Selected Prophecies from the Book of Isaiah, Part 6
by Karl Kemp
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We continue the study of Isaiah 19:4, 16-25 here in Part 6, starting at verse 17.
(17) The land of Judah will become a terror to Egypt; everyone to whom it is mentioned will be in dread of it, because of the purpose of the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts which He is purposing against them. [[By the end of Daniel's 70th week, the humbled remnant of the Egyptians will be ready to submit to the King of (true) Israel/Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be reigning on the earth (reigning includes judging) from the time of His mid-week return. I don't believe He will be visibly present throughout much of the forty-two months of the second half of Daniel's 70th week (see number 15 on page 17 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture"), but He will be visibly present at the time of His return with the clouds and the rapture (e.g., Matt. 24:30, 31; Rev. 1:7), and He will undoubtedly be visibly present when He comes to the Mount of Olives at Jerusalem not long after the rapture (see number 14 on page 17 of "The Mid-Week Rapture"). I assume that it will be understood that He has claimed Jerusalem as His city from the time of His mid-week return (see the subsection titled "The Lord Jesus Christ Will Claim Jerusalem as His City" on page 70 of "The Mid-Week Rapture"). Whether He is visibly present when He destroys Antichrist and his forces at the end of Daniel's 70th week (Rev. 19:11-21), or not, He will certainly be visibly present at the time the millennial kingdom begins and the remnant of the nations submit to Him, as pictured, for example, in Isa. 2:2-4; 19:18-25.]] (18) In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will be speaking the language of Canaan and swearing allegiance to the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts [[It isn't clear why this verse mentions "five" cities in the land of Egypt. John A. Martin commented that "the 'five cities in Egypt' no doubt represented the rest of the nation" ("Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament" [Victor Books, 1985], page 1066). It seems clear that all the people in Egypt who remain after God's end-time judgment will submit to Him (cf., e.g., Isa. 45:23; 66:23); the following verses in the chapter we are studying speak of (the remnant of) the entire nation turning to God. Any people that do not submit to Him will surely be dealt with immediately. Whether the remnant of Egypt will literally speak Hebrew, or not, they will submit to the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, the God of Israel.]]; one will be called the City of Destruction. [[The margin of the NASB mentions that "some ancient manuscripts and versions read [the City of] the Sun," instead of "the City of Destruction." ((I had a footnote: John N. Oswalt ("Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39" [Eerdmans, 1986], page 378) points out that "about fifteen Hebrew manuscripts and 1QIsa [which is a Dead Sea Scroll manuscript of Isaiah] have...'sun,' instead of...'destruction.' This reading is supported by Symmachus, the Targum, the Vulgate, and the Arabic version.")) This reading seems more probable than "the City of Destruction"; it would seem somewhat surprising that one of the cities of the converted remnant of Egypt would be called "the City of Destruction." It is also possible that the reading suggested by the Septuagint is the correct (the original) reading, "the City of Righteousness/Justice."]] (19) In that day there will be an altar to the LORD [cf. Isa. 56:7; 60:7; and Ezek. 43:13-27] in the midst of the land of Egypt [[Since verse 21 speaks of worshipping God "with sacrifice and offering," I assume we are to think of a sacrificial "altar" here in verse 19. I assume, however, that this is only a way of communicating the fact that the remnant of Egypt will be worshipping God, using language appropriate for worship under the old covenant. In that The Lamb of God has now been slain, there no longer is room for sacrificial offerings (cf. Heb. 10:1-18; 13:7-16).]], and a pillar [monument] to the LORD [Yahweh] near its border. [[The NIV has "monument" instead of "pillar," which seems better in the light of the next verse. And the translation of the NIV, "at its border," seems better than "near its border." The next verse apparently speaks of this monument and explains its purpose.]] (20) It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they [the Egyptians] will cry to the LORD [Yahweh] because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. [[The monument at the border of the land of Egypt will commemorate the fact that Yahweh has delivered Egypt (the remnant of Egypt) from oppressors, especially from Antichrist and his evil "world" kingdom (cf. Isa. 19:4) and that the nation is now devoted to Him. The Lord Jesus Christ (the mighty King spoken of, for example, in Isa. 9:4-7; 11:1-16) will prove to be their "Savior and Champion." There is no other Savior (e.g., Isa. 43:11; 45:15, 21). It is true, of course, that