Category Archives: Gospel

A King In Israel

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

In my last article, I recounted the early history of Israel.[1] The period of the Judges lasted between 450 and 500 years (my estimation). The Book of Judges ends with this sad assessment: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Israel finally got a king to rule over them. By popular consent, God allowed them to choose a king for themselves, Saul, a Benjamite.[2] But Saul was not the king God had in mind for them. From the time Israel entered Egypt and prior to their enslavement, God had already determined that the king would come from the tribe of Judah.[3] This king’s reign would be eternal. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:10).

Saul was a miserable failure as king. Only two years into his reign, he disobeyed God by doing things his own way rather than waiting on God’s direction. God took the kingdom away from Saul, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23).

Not long after, Samuel the prophet anointed God’s choice for Israel’s king, a young shepherd boy, a young man of the tribe of Judah and resident of Bethlehem, David, the son of Jesse.[4] During David’s reign, Israel followed the Lord and the Lord helped David conquer most of the land God had promised to Israel. After 40 years on the throne, David’s son Solomon became king, and the spiritual state of the nation slowly started to degenerate again, in part due to the king’s own practice of marrying pagan women and bringing their pagan worship into the land and even participating in their practices himself.[5] It is said of Solomon that he was the wisest man alive, but his behavior brings that into question. However, toward the end of his life, he finally did wise up. He wrote, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity … Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:8, 13-14).

Regardless, the damage was done. The leaven already permeated the loaf. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, rejected the advice of his old advisors, listening rather to his young cronies. This ended up dividing the kingdom with ten tribes to the north and only Judah and Benjamin remaining of David’s kingdom.[6] Both kingdoms soon fell into idolatry once more, Israel (the Northern Kingdom) first followed by Judah (the Southern Kingdom) later. Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and displaced from the land never to return. Judah fell to the Babylonians and was carried away to Babylonian captivity. After 70 years in Babylonian captivity, the Medo-Persian Empire under Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their land to rebuild Jerusalem and their Temple.[7] However, Israel never really became an independent state again. They were always under some other nation’s thumb. For over 400 years, they longed for their promised Messiah of whom Daniel foretold, “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). The day would come when their king would come and throw off the oppressive yoke of Gentile nations and make Israel great again, as in the days of David and Solomon.

After 400 years, nothing had changed. Then one Sunday morning their long-awaited king made His entrance. However, they did not recognize Him. They were expecting a strong military general that would overthrow the Romans and set up a kingdom equal to or greater than that of Solomon. Perhaps the expected king would expand their borders to include all the lands God had promised.[8] But rather than ride in on a white stallion with a flashing sword and dazzling armor, Jesus rode in on an unbroken donkey’s colt.[9] Rather than the pomp and pageantry of a conqueror’s parade, Jesus was greeted by the cheers of the poor and downcast. “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9); and “Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38). The religious leaders, those who should have recognized His presentation, considering the specificity of Daniel’s prophecy,[10] despised the thought of this lowly Galilean being king and rejected His claims to deity. “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him” (John 12:19). “And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples” (Luke 19:39). Had these kept silent, Jesus answered them, the very rocks would cry out in proclamation of His kingship.[11]

A few days later, their rejection would be complete as Pilate presented Jesus to them, “Behold your king!”[12] “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15, emphasis mine). Rejecting their true King, they preferred rather to remain under the thumb of their oppressors.

This came as no surprise to Jesus. Earlier He confided in His disciples, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12:27, emphasis mine). His kingdom, at this time, was not an earthly one. His kingdom was not for the Jews alone, but “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Before going to the cross, He made this promise. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine).

His disciples were naturally curious as to when that time would be. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3, emphasis mine). Jesus gave many indicators of His return at “the end of the world,” but He cautioned, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). Jesus spoke of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes in different places, famines, and pestilences.

All these things are taking place today. The naysayers point out that these things have occurred throughout history. Peter foresaw such “scoffers.” “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4). The truth is that these things have never occurred with such frequency and with such unity. The convergence of all of these signs is “unprecedented” (to borrow a term in frequent use these days). Consider the pestilence the world experiences today, the Wuhan virus. This bug has brought the world to a standstill and threatens not only the lives but the livelihoods of millions of people. The world’s economies are on the verge of collapse, and this is but one of the signs of which Jesus spoke.

