Category Archives: Resurrection

The 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)

My twice-brother and I engaged in a discussion a few nights ago concerning the meaning of “the soul.” What is the soul? Most people think of the soul as the spiritual essence of a person. The English dictionary seems to support that view:

noun

  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: arguing the immortality of the soul.
  3. the disembodied spirit of a deceased personHe feared the soul of the deceased would haunt him.[1] et al. (emphasis mine)

Our English language (especially American English) has “evolved” considerably since the founding of the United States, so I thought it might be interesting to see how the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defined “soul.” I found the following definition:

SOUL, n.

  1. The spiritual, rational and immortal substance in man, which distinguishes him from brutes; that part of man which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government. The immortality of the soul is a fundamental article of the christian [sic] system. Such is the nature of the human soul that it must have a God, an object of supreme affection.
  2. The understanding; the intellectual principle. The eyes of our soul then only begin to see, when our bodily eye are closing.
  3. Vital principle. Thou son, of this great world both eye and soul.
  4. Spirit; essence; chief part; as charity, the soul of all the virtues. Emotion is the soul of eloquence.
  5. Life; animation principle or part; as, an able commander is the soul of an army.
  6. Internal power. There is some soul of goodness in things evil.
  7. A human being; a person. There was no a soul present. In Paris there are more than seven hundred thousand souls. London, Westminster, Southwark and the suburbs, are said to contain twelve hundred thousand souls.[2] et al. (emphasis mine)

The idea that the soul is the immaterial “substance” or “essence” that animates us enjoys a long history of support, but I think there is more to the soul than that. Normally, the first and second definition listed in a dictionary provides the general understanding of the word. However, in this case, I prefer the seventh definition provided by the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary. It basically says that “the soul” is a human being or a person, and I believe I can show scriptural support for that idea.

The best place to start is at the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “God,” ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, is a plural noun. We understand God as Triune being – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three persons (we say) in one “Godhead.” We simply say “God,” but we understand His Triune nature.

God created humans according to His image. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis mine). All humans bear the “image of God” and share many of His attributes albeit without the “Omni” prefix. It follows that we too possess a triune nature (more on that later).

As we examine the creation account, we see that God created all living creatures by divine fiat, i.e., He spoke them into being. However, He took special care in creating man. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine).

Humans and air-breathing animals possess the “breath of life.” The Hebrew word neshâmâh is defined as: “a puff, that is, wind, angry or vital breath, divine inspiration, intellect or (concretely) an animal: – blast, (that) breath (-eth), inspiration, soul, spirit.”[3] We see in Genesis 7:22 that animals possess the “breath of life.” That phrase is also found in Genesis 6:13 and 7:15, but the Hebrew word for “breath” there is rûach, which means: “wind; by resemblance breath, that is, a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions): – air, anger, blast, breath, X cool, courage, mind, X quarter, X side, spirit ([-ual]), tempest, X vain, ([whirl-]) wind (-y).”[4] Both neshâmâh and rûach are similar in meaning, but the latter includes the idea of a “spirit.”

To further confuse matters, Genesis 2:7 says that “man became a living soul.” The word “soul” is the Hebrew nephesh, which is defined as: “a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental): – any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, X dead (-ly), desire, X [dis-] contented, X fish, ghost, + greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, X jeopardy of) life (X in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortality, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thy-) self, them (your) -selves, + slay, soul, + tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, X would have it.”  It is not difficult to see that nephesh is related to neshâmâh in that both carry the aspect of “breathing.” However, nephesh includes the physical aspect of the creature.

Both man and animals possess a nephesh. The Hebrew word first appears in Genesis 1:20. “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (emphasis mine). The Hebrew words translated “hath life” are nephesh chay (life), or “soul life.” Also, the following verse reads, “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). The Hebrew word translated “creature” is nephesh. I could give more examples, but I want you to stay with me on this.

We see that both man (humans) and animals have souls – nephesh. What differentiates a human soul from that of an animal is the way in which it was given. Recall earlier that God created animals by divine fiat. He also created them en masse. Man was unique. He created one human couple. He did not speak them into being as he did with the animals. He “formed” man – the Hebrew word yâtsar meaning to mold as a potter forms and shapes a clay vessel. Then God breathed into man His own breath “and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

Looking back at the 1828 Webster’s definition of “soul,” the seventh definition becomes clear here. The clay figure on the ground came to life when God breathed into it, and he became a human being, a person, a living soul – made in the image of God, with a triune nature like his Maker.

