Category Archives: Hell

The Devils Believe!

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)

I do not run into many Christians these days except at church or at the Christian ministry where I work. Oh, I am certain that they are out there, and it is possible that I encounter them everywhere I go; I just cannot tell them apart from non-Christians. A recent Barna study[1] on the state of the Church in America revealed that while 75% of Americans pray to God, 35% attend a church service, 34% read the Bible, 19% volunteer at a non-profit, 18% volunteer at church, 17% attend adult Sunday school and 16% attend small group.

Judging from those statistics, it seems that at least ¾ of Americans acknowledge God. The 35% and 34% that attend church and read their Bible are pretty much the same group of people, so if we subtract them from the 75% who say they pray to God, that leaves 40% who acknowledge God, but there it ends. Just knowing about God or tacitly acknowledging Him gains no one entry into heaven.

James was brutally direct when he says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). Imagine that! The devils believe, and yet their destiny is sealed. To those who think that “knowing” God and “being good” should be sufficient, “Then shall he [Jesus] say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, emphasis mine). “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, emphasis mine).

The devil knows God better than any of us here on earth. The Book of Job records that Satan has direct access to God. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them” (Job 1:6, emphasis mine). The devil is an eyewitness to God’s creative power. In responding to Job’s questions, God replies, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7, emphasis mine). The “morning stars” are the “sons of God” (bene elohim), and they are the whole host of created angelic beings including Satan and all of his angels (demons). They witnessed God’s power in creation. As humans, we benefit from all that God has created, and we marvel at the incredible design in all that He has made; but no one saw Him do it – not even Adam and Eve. However, Satan and all of his demons were eye witnesses to God’s awesome power.

The devils believe, and they “tremble” before God. The Greek word translated “tremble” is phrissō, and it means to “bristle”, to “chill”, or to “shudder.” In other words, in the presence of God, they get goose bumps, their hair stands on end, and they shiver in fear. Jesus illustrated this fact when He confronted a “Legion” of them who had taken possession of a man. “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29, emphasis mine). They know Him, and they know His power. They also know what awaits them in the end. However, no matter how intimately they “know” God, their knowledge does not alter their status. They are doomed to hell.

Reader, do you know God? Do you believe that He exists? Do you even toss a prayer up to Him now and then? Perhaps you even “say grace” before you eat: “God is good. God is great. Let us thank Him for this food. Amen.” Maybe you even visit church from time to time – especially on Christmas and Easter. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). If that is all you have, you are in the same company with the devils, and their destiny is your destiny. However, while their destiny is fixed, you have a way out. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine).

“Believing in Him” means more than simply “knowing” about Him. Knowing God will not help the devils, because, while they acknowledge God as God, they do not “submit” to Him as Lord. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandmentsHe that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:15, 21, emphasis mine). The context within which James exposes the “belief” of the devils, he discusses how “true faith” (belief) is expressed. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works … But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18, 20, emphasis mine). True faith is demonstrated in a tangible ways, not for show nor under duress, nor as a sense of obligation, but out of a sincere love for the Savior, Jesus. Remember, the devils believe, but they are still bound for hell.

Notes:


[1] “The State of the Church 2016” https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/ – accessed 03/31/2017.

3 Comments

Filed under Christianity, End Times, Evangelism, Geology, Heaven, Hell, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation, Satan, Theology

Are You Good Enough?

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:13)

What will become of you when you die? That is arguably the most profound and important question one can ponder, yet it is probably the least considered. Perhaps the reason lies in the fear of the unknown.

Everyone, except perhaps for the very young, has experienced the death of a loved one, and witnessed the lifeless hulk of a once warm and animated person displayed peacefully in an ornate and satin lined casket. All that remains is a well dressed and made up, cold, waxy, empty corpse. Viewers often comment on his or her appearance noting how “life-like” they look without giving a thought to the departed’s final destination much less their own. That is something we do not like to think about.

Many people carefully plan for retirement by building up their nest egg to ensure they can meet their financial needs when they stop working. Others think they cannot afford to set money aside for their old age, and presume they will figure something out when the time comes. However, both planners and non-planners give more thought to retirement than they do to life after death. If pressed on the question of what happens after death they might say they do not know, or they might view death as “the end.” Those who suggest that death is the end are in denial, and they are lying to themselves. “[God] hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set [eternity] in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, emphasis mine). Every person alive, whether they will admit it or not, knows that this life – the life experienced in this physical body – is not all there is. Because they fear the unknown, many would rather not think about it hoping to cross that bridge when they come to it.

