Category Archives: Gospel

The First Sight

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

 

The book of Revelation puzzles many who read it. It seems strange and sometimes bizarre. Many avoid the book because the contents elicit fear about the predictions of things to come. However, the book of Revelation is the only book of the Bible that promises a blessing to those who read, hear, and apply its contents. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3).

Revelation opens with the last remaining apostle of Jesus, the Apostle John, “in the Spirit the Lord’s Day.”[1] The Roman government arrested and exiled John to the prison island of Patmos for preaching the disruptive Gospel of Jesus Christ.[2]

The initial recipients of the book were seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.[3] To these, the risen Christ addresses individual letters.[4] These churches existed in John’s day, but because of the commendations and reproofs Jesus gives to these churches, some have seen in them patterns of each throughout church history.

John then describes his first glimpse of Jesus as though in a vision. This is not the Jesus John remembers during His earthly ministry. This Jesus is awesome to behold. John says, “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Revelation 1:12-16). The dazzling sight caused John to fall at His feet in awestruck fear, but that tender, familiar voice reassured him of the One he loved. “… Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:17-18).

John saw Jesus in the midst of seven lampstands holding seven stars in His right hand. Jesus explained to him that the seven lampstands represented the seven churches and the seven stars represented the seven angels, i.e., messengers or pastors, of the seven churches.[5] The image reminds us that Jesus dwells among His churches and that He keeps and protects the pastors of His churches in His right hand (a position of power). This should also serve as a warning to pastors. Just as Jesus’ right hand protects His messengers, He also has the power to crush the pastor that fails in his responsibility to Jesus’ Bride, the Church.

As noted earlier, Jesus dictates direct messages to each of the seven churches. Immediately following the last word to the church of Laodicea, John looks up and sees an open door in heaven and hears a sound (Greek: phōnē) like that of a trumpet that said, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2, emphasis mine).

Many see the Rapture of the Church in these verses. John is commanded to “come up here” and “immediately” he sees the throne of God for the first time. From this point forward, the Church no longer appears on earth until Christ returns with His saints in Chapter 19.

There are many who teach that the Rapture is not taught in the Bible. They correctly argue that the word “rapture” appears nowhere in the Bible. However, neither do the words bible or trinity, yet no one will argue that these concepts are not taught in the Bible. “Rapture” translates the Greek word harpazō into the Latin raptus meaning “to seize; to catch away or up; to pluck, pull, or take by force”. This is what happened to John. He was on the earth and “immediately” he was caught away into the throne room of God.

Jesus gave us the first promise of the Rapture before going to the cross. He said, “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). Paul teaches of the time when the trumpet shall sound and our corrupt bodies will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. The dead in Christ will rise from their graves, and we who are alive will join them to meet Jesus in the air.[6]

John enters the presence of God and his first sight is the throne of God. The person seated on the throne appears not as a human or any other creature, but rather as a glorious splendor. Of Him, John says, “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald” (Revelation 4:3). The Bible teaches that God has no human form, except in the form of Jesus. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24, emphasis mine). John was given a privilege that even Moses (or anyone else for that matter) was denied. Moses, who spoke with God face-to-face as with a friend,[7] wanted to see God in His glory, but God denied his request, “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20, emphasis mine). Yet, somehow John saw God in all of His glory and did not die. In our corrupt human bodies, we cannot withstand the glory of God’s presence. However, at the Rapture, our bodies will be transformed in such a way that we can be in the presence of God in His full glory and not be harmed, just like John.

The scene overwhelmed John. There were lightnings, thunders, and voices. Around the throne of God, John saw 24 thrones upon which seven elders sat wearing white robes and crowns of gold.[8] Some suppose these represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. Others suggest that they merely represent believers of all the ages. In either case, the white robes represent the righteousness of Christ conferred on them. The golden crowns are stephanos, which are “victors crowns” awarded to them for conquering sin, not through their own righteousness, but through the blood of Christ.