The time is near. Soon there will be a King in Israel and His Kingdom is forever. Jesus will reign on earth for 1000 years.[13] The world seeks a one-world government ruled by fallible men. Jesus will bring a one-world government, “and he shall rule them with a rod of iron …” (Revelation 19:15). After that, in a recreated heaven and earth, He will reign forever in the “New Jerusalem.”[14]

Are you ready to live with King Jesus in His eternal kingdom? If you are not sure of your eternal destiny, read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “No King In Israel” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/04/01/no-king-in-israel/

[2]  1 Samuel 10

[3]  Genesis 49:8-12

[4]  1 Samuel 16

[5]  1 Kings 11:1-8

[6]  1 Kings 12

[7]  2 Chronicles 36:22-23

[8]  Genesis 15:18-21; Exodus 6:4; Numbers 34:1-15; Joshua 1:4

[9]  Mark 11:2

[10]  Daniel 9:24-26

[11]  Luke 19:40

[12]  John 19:14

[13]  Revelation 20

[14]  Revelation 21

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I’m Scared

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

I went in search of toilet paper and found all the store shelves empty. I made several trips to different stores and came back empty-handed. The brilliant idea came to me to check Amazon.Com for toilet paper. Amazon.Com has everything, but they too were all out of toilet paper. Throughout my ventures, I found shelves empty of drinking water, disinfectants, hamburger meat, chicken, pork, eggs and other “essentials.” What I found were well-stocked shelves of snacks of all kinds, beer, wine, and soft drinks. In their panic, people are leaving all the non-essentials and hoarding the absolute necessities in preparation for Armageddon!  But that’s not what scares me.

In my visit to my doctors’ offices, I am asked whether I am experiencing fever, aches, and pains, or any kind of flu-like symptoms. I received a message from one of my doctors (I expect to get more) telling me to stay away if I have any flu-like symptoms, have traveled to a Coronavirus[1]-infected country, or have knowingly come in contact with someone who has. But that’s not what scares me.

Everywhere draconian measures have been put in place limiting gatherings of 10 or more people. The government advises citizens to remain in their homes except for essential necessities or health emergencies. Nursing homes are preventing families from visiting residents for fear of spreading infection. But that’s not what scares me.

People everywhere are losing their source of income because their places of employment are closing down. People cannot go out to eat in restaurants anymore because of the aforementioned edicts against gathering in public places. We cannot go to the movies or to the mall. All movement has been restricted. That said, airlines are losing money because no one is traveling and also because most passenger airplanes hold more than ten people. All of this impacts the economy. When people cannot work, they cannot earn money. If they cannot earn money, they cannot buy the things they need, much less the things they want. One thing affects another. It all ties together, and we see the markets plummet. But that’s not what scares me.

I am a student of end-times prophecy. I am not an expert, but I follow many who are. I am attuned not only to the Covid-19-saturated news in our country that largely ignores the rest of the world. I like to pay attention to the happenings in the Middle East, Israel, and the end-time players mentioned in the end-times prophecies recorded in the Bible. The Gog-Magog invasion of Israel mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39 is being staged. The desolation of Damascus mentioned in Isaiah 17:1 is almost complete. The signs Jesus gave in Matthew 24 – wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation (ethnic group against ethnic group), pestilences (like the Wuhan virus), famines, earthquakes in diverse places (we just had one in Utah), etc., are beginning to take place. As He said, “All these are [just] the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:26). Of course, Jesus’ prediction referred to the “Great Tribulation,”[2] but we see the precursors taking place right now. But that’s not what scares me.

I’m scared for my sons, my daughters-in-law, and my grandchildren who will not listen to my pleas that they turn to Jesus. When Jesus calls me home, they will experience the awful time of Tribulation. If the Tribulation does not change their minds and their hearts, then they face an eternity in hell. They do not like to hear that, and that scares me.

I know many people with whom I have shared the Gospel and they turned a deaf ear to my words. There are many who I do not know that reject the Gospel whether from a loving friend or a preacher on the radio. That scares me.

