Category Archives: Bible

Tongues Of Fire

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  (Acts 2:3)

My youngest brother, Eli (there are three of us of which I am the oldest), enjoys Bible study as much as, if not more than, I do. He has a gift of looking deeper into Scripture than your average Bible reader, and he is always eager to share his insights with me. It makes for wonderful and enlightening conversations.

Recently Eli shared his thoughts on Pentecost and the “coming” of the Holy Spirit. Conventional thought maintains that the Holy Spirit did not descend upon the disciples until the Day of Pentecost when 120 of them were gathered in the Upper Room as instructed by the Lord Jesus. “And, being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5, emphasis mine).

This “promise of the Father,” most agree, is the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost in the KJV) which Jesus promised would come after He was gone.[1] “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7, emphasis mine). Luke, who also authored the Book of Acts, wrote more about the Holy Spirit in his Gospel (and Acts) than the other Gospel writers, including John. He records these words of Jesus before His ascension. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, emphasis mine). Both Luke and John indicate that the coming of the Holy Spirit would come at a later time, and Luke’s account of the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 seems to confirm Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit coming at a later time – ten days after His ascension.

However, John seems to throw a wrench into conventional thinking, as Eli points out. After His resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples, not just “the twelve,” on several occasions. In fact, Paul records that He was seen by as many as 500 at one time.[2] On the evening of His resurrection (it was Sunday evening), John records that, “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week [Sunday], when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (John 20:19, emphasis mine). They were startled as one might imagine, and Jesus proved His identity by showing His wounds.[3] Then at this point, His ascension is still 39 days away, Jesus gives His Great Commission for the first time.[4] “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:21-22, emphasis mine).

Well, that raises the question. When did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit, on the Resurrection Sunday, or at Pentecost? Something so dramatic definitely happened at Pentecost that Luke records that 3000 souls were saved![5] Contrary to Luke, John records the giving of the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost in spite of his own record that the “Comforter” would not come until after Jesus was gone. It is very difficult to build a case on just one verse (John 20:22) when so many other verses seem to contradict, and Scripture never contradicts itself, even when we do not understand it clearly. “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). So what is the answer?

Eli suggests that the miraculous event at Pentecost was a “manifestation” of the “power” of the Holy Spirit. Take our own experience for example. We come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit on our spirit to convince us of the truth of God’s Word, convict us of our sin, and convey our need for the Savior.[6] When that takes place and we trust in Jesus for our salvation, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives and instantly the “light comes on,” and we know that the transaction took place. For most of us, that moment comes quietly and without a lot of fanfare – certainly nothing like what happened at Pentecost. We do not immediately start speaking foreign languages previously unknown to us or performing miracles. We do not suddenly possess a deeper understanding of Scripture. That comes along through study and prayer, but it is the Holy Spirit within us that guides us into greater understanding. That comes with time and with the degree to which we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

My point is that receiving the Holy Spirit is generally not some kind of dramatic experience. That often disappoints some who are expecting some sort of “rush” from the experience. That expectation often causes them to doubt that their salvation experience really “took.” Trust me. If you “believe,” it took.

So, when Jesus breathed on the disciples that evening in the Upper Room, nothing out of the ordinary took place, yet John records that they received the Holy Spirit. So what was it that took place at Pentecost?

Eli makes a distinction between receiving the Holy Spirit, which happens when we believe, and being “empowered” by the Holy Spirit to perform acts of which we were heretofore incapable, like speaking in languages we had not previously learned, or performing miracles of healing or raising of the dead – all of which the disciples did in the early church.

(At this point it is incumbent on me to stress that the “powers” granted by the Holy Spirit in the early church were for the purpose of giving evidence to the truth of the Gospel and for the purpose of edifying – building up – the church. It was not for the purpose of the personal aggrandizement of the individual.

All of these “gifts” still exist today, but they are always for the purpose of spreading the Gospel, and they are given only as the Holy Spirit determines, not the individual. There is not much need of that here in America because we all speak the same language, we have ready access to God’s Word – the Bible is freely available to everyone – and the Word of God is clearly preached on radio, TV, and the internet. If anything, we have such a glut of the Gospel that many just turn a deaf ear to it.

There is no excuse for anyone here in America not to respond to the Gospel. That was not the case at Pentecost. Jesus had just risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. Most people were unaware of that fact and the Gospel was brand new. In addition, at Pentecost, visitors came to Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire. The Gospel message needed a special “kick-start” from the Holy Spirit!

By the way, all born-again believers are endowed with certain gifts of the Holy Spirit that are not as sensational as performing miracles or speaking in previously unknown languages.[7] The ability to understand Spiritual truths being, I think, the most useful. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, emphasis)).

So, as Eli points out, the disciples were already indwelt by the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them (John 20:22), but what they received at Pentecost was “power from on high.”[8] This was a special “unction” – an “anointing” by the Holy Spirit. Luke records Jesus saying, “For John [the Baptist] truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5, emphasis mine). That word “baptized” is the Greek word βαπτίζω (baptizō) which means “to make whelmed;” “to submerge; engulf; overcome utterly;” “to immerse, to overwhelm.”

Again, this event was yet future which goes back to Jesus saying that “the comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).  Could it be that Jesus referred to His departure at the cross when He died? Jesus also said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17, emphasis mine). So, according to Jesus, the disciples (the twelve at this instance) were already indwelt with the Holy Spirit. This was before the crucifixion, before His resurrection, before His ascension, and before Pentecost. This further indicates that the event at Pentecost was a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power for the purpose of “kick-starting” the Church, and not necessarily the first time the Holy Spirit came to reside in believers.

