Category Archives: Gospel

Building Up the Temple

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, (Matthew 21:12)

Last week I wrote about a special assignment[1] I was given for the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History. An ICR benefactor donated a Life of Christ 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, and it often hints of Catholic influence.

One of the scenes will be of Jesus cleansing the Temple before His crucifixion. The “temple” that came with the set is patterned after Greco-Roman architecture. It in no way represents the Temple that Jesus would have known. Perhaps visitors to the Discovery Center will not notice the discrepancy, but others, like me, will see the flaw. That bothers me. We cannot allow anything to distract from the Gospel message.

Determined to correct the error, I took the dimensions of the Temple given in the Bible[2] and converted the cubits to feet and the feet to inches.  Then I measured the width of the set “temple” to get the scale the footprint for the model I would build of the Temple. As it turned out, a scale model would be 58 inches tall and would probably cause a greater distraction than the building that came with the diorama. So, I scrapped my idea and resolved to use the incorrect building that came with the set.

When I told Henry, (the MIC) of my decision, he encouraged me to follow through with my idea. He reminded me that the Temple model did not need to be an exact scale; it just needs to “look” like the Temple of Jesus’ day. Pictured above is the beginning of what will be the Temple model. To see the completed model, you will need to visit the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History when it opens this September (2019).

Jewish religious life revolved around the Temple and Jesus, being an observant Jew, followed all the laws regarding it. When He was just eight days old, His earthly parents presented Him along with the required sacrifice to the priests at the Temple.[3] He had His bar mitzvah in the Temple at the age of 12,[4] and as Scripture points out, He went to the Temple each year for the Passover.

In His final week of life, He exercised the practice of ridding His house of “leaven” in preparation for the Passover by cleansing the Temple of the illegal trade that took place there. “And [He] said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:13, emphasis mine). The Temple was His house.

The Temple bears the shape of a cross. At the foot of the cross is the altar where the sacrifices are burned. Jesus gave His life as our eternal sacrifice. Beyond the altar resides the laver or mikvah where the priests would wash before entering the Temple. Jesus is the “living water” that cleanses us from all sin.[5] The Temple has only one door through which the priests can enter. Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9, emphasis mine). Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). As one enters through the door of the Temple, on the left stands a seven-branch menorah. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, emphasis mine). On the right is the table of the “showbread.” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst,” (John 6:13, emphasis mine). Directly ahead stands the altar of incense which represents the prayers of the people going up to God. Jesus said, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

Beyond the altar of incense rises a heavy curtain from floor to ceiling that separates this holy place from the Holy of Holies where the very presence of God resides. Inside that sanctum resided the Ark of the Covenant, covered by the Mercy Seat upon which the sacrificial blood was spilled on behalf of all the people. This place was so holy that only the high priest could enter and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement,[6] Yom Kippur.  When Jesus died on the cross, He carried His own blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies spilling it on God’s mercy seat. “And, behold, the veil [the curtain] of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51, emphasis mine), and the way into the presence of God was opened for us.

Today every true believer is the Temple of God[7] because we have His presence within us.[8] The model temple I am building is a simple replica of the one that used to be. But the real Temple is me and anyone else who has invited the Lord to save them and take up residence within. I want to build an excellent model for visitors to the Discovery Center to enjoy, but even more important is the maintenance of the Temple in which God now resides.

If what I am saying sounds strange, visit my page on Securing Eternal Life.

Notes:


[1]  “On a Hill Far Away” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2019/05/12/on-a-hill-far-away/

[2]  1 Kings 6:2

[3]  Luke 2:22-24

[4]  Luke 2:41-52

[5]  1 John 1:7

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

[7]  Living Temples – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/03/18/living-temples/

[8]  1 Corinthians 3:16

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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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April Fools’ Day

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 14:1)

We recognize the first day of April as April Fools’ Day. It “is an annual (primarily) Western celebration commemorated on April 1 by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. The jokes and their victims are called April fools. People playing April Fool jokes often expose their prank by shouting ‘April fool(s)’ at the unfortunate victim(s). Some newspapers, magazines and other published media report fake stories, which are usually explained the next day or below the news section in smaller letters. Although popular since the 19th century, the day is not a public holiday in every country. Little is known about the origins of this tradition.”[1]

Victims of harmless pranks can hardly be called “fools.” Anyone is susceptible to deception at the hands of someone they trust. If that is a fool, then we all qualify.