Some who have pondered the question of life after death think heaven and hell might exist. They see hell as the destination for only the most evil of people, like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, mass murderers, child molesters, rapists, etc. Comparing themselves to these really evil people, they see themselves as prime candidates for heaven. When asked why God should allow them into heaven, they will provide a long list of their good deeds hoping that will suffice. However, if they compare their good deeds against the Ten Commandments, their shortcomings are soon exposed. With that realization, the hope then becomes that their good deeds will outweigh the bad.

John describes the scene in heaven at the end of time. He says:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:11-14, emphasis mine).

It does seem that all who die will indeed be judged “according to their works” by “those things which were written in the books.” I envision a detailed ledger book for every person who has ever lived. That book contains every act, good and bad, ever committed by every individual. As with any court of law, the defendant’s actions are measured against an objective standard – the law. In this heavenly courtroom, known as the Great White Throne Judgment, one of the books by which every individual will be judged is the Law Book – the Bible. God’s Word is His perfect standard by which every person’s works will be measured – good and bad. There is only one big problem. Only a perfectly lived life gains entry into heaven. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).

No one will be guiltless. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). But wait! There is still hope! “Another book was opened, which is the book of life … And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12, 15, emphasis mine). That means that if the defendant’s name is logged in the Book of Life, that individual will gain entry into heaven.

Reader, is your name written in the Book of Life? Do not think for one moment that your good acts will outweigh your bad. Many “good” people will end up in hell. Only perfection qualifies for entry into heaven, and according to the Bible, no one qualifies. There is only one way to have your name written in the Book of Life. “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31, emphasis mine). “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6, emphasis mine).

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Death, End Times, Evangelism, Gospel, Heaven, Hell, Religion, Salvation, Theology

Life on Other Planets

NOTE: NASA has no idea what these planets look like. This is the rendition of an artist’s imagination.

Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. (Psalm 148:5)

Recently the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) created quite a stir concerning the discovery of seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 System.[1] Several of the scientists are absolutely gobsmacked and giddy over the prospect of the possibility of life on these planets.

“For thousands of years, people have wondered, are there other planets like Earth out there? Do any support life?” said Sara Seager, astrophysicst [sic] and planetary scientist at MIT. “Now we have a bunch of planets that are accessible for further study to try to start to answer these ancient questions.”[2]

Given the propensity of these scientists to reject the supernatural creative acts of God, they understandably seek proof of spontaneous generation on other worlds where they are free to speculate to their heart’s content. Failing to prove evolution here on earth, they hope to prove it elsewhere where their speculations escape scrutiny.

It is bad enough that they suck the mindless masses into the void of fantasy, but sadly, many “Bible-believing” Christians get sucked into the same vortex. I received an email from such a one just recently that read as follows:

While I am in agreement with the thought that the universe is God’s creation I’m not sure I understand comments that suggest life is impossible anywhere else.  While we know the Bible is truth, there is truth outside of the Bible.  God may have created life elsewhere for His purposes, what am I missing?

The writer referred to an article recently published on the Institute for Creation Research website[3] about the seven newly discovered exoplanets.

While many cautiously practice speculating about non-disclosures in the Bible, danger lurks when personal opinions become truths that can lead the believer astray. So for this one, and others that may be going off on a tangent, I offer the following.

The best resource to address the question of life on other worlds is the Bible.

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29, emphasis mine)

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:18, emphasis mine)

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21, emphasis mine)

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25, emphasis mine)

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27, emphasis mine) Question: How many “images,” according to this verse, does God have?

And the Word [i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ] 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, emphasis mine)

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8, emphasis mine)

For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20-21, emphasis mine)

The Bible defines “life” more narrowly than how secular scientists define life.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11, emphasis mine)

For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. (Leviticus 17:14, emphasis mine)

Basically, no blood, no life. So, if the question has to do with “life forms” such as bacteria, plants, or things like that, it is possible that such things could exist on other planets. However, one must ask, what would be the purpose? God does not create anything without purpose. What was God’s purpose for creating here on earth? (By the way, bear in mind that God created earth before any of the other heavenly bodies.)

Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. (Isaiah 43:7, emphasis mine)

The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works. (Psalm 104:31, emphasis mine)

I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. (Isaiah 45:12, emphasis mine)

Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth. (Psalm 57:5,11, emphasis mine)

And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing. The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory. (Psalm 64:9-10, emphasis mine)

The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. (Psalm 97:6, emphasis mine)

Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. (Psalm 148:11-13, emphasis mine)

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it. (Isaiah 41:20, emphasis mine)

To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. (Isaiah 40:25-26, emphasis mine)

From the verses above, we see that at least part of God’s purpose in creation is twofold: for His glory and personal satisfaction, and so that man, whom He created in His image, can glorify God. Therefore, we must ask, how can we glorify God in that which we cannot observe? We continue to find more and more in the submicroscopic and subatomic levels right here on earth, so that we can marvel at God’s creation right here on earth. So, how would His purpose be accomplished by creating life on other planets beyond our observation? How can we glorify God about “life” of which we know nothing? (By the way, those NASA scientists are evolutionists. They do not believe in the Creator God of the Bible. They believe in evolution by “natural causes,” therefore, they “assume” that life “could” evolve on other planets. This is why they get so excited about the possibility. However, they have no rational basis to substantiate that belief. They cannot even prove life evolved here on earth.)

If we speculate that the “life” on other planets might be human-like, we need only to remember that humans were made in God’s image. That raises the question, in whose image were those creatures created? The question presents serious theological problems. Man’s sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) brought the curse upon all of God’s creation (Romans 8:22); therefore, those creatures would be under the curse of death too. However, Jesus died to redeem mankind, not Klingons or Vulcans. To redeem them, Jesus would have to die for each of those “races”, but the Bible says, “[We] are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10, emphasis mine). Jesus’ death on the cross was a one-time deal; therefore, Jesus’ sacrifice excludes Klingons and Vulcans. God is just and righteous in His judgment; therefore, I conclude that all life is here on earth alone.

Reader, if you reject the Creator God, you are just as alien to God as Klingons and Vulcans, and in grave danger of spending eternity in hell. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20, emphasis mine). “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” (Revelation 20:14-15, emphasis mine). There is a way of escape for you; however, you must decide. The Bible says, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21, emphasis mine). Do that now.

Notes:


[1] Probing the Seven Worlds with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/probing-seven-worlds-with-nasas-james-webb-space-telescope

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Seven Earth-size Planets Discovered: http://www.icr.org/article/9867

2 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Creation, Current Events, Death, Evangelism, Evolution, Gospel, Heaven, Hell, Origins, Religion, Salvation, Science, Theology

Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (7)

john11_1_raising_lazarus_bloch

Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? (John 11:40)

The events surrounding this seventh sign were previously covered in the discussion of Jesus’ fifth I AM statement:[1] “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26, emphasis mine).

Jesus “stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) as He made a stopover in Jericho along the way. The cross loomed ominous – less than two weeks away – when He received word from Bethany, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (John 11:3). It was Lazarus. The content of the message did not convey the gravity of the matter. “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4, emphasis mine).

However, it was “unto death,” and the Lord knew it. “When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was” (John 11:6, emphasis). After the two-day delay, Jesus “saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again … Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” (John 11:7, 11). Sleep, for someone who is sick, helps the healing process. The disciples understood this. They also understood that Jesus’ life was in peril in Jerusalem. “His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? … Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well” (John 11:8, 12, emphasis mine). Jesus completely knew and understood the situation although the euphemism escaped the disciples’ conscious thought, so to clarify, “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14, emphasis mine).

The small village of Bethany was about a day’s walk from Jericho. Lazarus probably died shortly after the messengers departed to Jericho. The travel took a day. Jesus delayed two days before leaving for Bethany and He took another day to arrive – four days total.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Martha met Him with the “news” that Lazarus had died (John 11:20). Mary followed Martha. “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:32). Both Martha and Mary believed that Jesus could heal the sick. They had probably witnessed many of His healing miracles, and perhaps they heard about or witnessed Jesus restoring life to the dead.[2] Those other resurrections Jesus performed involved someone who was dead just a matter of hours. However, it had been FOUR DAYS! They also believed that Jesus could raise the dead “at the resurrection” (John 11:24), but that was future. “Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already” (John 11:17, emphasis mine). FOUR DAYS! – “There is a tradition in Judaism (that still exists today), that the soul after death does not immediately depart the deceased, but hovers over the body for a period of three days, during which time resurrection is possible.”[3]

In the minds of Martha and Mary, Lazarus was too far gone for a resurrection now. They were resigned to wait until the resurrection at the end of time.

Jesus asked to see the grave (John 11:34), and to their shock, Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away from the opening. “Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39, emphasis mine). What was He doing? Did Jesus want a private viewing? By now, the process of decomposition would have caused the body to reek. Surely, Jesus could not bring life to a decaying body! “Jesus saith unto [Martha], Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? … And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:40, 43). The dead man responded, and though bound in grave clothes, walked out of the cave.

