Category Archives: Gospel

When the Lord Returns

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; (Luke 12:35)

I am currently reading the Gospel of Luke in my personal Bible study, and, as often happens when I read my Bible, something caught my attention that I had not seen before. In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus had finished telling the parable of the rich fool[1] who had a bumper crop and started planning about what he would do with his newly acquired wealth. That night, God called him to account. “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20). Jesus’ point was that earthly riches do not amount to much in light of eternity. He said, “So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). He went on to teach regarding the futility of worrying about the things of this world because God knows our needs, and He will provide for all our needs (not necessarily our “wants”). The ravens do not sow, reap, or store up food, yet God feeds them.[2] The lilies of the fields neither toil nor spin, yet God clothes the earth more beautifully than Solomon’s apparel.[3] So, Jesus taught, we should not overly concern ourselves with food or clothing because God will provide for our needs. Instead, He said, “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you … For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:31, 34)

With that in mind, since this life and this world does not last, He went on to encourage His listeners to be ready for His Second Coming. (I am not sure if His audience caught the significance of His message, but looking back, it should be clear to us.) “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning” (Luke 12:35). Having your “loins girded” is an expression that meant to prepare oneself for work, and one only lights a lamp when it gets dark. So the idea is that we should be on the alert and watching. We are to watch and work as we “seek the kingdom of God.”

He went on to amplify His meaning. “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately” (Luke 12:36, emphasis mine). I highlighted in bold italics what I missed before. Jesus spoke in the form of a parable which His audience, His disciples, and His apostles would not have clearly understood at that time. He often used the example of a landowner – a lord or master – leaving on a long journey and leaving the care of his properties in the hands of stewards, i.e., “servants.”[4] All of these parables convey the idea that the Lord will leave – which Jesus did in His ascension – and will return at some undetermined time. In the meantime, His servants continue to conduct His business – in our case that of proclaiming the Gospel – until He returns.

What popped out at me in this passage is the phrase “when he will return from the wedding.” What relevance does a wedding have with the main point of the story? Note also the definite article. It is not just “a” wedding; it is the wedding. The significance is subtle and easy to miss, but indeed it carries great relevance to Christians living in this day.

Before Jesus went to the cross, He told His apostles, “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, emphasis mine). When His apostles heard this, they caught the imagery of a Galilean wedding. When a man proposed marriage to a young woman, if she accepted the proposal, he would leave to build a house for her. Once the father of the groom inspected and approved the house, he would give his son permission to go get his bride. The wedding would take place and the wedding feast that followed would last for seven days.

Likewise, Jesus, the Bridegroom, is betrothed to His Bride, the Church. His Bride is made up of those who have accepted His proposal.[5] Now He is gone preparing a place for His Bride, and when the Father approves of the house,[6] He will come to get His Bride and take her to the home He has prepared for her. The wedding feast[7] will last one week (seven years).[8] At the end of the seven years, Jesus will return with His Bride to reclaim His kingdom on earth.

The audience that heard the parable was Jewish, and they probably missed the significance of the lord returning from the wedding. Weddings were frequent and common events in those days as they are today. Jews then and now, for the most part, missed the Messiah. Yet Jesus admonishes these who fail to recognize Him to have their “loins girded” and their “lamps burning” in preparation for their Lord’s return from the “wedding.”

After Jesus snatches away His Bride and the seven-year wedding feast begins, those who remain on the earth will experience the seven-year Tribulation. During that time, many Jews will recognize the Messiah they missed and 144,000 of them will preach the Gospel message around the world.[9] Many Jews as well as Gentiles will be saved by their message. It is these whom Jesus admonishes to work, watch, and be ready for His coming. “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants” (Luke 12:37-38).

“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). Even after the Rapture of the Church, even in the midst of the Great Tribulation, God is “not willing that any should perish.” Sadly, for many, that time will be the final opportunity for salvation but at such a high cost. Reader, if you do not know the Savior, please do not wait until the last moment. Accept the Bridegroom’s proposal today. Find my page on “Securing Eternal Life” and prepare to enjoy the wedding feast rather than work in the time of Great Tribulation.

