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Come, Harvest Time!

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1)

Today, May 20, 2018, celebrates 1988 years since the birth of the Church on Pentecost (provided the Church was born in 30 A.D.). Most modern Christians pay little attention to the day since it is mainly a Jewish observance, and it has never been incorporated into the Christian tradition. However, it might behoove us to give it closer attention. Some end-times prophecy watchers see this Pentecost as a “high watch” day for the Rapture of the Church. I thought the same thing last year and wrote about it, but I was obviously wrong.[1]

This year could be different, but before I continue, I must stress that neither I nor any of those whom I have resourced are setting a date for the Rapture of the Church. Jesus instructed us to “watch” and be ready, and He provided “signs” for which to look. It amazes me how many Christians I know seem to be indifferent about the imminent return of Christ – our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). Not me, every day I wake up I am hoping that this will be the day. Yet, while I anxiously await His return, my heart is burdened for those who are lost and will have to go through the horrible 7-year Tribulation that will follow the Rapture. If in that awful time of Tribulation they continue in their rejection of Christ, they will face an eternity in hell. My burden is a thousand times heavier because I have two sons and their wives and my grandchildren that are lost, and it is not as if they have not been taught these things; they simply refuse to believe. Still, I am looking for Jesus to come soon.

So, why this Pentecost? Pentecost is one of the seven Feasts of the Lord.[2] As I have written in the past (See Note 2 below), the Feasts of the Lord are divine appointments for God to keep, and they are prophetic. The first three feasts were fulfilled by Jesus’ first coming: Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. The last three will be fulfilled at His second coming: Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles. Both the spring and the fall feasts are closely tied together. Pentecost seems to be set apart from the rest. It comes 50 days (almost two months) after the Feast of First Fruits followed by a long space of almost four months before the fall feasts.

Pentecost celebrates the barley harvest (not wheat) which is representative of the Gentile nations. At Pentecost, the priest offers two loaves of leavened bread – again, leaven representing the Gentile nations. This Feast had a partial fulfillment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in the upper room giving birth to the church. At that time, the Shekinah Glory of God came upon the disciples in the form of “cloven tongues like as of fire” (Acts 2:3) signifying that God’s presence now resided within His people rather than in the Temple. We are now “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

However, as with most prophecies, Pentecost may still have a second fulfillment yet to come. Just as Pentecost is set apart from the other feast days, so is the church set apart from the feasts that directly relate to the Jews. Furthermore, just as there is a long period between Pentecost and the Feast of Trumpets, so there has been a long period between the birth of the Church and the long-awaited “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:6-10).

The signs indicating our Lord’s soon return are many.[3] Israel just celebrated the 70th anniversary of their rebirth as a nation fulfilling the “dry bones” prophecy of Ezekiel 37.  This is also the 70th Year of Jubilee since the Law was given to Moses. Furthermore, if you can believe biblical chronology, it is the 120th Jubilee from the time of creation (Genesis 6:3) – 120 x 50 = 6000. Put that together with the Revelation 12 sign[4] that appeared on September 23, 2017, the alignment of nations against Israel in preparation for the Ezekiel 38-39 war, the increased violence all over the world, seismic and catastrophic weather activity, and an increase in demonic activity; it becomes very apparent that something big is about to happen.

Could this Sunday, Pentecost be the day that Jesus comes for His Bride? I do not know, nor does anyone else, but the signs make for a good possibility! I am ready! How about you? If the prospect scares you, then perhaps it’s time that you make things right with your Creator. See my page on “Heaven” for help with that.

Here are some good YouTube videos to learn more about the possible Pentecost Rapture:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxMj20tU_HQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVhOm9E1bjw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig7LXnYOLhc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CJJYIXAVwA

Notes:


[1]  “Pentecost” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/05/28/pentecost/

[2]  “Rosh HaShanah” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/10/03/rosh-hashanah/

[3]  “Now’s A Good Time!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/17/nows-a-good-time/

[4]  “Coming Soon!” — https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/09/coming-soon/

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Anytime Now!

(180429) — DAMASCUS, April 29, 2018 (Xinhua) — Photo taken on April 29, 2018 shows destruction in the parts that have recently been captured from the Islamic State militants in the al-Qadam neighbourhood, south of Damascus, Syria. The Syrian army captured the IS-controlled areas in al-Qadam on Saturday, according to the state news agency SANA. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani) (lrz)

The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1)

Much to the chagrin of the Iranian leadership, President Donald Trump announced on May 8, 2018, that he is pulling the US out of the controversial Iranian nuclear deal. In their indignation, Iran lashed out at Israel in a midnight attack sending 20 rockets aimed at Israeli military targets in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018.[1] Israel’s Iron Dome air defense intercepted four of the 20 rockets into Israeli territory. The remaining rockets fell harmlessly in Syrian territory displaying the “iron dome” of God.