The Bible has a much harsher view of a fool. The epithet is so severe that Jesus said, “whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22, emphasis mine). The word “Raca” is of Chaldean origin and it means, “empty or worthless one.” A fool, on the other hand, is one who is “impious[2] or “godless.” Strong’s defines such a one as “dull, stupid or heedless.” The Greek word is mōros, from which we get our word “moron.” It is interesting that Jesus should offer such a severe condemnation as “hell fire” for the offense of calling someone a fool.

Jesus’ prohibition of the application of that word against another person comes at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount. In the same sermon, He later said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2). This verse gets misquoted and misunderstood often as meaning that we are never to exercise rational discernment about someone’s actions. However, that is not at all what Jesus was saying as subsequent verses reveal. The Greek words translated as “judge” and “judgment” are krinō and krima respectively. Both have to do with making a judgment that results in condemnation and punishment. We get our English words “crime” and “criminal” from these Greek words. The kind of judgment Jesus is describing is reserved for God alone. Therefore, if judging someone as “fool” condemns the one judging to “hell fire,” then the punishment for being a “fool” must also be “hell fire.” We deduce this from Jesus’ words, “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” In other words, because the punishment for being a fool is “hell fire,” then the one judging the fool will receive the same judgment because only God can make that judgment.

The English word “fool” appears often in the Bible translating other Greek or Hebrew words, but the strong word Jesus used, mōros, appears only a few times and always in the context of strong condemnation. For example, in Matthew 7:26 Jesus uses it to describe the “foolish man” who built his house on a foundation of sand. Jesus likens those hear His Word and ignore it to the fool who builds his house on sand. In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins and He calls the five unprepared virgins “foolish” because they were not ready to meet the bridegroom. The condemnation is they are not allowed into the wedding. Paul warns his young protégés, Timothy and Titus to avoid “foolish” (moronic) questions because they are unprofitable and vain and they only lead to strife.[3]

Our lead verse appears again in Psalm 53:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.” The Hebrew word translated “fool” is nâbâl, and like mōros, it means stupid, wicked, (especially impious). Someone who does not believe in God, or rejects God is a fool. God condemns such a person to “hell fire,” which is why Jesus admonishes us not to make that judgment.

Paul describes how one sinks to that condition:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18-22, emphasis mine).

By examining this passage more closely, we see that “the wrath of God” – His anger, i.e., “hell fire” – is revealed “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” i.e., “foolishness.” It is doubtful that “true” atheists exist because here we see that God reveals Himself through His creation. The “invisible things,” like viruses, bacteria, atoms, quarks, etc., clearly testify to the greatness of God. Every human being on earth can see the magnificence of God’s creation so that no one has an excuse for not acknowledging God. Everyone, even the atheist, knows that God exists, but they reject Him and refuse to glorify Him choosing rather to follow their own unintelligent (i.e., foolish) imaginations. As a result, their heart is darkened. This progressive condition results in a “reprobate mind,”[4] i.e., a mind that has lost its ability to properly reason. They think they are wise when in fact they have become fools.

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). And “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15). “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2). We are all fools at some time in our lives. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11, emphasis mine). We may all start out as fools, but we do not need to remain in that condition. If you do not know the Lord, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.” Don’t be an April Fool!

Notes:


[1] Wikipedia, “April Fool’s Day” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools%27_Day

[2]  “not pious or religious; lacking reverence for God, religious practices, etc.; irreligious; ungodly” Dictionary.Com definition – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/impious?s=t

[3]  2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9

[4]  Romans 1:28

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Why Christmas?

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17)

It is said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” One need look no further than the season of Christmas to see the truth of this axiom. Forget about the lost world that has no concept of the true meaning of Christmas. Christians, who should possess at least a rudimentary understanding of the significance of the season, too often get caught up in the madness associated with “the holidays” right along with those who know no better.

