Category Archives: Religion

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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No King In Israel

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

Thirty years after entering the Promised Land, Joshua died[1] without having accomplished that task God assigned the children of Israel, i.e., to rid the land of all its inhabitants. Even though God promised, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast” (Joshua 1:3-4). Before entering the Promised Land, Moses encouraged Joshua, “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Joshua further encouraged the people, “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land” (Joshua 1:13). The land was theirs for that taking. God had given it to them. They had only to “be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).

Accounts differ about the time it took for the “conquest” of the land. Joshua 18-19 records the dividing of the “inheritance” which took place seven to eight years after they crossed the Jordan.[2] In the process of conquering the land, the children of Israel made some compromises that came back to bite them,[3] and they became battle-weary of fighting giants even though God did most of the fighting for them.

Joshua was getting old, and God told him so.[4] He was 40 years old when he first entered Canaan to spy out the land.[5] God punished the children of Israel for their rebellion and unbelief by making them wander in the desert for 40 years. So by the time he entered the Promised Land, Joshua was already 80 years old. At the end of his life, Joshua was 110 years old[6] making his time in the land 30 years. In all that time, Israel failed to take the land God had given them. In that time, they forgot God’s encouragement not to fear. Joshua’s own tribe, Ephraim, complained, “And the children of Joseph [Ephraim and Manasseh] said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel” (Joshua 17:16). This was only seven or eight years after seeing all that God had done in the near past and now they feared the giants and their “chariots of iron”! And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only: But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong” (Joshua 17:17-18). However, they did not complete the task, choosing rather to live among the Canaanites.

Without taking inventory, much of the land God “gave” Israel remained unconquered and worse, they failed to dispel the Canaanites that lived in the land contented rather to dwell among the pagans, something God had warned against.[7]

Joshua died “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger” (Judges 2:10-12). It was not long, perhaps 40-70 years, and they forgot all about God.

By my estimation, the period of the Judges lasted about 467 years after the “conquest” of the land. In that time God would punish them for their idolatry by instigating their Canaanite neighbors against them. They would cry out to God, and God would send a “judge” to deliver them. Some of those “judges” were not all that upstanding. For example, Gideon, after defeating the Midianites, erected a golden ephod in his city, “and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (Judges 8:27). Then there was the womanizing Samson, a Nazarite,[8] who killed a lion with his bare hands and later ate honey out of the carcass of the animal and shared it with his parents.[9] Touching dead animals violated the Mosaic Law[10], especially for a Nazarite.

The Book of Judges is a tragic history of Israel’s constant fall into idolatry and their rejection of God. The history ends with a sad account of a Levite that traveled to Bethlehem to retrieve his concubine (not wife) that had been unfaithful to him.[11] The woman had fled to her father’s house and the father was happy to entertain the Levite for several days before dismissing him to return with his concubine. They left late in the afternoon arriving at Jebus (Jerusalem) as it was getting dark. A man offered them lodging for the night and while they were there, some “sons of Belial” (worthless fellows) of the tribe of Benjamin came asking for the traveler so they might have sex with him. The man of the house begged them not to do such a wicked thing and offered them rather his daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The men settled for the concubine and raped her all night long. In the morning, the Levite found her dead at the doorstep. In anger, he took up his concubine and carried her body home. When he got home, he cut her body up in twelve pieces and sent the dismembered body to all the tribes of Israel. That incited all the tribes of Israel to come against Benjamin to seek a settlement for the wrong done. However, Benjamin would not turn over the violators and refused to repent. The dispute ended in civil war and the near destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. Out of 25,100 fighting men of Benjamin, only 600 escaped alive. The rest of Israel mourned the desolation of Benjamin and the possibility of losing one of Israel’s tribes. The other tribes had sworn not to give any of their daughters to the Benjamites because of their wickedness, but their complete annihilation was inconceivable. Their resolution was to have something like a Sadie Hawkins dance where they permitted the Benjamites to come and kidnap their daughters. Sad, but true, and “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Toward the end of the period of the Judges comes the account of Ruth, a young Moabitess that lost her husband, Malon (meaning “sickly”) and returned with her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem. There she met Boaz, who was Naomi’s “kinsman-redeemer.” By law and by custom, Boaz was obligated to marry Ruth and “raise up seed” to his deceased next of kin, Malon. This he willingly did. As we read the account, Boaz was smitten with Ruth when he first laid eyes on her. Anyway, Boaz married Ruth, and she became the great grandmother of King David.[12] More than that, she entered the lineage of King Jesus.