The end draws near. Jesus may call His church home at any moment. We see the previews of the coming Tribulation, so we know the time is close. I’m scared for all those I love and even those I don’t know who don’t know Christ. What they will face will be far worse than what we are experiencing now. I’m scared for them.

Reader, if you do not know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you need to meet Him now, before you meet Him later. The Bible says that in the end every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,[3] but then it will be too late. Invite Jesus to be your Lord and Savior right now. Learn how at “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Wuhan Bug” — https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/03/15/wuhan-bug/

[2]  Matthew 24:21

[3]  Philippians 2:10

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Human Fossils

All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. (Genesis 7:22-23)

The fossil record consists of 95% marine creatures, around 4% plant fossils, and only about 1% land animals – dinosaurs, mammals, flying creatures, etc. In this last category of fossils, complete, intact fossils are even rarer. Most fossil remains are found disarticulated, broken, and scattered, testifying to the violent nature of their burial.

Yet, even within this small fragment of the fossil record, human fossils are, for all practical purposes, non-existent. The absence of human fossils frequently raises the question, “Why do we not see more human fossils?” The Bible clearly records that the Flood killed “All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land died” (Genesis 7:22). The fossil record confirms this fact, and according to the Bible record, only eight humans survived on the Ark that Noah built. Yet we find all kinds of animal fossils, but no humans. Given the 1600 years of earth history before the Flood, as recorded in the Bible, where human lifespan exceeded 900 years, earth’s population would have been in the billions. It stands to reason that we should have an abundance of human fossils, but they are as “scarce as hens’ teeth.”

In all the years I served in a creation ministry, I never received a satisfactory answer to the question. The general consensus holds that humans were washed out to “sea” during the flood, drowned and were scavenged so that nothing was left to fossilize. However, that does not really explain how that took place. Certainly, that could have happened to the dinosaurs, and yet we have an abundant, albeit rare, sampling of dinosaur fossils, but no humans.

Recently, I received a newsletter from David Rives Ministries, where Rives writes the most cogent and reasonable response to the question of the missing human fossils that I have heard to date. First, David suggests that humans “would have already been living in areas higher than pre-flood sea level … Then, you can bet when water began to rise, they would have climbed as high as they could… then they would have floated for as long as possible. They may have survived for a short while by grabbing floating logs and driftwood. But with all of the marine creatures swimming near the surface of the water to get away from the mud [generated by the flood waters], there would be some really large predator animals feeding on bodies. When humans couldn’t survive any longer, they would have died and floated on the water’s surface … a lot of them bloated when they died, floating on top of the water as they decayed. Their bones would have scattered as they sank to the bottom of the water … And because many of the bones that fell would have landed on top of most of the flood sediment, then fossilization wouldn’t have taken place. Fossilization requires burial.”[1]

Consider that the flood lasted 371 days. The hot “ocean” waters resulting from the rupture of the “fountains of the deep”[2] and the increased salinity from increased volcanic activity would have rendered the water undrinkable; so even if they managed to find boats, survival for that length of time would have been impossible. If that were not enough, predators in the water were not included in “every living substance [that] was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground.

Rives makes another good point for the absence of human fossils. He writes, “To make the problem of finding human remains even worse, it appears that a lot of the last layers of the flood to be deposited—the top layers of mud—the ones with the majority of human skeletons—were washed into the ocean basins as the floodwaters began to recede. In other words, fast-moving water swept the very top layers of sediment off to the lowest areas as the water drained, taking much of the human remains with it.”[3] As with dinosaur fossils, human remains would have been ripped apart by the receding waters scattering individual bones over large areas.

Possibly, someone may discover fossilized human bones, and perhaps some have already been found. However, it is very unlikely that a complete fossilized human fossil will ever be found, the lesson we can learn from this is that God’s wrath against sin is not something with which to trifle.

Notes:


[1]  David Rives, “I Believe In the Flood… But Why No Human Fossils?” Creation Club Magazine, March-April 2020, pp. 12-13.”

[2]  Genesis 7:11

[3]  David Rives, p. 13.