Notes:


[1]  Luke 12:16-20

[2]  Luke 12:22-24

[3]  Luke 12:27-28

[4]  Matthew 21:33-41; 25:14-30; Mark 13:32-37Luke 19:11-27

[5]  John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10; et al.

[6]  Matthew 24:36

[7]  Revelation 19:6-9

[8]  Daniel 9:27

[9]  Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5

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Jesus And The Fig Tree

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: (Matthew 24:32)

During Jesus’ last week of His earthly ministry before His crucifixion and shortly after His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Matthew and Mark record a strange incident when Jesus cursed a fig tree because it had no fruit and immediately, the tree withered.

Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we know as Palm Sunday. He went directly to the Temple cast out the money changers and those who sold animals for the upcoming Passover sacrifice.[1] To us Gentiles, it seems strange that it offended Jesus that these men were turning the Holy Temple into a marketplace. However, as Jesus drove out the merchants, He exclaimed, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17).

A long-held Jewish tradition during Passover is to get all the leaven out of the house before the Passover celebration. Leaven represents sin, and it must be removed from the house. The Temple was Jesus’ house, and He was cleansing it from the sin within in preparation for the coming Passover.

At this point, I need to mention an apparent contradiction between Mark’s account of the Temple cleansing and that of both Matthew and Luke. Both Matthew and Luke record that the cleansing took place on the same day as the Triumphal Entry – Palm Sunday.[2] However, Mark indicates that the cleansing took place on the following day (Monday). Mark records that on Palm Sunday, “Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. And on the morrow [Monday], when they were come from BethanyAnd they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple” (Mark 11:11-12, 15, emphasis mine). So, did Jesus cleanse the Temple on Palm Sunday or on the following day? Great biblical minds have no clue! I am not one who finds contradictions in the Bible because “God is not the author of confusion.”[3] Two Gospel writers say the cleansing took place on Sunday, and one (Mark, who was not an eyewitness) says it was on Monday. I believe all three accounts are correct. It is possible that there were two cleansings, one on Sunday and one on Monday. I will leave it at that for now.

Only Matthew and Mark record the incident with Jesus cursing the fig tree, and both agree that it happened on Monday morning as Jesus returned to Jerusalem from Bethany where He was probably staying in the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.[4] What happened next seems rather strange. Jesus spotted a fig tree along the way and being hungry, He went to see if it had any figs.[5] Mark remarks that “the time of figs was not yet” (Mark 11:13). Finding no figs on the tree, Jesus cursed the tree, and it soon “dried up from the roots” (Mark 11:20).

It seems strange that Jesus, the Creator,[6] would not know that it was not the time for figs, So, why would He expect to find figs on the tree? Some commentators suggest that the tree should have had some unripe fruit on it that could be eaten.

“Toward the end of March the leaves begin to appear, and in about a week the foliage coating is complete. Coincident with [this], and sometimes even before, there appears quite a crop of small knobs, not the real figs, but a kind of early forerunner. They grow to the size of green almonds, in which condition they are eaten by peasants and others when hungry.”[7]

That makes some sense. Both Matthew and Mark remark that Jesus found nothing but leaves on the tree. There were not even “knobs” to eat on the tree. But was that sufficient cause for Jesus to curse the tree? The same commentators quoted above, suggested that Jesus used this incident as an object lesson to emphasize Luke’s parable about the fig tree that bore no fruit.[8] However, neither Matthew nor Mark includes that parable in their Gospels, and Luke omits the cursing of the fig tree, so their argument does not seem to be very strong.

Jesus, the Creator, knew it was too early for figs, and He knew He would not find figs on the tree. So the cursing of the tree had another purpose. Jesus never did anything without a purpose.

Later in the week as Jesus sat with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, they asked Him for signs of the last days and the end of the world. The detailed description of the last days, known as the “Olivet Discourse,” is found in all three Synoptic Gospels.[9] “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). However, Jesus said the times would be discernible, and He used the fig tree to illustrate. “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).