In keeping with their warning of retaliation against Iran for any attacks on Israel from Syria, the IDF responded immediately with a counter-attack on 50 Iranian military installations in Syria.[2] The attack destroyed most of Iran’s military infrastructure preventing retaliation in the very near future. However, Iran will not be deterred from her obsession to obliterate Israel from the Middle East. That obsession brings Iran into direct conflict with “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). Israel’s security remains tenuous. They rest secure in their military capabilities knowing they can respond to any threat. However, for the most part, their trust remains in their capabilities and those of their allies. “To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 13:16).

I enjoy the ministry of Amir Tsarfati, Behold Israel,[3] and watch his YouTube updates of current events in Israel. With all that is going on in and around Israel, Amir frequently points out that Israelis dwell in “peace and security;” that is the perception of those living in Israel which does not necessarily reflect reality. The time of the end approaches rapidly, and Amir knows this very well. We need to be ready.

Tomorrow, Monday, May 14, 2018, Israel celebrates 70 years of the rebirth of the nation. The “dry bones” of Ezekiel 37 came alive and “and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:10). No record in history exists where a people dispersed among the nations of the earth retained their language, their religion, their traditions, and  their national identity. In 70 A.D., Israel was disseminated, Jerusalem was razed, and the land became a desolate wasteland. Then, 1878 years later, the “dry bones” miraculously came to life once more. Do you need evidence to believe in God? Look at Israel! “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8, emphasis mine).

Among many other signs, concerning Israel and the nations for the end times is the destruction of Damascus. Damascus is undoubtedly the oldest consistently inhabited city in history. We first read of it in Genesis 14:15 when four marauding kings from the area that we now know as Syria attacked the kings around Sodom and Gomorrah. They spoiled the cities and took away captives including Abram’s nephew, Lot. You can read the complete account in Genesis 14, but the point being is that Damascus was a well-established city at the time.

Just as God promised that the dry bones of Israel would be reconstituted, He also promised that Damascus would be a “ruinous heap” (Isaiah 17:1, our starting verse). “And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us” (Isaiah 17:14). Iran has amassed a cache of war implements around Damascus as targets for Israeli warplanes. At the same time, rebels against the Assad regime have pummeled Damascus with their own arsenal of mortars, rockets, and explosives. Damascus is quickly becoming a “ruinous heap.”

The convergence of many happenings indicates that Christ’s return is very near. He is the Peace of Jerusalem for which we pray (Psalm 122:6). Indeed, He is the only hope for peace in this world. Before He returns to set things right, He will take away His Bride, the Church, from the wrath to come. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). So, as we witness prophecy fulfilled before our eyes – and this is only apparent if you are paying attention – we anxiously anticipate His call to “Come up hither” (Revelation 4:1) at any moment.

I don’t know about you, but I long with an aching in my heart to see my Savior face to face. How about you? Are you ready and waiting to meet Jesus?

Notes:

[1]  “Iran Attacks Israel. Israel Shoots Down all the Iranian Rockets” – https://israelunwired.com/iran-attacks-israel-israel-shoots-down-all-the-iranian-rockets/

[2]  “Israel Unleashes Stunning Strike Capabilities On Iranian Forces In Syria” – http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=2253

[3]  Behold Israel Ministry YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/beholdisrael/featured

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Bare Naked

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. (Genesis 3:7)

Man (and woman) was created in the image of God – Imago Dei for the sophisticates. That image incorporates many of God’s attributes without the omni- aspect of those attributes. Man is a rational being, although that ability to reason progressively wanes through constant rejection of God (Romans 1:28). Man creates beauty: art, sculptures, music, architecture, etc. Man invents gadgets that make life easier: machines that carry us over land, through the sea or in the air to get us where we want to go. We use all kinds of machines to help us perform our work more efficiently: computers, portable communications devices, power tools of all kinds, and even sophisticated diagnostic equipment that allow doctors to “see” into our bodies to find malfunctions. Man’s ability to design, engineer and fabricate finds resolution only in that we are created in the image of God. None other of God’s creatures possesses the almost limitless creative abilities that man has. However, no other creature bears the image of God. Evolutionists (who suffer from the Romans 1:28 syndrome), would have us believe that humans are just a more highly evolved specimen of animal. However, according to evolutionists, some animals currently in existence have been around much longer than humans have. So, one must ask, why do they remain the same with no evidence of evolution – not in the least bit? Nevertheless, that is not the point of this writing.