Israel’s history is one of constant rebellion against God, but it is also a tribute to God’s patience, faithfulness, and love in spite of our rebellion and rejection. Beginning with the Fall, God had a plan for man’s redemption.[13] I think about our nation. This year marks 400 years since the landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. Are we any different than the Israelites? Think of all God has given us. Think of all His blessings to our nation, and think of how we have rejected Him. No, we are no different. The Wuhan bug that threatens our lives and our economy has us hiding in our dens afraid to come outside for fear of catching Covod-19. Some say this is a punishment from God. Some hope that it will bring revival to our land. However, I have serious doubts about that. Remember how church attendance spiked when many feared the end of the world from Y2K? Remember how church attendance jumped after 9-ll? Those “revivals” were short-lived. We cannot even attend church services now, yet I know attendance at “cyber church” is at an all-time high. Praise the Lord! Some are being saved, however, once this is all behind us, things will return to normal and our nation will return its own form of idolatry – professional sports, entertainment of all sorts, the worship of money and material things, etc.

We are no different than the children of Israel. However, our God, is the same God of Israel. He is patient, faithful, and loving, and His plan is nearing its completion. Consider the world-wide effect of this pestilence. Think about the increased number and intensity of earthquakes in different places on the planet. Have you heard about the swarms of locust devastating crops in Africa and moving north? These are just some of the signs Jesus gave concerning the “end of days.” Soon Jesus will return and Eden will be restored. Are you ready to meet King Jesus? If not, visit my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Joshua 24:29

[2]  “The Conquest of Canaan” – https://www.thesacredcalendar.com/book-of-joshua-conquest-of-canaan/

[3]  Unsanctioned (by God) alliances (Joshua 9)

[4]  Joshua 13:1

[5]  Numbers 13:8,16

[6]  Joshua 24:29

[7]  Deuteronomy 7:2-4

[8]  Numbers 6:2

[9]  Judges 14:5-9

[10]  Leviticus 5:2

[11]  Judges 19-21

[12]  Ruth 4:17-22

[13]  Genesis 3:15

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Stewardship

The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

When the topic of stewardship comes up in church, it typically comes up around the time of funding the next year’s church budget. The pastor usually brings a sermon encouraging church members to faithfully tithe – give 10% of their income – to the church. However, stewardship has almost nothing to do with tithing, although tithing is certainly a part.

A “steward,” by definition is a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another. A steward is also a person who has charge of the household of another, buying or obtaining food, directing the servants.

We find the first example of a steward in the Bible in Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2). He was steward of Abram’s household and heir apparent of Abram’s possessions since Abram at that time had no children. After Isaac, the promised son, came along and after Sarah died (Genesis 23:1-2), Abraham sent Eliezer to Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son, Isaac (Genesis 24). The responsibility was unimaginably great, and Abraham entrusted Eliezer with great wealth trusting that God would direct him to the perfect bride. This was no small trust!

The second example of a steward in the Bible is Joseph, who was sold into captivity by his brothers (Genesis 37:28). In Egypt, Pharaoh’s Captain of the Guard, Potiphar, bought Joseph (Genesis 37:36) as a household slave. Soon, Joseph showed his worth and Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household. “And it came to pass from the time that he [Potiphar] had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field” (Genesis 39:5, emphasis mine).

Jesus offered two examples of stewards. In one parable, the master gave differing amounts of money to his three stewards to manage (Matthew 25:14-30), and he went off on an extended journey. When he returned, the ones to whom he gave five and two talents respectively doubled their master’s money, but the one to whom he gave only one talent did nothing with the talent and returned to his master the original amount.

