Category Archives: Apologetics

A Soul

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

What comes to mind when you think of “a soul”? For most of my life, I imagined a soul as some ethereal, intangible, wispy inhabitant of our body that occupied our being that then departed when the physical body died. I suppose most people look at a soul in much the same way. Dictionary.com defines a soul as: (1) the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part; (2) the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come; (3) the disembodied spirit of a deceased person; (4) the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments; (5) a human being; person (emphasis mine).[1]

That last definition, I think, is the biblical understanding of “a soul.” In the Genesis account of the creation of man, I envision God (Jesus, in His pre-incarnate form) bending over a mass of reddish clay molding the human form. Scripture records, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “formed” is yâtsar, and it carries the idea of squeezing something into shape; to mold into the desired shape as a potter molds and forms a clay vessel. The idea goes well considering the construction material used – dust.

With the body plan complete, God, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew words translated “breathed” and “breath” are related. From the English translation, we can see that the former is a verb and the latter is a noun. The Hebrew words are nâphach and neshâmâh respectively and both mean “a puff.” The word “soul” is also related: nephesh. It means “living creature” and it can refer to either a human being or an animal. Yes, as defined here, animals have “souls” (nephesh); however, they do not possess that special neshâmâh of life “puffed” into humans by God.

This puff of life from God caused God’s mud sculpture to rise and become a living soul with a physical body, mind, and neshâmâh (breath/spirit of life). A triune creature created in the image of God[2] hitherto known as “a living soul.” God is triune in nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Collectively we just say, “God.” Man, made in the image of God, is triune in nature: mind, body, and spirit. Collectively, the Bible refers to the unit as “a soul.”

There are many examples where this becomes obvious, but I will keep the list brief. The first example following the creation account comes when Abraham travels to Egypt and tries to pass off Sarah, his wife, as his sister. He tells Sarah, “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee” (Genesis 12:13). “My soul” (nephesh) here does not refer to his “spirit.” Abraham feared for his life – his physical life.

Later, when God confirmed His covenant with Abraham, God required that he and all males within his household be circumcised.[3] Disobedience to this command carried a penalty. “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:14). “That soul” (nephesh) refers to the whole person not just his spirit. Interestingly, in the account of Abraham rescuing his nephew Lot and others, the word nephesh is translated “persons” (Genesis 14:21).

Genesis 27 records the account of Jacob “stealing” his brother’s blessing by deceiving his father, Isaac. In the passage, “my soul” appears twice and “thy soul” shows up two times.[4] The meaning in each case is somewhat ambiguous; however it seems clear that its use refers to the whole person. More examples could be cited in Genesis, but other examples will help solidify my point.

Exodus records that “all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls” (Exodus 1:5, emphasis mine). Obviously, this refers to people, not disembodied spirits. Then when God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, God assured him that, “all the men are dead which sought thy life” (Exodus 4:19). The Hebrew word translated “thy life” is nephesh (soul). With regard to keeping the Sabbath, God said, “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Exodus 31:14, emphasis mine). Again we see that “a soul” is a person.

The book of Leviticus offers many examples where the word “soul” (nephesh) refers to an individual. Here is one example: “if a soul touch any unclean thing … he also shall be unclean, and guilty” (Leviticus 5:2). To touch requires a physical body. Regarding the prohibition against eating blood: “No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood” (Leviticus 17:12). Again, it requires a physical body to eat blood.

There are 420 occurrences of the word “soul” in the Old Testament and nearly twice as many occurrences of the Hebrew word nephesh translated in other forms, for example, life, creature, persons, man, mind, et al. In the majority of occurrences, the word refers to the whole person. There is at least one instance in which the word seems to refer to the spirit of one who has died. Of Rachel’s death in childbirth, Scripture records, “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin” (Genesis 35:18). However, we may infer that when the spirit of a person departs from the body, that person is no longer whole, and therefore no longer “a soul.” The “person” is gone; only the shell remains. The soul has departed.