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Suffering

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

The Sunday school lesson I taught this morning, based in 2 Corinthians 4, asked, “How can I honor God in my suffering?” Who likes to suffer? Who wants to suffer? The title of the lesson congers up all kinds of images of suffering. We might suffer due to a loss of work. We could suffer from loss of health. We can suffer from the loss of a loved one or the breakup of a marriage. We suffer when our children go astray.

Life necessarily includes a certain amount of suffering, and while the manner in which we handle our suffering can produce a testimony that honors God, that is not exactly what Paul had in mind when he penned this passage to the church in Corinth. Paul sets himself as an example of suffering, but not in the way we might think. Let’s examine the passage more closely.

(2 Corinthians 4:7)  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

What treasure to which Paul refers? It is a mystery veiled in the Old Testament to which the Jews were and still are blinded (2 Corinthians 3:14-18). At the beginning of Chapter 4, Paul explains that he has the task of unveiling the mystery (2 Corinthians 4:1) to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The “lost” cannot understand the Gospel because it is “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Of this treasure, Paul says,  “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). He is compelled to preach, “For God, … hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face [πρόσωπον – prosopon — in the presence] of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

This treasure is kept in “earthen vessels.” By this Paul is referring to his physical body. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The problem with “earthen vessels” – clay pots – is that they are fragile and easily broken. Consider the Fall. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:6-7). Man sinned resulting in physical and spiritual death and a curse upon God’s perfect creation.

Why place such a great treasure in such weak containers? When submitted to God, these fragile clay pots make is so “that the excellency of the power may be of God.” In that way, God receives the glory “and not of us.” Having this treasure hidden within comes at a cost. Paul, referring to himself as “we,” explains.

(2 Corinthians 4:8-9)  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

These two verses demonstrate that Paul suffered for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A close examination of some key words makes this clear. The word translated “troubled” (θλίβω — thlibo) means to be “pressed, squeezed” – as a grape in a wine press. Yet, Paul is not “distressed” (στενοχωρέω — stenochoreo) meaning “crushed.” He is “perplexed” (ἀπορέω — aporeo) seeming “to have no way out;” “to be at a loss;” “to be without resources,” but not in “despair” (ἐξαπορέομαι — exaporeomai), that is, “to be utterly at a loss; or utterly destitute.” As long as God grants us breath, we can take comfort knowing that God will never abandon us. The psalmist says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

Paul states that he has been “persecuted” (διώκω – dioko), that is. “made to run or flee,” but not “forsaken” (ἐγκαταλείπω — egkataleipo), which means “to leave behind, abandon, desert.” He has been “cast down” (καταβάλλω — kataballo) – “to throw to the ground, prostate.” The implication is to be put down hard with violence, but he’s not been “destroyed” (ἀπόλλυμι — apollumi), that is, “to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; to render useless; to kill.”

(2 Corinthians 4:10-11)  Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Paul bears the Gospel (the treasure) in his body – his “earthen vessel.” It is the Gospel is the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The end to which he bears the Gospel is “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our [his] body.” The word “manifest” (φανερόω) means “to render apparent;” “to make actual and visible, i.e., realized;” also “to make visible or known what has been hidden or unknown” That “mystery” hidden from the Jews – God’s salvation through Jesus Christ – reveals itself in Paul’s life as it should in the life of every true believer.

The words “live” and “life” are related. The Greek word translated “live” (ζάω – zaō , verb) means “to have true life and worthy of the name;” the “essence” of living. Like was the Greek word translated “life” (ζωή – zōē, noun) means “the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God.” Jesus said, “… I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

There is another Greek word translated “life” that expresses life to a lesser degree. The Greek word βίος means “the present state of existence,” biological life. This is just mere existence. Jesus spoke of this kind of life in His “Parable of the Sower” also known as the “Parable of the Soils” (more appropriately). Comparing the soil to people, Jesus explained,  “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). These people did not have ζωή (zōē), but Paul did.

Still, he says that he is “alway delivered unto death.” The “death” to which he speaks is not the cessation of physical existence. He referred to death to self (Romans 6:4-5; 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3), death to sin (Romans 6:1-2; 8:10; 1 Peter 2:24), and death to the law (Galatians 2:19). Paul summed up his attitude toward his “suffering” like this, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Paul dies “for Jesus’ sake.”

