Category Archives: Bible

The 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)

My twice-brother and I engaged in a discussion a few nights ago concerning the meaning of “the soul.” What is the soul? Most people think of the soul as the spiritual essence of a person. The English dictionary seems to support that view:

noun

  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: arguing the immortality of the soul.
  3. the disembodied spirit of a deceased personHe feared the soul of the deceased would haunt him.[1] et al. (emphasis mine)

Our English language (especially American English) has “evolved” considerably since the founding of the United States, so I thought it might be interesting to see how the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defined “soul.” I found the following definition:

SOUL, n.

  1. The spiritual, rational and immortal substance in man, which distinguishes him from brutes; that part of man which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government. The immortality of the soul is a fundamental article of the christian [sic] system. Such is the nature of the human soul that it must have a God, an object of supreme affection.
  2. The understanding; the intellectual principle. The eyes of our soul then only begin to see, when our bodily eye are closing.
  3. Vital principle. Thou son, of this great world both eye and soul.
  4. Spirit; essence; chief part; as charity, the soul of all the virtues. Emotion is the soul of eloquence.
  5. Life; animation principle or part; as, an able commander is the soul of an army.
  6. Internal power. There is some soul of goodness in things evil.
  7. A human being; a person. There was no a soul present. In Paris there are more than seven hundred thousand souls. London, Westminster, Southwark and the suburbs, are said to contain twelve hundred thousand souls.[2] et al. (emphasis mine)

The idea that the soul is the immaterial “substance” or “essence” that animates us enjoys a long history of support, but I think there is more to the soul than that. Normally, the first and second definition listed in a dictionary provides the general understanding of the word. However, in this case, I prefer the seventh definition provided by the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary. It basically says that “the soul” is a human being or a person, and I believe I can show scriptural support for that idea.

The best place to start is at the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “God,” ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, is a plural noun. We understand God as Triune being – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three persons (we say) in one “Godhead.” We simply say “God,” but we understand His Triune nature.

God created humans according to His image. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis mine). All humans bear the “image of God” and share many of His attributes albeit without the “Omni” prefix. It follows that we too possess a triune nature (more on that later).

As we examine the creation account, we see that God created all living creatures by divine fiat, i.e., He spoke them into being. However, He took special care in creating man. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine).

Humans and air-breathing animals possess the “breath of life.” The Hebrew word neshâmâh is defined as: “a puff, that is, wind, angry or vital breath, divine inspiration, intellect or (concretely) an animal: – blast, (that) breath (-eth), inspiration, soul, spirit.”[3] We see in Genesis 7:22 that animals possess the “breath of life.” That phrase is also found in Genesis 6:13 and 7:15, but the Hebrew word for “breath” there is rûach, which means: “wind; by resemblance breath, that is, a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions): – air, anger, blast, breath, X cool, courage, mind, X quarter, X side, spirit ([-ual]), tempest, X vain, ([whirl-]) wind (-y).”[4] Both neshâmâh and rûach are similar in meaning, but the latter includes the idea of a “spirit.”

To further confuse matters, Genesis 2:7 says that “man became a living soul.” The word “soul” is the Hebrew nephesh, which is defined as: “a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental): – any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, X dead (-ly), desire, X [dis-] contented, X fish, ghost, + greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, X jeopardy of) life (X in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortality, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thy-) self, them (your) -selves, + slay, soul, + tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, X would have it.”  It is not difficult to see that nephesh is related to neshâmâh in that both carry the aspect of “breathing.” However, nephesh includes the physical aspect of the creature.

Both man and animals possess a nephesh. The Hebrew word first appears in Genesis 1:20. “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (emphasis mine). The Hebrew words translated “hath life” are nephesh chay (life), or “soul life.” Also, the following verse reads, “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “creature” is nephesh. I could give more examples, but I want you to stay with me on this.

We see that both man (humans) and animals have souls – nephesh. What differentiates a human soul from that of an animal is the way in which it was given. Recall earlier that God created animals by divine fiat. He also created them en masse. Man was unique. He created one human couple. He did not speak them into being as he did with the animals. He “formed” man – the Hebrew word yâtsar meaning to mold as a potter forms and shapes a clay vessel. Then God breathed into man His own breath “and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

Looking back at the 1828 Webster’s definition of “soul,” the seventh definition becomes clear here. The clay figure on the ground came to life when God breathed into it, and he became a human being, a person, a living soul – made in the image of God, with a triune nature like his Maker.

So, what is the triune nature of man? As I see it, just as God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, man is mind, body, and spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the God, or the Godhead if you prefer. The mind, body, and spirit is the soul. God has a physical body. That body is the Son, Jesus Christ. The other two “persons” of God are immaterial and invisible – the Father and the Holy Spirit. “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, emphasis mine). Likewise, the mind and spirit of the soul are immaterial and invisible, but the body reveals the soul. We have all heard the expression, “The eyes are the windows to the soul;” the eyes are physical, but they often reveal what is “inside.” In summary, the soul is the entire being or person, mind, body, and spirit.

We can know that the soul is more than some nebulous ethereal, intangible animator of our being by the consideration given “the soul” in Scripture. For example, when God called Abraham (Abram) out of his homeland, we read, “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came” (Genesis 12:5, emphasis mine). Those “souls” (nephesh) were not disembodied spirits; they were people. When Abraham went down to Egypt he told Sarah (Sarai), “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, emphasis mine). Abram was not thinking of his “spirit being;” he wanted to save his own skin! That nephesh refers to the whole person is clearly demonstrated when Abraham went to rescue his nephew Lot from the marauding kings of the north. “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” (Genesis 14:21, emphasis mine). The word translated “persons” is the Hebrew word nephesh.

