Category Archives: Apologetics

Too Good, Too Late

For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. (Isaiah 57:16)

Of all of God’s attributes, one is that of patience or longsuffering. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s patience is infinite, as He is infinite. However, God sets a limit on His patience as our starting verse makes clear; He will not “contend” with us forever. The Hebrew word translated “contend” is rı̂yb and it means “to toss, that is, grapple; to wrangle, that is, hold a controversy; to debate.

The earliest example we find in the Bible appears in the account of the Global Flood.[1] For almost 1600 years following Creation, men grew progressively perverse even though God’s witnesses existed in abundance. Their original father, Adam, lived for more than half of that time.[2] The letter to the Hebrews records that “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5, emphasis mine). Jesus’ half-brother, Jude, noted, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 1:14-15). Yet, with all these witnesses over the many years, the wickedness of humans only increased. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). God’s patience reached its limit, and He sent the Flood.

However, God’s plan for the redemption of man never deviated. God’s salvation would come through Abraham and through his “seed.”[3] Abraham’s seed went through his son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob/Israel. Israel, that is the descendants of Jacob, soon put God’s patience to the test shortly after He rescued them from Egyptian bondage.

Not long after their exit from Egypt, they fell into idolatry by worshipping the golden calf[4] even though God earlier gave them His Ten Commandments. Then, one generation after entering the Promised Land, they fell right back into their old idolatrous ways. God would punish them, they would repent, God forgave and they would do it over again. This remained true throughout their history.

After King Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam failed to keep the nation united and the northern ten tribes seceded and formed their own nation, Israel. The southern kingdom survived with two tribes, Benjamin and Judah and went by the name of the larger tribe, Judah.

Israel immediately fell into idolatry and all her kings “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.” God’s patience with Israel reached its limit after 200 years, and the Assyrians under the King Shalmaneser[5] invaded and expatriated the entire population of Israel and deported them to “Halah and in Harbor by the river of Gozan, and the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 17:6), which is somewhere in present-day northeastern Iraq.

Judah fared somewhat better. Most of her kings “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD;” however, they tolerated idolatry in the land even though they themselves may not have practiced idolatry. It all began with Solomon who actually built temples to the gods of his many wives and even joined them in the practice while maintaining the worship of God. After Solomon, the kingdom of Judah survived for 333 years, about 100 years longer than Israel. Judah had many “good” kings, but the ones that were bad were very bad.

Manasseh probably ranked as the worst of Judah’s bad kings. Not only did he follow “after the abominations of the heathen” but “he reared up altars for Baal,” “worshipped the host of heaven, and served them,” “built altars in the house of the LORD … in the two courts of the house of the LORD,” “he made his son pass through the fire,” and “he set a graven image … that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David … I will put my name forever”[6] Manasseh “seduced [Judah] to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Kings 21:9).

Judah encountered the limit of God’s patience with Manasseh. “Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations … Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. … I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day” (2 Kings 21:11-15, emphasis mine).

Manasseh’s son, Amon, followed in his father’s footsteps, but his reign lasted only two years. However, his grandson, Josiah, was arguably Judah’s best king ever. He was only eight years old when he took the throne, but he did what his predecessors failed to do. He destroyed all the places of idol worship throughout the land and executed the pagan priests. He renovated and rededicated Solomon’s Temple that had fallen into disrepair and had been desecrated by Manasseh, Ahaz[7], and others. In the process of cleaning up the Temple, Hilkiah, the high priest, discovered “the book of the law in the house of the LORD.”[8] “And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes” (2 Kings 22:11). Of Josiah, Scripture records, “And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (2 Kings 23:25).

Judah made a great turn-around because of good King Josiah. It was almost too good, but it was too late. “Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (2 Kings 23:26-27, emphasis mine). About eleven years later, Nebuchadnezzar came and subdued Judah and took her children off to Babylonian captivity. Josiah was too good, too late. God’s plan would not change.

