Category Archives: Bible

On A Hill Far Away…

And Other Biblical Misconceptions

 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: (John 19:17)

With the forthcoming opening of the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History, I and a co-laborer (whom I cannot name because I did not request his permission) have been honored with the task of creating the scenery for the Life of Christ Diorama that will reside across from the Empty Tomb exhibit. An ICR benefactor donated the diorama for exhibition in the Discovery Center. The set contains thousands of pieces – buildings, tents, people, animals, furnishings, etc. – fabricated mostly by an Italian company. The extensive collection cannot all fit in the space allotted, so our leaders determined only to display pivotal scenes in the life of Christ.

Not to give away all the details of the diorama, I want to focus on the crucifixion scene. Where to position the crucifixion scene came into question. Should it be elevated on top of a hill or should it be placed on a lower level between the road and the hill? As Christians, we know the familiar words of the old hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.” The lyrics say, “On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross…” I do not know if it is due to the lyrics of the beloved hymn or due to some other handed down tradition, but we all imagine that Jesus was crucified at the top of Mount Calvary. However, musical lyrics or timeless tradition should not be the basis for what we believe. What does the Bible say?

And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull… (Matthew 27:33)

And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. (Mark 15:22)

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. (Luke 23:33)

And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: (John 19:17) (Emphasis mine)

The Bible does not often provide specific detail of events, but very often it does. The language of the Gospels is Greek. The Greek word for “hill” is either oros or bounos; the latter used only in Luke 3:5, and the former used in several passages in the N.T.[1] Furthermore, Greek prepositions indicate precise positions. The Greek preposition for “on” or “upon” is epi. It means “superimposition,” that is, to be “over” or “upon.” None of the four Gospels give any indication that the crucifixion took place “on a hill called Mount Calvary”[2] regardless of what the song lyrics say. Furthermore, the public spectacle of crucifixion[3] intended as a deterrent against lawlessness took place in the most public of places, usually, a busy roadside where passersby could get a close look at the suffering victims.

I researched, albeit not extensively, information about the location of the crucifixion. Most of the information[4] argues about three possible “places,” and most shy away from making dogmatic statements. The possible locations offered are, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher (which supposedly houses both the crucifixion and burial sites), The Garden Tomb[5] area (which is very near a limestone formation whose face features two prominent grottos that look like the eye sockets of a human skull), or just some unknown place outside of the Old City (of Jerusalem) designated by the Romans for public executions. All of these resources spoke of the “place” but none ventured to suggest whether the crucifixion took place “on” the hill or “by” the hill, but all agreed that it was “at” Golgotha/Calvary.

The “experts” fail to commit to “on” or “by”, but all four Gospels omit the preposition epi (on). To me that says that Jesus was crucified “at” Calvary, not “on” Calvary. My conclusion led me to determine that the diorama will feature the crucifixion scene near the road with a skull-shaped hill in the background. Besides scriptural reasons, there are practical reasons for my decision. A crucifixion on top of a hill, while it might be visible to all, could easily be ignored by passersby thus defeating the deterrent factor of the event. To get a close-up view – and who would want to – would require extra effort making it a disincentive for gathering a crowd, thus defeating the intended purpose of the Romans. However, if the crucifixion took place on a busy road, the only way to avoid the spectacle would be to take the long way around to enter the city. A roadside crucifixion makes more sense to me.

What does that have to do with salvation? Nothing. Jesus dying for you and me on the cross and rising again on the third day matters more than the place or the position. However, there are many non-believers who will find fault with any perceived discrepancy in Scripture. As Christians, we need to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Controversies like these will come up. For example: “Jesus said He would be in the grave three days and three nights.[6] There are not three days and three nights between Friday and Sunday. The Bible is wrong!” Another example is the anointing of Jesus. “All the Gospels give accounts of Jesus’ anointing, but they are all different”[7] How would you respond to this challenge? A careful study of Scripture will reveal that there were three separate anointings; Matthew and Mark refer to one before the crucifixion, Luke recounts one before the Transfiguration, and John records one by Mary after Jesus raised her brother Lazarus after four days dead.