The fig tree represents the nation of Israel. Several passages in the Old Testament make this association. God says, “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time …” (Hosea 9:10, emphasis mine). “He [the king of Babylon] 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). God also refers to Israel as His (grape) “vine.” Concerning Israel’s restoration, Scripture says, “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people … Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength” (Joel 2:18, 22, emphasis mine).

Jesus’ parable of the fig tree gives the signal for the beginning of the end-time events. Israel, the fig tree, budded on May 14, 1948, signaling that “summer” is near. Jesus said that “this generation,” the one that sees the fig tree bud, will not pass until all these signs are accomplished. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

So, why did Jesus curse the fig tree? God chose Israel to be a “priest nation” to all the nations of the world, beginning with Abraham; “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, emphasis mine). To Israel, God says, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation …” (Exodus 19:6). It was Israel’s task to reveal God to the nations of the world. Instead, Israel followed in the idolatrous steps of the surrounding nations. Israel, the fig tree, did not produce the fruit God expected. Jesus’ object lesson in cursing the fig tree demonstrated that God would no longer use Israel to bless the nations and to be the priest nation to the world. Instead, He assigned that task to other “husbandmen.”[10] To these new husbandmen, i.e., the Church, Jesus said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8, emphasis mine).

So, the fig tree withered and can no longer produce fruit. Instead, Jesus assigned the task of bringing God to the world to the Church. As for the fig tree, “they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24, emphasis mine).

That time is near. It started when the fig tree budded in 1948. The fig tree has yet to produce any fruit, but that is because the Church is still yielding fruit, albeit at a waning rate. Soon, the Church will be plucked up, and God’s fig tree will have another opportunity to yield its fruit. “And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation 7:4, emphasis mine). During the Tribulation, the 144,000 Israeli evangelists will carry the Gospel to all the world and produce much “fruit” for the Lord. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Revelation 7:9, emphasis mine).

In the end, the fig tree will produce the fruit for which it was created. However, it must be understood that not every individual Israeli will be saved. Their salvation does not come from their nationality (Israel) or their religion (Judaism). Just as with every other person, salvation comes only through faith in Jesus the Messiah. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). The 144,000 remnant of Israel that carry the Gospel to all the world will be saved by the same message that “whosoever believeth in him [Jesus] should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Those that hear and believe the message of the 144,000 will be saved the same way.

Reader, if you do not know Jesus, now is a great time to get acquainted. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life” and get that settled today.

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46

[2]  Matthew 21:8-13; Luke 19:35-46

[3]  1 Corinthians 14:33

[4]  John 11:2

[5]  Matthew 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-13

[6]  John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11

[7] Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, Hard Saying of the Bible, (InterVarity Press Academic, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1996), p. 442, quoting W.M. Christie, “The Barren Fig Tree.”

[8]  Luke 13:6-9

[9]  Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21

[10]  Matthew 21:33-41

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Feet Only

Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. (John 13:10)

On the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples. The Apostle John records in his Gospel that Jesus “laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself” (John 13:4) and proceeded to wash the feet of His disciples.

In those days, the majority of travel was done on foot. The footwear of the day protected only the sole of the feet leaving the rest of the feet exposed to the elements. Most of the roads were no more than dirt trails so that feet collected a good amount of road dirt.

It was customary for the host of a house to welcome the traveler by washing the road dirt off their feet. This task was assigned to the lowest servant or the youngest member of the household. For whatever reason, no one performed the customary foot washing at this house, perhaps because it was a private gathering not hosted by the homeowner.

Whatever the reason, Jesus chose this time to give an object lesson. Jesus rose from the table, removed his outer garment, took a towel, and some water, and performed the task of the lowliest servant. Jesus washed all of the disciples’ feet, but when he got to Peter, Peter protested. “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” (John 13:6). Peter was not being “holier than thou,” in his refusal to have Jesus wash his feet. Perhaps, as he watched Jesus wash the other’s feet, he thought, “Why didn’t someone else do that? The Master should not be the one doing that! Maybe I should be the one washing feet.” Whatever may have crossed his mind, it was obvious that he was humiliated that his Lord should lower Himself to that position.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7). We seldom know what God is doing in our lives when we go through trials, but when we look back on our lives, we can see how God directed our circumstances for our good.[1] Peter did not get the lesson; “Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” (John 13:8-10).

