Things were bad in Europe the night before.
Multiple countries were going broke and their current was in a steep slide. Just as individuals can only borrow so much money before they reach their credit limit, several countries were finding they were not impervious to the same economic laws. They were simply running out of money and threatening to default on their bonds.
One way countries raise money is to issue bonds; other countries and investors then buy these bonds, loaning money to the country which then pays the lenders an interest. Many states, municipalities, and big companies all do the same thing. Usually, the bond market is a world of regularity; obligations are met, interest is paid, and everybody is happy. Unfortunately, however, several countries had borrowed excessively and when their economies went bad,. they found themselves in the unfortunate situation of not having enough money.
In these embarrassing circumstances, countries might increase taxation rates, effectively extorting their people for money to pay for their poor economy. After increased taxation, the general population had less money to spend for goods and services meaning more business had greater difficulty staying in business – and many failed. With the failure of business came increased increased unemployment and reduced tax incomes for the government. This vicious cycle or ever increasing taxation producing ever decreasing employment and prosperity produced a debt crisis in Europe as governments had to borrow ever increasing amounts to government operations.
But the real cause of the financial decline of Europe did not fundamentally result from poor leadership, but from the incessant demands from citizens for more and more government benefits. As Alexander Tytler famously noted.
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship
Such has been the case in Europe. Many governments, especially those of the so-called PIIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) overpromised and overspent for decades, throwing money in reckless abandon at every problem, ensuring its citizens a trouble free retirement starting at an ever-earlier age. Citizens were guaranteed to be taken care of from cradle to grave; every health problem resolved by a “free” physician visit, free childcare, free medicines, subsidized housing, cheap transportation, plenty of paid vacation time every year, ending in a life-long pension and a free burial; What could go wrong!
As Margaret Thatcher famously quoted, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Such became the case in Europe. Country after country found they could no longer borrow their way out of financial insolvency as their credit was reduced to near junk status and lenders evaporated. Being a part of the European Union, they were forced to introduce severe austerity measures to get international loans from other countries – but only at high interest rates. These strict measures negatively affected the lifestyle of millions of citizens in the PIIGS countries crashing their stock markets while reducing government benefits. Since all stock markets are at some level interconnected – other country’s stock markets throughout Asia and the Americas crashed as well. That was the reality to Jeff’s morning when he arrived at work.
Jeff’s usual habit was to arrive at work early; he would frequently accompany the janitorial staff at the front door. His early arrival was not due to some devotion to his work, but rather to put in a few hours while the place was quiet. This morning, he arrived only to find his phone ringing, with 47 messages from irate customers wondering how he could have given them such bad advice. Jeff always found it amusing that customers would always complain when they were losing money, but would never phone to thank him for making them money.
Of course, Jeff would not return most of those calls from newly impoverished customers; what would be the use? They made the decision to invest with him and it was their poor judgment which caused them to lose money. But this morning was different from most; there were no buyers, and the marked was in free fall. Panicked customers were trying to sell their entire account – but there were no buyers to relieve them of their discounted stock assets. Of course, Jeff generally could not be troubled that his customers were losing money; he made the same commissions when clients bought stock as when they sold them. But in situations where there were no buyers – well, there was no commissions being made either.
It was at times like these that Jeff was glad he was not a broker living thirty years ago. Back then, every stock transaction had to go through a broker; some person had to actually take the buy or sell order and route it to the stock exchange where it could be executed. Today, everything was done electronically; it was rare a broker’s attention was every required. It was a good thing too, because even an average day can see literally billions of shares of stock changing hands; but computerized brokerages also insulated the broker from irate customers.
By noon, the financial news around the world was particularly grim; trillions of dollars worth of stock equity had vanished in hours. People’s pension funds were being wiped out, minicipalities ranging from a small village in Montana to New York City were being wiped out. Retirees were waking up to find their life savings expected to last for the rest of their retirement was no longer there.
