Tag Archives: Christ

The Gates of Hell

The Gates of Hell, Caesarea Philippi

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)

Most of Jesus’ earthly ministry centered around the Sea of Galilee, aka the Sea of Tiberius, with His ministry headquarters at Capernaum. The furthest north He traveled, as recorded in the Gospels, was Caesarea Philippi, an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Formerly, it carried the name of Paneas in association with the Greek god Pan. Herod the Great erected a white marble (pagan) temple there in honor of Caesar Augustus in 19 BC. Philip II (the Tetrarch) founded the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus in 14 AD.[1]

Ruins of Temple of Augustus, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

Mount Hermon bears the ignominy of being the frequent site of pagan worship.[2] “In the Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Watcher class of fallen angels descended to Earth. They swear upon the mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and take mutual imprecation for their sin (Enoch 6).”[3] From a grotto at the foot of Mount Hermon used to issue a spring that has since stopped due to seismic activity.

Nahal Senir Spring formerly “Panias” for the Greek god Pan. This spring, one of three headwaters of the Jordan River, used to flow directly from the cave.

“The pagans of Jesus’ day commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves. To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld—the gates of hell. In order to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats.”[4]

The Gates of Hell, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

It was to this place that Jesus brought His disciples and asked, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13).  The disciples recited the popular rumors: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then, “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Without hesitation, “Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-18, emphasis mine).

Jesus then disclosed details of His coming crucifixion.  “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matthew 16:22). Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter in the harshest of terms. “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23, emphasis mine). Then to all Jesus counted the cost of discipleship. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25, emphasis mine). He closed the discussion with these words. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28, emphasis mine).

“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (Matthew 17:1, emphasis mine). The summit of Mount Hermon is 9,232 ft. (almost two miles) above sea level. From the “gates of hell” to the portal of the Watchers, Jesus ascended with His closest disciples; “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him” (Matthew 17:2-3.) The disciples were flabbergasted. They did not know how to respond or react to what they were witnessing. “Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (Matthew 17:4, emphasis mine). Perhaps because the mountain was littered with all kinds of shrines to pagan gods,

Niches to pagan gods at the Gates of Hell

Peter thought it would be appropriate to build something similar for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. A voice from heaven quickly put the kibosh on that idea.

A niche for a pagan god

“While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).

Gates are defensive barriers designed to keep out the enemy. The gates of hell are no different. Satan is at war against the Kingdom of God, and he erects all kinds of barriers to keep the Kingdom of God from the hearts of those who are perishing. Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Upon that confession – that “rock” – Jesus declared, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  All that they had witnessed would not be clear until after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  Peter later recalled, “… [we] were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. (2 Peter 1:16-18, emphasis mine).

On the mountain, Jesus received His marching orders, and it was time to storm the gates of hell. Luke records “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, emphasis mine). Jesus tore down the gates with His death, but more so with His resurrection. The gates of hell cannot stop His Church, and we have our orders: “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  “And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid” (Matthew 17:7, emphasis mine).


[1]  Caesarea Philippi – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarea_Philippi

[2]  Temples of Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_of_Mount_Hermon

[3]  Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Hermon

[4]  Ray Vander Laan, That the World May Know, “The Gates of Hell” – https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/gates-of-hell-article


Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Evangelism, Geology, Gospel, Hell, Religion, Theology

Jesus’ Brethren

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. (Mark 3:31)

One of the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church holds that Mary, the mother of Jesus, remained a perpetual virgin her entire life, but that is not what the Gospels teach. Here in this passage from Mark’s Gospel, as well as in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21, we see a different story.

According to Mark, Jesus had just selected His twelve apostles (Mark 3:16-19) and “went into a house” – probably Peter’s house in Capernaum right across the way from the local synagogue. Jesus had just completed a long day of healing the sick and casting out demons, and it was time to sit back and enjoy dinner with His disciples, but “the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread” (Mark 3:20). Among the crowd were “scribes which came down from Jerusalem” (Mark 3:22) accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of “Beelzebub.”

Jesus exposed the absurdity of their charge. “And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end” (Mark 3:23-26).

Then He made this seemingly unrelated remark. “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (Mark 3:28-29, emphasis mine). Note that Jesus, as God, spoke by His authority: “Verily [truly] I say unto you.” By leveling the charge that Jesus cast out devils by the power of Satan, the scribes blasphemed against God Incarnate. However, Jesus did not rain down fire on them for their blasphemy; instead, He overlooked it and only pointed out the absurdity of such a charge.