Humans demonstrate the image of God in their ability to love and in their ability to judge right from wrong. Humans, like God, are triune creatures with a mind, spirit and physical body. Some people have difficulty understanding that God is three persons in one Godhead. That confusion becomes clear when one understands that humans are also three persons in one “soul.” The mind directs man’s activities. The spirit of man motivates man into action, and the body carries out that the plan. Of us, God says, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalm 82:6, emphasis mine). Jesus made the same argument when the Pharisees would stone Him for blasphemy. “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34, emphasis mine). [1] Just as God is Three-in-One in complete unity, humans too possess a triune nature.

The body, the “carriage” for our mind and spirit, also represents the image of God. Jesus, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15, emphasis mine) is the Creator; “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible …” (Colossians 1:16, emphasis mine). “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3, emphasis mine). Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7, emphasis mine). Knowing that He would one day be “made in the likeness of men,” it stands to reason that Jesus, the Creator, would design the kind of body suitable for Himself for His time on earth (and after).

The care that He took to design the human body becomes apparent when we read the creation account in Genesis 1. Every creature God created came about by Divine fiat. “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” (Genesis 1:20, emphasis mine). “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so” (Genesis 1:24, emphasis mine). However, when it came to man, God took greater care. “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). Chapter 2 provides even greater insight. “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 … And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man” (Genesis 2:7, 22, emphasis mine).

Still, man lacks one aspect of God’s physical form. Of Jesus, Paul writes, “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16, emphasis mine). The Beloved Apostle also wrote, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, emphasis mine).[2] The Bible often describes angels as possessing a glow about them. Moses, when he came down from the mountain after spending 40 days in the presence of God had a glow about him. The glow caused the children of Israel to fear so much that they asked him to cover his face.[3] There was a glow about Jesus when He was transfigured that left the disciples awestruck.[4]

It seems likely that part of the image of God in man would include a glow about our bodies, but we no longer see that. Oh, I know some psychics claim to see an “aura” around people, but if one is there, it is too dim for “normal” people to see it. As the guy in the motel commercial says, “Nobody glows.” Why is that? I have a theory.

As we noted, God is and dwells in light. In the beginning when He said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), He actually created darkness to contrast the light. He says as much to the prophet Isaiah: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”(Isaiah 45:7, emphasis mine). So, I believe that when God created man in His image, He created man robed in light. Perhaps that was included in the “breath of life.” When Adam disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit, the light went out (and so too did “life”), “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). It is instructive to note that it was not until Adam (not Eve) ate of the fruit that their eyes were opened. It was Adam, not Eve, who received the command not to eat of the forbidden fruit directly from God; thus, his was the greater responsibility.

To cover (atone) their nakedness, God had to kill innocent animals to make clothing for the bare naked pair. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21, emphasis mine). There may be an intentional play on words here. The Hebrew word for skin is ‛ôr, spelled עוֹר. The Hebrew word for “light,” the clothing they had lost, is ‘ôr, spelled אוֹר. When Adam sinned, the couple lost their ‘ôr (light), and God had to cover their nakedness with ‛ôr (skins).

That temporary covering for sin required the shedding of innocent animal blood. The permanent covering for sin required the innocent blood of the Son of Man, the Lamb of God. Now God offers that gift to us at no cost. Only one thing remains – that we accept the gift by faith. See my page on Heaven for the rest of the story.

Notes:


[1]  See John 10:24-39 for context.

[2]  This is often understood to say that God is the source of all wisdom, knowledge and truth. This is certainly true given the context surrounding this verse. However, Henry M. Morris, Ph.D sees the physical aspect of God’s light as he notes in The Henry Morris Study Bible: http://www.icr.org/Bible/1John/1:5/

[3]  See Exodus 34:30-35.

[4]  See Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36.

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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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Jesus’ Last Days

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, (Luke 9:51)

Jesus spent most of His time in ministry around the Sea of Galilee. His “mission base” was in Capernaum, probably staying at the house of Peter. As the time for His crucifixion approached, Jesus traveled up to Caesarea Philippi with His disciples – the furthest north He ever traveled (Matthew 16:13).