When I read the history of Israel in the Bible I cannot help but draw a parallel between that nation and the United States of America. There are many comparisons that can be drawn. However, there is one major difference that we often overlook. Israel was chosen by God for a specific purpose that is yet to be fulfilled. The United States was not. As we see the “end of days” on the horizon, Israel is very much in the picture; the U.S. is not.

However, there are some similarities, especially in the spiritual sense. Both nations had a strong foundation on the Word of God, and both nations lost their moorings from that foundation. The founding of the U.S. started long before 1776 or the signing of the Constitution in 1787. It began with the arrival of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock in November 1620 “for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.”[9] If the U.S. is chosen by God, it is chosen only because of His people who maintain and uphold the Christian Faith, but those numbers are diminishing. Israel was chosen by God with a non-conditional promise made to Abraham, and regardless of Israel’s lack of loyalty or devotion to God, God will not renege on His promise. The U.S. does not enjoy that kind of commitment from God. We are nothing special.

Truly God has blessed this nation because of His people that inhabit this land and because our nation has, for the most part, obeyed God’s word and maintained that “In God We Trust.” However, over the years, that loyalty to God has waned, and we have allowed pagan gods to influence and even to dominate our government and our society.

After World War II the moral state of our nation took a downward turn. We banned prayer and the Bible from public schools. Then we sanctioned abortions on demand. At first, abortions were limited to the first trimester, but now many states accept infanticide as “a woman’s right.” Homosexuality was once a shameful practice kept “in the closet,” but now every kind of sexual perversion is not only tolerated but encouraged.

The Obama Administration saw the morality of the nation cascade like going over Niagara Falls. The sins of the nation brought with it a sharp decline in the prosperity of the nation. Things looked grim. Then came Donald Trump. Perhaps not the perfect picture of a Christian, but he has done more to promote the Christian Faith than any president before him. He declared Jerusalem the rightful capital of Israel and moved our embassy there. He blessed Israel and God says, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Genesis 12:3). President Trump has done more to turn this country around than any previous president.

Then the Wuhan Bug hit. Many economists believe that our country may never recover. This downturn in the economy affects the whole world, not just the U.S. Many of our leaders and leaders of other nations are calling for a one-world government to fix the mess in which we find ourselves. The Bible warned that such would be the end of days. So, for all the good President Trump has done, it may be too good, too late.

Christians everywhere claim 2 Chronicles 7:14 hoping for a turn-around. However, that verse was specifically for Israel. The U.S. is NOT Israel, and we, the Church, are not Israel. When God’s patience reached its limit and Nebuchadnezzar surrounded Jerusalem, Jeremiah prayed fervently for deliverance. God answered, “Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence” (Jeremiah 14:11-12, emphasis mine). If that was God’s attitude toward His “chosen people,” why should we expect better? Instead, “I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 24:14).

Since the “lockdown” went into effect, I hear that many are “seeking the Lord.” Online Bibles are being downloaded and read. Churches are seeing a rise in “virtual” attendees. I have seen this before – Y2K, 9-11. As soon as the crisis subsides, things go back to “normal” and society continues on its moral decline. I doubt this will be any different. Don’t get me wrong. I rejoice that some are truly turning to the Lord, but Jesus’ Word will not fail. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14, emphasis mine). For all the good President Trump, like Josiah, has done, it may be too good, too late.

Reader, Jesus is coming very soon. Everything that is going on in the world today tells us that His coming is very near. Are you prepared to meet Him? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life” and settle it once and for all.

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 6-9

[2]  Genesis 5:5

[3]  Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:16

[4]  Exodus 32

[5]  2 Kings 17:3

[6]  2 Kings 21:1-7

[7]  “Trading Old For New” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/05/10/trading-old-for-new/

[8]  2 Kings 22:8

[9]  Mayflower Compact, November 21, 1620

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Which Sounds Best?