In short, it was a financial disaster, and Jeff was int the eye of the storm. Even though he was not too concerned about the financial health of his customers, he was concerned about his own money which was tied up in stocks and bonds, both of which were being trashed. He tried to buy put options which might protect his investments – but there were no sellers. There was nothing he could do but watch his stock portfolio become decimated; there was no corner of the financial markets spared; even gold was falling as investors sold everything trying to get into cash.
Finally, the markets closed and rather than the jubilant shout from the stock market floor – there was silence. Brokers knew the carnage the day’s trading mad produced on their personal accounts as well as their customers. The President would address the nation concerning the “European problem” which had become a worldwide problem overnight. There was talk the markets might be closed tomorrow for a “cooling off period” and a bank holiday to avoid a Depression-era run on the banks tomorrow. Jeff finally made it home, threw his coat on the sofa, pulled the curtains shut, and took in the silence of his home.
Jeff had always believed he could work his way out of anything, but he wasn’t so sure now. The world had changed, governments in Europe were in danger of falling while frenzied swarms of angry mobs set fire to cities all through Europe. There were calls to abolish the stock market, jail the politicians who were responsible for the mess they were in. In typical fashion of all mobs, they failed to place any blame upon themselves for demanding an ever greater standard of living even if the economy could not produce the wealth such standards require. It didn’t matter to the majority of these mobs that they borrowed their way into a lifestyle that could not be sustained, effectively borrowing money that their children and grand-children would be paying back. There is no reasoning with a mob; and there is no reasoning with a populace hooked on artificial opulence.
Jeff knew, of course, the stock market couldn’t go up forever, just like he knew the artificially inflated lifestyle of millions of Americans would eventually come crashing down. He also knew that as a stockbroker – he was one of the least popular men in America right now. He sought solace in alcohol, gradually drowning out his fears of tomorrow as his consciousness faded into oblivion.
While initially, the angelic visits were every week or two, they were becoming much more frequent not. Jeff had asked the angel why he was seeing him more frequently; was it because of something he had personally done to merit his increased attention? The angel told him that no, it was nothing he had done. Rather, it was because there was so much information to convey, so much that Jeff had to learn. Once again, the angel scolded Jeff for not having spent his life more wisely; for not learning about God and rather frittering his life away in personal pleasures.
Jeff Falls Asleep Again
Just as Jeff started to fall asleep, he became aware of the familiar changes in his room; there was almost immediate brightening to a familiar nearly intolerable brilliance from light coming at him from all directions. The brilliance obliterated everything in his room; it was if he were standing in mid air because the floor and ceiling of his room were also encompassed in light. Then he became aware of the angel as an amorphous form within the brilliance.
“Tonight, we shall continue where we stopped off moving along to the fourth Jewish festival and its importance to Christianity. The Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament is what became known in the New Testament as the Feast of Pentecost. It is a celebration of life; a celebration of freedom that God had given both to the ancient Jewish as well as to the newly born church.”
“OK – angel, you’re going to have to elaborate a bit; what the heck is the Feast of Weeks?”
“As you remember from our discussion regarding the Passover, God freed the Jews from their slavery in Egypt; then, he gave them the Law of Moses shortly afterwards. This is all explained where God told the Jews,
You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering [in other words, the Feast of Firstfruits, there shall be seven complete Sabbath. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath: then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord.
“A new grain offering was to be offered to God again – but it was different from the barley harvest mentioned during Firstfruits,
You shall bring in from your dwelling places to loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as firstfruits to the Lord.
“Notice that now, leavened bread is used in place of the unleavened bread which was used in earlier ceremonies. During the previous three feasts, God is dealing with the purging of sin in our lives and so unleavened bread is used to symbolically represent a sinless life. However, the Feast of Weeks refers to people receiving the Mosaic Law at Mt. Sinai – the people still have in in their lives as presented by the leavened bread.”
“There are seven weeks between Firstfruits of the barley harvest and the Firstfruits of the wheat harvest in Israel. According to Scripture, the Jews were commanded to count these days in a process they called the “counting of the omer.” By the end of the omer count, the wheat crop was ready for harvest – Shavuot – the Jewish name for the Festival of Weeks – means seven weeks.”