In all the cacophony of TV and radio commercials, traffic noise, buzzing shopping malls, clanging Salvation Army bells, and “holiday” music at every turn, does the question even come up? Why Christmas? Why all the fuss? In spite of all the warm sentiments intoned by joyful holiday songs, the season carries with it an increase in stress, depression and even suicide. So much for “Happy Holidays!” Why bother?

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Israel

I remember visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlem, Israel last year. We stood for two and a half painful hours on hard, uneven limestone floors waiting to see the supposed place of Jesus’ birth. When we finally crouched through the constricted cave opening, we found a small alcove adorned with a plethora of lighted candles illuminating a gold 14-pointed star in the center of a polished marble floor. A hole in the center of the star marked the very spot where Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus. The garish display rendered the prolonged anticipation anticlimactic. Perhaps in a similar fashion, the significance of Christmas has been long lost to the millennia of ostentatious trappings and traditions we have attached to it.

So, why Christmas? Stop! Silence the noise! Trash the shiny paper and bright bows and ribbons! Douse the twinkling lights! Be still and think!

We, humans, suffer from a terminal condition called death. We inherited this terminal condition from our original parents, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). They were originally created to live forever, but their disobedience to God’s only command brought upon them the death penalty. Did I mention that they were created to live forever? The death penalty, therefore, comes in two phases: physical death and spiritual death. Because of Adam’s sin, we all die physically. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). However, the spirit continues through eternity. Spiritual death is eternal separation from the Creator; the Bible calls that the “second death.” “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).

Because of Adam’s sin, all humans suffer the same fate. “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). No one is excluded from the death sentence, and all must pay the price. “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23).

However, God made a temporary provision for covering the sins of man. It was the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, but that was not a permanent fix. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The fact remains that sin is humanity’s problem. Animals do not sin; they are innocent. Therefore, the “wages of sin” must be paid by man, not animals, but that is the problem. No human is innocent, i.e., sinless. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The Bible teaches God loves us, even though we are all sinners. However, God is holy and just, and He cannot and will not allow sin to go unpunished. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). God does not want us to be eternally separated from Him, but the sin debt must be paid.

Therefore God became a man born of a virgin untouched by any man so that He could be born completely free from the curse of sin. He grew up like any other man but without sin. “For we have not an high priest [Jesus Christ] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine). “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But 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 2:5-8, emphasis mine). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

Why Christmas? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). There’s your Christmas present! God became a man to be the perfect sacrifice to pay the wages of sin in our stead so that we will not have to be eternally separated from Him. He offers us our redemption as a gift if we choose to accept it. That’s why Christmas.

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The Bethlehem Star

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. (Matthew 2:9)

Once more the Christmas season arrived with all the usual pre-season hype of merchants competing for your hard-earned bucks by attempting to convince you that their product will bring you all the love an joy you deserve for “the holidays,” or that their product is the perfect gift to demonstrate your love for a loved one. As Christians, we know, or should know, that the celebration centers around the person of Jesus Christ – God’s gift to us.

Our church choir and orchestra performed our annual Christmas concert last Sunday. It was a program of beautiful Christmas music with a simple skit in the middle to give the choir a break. There was no pageantry; no live angles suspended in midair; no live animals herded down the aisles; no blinding laser lights flashing or smoke machines making fog. No, it was just good music meant to focus our attention on “the Reason for the season.”

This time of year should cause us to reflect on the significance of that incredible event when God came down to take on human flesh in the form of a baby. He came to a poor Nazarene couple. She was a virgin, pregnant out of wedlock.[1] He was a simple carpenter, an honorable man willing to fulfill his vow to his pregnant bride and to raise her child that was not his.[2]

Luke records the circumstances of their arrival to the little village of Bethlehem[3] and the birth of God-made-man in a stable – probably a grotto – meant for sheltering animals. It was a most malapropos place for the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Yet, as Paul puts it, “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

In the fields outside of Bethlehem, shepherds kept the sheep destined for Temple sacrifice. Luke tells of an angel appearing to the shepherds to announce the birth of their Good Shepherd and how an army of angels illuminated the night sky and filled the air with their chorus of praise to God, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). It must have been a spectacular sight to behold, and yet only shepherds witnessed it. It was their private invitation.