Read this out loud:

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Now read this out loud:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Which reading “sounds” better? Both are renderings of Psalm 23. The first is taken from The New Living Translation, (copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation). The latter comes from the King James Version of the Bible.

Today, many translations of the Bible exist. Sadly, the purpose behind most of these translations is that of profit (not prophet). I could argue about the inferiority of modern translations based mostly on the source texts (mostly in the New Testament, but some in the Old) used in their translations, but I’ll lay that aside for now. One of the goals of the King James translators “was to produce a Bible that would ‘sing’ with beauty and power and would retain literal faithfulness to the Greek and Hebrew texts, which had themselves been written with majestic musical beauty” (Henry M. Moris, The Henry Morris Study Bible, p. 2152).

If this were my only reason for sticking with the KJV, it would be enough. It just “sounds” like Bible. However, the KJV is the only English translation (with the exception of perhaps the Geneva Bible) that was translated from the Textus Receptus – the “Received Texts,” aka, the “Majority Texts.” All other modern translations use the Westcott-Hort Greek texts which utilize old manuscripts that were rejected by early church fathers. There is much information available to the reader who really wants to investigate. For now, I will just leave it at that.

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The First Day of the Week

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. (John 20:1)

The unbelieving Pharisees sought a sign from Jesus proving His credentials. “But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas [Jonah]: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40).

Most of us know the historical account of Jonah the rebellious prophet of God who ran in the opposite direction of where God had sent him. God has a heart for the lost. The Bible tells us that “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). So, God commanded Jonah to go preach to the wicked Assyrians, the mortal enemies of Israel, in Nineveh. These were mean people that tortured and abused their victims harshly. All the neighboring nations feared and hated them, and Israel was next on their menu. Jonah wanted nothing to do with them, and he especially did not want God to bless them in any way. So, rather than obey God’s command, Jonah boarded a ship bound for Spain (Tarshish).

You know the story. God sent a storm that put the ship in danger. Jonah confessed of his rebellion to the crew and they tossed him overboard to appease the Lord, quiet the storm, and calm the sea. The second chapter of Jonah describes the “sign” to which Jesus referred.

God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. Much ink has been spilt in attempt to identify the creature that swallowed Jonah. Some think it could have been something like a whale shark; they certainly are large enough to swallow a man whole. Others propose it was a whale, but a whale is not a “fish” and the Hebrew uses another word for whale, tannı̂yn, which means “sea monster,” or any large sea animal like a dragon or sea serpent. But the Hebrew word used, dâg, means “fish.” If the scholars would just listen to me I can easily resolve the question. The “fish” resembled nothing that we might recognize because the Bible says that God “prepared” this fish specifically for this occasion. The Hebrew word “prepared” is mânâh and it also means “to weigh out; to allot; to appoint.” God designed this fish for an appointment with Jonah.

It is difficult to imagine any man surviving the ordeal of being in the belly of a fish for three days. It seems from Jonah’s prayer that perhaps he actually died. He says, “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice” (Jonah 2:2). The Hebrew word translated “hell” here is she’ôl, the “abode of the dead.” It was understood to be the place where the spirits of the dead resided. The Greek word for the same place is hadēs. Jesus referred to this place when He spoke of the rich man who died and went to “hell” (hadēs).[1] Jesus said that when the rich man arrived in this place, “…he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:23-24). Obviously, the man, though he was physically dead, retained all of his senses.

Likewise, Jonah describes his experience in Sheol. He says, “For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple” (Jonah 2:3-4, emphasis mine). Jonah sensed the separation, yet he maintained the hope that one day he would see the “holy temple.”

Jonah prophesied in Israel, the Northern Kingdom, which had no temple. The only Temple resided in Jerusalem, so it seems that Jonah referred to the Holy Temple in heaven of which the earthly Temple was modeled.