In the second example, a “nobleman” gave his ten stewards equal amounts of money (Luke 19:11-27) and left on an extended journey to claim his kingdom. Seven of the ten refused to accept him as king when he returned and paid for it with their lives. One steward took what his master entrusted to him and returned ten times the amount. A second took the “pound” he was given and return five times the amount. The third did nothing with his charge and lost his position as a steward.

From these examples, we learn that the steward possesses nothing of his own; rather, he manages the possessions of his master. More than that, the “good” steward makes a profit for his master and increased the master’s wealth.

In a similar sense, we are the stewards of all that God has put into our possession. We own nothing. It all belongs to God, and we are responsible for everything He has placed in our trust. This not only applies to our money, but it includes our time, our family, and material possessions. It also includes how we relate to those around us, our government, and our environment – God’s creation. Everything that God has placed in our realm of influence is our stewardship responsibility. One day, maybe very soon, the King will return from His extended journey, and He will expect an accounting of all that He has entrusted into our care. Will we respond like the unfaithful stewards and return to Him only what He gave us?

Now, in regard to the tithe and in light of what has been presented, giving 10% of our income back to God is a small thing. Consider that all that money you earn is not really your own. From where do your abilities to earn income come? Who ultimately provided you a job? Everything, according to our lead verse (Psalm 24:1), everything belongs to God. He could demand that you return everything to Him with interest, but He does not. He only asks for 10% to test your faithfulness and your trust in Him for your provision. This too is stewardship.

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A Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:


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

[2]  Genesis 1:27

[3]  Genesis 17:1-14

[4]  Genesis 27: 4, 19, 25, 31

[5]  Luke 16:19-31

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Priests and Wine

And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: (Leviticus 10:8-9)

As a young adult being away from the watchful eye of my preacher father, I developed a problem with alcohol. No, I did not become an alcoholic, nor did I develop a habit of getting drunk – very often. I joined the Navy just before my 20th birthday, and I easily passed for 21, so I never encountered problems gaining admittance into bars. As a sailor, I felt encouraged to behave like a sailor and hit the bars with my Navy buddies. I tried hard not to allow myself to get drunk because I had seen how foolish drunks looked returning from “liberty” on a Friday night. I did not want to look like those guys!

The Holy Spirit strongly objects to His temples engaging in acts that do not pertain to them. As a result, I always experienced a twinge of guilt when I was out barhopping with my buddies. I could hear the Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, “My son, this is no place for you.” I attempted to atone for my sin by going to chapel on Sunday morning, but there I felt like a real hypocrite. As a result, I never felt comfortable in the bars or in church. I tried to rationalize my behavior by Scripture. The Bible does not say drinking is wrong. Even Jesus turned water into really good wine. The Bible only discourages getting drunk, and I was not doing that (except one or two times when a few got by me). However, the guilt never left me.

Finally, I yielded to the Holy Spirit. No more would I ride the fence. No longer would I “halt between two opinions.”[1] I determined never to touch any form of alcohol again, and so far, I have been faithful to that commitment. However, I still maintain that there is nothing “sinful” about having a glass of beer or wine with dinner as long as one practices moderation. Drunkenness is another matter altogether. Drunkenness is sin and is strongly discouraged in the Bible.[2] I have good Baptist friends who drink wine or beer occasionally, and I have no problem with that. If the Holy Spirit has not dealt with them as He did with me, what they do is between them and God. I love them and refuse to pass judgment on them. We are God’s children, and I think, as any parent, God deals with each one on an individual basis. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ … I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Romans 14:10, 14).

With that said, I would like to offer some food for thought and let the Holy Spirit use it as He sees fit. As I read the 10th chapter of Leviticus this week, I came across the instructions God gave to Aaron, Moses’ brother and newly installed High Priest. The instruction had to do with the priests that entered the Tabernacle to minister before the Lord. “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations” (Leviticus 10:8-9, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “wine” is yayin. It is “from an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication intoxication,”[3] The Hebrew word translated “strong drink” is shêkâr, which is “an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor.”[4] Clearly, this is not talking about grape juice. It is worth noting that the prohibition was against drinking wine or strong drink, period. It is also worth noting that the prohibition specified serving in the Tabernacle. (Later the same would apply to the service in the Temple.) The prohibition did not apply to them when they were “off duty.”

