we note that the latter is more prevalent and indicative of God’s pattern, the frequency of occurrence by itself is not definitive.

What about the historical and grammatical context? Although I subscribe to futurism (the view that most prophecies regarding the end times are still future) and not preterism (the view that some or all of the prophecies concerning the last days have already been fulfilled in the first century), I do believe the meaning to the original recipients holds significance to twenty-first century readers. How the Lord kept first century church of Philadelphia should inform us how He would keep the end times Philadelphian church, because His promise was first to the former and only secondarily to the latter. Was the first century church physically removed from the hour of testing, perhaps hidden in the wilderness? There is no historical evidence to that effect.

Grammatically, both “you have kept” and “I also will keep” translate the same Greek verb tereo, which means to attend to carefully, take care of:
• to guard,
• metaphorically to keep one in the state he is,
• to observe,
• to reserve to undergo something.

The Lord will keep the church the same way the church has kept the word of His perseverance. How did the church keep His word, by escaping or by persevering? By enduring through the trial, not by hiding.

Secondly, pretrib commentators argue that “keep from the hour of testing” really means “keep out of the hour of testing”, because the word “from” translates the Greek preposition ek which really means “out of”. I disagree because while “out of” is a legitimate translation, it is only one amongst several possibilities. ek appears a total of 921 times, which the KJV translates using the following:
of 366X
• from 181X
• out of 162X
• by 55X
• on 34X
• with 25X
• misc. 98X

Which is the proper translation really depends on the context or syntax. If ek is used as a preposition referring to a place, “out of” is a proper translation. However, if ek is used to qualify time, then “from” is the proper translation. In Rev 3:10 ek qualifies time, so “from” is the better translation, which is what almost all translations have done, despite pretrib commentators’ assertion otherwise.

I therefore conclude that Rev 3:10 means the Lord will guard and keep the church from and through the hour of testing, NOT take it out of the hour. Hope this helps.

Is ISIS a sign of the End Times? (2 of 2)

ISIS 2

(Continued from yesterday)

Let’s check the candidates against the clues:

1. The Babylonian empire did sit over many nations. While immorality is true of many dynasties in world history, of the 293 times the name Babylon appears in 260 verses in the NASB, the main characteristics were arrogance, idolatry, cruelty etc., not immorality, except in Revelation where it is figurative and may not be referring to literal Babylon. Babylon conquered Judah and led the captives away, persecuting the Jews, but it most definitely is not where the Lord was crucified.

2. The Roman Empire also sat over many nations, and secular historians agreed that Rome was immoral. But, if the beast on which the woman rode is already the revived Roman Empire, the woman herself cannot be Rome, unless she is the apostate RC Church, committing spiritual adultery through the ages, as well as having an illicit liaison with the Antichrist’s one-world government in the future. Rome did persecute the early church before adopting Christianity as the official religion, and later on Catholics persecuted Protestants during the Inquisition. But again, Roman was not where the Lord was crucified, except as some argued that it was Pilate’s Roman soldiers who executed the crucifixion.

3. God Himself called Israel and Judah (Jerusalem) harlots – Jer 3:8-9 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees, but in what sense is she sitting on many waters? One possibility is that the Jewish Diaspora is scattered among many nations. Also God endowed His chosen people such that many are among the world’s top financiers and scientists, dealing with the kings or rulers of the earth.

As to being partners with the Antichrist who will later turn against her, it fits in with the first three and a half years of the Great Tribulation when Israel will form a covenant with the Antichrist, who then breaks it (see Dan 7:25; 12:7). What about being drunk with the blood of saints? That fits too with:
Lk 11:50-51 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’ (See also 1 Kings 19:10, 14; Rom 11:13)
And of course the Lord was crucified outside Jerusalem.

So of the three suggestions, apostate Jerusalem fits the clues best. This is in contrast to the woman in Rev 12:1-6, who symbolizes the believing Messianic community.

Now, if Babylon is apostate Jerusalem, it cannot be Iraq at the same time. But then why am I saying ISIS is a sign of the end time? It has to do with:
Rev 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Of all the atrocities committed by ISIS, the most heinous got to be the public beheading of Christians who refused to recant their faith in Jesus. Beheading is a barbaric method of execution that has gradually been banned throughout the world, but practiced in Sharia (Islamic) law. In recent years both Al Qaeda and ISIS used beheading as a terrorism tactic. While this recruited some fanatical mujahideen (jihadists), it also repelled many Muslims and drove them to Christ. It is for this reason I believe ISIS to be a sign of the end times.