John then sees seven lampstands around the throne defined as the “seven spirits of God” Some suggest that these seven lampstands represent seven attributes of the Holy Spirit as described by the prophet Isaiah. “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him [i.e., Jesus], the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2, emphasis mine). We know that the Holy Spirit indwells believers and thereby indwells the Church. In the first chapter, John sees Jesus in the midst of seven lampstands, which represent the churches. Now, these same lampstands (i.e., churches) are seen around the throne of God. I see the lampstands representing both the Holy Spirit and the churches wherein the Holy Spirit resides. The attributes described by Isaiah certainly apply as well.

Around the throne is a crystal sea. It is difficult to know what John saw in this. It is all strange and wonderful and beyond words to describe. John could only relate what he saw by his limited earthly vocabulary. But then he sees four strange creatures full of eyes and with six wings each. One “beast” had the head of a lion, the second the head of a calf, the third the head of a man, and the fourth the head of an eagle.[9] The eyes represent the omniscience of God and the four different heads represent all of God’s creatures: wild animals, domestic animals, human beings, and avian life. All of God’s creation never ceasing to praise Him day or night “saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).

John then observed that when these praised God, the 24 elders prostrate themselves and cast their victor’s crowns before the throne saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

With the focus on the throne, John spots something new. “And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1, emphasis mine). By its description, we know that this “book” is actually a scroll – perhaps parchment – with writing on both sides, rolled up and secured with seven seals. Many suggest that this scroll represents the title dead to the earth and the kingdoms thereof. When God created the earth, He gave dominion over the earth to man whom He created in His image on the sixth day of creation.[10] However, man lost that dominion when he sinned in the Garden of Eden.[11] The dominion of earth transferred to Satan. Paul calls him the “god of this world.”[12] When Satan tempted Jesus, he offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world if He would only bow down and worship him. “And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke 4:6, emphasis mine). However, his ownership is only temporary.

Then John saw and heard a strong angel proclaim, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (Revelation 5:2). And no one in heaven, on earth, or under the earth was found worthy to take the scroll and break the seals. The situation was dire indeed. All of God’s creation hung in the balance and there was no one to come to the rescue. John says, “And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (Revelation 5:4).

John’s tears were soon assuaged. “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof,” John says, “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” (Revelation 5:5-6). John the Baptist saw this Lamb come to him to be baptized in the Jordan and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He was slain on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and rose again on the third day.[13] Horns represent kingdoms and the Lamb has seven representing completion. All the kingdoms belong to Him. He is “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16). Seven eyes suggest omniscience with all the attributes of the seven Spirits of God.

Only the Lamb, by virtue of His sacrifice, is worthy to take and open the scroll. “And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne” (Revelation 5:7). When the Lamb took the scroll, a great celebration broke out in heaven. The four living creatures and the 24 elders prostrate themselves before the Lamb. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

Then the rest of heaven breaks out in praise, “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:12-13).

Worthy indeed! I cannot imagine how John must have felt at the first sight of heaven and the throne of God. I cannot wait to see it for myself!

The 14 chapters that follow bring us back to earth and the events that will transpire during the seven-year Tribulation. The scenes are horrific. However, the Church, the Bride of Christ, will not experience the horrors of the Tribulation. The Church, as we saw will be around the throne of God and not on earth. Will you be there or will you experience the horrors that are coming upon the earth? Your ticket out of here was purchased by Jesus more than 2000 years ago. All you have to do is accept it. Check out my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Revelation 1:10

[2]  Revelation 1:9

[3]  Revelation 1:11

[4]  Revelation 2-3

[5]  Revelation 1:20

[6]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

[7]  Exodus 33:11

[8]  Revelation 4:4

[9]  Revelation 4:6-8

[10]  Genesis 1:26-28

[11]  Genesis 3

[12]  2 Corinthians 4:4

[13]  1 Corinthians 15:3-4

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All New Things

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5)

 We have entered the new year, 2023. How does the future look? Do you think this year will be better than last?

Let us take a sober look at conditions worldwide. North Korea is testing nuclear ballistic missiles and threatening South Korea. China continues to build up its military and threatening the tiny island nation of Taiwan. Iran is within weeks of enriching weapons-grade uranium and continues to threaten Israel and the United States. Russia relentlessly batters the sovereign nation of Ukraine without regard for millions of innocent Ukrainian citizens. Russia, Turkey, and Iran along with their allies are amassing armies and military equipment in Syria and setting the stage for the Gog of Magog war against Israel described in Ezekiel 38-39. The wars and rumors of wars Jesus predicted are all over the world.