Matthew records a visitation by foreigners – gentiles – of high estate. These were the Magi[4] from somewhere in Mesopotamia, perhaps even from Babylon. They were not invited to the “presentation” as were the shepherds. In fact, they did not arrive until more than a year later. We conclude this by comparing the two accounts. Luke calls the child a “babe” – Greek brephos meaning “infant.”[5] Matthew’s record describes the baby Jesus as a “young child” – Greek paidion meaning a “little one” or “little boy,” perhaps a toddler. We can further infer this because of Herod’s edict to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem that were two years old and younger.[6] Additionally, the shepherds found the child wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger,[7] while the Magi found Him in a “house.”[8]

The Magi were not invited. They were looking for Him. Some Bible scholars suggest that these “Wise Men” were of the “School of Daniel,” and were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and the prophecies of the coming Messiah. God revealed to Daniel, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Daniel 9:25, emphasis mine). “Weeks” are groups of seven years. “Threescore” is sixty (60). Applying simple math, we get (7×7)+(60×7)+(2×7) or 483 years. The Magi were “Wise Men,” and they could do the math. They knew the time was near. Not only that, but they were astronomers who carefully studied the stars, which God created for signs (i.e., a signal, flag, beacon, etc.) and seasons (i.e., appointment or festival).[9]

As the Magi studied the night sky, they observed an unusual pattern in the heavens that alerted them to the birth of a new king. But who was this new king and where was he to be born? They searched the source where all wise men should look; they searched the Scriptures. There, in the Hebrew Book of Numbers, they found this prophecy, “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth” (Numbers 24:17, emphasis mine). Ah ha! The king (the “Sceptre”) was to come from Jacob, i.e., Judah and a star would “beacon” His arrival. Add to this, Daniel’s prophecy of 483 years suggested that the time was up.

The Magi assembled a caravan and headed west toward the only place where a Jewish king would be born – Jerusalem. When they arrived, they went to the king’s palace – the only suitable place for the birth of a king, “Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2, emphasis mine). This announcement was unsettling for Herod, but after inquiring of those who should have known, the Wise Men were directed to Bethlehem. “And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah 5:2], And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:5-6, emphasis mine).

So off they went toward Bethlehem, and something very strange happened. “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matthew 2:9, emphasis mine). That last statement has caused much controversy. “Stars” do not behave in that way. All stars rise in the east (because of the earth’s rotation) and set in the west, just like the sun does. Bethlehem is south-southeast of Jerusalem. For the star to go “before them,” it would have to alter its normal course from east to west and travel north to south instead.

For this reason, many have suggested that the star was a comet – “Have you seen what I’ve seen? A star, a star shining in the night with a tail as big as a kite.” However, a comet will not go before you and then stop and hover over a house.

Some have suggested that the star was a conjunction of Jupiter (the King Planet) and Venus (the Mother Planet). Still, others have suggested that it was a conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus (the King Star), which is the major star in the constellation Leo (Jesus is the “Lion of Judah). This conjunction has some possibilities for the star the Magi saw “in the east,” while they were still in Mesopotamia. On September 11 (hmmm, 9-11), 3 BC, Jupiter joined Regulus (chief star in Leo), Royal Planet and Royal Star. The sun was in Virgo (Virgin Constellation), and the New Moon in Royal Constellation Leo (Judah). It was the first day of Jewish New Year – Rosh HaShannah.[10] This conjunction announced the Savior’s Birth.

However, that does not explain the strange movement of the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem. Besides, the conjunction that alerted the Magi would not remain in that configuration for the duration of time that it took them to arrive in Jerusalem. This “Bethlehem Star” must have been something else. Interestingly, there was another phenomena that occurred the following year, December 25, 2 BC. “Jupiter began to move westward, At its stationary point in Virgo Winter Solstace [sic], Daystar in Coma[11] Overhead at Bethlehem at Dawn?” [sic][12] Jesus at this time would have been 15 months old (provided He was born on September 11, 3 BC) – a “young child.” Obviously, this is not the same star the Magi saw originally, and Matthew seems to confirm this. When they arrived in Jerusalem, the Magi announced that they had “seen” (past tense) “His star in the east” (Matthew 2:2, emphasis mine). However, in verse 9, Matthew simply calls it “the star, which they saw in the east.” Perhaps that is a difference without a distinction, but this phenomena, except for the presence of Jupiter, does not seem to shout “King” as clearly. Again, all stars rise in the east, so seeing the star in the east to me merely suggests the direction from which they observed the star rise. That still does not explain the strange movement of the star.