The Old Testament records many examples of the Holy Spirit empowering individuals to do God’s work. David experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and prays, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11, emphasis mine). David’s request further emphasizes the temporary nature of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling individuals in the Old Testament. That changed with Jesus’ advent.

Eli then draws a parallel to the creation account in Genesis when God created Adam – Man. In Genesis 2:7 we read that “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” (emphasis mine). That “breath” was God’s Spirit distinct from the nephesh of the other creatures God created from the dust of the ground.[9] That “breath,” to a certain extent, was lost at the Fall[10] so that man died spiritually.[11] Jesus restores that life once more when He once again breathes out the breath of life into His disciples, “and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22, emphasis mine).

Another interesting insight Eli has concerns the appearance of the “cloven tongues like as of fire” that appeared over the heads of the disciples at Pentecost.[12] The description, first of all, is a simile – “like as of fire,” not actually fire. That they were “tongues” denotes the shape, and “cloven” indicates that they were divided either as a flame sometimes splits, or as candle-like flames distributed among the 120 present. Eli harkens back to the Tabernacle in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. God manifested His presence with the Children of Israel by way of a column/pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night over the Tabernacle. Today, God dwells within His children, born-again believers, by way of the Holy Spirit. “Know ye not that ye are the temple [i.e. “tabernacle”] of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, emphasis mine). So, like the pillar of fire over the tabernacle in the wilderness, the “tongues of fire” over the heads of the disciples signified the new dwelling place of God within the lives of believers. I found that to be pretty insightful! I really enjoy plunging the wonderful depths of God’s Word with my little brother, Eli!

If you are reading this, and it makes little or no sense, it could be that the Spirit of God does not reside in you, so that it is all foolishness to you. That will change when you trust in Jesus and receive His Spirit who will help your understanding. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  John 14:16-26; 15:26; 16:1-16

[2]  1 Corinthians 15:6

[3]  John 20:20

[4]  I say the “first time” because Matthew 28:18-20, and Acts 1:8 record the Great Commission given immediately before Jesus’ ascension which was 40 days following His resurrection. John has Jesus giving His Great Commission on the same day (at evening) of His resurrection. Is this a contradiction? I do not think so. During His 40 days, I feel certain He reminded them often of what He expected of them and the final reminder was at His ascension.

[5]  Acts 2:41

[6]  John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:8, 13

[7]  1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Galatians 5:22-23 (“fruits” of the Spirit)

[8]  Luke 24:49

[9]  Genesis 1:24-25

[10]  Genesis 3

[11]  Romans 5:15,17

[12]  Acts 2:3

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National Revival

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

This oft-repeated verse offers a tenuous hope for American Evangelicals that, if we only put its tenets into practice, God will keep His end of the deal and heal the trouble in our land. However, as I have asserted in the past[1], this verse is taken out of context and misapplied. If Israel’s history can teach us anything, it is that God has His limits when He will no longer hear the pleas for a nation.[2]

Recent history teaches us that, in regard to God, Americans are a fickle people. Following one disaster after another, America has turned to God in repentance only to return to its vomit[3] as soon as things get better. We find ourselves in a mess again. The Wuhan Bug paralyzed our nation with fear. Everywhere you look you find masked people avoiding contact with one another. You can even see masked people driving cars or walking outdoors. Fear over COVID-19 has shut church doors for fear of retribution by authorities and also for fear of spreading the virus.[4]

Unrestrained rioting in the streets of many of our major cities adds to the fear of many Americans, and everyone can see that our country is in serious trouble. Consequently, many evangelical leaders call on American Christians to pray for revival in our nation (again). They sincerely believe the promise that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16), and we can reverse the course our nation. Without getting into differences of eschatological views, many of these believe that through the hard work of prayer, Christians will turn the world around and usher in the millennial reign of Christ.

The prophet Jeremiah encountered a similar optimist in Hananiah.[5] God had already told Jeremiah that Judah would go into Babylonian captivity, and to demonstrate by way of an object lesson, God instructed Jeremiah to carry around a heavy ox yoke to illustrate the bondage into which Judah was going. However, Hananiah painted a different picture, “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon” (Jeremiah 28:2), and he took the yoke off of Jeremiah and broke it to demonstrate what God would do. But that was not God’s plan, and Judah soon came under the yoke of Babylon for 70 years. Hananiah, the false optimistic prophet, did not live out the year for speaking falsely in the name of the Lord.

I am not a prophet, at least not like those through whom God spoke in the Bible. But I do study the Word, and I try to see the world through the lens of Scripture. In Scripture, God’s “chosen” people were punished for their disobedience and their idolatry – which involved sexual perversion and infanticide in their worship. If God so dealt with “His” chosen nation what makes us think that we will fare better just because we pray? Not every person in Judah was corrupt. Take for example Daniel, Hananiah (not the false prophet), Mishael, and Azariah;[6] they went into Babylonian captivity and they maintained their devotion to God. Surely there were others, but that did not stop God from punishing the “nation” of Judah for their sin. Nor will He save our nation at this point for our national sins even though “His people” pray.