Jonah also hints of his death when he says, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God” (Jonah 2:6, emphasis mine). The word “corruption” (Hebrew: shachath) can also be translated “destruction.” Jonah continues, “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple” (Jonah 2:7). Again, Jonah’s prayer ascended to God’s Holy Temple in heaven.

Jonah died in the belly of the fish, and God revived him after three days and three nights.[2] In like manner, Jesus said He would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights and rise again.

Jesus died on the cross on Passover. He was our Passover Sacrifice.[3] His death paid the debt of our sins. They buried Him before sundown on Passover and rolled a heavy stone over His tomb. Pilate sealed the tomb with his official seal and posted a Roman guard to watch and ensure that no one tampered with the sepulcher.[4] Then, after three days and three nights in the grave, like Jonah, God raised Jesus from the grave on the first day of the week. Jonah died again eventually, but Jesus lives on. Forty days following His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven[5] where He awaits His return to this earth.

The “sign of Jonah” was for the unbelieving Pharisees, who, after His resurrection, continued in their unbelief. The validity of the sign continues even unto our generation. Christ has risen. The tomb is empty. Doubters continue in their rejection hoping that one day someone will find His bones and say, “Here He lies!” But they fail. One day, maybe soon, they will gaze into the sky and behold Him in all His glory “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Reader, if you are not prepared for that day, please see my page “Securing Eternal Life” before it is too late for you. And as Jesus said, “be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).

Notes:


[1]  Luke 16:19-31

[2]  Jonah 1:17

[3]  1 Corinthians 5:7

[4]  Matthew 27:62-66

[5]  Acts 1:3

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Human Fossils

All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. (Genesis 7:22-23)

The fossil record consists of 95% marine creatures, around 4% plant fossils, and only about 1% land animals – dinosaurs, mammals, flying creatures, etc. In this last category of fossils, complete, intact fossils are even rarer. Most fossil remains are found disarticulated, broken, and scattered, testifying to the violent nature of their burial.

Yet, even within this small fragment of the fossil record, human fossils are, for all practical purposes, non-existent. The absence of human fossils frequently raises the question, “Why do we not see more human fossils?” The Bible clearly records that the Flood killed “All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land died” (Genesis 7:22). The fossil record confirms this fact, and according to the Bible record, only eight humans survived on the Ark that Noah built. Yet we find all kinds of animal fossils, but no humans. Given the 1600 years of earth history before the Flood, as recorded in the Bible, where human lifespan exceeded 900 years, earth’s population would have been in the billions. It stands to reason that we should have an abundance of human fossils, but they are as “scarce as hens’ teeth.”

In all the years I served in a creation ministry, I never received a satisfactory answer to the question. The general consensus holds that humans were washed out to “sea” during the flood, drowned and were scavenged so that nothing was left to fossilize. However, that does not really explain how that took place. Certainly, that could have happened to the dinosaurs, and yet we have an abundant, albeit rare, sampling of dinosaur fossils, but no humans.

Recently, I received a newsletter from David Rives Ministries, where Rives writes the most cogent and reasonable response to the question of the missing human fossils that I have heard to date. First, David suggests that humans “would have already been living in areas higher than pre-flood sea level … Then, you can bet when water began to rise, they would have climbed as high as they could… then they would have floated for as long as possible. They may have survived for a short while by grabbing floating logs and driftwood. But with all of the marine creatures swimming near the surface of the water to get away from the mud [generated by the flood waters], there would be some really large predator animals feeding on bodies. When humans couldn’t survive any longer, they would have died and floated on the water’s surface … a lot of them bloated when they died, floating on top of the water as they decayed. Their bones would have scattered as they sank to the bottom of the water … And because many of the bones that fell would have landed on top of most of the flood sediment, then fossilization wouldn’t have taken place. Fossilization requires burial.”[1]

Consider that the flood lasted 371 days. The hot “ocean” waters resulting from the rupture of the “fountains of the deep”[2] and the increased salinity from increased volcanic activity would have rendered the water undrinkable; so even if they managed to find boats, survival for that length of time would have been impossible. If that were not enough, predators in the water were not included in “every living substance [that] was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground.

