Category Archives: Heaven

Fear Not!

For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. (Isaiah 41:13)

In all my threescore and ten years I have not seen the kind of fear that grips our nation today. I grew up during the Cuban Missile Crisis and remember duck-and-cover drills in school, but I do not remember experiencing fear over it. To me, they were no different than fire drills and I thought it was fun to take a break from schoolwork.

Further along, I remember the Civil Rights marches and the Vietnam War protests, but they were far removed and affected me little. Soon the war called my number and I joined the Navy to do my part, but there was no fear in that either; I was just doing my duty as an American.

Our nation has gone through a lot in my lifetime, but never have I experienced the kind of fear that seems to permeate every pore of our society these days. First, the Wuhan Bug attacked, and we were frightened into sheltering in our homes and told not to come out unless absolutely necessary and then only when fully masked and with a good supply of hand sanitizer. So dreaded was the pandemic that churches shut their doors, as mandated by governing authorities, for fear of spreading the virus and of suffering repercussions at the hands of the authorities. Imagine Christians being jailed for practicing their faith! Unheard of! (Tongue firmly implanted in cheek!)

On top of all that, violent riots are breaking out in large cities all over the nation, and the authorities in those cities purposefully allow the riots to continue unabated while threatening churches and church leaders if they open the doors. The reprobate leaders in those cities want to comply with rioters’ demands to defund the police, but turn a deaf ear to Christians wanting to go back to church. Law-abiding citizens fear for their own safety because of the rampant violence taking place and the fear that they cannot count on police protection. Gun sales are up as citizens arm up to defend themselves from the lawless ones.

I completely understand why fear grips non-Christians. This life is all they have. Their only hope is what this life can give them, and they want to get as much out of this life as they can because there is nothing else. The Wuhan Bug and the lawlessness in the streets threaten the only life they know. Their world has been turned upside down, and it now comes down to survival of the fittest, the law of the jungle. That is a scary thing!

What I do not understand is Christians buying into the fear. Part of the reason, I believe, is that our churches have acquiesced to unlawful edicts[1] rather than obeying God’s directive to assemble.[2] I heard a sermon illustration once about the need for Christians to gather regularly. The preacher described a blazing bonfire with many logs piled high on it. But if you pull out one single log and set it off by itself, it quickly goes out and grows cold. That applies to a Christian that does not participate in regular church services with fellow believers. When Christians meet, we encourage one another. We share our needs and our praises with one another. We pray for one another and encourage one another. We lift our voices to God in praise together. That does not happen when the doors of the churches are closed. Yes, we can listen to our own pastors, pastors of other congregations, and any number of great Bible teachers on the internet, but that does not take the place of face-to-face fellowship. As a result, we lose courage and become fearful just like the rest of the world. Don’t you know? That is exactly how Satan likes it. As long as our churches remain closed, Satan is happy.

Why should a Christian succumb to fear? God has not given us a spirit of fear![3] Jesus said, “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4-5, emphasis mine). So what if COVID-19 kills you! If you are a Christian, what does that mean for you? Or, are you so tied to the world and the things of this world that you would rather forgo heaven just to hang on to your stuff a little longer? Maybe heaven is not your home after all.

The first time God uttered the phrase “fear not” in the Bible, He said it to Abraham “saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1, emphasis mine).  As our “shield” God protects us from incoming missiles, even the Coronavirus. Do we believe that or not? A friend and fellow blogger commented on an article I shared recently.[4] She told me that her church opened its doors,[5] but soon thereafter, three of their congregation died from the virus and four were hospitalized and several in the church staff were infected. I do not know, but I suspect that her church has an aging congregation that is high-risk to begin with, and the fact that those in her congregation were infected does not necessarily mean that they caught it at church. Maybe they were, and maybe they weren’t. We all live in a fallen world, and therefore we are vulnerable to the maladies thereof. Another factor that must be considered is that this sampling is a minuscule part of the overall population of the United States and not representative of the entire populous. Numbers from the CDC indicate that deaths from the Wuhan Virus are extremely low, less than one percent.[6] Those that die from it have, in one way or another, already compromised immune systems. The median age of death from the virus for those over 59 years of age is 78 years old. Coincidently, the average lifespan in America is 78 years. This is not to minimize the value of every human life. Every life is precious to God, but the saints especially. Most of the saints I know would rather be “absent from the body and present with the Lord.”[7]

The second time God uses the phrase “fear not” is to Hagar after she and Ishmael were banished from Abraham’s camp.[8] God assures Hagar that He heard Ishmael’s prayer and He provided for her water in the desert. If God can hear the prayer of one without the camp, how much more will He not listen to the prayers of His own and provide for their needs? If we pray for God’s protection over our congregations, do we not believe that He will protect and provide for us?