Jesus washed all of the disciples’ feet. They did not need a bath; only their feet needed washing, but Jesus said not all were clean. The unclean one to whom Jesus referred as Judas Iscariot who would betray Him. It’s not that Judas failed to take his Sabbath Day mikvah; Jesus referred to Judas’ spiritual condition, not his physical cleanliness. Therefore, the significance of the foot-washing act goes deeper than road grime.

The disciples were “clean” because they believed that Jesus was their expected Messiah. When Jesus had asked, “Whom do you say that I am?” Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). The key to salvation (i.e., cleansing) is “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). Obviously, Judas had not believed: therefore, he was not clean.

As we traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Franklin Graham 2020 Prayer March[2] last week, this topic came up in our conversation. My brother Eli made a very interesting analogy applicable to the Church today. Like Jesus’ disciples (and we too are disciples) we walk around in this filthy world every day, and the grime of the world cannot help but stick to our “spiritual feet.” Then, every time we gather for worship and fellowship, we have the opportunity to wash each other’s feet. We do not need a bath because the Bible says that “ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Our “spiritual” feet only need washing. Therefore, the Bible encourages us to gather together. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure waterNot forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:22, 25, emphasis mine). Our gathering together is the way we wash each other’s feet by praying for each other and encouraging one another in the faith.

Another parallel that can be drawn from this account is that not all are clean. The twelve apostles walked with Jesus for three years of His earthly ministry, yet one of them was lost, i.e., not clean, the entire time. In the same way, not all within the Church are all saved. Some practice all the “right things” on the outside, but inwardly they have not truly believed. Jesus referred to these as “tares.”[3] When He returns for His Bride, the Church, these will be left behind. For now, feet only need washing if you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ. If not, you need a bath. If you are not sure of your standing before God, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Romans 8:28-29

[2]  https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/10/01/reflections-on-the-washington-2020-prayer-march/

[3]  Matthew 13:24-30

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Trumpets

… for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  (1 Corinthians 15:52)

This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, September 19-20, 2020, celebrates Rosh Hashanah, the first of the Jewish civil year 5781. Rosh Hashanah is the fifth of the seven Feasts of the Lord prescribed in Leviticus 23, and is also known as the Feast of Trumpets for the sounding of trumpets proclaiming the new year. Feast of Trumpets is also known as the “feast where no man knows the day or the hour.”

The Feasts of the Lord are based on a lunar calendar, and the official declaration of the new year depends on the first sighting of the new moon. Since that cannot be determined precisely, Rosh Hashanah is observed over two days to ensure the sighting of the new moon for the sounding of the trumpets. Hence, no one knows the day or the hour.

Trumpets appear throughout Scripture. The first occurrence of a trumpet in the Bible comes after the exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. God brought the Children of Israel to Mount Sinai where He introduced Himself to them in person.[1] God instructed Moses that He would appear in the form of a cloud around the mountain and that no one could come near the mountain under penalty of death. “There shall not an hand touch it [the mountain], but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount” (Exodus 19:13, emphasis mine). The sounding of the trumpet summoned the people to come up to the mountain unto the presence of the Lord. “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (Exodus 19:16, emphasis mine). So Moses brought the people to the smoke-covered mountain before the Lord “And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice” (Exodus 19:19, emphasis mine). Following this, God gave the Ten Commandments to the people, and they all heard the commandments of God directly from God.[2] “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:18-19, emphasis mine). From then on, God spoke to the people through His prophets, beginning with Moses.

Trumpets call the people to solemn assemblies. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation” (Leviticus 23:23-24, emphasis mine) . “Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps” (Numbers 10:2, emphasis mine). I could give more examples, but basically, the function of a trumpet serves to alert people to an event and to call for a gathering or assembly.

In the New Testament, Jesus refers to a trumpet in the negative sense of calling attention to yourself when performing acts of benevolence. “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:2, emphasis mine).