Another part of the nephesh is the “mind.” We find that example when Sarah died, and Abraham negotiated for a plot of land in which to bury her. “And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar” (Genesis 23:8, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “mind” is nephesh.

I could cite many more examples, but these should suffice. The point is that we do not have souls; we are souls. Each soul made in the image of God is a triune being with mind, body, and spirit. For a soul to exist, all three must be present. Take away any one of the three, and the soul (at least in this present life) ceases to exist. A soul is immortal; it exists forever. However, because of Adam’s sin in the Garden, the physical part dies even though the mind and spirit continue; the soul is incomplete. At the end of time, the mind, body, and spirit will reunite for eternity, but not all souls will enjoy the same destiny. Some souls will live eternally in the presence of God; other souls will exist eternally separated from God in hell. Soul, where will you spend eternity? If you have doubts, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Dictionary.com – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soul

[2]  1828.mshaffer.com – https://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/soul

[3]   Strong’s Definitions: H5395

[4]   Strong’s Definitions: H7307

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A Nutshell History of the World

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Isaiah 46:9-10)

World history can evenly be divided into three segments of 2,000 years each: from creation to Abraham; from Abraham to Jesus; and from Jesus to the present. I realize that academic historians and anthropologists with Ph.D. degrees will disagree, but they have earned the right to be wrong; so I will acknowledge their opposition and move on.

Beginning with Genesis 1, the Bible records the creation in just six 24-hour days. Genesis 2 details the creation of man – Adam and Eve. Genesis 3 records the Fall of man and the first promise of Messiah. This event probably took place less than a month after creation. I come to this conclusion because God instructed Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). Considering God’s assessment of His “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31), Adam and Eve were perfect human specimens and should not have had any trouble reproducing.

Additionally, a woman’s menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. It takes 14 days for the ovary to release a ripened egg (ovum).[1] The ovum has another week where it is ready for fertilization. If not fertilized within that week, it will be sluffed off in the menstrual period, and the cycle begins again. Considering this, the Fall may have been less than two weeks after creation.

Genesis 4 records the first murder – Cain killing his brother Abel – and the ungodly descendants of Cain. Genesis 5 records the Godly descendants of Seth (Adam’s son to replace Abel). That genealogy records a period of about 1,658 years.[2], [3] When reading the genealogies recorded in Genesis 5, one must keep in mind that these records are from event to event – the age of the father at the birth of that son. Furthermore, the birth of the named son does not demand that he be the firstborn as precluded by the common phrase “and he begat sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 26, 30). Therefore, one can employ simple addition to add up the ages of the father at the birth of the named son.[4]

Genesis 6-9 records the depravity of man that brought God’s judgment upon the Earth through the Global Flood. Only Noah, his family. and all the animals that God brought to the Ark were saved. The animals included dinosaurs, and the Bible does mention dinosaurs although not by that name. Sir Richard Owen first coined the word dinosaur in 1841. The King James Bible was published in 1611, more than 200 years before the word “dinosaur” was invented. Before that time, these creatures were collectively known as “dragons.” The Book of Job names two of these creatures, Behemoth and Leviathan (Job 40-41), whose description is unlike anything known to modern man.

The Flood lasted 370 days (Genesis 7:11; 8:14), based on a 360-day year. After the Flood, the Earth was still in turmoil with a lot of active volcanos and much warmer oceans. These factors contributed to the Ice Age that followed.[5] The Book of Job, considered by many Bible scholars as the oldest book in the Bible, speaks more about snow, ice, and cold than any other book of the Bible suggesting that the earth was experiencing the Ice Age at that time. Creation scientists believe the Ice Age lasted only about 200-400 years, but there was only one, not many as the secular scientists suggest.

Genesis 10 is called the Table of Nations. It records the descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth and where they settled around the world after their dispersion at Babel. Shem’s descendants ultimately led to the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 3:36).

Finally, Genesis 11 records the Tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues/languages. This event is the origin of all the ethnic groups (not “races”) in the world. Neanderthals were among those that scattered at Babel. Recent scientific discoveries show that Neanderthals are/were 100% human. Genesis 11 also records the genealogy of Abraham through whom God would bless all the nations of the earth 2,000 years later. The rest of the Old Testament deals with the history and the future history of Abraham’s descendants.

The future history concerns the coming of Messiah to rule all nations from His throne in Jerusalem. The Old Testament records future history in two parts. At His first coming/advent, “He came to His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). He was crucified, buried, but He rose from the dead after three days and ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-10; Ephesians 1:19-23). From there we await His return – His second coming (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11). At that time, He will fulfill the future history recorded by the Old Testament prophets concerning His reign on earth. The time of His second advent draws near. As there were six days of creation and a Sabbath day of rest (Genesis 1:1-2:3), so have there been six millennia of history, and we await the seventh millennium (Revelation 20:1-7) of rest where Messiah will rule the nations with a “rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).

At the end of the millennial reign of Christ, world history ends and eternity, for us, begins. Are you ready? See my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Female Reproductive System” – https://tulsafertilitycenter.com/female-infertility/female-reproductive-cycle.php

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

[3]  “Age of the Earth” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/02/23/age-of-the-earth/

[4]  James J. S. Johnson, J.D., TH.D, “How Young Is the Earth? Applying Simple Math to Data Provided in Genesis” – http://www.icr.org/article/how-young-earth-applying-simple-math-data-provided/

[5]  Jake Hebert, Ph.D., “Was There an Ice Age?” – http://www.icr.org/article/was-there-ice-age

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Angels

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. (Psalm 91:10-11)

I often get asked, “When did God create angels?” That is an understandable question since the Bible often speaks of angels. The word “angel” in Hebrew is mal’âk and aggelos in the Greek. In either language, the word means “messenger.” The English word “angel” appears 203 times in the Bible, and that does not account for the plural form or other terms that describe them.