Here is what I think – and I can speculate just as well as the next man. In the evening, as the Magi made their way to Bethlehem, they looked toward the east and observed a bright conjunction of stars – perhaps it was the December 25, 2 BC phenomena. There in the midst of this bright gathering of stars appeared an angel. Angels are sometimes referred to as “stars” in the Bible.[13] As the Magi observed the star, the angel (star) descended from the midst of the stellar conjunction and dropped down into the atmosphere where it could lead the Magi to where Jesus was. In case you are skeptical of my suggestion, let me remind you again of what the shepherds witnessed out in the field. “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid” (Luke 2:9, emphasis mine). That must have been a pretty dazzling angel!

It might have happened that way, or maybe not. Perhaps it was a one-time, special occasion miracle of God. Whatever it was, the message was clear. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Notes:


[1]  Luke 1:26-38

[2]  Matthew 1:18-25

[3]  Luke 2:1-20

[4]  “Who Were the Magi?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/12/14/who-were-the-magi/

[5]  Luke 2:16

[6]  Matthew 2:16

[7]  Luke 2:12, 16

[8]  Matthew 2:11

[9]  Genesis 1:14

[10]  “Summary of Conjunctions of Planets (“wandering stars”), Constellations and Stars: Meanings, Interpretations, Timetable, Other Astronomical Events Near Time Of Christ’s Birth” – http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_dates.html

[11]  Ibid. “The Star in the Head of the Infant in “Coma” visible in daylight for 300 years.”

[12]  Ibid.

[13]  Job 38:7; Revelation 1:20; 6:13;12:4

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It’s Here Again

Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. (1 Chronicles 16:10)

Thanksgiving Day came and went. We enjoyed a no muss, no fuss Thanksgiving, just June, me, and our dog pack. We brought the old pre-lit Christmas tree down from the attic and set it up. Another section of lights failed. That makes two sections that need to be filled in. We decided the tree is going to the curb at the end of this season. We will look for a new one at the end of season close-out sales.

June and I spent the day decorating the Christmas tree. The dogs just watched or got in the way. Personally, I don’t think the all trouble is worth the effort. The tree is up for five or six weeks. Few people ever see it other than June, me, and the dogs, and, because both of us work, it’s only seen a couple of hours a day except for weekends. Then at the end of the season, it all has to be disassembled and put back up in the attic again until next year. I just don’t see the point.

We don’t do Black Friday as a rule. However, I needed some plastic putty for a model I’m building and decided to go to Michael’s ™ to hunt for some. June never allows me to go shopping without checking for coupons. She found a Michael’s ™ flyer advertising their Christmas trees for half off, so she decided to accompany me on my quest. We found a perfect replacement for our condemned tree and other small items, but no putty. No worries, Amazon ™ has anything one could want as long as one is willing to wait for delivery.

With our errands done, we prepared to enjoy a nice evening with our very good friends. We played some table games and then enjoyed a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal together. Truth be told, every day should be a day of thanksgiving.

We set aside Saturday to decorate the outside of the house for Christmas. I exercise fairly regularly, but the older I get, the less benefit I seem to get from all the effort. By the end of the day, my back ached, and my feet cried out for mercy. After a quick dinner of leftovers, we worked on completing the inside decorating. Decorating the house for Christmas involves much more than putting up a Christmas tree. June and I have a collection of more than 60 nativities that we like to display. However, before displaying them, we have to make space for them by putting away other knickknacks. This too is a lot of effort considering the limited audience that will enjoy them. The dogs don’t care. Still, the house looks nice, and it feels like Christmas.

I have written much about Christmas. If interested, the reader can find those in the “Categories” column on the right under “Christmas.” The reader will find that I have a low opinion of all the “trappings” of Christmas. I do not care for the commercialization of Christmas. I do not care for the sentimentality attached to Christmas. I do not care for all the hubbub associated with the season. It is doubtful that “the reason for the season” was born in December.