Verses 10 and 11 repeat the same ending phrase: “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body/mortal flesh” We “suffer” so that the “life of Jesus” in us may be apparent to the lost world around us.

(2 Corinthians 4:12-13)  So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak (quoting Psalm 116:10).

By putting his life to “death,” Paul helps others to find “life.” One commentary put it like this: “The “death” of Christ manifested in the continual “perishing of our outward man” (2Co_4:16), works peculiarly in us, and is the means of working spiritual “life” in you. The life whereof we witness in our bodily dying, extends beyond ourselves, and is brought by our very dying to you.” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary)

(2 Corinthians 4:14)  Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

The One who raised up Jesus will do the same for us. Death is not the end. We have a hope beyond. We are joined to the “living” Christ. Paul is dead to the things of this world because he is joined to Christ. We should follow his example!

(2 Corinthians 4:15)  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

Paul’s suffering is for the sake of the church; it is for their benefit – “for your sakes.” The Greek word translated “abundant” (πλεονάζω – pleonazō) means “to do, make or be more, that is, increase.” The word “grace” (χάρις – charis) is “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech.” The result of this “abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many “redound” (περισσεύω – perisseuō), that is, “to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous” “to the glory of God.”

(2 Corinthians 4:16)  For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Through his “suffering,” Paul presses on – “we faint not.” Paul expresses this sentiment when he writes to the church in Philippi. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Not dissuaded by his circumstances, Paul notes that “though the outward man, [i.e., the physical body] perish, the inward man [i.e., the spirit] is renewed” (through the power of Jesus Christ in us).

(2 Corinthians 4:17)  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

Our suffering is small compared to our eternal reward. Our time on earth is but a nanosecond in the light of eternity. The “suffering” our Lord asks us to bear is but a “light affliction.” Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

(2 Corinthians 4:18)  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Everything in this life is temporal. What lies beyond in the unseen future is eternal. The writer to the Hebrews reminds is that following the Lord requires faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Paul’s example of “suffering” had more to do with self-denial for the furtherance of the Gospel. Indeed, Paul suffered physical and mental anguish and material deprivation. His list of sufferings was long.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, emphasis mine).

After all of this, he concludes,

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

The answer to the question, “How can I honor God in my suffering?” is to die to self, live for God in all that we do, and trust Him to supply all your needs – especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel so that others may live. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

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A Soul

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

What comes to mind when you think of “a soul”? For most of my life, I imagined a soul as some ethereal, intangible, wispy inhabitant of our body that occupied our being that then departed when the physical body died. I suppose most people look at a soul in much the same way. Dictionary.com defines a soul as: (1) the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part; (2) the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come; (3) the disembodied spirit of a deceased person; (4) the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments; (5) a human being; person (emphasis mine).[1]

That last definition, I think, is the biblical understanding of “a soul.” In the Genesis account of the creation of man, I envision God (Jesus, in His pre-incarnate form) bending over a mass of reddish clay molding the human form. Scripture records, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “formed” is yâtsar, and it carries the idea of squeezing something into shape; to mold into the desired shape as a potter molds and forms a clay vessel. The idea goes well considering the construction material used – dust.

With the body plan complete, God, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew words translated “breathed” and “breath” are related. From the English translation, we can see that the former is a verb and the latter is a noun. The Hebrew words are nâphach and neshâmâh respectively and both mean “a puff.” The word “soul” is also related: nephesh. It means “living creature” and it can refer to either a human being or an animal. Yes, as defined here, animals have “souls” (nephesh); however, they do not possess that special neshâmâh of life “puffed” into humans by God.

This puff of life from God caused God’s mud sculpture to rise and become a living soul with a physical body, mind, and neshâmâh (breath/spirit of life). A triune creature created in the image of God[2] hitherto known as “a living soul.” God is triune in nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Collectively we just say, “God.” Man, made in the image of God, is triune in nature: mind, body, and spirit. Collectively, the Bible refers to the unit as “a soul.”

There are many examples where this becomes obvious, but I will keep the list brief. The first example following the creation account comes when Abraham travels to Egypt and tries to pass off Sarah, his wife, as his sister. He tells Sarah, “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee” (Genesis 12:13). “My soul” (nephesh) here does not refer to his “spirit.” Abraham feared for his life – his physical life.