As Trinitarians, we believe in the three-in-one nature of God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It stands to reason, then, that blasphemy of one is blasphemy against all.  Then why did Jesus single out blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin? It is the role of the Holy Spirit to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He is “the Spirit of truth” which “will guide you into all truth, for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). Therefore, when the Holy Spirit speaks to a person’s heart and convicts that individual of the truth of the Gospel and his need of the Savior, and that individual rejects the message, he has effectively called the Holy Spirit a liar. That blasphemy cannot be forgiven.

About that time, Mary and her sons showed up from Nazareth. “There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee” (Mark 3:31-32, emphasis mine). Apparently, Jesus’ mother and brothers were well-known by the people. Later, when He returned to Nazareth “he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?” (Matthew 13:54-56, emphasis mine).

Jesus was “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18), but He was not the only child of Mary. Jesus’ response to the notification that His family was calling for Him strikes us as somewhat aloof. “And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?” (Mark 3:33). This was not the first time Jesus distanced Himself from His earthly family. Luke records the first occasion around the time of Jesus’ bar mitzvah. “And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the [Passover] feast” (Luke 2:42). In all of the festivities, the boy Jesus got separated from His parents. They were on their way back to Nazareth a day’s journey before they noticed the missing child. When they returned, they found Him three days later in the Temple discussing Torah and astonishing the doctors of the Law (Luke 2:46-47). Like any worried parents, they laid the guilt trip on Him for worrying them, but Jesus’ response expressed where His true loyalty lay. “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49, emphasis mine).

On another occasion at the beginning of His earthly ministry, He was invited to a wedding in Cana. During the festivities, the wine ran out, and Mary came to ask His help. Obviously, she had faith that He would resolve the problem. Jesus’ response to her comes across as rather detached. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). Yet, as any good son, He complied with His mother’s request by turning water into wine.

However, we should not conclude that Jesus held no affection for His earthly family. Indeed, one His final acts from the cross was to see to the care of His mother. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:25-27, emphasis mine). John, the disciple “whom He loved,” was a close relative, probably a cousin, whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother.

So Jesus’ response to the announcement that His mother and brothers were calling for Him should not be taken as lack of affection for His earthly family. No, Jesus had a greater lesson to teach. “And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!” (Mark 3:33-34, emphasis mine). Not all that sat in that place qualified for the privilege. Among them were those who blasphemed against Him by charging that His power to cast out demons came from Satan. However, many in the crowd did meet the standard as Jesus explained. “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35, emphasis mine).

What is that will of God by which we join the family of God? “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s will is “that all should come to repentance.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine). “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35).


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

Evil Servant

Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; (Matthew 24:48)

Matthew 24 begins what is known as Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse.” Jesus spoke these words on the Mount of Olives just two days before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:2). Jesus had just issued a series of eight “woes” against the Jewish religious leaders—the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-33). Here as in other places in the Gospels, Jesus asserts His authority as God when He predicts, “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36, emphasis mine). Jesus then laments over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39).

As the disciples stood around hearing these words, their curiosity piqued. “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).

Before continuing, I must add a point of clarification here. Those asking the question, the disciples, were Jews. They based their question on their understanding of Old Testament prophecies concerning the reign of Messiah, whom they understood to be Jesus (Matthew 16:16). All prophecy—both in the Old and New Testaments—centers around Israel and Messiah’s reign in and from Jerusalem. The Old Testament alludes to the Church, but as Paul points out, it was a “mystery” to Old Testament writers (Ephesians 5:32). Furthermore, at the point of this dissertation, the Church did not exist. The Church was not established until after Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Jesus, therefore, focused His response on “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), a.k.a. “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 2:22; 7:14). This prophecy was for the Jews and Israel, not for the Church.

Jesus goes into great detail about what will take place during the Tribulation. Even though this prophecy is not directed at the Church, He does provide signs for the Church to discern. “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:32-34, emphasis mine).

The “fig tree” symbolizes the nation of Israel. Jesus had already predicted the demise of Israel (Judah at this time). “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate [i.e., barren; laid waste; devestated]” (Matthew 23:38, emphasis mine). The fulfillment of this prophecy took place in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus razed Jerusalem to the ground. The budding of the fig tree indicates the rebirth of Israel. This took place almost 70 years ago on May 14, 1948. Jesus said this generation, which witnesses the rebirth of Israel, “shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). We are that generation! Then Jesus guaranteed His prophecy, not with “Thus saith the Lord” (Jesus is Lord), but with “Verily, I say.” Then He affirmed, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35, emphasis mine).