the Lord Jesus will do a whole lot more than just deliver the remnant of Egypt from Antichrist: He will deliver them from sin and spiritual death and from the ultimate evil taskmaster, Satan.]] (21) Thus the LORD [Yahweh] will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD [Yahweh] in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the LORD [Yahweh] and perform it. [[The remnant of Egypt will know the Lord after His end-time judgment of the world along with the remnant of the other nations. As I mentioned under verse 19, I don't believe that they will worship God with literal animal sacrifices. The wording of Isaiah is apparently written in terms of worship appropriate for the old covenant.]] (22) The LORD [Yahweh] will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the LORD [[They will return to Yahweh in repentance and faith. In that God is the Creator, Judge, and God of all people, they will be RETURNING to Him, and to divine order. The Hebrew verb translated "they will return" could also be translated "they will turn" with the NIV.]], and He will respond to them and will heal them. [[The words "strike" and "striking" speak of God's chastening judgments of Egypt that will contribute to the conversion of the humbled, repentant remnant of Egypt after His end-time judgment of the world. It is common for the Bible to speak of God's chastening judgments of His people (Israel/Christians), but it isn't common for this concept to be applied to another nation or the nations. As I mentioned in the second paragraph of the introductory comments to Isaiah chapter 18, there are other factors that will help wake up the end-time remnant of Egypt besides His judgments.]] (23) In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. [[As Isa. 2:4, for example, informs us, even former enemies (like Egypt and Assyria) will be at peace when God reigns over the nations in the millennial kingdom.]] (24) In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth [[The word "blessing" here seems to refer to all three nations. The fact that they will be "a blessing in the midst of the earth" apparently means that they, being blessed by God (see verse 25), will be a blessing to the other nations.]], (25) whom the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts has blessed, saying, 'Blessed is Egypt My people [cf. Isa. 19:22; 14:32], and Assyria the work of My hands [[cf. Psalm 100:3 (This significant psalm is discussed in my paper on selected psalms and is briefly discussed in section 2 of my paper, "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations); Isa. 29:23 (Isaiah 29:17-24 are discussed in this paper).]], and Israel My inheritance.' " [[These last two verses of Isaiah chapter 19 are remarkable in that they seem to leave the impression that the status of the remnant of Assyria and Egypt will be equal with the status of (true) Israel. They speak of (true) Israel being a "third party" with Egypt and Assyria. (True Israel includes all true Christians. We have been grafted into the tree of God's true Israel [Rom. 11:17-23].) We typically expect the preeminent status of true Israel to be mentioned. These verses seem to speak of Israel, Egypt, and Assyria being a blessing in the midst of the earth. We expect Isaiah to say that (true) Israel will be a blessing in the midst of the earth through their glorious King and Savior.
((I had a footnote: These words probably build on Gen. 12:1-3: In these verses God told Abraham that He would bless him and make him a blessing, "in you [Abraham] all the families of the earth will be blessed." (Also see Gen. 18:18; 22:18; and 49:10.) All the families of the earth will be blessed through the offspring of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ. True Israel is saved through the Lord Jesus Christ, and ultimately, at the end of the age, (the remnant of) the nations will be saved by Him. Based on what the Bible typically says, we would have expected Isaiah to say that (true) Israel, because of their mighty King and Savior, will be a blessing in the midst of the earth, not Israel, Egypt, and Assyria.))
Furthermore, these verses use terms normally reserved for (true) Israel ("My people" and the "work of My hands") for Egypt and Assyria. These unusual verses were undoubtedly designed to emphasize the glorious plans that God has for the saved remnant of the nations. However, we must balance out what these verses say regarding the status of Egypt and Assyria vis-a-vis (true) Israel with what a very large number of verses say regarding this topic (including the passages we are studying in this paper and the book of Revelation; also see, for example, Isa. 45:14; Zech. 14:16-18 [passages that specifically speak of the end-time remnant of Egypt]). Many passages confirm that Jerusalem/Israel will be God's center of blessing for the earth (including the new earth). The Bible makes it clear that true Israel will reign forever (especially see Revelation chapters 21, 22, the last two chapters of the Bible). But the elect of the nations won't have any complaints; they will be glorified and blessed forever in God's new earth.