Consider the downward spiral of sin described in Romans 1:18-32 and compare that to our nation. Our nation holds truth in unrighteousness. Our nation denies God and promotes the idea that all things came into existence by natural causes, and though they cannot prove their ideas, they invent “just so” stories and present them as facts. We profess ourselves to be wise, but indeed we are fools and only deceive ourselves. Rather than worship the Creator, we worship the creation and in our own feebleness attempt desperate measures to protect the planet (The Green New Deal).  As a consequence of our denial of God, He has turned over our nation to perverse lusts “to dishonour their own bodies between themselves” (v. 24). Think about the various ways we disfigure our bodies through tattoos, body piercings, the unnatural coloring of hair, other types of mutilations, homosexual perversions of all kinds, etc. God has turned over our nation to the “vile affections” of homosexuality – women with women, men with men, and even the sexual perversion of children. God has given over our people to “reprobate minds” so that they are incapable of reasonable thought. Simply consider the irrational reasoning they offer in support of some of their crazy ideas about climate change, about abortion, about the benefits of socialism, etc. Does it seem that the world has lost its collective mind? It has because God has allowed it as punishment for our sin.

Look at how Paul’s description perfectly fits America today. “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication [any sex outside the bonds of marriage], wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:29-32, emphasis mine). Does that not fit America today?

Do you know what God told Jeremiah about praying for the people of his day? God said, “Don’t pray for these people.”[7] Their grace period had expired. I fear America’s grace period has also expired, and God is saying, “Don’t pray for these people.” The train is hurtling downhill fast and the brakes are out. Our Lord’s return gets closer by the day. Every new fire ignited by lawless rioters brings us closer. Every murder that takes place closes the gap. Every baby that is aborted draws the noose tighter. Jesus is the only fix to this broken world.

Still, we pray. We are instructed to pray for our leaders[8] that we might live “peaceable” lives, but that does not necessarily equate to praying for the salvation of a too-far-gone nation. I could be wrong, but as I have searched the New Testament, I do not find any admonition to pray for the nation, the leaders yes, but not the nation. I would like to see a national revival, but I sincerely doubt that it will happen. Our national track record in that regard testifies to the improbability of that happening. Still, my baby brother and I will join thousands of others on the Mall in Washington DC on September 26 for a Franklin Graham sponsored prayer march on the nation’s capital.[9] We will march from the Lincoln Memorial, past the Washington Monument and on to the steps of the Capitol. We will march, and we will pray as we go. If the direction of the nation is to change, our leaders need to change either physically or spiritually.

National revival is improbable, but not impossible. Who knows! Our Lord may delay His coming, but His judgment is not only for our nation but for the whole world. The entire world needs repentance. If only our nation repents, it may not stop the judgment that is coming upon the whole world. In any rate, it would be great if our nation experienced a national revival. We can pray.

Notes:


[1]  “If My People” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/08/21/if-my-people/

[2]  “When God Won’t Hear” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/07/17/when-god-wont-hear/

[3]  2 Peter 2:22

[4]  “Fear Not” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/08/16/fear-not/

[5]  Jeremiah 28

[6]  Daniel 1:6

[7]  Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14; 14:11

[8]  1 Timothy 2:1-2

[9]  Washington Prayer March 2020 – https://prayermarch2020.com/

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Racism

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; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; (Acts 17:24-26)

The word “racism” has become a truncheon with which to bludgeon any opponent for any perceived infraction of the new social norms, which change almost on a daily basis. Those on the left often employ ad hominem attacks to silence their opposition, but the one that strikes terror into the heart of every conservative/Christian is the epithet of “racist.” Therefore, any decision President Trump makes, whether or not it favors the leftists, is denounced as racist. Ironically, the true racists rail the loudest, but that is another matter.

Racism, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others; hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.”[1]

Racism should not be named among anyone, but especially not among Bible-believing Christians. From the very beginning of creation, the Bible records that God made one pair of human beings, and these two were created in His image.[2] God created one male and one female to carry on the natural process of reproduction and to be caretakers of God’s creation. God purposed the sexual union between opposite sexes to be permanent and productive.[3] Immediately after the Fall,[4] Adam and Eve started to reproduce[5] and before long the earth teemed with people. Without getting into the technical details of the human genome, the perfect DNA of the first couple contained the information to produce a variety of skin colors, hair colors and textures, eye colors, different body frames and heights, facial characteristics, etc. Our lead verse above confirms that God “made of one blood” all nations. The “locked-in” ethnic distinctions resulted from human dispersion after the Flood[6] at the Tower of Babel rebellion.[7] Regardless of ethnic “distinctions,” all human beings are of “one blood.”

I dislike the question on medical forms that asks one to mark down what “race” one is. I always write in “human” and “Hispanic” on the follow-up question that inquires about ethnicity. There is only one “race” – the human race (and we are not a “species” because we are not animals). One would think the medical community would understand such an undeniable biological fact, but alas, after more than a century and a half of Darwinian indoctrination, the Imago Dei has devolved into just another species of animal with a variety of subspecies or “races.”

The variety of ethnic groups (“races” from here on) in centuries past was of little consequence.  Following the dispersion at the Tower of Babel rebellion, “like” races united by language (they had to understand each other) and migrated to different areas around the world. This accomplished God’s purpose for the human race to “fill the earth.” This also had the effect of stamping identifying characteristics in their DNA, which changed very little over thousands of years. Our passage above notes that God determined “the bounds of their habitation.” God invented borders! These boundaries kept ethnic groups from intermingling. Consequently, racism within borders was not a problem. Racism between different races found its expression in wars of conquest in which the victor either slaughtered their victims or assimilated them into their own societies.