Violence permeates the entire world. There are riots in China, Iran, Russia, France, Brazil, and many other nations. Here in the United States, violent crimes go unanswered. Jesus said the last days would be as in the days of Noah,[1] which were days filled with violence.[2] Jesus also said that the last days would be as the days of Lot.[3] Those days were characterized by rampant sexual deviancy.[4] Consider what goes on today with the LGBTQ+ movement and their agenda to pervert innocent children with their drag queen shows that they conduct with children. What are the parents thinking! Children are being trafficked for sexual purposes to deviants and perverts, and if that is not bad enough, abortion continues to rise even with the reversal of Roe v Wade.

On top of all of that, economies are failing all over the world. When that happens, evil leaders become desperate and look to war in order to distract their people from their sufferings. Vladimir Putin has openly made threats of nuclear attacks on any nation that opposes his advances on Ukraine. North Korea, China, and Iran echo their own threats. Meanwhile, the Globalists, many of whom are powerful people in our own government, lick their chops like buzzards circling a dying corpse, eagerly waiting on the demise of the nations so they can come in, “build back better” and install a New World Order.

Our world is sick and getting sicker by the day; 2023 offers no hope for improvement.

What follows, I wrote two years ago with a few changes to bring it up to date.

I am not a pessimist, but I do read what the Bible has to say about the end times. If the Bible is true (and it is), things will get worse before the Lord returns. Jesus said, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8, emphasis mine).

Does that not sound familiar these days? So, do not expect 2023 to get better; it will only get worse. Now, what do we do in light of this dismal outlook; crawl under a rock and hide away? NO! We face the future with the assurance that God has all things in His control.

 What Does God Have to Say About It?

As Moses prepared Israel to enter the Promised Land, a new land filled with giants, dangers, and unknowns, he encouraged them not to fear because God was with them. “Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 1:21, emphasis mine). As Israel prepared for battle against their enemies, the priests were to encourage the people, “And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4, emphasis mine). The unknown is frightening, but God promises to go with us and even to fight our battles,

So, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6, emphasis mine). When we attempt to face challenges on our own, WE WILL FAIL, but God will never fail us or leave us alone.

God has unlimited resources. When Syria harassed Israel, their efforts were constantly thwarted because God, through Elisha, warned the king of Israel before every attack. The king of Syria suspected that he had a spy within his ranks, but one of his servants told him about Elisha the prophet who warned the king of Israel ahead of every attack. Therefore, the king of Syria sent an army and surrounded Elisha’s house. “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And [Elisha] answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17, emphasis mine).

“And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 28:20, emphasis mine). David referred to the Temple Solomon would build. Solomon had the promise that God would not abandon him until the work was complete. Today, believers are the “living temples” of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). As long as God lends us breath, we have work to do “for the service of the house of the LORD.”

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness … For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:10, 13, emphasis mine). When we trust God, He is our strength and our help, He sustains us and holds our right hand.

 Jesus said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7, emphasis mine). God cares for all of His creation, even those we would count as insignificant. He knows us intimately, even to the most minute detail – the number of hairs on our heads. Since God cares so much for common sparrows, how much more does He care for those created in His image?

What Can We Do?

When Babylon conquered Judah, Nebuchadnezzar carried away the Jews in three deportations. Nebuchadnezzar set Gedaliah as governor over Judah after the third deportation to Babylon. They were going into captivity. In that circumstance, the people are encouraged to “fear not,” accept the situation, and it would be well with them. “And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you” (Jeremiah 40:9; 2 Kings 25:24, emphasis mine). God promises to be with us even in difficult situations.

Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “fear” (used twice in this verse) is phobeō, from which we get the English word “phobia.” Strong’s defines it this way: “to frighten, that is, (passively) to be alarmed; by analogy to be in awe of, that is, revere: – be (+ sore) afraid, fear (exceedingly), reverence” (emphasis mine). With that in mind, Jesus says not to fear or be frightened of those that can kill the body – that would include COVID-19. Rather, we should “revere” the One who ultimately determines our eternal destiny.