It is quite possible that in the eternal state, which will follow the millennium and the great-white-throne judgment (see Revelation chapter 20-22), some of the Assyrians that lived on the earth thousands of years ago will be included as part of the elect of the nations; if so, their names will be found in the book of life at the great-white-throne judgment. ((I had a footnote: We can also think of a remnant of the descendants of ancient Assyria that will be living on the earth in the last days, and we can think of an end-time remnant of the people now living in the territory of ancient Assyria (modern Iraq).)) As I discussed in some detail in my eschatological paper dated November 1998 which was split up into "Matthew chapters 24 and 25"; "1 Corinthians Chapter 15"; "Revelation Chapters 20-22"; and "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations"), I consider it probable (in agreement with many) that the names of some of the dead who are judged at the great-white-throne judgment of Rev. 20:11-15 will be found in the Lamb's book of life. Some of the people of ancient Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) who repented at the preaching of Jonah might be good candidates for ultimate salvation through Christ Jesus as part of the nations. (For a start, see the Introduction of my paper dated November, 1998 that is included in my paper, "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations"; and see under Rev. 20:12-15; 21:24-27 in my paper on Revelation chapters 20-22.) I will have more to say regarding this interesting (but somewhat controversial) topic when we come to Isa. 25:6-8; 26:18, 19 in this present paper. (Isaiah chapters 24-27 are not included in this version of the paper, because those chapters are included on this Christian article site under the title, "Isaiah's Little Apocalypse.") There's no need to be dogmatic regarding a topic like this one, but I believe it deserves our consideration.]]
The first ten verses of this chapter prophesy about God's overthrow of Babylon. As with Isaiah chapter 13, the first verses prophesy regarding God's overthrow of ancient Babylon through the Medes and Persians (and others) in 539/538 BC. Verses 6-10 have much application for God's judgment of ancient Babylon, but they also apparently anticipate His end-time overthrow of the world, using Babylon as a symbol for the world (as in Isaiah chapter 13 and the book of Revelation). The judgment of ancient Babylon allowed Judah (and other nations) to return from captivity. God's judgment of the world system in the last days will result in the exaltation of true Israel and the salvation of the remnant of the nations.
Verses 11, 12 apparently include the prophetic message that salvation will eventually come for the end-time remnant of ancient Edom.
"For thus the Lord says to me, 'Go, station the lookout, let him report what he sees. (7) When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs, A train of donkeys, a train of camels, Let him pay close attention, very close attention.' [[Compare Isa. 21:9. These words emphasize the importance of God's judgment of Babylon (ancient Babylon and, more importantly, end-time Babylon). Until Babylon (the world kingdom) has been judged and destroyed by God, His kingdom cannot be fully established.]] (8) Then the lookout called, 'O Lord, I stand continually by day on the watchtower, And I am stationed every night at my guard post. (9) Now behold, here comes a troop of riders, horsemen in pairs.' And one said, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon [It is significant that Rev. 14:8; 18:2 build on these words.]; And all the images of her gods are shattered on the ground.' [[Although this prophecy was undoubtedly fulfilled to some extent when ancient Babylon was overthrown by the Medes and Persians, the primary fulfillment of these prophetic words will come to pass in the last days when God takes away all the gods and idols that men have been looking to, and living for, instead of Him. ((Cyrus, the king of the Medes and Persians at the time they overthrew ancient Babylon, was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf., e.g., Isa. 44:28-45:13 [I had a footnote: One of the significant features of this important prophetic passage is that Cyrus was mentioned by name over one hundred years before he was born (see Isa. 44:28; 45:4-6).].)) The remnant of the nations will worship God, and Him alone. Interestingly, one major way that God will remove the false gods in His end-time judgment of the world is through Antichrist, who will not tolerate any other gods or objects of worship (see Dan. 11:36, 37; 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:11-18; and 17:16-18).
The fact that the policy of Cyrus was one of toleration toward other nations and their religions helps confirm that these prophetic words were not completely fulfilled in God's judgment of ancient Babylon. The Medes and Persians would not have tried to destroy all the images of Babylon's gods and the religions of Babylon when they conquered them; furthermore, they helped Israel return to rebuild the temple.
I'll quote part of what F. Delitzsch said under this verse ("Commentary on the Old Testament" by Keil and Delitzsch, Vol. 7 [Eerdmans, 1976 reprint], pages 382, 383). "In Rev. 18:1, 2, the same words ["Fallen, fallen, is Babylon!"] form the shout of triumph raised by the angel, the antitype [the fall of Babylon spoken of in the book of Revelation] being more majestic than the type [the fall of ancient Babylon] ...."]] (10) O my threshed people and my afflicted of the threshing floor! What I have heard from the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, The God of Israel, I make known to you. [[First we should think of the threshed people of ancient Israel, who had been devastated (including the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and their being carried into captivity by the Babylonians). After the overthrow of ancient Babylon (539/538 BC), they were permitted to return and rebuild the temple. The greater fulfillment of these prophetic words, however, will take place for (true) Israel at the end of this age after God has overthrown His enemies and the enemies of His people. Furthermore, as we have already seen in this study, the words God's people are sometimes used in a fuller sense that includes the afflicted/threshed remnant of the nations left after God's end-time judgment of the world (cf. Isa. 14:32; 19:25).