The Bible names only three angels, Lucifer, Michael, and Gabriel. In the Old Testament, we read of “the angel of the Lord,” who is God Himself, the pre-incarnate Jesus. We know this because, in context, the “angel” speaks “as God,” not “for God.” Regular angels always deliver a message “from” God and give credit to God for the message – “thus saith the Lord.” The “angel of the Lord” always speaks as God. For example, the first appearance of the “angel of the Lord” is in Genesis 16, when Sarah cast out Hagar, and the “angel of the Lord” appears to her in the wilderness. “And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 16:10, emphasis mine). A regular angel might have said, “The Lord will multiply thy seed,” but this angel assumes the responsibility. A regular angel cannot do that, but God can.

With all the mention of angels in the Bible – and if we believe the Bible is true – angels are real creatures. Since they are real, God created them, and if God created them, He must have created them some time during the creation week. The question is, when did He do that?

The Bible does not say when the angels were created. The Bible is “a love letter from God to man,” therefore it deals mostly with the relationship between God and His prized creation –mankind. While the Bible is accurate when it describes scientific facts (the water cycle, bird migration, cosmological phenomena, etc.) or records history, that is not its main purpose. Therefore not everything that God does is revealed to us. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Angels were created to serve God’s purpose for man, and they mostly fight for us in “the unseen realm.” Only occasionally do they enter our dimension which is why the writer to the Hebrews encourages hospitality. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

However, the Bible does not focus on them too much probably to discourage the worship of them. “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Colossians 2:18). In addition, man was created superior to the angels. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3, emphasis mine).

Therefore, we can understand why God did not include the creation of angels in the creation account. The Bible says, “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:18). The earth was created for man, not for angels, and that is the focus of the creation account.

However, we can know that angels were created (they are immortal, not “eternal” in the same way as God is eternal) very early on in the creation. In God’s response to Job, He says, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7, emphasis mine). The “morning stars” and the “sons of God” is speaking of the angels. They were there to witness God’s creation. Therefore we can surmise that they were probably created on Day One or no later than Day Two, but the Bible does not say for certain. We can also surmise that Satan[1] (Lucifer) was among those angels when we read Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:11-19. I believe that the reason Satan hates humanity[2] so much is that he, having been created the greatest of the angels, observed God create man in His own image and give man dominion over all of His creation. In Texas, we would say, “That really chapped his hide.”

Man lost his former estate in the Garden of Eden, but the fact remains that God created man to be superior to the angels. His will is to redeem mankind from that fallen state, and He gave us His Word both in written form – the Bible – and in physical form – Jesus, the Word – to accomplish that end. Angels are not the main focus of the Bible.

Notes:


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

[2]  “Marring the Image”  https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/05/24/marring-the-image/

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Age of the Earth

“And the earth was without form and void” (Genesis 1:2)

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:11)

Many Christians find it difficult to believe that the universe and the earth are only about 6000 years old. After decades of assault from all sides by evolutionists touting that billions of years of evolution are well-established scientific fact, Christian scholars, intimidated by the prospect of appearing uneducated while at the same time desiring to uphold the veracity of the Bible, seek compromises that attempt to “shoehorn” evolution into the simple text of the creation account recorded in Genesis.

Several of the compromises exist today even though solid biblical and scientific scholarship has shown them to be false. The Gap Theory,[1] for example, attempts to squeeze billions of years between Verse 1 and Verse 2 of Genesis 1 supported only by vivid imaginations and extra-biblical Jewish writings and traditions but offers zero biblical backup. The Day-Age Theory mistranslates the normal meaning of “day” into indefinitely long periods of time. The Day-Age Theory, when examined carefully and critically presents several problems. Then there is Theistic Evolution that makes out God to be some cosmic tinkerer or experimenter as if He could not get it right the first time.

Other compromises probably exist, but recently I heard a new one. Someone wrote in with the perfect solution to the age of the earth problem. He said:

I believe that the earth is young, 6000 years old, but when I look at Genesis 1: 9-10, I see that what God called the earth is DRY land, not the whole planet. In other words, it is the DRYNESS of the land that is sticking up above the surface of the seas that God had just made that is young or new or 6000 years old. This isn’t my opinion, the Bible describes this. So verses 1 and 2 plus Day 1 and Day 2 need to be interpreted using what Moses says the earth is. So you see trying use dates given by dating techniques to work out how old the ‘earth’ is a waste of time. I personally doubt that it would be possible to date the age of anything. This is because I think anything God makes would always be ‘as new’, until we get to when sin occurred here and then the flood. Using the context approach, entirely within chapter one, it is easy to see what ‘heaven’ is as well. The universe was made instantly by God’s word for sure, but that wasn’t Moses’ focus in Genesis. Another question to ask using the context approach is, ‘Why did God do what He did in Genesis One, the climax of which is Adam and Eve?

What the writer suggests is that the first two days were long periods of time – millions or billions of years, but the appearance of land on the third day is the starting point for counting the age of the earth. I can commend him for taking a hard look at Scripture, however, his disadvantage, it appears, is that he is relying strictly on the English translation of the Bible. The original language, Hebrew, makes things very clear. The Hebrew word for “day” is yôm. Yôm, in the Old Testament nearly always refers to a normal 24-hour day, especially when it is associated with an ordinal number: first day, second day, third day, etc. If that were not clear enough, God clearly defines what a day is: “And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5). So, one cannot add extensive periods of time to the creation account without doing harm to the text.