I found that interesting, but how does that apply to us? Some will rightly point out that this was Old Testament Law which no longer applies to Christians of the New Testament era. Is that so? To those who reject the application of the Old Testament to our lives, allow me to remind you of what Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). The New Testament did not exist when Jesus spoke these words; He referred to the only Scripture (Law) that existed in His time, the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul, who wrote 13 (arguably 14) of the New Testament books made countless references to the Old Testament. Every word of Scripture applies to us. We may be “under grace,” but that does not mean that the Law has become irrelevant. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Romans 7:7).

Well then, how does this prohibition given to Aaron and his sons, the priests of Israel, apply to us, who are “under grace”?

John, the beloved apostle, in his salutation to the seven churches of the Revelation said, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6, emphasis mine).

Later John observed the saints around the throne of God singing, “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). “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, emphasis mine).

Clearly, we who are born again (twice-born) and call ourselves “children of God” are “priests.” The job of a priest is to intercede between God and man (humans). A priest carries the petitions of man before God and takes the Word of God before men. Is that not what we do when we pray on behalf of others and share the Gospel with others? We are priests.

Now, as long as the priest is not ministering in the Tabernacle/Temple, he is free to drink wine or strong drink. So, we might assume that as long as we abstain on Sunday, when we go to church (the building), we are not in violation. Let us look at that a little closer.

In the Old Testament, God’s dwelling place was in the Temple. Even Jesus said as much. “And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him [God] that dwelleth therein” (Matthew 23:21). At the same time, Scripture is clear that God cannot be confined to a physical building.[5] “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet” (Acts 7:48, emphasis mine). “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24, emphasis mine). In the Old Testament, God’s presence manifested in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple even though He is not confined to any one particular place. This has to do with God’s attribute of omnipresence.

The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 A.D., so, where does God reside now? “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, emphasis mine). “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As Christians, we confess Jesus as our Lord (Boss) and Savior and that His Spirit dwells/resides within us. If that is true, then we are the dwelling place, i.e., the Temple, of the Holy Spirit, and we are living temples not “made with hands.” We also acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is fully God. Therefore, because God dwells in us, we are living temples of God. Does God only dwell in His temples sometimes or always? Always, of course. God promises, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5); therefore we are always His temples. At the same time, we are priests of God. We are priests occupying God’s temples continually. Since God prohibits His priests from drinking wine or strong drink while ministering in His temple, then it follows that we should abstain from wine and strong drink at all times. God has not abrogated this command simply because we are now living under the New Testament. Rather, the command has taken on greater significance. That is something to think about.

Notes:


[1]  1 Kings 18:21

[2]  1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:18

[3] Definition from Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6

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Stiffnecked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:


[1]  Exodus 7-12

[2]  Exodus 12:36

[3]  Exodus 14:10-31

[4]  Exodus 15:22-27

[5]  Exodus 16

[6]  Exodus 17:1-7

[7]  Exodus 20:22-23:33

[8]  Exodus 24:12-18

[9]  Exodus 32:10-14

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Imminent

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, gave a press briefing on Friday, January 10, 2020,[1] concerning increased sanctions for Iran following Iran’s rocket attacks on US bases in Iraq. At the end of the briefing, they opened the floor for questions from the press corps. As has become common practice these days, the questions coming from the Press avoided the topic at hand, and rather addressed the irrelevant question of the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Someone questioned the targeting of a “foreign diplomat,” and Pompeo pointed out that our intelligence found that Soleimani planned to strike our embassies in the area and that the threats were imminent. One genius fake news reporter challenged the Secretary, “What is your definition of ‘imminent’?” I had to laugh!

