Category: BIBLE PROPHECY

RAPTURE PART 4: IS JESUS A THIEF?

For twenty-eight years I was a believer in and fierce defender of the “pre-tribulation” rapture: not any more. If you find yourself in that camp, I sincerely hope you can open your mind a little to the idea that the pre-tribulation rapture theory has some serious flaws, and that the consequences for us as believers are very considerable…

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This post is a part of chapter three of my book* It’s rather lengthy, but you can scroll down and get the gist of it if you want.

WILL THE SECOND COMING BE IN TWO STAGES?

Experts see the second coming of Jesus Christ happening in two stages. In pre-tribulation theory, these two stages are separated by a time period of at least seven years. The first stage of Christ’s second coming, say the experts, will be in secret, like a thief in the night, in the air, to ‘catch up’ the Church into heaven (Revelation 16:15; 2 Peter 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). The second stage, it’s believed, will be for all the world to see, and to bring judgment on those who were left behind by the rapture and who didn’t repent during the tribulation (Revelation 19:11-16; Matthew 24:30; Zechariah 12:10).

I have to wonder why God wants to spend seven years punishing the world, when he’s going to be judging each and every individual when he returns anyway. Does he have a mean streak? Is he sadistic? Does he want to prolong the suffering of the lost on earth before he sends them into the lake of fire? No, Jesus is not sadistic: the tribulation time is a time of division. It is the last opportunity for man to repent , or to be eternally lost.

The phrase ‘thief in the night’, taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, is used by prophecy experts to conjure up visions of Jesus secretly snatching away his Church before any tribulation starts, taking everyone by surprise, leaving traffic-jams with empty cars and pilot-less planes to fall from the sky. All sorts of scenarios have been imagined to explain the sudden disappearance of millions of people around the world, including a mass alien cleansing of the earth before the aliens come to straighten planet earth out.

As a new believer I was terrified that I may do, say or think something which would jeopardize my rapture status, leaving me behind in a hostile world devoid of the Holy Spirit and other Christians, to deal with the mark of the beast and persecution. Beside fearfulness, this kind of thinking can produce a class mentality: a world in which you have the good rapture candidates, and those who aren’t going to make it. They aren’t committed enough, or they aren’t spiritual enough, or they’ve had a sip of alcoholic drink and failed the test.

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IS JESUS A THIEF?

Are we to see Jesus as a “thief”? Will he “steal” his people from the world when nobody is expecting him to? Jesus did say, a few times, that he would come “like a thief”. The first such simile in the book of Revelation is found in his letter to the first-century church at Sardis:

If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I come against you” (Revelation 3:3 ESV).

Without doubt Jesus is likening his coming to that of a thief. However, he is here threatening to come against the church in judgment or discipline, not to rapture it away. He’s not promising to “snatch up” all the compliant faithful congregants leaving the rest behind. He’s not preparing the church for rapture.

As far as I know no pre-tribulation teachers suggest that the church in Sardis directly represents the last-days Church universal, though some do say that all the letters to the churches of Revelation speak of it in some way, directly or indirectly. Certainly the weaknesses of man are universal, and Jesus did say repeatedly, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:6). We do all need to learn from their failures and their successes, and from the direction of the word of God.

The second time in Revelation that Jesus said he would come like a thief is in chapter 16:

Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake…” (Revelation 16:15).

The timing of this statement must be significant. It’s just after…and not before…six of the seven bowl judgments-final judgments-very possibly concurrent or synonymous to the seven trumpet judgments, in which the sea has been turned to blood, and several other terrible plagues have take place. It’s also just before the beast and the kings of the earth are gathered together in the place called Armageddon, where Jesus Christ will engage them upon his glorious return in power and glory. Remember that we found that after the sixth trumpet the kings of the earth realize God’s wrath has come (Revelation 6:12-17). Incredibly, the final gathering of armies is a last-gasp and futile human effort to prevent Jesus Christ returning (19:19).

The seven trumpet judgments of wrath are arguably contemporaneous with the seven bowls of God’s wrath (16:1b). One reason for believing this is that they both are said to fulfill the wrath of God:

(TRUMPETS)

There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished” (Revelation 10:6-7).

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ…’” (Revelation 11:15).

(BOWLS)

I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven last plagues-last, because with them God’s wrath is completed” (Revelation 15:1).

The significance of the above facts is that on both occasions in Revelation in which Jesus says that he will come like a thief, the topic is judgment and wrath. Someone is about to be judged-not raptured!