Jesus demonstrated His power over death. He said, “I AM the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25, emphasis mine), and He proved it by giving life to one for whom consensus offered no hope. FOUR DAYS dead and Jesus brought Lazarus back to the land of the living. From the beginning, Jesus knew what He would do. “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4, emphasis mine). Then before the skeptical crowd that included that included some of His harshest opponents (John 11:45-53) Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 11:41-42, emphasis mine).

Luke relays an account given by Jesus of a rich man that died and went to hell and a beggar by the name of Lazarus (different person) who also died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man in hell could see Lazarus enjoying paradise with Abraham. After failing get relief for himself, he requested that Lazarus be sent back to the world of the living and evangelize his brothers, for he thought, “if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent” (Luke 16:30). The brothers had the Law and the Prophets, i.e., the Bible. In other words, they had all they needed to avoid the same fate. Abraham’s response settled the matter. “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31, emphasis mine).  The truth of this assertion could not be better illustrated than in the reaction of the religious leaders that witnessed “one that rose from the dead.” Rather than believe in Jesus, who raised the dead, they sought to kill Him. “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death” (John 11:53). Not only that, but now Lazarus was a liability. “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus” (John 12:10-11, emphasis mine).

Truth is offensive. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). Many would rather destroy the Truth than submit to Him, but the Truth will not die. “And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves” (John 11:55). In a few days, Jesus would be put to death, but after three days, He would do an even greater miracle than raising Lazarus. Jesus Himself would conquer death and rise from the grave. Yet, many are not “persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” – Jesus Himself.

Do you believe? You have the Bible. You have the voices of thousands of “prophets” declaring the Word of the Lord. Jesus is not in the grave. What more do you need? This life you have been given is the only opportunity you will ever have to make that choice. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. “While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). After this life, there are no more chances. Jesus rose from the dead and lives forever to give us eternal life. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31), and you will not end up like the rich man being tortured in the flames (Luke 16:24) with no escape.

 Notes:


[1]  See: https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/10/02/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-5/

[2]  See Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56; Luke 7:11-16.

[3]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Jewish Studies for Christians, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2015), 184.

Comments Off on Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (7)

Filed under Bible, Christianity, Death, Evangelism, Gospel, Heaven, Hell, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation, Theology

Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (7)

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

A large sycamore tree grows in my front yard. Its large palmate leaves provide ample shade from the hot Texas sun, but that same Texas heat stresses the tree so that it drops many of its leaves in mid-summer, long before autumn when trees normally defoliate. It also drops limbs constantly making it a self-pruning tree that creates a lot of extra work for me. One thing I have noticed is that the leaves and branches that detach from the tree die. Even though they fall on fertile ground, they do not rejuvenate. Even if I “plant” them in the ground, feed, and water them, they will not take root. They remain dead. They only remain alive while attached to the tree.

Jesus had this image in mind in this seventh and final I AM statement recorded by John. He said, “I AM the vine.” When we think of a vine, we picture the entire plant: trunk or main stalk, limbs, branches, leaves, and (eventually) fruit. However, here Jesus refers to Himself as the trunk or main stalk of the plant. We do not need an advanced horticultural degree to know that the main stalk supports and provides nourishment for the entire plant. Part of the trunk is the taproot that reaches deep into the earth to draw nourishment for distribution to other parts of the plant. Jesus compares Himself to this vital part of the plant.

Next, He says, “ye are the branches.” I like the KJV use of “ye” that distinguishes the second person pronoun as plural as it appears in the Greek. Therefore, in speaking to His disciples, Jesus includes all believers. “You ALL are the branches.” He establishes a vital relationship here. The branches receive their sustenance from the trunk, i.e., “the vine.” The branches cannot live apart from the vine; detached from the vine, they die. Furthermore, the branch attached to the vine has the vine attached to it: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (emphasis mine). In a plant, it is easy to see a branch abiding on a vine, but a vine abiding in the branch is not so obvious. Vein-like vessels made up of xylem cells in the vine grow into the branch from the vine carrying the essential nutrients to maintain the branch alive, so in effect, the vine abides in the branches. Through this mutual attachment, the branches produce “much fruit.” I might be wrong, but only branches produced fruit, never the trunk of the plant; but without the trunk, the branches cannot live to produce fruit: “for without me ye can do nothing.”