I'll quote a sentence from what Harry Bultema said regarding these verses ("Commentary on Isaiah" [Kregel, 1981 reprint, originally published in Dutch in 1923], page 208). "To understand this burden [or, oracle] correctly, one must also read Jeremiah [chapters] fifty and fifty-one, and Revelation seventeen and eighteen." Jeremiah chapters 50, 51 prophesied about God's judgment of ancient Babylon and how this would result in freedom and blessing for His people (Israel/Judah) and for the other nations taken captive by Babylon (cf. Jer. 50:8, 16, 34; 51:9, 44, 45). As with so many other prophecies, the primary fulfillment of these prophecies of Jeremiah won't take place until the end of this age when God judges the world system symbolized by Babylon. (See Jer. 50:2-5, 20, 39, 40; 51:17-23, 37, 42-44; and 59-64; compare Rev. 18:21 with Jer. 51:63. The ancient city of Babylon was not destroyed, by the way, when it was conquered by the Medes and Persians. Jeremiah chapters 50 and 51 are discussed verse-by-verse in a paper on Jeremiah on my internet site.) Revelation chapters 17, 18, which were mentioned by Bultema, deal with God's end-time judgment of Babylon, using Babylon as a symbol for the world. (See my paper that covers Rev. 14:6-19:21.)]] (11) The oracle concerning Edom. One keeps calling to me from Seir ["Seir" is another name for Edom (cf. Gen. 32:3).], 'Watchman, how far gone is the night? Watchman, how far gone is the night?' [The NIV has, "what is left of the night?"] (12) The watchman says, 'Morning comes but also night. If you would inquire, inquire; Come back again.' [[The "night" in verses 11, 12 refers to the darkness/affliction that comes to nations like Edom through the "world" kingdoms (like Babylon and the revived Roman Empire of the last days). Edom was another country that suffered at the hands of the Assyrians, the Babylonians, etc. They too would be anxious to hear of the overthrow of ancient Babylon, but (as with Isa. 21:6-10) I believe we are to see much more than that here. These verses apparently anticipate the ultimate salvation of the humbled, repentant remnant of Edom (the end-time counterpart of ancient Edom) after God's end-time judgment of the world. The answer of verse 12 can be understood more than one way, but I assume this answer informs Edom that the "morning" of God's kingdom and blessing for the remnant of the nations (including Edom) is coming in due time (in God's time); but before that happens, there is much left of the night.
God's answer to Edom through the prophet seems to show His concern for, and His interest in, the people of Edom; for one thing, He invites them to inquire again. He knows the hearts of the people of Edom; He knows who will ultimately submit to Him from their hearts; He knows which names have been written in the book of life since the foundation of the world. Some other verses that anticipate the ultimate conversion of the remnant of Edom are Isa. 11:14; Jer. 49:11 (with 49:7-10); and Amos 9:12 (Edom is specifically mentioned in each of these verses).
I didn't quote the last five verses of this chapter (Isaiah chapter 21) that deal with Arabia because those verses deal mostly with the judgments of past days (through the Assyrians, etc), but I should mention that the way the last verse is written, it lends itself to the familiar concept of a converted remnant of the nations after God's end-time judgment of the world, specifically a remnant of Kedar (a tribe of Ishmael [Gen. 25:13; 1 Chron. 1:29]; in northern Arabia): "and the remainder [this noun is often translated "remnant"; the NIV has "survivors"] of the number of bowmen, the mighty men of the sons of Kedar, will be few; for the LORD God of Israel has spoken" (Isa. 21:17). Isaiah 42:10-13; 60:1-9 strongly confirm this interpretation; Kedar is specifically mentioned in 42:11; 60:7.]]
ISAIAH CHAPTER 29.
Isaiah 29:1-16, verses that I'll only briefly discuss here, speak of familiar themes. They speak of the sin of Jerusalem/Israel and God's judgments of that sin, mostly looking to His end-time judgment of Israel through the "world" kingdom/nations. After the end-time remnant of Israel have been humbled (cf. 29:4) and have submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ, God will destroy the ruthless enemies of Israel (29:5-8). It will then be time for the glorious things promised to (true) Israel in Isa. 29:17-24 to come to pass. Isaiah 29:19 includes the familiar theme that God will save a remnant of the nations after His end-time judgment of the world.