Jesus also spoke of his coming as being “like a thief” in his Olivet Discourse. Warning his disciples not to become complacent and fall into sin, he gave the example of Noah and the flood, in which all the wicked were judged. He told them to keep watch, just as a house owner would keep watch over his house if he knew a thief was about (Matthew 24: 36-44). More on Jesus’ example of Noah later.

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WHAT IS A THIEF?

Think about what a thief is. A thief is someone who does something no-one likes: he takes what is NOT his. But Jesus Christ’s Church is his property, his bride. Is he really calling himself a thief in the above passages? Should he be thought of as a thief, or that he wanted to be known as a thief?

Jesus didn’t actually say, “I am a thief”, or “I will be a thief”. Instead he said “I come like a thief”. Jesus does not steal what is not his. Instead he comes in the manner of a thief: suddenly; unexpected; without warning; unannounced; uninvited.

THIEF IN THE NIGHT

The “thief in the night” phrase is today taken out of its proper context. It doesn’t refer in scripture to the rapture at all, as believed by millions of Christians. According to Paul it’s “the day of the Lord” which will come like a thief in the night-not the rapture:

“…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

So what exactly is the day of the Lord? Paul described the day of the Lord not as the “snatching up of the Church”, but as the time of destruction of the unsaved:

While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly…(verse 3).

The truth will dawn on the unbelieving world, though they had been thinking that their own great leader had everything under control-that is, the man and the kingdom about whom Daniel says:

When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power (Daniel 8:25).

And John tells us that the people of earth, in admiration of him, will say:

“Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” (Revelation 13:4).

The God they had insisted didn’t exist will suddenly be knocking very loudly on their door. It will be the ultimate shocking realization for them.

Those in rebellion against God will for a time think they have the world to themselves (they do now!). Instead they’re going to get a severe shock when the day of the Lord comes upon them, “like a thief in the night”.

Peter also likened the day of the Lord, not Jesus or the rapture, to a thief:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire…(2 Peter 3:10).

Luke’s account of Jesus’ parable concerning the master who appears and takes his servants by surprise also uses the “thief” metaphor, but Jesus wasn’t using it in positive terms. In fact, he said that a wise house owner “would not have let his house be broken into” (Luke 12:39). This imagery would be conflicting with the pre-tribulation understanding of the “thief in the night” if it were true, suggesting that the wise house owner would not let Jesus-the thief-inside to rapture him.

Picture Jesus as the thief coming to rapture you, and you locking the door so he couldn’t get in! Surely that analogy does not make sense as rapture talk.

*THIS POST IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, BY NICHOLAS FISHER, AVAILABLE ON AMAZON IN PAPER-BACK AND E-BOOK. PART 5 WILL APPEAR SOON

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SETTING DATES FOR THE FULFILLMENT OF BIBLE PROPHECY

Here’s the article which many ministries-benefiting from your desire to know, and living an exciting life on your money and their speculation-aren’t giving you…

THE WESTERN WALL

One of the worst things a student or teacher of Bible prophecy can do is to set dates for its fulfillment. Having said that, I think there’s a place for asking if what we’ve been believing about end-times events is really true. This question, I think, affords and even requires a little ball-park speculation on the matter of timing. Yes-I’m going to set some dates! This article has few Bible references. I’ve listed relevant references elsewhere, and will do so again soon.

When we think about the possibility that we’re near the time of the return of Jesus Christ, the most compelling reason to believe that we are is the modern state of Israel. No, I’m not one of those fooled by replacement theology.

In 70 AD the legions of Rome destroyed Judea and Jerusalem, and expelled any Jews they didn’t kill from the ancient homeland. Against all odds and with no conscious intent to fulfill prophecy, but only to avoid another holocaust, the modern state of Israel was established officially in 1948. In 1967 Israelis regained control over all Jerusalem. Mirroring Bible prophecy, Israel since 1948 has very quickly grown and prospered. Its population has increased, with Jews immigrating there from all corners of the world. Its determination to hold on to the capital against the will of the world has been successful.

REMAINS OF THE SECOND JEWISH TEMPLE, WITH ISLAMIC DOME OF THE ROCK BEHIND IT

Also in line with prophecy the foretold enemies of the nation have been claiming the land belongs to them and not to Jews. Only the election of Donald Trump has temporarily halted the world’s schemes to remove Israelis, or at least professing Jews, from their ancient capital. Once he’s gone from power, for whatever reason, you can expect the pressure from all sides-including and perhaps especially the U.S., to continue apace, eventually culminating in a military assault as predicted in such Bible books as Zechariah.

Some commentators have mistakenly had the opinion that the current regathering of Israel cannot be the predicted one because, they assert, the Bible says Israel must be spiritually cleansed and holy as a prerequisite to restoration. To the careful reader, the Bible tells a different story: cleansing will not take place until the Messiah shows up to defend the nation at a time of extreme crisis.