So, what is the triune nature of man? As I see it, just as God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, man is mind, body, and spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the God, or the Godhead if you prefer. The mind, body, and spirit is the soul. God has a physical body. That body is the Son, Jesus Christ. The other two “persons” of God are immaterial and invisible – the Father and the Holy Spirit. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18, emphasis mine). Likewise, the mind and spirit of the soul are immaterial and invisible, but the body reveals the soul. We have all heard the expression, “The eyes are the windows to the soul;” the eyes are physical, but they often reveal what is “inside.” In summary, the soul is the entire being or person, mind, body, and spirit.

We can know that the soul is more than some nebulous ethereal, intangible animator of our being by the consideration given “the soul” in Scripture. For example, when God called Abraham (Abram) out of his homeland, we read, “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came” (Genesis 12:5, emphasis mine). Those “souls” (nephesh) were not disembodied spirits; they were people. When Abraham went down to Egypt he told Sarah (Sarai), “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, emphasis mine). Abram was not thinking of his “spirit being;” he wanted to save his own skin! That nephesh refers to the whole person is clearly demonstrated when Abraham went to rescue his nephew Lot from the marauding kings of the north. “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” (Genesis 14:21, emphasis mine). The word translated “persons” is the Hebrew word nephesh.

Another part of the nephesh is the “mind.” We find that example when Sarah died, and Abraham negotiated for a plot of land in which to bury her. “And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar” (Genesis 23:8, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “mind” is nephesh.

I could cite many more examples, but these should suffice. The point is that we do not have souls; we are souls. Each soul made in the image of God is a triune being with mind, body, and spirit. For a soul to exist, all three must be present. Take away any one of the three, and the soul (at least in this present life) ceases to exist. A soul is immortal; it exists forever. However, because of Adam’s sin in the Garden, the physical part dies even though the mind and spirit continue; the soul is incomplete. At the end of time, the mind, body, and spirit will reunite for eternity, but not all souls will enjoy the same destiny. Some souls will live eternally in the presence of God; other souls will exist eternally separated from God in hell. Soul, where will you spend eternity? If you have doubts, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Dictionary.com – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soul

[2]  1828.mshaffer.com – https://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/soul

[3]   Strong’s Definitions: H5395

[4]   Strong’s Definitions: H7307

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Plant Death

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. (Genesis 1:29)

Plants do not possess life in the biblical sense. The Bible almost always refers to plant “death” as “withering.” The Bible says that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Plants do not have blood; therefore, plants do not have life, neither do they die in the biblical sense. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). Notice that he says that the grass “withers,” not that it dies.

If that is true, then why did Jesus say that a grain of wheat falling to the ground dies (John 12:24)? In this passage, the word “die” translates the Greek word apothnēskō. According to Strong’s (G599), the word means, “to die off (literally or figuratively).” Jude applies the same word to “trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 1:12, emphasis mine). The word translated “dead” is the same Greek word, apothnēskō, but note that it is associated with “withereth.” Therefore, death, in the Bible, can be applied to plants, but it is more in the figurative sense than in a literal sense.

Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24, emphasis mine). However, He used the word “die” in the figurative sense. He was referring to His pending death and resurrection. He was not using the word in a literal sense that a seed actually dies.

When a seed gets buried in the ground, it does not remain a seed. Rather, it germinates and transforms into a new plant that produces many more seeds. Similarly, Jesus died and was buried in the earth. On the third day, He came up out of the ground, and His resurrection produced eternal life for all who would believe on Him.

So, talk to your plants, if you like, but they really do not hear you. Plants are food, not pets.

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Nothing Changes!

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Nothing changes! Well, that is not exactly true. Many things change. The First Law of Thermodynamics informs us that matter/energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be changed. The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that everything is changing from order to disorder. I experience that every day as I endure the aging process.

However, humanly speaking with regard to our relationship with our Creator, nothing really changes. We may be more technologically advanced than past generations, but we still fall into the same sin traps that Satan sets before us. Nothing changes!

In the Garden of Eden, God gave only one command: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Satan’s strategy to bring about the Fall was simple: (1) Create doubt in God’s Word. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1). Not only does he challenge God’s Word, but also he purposefully distorts it to raise further doubt. (2) Challenge the veracity of God’s Word. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God said, “thou shalt surely die,” but Satan calls God a liar. (3) Character assassination of God’s character. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). In other words, God is keeping something good from you. God does not want the very best for you.