Thus, Jesus invites us, the branches, to attach ourselves to Him, The Vine. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4, emphasis mine). What kind of fruit should a branch of The Vine produce? The Apostle Paul lists several. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance …” (Galatians 5:22-23), and add to that “righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9, emphasis mine). “Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:23). We cannot produce such fruit unless we are firmly abiding in and drawing nourishment from The Vine.

As I walk around my front yard picking up dead branches from my living sycamore tree, I gather those branches up and throw into the trash. If I lived outside of the city, I would throw them into the fire. In the same way, Jesus said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6, emphasis mine). Here Jesus refers to the final judgment where those who reject Him will be cast into hell for eternity (Revelation 20:14-15). In His sixth I AM statement, Jesus said He was The Life. By this, He meant “eternal life.” Apart from The Vine, there is no life, and Jesus said, “I AM The Vine.”

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Death, Evangelism, Gospel, Hell, Salvation, Theology

Rosh HaShanah

feast-of-trumpets

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.  (Leviticus 23:24)

Today, October 3, 2016, is Rosh HaShanah, the first month and day of the Jewish civil year. It is the seventh month (Tishri) of the ecclesiastical year which begins on Nissan 1, sometime in early spring.

Rosh HaShanah is also known as the Feast of Trumpets, and it is celebrated by the daily sounding of trumpets leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, ten days later. This year, that day begins on the evening of October 11, 2016.

Most Christians are unfamiliar with the Jewish feast days that are observed in keeping with the Law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. These are not your run-of-the-mill festivals. They were ordained by God and are collectively known as the “Feasts of the Lord;” therefore, they are solemn observations. The first four feasts occur in the spring beginning with Passover, and the last three take place in the fall ending with Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles (or “Booths”).

For the Christian, these feasts offer a picture of Christ. Jesus “fleshed out” the first four feasts at His first advent. Arguably, He has yet to fulfill the final three. Consider the following and how these feasts represent the ministry of Christ:

  1. Passover – Jesus is crucified as the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world.
  2. Unleavened Bread – Leaven represents sin. Jesus, with the sins of the world on Him, is removed from the “house” (Jerusalem) and buried outside the city walls in a tomb.
  3. First Fruits – This feast celebrated the “promise” of the coming harvest. It was observed by waving the first sprouts of the fields before the Lord. Jesus rose from the dead on this day with the promise of a great harvest to follow.
  4. Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) – Fifty days after First Fruits celebrated the barley harvest. Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after First Fruits, and 10 days later the Holy Spirit fell upon “the Church” – the disciples – and 3000 souls were saved that day (Acts 2:41) – truly a great “harvest.”
  5. Rosh HaShanah – The Feasts of Trumpets was a “Holy Convocation” and a gathering in of all of God’s people. Christians may see this as the “Rapture” where “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
  6. Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement was the day when the people of God repented of past sins and the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God to pour the blood of the sacrifice for the whole nation on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark contained the tablets of God’s Law that was violated, and the blood covered the infraction. Each Christian, being a “priest” (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6), now enters into the very presence of God offering the blood that was shed for them by Christ. Through His blood, our sins are covered, i.e. atoned for.
  7. Sukkot – The Feast of Tabernacles was a seven-day celebration remembering the time when God’s people were wandering in the wilderness dwelling in tents. Now they have come into the Promised Land and live in permanent dwellings. For the Christian, who are in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-16), this represents Christ’s reign on earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords beginning with His millennial kingdom on earth and beyond into eternity.

I’ve said this before. Each year around time, I start looking up and listening for the trumpet to sound. Yes, I know that the Rapture can occur at any time, but to me it seems logical that it would be consistent with God’s calendar. Of course, God is not obligated to follow my line of reasoning. At any rate, this time of year causes me to pray ever more earnestly that God would call us home and fix this really messed up world once and for all.

However, at the same time, it causes me even greater concern because I know that those who are left behind will literally experience hell on earth for the next seven years, not to mention for eternity. I have two sons with their wives that are lost and hell bound. My youngest son has two daughters, my granddaughters, that by now have reached the age of accountability. My heart aches for them knowing what is ahead unless they repent and turn to Christ as their personal Savior. I have nieces and nephews and other relatives who are lost. I have friends and acquaintances who are doomed to an eternity in hell. That is not a pleasant thought. So, on the one hand I long to go and be with the Lord right now, but on the other hand, I am deeply concerned for those that will be left behind. The longer the Lord delays His return, the more time and opportunity they have to alter their course.

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. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:9-10, emphasis mine)

On the other hand, the longer He delays the more time for unbelievers to scoff: “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 3:4).