Caesarea Philippi was built by the Ptolemaic kings around the 3rd century BC as a cult center and named Paneas for the Greek god Pan. When the Romans took control, the control of the area was given to the Kingdom of Herod the Great. In 19 BC, Herod built a white marble pagan temple at the entrance to the cave of Pan in honor of Caesar Augustus. Inside the cave was a seemingly bottomless pit[1] that the pagans perceived by the pagans as the entrance to the netherworld – Hades. “Caesarea Philippi was the location the Cave of Pan, the place of the pagan Gate of Hades. It was in this area that the first king of Israel (Jeroboam) led the northern kingdom of Israel into idolatry.”[2] Philip II (the Tetrarch) founded the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus in 14 AD.[3]

Caesarea Philippi was located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon bears the ignominy of being the frequent site of pagan worship.[4] “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).”[5] Surrounding the base and upon the higher elevations, the mountain was littered with shrines to pagan deities.

It was to this place that Jesus brought His disciples just a few short weeks before His crucifixion.

Matthew 16:13  When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

Mark 8:27  And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Luke 9:18  And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?

Jesus’ last stop prior to this was “in the coasts of Magdala” (Matthew 15:39) and “into the parts of Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10). Both cities were probably near each other, and Matthew and Mark record the location from their own perspective. Note that both refer to the “region” not specifically to the towns. Matthew notes that they came to the “coasts” of Caesarea Philippi. Other translations render “coasts” as district, parts, or region, or it could also be rendered “borders.” Mark reports that they came “into the towns” of Caesarea Philippi. Luke does not specify the location. Apparently, Jesus did not enter that pagan city Himself. Doing so would have rendered Him “unclean.”

Matthew and Mark place the account after the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9). Luke places this account following the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:10-17). Although Luke does not record the feeding of the 4000, the order of events was correct. Jesus fed 5000 first and then 4000 before this event took place. This may be attributed to the way Luke had to go about gathering and compiling the data. Since came “after the fact,” he conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to write his Gospel. As a side note, John, who was an eyewitness, only recorded the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:5-13) as well.

Mark says that they were “on the road,” but that does not indicate that they were traveling when Jesus asked the question. Matthew only remarks that they were in the region. It makes sense that they were stopped in one place where they could all participate in the discussion. If they were “on the road” walking, it would be difficult to have that kind of discussion.

Bible critics often point to the variances in the Gospel accounts to raise doubts in the veracity of Scripture; however, these variances are easily explained. Matthew, as one of the twelve, records the account as an eyewitness. Mark (it is thought) received his information from Peter who was an eyewitness. John, the “beloved disciple,” who was present and an eyewitness, was not divinely inspired to record this event. Luke gathered his information second-hand from eyewitness “to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:1-2, emphasis mine). Therefore Luke often includes details omitted by the other Gospel writers. For example, in this verse, he notes that Jesus “was alone praying, [and] his disciples were with him” (Luke 9:18).

It is in this context that Jesus asks His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” Matthew adds the modifier, “the Son of Man.” Both Matthew and Mark use the Greek ἄνθρωποι “men,” while Luke uses the Greek ὄχλοι “people” meaning a throng, i.e., the masses, men and women. The question was a set up for the more important question to follow.

Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20: He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

They had followed Him for three years now. He was nearing the end of His earthly ministry. Did they really know Him? Peter was never shy about speaking up.

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

Mark 8:29  And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

Luke 9:20  He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.

The three synoptic Gospels identify Jesus as “the Christ.” “Christ” – Χριστός – means “anointed;” the same as Messiah. Luke specifies “The Christ of God,” i.e., God’s anointed One. Only Matthew adds “the Son of the living God.” Remember: Matthew’s report is a first-hand account, and only Matthew records Jesus’ response to Peter.

Matthew 16:17-19  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(18)  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(19)  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Peter’s confession did not come from “Whom do men say that I am?” Peter received this as a direct revelation from God. “Upon this rock,” i.e., Peter’s confession, Jesus would establish His Church. “The gates of hell” – the temple of Pan and the other pagan gods were nearby.  The disciples were probably familiar with the nomenclature. The illustration was clear: the death of hell cannot complete with the living Church. Gates are defensive measures, which cannot withstand the power of the Church. The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” were not for Peter alone. Jesus would later say the same to all of His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). To “bind” or “loose” means to “prohibit” or “permit.” “When Jesus gave this power to the apostles, he meant that whatsoever they forbade in the church should have divine authority; whatever they permitted, or commanded, should also have divine authority – that is, should be bound or loosed in heaven, or meet the approbation of God. They were to be guided infallibly in the organization of the church: (1) By the teaching of Christ, and, (2) By the teaching of the Holy Spirit.”[6]

Jesus then foretells of His impending death on the cross: Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31. (Luke missed that detail.) He ends the conversation with a curious statement.