Other examples can be cited, but the point is that we need to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15) rather than relying on song lyrics, traditions, or human scholarship. Do not just read your Bible, study it!

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 5:14; Luke 1:36, 65; 3:5; 4:29; 9:37

[2]  “I Believe In A Hill Called Mount Calvary” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=12&v=OPByLTzkctc

[3]  “Crucifixion” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion

[4]  “Where Was Jesus Crucified? – Golgotha ‘the Place of the Skull’” – https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/where-was-jesus-crucified.html

[5] “Jesus’ crucifixion site? (A ‘Skull’, Garden & Tomb)” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=-7fHnnqre1o

[6]  “Three Days, Three Nights” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/13/three-days-three-nights/

[7]  “Jesus Last Days” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/03/25/jesus-last-days/

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It Does Matter

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)

Recently I listened to a message on the crucifixion. The message excelled in many respects by providing insight into that fateful day of our Lord’s life. However, one part of the message troubled me. The messenger commented that some theologians believe Jesus was crucified on Friday, while others say He was crucified on Thursday. I know that; I’ve heard those arguments before. That is not what troubled me. What troubled me was his comment that the day on which the crucifixion took place does not really matter. The fact of the crucifixion is what really matters.

WOAH!

It does matter! Jesus said very specifically that “the Son of man [shall] be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). That is three full days and three full nights.[1] You cannot get three full days and three full nights from a Friday crucifixion even if you allow for partial days and nights. Why does that matter?

One reason it matters is that “according to one Jewish tradition, the soul hovered about the body for three days in hope of reentering it.”[2] If it were not three full days and nights, then, as some have asserted, He could have resuscitated in the coolness of the tomb and walked out. (There are many problems with that idea, but that rabbit can be chased another day.)

Jesus raised Lazarus four days after his death. Lazarus was so dead that “by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39). Decomposition had already set in. That being the case, would it have been better for Jesus to remain in the tomb four days rather than three? No, because Scripture predicted that Jesus’ body would not decompose: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). For that reason, it needed to be three full days and three full nights – long enough for the spirit to depart (in the estimation of the Jews), yet not long enough for decomposition to set in.

Another argument against a Friday crucifixion finds its basis in history. Most theologians hold the opinion that Jesus was crucified in A.D. 30. Passover, the day on which Jesus was crucified, always falls on Nissan 14 – the fourteenth day of the first month of the year.[3] Nissan 14, 30 A.D. fell on a Wednesday, not a Friday.[4] A Wednesday crucifixion allows for three full nights and three full days, meaning that Jesus would have risen anytime after 6:00 PM on Saturday evening, the first day of the week by Jewish reckoning – the day begins after sundown.

I believe those are good arguments against a Friday crucifixion, but they are not the best argument. The best argument is Jesus’ own words. He very specifically said that He would be in the heart of the earth, i.e., the grave, for three days and three nights. Anything less than that makes Jesus a liar. Do you really want to go there! If we believe God’s Word is inerrant – and Jesus IS God – then we must accept what HE said, and reject what errant men say. It Does Matter!

HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Notes:


[1]  “Three Days, Three Nights” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/13/three-days-three-nights/

[2]  Herschel Hobbs, The Illustrated Life of Jesus, (Nashville, Holman Bible Publishers, 2000), 183.

[3]  Leviticus 23:5

[4]  http://www.cgsf.org/dbeattie/calendar/?roman=30

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Two Sticks

Disclaimer: I am not in complete agreement with the above illustration. I believe the God-given illustration applies to Israel only. God has other plans for His Church.

And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: (Ezekiel 37:22)

God gave Ezekiel a vision of a valley full of dry bones.[1] The vision revealed God’s plan for Israel in the latter days, i.e., the end times. The dry bones[2] represented Israel, dry, lifeless, broken, and scattered all over the earth. In the vision, God instructed Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones, and when he did, the bones came together with their sinews, flesh, and skin, but the bodies remained dead. Then God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the “four winds” that they should breathe life into the lifeless bodies. The four winds represent the four points of the compass from where life would come to Israel. Ezekiel did as instructed and the four winds blew across the bodies, and they came to life, “and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:10).