When Jesus selected His disciples, Luke records the account this way: “And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 5:10, emphasis mine). The world may be falling down all around us, but we are not to “shelter in place.” Jesus gave us the “good news” for us to share with those around us.

Jesus also said, “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:29-34, emphasis mine). We are not to be overly concerned with our material needs. Jesus promises that God will provide what we need.

 “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation [i.e., behavior/conduct] in Christ” (1 Peter 3:12-16, emphasis mine). When we are secure in the Lord’s care, we can be confident to face whatever the future may bring. When others see our confidence, they will want to know the reason for it, and we need to be prepared to give an answer.

 Conclusion:

We cannot stop 2023 from coming. We cannot alter the circumstances that 2023 will bring. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis mine). However, we can control our own outlook when we place our trust in God knowing that all things are under His control and that He cares for His own. Again, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, emphasis mine). Ultimately, we have the promise of eternal life with Him in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-5).

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 24:37-38

[2]  Genesis 6:13

[3]  Luke 17:28

[4]  Genesis 19:5

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The Fullness of Time

Adoration of the Child

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  (Galatians 4:4-5)

It’s that time of year again; Christmas is in the air. Regardless of your perception of Christmas – it’s too commercial, it’s under attack, it’s just a pagan celebration dressed up in Christian garb, etc. – it is altogether appropriate that Christians set time aside to commemorate the first advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

At this time we remember the miraculous conception and birth of God made man (John 1:14), but too often our focus shifts away from the significance of that event to the sappy sentimentality of the Nativity scene. As sweet as the image of a cuddly infant lying in a feeding trough adored by loving parents and worshipped by shepherds and wise men may be, the fact remains that this baby was God clothed in human flesh. The thought that the Creator condescended to take the form of His fallen creation (Philippians 2:7) to redeem as many as would receive Him (John 1:12), should leave us awestruck.

This was no afterthought on the part of God. In my article, “Why Satan?,” I address the issue of why God allowed sin in the first place, but along with the possibility of sin, God provided a way out (Hebrews 4:3; Revelation 13:8). From the very beginning there was the promise of a Savior (Genesis 3:15). Eve understood this promise, and at the birth of her first-born she rejoiced, “and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD” (Genesis 4:1). The literal translation of the Hebrew actually says “I have gotten a man Yahweh (the Lord).” She believed that she had given birth to the Savior according to the promise of God. But the time was not right. God wanted His creation, man in particular, to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). Abraham “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (Romans 4:18).  That promise was not only for Abraham, “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). For “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). So, when the time was right, God entered the world He created (John 1:3) as a helpless baby – fully God and fully man – to give up His life to buy back and restore His fallen creation. “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).

Very soon, at the fullness of time, He will return for His own as He promised: “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 14:3). So, regardless of your perspective on Christmas, as Christians it is a good time to remember that baby in the manger was God who came to die for us that we may live with Him, and soon we will be with Him.

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Miracle of the Incarnation*

Baby Jesus in Manger

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”

(John 1:14).

At Christmastime many of us take time to reflect on the birth of Christ and the miracle of His incarnation; but His birth was not a miracle.  Jesus came into this world like billions of babies before Him and like billions of babies after Him.  Yes, the angels announced His birth to humble “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8), and some magi saw “His star in the east” and came “to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2); but His birth, as special as it was, was no miracle.  A line in a favorite Christmas carol says, “The cattle are lowing, the dear baby wakes; but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” That is a sweet sentiment, but it is completely false.  Jesus cried at His birth just like any other baby.  He wet and soiled his diapers, just like any other baby.  He took nourishment from Mary’s breasts as any baby would from its mother.  There was nothing miraculous in any of that.