“OK, angel, so I get the significance of Passover and even Firstfruits, but what is the significance of Shavuot?”
“The feasts all have historical significance as you noted. For example, Pesach – the Hebrew word for Passover – is a remembrance of the slaying of the Passover Lamb; Unleavened Bread is a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt (a biblical “type” or representation of sin), the putting of sins behind us. The seventh day of Passover (or Firstfruits) according to Jewish tradition, represents the crossing of the Red Sea and the final separation of Israel from Egypt (sin). Christ was resurrected on the holiday of Firstfruits in order to finally separate us all from sin.”
“Son of Man, can you see how all the original Jewish historical events – the freeing of Israel from Egypt, traversing the Sinai Peninsula to cross the Red Sea, and finally to camp around Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah from God given to Moses on Mt. Sinai – how they are represented in the four Jewish Festivals – Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Shavuot?”
“Well, yes, I guess so. But don’t you think this is a little bit contrived? I mean, how do we know these things happened in the first place – that all of this historical events – such as the parting of the Red Sea – a truly big body of water, is not all just a myth, something made up. I mean, I remember listening to experts on the History Channel that even said there was scant if any evidence the Jews ever lived in Egypt let alone millions of Jews; that there is no evidence concerning a Jewish migration, or that they wandered for forty years in the desert! I think it’s all a myth made up to allow the Jews to claim Palestine – to throw all those poor refugees off their land.”
“Son of Earth – we will discuss some of your issues before your time comes; everything in its own order. The Lord is a God of order, and we will proceed in order.”
“Whatever. I guess I have no choice, do I?”
“Shavuot for the Jews – what Christians call Pentecost – is a remembrance of the giving of the law at Mount Sinai which was reached by Israel after crossing the Red Seas. The counting of the omer – the fifty days between Firstfruits and Shavuot – is regarded as a commemoration of the time between leaving Egypt and receiving the law on Mt. Sinai. Therefore, Shavuot was a commemoration of God’s appearance on Mt. Sinai.”
“On the first Shavuot, many signs and wonders accompanied God’s appearance to Moses and the giving of the Law. Smoke, fire, and clouds were on the top of the mountain; the moutain itself rumbled and the blast of a shofar (trumpet) sounded louder and louder. The midrash – a collection of oral traditions of the things that happened in history, comments on Exodus 20:18,”
On the occasion of the giving of the Torah, the children of Israel not only heard the LORD’s voice, but actually saw the sound waves as they emerged from the LORD’s mouth. They visualized them as a fiery substance. Each commandment that left the LORD’s mouth traveled around the entire camp and then came back to every Jew individually. And all the people witnessed the thunderings. Note that it does not say the thunder, but the thunderings. Rabbi Johanan said that God’s voice, as it was uttered, split up into seventy voices, in seventy languages, so that all the nations should understand.
“In the same section of the midrash, it also says,”
God came down from the heavens, and stepped onto the top of Mount Sinai. There was wind, lightning, thunder, fire, smoke, and there was the very loud sound of a ram’s horn trumpet blowing. And apparently the entire camp audibly heard the voice of God speaking the Ten Commandments.
“So, Son of Earth, the Jewish people that day accepted the contract (otherwise known as a ‘covenant’ or ‘testament’) between God and them. They agreed to obey the laws which God was giving them.”
“Do you mean, angel, the Jewish people actually agreed to all that stuff; I mean, about not eating pigs, not fooling around with somebody else’s wife, and giving fully ten percent of what they have to God?”
“Of course they did, Son of Earth. We will also discuss the Mosaic law at a later time. What I want you to recognize is the similarity between the Jewish feast of Shavuot and the Christian Pentecost. First, they both occur on the same day; fifty days after Firstfruits for the Jew and fifty days after Easter for the Christian. Shavuot represents the establishment of the old covenant between Israel and God while the Pentecost represents the establishment of the new covenant between God and those who accept it. The first is the covenant of law while the second is the covenant of grace. The first relies on man’s ability to keep the law while the new covenant relies on God’s infinite ability to give forgiveness.”