The vision foretold of a day when Israel, long dead, broken, and scattered, would come back to life to become a “great army.” The Hebrew word translated “army” is chayil and it primarily means “a force.” It can also mean strength, might, efficiency, wealth, and (lastly) an army.” On May 14, 1948, the rebirth of Israel fulfilled this prophecy. At first, the new nation appeared more dead than alive. On the day of its birth it was surrounded and attacked by its Arab neighbors, and only Providence preserved the tiny country from total annihilation. Since then, the “four winds” have blown across the fragile nation, and from every corner of the earth, Jews have flocked back to their ancestral homeland. Israel has risen to be a force with whom to contend. Today, more than 70 years after its rebirth, tiny Israel is considered the eighth most powerful country in the world[3] both militarily and economically.

All of Israel is God’s vine and fig tree. Of these God foretold, “I will surely consume them, saith the LORD: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them” (Jeremiah 8:13, emphasis mine). Again, God through the Prophet Joel foretold of a coming invasion that would destroy Israel. “He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white” (Joel 1:7, emphasis mine).

In Jesus’ day, this destruction was yet future, but Jesus knew of its certainty. He also knew that the vine and the fig tree would bloom again in the last days. Of that day, He said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:32-34, emphasis mine). In His parable, Jesus did not mention the vine. Perhaps the vine, with its fruit in clusters, represents the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom, which were “lost” during the Assyrian conquest. If that is so, the fig tree, which yields individual fruits, represented the tribes of the Southern Kingdom, Judah and Benjamin collectively, called Judah. In Jesus’ day, only Judah, the fig tree, remained.

The 10 Northern Tribes are not called back until the latter days.

To Ezekiel, the vision of the dry bones may have represented only the expatriated Jews from Judah. Even though God clearly told him, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:11, emphasis mine). To further clarify His meaning, God provided an object lesson for Ezekiel. “The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions” (Ezekiel 37:15-16, emphasis mine). One stick represented Judah, the other represented Ephraim[4] – the ten “lost tribes.” God instructed Ezekiel to “join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand” (Ezekiel 37:17).

The object lesson intended to illustrate what God would do in the end times. “Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand” (Ezekiel 37:19, emphasis mine). “And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all” (Ezekiel 37:21-22, emphasis mine).

Because the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and expatriated throughout the empire, they are often referred to as the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.” God never brought them back to the land as He did with Judah (the Jews); however, they are not lost to God. God never loses anything! Jesus said, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30); and “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father” (Matthew 10:29). If God keeps track of such seemingly insignificant things, surely He can keep track of the Ten Lost Tribes. The last book of the Bible lists the twelve tribes of Israel that will be witnesses during the Tribulation.[5]

The two sticks will be one again, “and one king shall be king to them all” (Ezekiel 37:22). That King will be the Lord Jesus. “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them” (Ezekiel 37:24, emphasis mine). The Old Testament established that one of David’s descendants would reign on “David’s throne” forever. The first book of the New Testament identifies Jesus as “the son of David.”[6]

God did not give Ezekiel insight into the Tribulation as He did with Daniel.[7] Jeremiah refers to that time as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). Ezekiel saw the restoration of Israel and the Millennial kingdom wherein the Lord Jesus Christ will reign. In that kingdom, Jesus will rule from His throne in His temple in Jerusalem. “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezekiel 37:26-28, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “sanctuary” is miqdâsh and it means “a consecrated or holy place.” It comes from the root word qâdash meaning holy. “Tabernacle” is the Hebrew word mishkân meaning “residence, dwelling place, or habitation.” God, i.e., Jesus, will have His throne in His holy Temple in Jerusalem. In Chapters 40-47, Ezekiel goes into great detail concerning this Millennial Temple.

What we learn from the valley of dry bones and the two sticks is that in the last days, God will restore the nation of Israel and bring all the “children of Israel” back to their land. This prophecy has been fulfilled in our generation. Jesus said that the generation that witnessed the restoration of Israel – that sees the “fig tree” bud – will witness His return. Readers, we are that generation. Are you ready for Christ’s return? If not, read my page, “Securing Eternal Life.”