The miracle was not in His birth, but in His incarnation as a zygote in a virgin’s womb.  Skeptics challenge this on the impossibility of a virgin conceiving without the natural function of a man, but the impossibility of such a thing is what qualifies it as a “miracle.”  Mary expressed the same concerns when the angel relayed the news of her impending pregnancy.  The angel assured her that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).  This was in keeping with and in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy saying “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).  Critics will point out that the Hebrew word translated “virgin” here is ‘almā, which strictly translated means “young woman.”  However, the translators of the Septuagint translated the same Hebrew word into the Greek parthenos, which has no other meaning than “virgin.”  This is the same Greek word that Matthew uses when he points to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold, a virgin [parthenos] shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Another problem arises with Jesus’ lineage.  He was prophesied to be in the line of David the king (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16).  This promise was confirmed to Mary by the angel Gabriel: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32).  Matthew presents an ancestral line (Matthew 1:1-17) that disagrees with the ancestral line presented by Luke (Luke 3:23-38).  Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, His adoptive father.  This line is the “legal” line to the throne of David; however, this line had been cursed by God at the time of Jehoiachin (Coniah) shortly before Judah fell to the Babylonian empire.  Jeremiah records: “Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man [Coniah] childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:30).  Luke, on the other hand, records Jesus’ genealogy through Mary who takes a branch through Nathan, another son of David.  This line escaped the curse.

That resolves the legality issue of Jesus’ right to David’s throne, but now we have another problem.  Since the conception was “parthenogenetic,” that would imply that Jesus received at least part of His genes (His DNA) from Mary.  Mary, being human, is under the curse of original sin, as we all are.  That being the case, Jesus could not be the sinless sacrifice required to atone for our sin.  The Roman Catholic Church recognized this dilemma early on and attempted to resolve the problem by proclaiming Mary sinless.  To achieve this status, they further proclaimed that she was immaculately conceived, i.e., she too was virgin-born.  That begs the question then, how was Mary immaculately conceived, if her mother had a sin nature?  And what about her grandmother, and her great-grandmother, etc.  If one follows that line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, one comes to Eve in the Garden of Eden, and it is generally accepted that Eve sinned.  The solution cannot be in Mary’s sinless nature, for she, herself, was in need of a Savior.  “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47).

The truth is, that if one of Mary’s ova was used in the conception, Jesus would have inherited our sin nature.  Even half of a sin nature is full of sin for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).   In his book, The Chemistry of the Blood (Zondervan, 1943), Dr. M. R. DeHann attempted to resolve this problem based on the idea that it is the blood that makes atonement for sin (Hebrews 9:22).  He concluded that since the embryo develops its own blood, and since there is no blood exchanged between the embryo and its mother, therefore Jesus’ blood was sinless.  At first sight, this may look like a good solution, however, the embryo develops its own blood based on the genes that it gets from its parents.  There is no DNA in red blood cells, but there is DNA in an ovum, and Mary’s ova were contaminated.

The only reasonable solution that remains is that Jesus’ earthly body was a wholly (and yes, “holy”) and unique creation without the inherited sin nature of any human parent.  Understandably, the objection immediately arises that He, therefore, could not really be considered fully human.  To answer that objection, we must recall the creation of the “first Adam” (Genesis 1:27; 2:7).  God created man from the dust of the ground, including his DNA.  There was no human agent required for this process.  It should not be a stretch, therefore, to accept that God created an entirely new body for the “Second Adam.”  It should also not stretch the imagination, in our technological age, to understand that this new creation was implanted into Mary’s womb to be carried to term.  Mary was the “surrogate” mother of Jesus.  She contributed none of her DNA to give Him life, and therefore she contributed none of her sin nature.  Mary’s little lamb was truly “without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19).  Conceived in this way He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26), and because He developed in the womb from a zygote, He was “made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).  Jesus understood this. Once …

While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.  Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.  But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?  And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother (Matthew 12:46-50)

There is substantial scriptural support for the argument that Jesus’ body was an entirely new creation.  He “was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).  Before His condescension, in conversation with His Father “he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me” (Hebrews 10:5).  It was the Divine plan from the beginning that the Savior “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) would come to be the ransom for our sin.  Paul tells us that “The first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy: the second man [Jesus] is the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47).  John tells us that “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14).  This is as it should be “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

The miracle was the incarnation, not the birth.  It is an awesome thing to consider that the Creator of heaven and earth, would prepare for Himself a body of the same kind as His creation, begin life as a single human cell, go through the process of development in the womb of a virgin girl, pass through the birth canal, gasp for His first breath, grow up as a child and experience all the bumps and bruises of growing up, grow into manhood, only to give His life in the place of His fallen creation, so that we might experience life eternal with Him.  Who could conceive such a plan except a loving God!  It is too marvelous for words.