On another occasion “Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Exodus 20:20, emphasis mine). Could COVID-19 not be a test for the churches of God to “prove” them to see if they “fear” Him enough to obey Him rather than lawless men?

After Israel came into the Promised Land before they had kings, God said to them, “And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice” (Judges 6:10, emphasis mine). The “gods” of the Amorites were not imaginary; they were real demonic spirits that were worshipped by the Amorites. The problem with Israel was not the Amorite gods; it was their disobedience to God whom they should have feared. The Coronavirus is real, but we should not be in fear of the virus; we should fear God and obey Him rather than men.

Later on, Israel – the Northern Kingdom – found itself threatened by Syria, but the Prophet Elisha warned the king of Israel about the threat. When the Syrian king learned of the source of the “leaks,” he surrounded Elisha’s house to kill him. Elisha’s servant feared for their lives when he saw they were surrounded, but Elisha was unafraid. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16, emphasis mine). Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes be opened and when God answered, the servant saw a greater army of angels surrounding the Syrian army. Is this just a fanciful story or does God still command an innumerable host of angels ready to protect His churches? Why are we fearful?

Must I go on? “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you” (Isaiah 35:4, emphasis mine). Jesus Himself 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). It is long past time for churches to stand up to unlawful decrees, reopen the doors, and obey God rather than men.

Reader, if you are fearful in these days, you can find your security in God. Trust Jesus to save your soul and keep you safe in His arms. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Higher Powers” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/07/19/higher-powers/

[2]  Hebrews 10:25

[3]  2 Timothy 1:7

[4]  “Churches Aren’t Avoiding Death By Keeping Doors Closed. They’re Ensuring It

[5]  Read her comment here: https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/08/13/churches-arent-avoiding-death-by-keeping-doors-closed-theyre-ensuring-it/

[6]  Watch this report by Steve Deace on the BlazeTV (may require subscription): https://www.blazetv.com/watch/channel/series/series/5qrRSBLHHW7g-steve-deace-show/episode/43-ruvwuy6vllw9-overtime-a-coronavirus-quiz-81220?t=0

[7]  2 Corinthians 5:8

[8]  Genesis 21:17

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, Heaven, Satan, Theology

So Ready!

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

With everything taking place in our nation and across the world, I yearn with an aching heart for Jesus to call His children home. The event known as the Rapture captured my imagination almost 50 years when Hal Lindsey came out with his book, The Late, Great Planet Earth. Ever since, I have waited expectantly wondering if this could be the year.

Not long after reading Hal Lindsey’s book, I got married, started a family, and became very preoccupied with making a living and all that goes along with that. Thoughts of the Rapture came infrequently, but they never left my thoughts altogether.

Things back then did not seem as bad as they appear today. Roe v. Wade was a terrible decision by the Supreme Court, but as bad as that was then, it does not compare to the butchery taking place now and all that goes along with that. Homosexuals coming out of the closet disgusted us, but as long as they were not “hitting on” us, we could tolerate them. That sprouted into all kinds of perversion we see today that even involve young children. Today the “alphabet movement” demands that we accept their perversion as “normal.” They have even infiltrated elementary schools to indoctrinate our children into their deviance by teaching little ones that their gender is their choice, not a biological fact. What did Jesus say about those who harm little children? “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2).

Add to all of that the violence in the streets of our cities – as in the days of Noah.[1] Then we have the Wuhan pandemic plaguing the world, and recently I heard from an unverified source that Russia plans to release COVID-20 which is supposedly worse. On top of that, we have a rapid degeneration of relations with China, and with Russia that some fear could lead to war. Meanwhile, in the Middle East where end-times prophecy focuses, the stage continues to be set for the end-times wars outlined in the book of Ezekiel.