My conclusion is that “a soul” is the entire person: mind, body, and spirit. According to our beginning verse, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4). We all die sooner or later; however, death, in this case, is not merely the cessation of life. This death separates the soul from the Source of Life for eternity. This is the “second death” spoken of in Revelation 20:14-15, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (emphasis mine). Jesus warned, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30, emphasis mine). The “soul” – the whole person, mind, body and spirit – that sins shall suffer the eternal consequences of “the second death.”

There is no loss of consciousness in the “second death.” That soul is very much alive and aware of his surroundings. Jesus spoke of such a one whose only sin was self-centeredness.[5] Of course, a self-centered person has no need for God, which is ultimately what landed him in hell. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). Because the soul is the whole person, he could feel the flames of hell, and he could see what he had missed. Later on, he has a sense of concern for his five brothers who are still alive, and he requests that Lazarus be sent back to earth to go warn his brothers about this awful place. Hell apparently does nothing to change his self-centered, selfish ways. His concern is only for his brothers and not for the millions of souls in the same condition.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4) – mind, body and spirit. In what condition is your soul today? If you are breathing, and reading this blog, and you really don’t know, there is hope, and you can settle it right now. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Soul” – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soul#

[2]  Genesis 1:27

[3]  Genesis 17:1-14

[4]  Genesis 27: 4, 19, 25, 31

[5]  Luke 16:19-31

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Priests and Wine

And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: (Leviticus 10:8-9)

As a young adult being away from the watchful eye of my preacher father, I developed a problem with alcohol. No, I did not become an alcoholic, nor did I develop a habit of getting drunk – very often. I joined the Navy just before my 20th birthday, and I easily passed for 21, so I never encountered problems gaining admittance into bars. As a sailor, I felt encouraged to behave like a sailor and hit the bars with my Navy buddies. I tried hard not to allow myself to get drunk because I had seen how foolish drunks looked returning from “liberty” on a Friday night. I did not want to look like those guys!

The Holy Spirit strongly objects to His temples engaging in acts that do not pertain to them. As a result, I always experienced a twinge of guilt when I was out barhopping with my buddies. I could hear the Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, “My son, this is no place for you.” I attempted to atone for my sin by going to chapel on Sunday morning, but there I felt like a real hypocrite. As a result, I never felt comfortable in the bars or in church. I tried to rationalize my behavior by Scripture. The Bible does not say drinking is wrong. Even Jesus turned water into really good wine. The Bible only discourages getting drunk, and I was not doing that (except one or two times when a few got by me). However, the guilt never left me.

Finally, I yielded to the Holy Spirit. No more would I ride the fence. No longer would I “halt between two opinions.”[1] I determined never to touch any form of alcohol again, and so far, I have been faithful to that commitment. However, I still maintain that there is nothing “sinful” about having a glass of beer or wine with dinner as long as one practices moderation. Drunkenness is another matter altogether. Drunkenness is sin and is strongly discouraged in the Bible.[2] I have good Baptist friends who drink wine or beer occasionally, and I have no problem with that. If the Holy Spirit has not dealt with them as He did with me, what they do is between them and God. I love them and refuse to pass judgment on them. We are God’s children, and I think, as any parent, God deals with each one on an individual basis. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ … I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Romans 14:10, 14).

With that said, I would like to offer some food for thought and let the Holy Spirit use it as He sees fit. As I read the 10th chapter of Leviticus this week, I came across the instructions God gave to Aaron, Moses’ brother and newly installed High Priest. The instruction had to do with the priests that entered the Tabernacle to minister before the Lord. “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations” (Leviticus 10:8-9, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “wine” is yayin. It is “from an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication intoxication,”[3] The Hebrew word translated “strong drink” is shêkâr, which is “an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor.”[4] Clearly, this is not talking about grape juice. It is worth noting that the prohibition was against drinking wine or strong drink, period. It is also worth noting that the prohibition specified serving in the Tabernacle. (Later the same would apply to the service in the Temple.) The prohibition did not apply to them when they were “off duty.”