Nothing changes! Satan continues to use the same strategy: create doubt in God’s Word, deny the truth of God’s Word, and denigrate the character of God. Satan also employs tactics that take advantage of human frailties: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). This too never changes. In the Garden of Eden, Eve “saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [pride of life]” (Genesis 3:6, emphasis mine).

The Bible tells us that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine). Following His baptism by John the Baptist and in preparation for His earthly ministry, Jesus went off into the wilderness to fast and pray for forty days and nights (Matthew 3:13-4:11; Luke 4:1-13). At the end of the forty days and nights without food and very little water, Jesus was physically weak and vulnerable. Satan chose this time to attack with the lust of the flesh: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:3; Luke 4:3). Note that the question also challenges the Word of God: “If thou be the Son of God.” When that tactic failed, Satan tried to seduce Him with the lust of the eyes: “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (Matthew 4:8; Luke 4:5). Not only did Jesus see all the glitz and glamour the world offered, but this overture also exploited the pride of life. The final attempt to cause Jesus to fall involved the pride of life because it challenged Jesus’ position as the Son of God. “And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:9-10).  Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine).

Nothing changes! Satan still uses the same strategy and attacks our human weaknesses just as he has from the beginning of time. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Satan knows that. He hates God, and he hates that which God loves. Therefore, he does all that he can do to keep people from knowing the truth that God loves them and wants them to have eternal life. Nothing changes! Satan still employs the same strategy, and humans still have the same weaknesses. However, things can change when “whosoever believeth in Him.” Jesus beat Satan at his game in the wilderness. He paid the ultimate price for our sins with His shed blood on the cross. He broke the chains and the power of death when He rose from the dead on the third day.

Nothing changes unless we are willing to believe and place our faith and trust in Jesus. Then everything changes! “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). If you want to do that, here is what you need to do:

  • A. Admit/confess you are a sinner: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • B. Believe that Jesus is Lord and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
  • C. Call on the name of Jesus for salvation. Confess and believe (Romans 10:9-10 above) and ask Jesus to save you. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). “…for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

There is nothing hard about this. It is as easy as ABC; however, it is not a magic formula. The decision must be heartfelt and sincere. God knows your heart. He is not fooled by empty words, but if you mean it, God is faithful, and He will keep His promise.

Nothing changes? Well, maybe today it can change for you.

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Not Here

At the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:6)

Mohammad’s bones lay at rest in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the “Mosque of the Prophet”) in the city of Medina, Saudi Arabia. They cremated Buddha’s body and divided his ashes among several Buddhist temples in Asia. The remains of Confucius reside in a grave in his hometown of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. The remains of these and others are enshrined by the followers of the religions they founded, and the location of their tombs are known. Followers of these various religions can point to the tombs and say, “Here lies so-and-so, founder of religion ‘you-name-it.’”

However, Christians cannot make such claims. Two main sites in Jerusalem vie for the claim of Jesus’ burial place: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb. The former glitters with gold and looks nothing like a burial place. The latter is located in a quiet garden and is virtually unadorned. It is in a place a short walk from a hillside whose face features two prominent grottos that remarkably resemble two eye sockets of a human skull. Of the two sites, the Garden Tomb seems more likely to be the place where Jesus was laid according to Scripture. “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand” (John 19:41-42, emphasis mine). The Garden Tomb is very “nigh” to the place of the skull, so it seems more likely the right place.

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

Regardless of one’s preference for one site over the other, the fact remains that both tombs are empty. Those who refuse to believe, continue to fabricate all kinds of conspiracy theories as to what became of Jesus’ body. This has gone on since the empty tomb was first discovered. “Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch [the Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb] came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:11-15, emphasis mine). All of these conspiracy theories about Jesus’ missing body have been thoroughly debunked.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
(Matthew 28:6)

The truth remains, Jesus’ tomb is empty because He rose from the dead on the third day just as He said, and according to the Scriptures. Furthermore, He is coming again very soon. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine).

 

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End of the World

Tares – a kind of darnel, resembling wheat

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (Matthew 13:41)

In the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus relates several parables illustrating the “kingdom of heaven.” Beginning with verse 24, He compares the kingdom of heaven to a field that a farmer sowed with wheat (“good seed”). Then at night, while the farmer slept, an enemy came and sowed tares in the same field. The tares to which Jesus referred were probably some kind of darnel that looks much like wheat before it matures. Once it matures the difference becomes obvious.