[1]  Ezekiel 37:1-14

[2]  “Dry Bones” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2019/02/24/dry-bones/

[3]  “Top 10 Most Powerful Countries in the World 2019

[4] The Northern Kingdom is often referred to as Ephraim (one of the half-tribes of Joseph, the other being Manasseh). The reason for this is that when the nation divided during Rehoboam’s reign, Jeroboam built his capital in Shechem, in “Mount Ephraim” in the territory of Ephraim (1 Kings 12:25).

[5]  Revelation 7:4-8

[6]  Matthew 1:1

[7]  Daniel 11:36-12:4

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Harbinger Of Demise

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)

That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them. (Ezekiel 23:37)

Ezekiel prophesied to the Jewish captives in Babylon. These were the first carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar.[1] Nebuchadnezzar appointed Jehoiakim’s brother, Mattaniah (a.k.a. Zedekiah), as “king,” i.e., figurehead, over the remnants of Judah. [2] It is to these that the words of our verse above were addressed.

God compared Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom, and Jerusalem, capital of Judah, to a couple of adulterous sisters, Aholah and Aholibah.[3] The text does not say whether these were two actual women; however, the name Aholah means “her tent” as in a place of worship. Aholibah (Jerusalem) means “my tent is in her.”

The Northern Kingdom had long abandoned the worship of Yahweh for pagan gods like Baal and Molech, and established their place of worship as Mount Gerizim. Jesus encountered this when He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain [Mount Gerizim]; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20). So, Mount Gerizim was where Aholah (Samaria) had pitched “her tent,” but God had placed “His tent,” i.e., the Temple, in Jerusalem.

God places Himself in the position of a jilted husband whose wives persistently commit adultery against Him. This adultery comes in the form of idolatry with pagan gods. The idolatry included the live sacrifice of their babies – they had “caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them” (Ezekiel 23:37). For this, God “put away,” i.e. “divorced,” His wives. Both Israel and Judah went into captivity, and even though Judah returned to the land after 70 years, they never again enjoyed the same relationship they previously had with God.[4]

If God did that with His “chosen” people, what makes us think that the United States of America will fare better in her idolatry? America may not worship the grotesque idols of the ancients, but we do have our idols. Our greatest idol is egocentrism. We worship self. We offer up to self our time, our efforts, our money, and yes, even our babies. Babies are a major inconvenience to our own desires. They can cramp our style, so mothers can “choose” at any time to sacrifice their babies to the god of self. Just as the ancients placed their live babies onto the firey hands of Molech, modern mothers can place their live babies into the murderous and greedy hands of Planned Parenthood abortionists.

That is not all the ancients did. The worship of their gods included ritual sex with temple prostitutes – male and female prostitutes. These were not only for heterosexual sex; the practice included homosexual sex. God considers such acts as abominable.[5] Today, our god of self allows for this practice even to the point of assigning your preferred gender to yourself. This perversion is not only acceptable; it is encouraged. As the decline of social mores rapidly accelerates in decay, the words of Paul to the Romans ring ever truer.

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools … Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves … For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, 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, covenantbreakers, 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 1:22, 24, 26-32, emphasis mine).

That is the true state of our union. I was proud of our President Trump in his State of the Union address. His message was positive, encouraging and hopeful. However, in the gallery sat those who applauded only when their selfish interests were addressed. When the President spoke for the sanctity of life, for religious freedom, and against socialism, those same white-clad egotists sat grimacing on their hands. Sadly, these are the ones in power who will thwart every well-intentioned effort by our President.

The light shines brightest when it’s darkest I’ve been told. However, if the dark is a black hole, no light will ever penetrate. If God turned His back on His chosen people, for, arguably, less than our national sin, why should we expect to fare any better? Our only hope is for Jesus to return to reign on earth. From the “signs of the times,” that event can happen any time.

I hope, as you read this, that you are ready for that moment. If you are not sure, please read my page on Securing Eternal Life.