Even so, come Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

Shanah Tovah!

3 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Evangelism, Gospel, Hell, Holidays, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ

Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (5)

resurrection-and-life

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life… (John 11:25)

“And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Jesus knew that the culmination of His earthly mission had arrived, and He was determined to see it through to the end. His journey up to Jerusalem took Him by way of Jericho where He healed the blind man, Bartimaeus (Luke 18:35-43), and “saved” the publican (tax collector), Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).

While there, possibly in Zaccheaus’ home, Jesus received word that His good friend, Lazarus, had fallen deathly ill. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (John 11:3). Bethany (John 11:1), where Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, lived, was just up the road from Jericho about a day’s walk. Answering the call would not have distracted Jesus from His determination to face the cross. Bethany was on the way up to Jerusalem, but “When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was” (John 11:6, emphasis mine). That seems like a strange reaction for the compassionate Jesus to take with regard to a “friend.”

“When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4). In reality, Lazarus probably died shortly after the delegation departed Bethany. It took them a day to arrive in Jericho. Jesus remained another two days before making trip up to Bethany, plus the day to travel there – four days. When Jesus arrived in Bethany, He was informed that Lazarus had been dead four days (John 11:39). Did Jesus err in His assessment that “This sickness is not unto death”? No, Jesus, in His omniscience, knew the situation perfectly. The delay would glorify the Son and bring glory to God. John points out that “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister [Mary], and Lazarus” (John 11:5), yet He delayed His departure.

When the day came to depart, Jesus’ disciples, vaguely knowing what awaited Him, tried to dissuade Him from going up to Jerusalem. “His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” (John 11:8), but Jesus knew what He was doing. “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). The disciples took this as a good sign. “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14).

As He approached Bethany, Martha rushed out to meet Him. “Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21, emphasis mine). How many times have similar sentiments been expressed at the death of a loved one? When the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, many demanded to know, “Where was God?” He was where He has always been – on His throne and in command. Even so, Martha expressed remarkable faith. “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” (John 11:22, emphasis mine). What could she have been thinking? Did she indeed believe that Jesus could raise her brother from the dead? This would not be something new. Jesus had raised the dead before: a widow’s only son (Luke 7:12-14), Jairus’s daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56),  and unnamed others. Nevertheless, this was different. Lazarus had been dead four days “when it was believed that resurrection was no longer possible.”[1]

“Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:23-24). Sure Lazarus would rise again, but not today. After all, he had been dead four days; his spirit had long departed. The resurrections Jesus had performed before where shortly after the victim had died. Common thought was that the person’s spirit lingered around a few days before finally departing. Raising the dead shortly after death was consistent with their tradition, but after three days, the spirit departed, and Lazarus had been dead four days. Sure he’ll rise again – at the resurrection!

I AM the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25, emphasis mine). Ego Eimi. I, I AM. As explained in recent “I Am” articles,[2] this phrase expresses the deity of Christ. Jesus was saying, “I, Yahweh, am the resurrection and the life.” The Greek word translated “resurrection” is anastasis and it means to “stand up again,” and “life” is the Greek word zōē meaning the very essence of life – that animating energy or force that goes beyond biological function. It is that “breath of life” given to man by God at the moment of creation (Genesis 2:7). That Jesus incorporated both “resurrection” and “life” recalls Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37). He preached to the dry bones and they came together. Flesh and skin formed upon their frame, but they did not stand until the breath of life came upon them, and they stood up.

Jesus, the Creator (John 1:1-3) not only has the power to create biological life, but He gives the very essence of life. All of it comes from the Great I AM. Because He is “the resurrection and the life,” “he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:26, emphasis mine). “Never die?” Jesus here referred to eternal life. We all will die physically as a result of the curse (Genesis 3:19; 1 Corinthians 15:22); however our “life” will continue in one of two destinations, either with God or apart from God. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14, emphasis mine). There are two deaths: one we all experience as physical death; the other death is eternal life in hell, apart from God. Those who believe in the Great I AM, will never experience that second death, i.e. “never die.” “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8, emphasis mine).

Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” “In him was life; and the life was the light of men …  He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not … But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:4, 10, 12, emphasis mine), and they shall never die.

Notes:


[1]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Tel Aviv, Israel, Jewish Studies for Christians, 2015), 190.

[2]  See esp. the 3rd paragraph of https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/08/28/jesus-seven-i-am-statements-in-john-1/

Comments Off on Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (5)

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Evangelism, Gospel, Hell, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation