Category Archives: Easter

Risen Indeed!

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:14)

It has been 1,987 years since Jesus gave His life on the cross and rose again, and many in the world today still deny the fact. This denial began with one of Jesus’ own disciples. “The other disciples therefore said unto him [Thomas], We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25, emphasis mine).

Thomas needed physical evidence in order to believe, and many today still want to see some physical manifestation. They want to see a miracle, experience a “feeling.” or suddenly speak in an unknown language in order to believe. Eight days later, Jesus granted Thomas’ request, but also lovingly reprimanded him for his lack of faith. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine).

For those that demand evidence, God provides abundant evidence, however, “they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). Let us briefly examine just some of the evidence.

First, there is the evidence of an empty tomb.  No court in the world will try someone for murder without a dead body. Where is Jesus’ body? Where are His bones? Not long ago, an ossuary was found in Jerusalem supposedly having the inscription “Jesus son of Joseph,” but that was soon proven a hoax.[1] Besides that, many fail to understand that “James, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary” were very common names in those days, so the inscriptions prove nothing. However, an inscription found on another ossuary said “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” This may indeed contain the remains of James the brother of Jesus.[2] However, the fact remains that the tomb (and there are several suspected) which temporarily held Jesus’ body remains empty.

No body means no victim, and for this reason many suggest that the crucifixion never really took place. One rumor suggests that the betrayer, Judas, was crucified in Jesus’ place and that Jesus walked away free. Those same people are the ones looking for His bones in ossuaries. Muhammad is buried in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Confucius’ body rests in his home town of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. Buddha’s cremated remains (the “relics”) are distributed among several stupas. Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í faith, is buried in Bahji near Acre, Israel.[3] Two main tombs in Jerusalem compete as the burial place of Christ, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb, but both remain empty.

Second, many eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive the third day after His crucifixion and other times thereafter. The four Gospels report that the women (disciples also) that followed Jesus discovered the empty tomb first (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-2, 11-18).  Luke records that Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). Those two return to report to the eleven (Judas had taken his own life because of the guilt he felt for betraying Jesus), and while they gave their report, Jesus appeared to all of them (Luke 24:33-43). John’s account notes that Thomas missed that first appearance (John 20:19-25). All of this happened on Resurrection Day. The next Sunday, Jesus appeared to them again, but this time Thomas, the doubter, was in the group of disciples (John 20:26-29). Thomas’ doubt transformed into belief, “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:28, emphasis mine).

Jesus had many “disciples” (both men and women) besides the twelve “apostles” composing His core group; so when the Gospel writers talk about disciples, they likely include the many that followed Jesus during His ministry on earth. The word “disciple” literally means “student,” so the number of eyewitnesses went beyond the core group. Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, there were many that could testify to His resurrection. The Apostle Paul asserts “After that, he [the risen Christ] was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6, emphasis mine). At the time of Paul’s writing the letter to the Corinthians, there remained many eyewitness that could attest to the resurrected Lord. The Law says that “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15), and Jesus had more than 250 times the number of witnesses required by the Law. Paul himself, never having known Jesus during His earthly ministry, met the risen Christ as he traveled toward Damascus to persecute the followers of The Way. Of all the witnesses, he says of himself, “And last of all he [the risen Christ] was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not [worthy] to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9, emphasis mine). Despite the abundance of eyewitness, some hold to the silly notion that all these witnesses experienced mass hallucinations. Seriously? I will not dignify that with a response!

Third is the matter of the radical change in the lives of all of the disciples. Immediately after Jesus’ arrest, they all went into hiding. Mark, probably writing for Peter, remembers Jesus’ arrest: “And they all forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50, emphasis mine). Mark probably witnessed this firsthand. Speaking of himself in third person (out of embarrassment I am sure), he says, “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked” (Mark 14:51-52, emphasis mine). Peter, who boasted, “… If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all” (Mark 14:31, emphasis mine) was the first disassociate himself from Jesus with a verbal denial despite Jesus’ warning. “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matthew 26:34).  Faced with the challenge of making a public declaration of his association with Jesus, Peter succumbed to fear. “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75, emphasis mine).

Shortly after Jesus appeared to them, the disciples maintained a low profile. They met secretly in the Upper Room and evangelism never entered their minds. At first, they must have wondered if they had all experienced a mass hallucination. The Gospels give no indication that Jesus met with them regularly following His resurrection. Indeed, some could not believe their own eyes with those brief encounters. “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17, emphasis mine). Jesus was alive, but so what! The Jews would kill anyone proclaiming Jesus’ name. Not surprisingly, the disciples wanted to get things back to “normal.” “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3, emphasis mine).

These cowering, fearful men were not likely candidates to “have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) with the message of a risen Christ. Even with their firsthand encounters with the risen Lord, they dared not speak out. These (“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emphasis mine)) would not put their lives on the line for the risen Christ whom they, as John put it, “… have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1, emphasis mine). Why would they put their lives on the line for what they knew to be a lie? Yet only fifty days after the Crucifixion, at Pentecost, these same men boldly stood in Jerusalem and proclaimed the risen Savior to every tongue and nation (Acts 2:1-5). The fear of death no longer silenced them. When commanded to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, emphasis mine). What made the difference? They saw and handled the risen Christ, and they experienced His power, the Holy Spirit, indwelling their lives. Christ is risen indeed!

Reader, we cannot see or handle the risen Christ, but we have the empty tomb. We have the written testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses. Men and women who would rather die than deny what they had witnessed firsthand. We have the continuing witness of the living body of Christ, the Church. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine). You and I are they “that have not seen.” To us Jesus says, “… be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27). Christ is risen indeed. One day, very soon, He will return to reclaim His creation as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Be sure you are ready to meet Him.

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus’ tomb story: Does the evidence add up?” (http://www.icr.org/article/1063/386), accessed 04/14/2017.

[2]  Jackson, Wayne. “The Jesus Ossuary Inscription.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 14, 2017. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/578-jesus-ossuary-inscription-the, accessed 04/14/2017.

[3]  “Burial places of founders of world religions,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burial_places_of_founders_of_world_religions, accessed 04/14/2017.

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The King Is Coming!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)

Around 1,987 years ago on a Sunday afternoon (Mark 11:11), Jesus rode into Jerusalem as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah. The Gospel writer, Matthew, quotes Zachariah in part, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:5, emphasis mine). Matthew conspicuously omits Zachariah’s description of the coming King as “just, and having salvation.” Why the omission? Matthew Henry comments on Zachariah 9:9:

“He is a righteous ruler; all his acts of government will be exactly according to the rules of equity, for he is just. 2. He is a powerful protector to all those that bear faith and true allegiance to him, for he has salvation; he has it in his power; he has it to bestow upon all his subjects. He is the God of salvation; treasures of salvation are in him. He is servatussaving himself (so some read it), rising out of the grave by his own power and so qualifying himself to be our Saviour.”[1] (Emphasis mine)

Perhaps Matthew’s omission (as directed by the Holy Spirit) was purposeful. Granted, Matthew wrote after the fact from a vantage point of hindsight, yet the omission retained the prophetic formula of immediate and future fulfillment. Jesus did something similar when He applied Isaiah’s prophecy to Himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). He deliberately omitted the remainder of Isaiah’s prophecy: “and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2).  Jesus fulfilled the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy at His first coming; “the day of vengeance of our God” will be fulfilled at His second coming when He will set up His millennial kingdom and “comfort all that mourn.”

In the same way, Jesus entered into Jerusalem as the coming King, “lowly [meek], and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). In a matter of days, the adoring crowd crying, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13) would turn into a raging mob shouting, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him … We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They took the King and nailed Him to a cross.