The farmer’s hired hands detected the tares early on and reported their discovery to the farmer. “So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?” (Matthew 13:27). They suggested pulling out the tares to keep the wheat from being stunted. The farmer wisely told the workers to leave them alone lest they accidentally pull up some of the wheat. Once the crop matured, the wheat would be separated from the tares and the tares would be burned.

Jesus compared the field to the world. He, “the Son of Man,” is the field owner that sowed the good seed. One commentator suggested that the “good seed” is the Word of God and the “bad seed” – the tares – is false doctrine sown by Satan, the enemy. There is an element of truth in that interpretation; however, it is not interpretation Jesus gave. Jesus said, “the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38). The enemy is the devil who sowed the tares – products of his false doctrine no doubt – and the reapers are the angels (Matthew 13:39).

Jesus portrays the image of the world where His “seed” and Satan’s seed exist together.[1] Often, and sadly, they are indistinguishable from one another. Jesus says that “the harvest is the end of the world” (Matthew 13:39). This cannot be the Second Coming of Christ, because when He comes again, He will set up His kingdom on earth (Revelation 19:11-16), and He will reign for 1000 years (Revelation 20:4).

The “end of the world” comes after the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. “But the rest of the dead [the tares that died prior to Jesus’ Second Coming or were killed in the battle of Armageddon] lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5, emphasis mine). “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison” (Revelation 20:7, emphasis mine). Satan then incites many on earth to rebel against the rule of Christ, but the insurrection ends quickly (Revelation 20:9).

The tares – “the rest of the dead” – are raised and brought before “a great white throne” (Revelation 20:11) to be judged. Many today hope that on “judgment day” their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds on the great cosmic scales. Indeed, good and bad will be judged.  “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” (Revelation 20:12, emphasis mine). “The books” contain the life record of every individual that ever lived – both good deeds and bad deeds. “The dead,” i.e. the “tares,” are judged by the content of their books. Note that the “good seed,” i.e. the “wheat,” are not being judged. They were “gathered up” before the 1000-year reign and ruled with Christ for the 1000 years (Revelation 20:4).

James says that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [sheol – “the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:13, emphasis mine). No one will be found guiltless. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). To be fair, none of us can live up to such strict standards, so “the tares” are given one final test. Their names are checked against the Book of Life,[2] “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15, emphasis mine).

That is the end of the world, but it is not the end. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

Reader, is your name recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Has Satan filled your mind with false teachings and turned you into a tare? While there is breath in your body, you can alter your destiny and secure your name in the Book of Life. Call on Jesus; He alone can save you. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). For more information, read my page on Heaven from the tab at the top of this page.

Notes:


[1]  “Tares Among the Wheat” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2013/05/19/tares-among-the-wheat/

[2]  “The Book of Life” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/02/03/the-book-of-life/

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In the Twinkling of an Eye

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

For several years now, but more so lately, the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ, occupies my mind almost constantly – hopefully not to the point that I am so heavenly minded that I am no earthly good. As a matter of fact, the prospect incites a sense of urgency within me to share, or better, to warn, the lost around me, especially my loved ones, of the menacing peril that looms ahead for those left behind when Jesus returns for His Bride, the Church. Anyone rejecting Christ, whether by choice or by ignorance, faces seven years of unimaginable horror on earth, until Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to claim His Kingdom on earth for 1000 years (Revelation 20). During that awful period of seven years, people will still have the opportunity to repent and follow Jesus, but they may have to pay for that choice with their lives.

For believers who share my anticipation, I wonder what our call to “come up hither” (Revelation 4:1) will be like? In the starting verse above, the Apostle Paul says that we, if we are not “asleep,” will “be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).  The Greek word translated moment is atomos, from which we get our English word “atom,” and it signifies the smallest, indivisible amount of time. Paul further defines the “moment” as “the twinkling of an eye.” The twinkling of an eye is faster than “the blink of an eye” which is 100-400 milliseconds.[1] I read somewhere that the “twinkling of an eye” is the amount of time it takes for light to enter the eye, hit the retina, and reflect back out;[2] it is a ridiculously small amount of time.