That said, there is much I do like about Christmas. I love the music of Christmas, especially the carols. In my church, the Sunday following Thanksgiving, we start singing the Christmas carols. The carols remind me that the Creator of the universe, the Maker of you and me, lowered Himself to human form and entered His world as a helpless human baby. THAT is awesome! But it did not end there. He grew up and lived among His creation as the only perfect and sinless man to ever walk the face of the earth. Finally, He gave Himself as the only suitable sacrifice to atone for our sins. THAT is amazing! But He did not just die. He conquered death for you and me so that we can live forever with Him.

He ascended into heaven, but He left with the promise to return for those who have trusted Him. The time draws near of His return. When He returns, He will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords on earth for 1000 years. People mistake the hymn “Joy to the World” for a Christmas carol describing Jesus first coming, but it is not. The hymn describes His second coming and His future reign on earth. Next time you sing it, pay close attention to the lyrics.

I love what Christmas represents. I believe Jesus was born sometime in September. No one knows for sure. Regardless, it is good to set aside a time to reflect on just what an incredible thing God did to save His creation. He offers His salvation as a gift. However, as with any gift, it must be accepted before it is appropriated. Reader, if this great gift is not yours and you would like to take it as your own, read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

I cannot change the things I do not like about Christmas, and being a Scrooge benefits no one. Therefore, I will try to overlook the Christmas distortions and focus on the awesome and amazing gift of God. He is the reason for the season after all.

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Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Current Events, Gospel, Holidays, Random Musings, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

Still Listening Again

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Every year for at least the last decade – ever since I learned about the Feasts of the Lord[1] – around this time of year, I start getting a little anxious with excitement wondering if this will be the year that Jesus will call His bride home.[2], [3], [4], [5], [6] This Monday, September 10, the Feast of Trumpets comes around again. For those of us who look forward to the Rapture of the Church, this is a “high watch” day. The reason for this, as I have explained in the past, is because this is the next Feast not fulfilled by Jesus’ First Advent. Therefore, it stands to reason that Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets) would be a good time for Jesus to summon His Bride, the Church, home. Every year as I have waited, the day has come and gone, and we are still here. You might think that eventually I would experience “Rapture Fatigue” and give up on the whole idea. However, I still have oil in my lamp and even some extra! (Matthew 25:4)

Some will criticize and remind us that Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). The Rapture is imminent. It could happen at any time, and we ought always to be ready. Nothing prophetically remains unfulfilled for this event to take place. Israel celebrated her 70th rebirthday this past May. We live in the generation that witnessed the “fig tree” bud (Matthew 24:32-33). This year wraps up the 70th Year of Jubilee since Moses gave the ordinance 3500 years ago. Israel is the focal point of end-times prophecy, so our attention must focus on current events in the Middle East. The stage is being set for what “prophecy watchers” call the “Ezekiel 38-39 War.” At the time of this writing, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are meeting concerning their involvement in Syria. Damascus almost resembles the ruinous heap described in Isaiah 17:1.

Will these things happen before or after the Rapture? We cannot tell. No man knows the day or the hour, but we sense that the time is near. Will the Rapture take place at the Feast of Trumpets? Perhaps. The Feast of Trumpets is celebrated over two days because it is based on the verified appearance of the new moon. Since the exact time of the appearance cannot be accurately predicted, the Feast of Trumpets is known as the feast of which “no man knows the day or the hour.” This year the watch is set for Monday and Tuesday, September 10 & 11 beginning at sundown on Sunday, September 9 (the date of this posting).

Will Jesus call for His Bride in the coming weeks? I do not know, but I hope so, and I am ready! How about you? If you are unsure, read my pages on “Securing Eternal Life” and on “Heaven.”

Notes:


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

[2]  “Still Waiting!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/24/still-waiting/

[3]  “Now’s A Good Time!” https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/17/nows-a-good-time/

[4]  “Coming Soon!” https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/09/coming-soon/

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

[6]  “Still Listening” https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/09/20/still-listening/

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Evangelism, Gospel, Religion, Second Coming of Christ, Theology