Some accuse Israel of racism for carrying out God’s directive to eradicate the Canaanites from the Promised Land. God had a reason for that. The Canaanites were not only idol worshipers, but they sacrificed their babies to demon gods, they practiced sexual perversion in their worship of demon gods, and they conducted all kinds of occult practices. These were wicked people and God wanted to cleanse the land of them. However, Israel failed to complete the task and against God’s commandments, they intermarried with the people of the land and adopted their practices. Following the Diaspora, first in Babylonian captivity and then the dispersion following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Jews adopted a form of racism that does not really fit the definition of racism. Jews have for millennia attempted to keep their race pure; they avoid intermarriage with the goyim (Gentiles). However, this is not new. It is very much in keeping with God’s desire for them to be a “peculiar people.” I do not believe that Jews “hate” other races; they just want to keep theirs distinct. And it’s a good thing too, because in doing so, they have fulfilled end-time prophecy.

As previously stated, while races remained within their borders, racism virtually did not exist. Racism occurs when borders are breached. That kind of racism finds its expression in wars between nations (ethnic groups). However, as cross-country and intercontinental travel increased, racism found a new form of expression. A stranger’s speech, form of dress, color or texture of hair, diet, smell, or any other characteristic distinguishing the stranger from the “nationals” engendered ridicule, abuse, exclusion, or isolation.

Darwin’s The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex further exacerbated the problem by attempting to make distinctions between the races of men making some further “evolved” than others.  In making these distinctions, he assigned the black race the position closest to our ape ancestors. At the time, in America, and other places in the world, black men and women were taken from their God-assigned borders in Africa and sold like animals into slavery. Since they were considered less human, slavery could be easily rationalized.

Slavery is nothing new. It has existed since the beginning of time. The second book of the Bible, Exodus, records how the children of Israel became slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. After they came up out of slavery, God gave laws on the proper, humane treatment of slaves (servants). They were often accepted as part of the family. Some slaves were given great responsibility as “stewards” of their masters’ possessions.  Paul, in his letters to the churches, gave instructions on how slaves should behave with their masters and how masters should treat their slaves.[8] Now just because the Bible provides instructions on the humane treatment of slaves, it does not imply that God condones the practice. God does hate divorce,[9] but he allows for it because of man’s fallen condition.[10] Likewise, the same concept applies to slavery.

A common misconception exists that the slave trade in the 16th to 19th centuries involved mainly white slave traders. The fact is that certain powerful African tribes preyed on weaker ones to sell them to white slave traders for profit. Blacks sold other blacks into slavery. “The major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume, were the Portuguese, the British, the Spanish, the French, the Dutch Empires, and the Danish. Several had established outposts on the African coast where they purchased slaves from local African leaders” (emphasis mine).[11] This, of course, does not absolve the white slave traders, but it demonstrates that they do not bear the burden alone. It appears that this is an early example of black-on-black crime.

Most in the United States frowned upon slavery. Even in the South, only a small percentage of white farmers owned slaves. “In 1860, according to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 75 percent of white families in the United States owned not a single slave, while 1 percent of families owned 40 or more. Just a tenth of 1 percent of Americans owned 100 or more slaves. That same year, 1860, 31 percent of all slaves in the U.S. were held on plantations of 40 or more slaves, while a majority (53 percent) were held on farms of between 7 and 39 slaves, says the institute.”[12] Perhaps a better way to put it is that only about 25% (1/4) of the entire United States population owned slaves, and most of those were in the southern states. In addition, most of the slaves were owned by large plantation owners who made up a very small fraction of the population. Therefore, while the record of slavery in the United States is certainly a blight on our history, it seems grossly unfair that the majority of white people currently living should be held accountable for the sins of a small minority 160 years ago.

From the founding of our nation, the great majority of Americans held slavery in contempt based on the Word of God and our founding documents that affirm that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”[13] “All men” means all men, regardless of race, religion, or social standing. Slavery cannot stand under that declaration, and, when President Lincoln was elected in 1860 on a platform to end slavery, that initiated the Civil War. Whites and blacks died in that great war that pitted brother against brother. It was ugly, but so is slavery.

One would hope that the Civil War settled the issue of racism in the United States. I am not black, so I cannot empathize with their perception of “systemic racism” in the United States. Frankly, I do not see it. I am certain that racism exists, and it probably always will. However, I believe we have made great strides in the USA to eliminate overt racism, but there will always be some. A close neighbor of mine openly admits that he is racist. He does not like black people. Alright, as long as we live in a free nation, he has the right to hold his views as long as he does not act upon them in a way that will violate someone else’s rights.

Being of Hispanic origin – my roots go all the way back to Spain – and of Mexican heritage – my father immigrated from Mexico – I have experienced racism from stupid white men that saw me as inferior because of my race. (Mexican is a nationality, not a race, but stupid people do not know the difference.) However, I never allowed racist remarks to affect me in a negative way or make me feel inferior to my assailants. And I never allowed those few ignoramuses to cause me to paint all white people as racists because of a few dummies. (I feel strange distinguishing other whites as “white.” Having come from European descent, I am white also.)