It comes as no surprise that the request for a definition of the word “imminent” should arise. The “left” in this country, and around the world, has become proficient in distorting the language so that words become whatever the user wants them to be. For example, “hate” means “to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward [something or someone]; detest [something or someone].”[2] However, for the left, “hate” means opposition to anything they favor. The practice of redefining terms probably started much earlier than this, but my first vivid recollection of this practice came at the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton. Remember his now infamous line? “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Words used to have meaning. However, in a day when biology no longer determines the sex of a person, words can take on whatever meaning the user wants them to mean. Not so with God. He emphatically states, “For I am the LORD, I change not…” (Malachi 3:6). The writer to the Hebrews says of God the Son, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Of His Word, Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).

The word “imminent” does not appear in the King James Bible; however, the concept is there. The word “imminent” means that something is “likely to occur at any moment.”[3] The precise moment of such an event cannot be known or determined. It could happen at any time. If one can know or determine the time of a future event, it is no longer “imminent” because it is now “expected.” The two words are synonymous, however with expectation comes the connotation of the precise timing and location of a future event. The expectation of an impending event allows for ample preparation. Jesus said, “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matthew 24:43). If the man of the house had “known” when the thief would come, he would have been “expecting” him and made preparations. The implication here is that the coming of the thief was “imminent,” not “expected.”

The fake news reporter exhibited her ignorance by asking Pompeo what he meant by “imminent.” Our military intelligence could not predict where or when Soleimani would strike, only that his intention was to strike soon. That made it imminent.

Christ’s return for His Bride, the Church, is imminent. It has been imminent for over 2000 years. Before His crucifixion, Jesus 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). Paul taught the imminency of the Lord’s return at “the last trump” when we would “not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,”[4] but he did not say when. It’s imminent. It could happen at any time. To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). His coming is imminent, like “a thief in the night.”

Unlike the “goodman of the house” in Jesus’ example who was unprepared for the imminency of the thief’s arrival, we have good reason to be expectant of the Lord’s imminent return. We cannot know the day nor the hour when the Lord will return.[5] It could be at any time. It is imminent. Therefore, we must watch expectantly, and make preparations.

We have waited for over 2000 years. How imminent can His return be? Many become discouraged at the delay, like the five virgins without extra oil for their lamps.[6] Such attitudes are to be expected. The Apostle Peter predicted, “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).

Many prophecies concerning “the last days” address Jesus’ return to set up His thousand-year reign on earth. The Old Testament contains most of these prophecies. Jesus spoke of these times in His Olivet Discourse,[7] and most of the Book of Revelation focuses on the time of Great Tribulation just before He returns. These prophecies provide great detail of the events that will transpire in “the last days” during the seven years[8] before the Lord’s return. However, no signs detail the “Rapture”[9] of the Church. We are told that it will happen, but we are not told when or how; it’s imminent. The Rapture[10] must take place before the time of Tribulation “For God hath not appointed us [His Church] to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

So, although we have waited more than 2000 years for the Bridegroom[11] to come for His Bride (the Church), we can know the time is near. How? We can know because of the convergence of the end-time signs. Israel, because it is the focus of all end-time prophecy, and the events surrounding Israel, is our primary sign. None of the end-time prophecies can come to pass without Israel being in her place. Of the rebirth of Israel, God’s “fig tree,” Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). We are that generation. It has been almost 72 years since Israel’s rebirth, and according to the psalmist, a man’s life is between 70 and 80 years (Psalm 90:10). There are too many signs to include in this article, but the fact that Israel is in place makes all the other signs that much more relevant. The signs tell us the end is near, so the Rapture of the Church is more imminent now than ever before. It could happen anytime now.

Notes:


[1]  Press Briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTCErLFbu4Q

[2]  Hate: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/hate?s=t

[3]  Imminent: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/imminent?s=t

[4]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53

[5]  Matthew 25:13

[6]  Matthew 25:1-13

[7]  Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21

[8]  Daniel 9:24-27

[9]  End-Times 101 – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/06/10/end-times-101/

[10]  End-Times 102 – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/06/17/end-times-102/

[11]  Matthew 25:1-13

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