The second occurrence appears in the Olivet Discourse when Jesus teaches His disciples about end-time events. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days … shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven … And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31, emphasis mine).  The “tribulation of those days” to which Jesus referred is the 70th “week” of the Prophet Daniel’s prophecy.[3] Jesus called it a time of “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21, emphasis mine)” At that time God will send His angels to gather His elect, i.e., Israel, from all over the world. These are NOT Christians, and I will explain that later on.

In the next reference to a trumpet, Paul points out the importance of a trumpet giving a distinct sound. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8, emphasis mine). He stresses the importance of giving a clear gospel message so that the hearer is not confused. Later he talks about the last days when “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 15:52, emphasis mine). Here he refers to the “dead in Christ” and “we” are the Christians who are alive when the trumpet sounds.

Most biblical scholars believe that Paul’s letters to the Church in Thessaloniki were his first “epistles.” To the Thessalonians he writes, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [“precede”] them which are asleep [dead]. For 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 4:15-17, emphasis mine).  For those who claim that “rapture” in not taught in the Bible, the word translated “caught up” is the Greek ἁρπάζω (harpazō) which means to seize; catch away, catch up, pluck, pull, or take by force. The Latin Vulgate translates harpazō as “raptus” from which we get the word “rapture.”

The Beloved Apostle John saw the risen Lord while “in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day (Sunday).[4] After Jesus finished dictating seven letters to seven churches,[5] John records, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter” (Revelation 4:1, emphasis mine). After this point, the Church is no longer mentioned in Revelation until Chapter 19 when she is described as “The Bride” at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and she returns with Jesus to end the Great Tribulation and initiate the 1000-year reign of Christ. This is the trumpet Jesus described in Matthew 24:29-31 above. For this reason, and I am convinced, many end-times teachers believe the church will be taken up before the seven-year Tribulation begins and will not experience the horrors of those times.

Because of the significance of trumpets throughout Scripture and especially in end-time prophecy, many have looked at the Feast of Trumpets as reasonable time for that to take place. Of course, many rear up and point out that Jesus said that “of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24:36). That is true. Jesus’ coming is imminent;[6] it could happen at any minute. By studying the events recorded in Revelation and reckoning the division of the seven years, anyone living at that time, if they are paying attention, can determine when Jesus will return to earth. It is a set time – seven years. Once Antichrist affirms a treaty with Israel,[7] it is just a matter of counting the days – 2520. It is not rocket science.

However, the Rapture of the Church has no signs. We cannot guess what year it will take place, but we see the stage being set for the seven-year Tribulation, and Antichrist has not made his appearance, so we know the time is close.

So why single out Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, for the Rapture taking place? We can take a hint from Jesus who said that no man knows the day or the hour. The Feast of Trumpets is the feast that no man knows the day or the hour, so that has some association. Then, there is the idea that Jesus fulfilled the first four of the Feasts of the Lord: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost. Pentecost was fulfilled when He sent the Holy Spirit to empower the Church.[8] He has yet to fulfill the last three feasts: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles). The next feast on the Calendar is Rosh Hashanah. So, it makes sense that the Rapture may take place on Rosh Hashanah because the sounding of the trumpet is the calling of the congregation together.

If not this year then perhaps it could happen next year, or the next. However, His coming is imminent – any minute! It doesn’t have to happen at Rosh Hashanah. So, we must always be ready. Jesus said, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42).

If you read this and hear of millions of disappearances all over the world, you should know what happened. If not, thank God that He has given you more time, but don’t delay. He could come at any minute – imminent! If you do not know Jesus, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Exodus 19

[2]  Exodus 20

[3]  Daniel 9:24-27

[4]  Revelation 1:10

[5]  Revelation 2-3

[6]  “Imminent” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/01/12/imminent/

[7]  Daniel 9:27

[8]  “Tongues of Fire” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/09/13/tongues-of-fire/

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Tongues Of Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:


[1]  John 14:16-26; 15:26; 16:1-16

[2]  1 Corinthians 15:6

[3]  John 20:20

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

[5]  Acts 2:41

[6]  John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:8, 13

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

[8]  Luke 24:49

[9]  Genesis 1:24-25

[10]  Genesis 3

[11]  Romans 5:15,17

[12]  Acts 2:3

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