My racist neighbor grew up in Ohio. He is of Italian descent. He tells me of all the racial battles he faced growing up, racism between Italians and Irish. Racism comes in all colors. It is not just black and white. Regardless of its form, racism is just wrong. Racism is sin because the God who made us all in His image, made us all of one blood, and we are His prized creation. As such, we have one who hates us for that very reason and will do all that is within his power to divide and conquer us. That is what racism is all about. Satan[14] hates human beings, and he aims to destroy us.[15]

Just from my observations, which only take note of the exterior but seldom see beneath the surface, it seems to me that blacks are more deeply offended when they perceive racism employed against them, whether real or imagined. I worked with a couple of black guys in two different jobs. We always got along fine and never had any relational problems. However, I noticed that when they would be reprimanded or if they received a less than stellar evaluation, they would always attribute the perceived negativity to racism. It was because they were black. I experienced being called a racist by a black worker I supervised. He quit the job because of that, but when I confronted him about it, he could not explain to me what it was I did to warrant that accusation. I did all I could to encourage him not to quit, but he quit anyway.

In the Navy, while I was stationed onboard the USS Sperry AS-12, between 1970-1974, I noticed how black sailors would all gather at one table on the mess decks to the exclusion of all others. Of course, the civil rights demonstrations of the ’60s were still pretty much current events, but these guys made no strides at racial reconciliation. In fact, they went out of their way to intimidate any white sailor that tried to sit at “their” table.

If we are honest, we have to admit that the racism of blacks against whites is more prevalent than the racism of whites against blacks. And I do not understand why, unless it is intentional or perhaps they see themselves as inferior and assume all white people view them in the same way. I do not know. I am not a psychologist. Regardless, racism, regardless of who practices it, is sin.

Because racism is sin, Christians should be the first ones to identify it and the first to reject it. It does not matter the color of skin God gave us, racism should not be named within the Christian community. Yet, we remain sinners even though we are saved by grace. But we can try, and the effort pleases God.

Very recently, two churches, one black and one white, met together to talk about the issue of racism. The pastors of both churches agreed on all points, particularly on the fact that racism is sin. However, rightly or wrongly, it seemed to me that the black pastor indirectly implied that the problem of racism lies with white people, and that white people are primarily responsible for rectifying it. The black pastor was the first to present. He began his presentation by posting the faces of ten black people (8 men, 2 women) who died at the hands of whites: Trayvon Martin,[16] Tamir Rice,[17] Emmit Teal,[18] Eric Garner,[19] Philando Castile,[20] Ahmaud Abrey,[21] George Floyd,[22] Rayshard Brooks,[23] Sandra Bland,[24] and Breonna Taylor.[25]

With a few exceptions, all of these people died in altercations with police officers for resisting arrest, and most had criminal records. In all cases, the deaths were due to poor choices by the victims. In the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year old, he aimed a realistic-looking pistol at police, and the police reacted in an understandable manner. Tamir, sadly, ended up dead. Emmit Teal, a 14-year old, was lynched by a couple of rednecks (in the ’50s) for allegedly insulting a white woman, the wife of one of the murderers. That case definitely can be called a racist crime, no doubt. Sandra Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic infraction and rather than comply with the officer’s request for her driver’s license, she resisted the officer and became verbally abusive to him. This resulted in her arrest, not because of the traffic violation, but because of her refusal to comply with the officer’s requests, which is against the law. She allegedly hung herself in her jail cell. The matter remains under investigation, but she would still be alive if she had just said, “Yes, Sir” and handed the officer her driver’s license. Breonna Taylor died in a shoot out with police officers who came with a warrant to search for drugs. Breonna was in her apartment with her boyfriend and supposedly did not hear the officers knocking. When the officers broke down the door, Breonna’s boyfriend reacted by firing his gun at the police. Breonna was collateral damage.

All of these cases are tragic, but of the ten, only one can actually be said was the result of racism, and that one did not involve the police. There is a spirit of anarchy pervading our nation that wants to divide us racially, economically, and socially. This same spirit wants to destroy our foundations and topple our system of government by eliminating our system of law enforcement. Systemic racism does not exist in our nation, and it does not exist in law enforcement, but leftists and their media continue to propagate the lie. Consider the lie that blacks are disproportionately killed by white police officers: “Study Destroys Argument That White Cops are Shooting Black Men.”[26] Race is not the issue in police shootings of black men.[27] Another headline reads, “New Police Shooting Stats Show Law Enforcement Is Not the Enemy.”[28] In fact, it appears that more blacks kill cops than the other way around.[29]

To make racism a white issue based on unfounded, isolated cases propagated by the leftist media is not only illogical and irrational, it places the burden of racism unfairly on the majority of white people. Yet the black pastor, perhaps unwittingly and without malice, placed the responsibility of resolution, in context of the Church, on white Christians. He pointed out that the “fact of Racism exists in the World. More specifically for our discussion, in the Church. It is not a figment of the mind of black people.” I propose that it is mostly in the mind of black people who refuse to relinquish it because it offers a convenient excuse for not taking responsibility for their own actions and failings. The black pastor also suggested that “In order for racism to be mitigated, Black Christians need white Christians to recognize it, repent of it and work toward the meaningful reconciliation that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:19).” That is an excellent recommendation, but it fails to assign any responsibility to blacks who can be just as guilty of racism.