Rives makes another good point for the absence of human fossils. He writes, “To make the problem of finding human remains even worse, it appears that a lot of the last layers of the flood to be deposited—the top layers of mud—the ones with the majority of human skeletons—were washed into the ocean basins as the floodwaters began to recede. In other words, fast-moving water swept the very top layers of sediment off to the lowest areas as the water drained, taking much of the human remains with it.”[3] As with dinosaur fossils, human remains would have been ripped apart by the receding waters scattering individual bones over large areas.

Possibly, someone may discover fossilized human bones, and perhaps some have already been found. However, it is very unlikely that a complete fossilized human fossil will ever be found, the lesson we can learn from this is that God’s wrath against sin is not something with which to trifle.

Notes:


[1]  David Rives, “I Believe In the Flood… But Why No Human Fossils?” Creation Club Magazine, March-April 2020, pp. 12-13.”

[2]  Genesis 7:11

[3]  David Rives, p. 13.

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Suffering

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

The Sunday school lesson I taught this morning, based in 2 Corinthians 4, asked, “How can I honor God in my suffering?” Who likes to suffer? Who wants to suffer? The title of the lesson congers up all kinds of images of suffering. We might suffer due to a loss of work. We could suffer from loss of health. We can suffer from the loss of a loved one or the breakup of a marriage. We suffer when our children go astray.

Life necessarily includes a certain amount of suffering, and while the manner in which we handle our suffering can produce a testimony that honors God, that is not exactly what Paul had in mind when he penned this passage to the church in Corinth. Paul sets himself as an example of suffering, but not in the way we might think. Let’s examine the passage more closely.

(2 Corinthians 4:7)  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

What treasure to which Paul refers? It is a mystery veiled in the Old Testament to which the Jews were and still are blinded (2 Corinthians 3:14-18). At the beginning of Chapter 4, Paul explains that he has the task of unveiling the mystery (2 Corinthians 4:1) to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The “lost” cannot understand the Gospel because it is “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Of this treasure, Paul says,  “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). He is compelled to preach, “For God, … hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face [πρόσωπον – prosopon — in the presence] of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

This treasure is kept in “earthen vessels.” By this Paul is referring to his physical body. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The problem with “earthen vessels” – clay pots – is that they are fragile and easily broken. Consider the Fall. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:6-7). Man sinned resulting in physical and spiritual death and a curse upon God’s perfect creation.

Why place such a great treasure in such weak containers? When submitted to God, these fragile clay pots make is so “that the excellency of the power may be of God.” In that way, God receives the glory “and not of us.” Having this treasure hidden within comes at a cost. Paul, referring to himself as “we,” explains.

(2 Corinthians 4:8-9)  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

These two verses demonstrate that Paul suffered for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A close examination of some key words makes this clear. The word translated “troubled” (θλίβω — thlibo) means to be “pressed, squeezed” – as a grape in a wine press. Yet, Paul is not “distressed” (στενοχωρέω — stenochoreo) meaning “crushed.” He is “perplexed” (ἀπορέω — aporeo) seeming “to have no way out;” “to be at a loss;” “to be without resources,” but not in “despair” (ἐξαπορέομαι — exaporeomai), that is, “to be utterly at a loss; or utterly destitute.” As long as God grants us breath, we can take comfort knowing that God will never abandon us. The psalmist says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

Paul states that he has been “persecuted” (διώκω – dioko), that is. “made to run or flee,” but not “forsaken” (ἐγκαταλείπω — egkataleipo), which means “to leave behind, abandon, desert.” He has been “cast down” (καταβάλλω — kataballo) – “to throw to the ground, prostate.” The implication is to be put down hard with violence, but he’s not been “destroyed” (ἀπόλλυμι — apollumi), that is, “to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; to render useless; to kill.”

(2 Corinthians 4:10-11)  Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Paul bears the Gospel (the treasure) in his body – his “earthen vessel.” It is the Gospel is the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The end to which he bears the Gospel is “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our [his] body.” The word “manifest” (φανερόω) means “to render apparent;” “to make actual and visible, i.e., realized;” also “to make visible or known what has been hidden or unknown” That “mystery” hidden from the Jews – God’s salvation through Jesus Christ – reveals itself in Paul’s life as it should in the life of every true believer.

The words “live” and “life” are related. The Greek word translated “live” (ζάω – zaō , verb) means “to have true life and worthy of the name;” the “essence” of living. Like was the Greek word translated “life” (ζωή – zōē, noun) means “the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God.” Jesus said, “… I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

There is another Greek word translated “life” that expresses life to a lesser degree. The Greek word βίος means “the present state of existence,” biological life. This is just mere existence. Jesus spoke of this kind of life in His “Parable of the Sower” also known as the “Parable of the Soils” (more appropriately). Comparing the soil to people, Jesus explained,  “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). These people did not have ζωή (zōē), but Paul did.

Still, he says that he is “alway delivered unto death.” The “death” to which he speaks is not the cessation of physical existence. He referred to death to self (Romans 6:4-5; 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3), death to sin (Romans 6:1-2; 8:10; 1 Peter 2:24), and death to the law (Galatians 2:19). Paul summed up his attitude toward his “suffering” like this, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Paul dies “for Jesus’ sake.”

Verses 10 and 11 repeat the same ending phrase: “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body/mortal flesh” We “suffer” so that the “life of Jesus” in us may be apparent to the lost world around us.

(2 Corinthians 4:12-13)  So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak (quoting Psalm 116:10).

By putting his life to “death,” Paul helps others to find “life.” One commentary put it like this: “The “death” of Christ manifested in the continual “perishing of our outward man” (2Co_4:16), works peculiarly in us, and is the means of working spiritual “life” in you. The life whereof we witness in our bodily dying, extends beyond ourselves, and is brought by our very dying to you.” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary)

(2 Corinthians 4:14)  Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

The One who raised up Jesus will do the same for us. Death is not the end. We have a hope beyond. We are joined to the “living” Christ. Paul is dead to the things of this world because he is joined to Christ. We should follow his example!

(2 Corinthians 4:15)  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

Paul’s suffering is for the sake of the church; it is for their benefit – “for your sakes.” The Greek word translated “abundant” (πλεονάζω – pleonazō) means “to do, make or be more, that is, increase.” The word “grace” (χάρις – charis) is “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech.” The result of this “abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many “redound” (περισσεύω – perisseuō), that is, “to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous” “to the glory of God.”

(2 Corinthians 4:16)  For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Through his “suffering,” Paul presses on – “we faint not.” Paul expresses this sentiment when he writes to the church in Philippi. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Not dissuaded by his circumstances, Paul notes that “though the outward man, [i.e., the physical body] perish, the inward man [i.e., the spirit] is renewed” (through the power of Jesus Christ in us).

(2 Corinthians 4:17)  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

Our suffering is small compared to our eternal reward. Our time on earth is but a nanosecond in the light of eternity. The “suffering” our Lord asks us to bear is but a “light affliction.” Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

(2 Corinthians 4:18)  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Everything in this life is temporal. What lies beyond in the unseen future is eternal. The writer to the Hebrews reminds is that following the Lord requires faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Paul’s example of “suffering” had more to do with self-denial for the furtherance of the Gospel. Indeed, Paul suffered physical and mental anguish and material deprivation. His list of sufferings was long.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, emphasis mine).

After all of this, he concludes,

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

The answer to the question, “How can I honor God in my suffering?” is to die to self, live for God in all that we do, and trust Him to supply all your needs – especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel so that others may live. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

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Stewardship

The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

When the topic of stewardship comes up in church, it typically comes up around the time of funding the next year’s church budget. The pastor usually brings a sermon encouraging church members to faithfully tithe – give 10% of their income – to the church. However, stewardship has almost nothing to do with tithing, although tithing is certainly a part.