Three days later, He conquered death and once again walked on earth. After forty days (Acts 1:3), He ascended to His throne having “purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). However, He is not done. There remains prophecy yet unfulfilled. Many still mourn. Injustice still reigns. The Lord has not executed His vengeance and His creation still needs salvation. There is yet more to come.

The prophets spoke of God reigning on the earth. His Messiah will rule the world from the throne of David in Jerusalem. Jesus promised to return. “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). This same Gospel writer was granted the great privilege of seeing things to come. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God … And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God … And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:1, 11-13, 15-16, emphasis mine).

He will once again enter the gates of Jerusalem, this time on a white horse as a conquering king. “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4, emphasis mine). What an awesome sight to behold!

Lately, I have been hearing many modern prophets suggesting that this year, 2017, will be the year that Christ will return to rescue His people from “the wrath of God” that is to come upon the earth. Their reasoning, from a biblical standpoint, is sound. All the ones I listen to are quick to issue the disclaimer that they are not setting dates. Jesus clearly stated, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36); so I respect that note of caution by these prognosticators. However, I sense, because of what I observe happening all around the world, that what they are predicting may be true. For the Church, the return of Christ has always been imminent, but it is truer today than ever before in the history of the Church. The King is coming! Jesus is coming very soon. Personally, I am looking for and anxiously awaiting His return.

Reader, you will meet Jesus very soon. The best way to meet Him is to be one of His own. Very soon, Jesus will return for His Bride, the Church, the collective body of all who have placed their trust in Him. When that day comes, all the powers of hell will be unleashed upon the world. No place will escape or be immune. You will still have the opportunity to repent when that time comes, but you will suffer tremendously for it. Why not give your life to Jesus now and avoid the horrors that are to come. All you need to do is confess your sin and recognize your need for Him. Ask Him to save you. Invite Him into your heart. Give Him first place in your life; make Him the Lord (the “Boss”) of your life, and trust that He will keep His promise. The King is coming, but this time He will not be meek and lowly. Are you ready to meet Him?

Notes:


[1] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, note on Zechariah 9:9.

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Resurrection

colorful sunset

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up … When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:20, 22)

Christians today, especially in the Middle East, suffer martyrdom by the hundreds at the hands of brutal ISIS executioners. These undergo a gruesome and horrific death by beheadings or being burned alive. Yet, as ghastly as we may perceive such brutality, the pain and suffering of these victims is short-lived, unlike that experienced by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.[1]

On the Lord’s Feast of Passover,[2] Jesus, already physically drained from lack of sleep[3] and subjected to a sham of a trial by the Jewish religious leaders, was brutally beaten and scourged at hands of Roman soldiers, experts at inflicting pain without killing the victim. Then in that depleted condition, He was forced to carry His own cross to the place of execution, and whether it was a fully assembled cross or just the cross beam, for a man in Jesus’ condition at that time was next to impossible – but He did it. Under the weight of that burden, determined to complete His mission, He faced the horror of the cross. God, wrapped up in human flesh, with His host of angelic armies standing at the ready awaiting the command to rain down vengeance upon His tormentors. At the time of His arrest, Peter pulled his sword in His defense, but Jesus stopped him. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  Nothing would deter Him from His mission. “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Determined to give to the very last, He carried Himself up Calvary’s hill, laid Himself down upon the timbers and spread His arms out to receive the nails – our pain, our guilt, our sins. “For [God the Father] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). At the last, He gave His life. He did not die. Jesus said, “… I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18, emphasis mine). He was not killed. “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost” (Matthew 27:50, emphasis mine). He was not the victim. He was in full control until the very last. John, the beloved disciple, and the only one of the twelve to witness the event said, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30, emphasis mine). Finished! Paid in full!