It is not so much that all these things are taking place, but that they are accelerating at a rapid pace. What we see is what Jesus described in Mathew 24. However, what Jesus described was the Tribulation,[2] “the time of Jacob’s trouble,”[3] prophesied by Daniel.[4] Jesus referred to the time of His return to earth to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The prophet Jeremiah called it “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” God changed Jacob’s name to Israel,[5] and he was the father of the twelve tribes that composed the nation of Israel. Furthermore, the angel instructed Daniel that “Seventy weeks [or 70 x 7 or 490 years] are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city…” (Daniel 9:24, emphasis mine). The first 483 years ended when Jesus was crucified. One final seven (years) remains to be fulfilled; that is the time of the Tribulation. The book of Revelation outlines in horrific detail the events that will transpire during those seven years. However, the point here is that the time of Tribulation is for the sake of Israel (Jacob). More could be said about this, but that is not my intent here.

The Church is not Israel. The Church has not replaced Israel as some wool-clad wolves are saying. The time of Tribulation is not for the Church. The purpose of the Tribulation is for the saving of Israel and for God to keep His promises to Israel. The Church will be removed before the Tribulation begins at the Rapture!

Many argue that “Rapture” is found nowhere in the Bible. That is true. The English word “rapture” is not in the Bible, but the source of the word is. The Greek word Paul uses to describe this event is harpazō.[6] It means “to seize, carry off by force,” or “to snatch out or away.” The KJV translates to “be caught up.” The Latin Vulgate Bible translates the word as “rapturo,” from which we get our English word Rapture.

There are several examples of people being “caught up” in the Bible: Enoch[7] and Elijah[8] in the Old Testament, and Philip[9] in the New Testament. In fact, harpazō is the word used for Philips catching away. Paul tells us that we will not all die, which seems to contradict what is said in the Letter to the Hebrews. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, emphasis mine). That is generally true; however, there have been and will be some exceptions. Remember, Enoch and Elijah did not die, and we who are alive at the time of the rapture will not experience physical death.

We cannot enter the presence of God in our sinful bodies. Paul reminds us that we will not all sleep, i.e., die, “but we shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51). “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). We need uncorrupted, i.e., “sinless” bodies to stand in God’s presence. Paul says that the time is coming when the trumpet will sound and Christians who have died will come up out of their graves, then those of us who are alive at that time will be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (that’s really fast).[10] Then he says, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, emphasis mine). Note that we go “to meet the Lord in the air;” He does not come down to earth. The Rapture is NOT the Second Coming.” That event happens at the end of the Tribulation.[11] This is the Rapture of the Church.

I believe the Bible teaches that the Rapture of the Church takes place before the seven-year Tribulation. The Tribulation is for the salvation of Israel. The Church is saved through the blood Christ shed on the cross. There are no signs for the Rapture. All the signs we see are for the Second Coming of Christ, which is preceded by the seven-year Tribulation. That we are seeing the beginning signs for the Tribulation should alert us to the proximity of the Rapture. The signs we see now are just “the beginning of sorrows,”[12] i.e. birth pains. Just as birth pains begin infrequently and sporadically and gradually increase in frequency and intensity, in the same way, the signs of Jesus’ Second Coming will grow in frequency and intensity until He returns. However, the Rapture comes first, and it could happen at any time.

I am so ready! I often wonder what it will feel like for my body to change instantly into a sinless, flawless, immortal body with a full head of hair and the body of a 30-year-old! Then to zoom through the roof of my house or car leaving my old rags behind and clothed in a sparkling white suit of clothes to meet Jesus somewhere out in space. Can you imagine that! I am so ready!

How about you? Are you ready to meet Jesus in the air? You do not want to go through the Tribulation. If you think this world is bad now, you ain’t seen nothing yet! If you are not sure, you need to settle that right now. Please visit my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 24:37-39; Genesis 6:5, 11-12,

[2]  Matthew 24:21, 29

[3]  Jeremiah 30:7

[4]  Daniel 9:24-27

[5]  Genesis 32:28

[6]  1 Thessalonians 4:14

[7]  Genesis 5:24

[8]  2 Kings 2:11

[9]  Acts 8:39

[10]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53

[11]  Revelation 19

[12]  Matthew 24:8

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The First Day of the Week

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. (John 20:1)

The unbelieving Pharisees sought a sign from Jesus proving His credentials. “But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas [Jonah]: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40).