Later, when God confirmed His covenant with Abraham, God required that he and all males within his household be circumcised.[3] Disobedience to this command carried a penalty. “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:14). “That soul” (nephesh) refers to the whole person not just his spirit. Interestingly, in the account of Abraham rescuing his nephew Lot and others, the word nephesh is translated “persons” (Genesis 14:21).

Genesis 27 records the account of Jacob “stealing” his brother’s blessing by deceiving his father, Isaac. In the passage, “my soul” appears twice and “thy soul” shows up two times.[4] The meaning in each case is somewhat ambiguous; however it seems clear that its use refers to the whole person. More examples could be cited in Genesis, but other examples will help solidify my point.

Exodus records that “all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls” (Exodus 1:5, emphasis mine). Obviously, this refers to people, not disembodied spirits. Then when God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, God assured him that, “all the men are dead which sought thy life” (Exodus 4:19). The Hebrew word translated “thy life” is nephesh (soul). With regard to keeping the Sabbath, God said, “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Exodus 31:14, emphasis mine). Again we see that “a soul” is a person.

The book of Leviticus offers many examples where the word “soul” (nephesh) refers to an individual. Here is one example: “if a soul touch any unclean thing … he also shall be unclean, and guilty” (Leviticus 5:2). To touch requires a physical body. Regarding the prohibition against eating blood: “No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood” (Leviticus 17:12). Again, it requires a physical body to eat blood.

There are 420 occurrences of the word “soul” in the Old Testament and nearly twice as many occurrences of the Hebrew word nephesh translated in other forms, for example, life, creature, persons, man, mind, et al. In the majority of occurrences, the word refers to the whole person. There is at least one instance in which the word seems to refer to the spirit of one who has died. Of Rachel’s death in childbirth, Scripture records, “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin” (Genesis 35:18). However, we may infer that when the spirit of a person departs from the body, that person is no longer whole, and therefore no longer “a soul.” The “person” is gone; only the shell remains. The soul has departed.

My conclusion is that “a soul” is the entire person: mind, body, and spirit. According to our beginning verse, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4). We all die sooner or later; however, death, in this case, is not merely the cessation of life. This death separates the soul from the Source of Life for eternity. This is the “second death” spoken of in Revelation 20:14-15, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (emphasis mine). Jesus warned, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30, emphasis mine). The “soul” – the whole person, mind, body and spirit – that sins shall suffer the eternal consequences of “the second death.”

There is no loss of consciousness in the “second death.” That soul is very much alive and aware of his surroundings. Jesus spoke of such a one whose only sin was self-centeredness.[5] Of course, a self-centered person has no need for God, which is ultimately what landed him in hell. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). Because the soul is the whole person, he could feel the flames of hell, and he could see what he had missed. Later on, he has a sense of concern for his five brothers who are still alive, and he requests that Lazarus be sent back to earth to go warn his brothers about this awful place. Hell apparently does nothing to change his self-centered, selfish ways. His concern is only for his brothers and not for the millions of souls in the same condition.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4) – mind, body and spirit. In what condition is your soul today? If you are breathing, and reading this blog, and you really don’t know, there is hope, and you can settle it right now. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Soul” – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soul#

[2]  Genesis 1:27

[3]  Genesis 17:1-14

[4]  Genesis 27: 4, 19, 25, 31

[5]  Luke 16:19-31

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Stiffnecked

And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: (Exodus 32:9)

Stiffnecked—now there’s a word seldom heard today outside of careful Bible study. The English word, which should be hyphenated in modern English, appears only eight times in the Old Testament of the King James Bible and is really a translation of two Hebrew words: qâsheh and ‛ôreph (the nape of the neck). The first word, qâsheh, means “churlish, cruel, severe, obstinate, or stubborn.” This goes beyond simple hard-headedness. It characterizes an incorrigible, rebellious person, and it is not an attribute one would desire. Yet, in God’s evaluation of His Chosen People, He defined them as “stiffnecked.”