I found that interesting, but how does that apply to us? Some will rightly point out that this was Old Testament Law which no longer applies to Christians of the New Testament era. Is that so? To those who reject the application of the Old Testament to our lives, allow me to remind you of what Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). The New Testament did not exist when Jesus spoke these words; He referred to the only Scripture (Law) that existed in His time, the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul, who wrote 13 (arguably 14) of the New Testament books made countless references to the Old Testament. Every word of Scripture applies to us. We may be “under grace,” but that does not mean that the Law has become irrelevant. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Romans 7:7).

Well then, how does this prohibition given to Aaron and his sons, the priests of Israel, apply to us, who are “under grace”?

John, the beloved apostle, in his salutation to the seven churches of the Revelation said, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6, emphasis mine).

Later John observed the saints around the throne of God singing, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10, emphasis mine).

Clearly, we who are born again (twice-born) and call ourselves “children of God” are “priests.” The job of a priest is to intercede between God and man (humans). A priest carries the petitions of man before God and takes the Word of God before men. Is that not what we do when we pray on behalf of others and share the Gospel with others? We are priests.

Now, as long as the priest is not ministering in the Tabernacle/Temple, he is free to drink wine or strong drink. So, we might assume that as long as we abstain on Sunday, when we go to church (the building), we are not in violation. Let us look at that a little closer.

In the Old Testament, God’s dwelling place was in the Temple. Even Jesus said as much. “And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him [God] that dwelleth therein” (Matthew 23:21). At the same time, Scripture is clear that God cannot be confined to a physical building.[5] “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet” (Acts 7:48, emphasis mine). “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24, emphasis mine). In the Old Testament, God’s presence manifested in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple even though He is not confined to any one particular place. This has to do with God’s attribute of omnipresence.

The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 A.D., so, where does God reside now? “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, emphasis mine). “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As Christians, we confess Jesus as our Lord (Boss) and Savior and that His Spirit dwells/resides within us. If that is true, then we are the dwelling place, i.e., the Temple, of the Holy Spirit, and we are living temples not “made with hands.” We also acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is fully God. Therefore, because God dwells in us, we are living temples of God. Does God only dwell in His temples sometimes or always? Always, of course. God promises, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5); therefore we are always His temples. At the same time, we are priests of God. We are priests occupying God’s temples continually. Since God prohibits His priests from drinking wine or strong drink while ministering in His temple, then it follows that we should abstain from wine and strong drink at all times. God has not abrogated this command simply because we are now living under the New Testament. Rather, the command has taken on greater significance. That is something to think about.

Notes:


[1]  1 Kings 18:21

[2]  1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:18

[3] Definition from Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6

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Imminent

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, gave a press briefing on Friday, January 10, 2020,[1] concerning increased sanctions for Iran following Iran’s rocket attacks on US bases in Iraq. At the end of the briefing, they opened the floor for questions from the press corps. As has become common practice these days, the questions coming from the Press avoided the topic at hand, and rather addressed the irrelevant question of the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Someone questioned the targeting of a “foreign diplomat,” and Pompeo pointed out that our intelligence found that Soleimani planned to strike our embassies in the area and that the threats were imminent. One genius fake news reporter challenged the Secretary, “What is your definition of ‘imminent’?” I had to laugh!

It comes as no surprise that the request for a definition of the word “imminent” should arise. The “left” in this country, and around the world, has become proficient in distorting the language so that words become whatever the user wants them to be. For example, “hate” means “to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward [something or someone]; detest [something or someone].”[2] However, for the left, “hate” means opposition to anything they favor. The practice of redefining terms probably started much earlier than this, but my first vivid recollection of this practice came at the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton. Remember his now infamous line? “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Words used to have meaning. However, in a day when biology no longer determines the sex of a person, words can take on whatever meaning the user wants them to mean. Not so with God. He emphatically states, “For I am the LORD, I change not…” (Malachi 3:6). The writer to the Hebrews says of God the Son, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Of His Word, Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).