Most of us know the historical account of Jonah the rebellious prophet of God who ran in the opposite direction of where God had sent him. God has a heart for the lost. The Bible tells us that “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). So, God commanded Jonah to go preach to the wicked Assyrians, the mortal enemies of Israel, in Nineveh. These were mean people that tortured and abused their victims harshly. All the neighboring nations feared and hated them, and Israel was next on their menu. Jonah wanted nothing to do with them, and he especially did not want God to bless them in any way. So, rather than obey God’s command, Jonah boarded a ship bound for Spain (Tarshish).

You know the story. God sent a storm that put the ship in danger. Jonah confessed of his rebellion to the crew and they tossed him overboard to appease the Lord, quiet the storm, and calm the sea. The second chapter of Jonah describes the “sign” to which Jesus referred.

God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. Much ink has been spilt in attempt to identify the creature that swallowed Jonah. Some think it could have been something like a whale shark; they certainly are large enough to swallow a man whole. Others propose it was a whale, but a whale is not a “fish” and the Hebrew uses another word for whale, tannı̂yn, which means “sea monster,” or any large sea animal like a dragon or sea serpent. But the Hebrew word used, dâg, means “fish.” If the scholars would just listen to me I can easily resolve the question. The “fish” resembled nothing that we might recognize because the Bible says that God “prepared” this fish specifically for this occasion. The Hebrew word “prepared” is mânâh and it also means “to weigh out; to allot; to appoint.” God designed this fish for an appointment with Jonah.

It is difficult to imagine any man surviving the ordeal of being in the belly of a fish for three days. It seems from Jonah’s prayer that perhaps he actually died. He says, “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice” (Jonah 2:2). The Hebrew word translated “hell” here is she’ôl, the “abode of the dead.” It was understood to be the place where the spirits of the dead resided. The Greek word for the same place is hadēs. Jesus referred to this place when He spoke of the rich man who died and went to “hell” (hadēs).[1] Jesus said that when the rich man arrived in this place, “…he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:23-24). Obviously, the man, though he was physically dead, retained all of his senses.

Likewise, Jonah describes his experience in Sheol. He says, “For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple” (Jonah 2:3-4, emphasis mine). Jonah sensed the separation, yet he maintained the hope that one day he would see the “holy temple.”

Jonah prophesied in Israel, the Northern Kingdom, which had no temple. The only Temple resided in Jerusalem, so it seems that Jonah referred to the Holy Temple in heaven of which the earthly Temple was modeled.

Jonah also hints of his death when he says, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God” (Jonah 2:6, emphasis mine). The word “corruption” (Hebrew: shachath) can also be translated “destruction.” Jonah continues, “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple” (Jonah 2:7). Again, Jonah’s prayer ascended to God’s Holy Temple in heaven.

Jonah died in the belly of the fish, and God revived him after three days and three nights.[2] In like manner, Jesus said He would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights and rise again.

Jesus died on the cross on Passover. He was our Passover Sacrifice.[3] His death paid the debt of our sins. They buried Him before sundown on Passover and rolled a heavy stone over His tomb. Pilate sealed the tomb with his official seal and posted a Roman guard to watch and ensure that no one tampered with the sepulcher.[4] Then, after three days and three nights in the grave, like Jonah, God raised Jesus from the grave on the first day of the week. Jonah died again eventually, but Jesus lives on. Forty days following His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven[5] where He awaits His return to this earth.

The “sign of Jonah” was for the unbelieving Pharisees, who, after His resurrection, continued in their unbelief. The validity of the sign continues even unto our generation. Christ has risen. The tomb is empty. Doubters continue in their rejection hoping that one day someone will find His bones and say, “Here He lies!” But they fail. One day, maybe soon, they will gaze into the sky and behold Him in all His glory “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Reader, if you are not prepared for that day, please see my page “Securing Eternal Life” before it is too late for you. And as Jesus said, “be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).

Notes:


[1]  Luke 16:19-31

[2]  Jonah 1:17

[3]  1 Corinthians 5:7

[4]  Matthew 27:62-66

[5]  Acts 1:3

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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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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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