The black pastor quoted from The Woke Church by Eric Mason, p. 163: “What needs to happen in the body if we are going to work together cross-ethnically is that white Christians must reach across the color line and begin building respect and trust for minorities, minorities must respond with open arms and hearts to these efforts.” (Emphasis mine). The pastor added, “Not only do white Christians need to speak up, Black Christians, who have achieved a level of success need to speak up every time we witness the [perceived] injustice of racism. Silence from any Christian for any reason gives permission to evil!” I submit this is one thing they do consistently.

I did not quote anything that the white pastor said because he went along with everything the black pastor said and offered no objection but rather acquiesced to the unfair implication that all the fault lies with the white community, and it is the responsibility of the white community to resolve the issue of racism.

Racism exists. It is sin. It is sin that infects all skin tones. The white pastor pointed out how the Israelites were very racist against Gentiles. Well, Gentiles come in all colors, so the comparison is apples to oranges. Regardless of the form, racism is wrong. However, it cannot be legislated away. It is a problem of the heart and only Jesus can change the heart. As for Christians, both black and white, we need to make the concerted effort to look beyond the color of a person’s skin. We should all, black and white, heed the words of Martin Luther King who said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Those words have been mostly aimed at whites, but it applies equally to blacks also.

Racism is sin and should not be named among Christians. “There is neither Jew nor Greek [nor black nor white], there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

 Notes:


[1]  “Racism” – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/racism?s=t

[2]  Genesis 1:26-28

[3]  Genesis 2:23-24

[4]  Genesis 3

[5]  Genesis 4-5

[6]  Genesis 6-9

[7]  Genesis 11

[8]  Ephesians 6:5-9

[9]  Malachi 2:13-16

[10]  Matthew 19:3-9

[11]  “Atlantic Slave Trade” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade

[12]  “Slavery, by the Numbers,” The Root website: https://www.theroot.com/slavery-by-the-numbers-1790874492

[13]  Quoted from the Declaration of Independence

[14]  “Why Satan” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/11/02/why-satan/

[15]  “The Devil” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/09/23/the-devil/

[16]  https://townhall.com/columnists/williammarshall/2019/09/13/exposing-the-trayvon-martin-hoax-n2553059

[17]  https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/mikehayes/heres-a-brief-history-of-the-tamir-rice-shooting

[18]  https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/emmett-till

[19]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Eric_Garner

[20]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Philando_Castile

[21]  https://www.nytimes.com/article/ahmaud-arbery-shooting-georgia.html

[22]  https://nypost.com/2020/06/02/george-floyd-had-violent-criminal-history-minneapolis-union-chief/ and https://www.cbsnews.com/news/george-floyd-death-autopsies-homicide-axphyxiation-details/

[23]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Rayshard_Brooks

[24]  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/07/sandra-bland-video-footage-arrest-death-police-custody-latest-news

[25]  https://www.wdrb.com/news/separating-facts-from-fiction-in-the-breonna-taylor-case/article_94fb82fc-b10c-11ea-9305-43c10123a542.html

[26]  https://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/study-destroys-argument-that-white-cops-are-shooting-black-men/

[27]  “There Is No Epidemic of Racist Police Shootings” https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/07/white-cops-dont-commit-more-shootings/

[28] https://www.newsmax.com/bernardkerik/police-shootings-crime-statistics/2019/01/22/id/899297/

[29]  “5 Statistics You Need To Know About Cops Killing Blacks” – https://www.dailywire.com/news/5-statistics-you-need-know-about-cops-killing-aaron-bandler

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Looking for Antichrist

Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (Revelation 13:18)

For longer than I have studied end-times prophecy (and I by no way count myself as an expert), prophecy watchers have sought to determine the identity of the end-times Antichrist. Our starting verse above suggests that someone with “wisdom” can know the name of the “the beast,” the Antichrist, by calculating the “number of his name” – 666. By assigning numerical values to the letters of the alphabet, some in the past (perhaps even now) have used this “clue” to determine the name of the Antichrist. However, these overlook the fact that the Revelation was written in Koine Greek, and they apply this method to the English alphabet. Hence, several candidates have come and gone: Napoleon, Hitler, and several U.S. Presidents among others.

Personally, I believe that the identity of the Antichrist should be of no concern for Christians for reasons I will discuss later. When the Antichrist arrives on the scene, how will the world recognize him?

The Antichrist appears first in the Book of Daniel where the prophet characterizes him as a “little horn”[1] that rises out of a ten-nation confederacy. Without going into a lengthy explanation, a “horn” symbolizes a “kingdom” or a “king.” That the horn is “little” suggests perhaps a political leader having little authority at first, but then rises to power. Adolf Hitler is a good example of how this can happen. In my opinion, the “little horn” is alive and politically active right not, but because of his “little” position, he does not occupy the limelight. However, according to Daniel, he will arise and assume great power.

The Antichrist next appears in the Book of Daniel where the prophet characterizes him as a “prince.”[2] The Hebrew word translated “prince” is nâgı̂yd, which means “commander” (civil, military, or religious). “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Daniel 9:27, emphasis mine). The “one week” is a translation of the Hebrew “one seven;” in other words, a group of seven years. This is the final seven years of Daniel’s 70 “weeks” of years determined for Daniel’s people, the Jews[3] that we know as the Tribulation.

According to the prophet, the “prince” will “confirm the covenant” for seven years (one week). This suggests that a covenant (treaty or agreement) already exists that has not been ratified. He does not “make” the covenant, but he makes the covenant effective.