TIME LIMITS, TIME CLUES

However, there are two potential problems with the entire Israel regathering “scenario” (to use a prophetic cliche). Perhaps they aren’t problems at all-perhaps they are in fact further indication that the time of fulfillment is very near.

1: THE “SECOND” RETURN FROM EXILE

The first problem concerns a Biblical limit to the number of returns of the nation from total exile. Isaiah wrote:

In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people…he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
    from the four quarters of the earth (Isaiah 11:11-12).

In the Bible only two returns are allowed from total exile. The first occurred when ancient Israel and then Judah were invaded and carried off by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The second return began officially in 1948.

The idea that the current return is bogus and the real one is yet future just doesn’t make sense. If the miraculous events of the past several decades and the struggles between Israel and their neighbors and the world are not those prophesied, they are an incredibly realistic dress-rehearsal. Also, believing that the real return is yet future, we would have to expect the current inhabitants of the land to be driven out by some huge war or other disaster. The land would have to be invaded and claimed by enemies again, and then left empty and waste for a long period of time. Israelis there now would once again have to be dispersed to all corners of the earth for a long period of time.

West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements)
WEST BANK AND GAZA

How many times in the course of human history can the incredible set of events prophesied actually play out, in such an amazing series of what would have to be “coincidences”, as they have over the last several decades? It seems to me that either the 20th C restoration of Israel-the current one-must be the second regathering spoken of in Isaiah, or we would have to accept that the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel and others were wrong, and therefore didn’t speak the word of God at all. In that case, no Biblical scripture could be trusted.

Also, when you consider other conditions in our world at this time in relation to Biblical prophesies, it’s clear that there’s much more than just coincidence at work here.

2: THE INVASION OF A LAND RECENTLY REGATHERED

The second time-issue concerns a Biblical limit on the time which can transpire between the regathering of Jews to the land and the judgment of the nations. Prophecies in Ezekiel foretell an international assault on Israel and the Middle-East in general ending in God’s clear and decisive intervention, after which the whole world will know there is a God who is still the Protector of Israel. This assault is said to come:

…against a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate (Ezekiel 38:8).

This and other passages indicate that Israel will be invaded by nations who recognize that its regathering is recent. So the vital question is, just how long a time period, scripturally-speaking, could be considered “recent”? Here’s my theory.

First, Israel, says the prophecy, would boom in population and in economic success. This would naturally take some time, but it has happened in just a few decades.

Israel, (that is, Jews and those from the northern tribes who had joined with Judah) were expelled from the land for seventy years (Ezra 1:1). God had told Isaiah many centuries BC that Ephraim was “about to” be judged by Assyria (Isaiah 8:7 NIV). That “about to” period was sixty-five years (7:8). We Bible students know that to the Lord “a thousand years is as a day”, so using that scale of what time seems like to God the “recent” period from the regathering of Israel to the invasion could be many thousands of years.

However, those two terms-“recent” and “thousands of years” don’t fit together well to us mortals, and the invading force of end-times certainly wouldn’t see an event thousands of years previous as being “recent”. God’s words, “sixty-five years” were just about meaningful as a short time period to Isaiah. The “recent” time period in Ezekiel must be seen as being truly recent to humans.

I’m not setting dates by saying that sixty-five years is the time period we must look for, but it seems logical that it’s a “ball-park” number. It could actually be fifty, or seventy, eighty, or more. At what point would the regathering of Israel not be considered by its invaders to be “recent” any more? And when exactly would the “prophetic clock” start ticking: 1948? 1967? Perhaps it would start when the majority of Jews had returned from the nations-perhaps the year 1990, or 2000, or 2010.

We could create a maximum time of fulfillment so that, say, seventy-five years from the dwindling of returnees to the land from the nations would take us to the year 2085. This would be the very latest date we could reasonably expect the prophecies of Ezekiel to be fulfilled. Alternatively, If we add sixty-five years to 1967, the year Israelis regained their ancient capital which figures so highly in last-days prophecy, we get the year 2032…only thirteen years from now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAPTURE PART 3: SAINTS OF WRATH?

Hello and Shalom to all you truth-seekers out there. Welcome to part three of my latest series on the timing of the rapture. Herein are more excerpts from my book* 

Bury-your-Head-in-the-sand

Many Christians wonder why people like myself bother writing on this  subject. They think it unimportant or irrelevant, or already covered adequately by others. In response, I will just say that far too many who are interested in future things are sticking their heads in the sand of faulty and mistaken doctrine, and will be shocked if those times they expect to escape are suddenly upon us. Very few are raising alarm bells in this regard. Here, then, is a continuation of my own alarm bells.