Jesus goes on to encourage watchfulness “for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42). For those of us who yearn for the Rapture of the Church and also for those who will live through the Tribulation, that means that we cannot predict that event with precision. However, Jesus provided enough information that we can determine the proximity, so we encouraged to “watch.”

Jesus then asks, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Matthew 24:45, emphasis mine). These are the pastors and teachers whom God has placed over His churches. Jesus instructs these servants to “give them—the churches, i.e., the “flock”—meat in due season.” “Meat” means nourishment, and since Jesus speaks of His “household,” He means “spiritual” nourishment. He made this point clear to Peter at Peter’s restoration when three times Jesus asked him, “Lovest thou Me?” To Peter’s weak responses, Jesus commanded three times, “feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17). In the context of this end-times discourse, the “meat” nourishes the “flock” in preparation for that which is sure to come.

Jesus then contrasts the “faithful and wise servant” with the “evil servant” who “shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants” (Matthew 24:48-49, emphasis mine).  This one does not take the Lord’s return seriously. The Greek word translated “smite” is tuptō and it means to beat with a whip or stick. The Thayer’s Greek Definitions adds that metaphorically the word implies “to wound, disquiet one’s conscience.” This indicates that the abuse is of a spiritual nature, where the pastor or teacher neglects the proper care and feeding of the flock. The flock is spiritually malnourished and completely unequipped for the Lord’s return.

Sadly, we have too many “evil servants” that neglect to prepare the flock for the Lord’s return. They offer many excuses. The worst of the lot simply do not believe in the imminent return of Christ. They do not regard end-times prophecy literally and attribute it to allegory to be spiritualized.  Others think the teaching is too controversial. They fear confusing or offending their congregation. Still, others have church growth as a top priority. “Doom’s Day” teaching might scare off seekers and stunt church growth. They believe church must be a fun and “safe” place. They would not risk making anyone uncomfortable. Some, while saying they believe that Jesus will return soon, feel they must give greater priority practical teaching to equip the flock for dealing with the daily issues of life. In some ways, this last group is the most dangerous. While it is true that pastors/teachers must equip their congregations to face the day-to-day challenges of life; they are still obligated to teach the “whole counsel” of God’s Word (Acts 20:27). That includes encouraging the flock “and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, emphasis mine). That does not mean that every sermon must be an end-times message, but every exhortation should be peppered with the expectation that the Lord may come at any moment.

Any pastor/teacher who fails to teach the imminency of Christ’s return is, according to these words of Jesus, an “evil servant.” For the evil servant who thus abuses his flock, Jesus says, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6, emphasis mine). Jesus concludes this portion of the discourse with this severe warning: “The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:50-51).

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Religion, Second Coming of Christ


This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2 Timothy 3:1)

This week our nation suffered another horrendous tragedy – the mass murder of students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Ironically, the massacre took place on Valentine’s Day, which also happened to be Ash Wednesday. The first question many ask is, “Where was God in all of this?”

The spilled blood on the school hall floors had not yet coagulated before the left-right divide made itself apparent. The “left” immediately took the occasion to irrationally call for more and stricter gun control laws while the “right” rationally points out that gun control laws (of which too many already exist) cannot prevent these kinds of senseless acts of violence. If we remove all guns from society–which is absurd at the onset—those in power – the ruling class elites – will always have guns, and outlaws will always find ways to get them. Those of a mind to kill will kill by any means available: knives, broken bottles, clubs, cars, homemade bombs, etc. More gun control laws will not impede senseless acts of violence.

Guns are not the problem. Wickedness in the heart of man is the problem. Reports say that the shooter, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz, “heard demons” in his head directing him to carry out the heinous act. That, I can believe. The public defender assigned to Cruz, Melisa McNeill, preparing, I am sure, to enter an insanity defense, described Cruz as “a broken person.” That too, I can believe.

The fact remains that we are all broken people. The Bible teaches, “There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). Every person alive falls into that category. It’s a wonder that more atrocities like this do not take place; although, arguably, these kinds of incidents are on the rise.

The media fill the airwaves with opinions from the left and the right on how to resolve the problem. Some want to ban all weapons. Others want to arm the teachers. Still, others identify all the symptoms but fail in offering practical solutions.