Unless you live under a rock, you should be aware of all the problems with Israel and its Arab neighbors. So persistent are the “wars and rumors of wars”[4] in Israel that the media does not even bother to report on it unless they can somehow vilify Israel. President Donald Trump with the help of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has devised the “deal of the century” to bring peace to the Middle East particularly as it involves Israel and the “Palestinians.” However, the plan finds strong resistance from the Palestinians and other Muslim nations.

Could this be the “covenant” that Antichrist will confirm? Who will rise to make the covenant effective? As noted above, the “little horn” will not be known until he comes to power and confirms the covenant with Israel for seven years. If you are around when that happens, you are in for a long, hard seven years, but even then there is hope.

Daniel foretells that Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel after 3½ years by desecrating the Temple. Right now, there is not a Temple in Jerusalem, but the Temple Faithful[5] have everything needed to rebuild the Temple. The original Ark of the Covenant is hidden for now, though they claim to know its location. In order for Antichrist to desecrate the Temple, a Temple must exist. Jesus said, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation [i.e. the Antichrist], spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16). Perhaps rebuilding the Temple is part of Trump’s Deal of the Century!

The Apostle Paul refers to Antichrist as “that man of sin” and “the son of perdition.”[6] This is the one “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4, emphasis mine). Antichrist is an atheist. He opposes everything pertaining to God and even exalts himself above God. Daniel also makes this point. “And the king [i.e. the “little horn”] shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done” (Daniel 11:36, emphasis mine). Worse than being an atheist, Antichrist will actually worship Satan. “But in his estate shall he honour the [g]od of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things” (Daniel 11:38). The “god of forces” is Satan, who controls the powers and principalities who are the demonic realm.

This “spirit of antichrist” prevails in our world today. Humans reject God, and in effect, make themselves gods. The Apostle John, author of the Book of Revelation makes this point: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). That applies to many today. “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:3, emphasis mine). “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18, emphasis mine). However, the Antichrist will top them all.

In the Book of Revelation, John describes the Antichrist as a “beast” rising “up out of the sea.”[7] Symbolically, the “sea” refers to the masses of humanity. He receives his power from “the dragon,”[8] i.e., Satan. Apparently, sometime in the first half of the Tribulation[9] he receives a deadly head wound from which he revives.[10] This “miracle” imitates Christ’s resurrection from the dead so that the people of the world “worshipped the dragon that gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast” (Revelation 13:4). After this, he gains power for the remaining 3½ years of the Tribulation. This seems to be the time when he desecrates the Temple. Perhaps after “rising from the dead,” he convinces himself that he is god. “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven” (Revelation 13:6, emphasis mine). “Tabernacle” and “Temple” are synonymous. Further along in the chapter, a “second beast” is described. Prophecy students understand this beast to be the “false prophet” imitating the Holy Spirit. He erects an image of Antichrist and forces all people of the world to worship the image. Some think that the false prophet erects the image in the Temple, which is actually what desecrates the Temple. Note the counterfeit trinity: Satan in the place of God, the Beast in the place of Christ, and the False Prophet (the second beast) in the place of the Holy Spirit.

In brief, this is how Antichrist will be recognized. I do not believe that Christians will be around when Antichrist makes the scene. Paul assures us that the Rapture of the Church will take place before the Antichrist is revealed. He says, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3, emphasis mine). That “falling away” is apostasia in the Greek, which refers to a defection or turning away from “the faith.” We see that happing all around us, as churches and denominations reject the teachings of the Bible and substitute entertainment for true worship. I wonder if churches closing out of fear of the Wuhan bug demonstrates a lack of faith for God’s protection and His admonition to “Not forsak[e] the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, emphasis mine).

The “falling away” continues. Paul goes on to say that Antichrist will not show up until the “restrainer” is taken out of the way. “And now ye know what withholdeth that he [the Antichrist] might be revealed in his time” (2 Thessalonians 2:6, emphasis mine). “Withhold” is the Greek word katechō, which means to “hold down fast.” Paul admits that iniquity exists even now, but its full power is restrained until “he who now [katechō] will [restrain], until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8). That “Restrainer” is the Holy Spirit who resides within every true believer that makes up the Church, the Bride of Christ. When the Holy Spirit departs, the Church departs because Jesus promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). He said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter [i.e., the Holy Spirit], that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16).

So, don’t waste a lot of time and effort trying to figure out who the Antichrist is. Rather, study the signs of the last days given in the Bible. Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you. Especially, look at what is going on in Israel. The time is very near. And if you are unsure of your position with God, Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Daniel 7:8

[2]  Daniel 9:26

[3]  Daniel 9:24

[4]  Matthew 24:6

[5]  The Temple Faithful – http://templemountfaithful.org/

[6]  2 Thessalonians 2:3

[7]  Revelation 13:1

[8]  Revelation 13:2

[9]  The Tribulation is detailed in Revelation 6-19

[10]  Revelation 13:3

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How Soon They Forget!

Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: (Deuteronomy 8:11)

Forgetfulness gets us in trouble many times, like when you forget some special someone’s birthday or anniversary. Forgetfulness can be annoying, like when you walk into a room and wonder why you entered. Someone once said that “The only thing faster than the speed of thought is the speed of forgetfulness. Good thing we have other people to help us remember.”[1] Some kinds of forgetfulness are worse than others. When you forget a special day, you can always make it up and get forgiveness. When you walk into a room and forget why you entered, you can always walk back out and remember when you get busy doing something else. However, forgetting God and the blessings He has bestowed on us, well, that just makes us ingrates, but worse, it raises up a barrier to our relationship with Him.

