Category Archives: Gospel

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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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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Merit-Based Salvation

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

There exists a common misconception among non-Christians and, sadly, even among some Christians, that when it comes time to meet our Maker that we can gain entrance into the celestial realm based on our merits. As our lead verse suggests, “God shall bring every work into judgment … whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” If challenged, those who hold that view almost always see themselves as better than most. They may admit to “small” sins like telling a “white lie” now and then, stealing a pack of gum, failing to correct a cashier when given too much change, or something equally innocuous. By their estimation, their “good” works will outweigh their “evil” works on the cosmic scales, and God will say, “Good enough!”

To some extent, it seems that the Bible teaches merit-based salvation. Our lead verse teaches that God looks at every work, both good and evil. Superficially, one may get the impression that He weighs the two – good on one side, evil on the other. First Peter 1:17 says that “the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work…” (emphasis mine). Indeed, at the end of time when Christ’s millennial reign on earth has ended, a scene unfolds where all who ever lived appear before the judgment seat of Christ. “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:13).

It indeed appears that people will be judged according to their works. Should this be cause for hope for those counting on their own goodness? Taking a closer look at our leading verse, note that God scrutinizes “every work” and determines whether it is good or evil based on His standard of goodness. God made man in His image (Genesis 1:27), and for that reason, God deemed man “very good” (Genesis 1:31), but man messed that up in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Beginning with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), man’s attempt at covering up his sin always falls short of the perfection he possessed before the Fall. Only perfection qualifies for entry into the presence of God. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27, emphasis mine). Interestingly, I cannot find the word “sin” in the book of Revelation, but there are several synonyms: anything that defiles, whatever works abomination or makes a lie. All of that is sin, so whether one has a little sin or a lot of sin, one is disqualified from entering heaven.

The Great White Throne Judgment scene in Revelation sees “books” opened, and the “dead” judged by the content of the books “according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). Evidently, there are “ledger books” recording both the good and evil deeds of every person that has ever lived. Since NOTHING that defiles “shall in no wise enter,” no one qualifies. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). However, “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). There the guilty sinner stands before the Righteous Judge, “and another book was opened, which is the book of life … And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Reader, is your name written in the Book of Life? Do not think you are good enough – that your sins are minor compared to someone else. Only perfection gains entry into heaven and no one qualifies. However, there is a way. Please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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Being Gods

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?       (John 10:34)

When Satan met Eve in the Garden of Eden, he charged that by His prohibition against eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God denied Adam and Eve of something good. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5, emphasis mine).

Being gods remains mankind’s greatest desire. We all want to have complete, unfettered control of our lives with no one telling us what to do; and we want, as much as possible, to exert influence and control over others. The latter becomes more apparent daily as we witness the radical left’s efforts to alter the course of our nation. The strong desire to force upon our society their radical agenda manifests itself in unprecedented violence across our land. They want to be the gods that dictate what we all should do.

However, this is not a new phenomenon. History records the rise and fall of numerous demagogues. Bringing it closer to home, we might be tempted to deflect the guilt to them and deny that we harbor the same desire to make our own rules and impose them on others. We all like being gods to one extent or another.

In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders wanted to be gods, although they would never admit to that. They were the keepers of God’s law, and from their self-perceived superior position, they sought to impose their perception of God’s law on others. They enjoyed their position of control. They were being gods without knowing it. However, they met their match with Jesus. Him they could not control, so they sought to destroy Him.

It was the winter before His crucifixion around the time of Hanukkah (John 10:22). The Jewish religious leaders surrounded Jesus with the hope of finding something with which to accuse Him of a capital offense. “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). Jesus referred to His countless miracles, of which no doubt they were familiar, in His defense. Nevertheless, the clear evidence escaped these “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16, 24). Their incapacity to perceive the truth centered on the question of ownership. They were not Jesus’ sheep (John 10:26-27); they were their own “gods;” therefore they could not recognize His authority or submit to His direction.

Since the clear evidence eluded them, Jesus plainly told them what they wanted to hear, “I and [the][1] Father are one” (John 10:30). That was plain enough. Jesus made it clear that not only is He equal to God (the Father), He is the same as the Father. The message came through loud and clear. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (John 10:31). They got what they were after. He deserved to be stoned “for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:33).

Jesus then quoted from Psalm 82, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34). The psalm begins with this declaration: “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods” (Psalm 82:1). Considering the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, “the mighty” and “the gods” are the same.[2] To “the mighty” and “the gods” God challenges, “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (Psalm 82:2). Then He charges, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4). These mighty gods are none other than the leaders of the people – ordinary men in extraordinary positions of power and authority. Yet, according to the psalm, they are ignorant of God’s laws and supplant them with laws of their own devices, so that “all the foundations of the earth are out of course” (Psalm 82:5). To these demigods, God says, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes” (Psalm 8:6-7). God confers the appellation of “gods” on these rulers in that they are “children” of God. As such, they are God’s representatives on the earth, “princes” to carry out God’s will on earth. However, they are not more special than other men. They will die just like every other man.

The psalm ends with a cry for God to, “Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations” (Psalm 82:8). In the end, the One true God will reign over all the earth, and here He was standing before the Jewish leaders. God accused of blasphemy by the little gods.

Solomon rightly lamented, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, emphasis mine). We still try to be our own gods – set our own rules and impose our will on others. Since the Garden of Eden, we continue being gods, even if only in our minds. The sooner we learn to let God be God, the sooner we can enjoy the peace and rest that only God can give. To all who are tired of being gods, Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour [at being gods] and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Notes:


[1]  The KJV inserts “my” in italics where the Greek text (Textus Receptus) used the definite article “the” before “Father.”  εγω και ο πατηρ εν εσμεν

[2]  Michael S. Heiser, in his book The Unseen Realm, suggests that the elohim (gods) in this psalm refers to the “congregation” of the bene elohim (sons of God) that make up the council of God.  These include both God’s angels and Satan’s angels as seen in Job 1. That idea is not implausible, however, based on Jesus’ reference to it, it can also apply to mankind.

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