Notes:


[1]  2 Kings 24:11-16; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8

[2]  2 Kings 24:17-19; 2 Chronicles 36:10-12

[3]  Ezekiel 23:4

[4]  The final prophet to speak for God after Judah’s return to the land was Malachi. For 400 years after that, the voice of a prophet was not heard in Israel until “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23) John the Baptist. He announced the coming of Messiah whom the Jews rejected. That rejection resulted in the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Diaspora that lasted almost 2000 years until the rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948.

[5]  Leviticus 18:22; 20:13

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Doing the Right Thing

Rembrandt van Rijn, “Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem”, c. 1630

For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 39:18)

Jeremiah prophesied before, during, and after the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem and the captivity that followed. His ministry started during the in the 13th year of good king Josiah’s reign.[1] Josiah was eight years old when he started to reign[2] thus making him about 21 when Jeremiah started his ministry.

Josiah was the last of Judah’s “good” kings, and the Bible records that he reigned for 31 years. He was killed in a battle at Megiddo[3] (Armageddon) attempting to stop Pharaoh Necho who was on his way to assist Assyria at Carchemish against the Babylonians.

Josiah was succeeded on the throne by his son, Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Shullum) who reigned for only three months.[4] Pharaoh Necho lost the battle at Carchemish, and on his return to Egypt through Judah, he stopped off at Jerusalem and took Johoahaz captive to Egypt replacing him with his brother Jehoiakim (a.k.a. Eliakim).[5]

Jehoiakim reigned for 11 years. It was during his reign that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and took away the first round of captives to Babylon. Daniel the prophet was taken in this first round of captivity. Jehoiakim was also taken captive, and his son (Josiah’s grandson), Jehoiachin (a.k.a. Jechoniah, a.k.a. Coniah), took his place on the throne. Jechoniah appears in Jesus’s genealogy through Joseph.[6] However, Jechoniah’s (Coniah’s) line was cursed by God so that none of his descendants could sit on the throne of David.[7] This fact could have disqualified Jesus for the throne had Joseph been his earthly father.

Jechoniah’s reign was shortlived as Nebuchadnezzar replaced him with another of Josiah’s sons, Mattaniah, whose name he changed to Zedekiah.[8] Zedekiah reigned in Jerusalem as a vassal king of Babylon for eleven years. However, in the ninth year of his reign, he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and refused to pay the required tribute. Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem a second time, and two years later, after exhausting all their food and water stores, the city surrendered. Nebuchadnezzar made Zedekiah watch as his children were all slaughtered before his eyes.[9] That was the last thing Zedekiah saw before his eyes were gouged out. Then Nebuchadnezzar took Zedekiah and the remaining able-bodied people back to Babylon leaving only the poorest and weakest of the population behind. This was the second captivity.

Jeremiah is known as the “Weeping Prophet” because he prophesied during the final 40 years before the complete demise of Jerusalem. His unpopular message of pending doom fell on deaf and rebellious ears. He was persecuted, beaten, and imprisoned for sounding the call to repent with the promise that repentance would stay the pending punishment of God.

During Zedekiah’s reign, Jeremiah urged the king to submit to Nebuchadnezzar so that Jerusalem would experience peace. Zedekiah’s refusal to submit brought the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar upon the city. During the two-year siege, conditions became so bad that women cannibalized their children for food.[10] Jeremiah encouraged men to surrender to the Babylonians to save themselves and their families.

For this, Jeremiah was treated as a traitor and thrown into a cold, muddy dungeon.[11] “Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin; Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city” (Jeremiah 38:7-9, emphasis mine).

We do not know a lot about Ebedmelech. We can surmise that he was a black man since Scripture records that he was an Ethiopian. He also served the king since he is identified as a eunuch. Jeremiah does not record his name, only his position in the king’s service. It is possible that Jeremiah did not even know his advocate. “Ebedmelech” is two words in Hebrew, ‛ebed melek. “Ebed” means “servant” and “melek” means “king.” The two words together mean “servant of the king.” We can infer from the fact that he was a eunuch that he was a high ranking servant of the king holding a very trusted position. As such, he could approach the king on Jeremiah’s behalf.