A “steward,” by definition is a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another. A steward is also a person who has charge of the household of another, buying or obtaining food, directing the servants.

We find the first example of a steward in the Bible in Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2). He was steward of Abram’s household and heir apparent of Abram’s possessions since Abram at that time had no children. After Isaac, the promised son, came along and after Sarah died (Genesis 23:1-2), Abraham sent Eliezer to Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son, Isaac (Genesis 24). The responsibility was unimaginably great, and Abraham entrusted Eliezer with great wealth trusting that God would direct him to the perfect bride. This was no small trust!

The second example of a steward in the Bible is Joseph, who was sold into captivity by his brothers (Genesis 37:28). In Egypt, Pharaoh’s Captain of the Guard, Potiphar, bought Joseph (Genesis 37:36) as a household slave. Soon, Joseph showed his worth and Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household. “And it came to pass from the time that he [Potiphar] had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field” (Genesis 39:5, emphasis mine).

Jesus offered two examples of stewards. In one parable, the master gave differing amounts of money to his three stewards to manage (Matthew 25:14-30), and he went off on an extended journey. When he returned, the ones to whom he gave five and two talents respectively doubled their master’s money, but the one to whom he gave only one talent did nothing with the talent and returned to his master the original amount.

In the second example, a “nobleman” gave his ten stewards equal amounts of money (Luke 19:11-27) and left on an extended journey to claim his kingdom. Seven of the ten refused to accept him as king when he returned and paid for it with their lives. One steward took what his master entrusted to him and returned ten times the amount. A second took the “pound” he was given and return five times the amount. The third did nothing with his charge and lost his position as a steward.

From these examples, we learn that the steward possesses nothing of his own; rather, he manages the possessions of his master. More than that, the “good” steward makes a profit for his master and increased the master’s wealth.

In a similar sense, we are the stewards of all that God has put into our possession. We own nothing. It all belongs to God, and we are responsible for everything He has placed in our trust. This not only applies to our money, but it includes our time, our family, and material possessions. It also includes how we relate to those around us, our government, and our environment – God’s creation. Everything that God has placed in our realm of influence is our stewardship responsibility. One day, maybe very soon, the King will return from His extended journey, and He will expect an accounting of all that He has entrusted into our care. Will we respond like the unfaithful stewards and return to Him only what He gave us?

Now, in regard to the tithe and in light of what has been presented, giving 10% of our income back to God is a small thing. Consider that all that money you earn is not really your own. From where do your abilities to earn income come? Who ultimately provided you a job? Everything, according to our lead verse (Psalm 24:1), everything belongs to God. He could demand that you return everything to Him with interest, but He does not. He only asks for 10% to test your faithfulness and your trust in Him for your provision. This too is stewardship.

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A Thousand-Year Day

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

The retirement lifestyle is a new experience for me. So far, it feels like an extra-long vacation. I’m enjoying doing things in the middle of the week and in the middle of the day that were out of the question when I was tied to a nine-to-five job. I am also enjoying the absence of fighting rush-hour traffic.

On Friday of this week, I experienced an outing to the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History, my former employer, with a group of senior adults from our church. Of course, I know the place inside and out, but it felt different to visit as a “guest.” Our visit was too short (only two and a half hours). After that, we boarded our bus bound for lunch at El Fenix, the oldest Tex-Mex restaurant chain in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Our driver took us to the one in Irving, Texas, not far from the Discovery Center.

In the course of conversation over lunch, a lady sitting at the table across from me asked me how I would respond to someone who thinks the Genesis creation account is a myth and argues for an old earth based on 2 Peter 3:8 (our verse above). Of course, attempting to change someone’s mind who is convinced that the miracle accounts in the Bible are myths will take some doing. Their main problem is that they have a very small view of God. They usually also have an overinflated view of man. However, their support for long ages based on 2 Peter 3:8 can be easily debunked.