Genesis 1:9-10 is another place where the English language fails to translate the Hebrew precisely. In my King James Bible, the word “land” is in italics meaning that the word was inserted in the text for clarity to the English reader. Literally, the phrase should read, “let the dry appear: and it was so. And God called the dry Earth.” (vv. 9-10). The Hebrew word translated “earth” is ‘erets, and it can mean soil, ground, land (as in a plot of land or as a region like “the land of Egypt), and in a greater sense, the planet Earth. Context determines the meaning, which makes me wonder why the translators capitalized the word “Earth” when the context is referring to the “dry land” and not to the entire planet. The conclusion that it is only the “dryness” that is 6000 years old contradicts the definition of yôm given in Verse 5 (and the rest of Scripture).

Reading in its normal context, giving the words their normal meaning, the creation account recorded in Genesis 1 clearly states that God created the universe, the earth, and everything upon the earth in six 24-hour days. One must either accept that or reject it, but woe to them who attempt to add to or take away from that Word to make it fit the whims of sinful men (Deuteronomy 12:32; Revelation 22:18).

Since the writer was convinced that the 6000-year age of the earth started with the appearance of dry land, I did not expound any further on the age of the earth. However, some of the readers of this blog may still doubt since “experts” in the field of anthropology place the beginning of human history between 8000 BC and 5000 BC with “civilization” beginning around 3000 BC. According to biblical chronology, creation happened around 4000 BC, and man was “civilized” from the beginning. Many biblical scholars question this date because they fear appearing ignorant among the “experts.” The Bible presents a straightforward chronology in the “begats” cited in Genesis 5. Biblical scholars that doubt the accuracy of this chronology suggest that there may be gaps of hundreds or even thousands of years in these generations. However, a careful examination of the text reveals no such gaps. The years recorded in Genesis 5 are from event to event – from the age of the father to the birth of that son. For example, Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born or conceived (Genesis 5:3); that is 130 years from Creation. Seth was 105 years old when Enos was born or conceived (Genesis 5:6); that adds up to 235 years from Creation. Enos was 90 years old when Cainan was born or conceived (Genesis 5:9); that adds up to 325 years from Creation and so on. The table below breaks down the timeline.

Image Credit: Institute for Creation Research

[2]

Add to these the genealogies recorded in Genesis 11 (included in the table above), and we learn that Abraham was born between 1,948 to 1,985 years after Creation or around 2018 BC. The year of Abraham’s birth is pretty well established +/- 100 years, so given the chronology recorded in Genesis, all of Creation is not much more than 6000 years old. Of course, many will argue that, but their argument is against Scripture. Personally, I would be careful about challenging God on the accuracy of His Word. To question what we do not understand is one thing. To deny the veracity of God’s Word is something else altogether. According to Scripture, the Earth is only about 6000 years old.

Notes:


[1]  “No Gap” https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/18/no-gap/

[2]  JAMES J. S. JOHNSON, J.D., TH.D, “How Young Is the Earth? Applying Simple Math to Data Provided in Genesis” – http://www.icr.org/article/how-young-earth-applying-simple-math-data-provided/

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Three Fingers Back

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

I often hear the charge, “that’s not very Christian” coming from non-Christians when a Christian acts or speaks in a manner which the non-Christian deems inappropriate for a Christian (as if they would know what is or is not appropriate for a Christian). I get that. They make those judgments based on their humanistic worldview that determines right or wrong according to their contrived values. It is a relativistic worldview that authorizes the individual to make value judgments as he sees fit. “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Everyone has his/her own value system. Everyone has his/her own “truth.” One can say or do whatever one wishes as long as it is legal and “it does not hurt anyone else.” That rule applies to everyone – except for Christians. Christians are judged by a different measure. That measure is the subjective preconception of how a Christian ought to behave.

While I understand the source of the non-Christian’s warped perspective of how a Christian should behave, I am really taken aback when I hear the exact criticism coming from another Christian. What is up with that! One would think that all Christians should present a united front. That was Jesus’ desire for us. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word [that be us]; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21, emphasis mine).

Now when the Mormons come knocking on your door, this is one fault they like to point out. “Why are there so many religions when Jesus wanted us all to be one?” When someone asks me that question, I quickly agree and say, “I think we should all be Baptists!” I am joking, of course. I understand most of the denominational differences, but as Christians, we should all have one thing in common that unifies us. Salvation is through Grace alone, through Faith in Christ alone. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We can discuss our differences on how we view baptism, communion, predestination vs. free will, glossolalia (speaking in tongues), eschatology (end times), creation, etc. We can even debate over those issues – in love. However, we must keep those discussions based on Scripture, not on personal opinion or the opinions of others. What does the Bible – God’s Word – have to say about it? There is nothing wrong with that, and there is much right about that. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17).

However, questioning the Christianity of another Christian – especially in a public forum like Facebook – is wholly inappropriate. That very act is “un-Christian.” The familiar axiom – “When you point the finger at someone else, you have three fingers point back at you” – is true. Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). However, in saying that, He was not prohibiting value judgments. In context (Matthew 7:1-6), Jesus referred to making a condemning judgment against someone else. The Greek word translated “judge” is krinō, which means to condemn. Only Jesus can properly judge an individual because only He knows the heart and the motives of the person. We do not possess that ability. We can, however, judge actions – what can actually be seen – and determine whether those actions are right or wrong from the rubric of God’s Word. We can determine if a brother’s actions are not in keeping with God’s Word, but we have no right to accuse him of not being a Christian. We know neither his heart nor his motives.

Jesus makes it clear that we must make judgments. In the same passage, He said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6). Determining who the “dogs” and “swine” are demands a judgment. “That which is holy” and “your pearls” is the Gospel message we have to offer. Some people will reject the message and treat it as a dog treats a rag toy. The message will offend others to the point that they will attack you – either verbally or physically. Either way, their actions determine whether you continue to share the Gospel with them or not. When that happens, Jesus said to “shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11). You have made a judgment.

Jesus later offers another example. He said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-16). How does one recognize a false prophet without making a judgment? One must judge! By what standard do we make that judgment? We make that judgment based on the Word of God. When the prophet speaks, do his words match up with the Word of God? You have to make a judgment! Jesus further points to the actions – fruit – of the false prophet. If that prophet talks like a Christian but behaves like the devil, then perhaps you are right to point at the “bad fruit.” If the prophet’s message is inconsistent with the Word of God, then he should be called out for his false teaching but be sure you are standing on firm, biblical ground. Also, be prepared to take on fire.

Again, we cannot judge the heart or the motives of another believer, or anyone for that matter. It is possible, though doubtful, that the false prophet is a Christian. I have known false prophets who spoke the truth, right out of God’s Word, but their lives told a different story. The truth of God’s Word remains, though the messenger may be faulty. Here is where we must be careful in making judgments. The false prophet may or may not be a true believer. I have heard testimonies of pastors that preached behind pulpits for many years before realizing their own lost condition and turning to Christ for salvation. It can happen! Jesus cautioned, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? … Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3, 5).

Before accusing a fellow believer of not being Christian, we must examine ourselves – critically – to make sure we are not at fault. Moreover, I cannot emphasize it strongly enough; our judgment – even our self-examination – must be based on Scripture, not personal (or “expert”) opinion. We should be willing to judge ourselves more strictly than we do the errant brother. Then, with our conscience cleared by the Holy Spirit, we can judge the “actions” of that brother – never, never the heart or motives. When we find a brother in err, Jesus said, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matthew 18:15). What if he will not listen? Read the rest of the passage.

There is another danger in Christians accusing Christians of non-Christian behavior. If you do this, you are playing for the wrong team. There is one who constantly brings charges against Christians before God. He is known as “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Scripture first introduces him to us in that role in the account Job’s life (Job 1:6-7). His name is Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12), but his title is Satan – accuser. Of this one, Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). When we wrongly judge another Christian – especially in a public way – we are guilty of slander. Another word for slander is character assassination, i.e., murder. When you do that, you are doing the devil’s work for him. Do you really want to go there?

Judge, but judge with righteous judgment. Jesus said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). The only way to carry out righteous judgment is by the standard of God’s Word – not your feelings, not your opinions, not the opinions of “experts,” and especially not by the ever-changing standards of the world. God’s Word is the only measure by which to judge righteously. When you feel tempted to judge a fellow believer, take a very close look at yourself and “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye.” You may find that you are the one in the wrong, not your brother. If your brother is in the wrong, take him aside and lovingly help him see his error from Scripture. Don’t point out his error on Facebook or some other public forum; that is what Satan would have you do because Satan’s goal is to destroy the Christian witness however he can. Don’t help him; he does a good job of that on his own. Remember, when you point the finger, three are pointing back at you.

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Conversation

Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God. (Psalm 50:23)

We engage in conversation on a daily basis. If there is no one around with whom to converse, we sometimes hold a conversation with ourselves or with the dog or cat. Conversation can be completely mindless or profound.

The modern dictionary defines “conversation” as: “informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.” In addition, noted as “obsolete,” conversation can mean “behavior or manner of living.”[1] That “obsolete” definition is what we find throughout the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible; therefore, we must grasp this meaning of the word. Otherwise, Scripture, like the passage above, becomes confusing, and the deeper meaning of the text is lost.

Before considering the biblical application of the word, let us consider its etymology.

Conversation (n.) mid-14c., “place where one lives or dwells,” also “general course of actions or habits, manner of conducting oneself in the world,” both senses now obsolete; from Old French conversacion “behavior, life, way of life, monastic life,” and directly from Latin conversationem (nominative conversatio) “frequent use, frequent abode in a place, intercourse, conversation,” noun of action from past-participle stem of conversari “to live, dwell, live with, keep company with,” passive voice of conversare “to turn about, turn about with,” from assimilated form of com “with, together” (see con-) + versare, frequentative of vertere “to turn” (from PIE root *wer- (2) “to turn, bend”).[2]

Considering that the KJV was first published in 1611, the original meaning of the word should be applied in the reading. Basically, the word “conversation” in the Bible (and here I mean the KJV Bible) refers to the way one conducts one’s life. Our “conversation” is how we live, conduct, or carry on our lives. Each person’s conversation will differ and will reflect either who he/she really is or who he/she pretends to be. With that in mind, let us look at some passages from Scripture that provide instruction for our “conversation.”

The English word “conversation” appears 20 times in the KJV Bible, twice in the O.T. and 18 times in the N.T. In some instances, “conversation” may translate different Hebrew or Greek words and may obscure a deeper meaning. We shall see.

Both O.T. occurrences of the word appear in Psalms and translate the same Hebrew word, derek, which literally means a “road” or a “path.” By implication, it is the course of one’s life. Psalm 37:14 says that “the wicked” target those who live an “upright” or “righteous” life. “The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.” That is not much incentive for living a godly life, however, Psalm 50:23 offers great encouragement from God. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” (By the way, taking the “whole counsel” of God’s Word into account, simply living a “good life” will not earn anyone salvation. Ordering your “conversation aright” begins with trusting Jesus as your Lord and Savior.)[3]

As previously stated, “conversation” appears 18 times in the N.T., but it translates different Greek words. The most frequent Greek word translated is anastrophē, which means “behavior.” We find this first in Galatians 1:13. Here, Paul describes how he behaved before meeting the Lord Jesus. “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.” Paul’s life changed radically after meeting Jesus face-to-face. He went from being a zealous persecutor of the Church to being persecuted for preaching the Gospel – equally as zealously. Thus he encourages believers to follow his example: “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). A “Christian” that continues in the sin of his/her former life does not carry on a new “conversation” indicating that no change has transpired in his/her life.

As followers of Christ, our lives should be examples to others as Paul encouraged Timothy. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). James says that our good behavior demonstrates “wisdom” and “knowledge.” “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

Peter uses anastrophē eight times in his letters. Our behavior must be “holy,” i.e., “set apart” (for God’s use). “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15). What God has done for us deserves our very best. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Relate to anastrophē is anastrepho, the verb form, which means “to overturn; also to return; by implication to busy oneself.” In other words, these are the “actions” one takes. This Greek verb is used twice in the N.T. by Paul. In 1 Corinthians 1:12, he refers to his “conversation in the world,” that is, the “work” he is doing. In Ephesians 2:3, Paul refers to the sinful activities in which we once participated. “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

In the Epistle to the Philippians, “conversation” translates both the noun and verb form of politeuma (n.) meaning “a community” and abstractly referring to “citizenship.” “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). The verb form, politeuomai, means to “behave as a citizen.” When we come to Christ, we are no longer citizens of this world; we are “citizens” of heaven. Therefore, we ought to act the part.

Finally, “conversation” translates the Greek noun tropos meaning “a turn, that is, (by implication) mode or style. It is synonymous with anastrophē, and it refers to “deportment or character,” i.e., the way we conduct ourselves. We find this one-time use in Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation [deportment] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Jesus paid a high price to give us eternal life. We who have placed our faith in Him are now “children of God” (John 1:12) and citizens of heaven; we are not of this world (John 17:16). Therefore, our “conversation” should reflect our status, not pridefully, but with humility and meekness, as children of the King and citizens of His Kingdom!

 Notes:


[1]  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/conversation?s=t

[2]  https://www.etymonline.com/word/conversation

[3]  “Securing Eternal Life” – https://erniecarrasco.com/securing-eternal-life/

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Jesus’ Last Days

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, (Luke 9:51)

Jesus spent most of His time in ministry around the Sea of Galilee. His “mission base” was in Capernaum, probably staying at the house of Peter. As the time for His crucifixion approached, Jesus traveled up to Caesarea Philippi with His disciples – the furthest north He ever traveled (Matthew 16:13).

Caesarea Philippi was built by the Ptolemaic kings around the 3rd century BC as a cult center and named Paneas for the Greek god Pan. When the Romans took control, the control of the area was given to the Kingdom of Herod the Great. In 19 BC, Herod built a white marble pagan temple at the entrance to the cave of Pan in honor of Caesar Augustus. Inside the cave was a seemingly bottomless pit[1] that the pagans perceived by the pagans as the entrance to the netherworld – Hades. “Caesarea Philippi was the location the Cave of Pan, the place of the pagan Gate of Hades. It was in this area that the first king of Israel (Jeroboam) led the northern kingdom of Israel into idolatry.”[2] Philip II (the Tetrarch) founded the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus in 14 AD.[3]

Caesarea Philippi was located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon bears the ignominy of being the frequent site of pagan worship.[4] “In the Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Watcher class of fallen angels descended to Earth. They swear upon the mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and take mutual imprecation for their sin (Enoch 6).”[5] Surrounding the base and upon the higher elevations, the mountain was littered with shrines to pagan deities.

It was to this place that Jesus brought His disciples just a few short weeks before His crucifixion.

Matthew 16:13  When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

Mark 8:27  And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Luke 9:18  And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?

Jesus’ last stop prior to this was “in the coasts of Magdala” (Matthew 15:39) and “into the parts of Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10). Both cities were probably near each other, and Matthew and Mark record the location from their own perspective. Note that both refer to the “region” not specifically to the towns. Matthew notes that they came to the “coasts” of Caesarea Philippi. Other translations render “coasts” as district, parts, or region, or it could also be rendered “borders.” Mark reports that they came “into the towns” of Caesarea Philippi. Luke does not specify the location. Apparently, Jesus did not enter that pagan city Himself. Doing so would have rendered Him “unclean.”

Matthew and Mark place the account after the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9). Luke places this account following the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:10-17). Although Luke does not record the feeding of the 4000, the order of events was correct. Jesus fed 5000 first and then 4000 before this event took place. This may be attributed to the way Luke had to go about gathering and compiling the data. Since came “after the fact,” he conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to write his Gospel. As a side note, John, who was an eyewitness, only recorded the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:5-13) as well.

Mark says that they were “on the road,” but that does not indicate that they were traveling when Jesus asked the question. Matthew only remarks that they were in the region. It makes sense that they were stopped in one place where they could all participate in the discussion. If they were “on the road” walking, it would be difficult to have that kind of discussion.

Bible critics often point to the variances in the Gospel accounts to raise doubts in the veracity of Scripture; however, these variances are easily explained. Matthew, as one of the twelve, records the account as an eyewitness. Mark (it is thought) received his information from Peter who was an eyewitness. John, the “beloved disciple,” who was present and an eyewitness, was not divinely inspired to record this event. Luke gathered his information second-hand from eyewitness “to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:1-2, emphasis mine). Therefore Luke often includes details omitted by the other Gospel writers. For example, in this verse, he notes that Jesus “was alone praying, [and] his disciples were with him” (Luke 9:18).

It is in this context that Jesus asks His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” Matthew adds the modifier, “the Son of Man.” Both Matthew and Mark use the Greek ἄνθρωποι “men,” while Luke uses the Greek ὄχλοι “people” meaning a throng, i.e., the masses, men and women. The question was a set up for the more important question to follow.

Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20: He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

They had followed Him for three years now. He was nearing the end of His earthly ministry. Did they really know Him? Peter was never shy about speaking up.

Matthew 16:16  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Mark 8:29  And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

Luke 9:20  He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.

The three synoptic Gospels identify Jesus as “the Christ.” “Christ” – Χριστός – means “anointed;” the same as Messiah. Luke specifies “The Christ of God,” i.e., God’s anointed One. Only Matthew adds “the Son of the living God.” Remember: Matthew’s report is a first-hand account, and only Matthew records Jesus’ response to Peter.

Matthew 16:17-19  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven(18)  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it(19)  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Peter’s confession did not come from “Whom do men say that I am?” Peter received this as a direct revelation from God. “Upon this rock,” i.e., Peter’s confession, Jesus would establish His Church. “The gates of hell” – the temple of Pan and the other pagan gods were nearby.  The disciples were probably familiar with the nomenclature. The illustration was clear: the death of hell cannot complete with the living Church. Gates are defensive measures, which cannot withstand the power of the Church. The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” were not for Peter alone. Jesus would later say the same to all of His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). To “bind” or “loose” means to “prohibit” or “permit.” “When Jesus gave this power to the apostles, he meant that whatsoever they forbade in the church should have divine authority; whatever they permitted, or commanded, should also have divine authority – that is, should be bound or loosed in heaven, or meet the approbation of God. They were to be guided infallibly in the organization of the church: (1) By the teaching of Christ, and, (2) By the teaching of the Holy Spirit.”[6]

Jesus then foretells of His impending death on the cross: Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31. (Luke missed that detail.) He ends the conversation with a curious statement.

Matthew 16:28  Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Mark 9:1  And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

Luke 9:27  But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

Six (or eight) days later “some” had a glimpse of “the kingdom.”

Matthew 17:1-6  And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart(2)  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light(3)  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.  (4)  Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  (5)  While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him(6)  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

Mark 9:2-7  And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.  (3)  And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them(4)  And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.  (5)  And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  (6)  For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.  (7)  And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

Luke 9:28-36  And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray(29)  And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering(30)  And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias(31)  Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.  (32)  But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.  (33)  And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.  (34)  While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.  (35)  And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him(36)  And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

Matthew and Mark say “after six days.” Luke says “about eight days.” Matthew and Mark beginning with that day after Peter’s confession, count six days, and “after six days” this event took place. Luke counts the day of Peter’s confession, plus six days, followed by the day of the Transfiguration – eight days.

Jesus selected Peter, James, and John as the “some” who would “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28, emphasis mine).  Peter and John would later recall this event.

2 Peter 1:16-18  For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  (17)  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  (18)  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

1 John 1:1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

The “high mountain” very likely was Mount Hermon. He was “transfigured” – Greek μετεμορφωθη (metamorphoothee) “transformed, changed, metamorphose” Luke notes that His face – Greek πρόσωπον (prosōpon – the front, the face) was altered. Matthew says that “his face did shine as the sun.” All three remark on the brilliance of His clothing. There appeared Moses and Elias (Elijah) representing the Law and the Prophets – the Old Testament Scripture that testified of the coming Messiah. Luke reveals the content of the conversation. He “spake of his decease [death] which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31, emphasis mine).

In their astonishment, the disciples were speechless, except for Peter. “let us make three tabernacles … For he wist not what to say” (Mark 9:5-6, emphasis mine). Having seen the different shrines to pagan gods around Caesarea Philippi and Mount Hermon, Peter must have thought it would be appropriate. The voice that came out of the cloud soon put the kâbash (kibosh) on that idea: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him

As they descended from the mountain, Jesus instructed them to keep what they witnessed to themselves until after He had risen from the dead (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:10; Luke 9:36). The time had come. “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, emphasis mine). “Time” – Greek ἡμέρα (hēmera), literally means “day.” The day had arrived that He should fulfill His earthly mission. “Stedfastly” – Greek στηρίζω (stērizō) means to set fast, that is, (literally) to turn resolutely in a certain direction. Nothing would deter Him from His mission. Jerusalem and the cross were His assignment.

Passing through Jericho, Jesus heals three, perhaps four blind men.

Luke 18:35  And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:

Matthew 20:29-30  And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.  (30)  And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

Mark 10:46  And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

Matthew does not name the two, but perhaps one of them was Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus may have been known to Mark (or Peter) and the second blind man unknown. I could also be that the two mentioned by Matthew are separate from Bartimaeus.

Luke also gives the account of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) that the other Gospels omit. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, He told him to “make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). “Abide” literally meant to “dwell” or stay over in his house. While in Jericho, Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was deathly ill. “ Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again” (John 11:5-7, emphasis mine).

The small village of Bethany was about a day’s walk from Jericho. Lazarus probably died soon after the messengers departed to Jericho. The travel took a day. Jesus delayed two days before leaving for Bethany, and He took another day to arrive – four days total.