Surely the servant of the king had heard Jeremiah’s warnings. He probably understood that Jeremiah was the Lord’s prophet, and he took it to heart when Jeremiah said, “Thus saith the Lord.” He probably perceived that Jeremiah’s preaching was for the good of the people and that his intentions for their welfare.

When the servant of the king learned of Jeremiah’s plight, he went directly to the king to plead his case, and Zedekiah listened to his servant. “Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die” (Jeremiah 38:10). Jeremiah was not set free. However, his conditions were much improved. The eunuch transferred him from the “miry pit” to the “court of the prison”[12] allowing him more freedom and improved conditions although he was still under “house arrest.”

In spite of opposition and his subservient position, this humble servant did the right thing. Doing the right thing in the midst of opposition takes real courage especially when there is little, if any, hope for reward.

Not long after this, Jerusalem surrendered. Nebuchadnezzar’s army entered the city, destroyed the Temple and carried away captives including the humiliated king Zedekiah.

Just before the fall of Jerusalem, God spoke to Jeremiah the prophet and said, “Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 39:16-18, emphasis mine).

Doing the right thing requires trusting the Lord. When we trust the Lord, abundant life (our “prey”) is our reward. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. The nameless servant may have been unknown to Jeremiah, but his righteous deed did not escape God’s notice, and God blessed him for doing the right thing. Likewise, we should follow his example with purity of heart and “not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God” (Colossians 3:22). May God catch us all doing the right thing!

Notes:


[1]  Jeremiah 1:2

[2]  2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chronicles 34:1

[3]  2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27

[4]  2 Kings 23:31; 2 Chronicles 36:1-2

[5]  2 Kings 23:34, 36; 2 Chronicles 36:4-5

[6]  Matthew 1:11

[7]  Jeremiah 22:28-30

[8]  2 Kings 24:17; 2 Chronicles 36:10-11

[9]  2 Kings 25:7

[10]  Lamentations 4:10

[11]  Jeremiah 38:1-6

[12]  Jeremiah 38:13

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Another One Gone!

But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. (Genesis 17:21)

It seems like yesterday that we faced the prospect of 2018, and here we stand on the threshold of 2019. The truth of the adage, “time flies,” manifests itself more conspicuously each year that goes by. It is said that once one reaches middle age (whenever that is), it’s all downhill from there. What is not said is also true. The closer one gets to the bottom of the hill the faster the slide goes. I can confirm that from experience!

As I approach the foot of the hill and the skid velocity increases, it’s the big scenes rushing by that captures my attention. I know what awaits at the bottom of the hill, and it is not the sudden stop that most people would suspect. No. At the bottom of my hill is a beautiful warm eternal ocean, and the events that lead to that peaceful place are the things that capture my attention.

There were several such events in 2018. The nation of Israel celebrated its 70th year as a nation. Students of the Bible recognize the significance of the number 70; 7 represents perfection, and 10 represents completeness. Together (7×10), “it symbolizes perfect spiritual order carried out with all power. It can also represent a period of judgment.”[1] Twenty-eighteen was a Jubilee year for Israel.[2] Not only that, but it was the 70th Jubilee since the Law was given to Moses.

At the celebration of Israel’s “re-birth” day in Jerusalem, the United States, at the direction of our President Donald J. Trump, opened the US Embassy in Jerusalem confirming our country’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

With all of these milestone events converging with other “signs of the times,” I sincerely expected the Rapture to take place sometime around the Jewish New Year – Rosh HaShanah – that transpired between September 10-30. Obviously, because I am still here along with all my brothers and sisters whom the Lord has not taken home, the Rapture did not take place.

End-times prophecy focuses mainly on Israel. While many “signs of the times” have general application like, signs in the sun, moon, and stars,[3] wars and rumors of wars,[4] famines, pestilences, and earthquakes,[5] days like those of Noah,[6] and the general decline in “common” decency,[7] (we see these things occurring all over the world), the true indicator of the proximity of our Lord’s return is the nation of Israel and those things pertaining particularly to her.