Many use this verse to argue for long ages in the Genesis creation account. They wrongly interpret 2 Peter 3:8 to say, “one day is with the Lord a thousand years, and a thousand years is one day.” The Day-Age Theory[1] uses this interpretation to argue that the days of creation were 1000 years each making the creation event last 6000 years. Giving credit where credit is due, at least they are not arguing for millions or billions of years for creation. By their reckoning, Creation is about 12,000 years old. However, that raises the question; why does God need that much time to create? Furthermore, the purpose of the Day-Age compromise is to allow for evolution to take place, which brings up another question. Evolution requires death and suffering. How then can death be the penalty for sin[2] if death had taken place for thousands of years before the fall of man? And, how could God declare His creation “very good”[3] when He calls death “the enemy”?[4] Some concede that God used evolution to create. This raises yet another question. Why would God need to “experiment” on His creation in order to improve on it over time? Is He not all-knowing and all-powerful? Can God not simply speak things into being as described in the Genesis account of creation? The notion that God used evolution to create serves only to undermine faith in the power of God!

The resolution to the problem of misinterpreting 2 Peter 3:18 comes down to one word – “as.” Peter employs simile to describe the infinite nature of God. God created time; therefore, He is not bound by time. “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands…But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end” (Psalm 102:25, 27). “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). What Peter is saying is that, to God, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. Peter is not attempting to define time for God, but rather he is expressing the timeless nature of God. Therefore, attempting to define the days of creation as 1000 years each based on 2 Peter 3:18, misrepresents both Peter’s message and the Genesis account of creation.

However, without being dogmatic, a parallel could be drawn between 2 Peter 3:18, the days of creation, and historical time. God created in six 24-hour days and rested on the seventh. According to biblical chronology, the earth (all of creation) is about 6000 years old, and we look forward to a final, seventh, 1000-year of rest with Christ’s reign over all the earth.

A visitor to the Discovery Center showed me something in the Prophet Hosea that I had missed although I had read that passage many times. It reads as follows. “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. Come [Israel speaking now], and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (Hosea 5:15-6:2, emphasis mine).[5]

In the previous verse, the Lord (Jesus) says[6] that He will destroy Ephraim [the Northern Kingdom, i.e., Israel] and Judah. Then He says that He will return to His place (heaven) until they acknowledge their offence (i.e., the rejection of their Messiah) and seek His face. For over 2000 years, the Jews were scattered all over the earth until recent times (1948), but they, for the most part, have failed to seek His face – they still reject Jesus as their Messiah. However, they will return to Him in the near future. Then in Verse 2 of Chapter 6, they (the Jews) say, “After two days he will revive us: in the third day he will raise us up…”

My friend, referring to 2 Peter 3:18, pointed out that Jesus was crucified around A.D. 30, which means that the year 2030 will be 2000 years – two days.  On the third day (1000 years), Jesus will restore Israel. Although we cannot be dogmatic about such things, my friend’s reasoning is sound and his conclusion logical. If his assessment proves correct, that means the seven-year Tribulation could begin in 2023. The Rapture of the Church can take place anytime between now and then. Again, we must be careful not to be dogmatic about these things, but as Christians, the Word instructs us that the return of the Bridegroom for His Bride is imminent[7] and we must be ready at all times, “and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

Are you ready? If you are unsure, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Age of the Earth” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/10/14/age-of-the-earth-2/

[2]  Genesis 2:16-17; Genesis 3

[3]  Genesis 1:31

[4]  1 Corinthians 15:26

[5]  This quotation spans two chapters. The reader must keep in mind that the original text did not have chapter and verse divisions.  The first English Bible to include chapter and verse divisions was the 1560 Geneva Bible.

[6]  Hosea 5:14

[7]  “Imminent” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/01/12/imminent/

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