At the risk of sounding insensitive or naïve, the solution is simple. A well-known and seldom employed axiom states, “Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”[1] How about this one: “Thou shalt not [murder]” (Exodus 20:13). Oh! That’s right! That is one of the Ten Commandments. That is in the Bible. That is not allowed in school. When I went to school, not only was it allowed in school, but it was taught. Not surprisingly, we did not experience school shootings when I went to school.

Do we seriously want to stop the madness? Then ban the ACLU from schools and reinstitute God and biblical morality. It is just that simple. However, we are living “in the last days [where] perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1) “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). Jesus said that the last days would be as the days of Noah. Not only were “they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away” (Matthew 24:38-39); but “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11, emphasis mine). Is that not what we see?

The solution is simple, but the world is bewildered in finding a solution. This bewilderment is also a sign of the times. Study the following passage:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:21-32, emphasis mine)

Does that not describe the current state of our world? People are bewildered; their hearts are darkened. They profess themselves to be wise but are fools. They are morally impure, dishonoring their bodies between themselves—women with women and men with men. They do all of this because they have rejected God, and God has given them over to these “vile affections.” Then, because they continue to reject God, He has given them over to “a reprobate mind,” i.e., a mind that has lost the ability to properly reason. Is it any wonder that they are bewildered by this awful problem and cannot see the simple solution?

At the risk of sounding insensitive, as a society that has ejected God from the public square, we, as a nation, have brought this evil upon ourselves. The solution is simple, but until our nation repents and turns back to God, the violence will continue to increase, and none of our God-less solutions will make them go away. We will remain bewildered!


[1]  This axiom or principle is known as Occam’s Razor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor



Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Religion, Theology

High Cost of Admission

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:23)

Another Super Bowl came and went. I did not go, nor did I watch it, but I know the cost of admission was outrageous, even for the cheap seats. I read that the cheapest seats in the upper level, 11 rows from the top in the corner of the end zone, sold for $4900.[1] Undoubtedly, people actually paid the high cost of admission for the “experience,” and I am sure that today they are boasting that it was worth the “sacrifice.” For those willing to shell out that kind of cash, the price of admission was not too high a cost.

The Gospel writer, Matthew, records an account of “one” who came to Jesus asking about the cost of admission to “eternal life.” One would think the cost would be higher than for tickets to the Super Bowl. This one said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). By Jesus’ response, it seems the “young man” (v. 20) was insincere in his query. “And he [Jesus] said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17a). The young man did not recognize that he was in the presence of God. To him, Jesus was just another teacher (meaning of “Master”) and the attribution of “good” provided the incentive for Jesus to affirm what he thought about himself.

Jesus played along; “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17b, emphasis mine). Jesus told him what we wanted to hear. Feigning humility, the young man responded coyly, “Which?” (v. 18) pretending that there might be one he missed. Jesus named off a representative list of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:18-19), and the young man could no longer contain his self-righteousness. “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20).

The young man must have thought Jesus would commend him for his righteousness and say, “You’re good to go! You are more than qualified to inherit eternal life.” Instead, “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21). The “follow me” part by itself was doable. If it got too rough, he could always go back to what he did before. However, selling all of his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor was irreversible. The young man probably inherited all of his wealth and had no idea how to build wealth from scratch. He had probably never worked a day in his life. “Work” was something for peasants, not for him. The price was too high. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:22, emphasis mine).[2]

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23, emphasis mine). The KJV translates the Greek word duskolōs as “hardly,” but what it means is “with great difficulty.” Jesus did not mean that rich people cannot get into heaven. What He did say was that getting into heaven for a rich person is difficult. Why?

Matthew introduced this account with a scene where people (probably mothers) brought their children to Jesus so that He could pray and bless them (Matthew 19:13-15). The disciples rebuked the people for bringing their little urchins to the Lord. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14, emphasis mine). Mark, in his Gospel (probably Peter’s account), records that Jesus was displeased with the action of His disciples. He further adds, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15, emphasis mine). We refer to children as dependents. They are dependent on their parents for food, clothing, shelter, protection, and guidance. They believe what their parents tell them. They trust their parents for everything.

The rich young man was “independent.” His riches provided all that he needed, and, as long as he had his wealth, he was secure. Jesus challenged his source of security. What Jesus basically said was, “I AM all you need. Follow Me.” A child would have followed without question, but this young man chose rather to trust in his many possessions rather than to trust in Jesus. For him, the high cost of admission was too great a price to pay.