This assessment was not a rush to judgment on God’s part. These people earned the moniker. Consider how God acted on their behalf to free them from Egyptian bondage. God sent ten plagues against the Egyptians that effected only the Egyptians and spared the Israelites.[1] The final plague brought death upon every firstborn of every Egyptian household including their livestock. At the end of that plague, the Egyptians were only too happy to get rid of the Israelites and even sent them off with rich booty.[2] “And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men” (Exodus 12:33). Not long after they departed, Pharaoh changed his mind and followed in pursuit to bring them back to Egypt. Penned between mountains on one side and the Red Sea on the other, the Israelites witnessed God part the waters so they could cross over on dry ground. Then He closed the waters behind them and drowned the pursuing Egyptian chariots.[3] “And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31).

Not long after this miraculous deliverance, the Israelites arrived at a watering hole with bitter water and immediately started complaining.[4] God had Moses cast a tree into the watering hole and the waters became sweet. Then God made a conditional promise. “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26, emphasis mine).

Further down the road, they came to Elim and began complaining about their perceived lack of food. So God sent them manna (what is it? bread from heaven) and quail to eat.[5] Further along the way, they once again complained about the lack of water, so God provided water out of a rock.[6] God then defeated Amalek, the first enemy they encountered.

Then they arrived at Sinai, the Mountain of God. There, in the hearing of all the people, God gave them the Ten Commandments. They all heard the voice of God and were terrified. “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:19). Moses ascended the mountain and wrote down the rest of the Law.[7] (At this point one should note that this occurred prior to Moses’ first 40-day stent on the mountain.) “And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel … And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:4,7 emphasis mine).

Hollywood movies have a way of distorting biblical accounts in ways that make them so memorable to the viewers that the Hollywood version supersedes the biblical narrative. In the movie, The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston goes up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments for the first time and returns to find the Children of Israel worshipping the golden calf. The movie plot kind of takes them off the hook a bit, because they did not know better; they did not have the Law. However, the biblical record shows that they were given the Law, written down by Moses, long before the golden calf incident, and they all agreed, “All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7).

After all of Israel affirmed that they would abide by God’s Law, Moses ascended the mountain once more and received the Law written on stone tablets and was there 40 days and 40 nights.[8] “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18, emphasis mine). These tables not only contained the Ten Commandments. They contained all the Law that the Children of Israel heard directly from God to which they agreed to obey. In addition, God gave Moses instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and all of its furnishings. Great detail was given for consecrating the priests and the apparel they would wear, especially that of the high priest.

While Moses delayed, the people got antsy and went to Aaron, Moses’ brother and second in command, and asked Aaron, “make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot [know] not what is become of him” (Exodus 32:1). As one reads the account, it becomes apparent that Aaron felt no coercion to comply with the request, nor did he hesitate. “And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me” (Exodus 32:2). Aaron, who was intimately involved in the liberation of the Children of Israel, and heard the Ten Commandments directly from the voice of God, soon forgot the first two. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:3-4).

Before Moses learned of the idolatrous act, God already knew. “And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people” (Exodus 32:9). God threatened to destroy them all and start over with Moses, but Moses interceded on their behalf and the Lord relented from His anger.[9]

Moses descended the mountain and found a wild party going on around the golden calf. When Moses confronted Aaron about the idol, his answer was hilarious. “And I said unto them [the Israelites], Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf” (Exodus 32:24, emphasis mine). Imagine that!

This would not be the first exhibition of Israel’s stiffnecked behavior. Throughout their history, Israel chased after false gods. God would punish, Israel would repent, God would forgive, and Israel would sin again. This happened over and over. Once God banished them from the land for 70 years, and for a time, they appeared to learn their lesson. Then God sent their promised Messiah, and they rejected Him and nailed Him to a cross. Again, God banished them from the land for over 2000 years now. However, as God promised, He has restored them to the land; but the saga is not over. God is not finished with Israel.

The lesson we can learn from God’s dealings with Israel is that God is faithful. We can count on Him to do exactly what He says He will do. He keeps His promises. Before entering the Promised Land, Moses reminded the people, “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:7-9, emphasis mine). Regardless of their stiffnecked character, God has kept and will keep His covenant with Israel. Knowing that gives us the assurance that God will be faithful in keeping His promise to us, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). God is faithful even to the stiffnecked.