THE SAINTS OF WRATH?

Some argue that the wrath of God will fall for the entire future seven years they envisage, because the rapture will have taken place, and anyone “left behind” will be under that wrath. As a consequence of not being ready for the rapture, they say, these people will have to face all the horrors of tribulation. This argument doesn’t work, when you consider that there will be “saints” alive at that time, according to Revelation. We read about those saints in several places in Revelation, and how they will be persecuted for their resistance to the kingdom of the Antichrist. Will those “saints”, who are followers of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17) be under the wrath of God? Hardly! God said  that they who give their lives for him at that time will be “blessed”! They will not be under wrath or any curse:

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on’ (Revelation 14:12-13 NIV).

Since this is the case, how can we smugly see ourselves as the recipients of blessing in a pre-tribulation rapture while the saints of tribulation times will be under God’s wrath? Surely they will not be, even though they will be alive as humans in Antichrist’s kingdom. Millions of Christians have been persecuted over the centuries, and many are being persecuted this very day. Being alive in the world at that future time described in Revelation does not equate to being under the wrath of God!

NO SEVEN-YEAR WRATH

John writes in Revelation that Antichrist will have power over the earth for forty-two months, or three and a half years (Revelation 13:5). So if the wrath of God in the form of disasters, plagues etc. does not fall until after the revealing of Antichrist, as Paul clearly indicates, it means wrath falls on humanity for much less than a seven year period. There’s no passage of scripture declaring that God’s wrath, or even man’s wrath, will play out for seven years. The words of Jesus may confirm this. In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus speaks first about the destruction of the temple, due to happen just decades after the disciples hear his warning. Then when the disciples ask him about the end of the age, he tells them that such things as deception, earthquakes and wars will herald the “birth pains” of the end times. Jesus said that nation will rise against nation, and there will be famines and earthquakes. All these things can be said to have been occurring over the last two-thousand years (Matthew 24:1-14). In fact, he said of them:

Do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (verse 6).

This suggests that any increase in intensity of “birth pains”, envisaged within the Olivet Discourse by prophecy experts today, have not occurred yet in the narrative. It seems that at some point those “birth pains” will indeed intensify, because Jesus goes on to intensify them. But when he says “then” in verse 9, to continue his prophecy, does he mean that the following events are just a part of what he has already mentioned-the “birth pains” which are not to be worried about? No, it seems he means that those things he has warned of will intensify, as suggested by his description. He lays out a vision of severe persecution, a loss of faith among many, a profusion of false prophets, deception, and a noticeable increase in wickedness (verses 9-11).

THE “PEACE TREATY”: NOT A SIGN OF RAPTURE

If a pre-tribulation rapture is to deliver us from the wrath of God, it does not need to occur until at most forty-two months before the visible return of Jesus Christ. There is no other event beside the revealing of Antichrist which we can be sure will be noticeable as a prophetic sign that the day of the Lord has come.

The “peace deal” which many believe Daniel speaks of as occurring at the beginning of the “seven year tribulation” is actually some sort of “covenant”, treaty or agreement (Daniel 9:27). It may not be an item of news. In other words, it may be done under the table, behind closed doors, in secret, without the world knowing. This would explain why Jesus and Paul did not mention any covenant, treaty or peace deal as a sign of the start of the day of the Lord. Instead they spoke only of the revealing of Antichrist as the mark of its beginning.

There are some that believe the first half of Daniel’s last “seven”, usually interpreted as the “seven-year tribulation”, actually played out at the time of Christ. In this case, there is only 42 months of God’s “seventy weeks” plan left to unfold-the very time period spoken of regularly in Revelation. Whether or not this is so, Paul and Jesus did not mention any peace treaty or covenant. A “falling away” and the revealing of Antichrist will come as first signs, and the wrath of God will probably not, judging by the opening of the seals, and the record of Revelaton, fall immediately after that. So why do we have to invoke a pre-tribulation rapture at least seven years before the return of Christ?

WRATH, RELIEF AND REVENGE: AT THE PHYSICAL RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST

Another indicator of the timing of God’s wrath is given by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He told these Christians that they would be rewarded for their good deeds and avenged for the way they’ve been mistreated. This will happen, he said, upon the physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth, and not before:

He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels…on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

So not only will believers not be avenged or rewarded until the physical appearance of Jesus Christ on the earth, but Paul equates that day with the day Jesus is glorified and marveled at by “all those who have believed”. Here is as clear a statement of the timing of the rapture as we can find-but it’s ignored by the experts.