Reading through the biblical history of Israel, the characteristic that stands out above all others is forgetfulness, which often manifests in the spirit of ingratitude. When God led them out of Egypt, they soon forgot the hardship of their bondage and started complaining about the manna God provided for them in the desert. After God audibly spoke to them at Mount Sinai and gave them His Ten Commandments, they soon forgot the first one and built a golden calf to worship.

That pattern followed them throughout their history until God finally had enough and sent the Assyrians first to punish Israel (the northern kingdom) then, 100 years later, He sent the Babylonians to punish Judah. The northern kingdom, Israel, was deported to the region that we know today as northeastern Iraq,[2] and they assimilated with the Assyrian culture gaining the moniker of the “Ten Lost Tribes.” Nebuchadnezzar carried off the Jews[3] in three waves, 597 BC, 586 BC, and finally 581 BC, but the Judah Jews retained their identity throughout their captivity (as they have to this day).

The Babylonian captivity for the Jews lasted only 70 years as God had determined for them.[4] Daniel records the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC[5] by Cyrus as predicted by Isaiah the prophet.[6] After conquering Babylon, Cyrus issued a decree[7] that allowed the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem and their Temple. It took the Jews about 23 years to rebuild the Temple razed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. “And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king” (Ezra 6:15).[8]

Fifty-six years (by my calculations) after the completion of the Temple, Ezra, priest and scribe,[9] left Babylon to assess the Temple situation. This was during the seventh year of Artaxerxes I’s (465-425 BC) reign; this would have been around 458 BC. In the interim, between the completion of the Temple and Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem, the enemies of the Jerusalem Jews had been carrying on a letter-writing campaign with the Persian kings to stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem.[10] Therefore, all building (except for the Temple which was completed) had ceased.

At about this same time, (20th year of Artaxerxes I, 445 BC) Nehemiah heard about the battered condition of Jerusalem and how the city walls were broken down. This caused him great grief and from his position as the “king’s cupbearer,” he requested permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Ezra was already in Jerusalem. So Nehemiah took charge, and against much opposition, rebuilt the walls in just 52 days.[11]

I have a reason for providing all that detail. I began by reciting Israel’s forgetfulness and unfaithfulness to the LORD their God. Finally, after 70 years of captivity, God worked through pagan kings to allow them to return to their homeland. With the blessing of the Persian kings, beginning with Cyrus, God provided the way and the resources for them to rebuild their Temple and the walls of the city in record time. All of this was God’s doing, and God’s hand can be clearly seen over all of it. One would think that after all of that, they would remember their God.

They did, briefly. Once the walls were completed and Ezra had the priests and Levites all organized, they had a dedication for the Temple and the City walls. The scene recorded in Nehemiah 8 and 9 harkens back to a similar gathering when King Josiah read the Book of the Law that had been found in Solomon’s Temple.[12] On this occasion, Ezra stood on a “pulpit” and read Scripture from morning until noon. And the people stood and listened, and the Levites “taught the people” and they “read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8, emphasis mine). The clarity given to God’s word was necessary because the people had been speaking Aramaic in their captivity and probably lost a lot of their use and understanding of Hebrew – the language of the Scripture.

As a result, there was a great “revival” among the people. They discovered that it displeased God for them to intermarry with pagans, so all those who married pagan wives divorced them. They committed to follow God completely. So, for the twelve years that Nehemiah governed,[13] they were faithful to their commitment. However, Nehemiah had to return to his post at the side of Artaxerxes[14] and was there for “certain days.” In his brief absence, things (spiritually) fell into disarray once again. Eliashib, the priest, arranged an apartment inside the Temple for Tobia the Ammonite, the mortal enemy of Nehemiah, violating the Law of God.[15] Nehemiah observed many Jews violating the Sabbath and foreign merchants peddling their goods inside the city gates on the Sabbath. All these things from which they “repented” were taking place as normal. They also started marrying pagan wives again. How soon they forget!

It is no wonder that God stopped speaking to them after this for the next 400 years. Then Jesus came, and they failed to recognize Him because they forgot what Scripture foretold about Him. We should not be too critical, though. We have the complete canon of God’s Word, and we still forget.

I have stated before, when I read the history of Israel, I see a striking parallel with our nation, the U.S.A. We have forgotten God too, and if God stopped dealing with His “chosen people” what makes us think that we should get preferential treatment? I think we have gone too far in our forgetfulness.

There is hope for the U.S.A., for Israel, and for the whole world. Soon, and very soon, Jesus will return and set up His kingdom on Earth, and all things will be made right. Are you prepared to meet Him? See my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration, (Norilana Books, http://www.norilana.com/, 2010).

[2]  2 Kings 17:6

[3]  Name derived from “Judah”

[4]  Jeremiah 25:11-12

[5]  Daniel 5:30

[6]  Isaiah 44:28; 45:1

[7]  Ezra 5:13

[8]  Darius reigned between 522-486 BC

[9]  Ezra 7:6

[10] Ezra 4:8-22 (is a “sample” letter that is out of sequence with the narrative)

[11] Nehemiah 6:15

[12]  “Too Good, Too Late” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/05/17/too-good-too-late/

[13]  Nehemiah 5:14-15

[14]  Nehemiah 13:6

[15]  Deuteronomy 23:3

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