Notes:


[1]  Exodus 7-12

[2]  Exodus 12:36

[3]  Exodus 14:10-31

[4]  Exodus 15:22-27

[5]  Exodus 16

[6]  Exodus 17:1-7

[7]  Exodus 20:22-23:33

[8]  Exodus 24:12-18

[9]  Exodus 32:10-14

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Christmas Excitement

Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. (Isaiah 42:9)

It’s that time of year once more. The places I work and worship sparkle with bright red, green, and gold decorations consistent with the colors of the Christmas season. Long before Thanksgiving Day, merchants displayed all their Christmas wares enticing shoppers to covet without first giving thanks. Television commercials attempt to instill a sense of privation so the viewer feels the need for what they are selling.

GMC™ produces two commercials that really stand out to me. They show a young couple, probably in their late twenties or early thirties, with no children, and a big fancy house. In one of the commercials, the husband buys GMC ™ vehicles for both of them. In the other, the husband gets the wife a puppy, and the wife gets him a big crew-cab pickup. Seriously, how many young people, on the average, have that kind of cash? Most young people that age, if they graduated from a college or university, are saddled with enormous school debt and are doing well to afford payments on a Honda Civic™ much less a $60,000 fully decked out pickup truck!

Regardless of how we feel about the materialism associated with the Christmas season, we cannot get away from the sense of expectation. At church, our choir and orchestra are working hard a polishing up the music for our Christmas concert. It will be wonderful, and we are excited about presenting it. Our church looks forward to our Christmas Eve services and our sharing of the Lord’s Supper, aka communion.

We celebrate the birth of our Savior. Think about what that means. The same God that created heaven and earth and all things, the same God that created human beings in His very image, is the same God that implanted Himself in the womb of a virgin girl to be born like any other human baby, live a sinless life among His creation, and give Himself as a sacrifice for humanity’s sin. That is awesome! That boggles the mind!

We anticipate with excitement the celebration of Christmas, the First Advent, but our celebration should look forward to the Second Advent yet to come. The prophets of old foretold of Jesus’ first coming. Beginning in Genesis, the Bible promises that the “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the serpent, i.e., Satan.[1] Isaiah tells us that the woman would be a virgin.[2] In Genesis, we also learn that He would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah.[3] Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be in the line of King David[4] and the psalmist concurred.[5] The conniving Balaam unwittingly predicted that a star would announce His coming.[6] Micah pointed to Bethlehem as the place of His birth,[7] and Hosea said He would come up from Egypt.[8] These are just some of the prophecies of His First Advent. Many more prophecies foretold of His life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection – all with 100% accuracy.

Christmastime should cause excitement as we anticipate His Second Advent. There are more prophecies concerning His second coming than there are for His first coming. Since all prophecies of His first coming came true as predicted, should we not expect the same accuracy of the prophecies predicting His second coming? Celebrating Christmas should excite us knowing that the Baby Jesus is the soon-coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

One of the carols we sing at Christmastime is not really a Christmas carol. In fact, “Joy to the World”[9] reminds us that Christ will return to rule the world as king.

Joy to the world the Savior reigns; let men their songs employ; while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat their sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.

We know historically that did not happen at His first coming. We might spiritualize those sentiments. Certainly, the Savior reigns within the hearts of all believers, albeit not perfectly. Sin and sorrow continue as always and “the curse” goes on unabated. He does not rule the world, and “the nations” care nothing about His glories or righteousness. All of these are attributes of His yet-to-come millennial reign.[10] The prophet Isaiah provides some insight into Jesus’ millennial reign on earth. That will be a time when even the animal kingdom will be at peace.[11] Knowing what is coming should make Christmas even more exciting than all the GMC™ pickups the world can afford!

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 3:15

[2]  Isaiah 7:14

[3]  Genesis 12:3; 26:4; 28:14; 49:10-11

[4]  Isaiah 11:1

[5]  Psalm 132:11

[6]  Numbers 24:17

[7]  Micah 5:2

[8]  Hosea 11:1

[9]  Carol by Isaac Watts, 1718

[10]  Revelation 20:1-7

[11]  Isaiah 11

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