“When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26, emphasis mine). The disciples were shocked. If someone who follows all of God’s commandments and has been blessed by God with great wealth cannot be saved, then who can be saved? The lesson is simple. Wealth cannot purchase a ticket to heaven, even if you sell all of your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Neither can rigorous religious practice gain one entry into eternal life. However, when one places one’s trust in Jesus with a childlike faith and seeks to follow Him, God gives eternal life. Jesus already paid the high cost of admission.

Reader, in what do you place your trust? Jesus asks that you lay all that aside, and place your trust in Him. If you need help with that, read my page on “Heaven.”


[1]  “Super Bowl 2018: How much do tickets cost? Any cheap flights and hotels for Eagles fans?” – http://www.nj.com/eagles/index.ssf/2018/01/super_bowl_tickets_cheap_flights_to_minnesota_eagl.html

[2]  “Too Rich for Heaven: – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/04/19/too-rich-for-heaven/


Filed under Christianity, Evangelism, Gospel, Heaven, Religion, Salvation

Walking On Water

And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. (Matthew 14:29)

One of my favorite accounts recorded in the Gospels is that of Peter walking on water. Everyone knows that Jesus walked on the water, but no one remembers that Peter walked on the water too. Most people focus on the fact that Peter sank. Peter succumbed to the natural laws of physics, but he did walk on water.

The record begins when Jesus fed “about five thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 14:21). This He did by multiplying the five barley loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:17). “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full” (Matthew 14:20) – one basket full for each of the twelve disciples. The miracle demonstrated Jesus’ power as Creator. The beginning amount of food, if simply broken up into tiny morsels sufficient for each of the over 5000 people, would not have been enough for them all to be “filled” – the Greek word used there is chortazō, which means, “to gorge.”  Jesus created new food out of nothing, and the people were “stuffed.” After the “feast,” Jesus dismissed the crowd and instructed His disciples to get in the boat and go across the Sea of Galilee. Meanwhile, “he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).

While Jesus prayed, a storm came up on the lake and caught the disciples in middle of the water fighting for their lives. After a long night of bailing water and manning the oars, the disciples looked across the water and thought they saw a ghost walking in their direction.[1] It was past three o’clock in the morning – the fourth watch. Lack of sleep combined with aching backs and shoulders from fighting the elements contributed to the fear that gripped their hearts at the sight of this phantasm. “They were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:26, emphasis mine).

Then came that all too familiar voice, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Literally, the Greek reads, “Have courage. I AM. Fear not.” The Great I AM who created the laws of physics now subjected them to His will by transforming the surface tension of water into a solid surface for His footsteps. Incredible! The disciples had their doubts.  “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come.” (Matthew 14:28-29a, emphasis mine).

One must really admire the audacity of Peter! Although he could not believe his eyes, he recognized and trusted the voice of the Savior. “And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29b). Look closely at what the verse says. Peter got out of the boat, but he did not just stand there holding on to the side. “He walked on the water.” He let go of the boat and started walking “to go to Jesus.” Peter was walking on water! Peter did not perform a miracle. He did not manipulate the laws of physics like Jesus did. He simply trusted in the Word of Jesus. Jesus said, “come,” and that was enough. Way to go, Peter!

However, “when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). The Greek word translated “boisterous” is ischuros, and it means “forcible, mighty, powerful, strong, or valiant.” We cannot really “see” the wind, but we see its effects. The wind was “forceful.” The waves broke over the bow of the small boat. The sea plunged to a depth of more than 200 feet. A man could easily drown under these circumstances. Peter took his eyes off the One who said, “come,” and he took notice of the elements around him instead. That is when he lost his footing, “and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him” (Matthew 14:30-31, emphasis mine).  Peter’s head did not go under before Jesus brought him to the surface, “and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). We should not be too critical of Peter’s “little faith.” Under similar circumstances, we might react the same way.

Like Peter, Jesus calls us to come to Him. The storms of life surround us. Danger lurks everywhere. Some see Jesus as a phantom, a figment of religious imaginations, and though the storms of life are very real, they prefer to take their chances in the boat where it is “safe.” However, the boat guarantees no safety. One big wave can swamp the boat, and life is over. The safest place is out on the water with Jesus. We can walk on water through the storms of life as long as our eyes are fixed on the One who says, “Come,” “and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).

That is not the end of the story. Peter did walk on water again. After Jesus saved him, they walked to the boat together. “And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased” (Matthew 14:32, emphasis mine). Walking on water with Jesus calms the storms of life.


[1]  “Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (5)” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/20/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-5/

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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.


[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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