That was not the end. On the first day of the week, on that spring Sunday morning, He broke the chains of death and brought sheol’s captives with Him. Matthew records, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52-53).[4]

His resurrection is key! Had Jesus died and remained in the tomb, we would venerate a martyr, nothing more. His bones would be marked by an ornate shrine. Perhaps followers would make faithful pilgrimages to the site to stand in awe and wonder. If that was the case, our faith’s reward would be death and eternal separation from our Creator with no hope of redemption. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).  Because of His resurrection, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). So now we can say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Before going to the cross, Jesus left us with this promise: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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 14:1-3). His resurrection guarantees the promise. On that day, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world are brutally killed daily by the enemy of God. We can thank God that for many, death is swift; it is nothing like what their Lord and our Lord endured for our sakes. But the guaranteed promise of the resurrection assures us that one day soon, we will be together with Him in His house.

Notes:


 

[1]  It is said that victims could linger on the cross up to three days until succumbing to dehydration and asphyxia.

[2]  Despite conventional tradition, this even could not have taken place on Friday. Jesus said He would rise in “three days,” not three partial days. Jesus specified “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:39-40). No matter how one may try to convolute the time to fit a “Good Friday” scenario, one cannot get “three days and three nights” from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Jesus said, “three days and three nights” – 72 hours, nothing less will do!

[3]  Jesus had spent the night in prayer while His disciples slept (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46) before being betrayed by Judas, arrested and tried.

[4]  Matthew’s recording of this event that seems to coincide with Jesus’ death and the renting of the veil to the Holy of Holies, but a close inspection of the text reveals that this event occurred after the resurrection. See again Matthew 27:52-53.

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Easter’s Wrong!

Shocked

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. (Acts 12:4)

The two highest church attendance days are Christmas and Easter. Easter probably wins the high attendance day of the two since it always falls on a Sunday. Neither day is historically accurate, but Easter typically comes nearer being right than does Christmas. Both holidays (holy days) come to us thanks to the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in its attempt to “Christianize” the pagan celebrations of Saturnalia, which celebrated the return of the sun, i.e. the days getting longer, and Ishtar, whose origin is rather convoluted but basically has its source in the ancient fertility goddess of Babylon from whence come the icons of Easter eggs and bunnies.[1]

The pagans celebrated their “Queen of Heaven” on the first day of the week (Sunday) following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Some form of this religious practice was observed by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. By the time the RCC came into power, pagans continued the practice, so, in order to accommodate the pagan population, the Church put a Christian spin on the celebration. There are several parallels that can be made between that pagan religion and what we believe as Christians.[2] Jesus was born of a virgin, He died, He was buried, and He rose again. Superficially, the pagan story sounds familiar, but this should not be surprising since Satan is the ultimate counterfeiter. Jesus said, “He [Satan] 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).  Since the celebration of Ishtar fell around the time as the Jewish Passover, and considering the parallels, it was not difficult to remake the pagan celebration into a Christian one. (Oh! Don’t be so shocked! We still do that today. In order to attract the “world” we adopt worldly practices, bring them into the church, and put a Christian face on them. Sometimes “Christian” events look no different than rock concerts. The only differences, if you can hear them, are the words of the songs. And for those of us who love the “old hymns” many of the tunes of those good old hymns originated in pubs and saloons. So, this is not unique to the RCC.)

Despite the title I chose for this article, my purpose here is not necessarily to bash our observance of Easter. (I prefer to call it “Resurrection Day” or “Resurrection Sunday.”) I believe that it is right and proper that we celebrate the Advent of our Lord and His death, burial and resurrection – the resurrection being key. They are highly significant events that altered the course of history and the destiny of man. But if we are going to celebrate these very special days, we should at least try to be “biblical” about it rather than “traditional.” Arguably, Christmas could remain as December 25th. While widely accepted by biblical scholars that the birth of Jesus probably took place around mid-September (more likely around the celebration of the Jewish Feast of Booths or Sukkot), counting back nine months would bring one to around December 25th as the time of conception, which would also be the actual “incarnation” when God came to be “with us” (Emmanuel) as a human embryo.

Easter, however, does not always line up exactly with Passover as is the case this year. Jesus was crucified on Passover. Jesus said, “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2, emphasis mine). The Jewish day began at sundown, around 6:00 PM, unlike our western day which begins at midnight. On the afternoon before the Passover, Jesus sent His disciples to make arrangements to celebrate the Passover Seder (Matthew 26:18-19). “Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve” (Matthew 26:20, emphasis mine). “When the evening was come,” Passover had begun. After they had  finished the meal, Jesus went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives where He was arrested in the middle of the night – it was still Passover – and illegally tried and sentenced to death by crucifixion (Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19). Jesus died at the ninth hour, 3:00 PM (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:44-46), at the same time that the Passover lamb was being sacrificed at the Temple. It had to be this way in order to fulfill the Law of God given to Moses (Deuteronomy 16:1-6).

So, Jesus died on Passover, at precisely the right time in order to fulfill the Law of God and make a once for all atonement – a covering – for our sins. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11, emphasis mine). “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission [of sins]” (Hebrews 11:28, emphasis mine).

Biblically, then, Easter (Resurrection Day) should be celebrated in association with and very closely linked to the Jewish Passover. “Easter” is nowhere found in the Bible except as mistranslated in our beginning verse above (Acts 12:4). The Greek word translated “Easter” in this verse is pascha, the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew pesach or Passover. Evidently the translators of the King James Bible were taken in by centuries of RCC tradition.

“Easter” is not biblical, and it becomes painfully obvious especially this year. As noted above, Easter is the first Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This year, the vernal equinox took place on March 19. The first full moon after that will be on March 23, making the 27th Easter Sunday. The problem is that the Jewish calendar is lunar, not solar. Nissan (Abib in the OT) is the first month of the Jewish religious calendar, and Passover is celebrated on Nissan 15. This year, 2016, Nissan 15, Passover, begins on Friday, April 22 at 6:00 PM and goes to 6:00 PM Saturday, April 23. We are celebrating Resurrection Day nearly one month before Passover, and that, to me, just seems wrong. You cannot have “resurrection” before the Passover sacrifice! If we were being biblical instead of traditional, we should be celebrating Resurrection Day on Sunday, April 24. Instead, we will just go with the flow and celebrate it according to the Roman Catholic tradition. This is why, especially this year, Easter’s Wrong.

Notes:


[1]  See “The Pagan Origin of Easter” http://www.lasttrumpetministries.org/tracts/tract1.html

[2]  Ibid.

 

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Good For Who?

Set Apart

For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  (Leviticus 11:44)

We are right in the middle of the Lenten Season observed by many mainline Protestant denominations and different varieties of Catholic churches (Roman, Greek, Russian, etc.). Beginning with Ash Wednesday (this year observed on February 10, 2016), the faithful observe 40 days of “fasting” in preparation for Easter. (I prefer calling it Resurrection Sunday.) Celebrants observe the season by giving up something “sacrificial” for Lent. The sacrifice could be anything like giving up TV, Snickers candy bars, eating meat on Fridays, not going to movies or anything equally superfluous, but prior to the season of deprivation, celebrants indulge in a day of depravation known as Fat Tuesday. They stoke up on enough indulgence to last through the 40 days of deprivation.

If it sounds as if I am making light of the observance, please understand that I know many who are sincere in the practice, and that is admirable; however, there are more who observe the season by rote without taking into account the significance. However my theme here is not about Lent, but rather it is about holiness. Would it not be better to live a godly lifestyle consistently as a matter of practice rather than trying to force upon oneself a token meaningless act that, if kept, lasts for a short time and then is forgotten? Indeed, God would have us conduct ourselves in holiness all the time.

I have addressed this topic in the past perhaps because the older I get, the more I recognize my own deficiency in this area. I also see the growing invasion of “worldliness” spreading in our churches, including our more “conservative” evangelical churches. I attribute much of this to a general lack of biblical literacy, especially with regard to Old Testament teaching regarding the Mosaic Law.[1] To many modern Christians, only the New Testament applies to us because we are living under “Grace,” not under the “Law.”[2] That, I believe, comes from a misunderstanding of both Grace and Law.

I recently read through the book of Leviticus, and it once again became apparent to me that many of the laws given had no other purpose than to distinguish the “people of God” from the goyim (Gentiles/nations) among whom they lived. The phrase “be holy” is repeated some 29 times in the Pentateuch, and whether applied to objects used in worship or to the people themselves, it means to set that thing apart for a special and unique purpose. Our leading verse instructs the people to “sanctify yourselves,” i.e. consecrate or set yourselves apart. Where the implements of worship were concerned, they were not to be used for common purposes. Every object used in the Tabernacle (and later in the Temple) was dedicated only for the purpose it was designed. If a platter held the showbread, it could not be used for any other purpose. It was “holy” – dedicated, consecrated, sanctified, set apart for one purpose only.

The people likewise were to be set apart. “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2, emphasis mine). For what were they to be holy? “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:6, emphasis mine). God’s purpose for His people has not changed in that regard. Note John’s description of the risen Christ in his address to the churches: “Unto him [the Lord Jesus Christ] that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (Revelation 1:5b-6).  Just like the nation of Israel, the Church of Christ (not the denomination that takes that name) is to be holy – set apart – to be a kingdom of priests to the world around us.[3]

As kings and priests, we should exemplify the Law of God. We do not obey the Law in order to obtain our position as kings and priests, but because we have obtained that position through Grace. In order to obey the Law, we must first know and understand the Law, and that understanding comes from studying the Law that God gave to Israel in the Old Testament. Granted, much of particulars, such as dress code and dietary laws do not apply to us, but the principle of distinctiveness from the “world” remains.

One example that came to mind was the prohibition from wine that was given to the priests. “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Leviticus 10:8-10, emphasis mine). Notice that the prohibition was limited to their going into the Tabernacle (later that applied to the Temple). Now consider what Paul said to the Corinthian Church: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, emphasis mine). Not only are we kings and priests, but we are also the Temple of the Holy Spirit, so with regard to “wine and strong drink” Christians should abstain. Yet there are many Christians that will excuse themselves from this prohibition by saying that the Bible only condemns drunkenness and not simply the occasional glass of wine or just one brewski. Well then, what about the fact that we are kings and priests and that we are the Temple of God? We are to be “holy” in all things. “Be ye holy” was not only meant for the Israelites; it applies to us as well. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16, emphasis mine). That archaic word “conversation” refers to one’s life-conduct; so in every manner in which we conduct our lives, we should be holy.

More examples could be cited. What about the prohibition against tattoos (Leviticus 19:28)? Yet we have many Christians following the pattern of the world rather than being distinct from the world. But the point here is not so much about following an arbitrary set of rules, but following the One who put those rules in place. Over 73 times in the Pentateuch God emphasizes “I AM the LORD.” Forty-five (45) of those (62%, almost 2/3) appear in the book of Leviticus. Might God be trying to tell us something – “Do what I say because I AM the Lord!”

In closing, let me stress that this is meant for God’s people. One does not have to keep the Law to become a child of God. But as any good son desires to please his father, should not God’s children desire to please their Heavenly Father? And how does one do that? One does it by following His laws. He gave them to us as a pattern for our life conduct. Can we do that perfectly? I know I can’t, but that does not mean I don’t try. Nor should it be something over which we fret, because He has given us His Holy Spirit to help our weakness. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis mine). The faith “of the Son of God” is our source of strength. We live holy lives for Him and by Him.