Matthew 16:28  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.

Mark 9:1  And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

Luke 9:27  But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

Six (or eight) days later “some” had a glimpse of “the kingdom.”

Matthew 17:1-6  And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart(2)  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light(3)  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.  (4)  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.  (5)  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(6)  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

Mark 9:2-7  And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.  (3)  And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them(4)  And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.  (5)  And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  (6)  For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.  (7)  And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

Luke 9:28-36  And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray(29)  And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering(30)  And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias(31)  Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.  (32)  But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.  (33)  And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.  (34)  While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.  (35)  And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him(36)  And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

Matthew and Mark say “after six days.” Luke says “about eight days.” Matthew and Mark beginning with that day after Peter’s confession, count six days, and “after six days” this event took place. Luke counts the day of Peter’s confession, plus six days, followed by the day of the Transfiguration – eight days.

Jesus selected Peter, James, and John as the “some” who would “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28, emphasis mine).  Peter and John would later recall this event.

2 Peter 1:16-18  For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  (17)  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.  (18)  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

1 John 1:1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

The “high mountain” very likely was Mount Hermon. He was “transfigured” – Greek μετεμορφωθη (metamorphoothee) “transformed, changed, metamorphose” Luke notes that His face – Greek πρόσωπον (prosōpon – the front, the face) was altered. Matthew says that “his face did shine as the sun.” All three remark on the brilliance of His clothing. There appeared Moses and Elias (Elijah) representing the Law and the Prophets – the Old Testament Scripture that testified of the coming Messiah. Luke reveals the content of the conversation. He “spake of his decease [death] which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31, emphasis mine).

In their astonishment, the disciples were speechless, except for Peter. “let us make three tabernacles … For he wist not what to say” (Mark 9:5-6, emphasis mine). Having seen the different shrines to pagan gods around Caesarea Philippi and Mount Hermon, Peter must have thought it would be appropriate. The voice that came out of the cloud soon put the kâbash (kibosh) on that idea: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him

As they descended from the mountain, Jesus instructed them to keep what they witnessed to themselves until after He had risen from the dead (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:10; Luke 9:36). The time had come. “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). “Time” – Greek ἡμέρα (hēmera), literally means “day.” The day had arrived that He should fulfill His earthly mission. “Stedfastly” – Greek στηρίζω (stērizō) means to set fast, that is, (literally) to turn resolutely in a certain direction. Nothing would deter Him from His mission. Jerusalem and the cross were His assignment.

Passing through Jericho, Jesus heals three, perhaps four blind men.

Luke 18:35  And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:

Matthew 20:29-30  And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.  (30)  And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

Mark 10:46  And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

Matthew does not name the two, but perhaps one of them was Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus may have been known to Mark (or Peter) and the second blind man unknown. I could also be that the two mentioned by Matthew are separate from Bartimaeus.

Luke also gives the account of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) that the other Gospels omit. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, He told him to “make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). “Abide” literally meant to “dwell” or stay over in his house. While in Jericho, Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was deathly ill. “ Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again” (John 11:5-7, emphasis mine).

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

At Bethany, Jesus performed arguably the greatest miracle of all short of His resurrection. Jesus had raised others from the dead: Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:23-43; Luke 8:41-56) and the widow’s only son (Luke 7:11-16). However, both of these had recently died, and it could be argued that they were “resuscitated” rather than resurrected. With Lazarus, there was no question. In fact, when Jesus asked for the stone to be removed, Martha protested, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39). The Jews believed that when a person, their spirit lingered around for three days before departing for good. Lazarus was very dead! “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26, emphasis mine). Then to make His point, “he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).

The raising of Lazarus caused quite a stir among the religious leaders, who, rather than recognize Jesus’ authority as Messiah and turn to Him, developed a plot to kill Him. “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,  Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.  And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;  And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11:49-53, emphasis mine). So irrational were they in their animus toward Jesus, that they sought to destroy the evidence of His resurrecting power – Lazarus (John 12:9-11).

Following this, we have two, arguably three, different accounts of Jesus’ anointing. Luke’s account places the anointing long before the transfiguration while He was still in Capernaum (Luke 7:36-50).