Is ISIS a sign of the End Times? (1 of 2)

ISIS 1

Q. Is ISIS a sign of the end times?

A. I believe it is, though not for the same reason as some commentators suggested. ISIS or ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The name Iraq does not appear in the Bible, but Iraq is located where ancient Babylon was. Some therefore identify Iraq as Babylon in Rev and hence a sign of the end times. The name Syria appears in the NASB 9 times, and is ancient Aram. Both Babylon and Aram were enemies of Judah and Israel.

I do not equate Iraq to Rev’s Babylon. The name Babylon appears in the NT 11 times:
• 4 times as literal ancient Babylon – Mt 1:11, 12, 17; Acts 7:43;
• 7 times as figurative Babylon – 1 Pet 5:13; Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21;
Who or what does the symbolic Babylon refer to? The most detailed clues are in Rev 17:

1. Babylon is called the great harlot (17:1, 15, 16; 19:2) or Mother of Harlots (v 5):
Rev 17:1 … the great harlot who sits on many waters,
• Rev 17:5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Many waters refer to people and (Gentile) nations:
Rev 17:15 And he said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
• Rev 19:6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters

2. Her main characteristic is immorality:
Rev 17:2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”
This is mentioned 8 times: Rev 14:8; 17:2 twice, 4; 18:3 twice, 9; 19:2; and refers to her adultery, both physical and spiritual.

3. She is affiliated with a beast:
Rev 17:3 … and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.

There are only two beasts in the Bible with seven heads and ten horns. The first one is the red dragon in Rev 12:3 i.e. Satan. The second one is in:
Rev 13:1 Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.
• Rev 17:7 And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
• Rev 17:9-10, 12 … The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; … The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, …

Scholars agree that this beast from the sea (nations) is the Antichrist. Most commentators equate the seven mountains to Rome, as Rome was built on seven hills. Or the seven kings may refer to seven Roman emperors. Those who take this literally believe the Antichrist to be a revived Roman Empire, or the personal Antichrist to be the head of this future one-world government. Those who take this figuratively believe the Antichrist to be the Roman Catholic (RC) Church. Regardless, Babylon the great harlot is an ally of the Antichrist.

4. She is intoxicated with persecuting God’s people:
Rev 17:6 … And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.

5. Even though the beast begins as the harlot’s partner, it will turn against her:
Rev 17:16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.

6. The woman is the great city:
Rev 17:18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
Including 17:18, “great city” is mentioned 8 times in Rev:
Rev 11:8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
• Rev 16:19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. (See also Rev 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21)

Sodom stands for immorality; Egypt represents slavery. Several possible cities have been suggested:
• Babylon, taking the passage literally;
• Rome, because it reigned over the kings of the earth at that time; and
• Jerusalem, because that’s where the Lord was crucified;
but which, if any, is correct?

(To be continued)

Honor Your Father and Your Mother

filial 4

My wife went to the hair-dresser and overheard a conversation that enrages me. Several elderly ladies were sharing how their grown children treated them. One spoke haltingly as she sobbed. She lived with her son and daughter-in-law, who did not treat her well and wanted her to move out. She went to Hong Kong for a month to visit relatives, but upon her return to Toronto found something strange.

She entered her condo apartment and immediately noticed that everything changed. The furniture was different, the drapes were different, even the color of the wall was different. Then a stranger came out of the bedroom and asked who she was and what was she doing here. Surprised, she said “This is my home. I live here! Who are you?” The man said, “No, there must be a mistake! This is my home. I bought this apartment from your son last month. Didn’t he tell you?” The senior lady was stunned and speechless. Her son had not told her anything. He had deserted her and moved, and she didn’t know where to find him.

Another case involved a son and his wife taking his mother to vacation, and disappearing after a few days without a trace. They had abandoned her in a foreign city! What children would do a thing like that? We Chinese pride ourselves as being cultured, doing everything with propriety, and value filial piety above all other virtues (百行孝为先). How then did we degenerate into doing something which even the crude would frown upon?