"Woe, O Ariel, Ariel the city where David once camped! [["Ariel," which is also used in verses 2, 7, is a name for Jerusalem here. In the margin the NASB says that Ariel means "Lion of God." Another common view, a more common view, is that it means "altar hearth." (I had a footnote: The Hebrew noun "ariel" is translated "altar hearth" by the NASB, NIV, and NKJV in Ezek. 43:15, 16.) Either view could fit the use of Ariel in the next verse, but "altar hearth" seems to fit better (Jerusalem/Israel being turned into an altar hearth, so to speak, through God's intense judgments against His people).]] Add year to year, observe your feasts on schedule. [As in Isaiah chapter 1, for example, God is not interested in sacrifices, feasts, etc. while His people continue to live in sin without repentance.] (2) I will bring distress to Ariel, And she will be a city of lamenting and mourning; And she will be like an Ariel to me. (3) I will camp against you encircling you, And I will set siegeworks against you, And I will raise up battle towers against you. (4) Then you will be brought low; From the earth you will speak, And from the dust where you are prostrate Your words will come. Your voice will also be like that of a spirit from the ground, And your speech will whisper from the dust. [[The following verses (29:5-8) show that the chastening judgments by God against Jerusalem/Israel (through the "world" kingdoms/nations) that are referred to here are His end-time judgments (at least His end-time judgments are mostly in view) in that those verses show that God will totally destroy the enemies of Israel at that time.]] (5) But the multitude of your enemies will become like fine dust, And the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff which blows away; And it will happen instantly, suddenly. (6) From the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts you will be punished with thunder and earthquake and loud noise, With whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire. [Apparently the idea here in verse 6 (in context with verses 5-8) is that the power of God ("whirlwind," "flame," etc.) goes forth against the enemies of Israel.] (7) And the multitude of all the nations who wage war against Ariel, Even all who wage war against her and her stronghold, and who distress her, will be like a dream, a vision of the night.] (8) It will be as when a hungry man dreams - And behold, he is eating; But when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied, Or as when a thirsty man dreams - And behold, he is drinking, But when he awakens, behold, he is faint And his thirst is not quenched. Thus the multitude of all the nations will be Who wage war against Mount Zion. [[For the nations attacking Israel, their desire to annihilate Israel will be frustrated. Compare, for example, Isa. 17:12-14; 29:20; 66:18, 19; Zech. 14:1-5, 12-15; and Rev. 19:19-21.]] (9) [[The following verses (29:9-16) revert back from days of the ultimate salvation of Israel and the end-time judgment of the nations to the times when much of the nation Israel was backslidden from God, with much application for the nation in the days of Isaiah.]] Be delayed and wait, Blind yourselves and be blind; They become drunk, but not with wine, They stagger, but not with strong drink. (10) For the LORD [Yahweh] has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, the seers. (11) The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, 'Please read this,' he will say, 'I cannot, for it is sealed.' (12) Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, 'Please read this.' And he will say, 'I cannot read.' (13) Then the Lord said, 'Because this people draw near with their words And honor me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from me, And their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote, (14) Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.' (15) Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD [Yahweh], And whose deeds are done in a dark place, And they say, 'Who sees us?' or 'Who knows us?' (16) You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, 'He did not make me'; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, 'He has no understanding'? (17) Is it not yet just a little while [Sometimes God's idea of a "little while" differs from ours.] Before Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field, And the fertile field will be considered as a forest? [[The time setting here, starting with 29:17, is after God's end-time judgment of the world. Isaiah 32:12-20 are an important cross-reference for Isa. 29:17-24; those verses in chapter 32 also prophesy regarding the glorious salvation that will come to (true) Israel after God's end-time judgment of the world. I'll quote Isa. 32:15, "Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high ((I had a footnote: There is an important preliminary partial fulfillment of the prophetic words of Isa. 32:15-18 in the outpouring of the Spirit on Christians in the present age.)), And the wilderness becomes a fertile field, And the fertile field can be considered as a forest." Christ is coming to save, to judge, and to glorify. The end-time remnant of Israel will have submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and they will be glorified (along with all the other members of true Israel) by the time the millennial kingdom begins.
"Lebanon" is apparently used here (in 29:17) as representative of uncultivated, wooded land (a forest); Lebanon here is apparently comparable in meaning with the "wilderness" of Isa. 32:15. "Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field" through God's end-time work of judging, saving, and glorifying. The last line of Isa. 29:17, which is essentially the same as the last line of 32:15, apparently means that the fertile field of earlier days will seem like an uncultivated forest in comparison with the glory of the fertile field that will exist after God's end-time work of glorification. This change will be manifested to some extent in the millennial kingdom and to a substantially greater extent in the new earth of the eternal state. The whole world will be affected, but the center of the glory will be Jerusalem, the city of God and the city of true Israel.]]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Isaiah chapter 29 in Part 7, starting with verse 18.
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