Luke 7:36-39  And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.  (37)  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,  (38)  And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  (39)  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

Matthew 26:6-9  Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper(7)  There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.  (8)  But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?  (9)  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

Mark 14:1-5After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread … (3)  And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.  (4)  And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?  (5)  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

John 12:1-6  Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.  (2)  There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.  (3)Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.  (4)  Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,  (5)  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?  (6)  This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

Matthew places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-11) Mark places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Mark 11:1-11) and two days before the Passover. John places the anointing the day before the Triumphal Entry (John 12:12). Matthew and Mark place the anointing in the “house of Simon the Leper.” John seems to place the anointing in the house of Lazarus following the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Neither Matthew nor Mark names the woman who anointed Jesus. Had she been Mary, they certainly would have known who she was. John names Lazarus, Martha, and Mary who anointed Jesus. Matthew records that the “disciples” were indignant about the waste. Mark only records that “there were some that had indignation within themselves.” The difference and precision in detail between Matthew and Mark’s account and the account of John are too distinct to be an error in recording. Therefore these are two separate anointings. Luke’s account came too early to be confused with these just before the crucifixion. In all, we have three separate accounts of Jesus being anointed by women. Even though there are some similarities, the differences are too great to conflate them as one or two.

Following this, all four Gospels record Jesus entry into Jerusalem presenting Himself as the promised Messiah. The prophet Daniel predicted this event to the very day!

Daniel 9:25-26  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.  (26)  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

 Week” – Hebrew שָׁבוּע (shâbûa‛), literally means sevened, or “seven times.” This refers to a set of seven years. Verse 24 specifies “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city” – 70 x 7 = 490 years.

seven weeks. The 490-year period is divided into three components, 49 years, 434 years, and 7 years, respectively, in duration … Perhaps most significantly, the 49-year period did terminate with Malachi’s prophecy, which marked the close of Old Testament revelation.”[7]

threescore and two weeks. After the 49-year period was to be another period of 434 years before Messiah would come as Prince of Israel … In all, there would be 69 weeks, or 483 years, ‘unto the Messiah the prince.’”[8]

Most conservative evangelical scholars agree that this prophecy was fulfilled to the very day when Jesus was “cut off.” On the tenth day of the first month (Abib/Nissan), Jewish families selected the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:3). It had to be “a male of the first year,” i.e., the firstborn, without blemish, they were to keep it until the 14th day (Exodus 12:5-6). To ensure that it was spotless. Furthermore, the lamb was taken into the family and loved by the family. Then, on the evening of the 14th day, the lamb was slain, and its blood used to cover the doorposts of the house. When the death angel passed, the atoning (covering) blood of the lamb protected those inside the house.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, presented Himself on Nissan 10. It was the first day of the week, Sunday. John states that Jesus arrived in Bethany, where He was anointed by Mary, “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). If the Passover took place on Thursday (as I believe), six days before would put Him arriving in Bethany on Friday. The following day would be the Sabbath (Saturday) when He was anointed. Then on the next day, Sunday, Jesus made His Triumphal Entry.

He was now in “the house” of Israel, and the Lamb of God would be thoroughly examined for the next four days to see if there was any defect in Him. The Pharisees questioned Him extensively and could find no fault in Him. In the end, Pilate examined Him and proclaimed, “I find no fault in him” (John 19:4, 6).

Jesus gave His Olivet discourse concerning “the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world” (Matthew 24: 4-51; Mark 13:5-23; Luke 21:5-24).

He celebrated His last Passover Seder with His disciples (Matthew 26:20-35; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:14-23; John 13:1-38). Jesus made the promise of His return and His presence with and in believers through the Holy Spirit (John 14-17).

After the meal, they went to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46). Jesus took His top three – Peter, James, and John – to a separate garden to pray. “Gethsemane” means (olive) “oil press.” As the olives are pressed three times, Jesus was pressed three times as He prayed, “let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44).[9] With that, He went out to meet his accusers.

Matthew 26:46  Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Mark 14:42  Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.

Luke 22:46  And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

John 18:4  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

Isaiah 53:7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The cross awaited Jesus. He went there of His own accord – not the victim, but the mighty Savior!

Notes:


[1]  “Ancient Caesarea Philippi” – http://www.bible-history.com/biblestudy/caesarea-philippi.html

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  “Caesarea Philippi” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarea_Philippi

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

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

[6]  Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

[7]  Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Henry Morris Study Bible, (Green Forest, AR, Master Books, 2012), 1275.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  “Pressed Three Times” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/10/22/pressed-three-times/

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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).

Notes:


[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

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