At Bethany, Jesus performed arguably the greatest miracle of all short of His resurrection. Jesus had raised others from the dead: Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:23-43; Luke 8:41-56) and the widow’s only son (Luke 7:11-16). However, both of these had recently died, and it could be argued that they were “resuscitated” rather than resurrected. With Lazarus, there was no question. In fact, when Jesus asked for the stone to be removed, Martha protested, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39). The Jews believed that when a person, their spirit lingered around for three days before departing for good. Lazarus was very dead! “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26, emphasis mine). Then to make His point, “he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).

The raising of Lazarus caused quite a stir among the religious leaders, who, rather than recognize Jesus’ authority as Messiah and turn to Him, developed a plot to kill Him. “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,  Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.  And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;  And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11:49-53, emphasis mine). So irrational were they in their animus toward Jesus, that they sought to destroy the evidence of His resurrecting power – Lazarus (John 12:9-11).

Following this, we have two, arguably three, different accounts of Jesus’ anointing. Luke’s account places the anointing long before the transfiguration while He was still in Capernaum (Luke 7:36-50).

Luke 7:36-39  And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.  (37)  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,  (38)  And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  (39)  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

Matthew 26:6-9  Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper(7)  There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.  (8)  But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?  (9)  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

Mark 14:1-5After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread … (3)  And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.  (4)  And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?  (5)  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

John 12:1-6  Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.  (2)  There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.  (3)Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.  (4)  Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,  (5)  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?  (6)  This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

Matthew places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-11) Mark places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Mark 11:1-11) and two days before the Passover. John places the anointing the day before the Triumphal Entry (John 12:12). Matthew and Mark place the anointing in the “house of Simon the Leper.” John seems to place the anointing in the house of Lazarus following the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Neither Matthew nor Mark names the woman who anointed Jesus. Had she been Mary, they certainly would have known who she was. John names Lazarus, Martha, and Mary who anointed Jesus. Matthew records that the “disciples” were indignant about the waste. Mark only records that “there were some that had indignation within themselves.” The difference and precision in detail between Matthew and Mark’s account and the account of John are too distinct to be an error in recording. Therefore these are two separate anointings. Luke’s account came too early to be confused with these just before the crucifixion. In all, we have three separate accounts of Jesus being anointed by women. Even though there are some similarities, the differences are too great to conflate them as one or two.

Following this, all four Gospels record Jesus entry into Jerusalem presenting Himself as the promised Messiah. The prophet Daniel predicted this event to the very day!

Daniel 9:25-26  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.  (26)  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

 Week” – Hebrew שָׁבוּע (shâbûa‛), literally means sevened, or “seven times.” This refers to a set of seven years. Verse 24 specifies “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city” – 70 x 7 = 490 years.

seven weeks. The 490-year period is divided into three components, 49 years, 434 years, and 7 years, respectively, in duration … Perhaps most significantly, the 49-year period did terminate with Malachi’s prophecy, which marked the close of Old Testament revelation.”[7]

threescore and two weeks. After the 49-year period was to be another period of 434 years before Messiah would come as Prince of Israel … In all, there would be 69 weeks, or 483 years, ‘unto the Messiah the prince.’”[8]

Most conservative evangelical scholars agree that this prophecy was fulfilled to the very day when Jesus was “cut off.” On the tenth day of the first month (Abib/Nissan), Jewish families selected the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:3). It had to be “a male of the first year,” i.e., the firstborn, without blemish, they were to keep it until the 14th day (Exodus 12:5-6). To ensure that it was spotless. Furthermore, the lamb was taken into the family and loved by the family. Then, on the evening of the 14th day, the lamb was slain, and its blood used to cover the doorposts of the house. When the death angel passed, the atoning (covering) blood of the lamb protected those inside the house.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, presented Himself on Nissan 10. It was the first day of the week, Sunday. John states that Jesus arrived in Bethany, where He was anointed by Mary, “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). If the Passover took place on Thursday (as I believe), six days before would put Him arriving in Bethany on Friday. The following day would be the Sabbath (Saturday) when He was anointed. Then on the next day, Sunday, Jesus made His Triumphal Entry.

He was now in “the house” of Israel, and the Lamb of God would be thoroughly examined for the next four days to see if there was any defect in Him. The Pharisees questioned Him extensively and could find no fault in Him. In the end, Pilate examined Him and proclaimed, “I find no fault in him” (John 19:4, 6).

Jesus gave His Olivet discourse concerning “the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world” (Matthew 24: 4-51; Mark 13:5-23; Luke 21:5-24).

He celebrated His last Passover Seder with His disciples (Matthew 26:20-35; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:14-23; John 13:1-38). Jesus made the promise of His return and His presence with and in believers through the Holy Spirit (John 14-17).

After the meal, they went to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46). Jesus took His top three – Peter, James, and John – to a separate garden to pray. “Gethsemane” means (olive) “oil press.” As the olives are pressed three times, Jesus was pressed three times as He prayed, “let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44).[9] With that, He went out to meet his accusers.

Matthew 26:46  Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Mark 14:42  Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.

Luke 22:46  And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

John 18:4  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

Isaiah 53:7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The cross awaited Jesus. He went there of His own accord – not the victim, but the mighty Savior!

Notes:


[1]  “Ancient Caesarea Philippi” – http://www.bible-history.com/biblestudy/caesarea-philippi.html

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  “Caesarea Philippi” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarea_Philippi

[4]  “Temples of Mount Hermon” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_of_Mount_Hermon

[5]  “Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Hermon

[6]  Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

[7]  Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Henry Morris Study Bible, (Green Forest, AR, Master Books, 2012), 1275.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  “Pressed Three Times” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/10/22/pressed-three-times/

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