Merry Christmas!

*NOTE: This article was inspired by my Sunday school teacher and friend, Henry M. Morris III, D.Min., in a lesson he presented to our class on December 16, 2012.  Dr. Morris is CEO of the Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, Texas.

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I’m Thankful

Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)

We have once again arrived at that time of year when we set aside a special time to give thanks to God for all the blessings He has lavished on us. We can focus on the commercialization of the season; following right on the heels of that demonic “holiday” that glorifies death (which is highly commercialized). The focus then quickly changes to the “Holidays,” formerly known as Christmas, without even a cursory mention of Thanksgiving Day. Over the years, I have beaten this dead horse with no sign of revival. I have come to the realization that “it is what it is,” so all I can do is practice what I preach regardless of what others do.

Four years ago, I wrote “One Was Thankful” where I detail the attitude of gratitude, so there is no need for a rehash here. I would encourage my readers to follow the link and read the article. I think I did a fair job of handling the topic. In addition, I have other articles on Thanksgiving Day that I will share on Facebook throughout the week of Thanksgiving. For now, I want to share some of the things for which I am thankful.

First of all, I thank God for life. When God created man,[1] He breathed His breath into his nostrils.[2] What a precious gift, the breath of God, withheld from all other creatures. Only mankind has this special spark of life, and it is eternal. So special is human life that God demands capital punishment for that taking of human life. He even requires that of animals that take human life.[3] The psalmist put it like this: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:14). He goes on to describe God’s handiwork in the development of a baby in the womb,[4] which directly confronts those who would kill a baby at any stage of development. Every breath that I take, and every beat of my heart is a precious gift from God, which He can take whenever He wills.

Second, I thank God for eternal life. The Bible says that we all have sinned[5] and we are due the wages for that sin, which is death.[6] With no prospect of rectifying the matter on our own, God took on human flesh[7] and took the penalty of sin upon Himself in order so that we might be saved.[8] It seems too easy, but our only requirement is that we believe in Him and what He has accomplished by His death and resurrection by faith. I made that choice 66 years ago at the age of six and my faith in Him has only grown and has never disappointed. Because I know that my life is His, I know that when He comes to call His children home, or if He calls me home in death, I will be with Him for eternity in a place that I am sure is far more beautiful than that the Apostle John could describe.[9]

Third, I thank God for my wife. She blesses my life daily and has done so for over 34 years. I know she truly loves me even when I am not so loveable.

Fourth, I am thankful for family. I am thankful for Christian parents that were instrumental in leading me to Christ. I am thankful for my brothers and sister who love the Lord and for the love we have for one another. I am also thankful for my wife’s family who has taken me in as a real part of their family. We are family! And I am thankful that we all love the Lord and share that common bond.

Fifth, I am thankful for my church family. In my many years as a Christian, I have found that whenever I am among Christian, even those I have never met, I am among family; I never feel out of place. That sense of family is exponentially stronger in our local church. There we do share one another’s burdens and rejoice with the joy of others. We are truly brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, I am thankful for all the “stuff” with which God has blessed us (June and me). We have a house, our home. We have two, not-too-old vehicles. We have no debt. We have more clothes than our closets will accommodate. We have plenty of food to eat. We are blessed with good health. We live in a wonderful town filled with wonderful people. All of these things, as described in the leading verse above, come from the hand of God who richly blesses us even though we are undeserving. When God has so richly lavished His love on us, spiritually and materially, how can we be anything but thankful! God is good, and I am so thankful for Who He is and for His love for me. He loves you, too.

Dear reader, do you know this great and loving God? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 1:26-28

[2]  Genesis 2:7

[3]  Genesis 9:5-6

[4]  Psalm 139:15-16

[5]  Romans 3:10, 23

[6]  Romans 6:23

[7]  John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-11

[8]  Romans 5:8

[9]  Revelation 21-22

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