“Hear how Scripture describes the events at Pentecost,”
And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together and was bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.
“Do you hear, Son of Earth, the similarity between the first Shavuot and the first Pentecost?”
“Yes, I guess so; there is some similarity.”
“The ancient Jews were well aware of the similarity that ties the two events together. But there is another interesting aspect of the giving of the law at Shavuot and the giving of grace at Pentecost. In the first, there were three thousand men that died the day the law was given,
whereas there were three thousand people who were saved the day that grace was given. You see, Son of Earth, the law brought death, while grace brings life.”
“So then why, angel, was the law given which only brought death – what is the sense of that?”
“Son of Earth, there were many functions of the ancient Mosaic law – most of which will be a topic for another day. However, there are two we will consider now.”
“OK – what are those; I mean, how can God be just by bringing in a system of justice that only leads to death?”
“Son of Earth, one function was to illustrate to mankind their inability to maintain a totally virtuous life. It has always been God’s plan to have his people live forever with him as his family; inheritors of everything he has, to live in splendid glory with him through eternity. There is only one problem; mankind is sinful – intrinsically sinful, and cannot live a sinless life. Your people, Son of Earth, always want to ‘earn’ salvation – to do ‘good works’ that will earn them God’s pleasure. But to God, all of your ‘good works’ are as filthy menstrual rags
contaminated with your selfish pride and sinful nature. What the law did was to illustrate to Israel – and to the world in general – how mankind is unable to follow God even when God is in their very presence!”
“Well, I guess I never thought about it like that!”
“Son of Earth, another function of the Mosaic law was to keep the Jews separate from other peoples. It was the ultimate plan of God to bring redemption to the world; a way to forgive mankind for all his murders, lies, cheating, stealing, injustices, and transgressions. He would do this through a Messiah – a Savior – who would be born into the world as a descendant of his chosen people. This Messiah would be a man so that he could stand in front of God instead of you, and be slaughtered in your place to enable you to stand blameless before God.”
“So that what this Christian thing is all about?”
“There had to be a period of time, Son of Earth, for the Jews to learn how they could not keep the law perfectly; how people are unable to ‘save themselves.’ During this time, the Jews had to stay a nation that did not marry into and mix with other nations, did not accept their customs, and stayed separate from them. This is the reason for many of the somewhat strange Mosaic laws and customs; to keep the Jews separate from other neighboring nations in order to allow this Messiah to be born literally hundreds of years after the law was given.”
“I guess I sort of understand …”
“You see, Son of Earth, Christianity is the only worldview that insists on the mercy of God; that he desperately wants you to live with him forever as his children in glory and be heirs to everything he has. No other religion has a personal God who is at your beckon call; who wants to hear from you, and who wants to be your guide through the troubles of life. All other religions don’t have such an interested God, and they all insist mankind must earn their way into heaven; this is impossible, for no one is good enough on their own merit to live with God.”
“OK – now what?”
“My time tonight Son of Man is coming to an end; I have tonight given you some of the most important insight you will ever receive; how God loves you so much he died for you; all you need do is to accept that gift.”
“We have now finished with the ancient spring feasts or ‘appointments’ in ancient Israel. Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Shavuot were all ‘appointments’ for the future Christian holy days of the Crucifixion, Burial of Christ, Resurrection, and establishment of the Church. Can you see that Son of Earth – that is a vitally important insight I need for you to understand.”
“Yes, I think I grasp what you are telling me. The ancient Jewish feast days were important in their own right, but they also pointed to future holy days in Christianity which would occur on the same calendar dates.”
“Exactly correct, Son of Earth. All of these feast days occur in the Spring and their Christian equivalents have already happened. They are Son of Earth, associated with Christ’s first coming. Now hear this, Son of Earth for this is very important.”
When the angel spoke those words, the brilliance surrounds Jeff increased until it was actually painful; there was no means of escape. The light appeared from everywhere, surrounding Jeff from all sides as well as from above and below. Reflexively, he clenched his eyes closed and put his arm across both eyes attempting to reduce the light’s brilliance but without effect. The brilliant white light passes through his arms causing Jeff to scream, “Stop! The light is hurting me!”