Paul tells us this event takes place “at the last trump.” John the Revelator, who enjoyed a “sneak preview” of this future event, said, “the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither” (Revelation 4:1, emphasis mine). Will we hear an actual trumpet call and automatically understand that we are being called home? In another place Paul says that, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, emphasis mine). Will everyone on earth hear the sound? Perhaps they will, but only those for whom the call is intended will understand the meaning. I recall that when Jesus called Paul into service, “the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man,” (Acts 9:7, emphasis mine). In another place Paul says, “they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me” (Acts 22:9, emphasis mine). The connotation here is that, even though they heard the sound, they did not hear the voice with understanding. The communication was intended solely for Paul and no one else. That is what I think will happen at the Last Trump. Those who are His “sheep” will hear and understand the voice of the Shepherd. The rest may hear something, but not know what it is.

When that call comes, “the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, emphasis mine). In the twinkling of an eye, the decayed bodies of all the saints who are “asleep” (i.e., dead) will be reconstituted, and they will burst forth from their graves and take flight to meet Jesus in the air. In that same instant, “we [who are alive] shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51); in the twinkling of an eye, our bodies will be transformed from mortal to immortal. Will we feel it? What sensation will we experience? Suddenly all aches and pains will cease. Wrinkled skin will return to the firm supple skin of our youth. Grey hair will return to its former natural vibrancy. Heads of skin will be restored to their former glory – without the dandruff! I imagine myself in front of the mirror checking my “gig line.” I look down to check a button I missed, and when I look back up, I am staring at my 30-year old self with a full head of wavy hair! Then in the next moment, my clothes fall off as I pass right through the roof of my house. I look down and watch my house grow smaller and smaller as I zoom skyward like in a Star Wars movie. I look up and see Jesus standing there in space with open arms to welcome me, and I look around me and see millions of others wearing white robes like mine going the same direction I am traveling – toward Jesus. And no one is old. No one is disfigured. No one is bent, broken, or blemished in any way. All those I see are perfect creations like the first pair God made in the Garden of Eden. It will happen in the twinkling of an eye!

Not everyone on earth will go. Behind will be all those who rejected God’s free gift of salvation to face the horrors of hell on earth for the next seven years. Reader, if you have not asked Jesus to be your Savior, you will be included with those who are left behind. Do not let another day go by without asking Jesus to save you. Invite Him into your heart today. In the twinkling of an eye, that matter will be settled, and you can rest secured in His love. Do it now!

Notes:


[1]  “How Fast Is a Blink of an Eye?” http://sciencing.com/fast-blink-eye-5199669.html/, accessed 04/18/2017.

[2]  Question posted at https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/48664/how-long-would-it-take-for-light-to-go-through-a-human-eyeball-and-back-to-the-o/, accessed 04/18/2017.

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Risen Indeed!

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:14)

It has been 1,987 years since Jesus gave His life on the cross and rose again, and many in the world today still deny the fact. This denial began with one of Jesus’ own disciples. “The other disciples therefore said unto him [Thomas], We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25, emphasis mine).

Thomas needed physical evidence in order to believe, and many today still want to see some physical manifestation. They want to see a miracle, experience a “feeling.” or suddenly speak in an unknown language in order to believe. Eight days later, Jesus granted Thomas’ request, but also lovingly reprimanded him for his lack of faith. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine).

For those that demand evidence, God provides abundant evidence, however, “they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). Let us briefly examine just some of the evidence.

First, there is the evidence of an empty tomb.  No court in the world will try someone for murder without a dead body. Where is Jesus’ body? Where are His bones? Not long ago, an ossuary was found in Jerusalem supposedly having the inscription “Jesus son of Joseph,” but that was soon proven a hoax.[1] Besides that, many fail to understand that “James, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary” were very common names in those days, so the inscriptions prove nothing. However, an inscription found on another ossuary said “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” This may indeed contain the remains of James the brother of Jesus.[2] However, the fact remains that the tomb (and there are several suspected) which temporarily held Jesus’ body remains empty.

No body means no victim, and for this reason many suggest that the crucifixion never really took place. One rumor suggests that the betrayer, Judas, was crucified in Jesus’ place and that Jesus walked away free. Those same people are the ones looking for His bones in ossuaries. Muhammad is buried in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Confucius’ body rests in his home town of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. Buddha’s cremated remains (the “relics”) are distributed among several stupas. Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í faith, is buried in Bahji near Acre, Israel.[3] Two main tombs in Jerusalem compete as the burial place of Christ, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb, but both remain empty.