The greatest of these signs was Israel’s rebirth as predicted by several of the Major Prophets, but particularly by the Prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel described the re-gathering of the Jews from the four corners of the globe to their ancient homeland given to them by God. Ezekiel saw a valley full of dry bones come together and rise to be a mighty army.[8] His vision came true on May 14, 1948, and indeed, Israel has become a “mighty army,” who, even for its tiny size, boasts the eighth strongest military in the world. Jesus compared Israel to a fig tree. He said that the generation that sees the fig tree bud would see all these prophecies come to pass.[9]

Ezekiel also prophesied a confederation of nations that would attack Israel from the north.[10] The names of those nations, translated from their ancient biblical names, are Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Twenty-eighteen has seen the strengthening of these nations within the borders of Israel’s northern neighbor, Syria.

Interestingly, Syria is not part of the prophesied coalition. The Prophet Isaiah provides insight as to why Syria is not counted among Israel’s attackers. “The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap” (Isaiah 17:1, emphasis mine). Damascus, Syria’s capital, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. However, the prophet predicts that it will be a “ruinous heap.” Current pictures of the city suggest that it is almost there. When Damascus is completely destroyed, Syria will functionally cease from being a nation, which explains why she is not mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy. The players are in place for the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Very recently, President Trump announced that the US will rapidly pull all of its troops out of Syria within the next few months. Needless to say, this announcement for Israel is cause for grave concern. Without the US in Syria, there is nothing to stop Iran (whose whole purpose in life is to eradicate Israel), Russia, and Turkey from setting up shop in Syria. Who is to stop them? So far, Israel has managed to keep Iran at bay by bombing Iranian military installations in Syria. Russia has “allowed” this probably due to US presence, but with the US pullout, things may change. Iran’s buildup of arms in and around Damascus could bring about the complete destruction of the city by Israel as prophesied by Isaiah and could prompt the invasion of Israel by the coalition. Israel’s misplaced concern about an attack from the north will subside when God comes to her rescue.[11]

For those who are watching and paying attention, 2018 has been an exciting year. When the Rapture did not take place as I anticipated, I was a little disappointed, but not disheartened. Jesus promised, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). Jesus will come to Rapture His Bride to keep her from “the hour of temptation.”[12] However, that event is imminent; it could happen at any moment. There are no “signs” to alert us to its proximity. Based on the seven Feasts of the Lord,[13] and knowing that Jesus fulfilled the spring feasts at His first coming, I reasoned that He would fulfill the fall feasts at His Second Coming. That conclusion is still correct. However, His Second Coming takes place at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period.

Some suggest that the Second Coming takes place in two phases. In the first phase, Jesus comes for His church, and we meet Him in the air;[14] He does not come to earth at that time. In the second phase, He returns with His Bride (His “armies”),[15] and the touch of His foot on the Mount of Olives will cause the mountain to split.[16] At that point, He will establish His 1000-year reign on earth.

What I learned in 2018 is that the Feasts of the Lord, like the prophecies of last days, are meant for Israel, not the church. Jesus wants His Bride to be ready at all times, as we learn from the Parable of the Ten Virgins.[17] The Bride Groom may come at any hour when we least expect it. He will not come at the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement or the Feast of Tabernacles. Those feasts are for Israel, not the Church. However, as we discern the signs of the times, and keep an eye on God’s timepiece, Israel, we can be sure that our Bride Groom will come for us very soon. So, be ready. Keep plenty of oil so that your lamp won’t go out. Jesus may come to take us home in 2019 – or not. Regardless, we need to be ready at all times!


[1]  Meaning of Numbers in the Bible: http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/70.html

[2]  Leviticus 25:8-13

[3]  Luke 21:25

[4]  Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9

[5]  Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11

[6]  Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26

[7]  2 Timothy 3:1-7

[8]  Ezekiel 37:1-14

[9]  Matthew 24:32-35

[10]  Ezekiel 38-39

[11]  Ezekiel 38:17-39:4

[12]  Revelation 3:10

[13]  “Rosh HaShanah” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/10/03/rosh-hashanah/

[14]  1 Thessalonians 4:17

[15]  Revelation 19:14

[16]  Zechariah 14:4

[17]  Matthew 25:1-13

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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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