“Son of Earth, I need to have your attention – your full attention – to grasp the importance of what I am to tell you.”
“OK, Angel, I’m with you – just cut down the light!”
The light dimmed perceptively but remained more brilliant than the sun at noon.
“For untold generations, humanity has dreamed of witnessing the times in which you are now living; the things you may see in your lifetime are wonderful beyond belief.”
“What’s that, angel?” Jeff was still trying to gather himself, to focus his attention on what the angel was saying rather than on the pain he felt from the brilliant light.
“Son of Earth, you remember that the spring Jewish feasts – or appointments – were concerned with the first coming of Christ; the fall Jewish feasts are concerned with the second coming of Christ. Just as Christ came as a suffering servant during his first coming, as a lamb to be sacrificed for the new contract or the new covenant, so will Christ come as a conquering king during his second coming.”
Jeff had vague recollections from his teenage church-going days about the second coming. It was a time when Christ would come back to earth to establish his kingdom. But it all seemed so unreal, so much like a fairy tale that he forgets that part of his faith just as he forgot the stories of Sleeping Beauty or the Lion King. It was all so much like good conquers evil, right wins out in the end, and love conquers all. It was a nice story; but only a story.
“Son of Earth, the fall feasts are Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles; surely you have heard of these?”
“Sure, I have a few Jewish friends down at the brokerage. Many of them take off work these days, especially for Yom Kippur. They are secular Jews, you know, don’t go to synagogue or anything; they aren’t religious fanatics. But they sure do take Yom Kippur seriously.”
“The important thing to remember for our short time left, and for you to consider until your next dream, will be the significance of those fall feast or appointment days. All the feast days were established in Mosaic law many hundreds of years before Christ’s first coming. The spring feasts at that time were rehearsals – appointments – for their Christian counterparts which were all kept at the time of Christ. Similarly, the fall feasts will be fulfilled in the future – the near future – by major Christian events. That is what we will discuss in the future; especially the next major Christian appointment – the next major event in the near – the very near – future.”
As the angel’s last words echoed in the room, his image gradually dimmed, the light – the very brilliant light of the angel trying desperately to get Jeff’s undivided attention – gradually faded, and his room came back into view.
Jeff was covered with sweat; his heart was pounding and all his senses were alive. This last dream was unlike any of the others because it produced a visceral reaction. Jeff was gasping for air, standing against the wall, hands over his eyes struggling for composure. Surely, this must have been what Dante felt as he gazed into the depths of hell, or what Paul felt as he was taken to heaven for his Revelations vision. Jeff was shaken.
Jeff did not scare easily. Many have tried over the years to introduce fear into his life – especially clients who lost vast sums of money in the stock market. He was not easily intimidated and carried around a pistol under his jacket for any unfortunate idiot who tried to take intimidation to a physical level.
But the angel scared him.
What was he to tell him about his future, about the world’s future, that was so important that the angel did all he could to generate fear and foreboding into his very soul? For perhaps the first time, Jeff realized the seriousness of what the angel was trying to do. Those who take measured risks throughout their lives become every surer of their own chosen path; their decisions are taken with the surety of a surgeon cutting into his patient’s heart. If you can’t take the heat – well, you don’t belong in the game. And Jeff was very much in the game.
There would be no sleeping after all of that, so Jeff turned on the television. Financial panic was still gripping Europe, the Japanese yen was again dropping in value, and it looks like the American stock market was headed for another sharp decline.
“Another day in paradise!” Jeff quipped to himself, vaguely regretting the difficult day that was sure to come shortly.
So, just was all that stuff about – a future appointment for the church; in the ‘near’ future? Jeff took a quick shower to clean off all the sweat of his angelic encounter, did his morning routine, and left for work.
It would be an interesting day.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Fraser_Tytler (Generally attributed ty Tytler although there is some scholarly debate as to the author)
 Leviticus 23:15-16
 Leviticus 23:17
 Acts 2:2-6
 Exodus 32:28
 Acts 2:41
 Isaiah 64:6