Second, many eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive the third day after His crucifixion and other times thereafter. The four Gospels report that the women (disciples also) that followed Jesus discovered the empty tomb first (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-2, 11-18).  Luke records that Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). Those two return to report to the eleven (Judas had taken his own life because of the guilt he felt for betraying Jesus), and while they gave their report, Jesus appeared to all of them (Luke 24:33-43). John’s account notes that Thomas missed that first appearance (John 20:19-25). All of this happened on Resurrection Day. The next Sunday, Jesus appeared to them again, but this time Thomas, the doubter, was in the group of disciples (John 20:26-29). Thomas’ doubt transformed into belief, “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:28, emphasis mine).

Jesus had many “disciples” (both men and women) besides the twelve “apostles” composing His core group; so when the Gospel writers talk about disciples, they likely include the many that followed Jesus during His ministry on earth. The word “disciple” literally means “student,” so the number of eyewitnesses went beyond the core group. Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, there were many that could testify to His resurrection. The Apostle Paul asserts “After that, he [the risen Christ] was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6, emphasis mine). At the time of Paul’s writing the letter to the Corinthians, there remained many eyewitness that could attest to the resurrected Lord. The Law says that “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15), and Jesus had more than 250 times the number of witnesses required by the Law. Paul himself, never having known Jesus during His earthly ministry, met the risen Christ as he traveled toward Damascus to persecute the followers of The Way. Of all the witnesses, he says of himself, “And last of all he [the risen Christ] was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not [worthy] to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9, emphasis mine). Despite the abundance of eyewitness, some hold to the silly notion that all these witnesses experienced mass hallucinations. Seriously? I will not dignify that with a response!

Third is the matter of the radical change in the lives of all of the disciples. Immediately after Jesus’ arrest, they all went into hiding. Mark, probably writing for Peter, remembers Jesus’ arrest: “And they all forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50, emphasis mine). Mark probably witnessed this firsthand. Speaking of himself in third person (out of embarrassment I am sure), he says, “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked” (Mark 14:51-52, emphasis mine). Peter, who boasted, “… If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all” (Mark 14:31, emphasis mine) was the first disassociate himself from Jesus with a verbal denial despite Jesus’ warning. “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matthew 26:34).  Faced with the challenge of making a public declaration of his association with Jesus, Peter succumbed to fear. “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75, emphasis mine).

Shortly after Jesus appeared to them, the disciples maintained a low profile. They met secretly in the Upper Room and evangelism never entered their minds. At first, they must have wondered if they had all experienced a mass hallucination. The Gospels give no indication that Jesus met with them regularly following His resurrection. Indeed, some could not believe their own eyes with those brief encounters. “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17, emphasis mine). Jesus was alive, but so what! The Jews would kill anyone proclaiming Jesus’ name. Not surprisingly, the disciples wanted to get things back to “normal.” “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3, emphasis mine).

These cowering, fearful men were not likely candidates to “have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) with the message of a risen Christ. Even with their firsthand encounters with the risen Lord, they dared not speak out. These (“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emphasis mine)) would not put their lives on the line for the risen Christ whom they, as John put it, “… have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1, emphasis mine). Why would they put their lives on the line for what they knew to be a lie? Yet only fifty days after the Crucifixion, at Pentecost, these same men boldly stood in Jerusalem and proclaimed the risen Savior to every tongue and nation (Acts 2:1-5). The fear of death no longer silenced them. When commanded to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, emphasis mine). What made the difference? They saw and handled the risen Christ, and they experienced His power, the Holy Spirit, indwelling their lives. Christ is risen indeed!

Reader, we cannot see or handle the risen Christ, but we have the empty tomb. We have the written testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses. Men and women who would rather die than deny what they had witnessed firsthand. We have the continuing witness of the living body of Christ, the Church. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine). You and I are they “that have not seen.” To us Jesus says, “… be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27). Christ is risen indeed. One day, very soon, He will return to reclaim His creation as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Be sure you are ready to meet Him.

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus’ tomb story: Does the evidence add up?” (http://www.icr.org/article/1063/386), accessed 04/14/2017.

[2]  Jackson, Wayne. “The Jesus Ossuary Inscription.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 14, 2017. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/578-jesus-ossuary-inscription-the, accessed 04/14/2017.

[3]  “Burial places of founders of world religions,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burial_places_of_founders_of_world_religions, accessed 04/14/2017.

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