The word “imminent” does not appear in the King James Bible; however, the concept is there. The word “imminent” means that something is “likely to occur at any moment.”[3] The precise moment of such an event cannot be known or determined. It could happen at any time. If one can know or determine the time of a future event, it is no longer “imminent” because it is now “expected.” The two words are synonymous, however with expectation comes the connotation of the precise timing and location of a future event. The expectation of an impending event allows for ample preparation. Jesus said, “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matthew 24:43). If the man of the house had “known” when the thief would come, he would have been “expecting” him and made preparations. The implication here is that the coming of the thief was “imminent,” not “expected.”

The fake news reporter exhibited her ignorance by asking Pompeo what he meant by “imminent.” Our military intelligence could not predict where or when Soleimani would strike, only that his intention was to strike soon. That made it imminent.

Christ’s return for His Bride, the Church, is imminent. It has been imminent for over 2000 years. Before His crucifixion, Jesus promised, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). Paul taught the imminency of the Lord’s return at “the last trump” when we would “not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,”[4] but he did not say when. It’s imminent. It could happen at any time. To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). His coming is imminent, like “a thief in the night.”

Unlike the “goodman of the house” in Jesus’ example who was unprepared for the imminency of the thief’s arrival, we have good reason to be expectant of the Lord’s imminent return. We cannot know the day nor the hour when the Lord will return.[5] It could be at any time. It is imminent. Therefore, we must watch expectantly, and make preparations.

We have waited for over 2000 years. How imminent can His return be? Many become discouraged at the delay, like the five virgins without extra oil for their lamps.[6] Such attitudes are to be expected. The Apostle Peter predicted, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Many prophecies concerning “the last days” address Jesus’ return to set up His thousand-year reign on earth. The Old Testament contains most of these prophecies. Jesus spoke of these times in His Olivet Discourse,[7] and most of the Book of Revelation focuses on the time of Great Tribulation just before He returns. These prophecies provide great detail of the events that will transpire in “the last days” during the seven years[8] before the Lord’s return. However, no signs detail the “Rapture”[9] of the Church. We are told that it will happen, but we are not told when or how; it’s imminent. The Rapture[10] must take place before the time of Tribulation “For God hath not appointed us [His Church] to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

So, although we have waited more than 2000 years for the Bridegroom[11] to come for His Bride (the Church), we can know the time is near. How? We can know because of the convergence of the end-time signs. Israel, because it is the focus of all end-time prophecy, and the events surrounding Israel, is our primary sign. None of the end-time prophecies can come to pass without Israel being in her place. Of the rebirth of Israel, God’s “fig tree,” Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). We are that generation. It has been almost 72 years since Israel’s rebirth, and according to the psalmist, a man’s life is between 70 and 80 years (Psalm 90:10). There are too many signs to include in this article, but the fact that Israel is in place makes all the other signs that much more relevant. The signs tell us the end is near, so the Rapture of the Church is more imminent now than ever before. It could happen anytime now.

Notes:


[1]  Press Briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTCErLFbu4Q

[2]  Hate: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/hate?s=t

[3]  Imminent: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/imminent?s=t

[4]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53

[5]  Matthew 25:13

[6]  Matthew 25:1-13

[7]  Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21

[8]  Daniel 9:24-27

[9]  End-Times 101 – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/06/10/end-times-101/

[10]  End-Times 102 – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/06/17/end-times-102/

[11]  Matthew 25:1-13

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Old Testament Holy Spirit

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)

We often think of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, in New Testament terms. However, we have an abundance of evidence of His work in the Old Testament beginning with the first chapter of Genesis where He energizes Creation.[1] Pharaoh recognized the Spirit of God in Joseph,[2] and He filled certain men to endow them with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and skill in all manner of workmanship.[3] The Spirit of God showed up at the completion of the Tabernacle in the wilderness,[4] and later in the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.[5] Other examples could be cited, but these should suffice to make the point.

Before the Wilderness Tabernacle was completed, the Spirit of God manifested in the pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead the way for the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud reminds us of the cloud that filled the Tabernacle, and the later Temple. The cloud represented the presence of God with His people. Jesus said that God is a spirit.[6] Therefore, God cannot be seen; however, He manifests through His Son. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). In like manner He manifests through His Holy Spirit.

In the Old Testament, God made His presence visible by a pillar of cloud by day and by a pillar of fire at night. The Holy Spirit filled the Tabernacle (mishkân, a residence; dwelling place) and later the Temple. This same manifestation was repeated in the New Testament; only the temples were of flesh, not stone.

A week after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples, about 120 of them, were gathered in the Upper Room. Jesus had promised that “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8), and they waited and “were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). This time the Holy Spirit came, not as a cloud, but as “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). And the pillar of fire came and “appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:3-4). The Spirit of God was no longer restricted to one individual or to a tent or stone edifice, but He filled 120 temples of flesh and bone equipped to carry His message to all the world in a way that a stationary building cannot.

Paul reminds us, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The same Spirit that accompanied the children of Israel in the wilderness and filled the Tabernacle and the Temple in the Old Testament, is the same Spirit that fills the heart of every true believer. Therefore, Paul warns, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:17). There is something to consider!

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 1:2

[2]  Genesis 41:38

[3]  Exodus 31:3-4

[4]  Exodus 40:34-35

[5]  1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14

[6]  John 4:24

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O Holy Night

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8)

“The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.” It was a “holy” night – sacred, pure, consecrated. There was no night like it before, and there has been no night like it since.

It was a holy night because Jesus entered the world on that night. The birth itself was nothing special. Surely He was not the only baby born on that night. According to Luke’s account, Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem some time before the birth. “While they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6). Surely in the small village of Bethlehem word of a young expectant mother got around quickly. Surely the town had at least one midwife to help with the birth, and the ladies of the town would be more than eager to help a young mother, “great with child,”[1] deliver her firstborn. Just because there was no room for them in the inn, does not mean the couple was totally on their own. So, the birth was itself was unremarkable.

The miraculous conception nine months earlier is another matter. The Creator[2] took the form of the “created” when the angel told Mary, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The “Son of God” was God Himself growing inside the virgin’s womb for the normal human gestation time.[3] At conception, He became Emmanuel, God with us.[4]

But now, on this holy night, the incarnate God, entered the world He created. It was a very holy night indeed.

Notes:


[1]  Luke 2:5

[2]  John 1:1-3

[3]  John 1:14

[4]  Matthew 1:23

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Christmas Excitement

Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. (Isaiah 42:9)

It’s that time of year once more. The places I work and worship sparkle with bright red, green, and gold decorations consistent with the colors of the Christmas season. Long before Thanksgiving Day, merchants displayed all their Christmas wares enticing shoppers to covet without first giving thanks. Television commercials attempt to instill a sense of privation so the viewer feels the need for what they are selling.

GMC™ produces two commercials that really stand out to me. They show a young couple, probably in their late twenties or early thirties, with no children, and a big fancy house. In one of the commercials, the husband buys GMC ™ vehicles for both of them. In the other, the husband gets the wife a puppy, and the wife gets him a big crew-cab pickup. Seriously, how many young people, on the average, have that kind of cash? Most young people that age, if they graduated from a college or university, are saddled with enormous school debt and are doing well to afford payments on a Honda Civic™ much less a $60,000 fully decked out pickup truck!

Regardless of how we feel about the materialism associated with the Christmas season, we cannot get away from the sense of expectation. At church, our choir and orchestra are working hard a polishing up the music for our Christmas concert. It will be wonderful, and we are excited about presenting it. Our church looks forward to our Christmas Eve services and our sharing of the Lord’s Supper, aka communion.

We celebrate the birth of our Savior. Think about what that means. The same God that created heaven and earth and all things, the same God that created human beings in His very image, is the same God that implanted Himself in the womb of a virgin girl to be born like any other human baby, live a sinless life among His creation, and give Himself as a sacrifice for humanity’s sin. That is awesome! That boggles the mind!

We anticipate with excitement the celebration of Christmas, the First Advent, but our celebration should look forward to the Second Advent yet to come. The prophets of old foretold of Jesus’ first coming. Beginning in Genesis, the Bible promises that the “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the serpent, i.e., Satan.[1] Isaiah tells us that the woman would be a virgin.[2] In Genesis, we also learn that He would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah.[3] Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be in the line of King David[4] and the psalmist concurred.[5] The conniving Balaam unwittingly predicted that a star would announce His coming.[6] Micah pointed to Bethlehem as the place of His birth,[7] and Hosea said He would come up from Egypt.[8] These are just some of the prophecies of His First Advent. Many more prophecies foretold of His life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection – all with 100% accuracy.

Christmastime should cause excitement as we anticipate His Second Advent. There are more prophecies concerning His second coming than there are for His first coming. Since all prophecies of His first coming came true as predicted, should we not expect the same accuracy of the prophecies predicting His second coming? Celebrating Christmas should excite us knowing that the Baby Jesus is the soon-coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

One of the carols we sing at Christmastime is not really a Christmas carol. In fact, “Joy to the World”[9] reminds us that Christ will return to rule the world as king.

Joy to the world the Savior reigns; let men their songs employ; while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat their sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.

We know historically that did not happen at His first coming. We might spiritualize those sentiments. Certainly, the Savior reigns within the hearts of all believers, albeit not perfectly. Sin and sorrow continue as always and “the curse” goes on unabated. He does not rule the world, and “the nations” care nothing about His glories or righteousness. All of these are attributes of His yet-to-come millennial reign.[10] The prophet Isaiah provides some insight into Jesus’ millennial reign on earth. That will be a time when even the animal kingdom will be at peace.[11] Knowing what is coming should make Christmas even more exciting than all the GMC™ pickups the world can afford!

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 3:15

[2]  Isaiah 7:14

[3]  Genesis 12:3; 26:4; 28:14; 49:10-11

[4]  Isaiah 11:1

[5]  Psalm 132:11

[6]  Numbers 24:17

[7]  Micah 5:2

[8]  Hosea 11:1

[9]  Carol by Isaac Watts, 1718

[10]  Revelation 20:1-7

[11]  Isaiah 11

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Believe the Bible

For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth … By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:4, 6)

My father only completed the third grade in Mexico. He learned to read, write and do simple arithmetic. Education was not greatly valued in his youth. More highly prized were his skills at handling horses and cattle on the family ranch, so his education was good enough to get by. Later in life, he felt called of God to enter the ministry and become a pastor/church planter of Spanish-speaking churches. His third-grade education allowed him to enter the Mexican Bible Institute in San Antonio, TX where, after five years of difficult study, he left without earning his diploma. However, he gained valuable skills in sermon preparation, preaching and pastoring churches. His lack of education did not diminish his love for God’s Word nor discourage him from the constant study of it.

My father taught me many things, but the lesson I treasure most was his love for and trust in God’s Word. He taught me that God’s Word is true in all things and applicable in every situation. Even in those areas of Scripture that are difficult to understand, Dad taught me to trust the Bible simply because it is God’s Word. Dad provided no other apologetic than that.

I grew up with that firmly implanted in my mind, and when confronted with skeptics, my defense defaulted to, “the Bible says.” That answer satisfied me, but it did not impress my challengers. They were convinced that everything started with a Big Bang, that earth formed by itself more than 4.54 billion years ago, and that life sprang up from some mysterious chemical reaction 3.6 – 4.0 billion years ago. That story might make logical sense to some, but it does not line up with the biblical account very well especially when it comes to the topic of the evolution of life. Some “Christian” skeptics suggest that God used evolution to create life over millions of years. My response simply stated that God can do whatever He wants. He could have created slowly over millions or billions of years or He could have created instantly. However, the Bible says He did it in just six 24-hour days.

The arguments have not changed much over the years although the skeptics have gotten more hostile. Even “Christians” come against young-earth creationists charging that a young-earth stance is controversial and divisive. However, today I can offer a better defense besides “the Bible says so,” albeit, that really should be the only defense needed against a “Christian.”

A “mature” gentleman confronted me this week with the “old earth” challenge. He claimed to believe the Bible but he believed the earth was billions of years old, not 6000 years old as young-earth creationists believe. He pointed out that light from distant stars takes billions of years to get to earth and that radiometric dating proves that the earth is old. He excused his disbelief in a literal six 24-hour day creation by stating that we really do not know what the Bible means by “day.”

Given that I was not in an appropriate place to properly respond to his challenge, I gave him some simple answers. A light-year measures distance, not time. Just because a galaxy is 14 billion light-years from earth does not necessarily mean that the light from that galaxy took 14 billion years to arrive at earth. Science has yet to measure the one-way speed of light. For all we know, it could be instantaneous. The Bible also hints that God “gave” the light in place when He created the stars. “And God set [the stars] in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth” (Genesis 1:17, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “set” is nâthan and it means “to give.” Also, the phrase “to give light” is only one word in Hebrew – ‘ôr, i.e., “light.” The verse could be translated, “And God gave them [the stars] in the firmament of the heaven to light upon the earth.” This seems to say that light from distant stars took no time to arrive on earth; it was here from the start.

Then there is the matter of radiometric dating. Besides radiocarbon dating, there are several other methods of radiometric dating none of which are reliable. Dr. Vernon Cupps, a nuclear physicist at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), recently wrote a book[1] that goes into great detail explaining the fallacies of radiometric dating. Indeed, all radiometric dating methods fail to prove that the earth is billions of years old.

The argument from Scripture that we do not have a clear understanding of what a “day” is in the creation account only betrays a lack of understanding of what Scripture really says. In this, the gentleman alluded to Peter’s statement that to God a day is as a 1000 years and 1000 years is as a day. Peter draws his comparison from the psalm of Moses. [2] In his statement, Peter does not make an equivalence between a day and a year but rather draws a simile. The use of the word “as” makes this clear. Peter’s point is that God is not fettered by time; He is timeless. God created time. He created in six 24-hour days and rested on the seventh for our benefit.[3] Furthermore, the word for day used in the creation account is defined by “evening and morning” and confirmed with the assignment of ordinal numbers to distinguish the days.[4]

I left the man with this final thought. We place too much confidence in scientists who are no more than fallen, fallible human beings rather than trusting God’s Word and believing that God did exactly what He told us He did. God is all-knowing and all-powerful and He can do whatever He chooses to do. He could have created the universe, the earth, and all life on earth over billions of years if He chose to do that, but that is not what He told us in His Word. He could have created everything in an instant if He chose to do that, but that is not what He recorded in His Word. What God tells us is that He created everything in six 24-hour days. It is clearly spelled out in His Word. Believe the Bible!

Notes:


[1]  Vernon R. Cupps, Rethinking Radio Metric Dating: Evidence for a Young Earth from a Nuclear Physicist, (Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, 2019). Available from the ICR online bookstore at http://store.icr.org/.

[2]  2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4

[3]  Exodus 20:10-11

[4]  “A Day Is A Day” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/25/a-day-is-a-day/

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