Perhaps this is a natural consequence when men reject God:
Rom 1:28-31 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, being filled with all 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;

But this happens also to religious people:
Mt 15:4-6 For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. (Also Mk 7:10-13)

Or it could be a sign that we’re entering the end times:
2 Tim 3:1-4 “in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,”

Whatever the reason, the Bible’s assessment is clear:
1 Tim 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Honor your father and your mother. This is the repeated commandment in Scripture (Ex 20:12; Deut 5:16; Mt 15:4, 19:19; Mk 7:10, 10:19; Lk 18:20; Eph 6:2). Beware of religion, because it sets aside the commandment of God. Follow Jesus, not your tradition.

The Shemitah

Shemitah 7

Q. There are lots of doomsayers about Sept. 2015 because it is a new sabbatical year. Many important events have happened during these sabbatical years. I wonder if there is any credence to it. There are people who claim that they have visions shown by God for the things that will happen in the future in the U.S. when the son of perdition takes power. I know this is close to the end time. Am I right to disregard them because of:
• Mt 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
• Rev 22:18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book.

A. You are referring to the Sabbath year in Leviticus 25. I think the current buzz of doom sayings was popularized by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, who wrote the New York Times bestseller “The Harbinger” and followed it up with “The Mystery of the Shemitah“. Others fuel the speculation by pointing to the blood moon tetrad prophecy, a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses in 2014-15 falling on Jewish holidays, as a sign to the beginning of the end times.

Shemitah 5

On the surface the evidence seems convincing, with the last two Sabbath years (2001 and 2008) coinciding with 9/11 and the deepest stock market crashes in recent history. Alarms were sounded that unless America repents, disaster could strike with dire consequences. Such warnings are well-intentioned as the US does need to repent and Christians should always be prepared for emergencies, but is the theory true? I do not have the gift of prophecy, so won’t be offering any insights beyond the following comments on the fundamentals:

1. The Sabbath year was meant for good, not evil.

Lev 25:3-5 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year.
• Ex 24:10-11 “You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.
• Deut 15:1-2 At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD’S remission has been proclaimed.

God designed the Sabbath year to give the land rest, so that the poor may eat. It was also a year for the remission of debts, literally a release. It was not intended to be a year for the punishment of sins, despite present writers making it out to be a year of reckoning.

2. The Sabbath year was for Israel, not Gentile nations.

Deut 5:15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
• Ps 147:19-20 He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His ordinances, they have not known them. Praise the LORD!

Deut 5:15 refers to the Sabbath day, but the principle is that God wanted Israel to remember He delivered them. His laws were for Israel, not other nations. Current authors applying the Sabbath year to other nations is not warranted.

I am not saying that there is no merit in what the financial pundits are saying about the pending collapse of the US$ and the stock market. Anyone analyzing the data realistically would realize that the Federal Reserve is like a house of cards ready to collapse and we are living in perilous times. However, you could draw that conclusion by examining economic data alone, without bringing the Sabbath year in as the cause. By doing so one is essentially saying that God works in 7-year cycles, so He will act in Sep. 2015 as prophesied by the proponents. But God is God and not bound to a timetable as predicted by our theorists.

In fact, a lecturer in empirical research methods at the European School of Culture and Theology, Germany, after reading “The Mystery of the Shemitah” did a statistical analysis to determine whether Cahn’s theory is correct. He ran tests of US GDP and stock market data versus Shemitah years and quarters, but found that there is no significant correlation between the Shemitah periods and GDP. As to stock market movements, the Shemitah periods explained only 1% of the stock market variations, meaning you have to look to other factors to explain 99% of the ups and down! His paper is attached in case you are interested.

Cahn shemitah research report

So how should we respond? The end will not come until the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (Mt 24:14). Let me quote from the Lord Himself in Mt 24:

Mt 24:4-6 See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 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.
• Mt 24:13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
• Mt 24:23-24 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
• Mt 24:42, 44 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. … For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

Notice the repetition of “mislead”. Deception will be the order of the day. Do not be frightened, be on the alert, be ready. Have emergency supplies of food, water and survival necessities on hand. Have cash ready when credit fails. Don’t panic. Spread the gospel. Work the works of Him who sent us while it is day; night is coming when no one can work (Jn 9:4). Do not fear; endure to the end. We are in the Lord’s hands. He will guide and protect His children.