Notes:


[1]  See “Is the Law Sin?” https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/06/08/is-the-law-sin/

[2]  See “God’s Laws” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/01/10/gods-laws/

[3]  See “Kings and Priests” https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/09/06/kings-and-priests/

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Rich And Ignorant

easter-egg-hunt

A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.  (Proverbs 28:20)

Several years ago, I had the privilege and distinct joy of taking my beautiful granddaughter, Amri, on an Easter Egg Hunt. She was about five or six at the time. The field where the great hunt took place was littered with a rainbow of candy Easter eggs to the point where one could not take a single step without crushing one of the sweet treasures.  To call it a hunt was a colossal misnomer.  Even a blind person could have scored a bountiful booty by simply falling face down, spread-eagle on the ground and gathering a full wingspan to himself

I was at once amazed and amused as I watched my little one run here, pick up one egg, and then run there and pick up another.  When all was said and done, she may have gathered a dozen eggs even though she could have had a basket full.  If she had just stayed in one place and gathered all that was immediately around her she could have filled her basket in short time, but instead, she went running from one bright attraction to another with absolutely no sense of direction.  She could have “abounded with blessings,” but instead, “she who made haste” came up short.

Aren’t we like that many times?  God has richly blessed us.  His blessings are all around us and yet we fail to see them.  We keep running from one attraction to another and never getting our baskets full and never getting fully satisfied.  I can imagine that as God watches, He is probably more amazed than amused at our frantic search for happiness while He has surrounded us with His blessings.  If we would only slow down long enough to take a good look around, we might see that we are truly rich beyond measure.

In the “Parable of the Soils” Jesus described a soil (a metaphor for people) infested with thorns (the cares of this world).  The sower (God) sows the seed (the Word of God) which falls on different kinds of soil.  Jesus says: “these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19)  If our focus is on the things of this world, i.e., worries, riches, desire for things, the Word will be choked and we will become unfruitful.  Though we are surrounded by the blessings and true riches of God, we will be oblivious to them, running from one candy egg to the next never having our basket full.

Father, God, give us the wisdom and the sight to see the blessings You have provided.  Help us to have our focus rightly placed on You and not on the deceitful riches of this world, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Then Came Sunday

Empty Tomb

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun … And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. (Mark 16:2, 4)

The story of mankind is brief and straightforward despite the naturalistic stories invented by evolutionists. God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26). God created man to enjoy fellowship with Him, but man erected a barrier between himself and God by his disobedience to God’s only command: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). That disobedience brought the curse of death – separation from God who is life and the giver of life. “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). Holy God cannot abide sin. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” (Psalm 94:20).

From that time on, innocent blood has been shed to cover or atone for the sins of man “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Starting with that first sacrificial lamb slaughtered by the Lamb of God (Genesis 3:21), the innocent pay the penalty for the sins of the guilty. So the sacrificial system began carried on by Abel (Genesis 4:4), Noah (Genesis 8:20) and the law delivered by Moses. But the practice failed to bridge the chasm rived by sin “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

This hopeless situation required a better and permanent solution. This was mankind’s problem and the responsibility fell upon man for resolution. But Holy God cannot be satisfied with anything less a perfect, sinless sacrifice. Only the blood of a perfect, sinless man would do. Where could such a man be found? For, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 12). Such a conundrum was no puzzle for an omniscient God. “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). So, God in human form died in the stead of His human creation, and He took upon Himself the penalty that was due to each one of us individually. This is an awesome thing! In all the world religions of man, man sacrifices himself to his god, but the Bible teaches that God sacrificed Himself for man. Is that not incredible!

So Jesus died on the cross at Passover. He became the sacrificial Lamb of God to atone for the sins of mankind. He took on the crushing blow of the curse of death. In His final words He declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), and He died. Death took its greatest prize, but then came Sunday! The curse of death was broken. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Romans 5:18).

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

(“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” – Isaac Watts, 1707)

His death on the cross covered our sins once and for all. His resurrection bridged the chasm of death separating sinful humanity from Holy God. He has made the way for you and for me. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). After all He has done for you, the least you can do is follow the way He has prepared. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!”

 

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