Making that “day” a general time only obfuscates and fudges, because the same “day” is applied to the blessing of believers as the day of vengeance. Both happen on the same “day”, and there’s no indication that rewards to believers come before Christ’s vengeance. Changing this “day” to mean a general time period is actually changing the content of the verse, because Paul clearly said that these two things will occur when Christ is made physically manifest, in blazing fire, with his powerful angels. This will happen on a specific day, not an age or a general time period.

*THIS POST IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, BY NICHOLAS FISHER, AVAILABLE ON AMAZON IN PAPER-BACK AND E-BOOK. PART 4 WILL APPEAR SOON.

THE DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE

Having been a proponent of the pre-tribulation rapture as I was for twenty-eight years, its counter-productive or destructive power in the life of the Christian and the Church as a whole is becoming clearer to me all the time…

800px-Boeing_720_Controlled_Impact_Demonstration

There was a time when I looked forward to being raptured, because the rapture was going to happen before anything really nasty happened in my part of the world. In an instant I was going to be in heaven, without hardly having to defend my faith at all. Don’t get me wrong: the rapture, I’m convinced, is a real, Biblical event, and there really is going to be a tribulation. The nation of Israel and the remnant will be the focus of world events for a few years, and the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ will follow. However, having honestly and realistically faced up to all those tricky Bible passages in all their glory and detail, I see things very differently now*.

The little cliched allegory of a live frog being slowly heated up in a pan of water, so that he doesn’t know he’s cooking, is becoming increasingly relevant. We’re all frogs in that pot, while the world around us “heats up”. The very conditions prophesied are becoming more prevalent and pronounced, while we’re still here…on the earth.

Perhaps another cliched but equally unmistakable fact is that if our immediate ancestors-those who lived just a few decades ago, were suddenly transported to our present day they would be mortified by what they would see: gay marriage and almost universal immorality; churches erasing the maleness of God, not to mention the deity of Christ, the rejection of national pride, and far more. Our world is moving quickly towards a global society in which the Christian faith is without doubt going to be squeezed into the shadows by an increasingly hostile liberal elite, while a certain other religion is being escorted to prominence. Once the current US president goes, for whatever reason, the process will escalate, and our world will change radically.

The predicament Israel, the newly reformed Jewish nation, finds itself in just as prophesied, is no less dramatic than it has been, as most of the West outside of Trump and his supports grow in their favor towards the enemies of Israel. The technology necessary to number, monitor and control everyone on earth is available and already at work, as is the propaganda and establishment necessary to herd everyone into the same way of thinking.

In short, the conditions which well-known prophecy teachers have assured us would come about after the rapture, are becoming more and more visible to us…here and now.

As with most debatable issues among humans, Christians generally take one or another of two extreme views and refuse to budge. Either they think that prophesied events are not to be considered and can’t be understood, so ignore them altogether, or they follow what their favorite teacher says to the n’th degree and refuse to even imagine any other view than the pre-tribulation rapture: we’ll all be taken away before anything bad happens to us. Both views are dangerously faulty.

A large percentage of Christians believe that we shouldn’t be engaged in politics; we shouldn’t speak out and upset anyone; we shouldn’t make waves; we shouldn’t say that some things are wrong and some are right… and they vacate the space which generations of freedom-seekers worked and fought for on our behalf, leaving the champions of lawlessness to move in. A majority of evangelical ministers who do care insist on supporting the politically-correct understanding of eschatology, and so fail to alert their people or anyone else to what our Enemy is already working out in our world. They tell us that it’s all unavoidable anyway, and not to worry because before anything serious happens to our society and our nation we’ll all be whisked away to heaven. Never mind the fact that millions of our brothers and sisters in the faith around the world are already suffering persecution without being raptured, because that’s “over there somewhere”: it’ll never happen here.

Apart from a minority of dedicated people who’re engaging in every way they can in our world to preserve what’s left of the Christian free world, the rest of us are in essence handing it over to the kind of people who will happily stand squarely behind the “man of lawlessness”, when he finally makes his debut appearance.

* My new book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE” is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.

 

 

 

ALL LEFT BEHIND: MY NEW BOOK

Greetings brothers and sisters in the faith. None of us has been “left behind” by the rapture-yet-so we still have time to read up on it!

Did you ever wonder if what people say about the rapture is true? My new book is the result of years of soul-searching and scripture study on the subject. Posts on this blog published over the past few years formed the foundation of the book, which contains far more insight and detailed commentary than all the posts put together. I believe I’ve also made the whole subject much more understandable than I did before.

Available in paperback or e-book. Take a look: