Tag Archives: Christianity

Then Came Sunday

Empty Tomb

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun … And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. (Mark 16:2, 4)

The story of mankind is brief and straightforward despite the naturalistic stories invented by evolutionists. God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26). God created man to enjoy fellowship with Him, but man erected a barrier between himself and God by his disobedience to God’s only 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). That disobedience brought the curse of death – separation from God who is life and the giver of life. “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). Holy God cannot abide sin. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” (Psalm 94:20).

From that time on, innocent blood has been shed to cover or atone for the sins of man “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Starting with that first sacrificial lamb slaughtered by the Lamb of God (Genesis 3:21), the innocent pay the penalty for the sins of the guilty. So the sacrificial system began carried on by Abel (Genesis 4:4), Noah (Genesis 8:20) and the law delivered by Moses. But the practice failed to bridge the chasm rived by sin “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

This hopeless situation required a better and permanent solution. This was mankind’s problem and the responsibility fell upon man for resolution. But Holy God cannot be satisfied with anything less a perfect, sinless sacrifice. Only the blood of a perfect, sinless man would do. Where could such a man be found? For, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 12). Such a conundrum was no puzzle for an omniscient God. “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). So, God in human form died in the stead of His human creation, and He took upon Himself the penalty that was due to each one of us individually. This is an awesome thing! In all the world religions of man, man sacrifices himself to his god, but the Bible teaches that God sacrificed Himself for man. Is that not incredible!

So Jesus died on the cross at Passover. He became the sacrificial Lamb of God to atone for the sins of mankind. He took on the crushing blow of the curse of death. In His final words He declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), and He died. Death took its greatest prize, but then came Sunday! The curse of death was broken. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Romans 5:18).

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

(“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” – Isaac Watts, 1707)

His death on the cross covered our sins once and for all. His resurrection bridged the chasm of death separating sinful humanity from Holy God. He has made the way for you and for me. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). After all He has done for you, the least you can do is follow the way He has prepared. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!”

 

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Creation, Death, Easter, Evangelism, Gospel, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation, Theology

The Triumphal Entry

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. (Daniel 9:26)

The Sunday before Resurrection Day (I dislike the term “Easter”[1]) is traditionally known as Palm Sunday. This is the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem presenting Himself as the long-awaited Messiah. Daniel predicted this presentation[2] to the exact day, and on the following Wednesday evening[3] (not Friday), Messiah was “cut off.”

The Prophet Zechariah foretold of the presentation like this: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). All four Gospels record this event (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19).[4] Many Bibles insert the title “The Triumphal Entry” before the passage. As one ponders the events that followed that week ending in His crucifixion, one wonders, “Where is the triumph?” In those days, conquering kings entered the conquered cities on a white steed amidst a grand procession of his conquered armies followed by his conquering troops. Jesus entered His city on a young donkey colt cheered on by humble peasants and followed by His bewildered disciples. Just a few days later the same crowd jeered at Him as He hung dying on a Roman cross while all His disciples, save one, were nowhere to be found.

We count His resurrection three days later as a triumph over death, from which we rest assured that our eternal life with Him is secure. But His entry into Jerusalem that fateful week was no triumph. Jesus Himself wept over the event. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37)

It is a misnomer to call His presentation on that Sunday a “triumphal entry.” That day yet awaits His return![5]

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)

When Jesus returns to reign on earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that will be His Triumphal Entry. On that day, He will enter on a white steed followed by a great host of His followers who will not retreat. “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7). That day is coming soon. Are you prepared to meet the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? If not read my page “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Easter’s Wrong” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/03/20/easters-wrong/

[2]  “Daniel 9:26 Commentary” by Precept Austin – https://www.preceptaustin.org/daniel_926

[3]  “Three Days, Three Nights” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/13/three-days-three-nights/

[4]  “Jesus’ Last Days” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/03/25/jesus-last-days/

[5]  “The King Is Coming!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/09/the-king-is-coming/

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Easter, End Times, Holidays, Religion, Resurrection, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

An Expected End

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)[1]

Christians often quote the verse above without understanding the context in which it was given. It is one of those feel-good verses that makes us feel special believing that God is looking out for us and only has good things in store for us. While that is certainly true to a great extent – God does care and provide for His own, and I can certainly testify to that in my own life. However, deeper thought should be given to the circumstances surrounding this passage.

The ten northern tribes of Israel were conquered and expatriated by Assyria around 722 B.C., and a short 136 years later, the southern kingdom, comprised of the two remaining tribes, Judah and Benjamin, was taken captive by Babylon. It was during this time that Jeremiah prophesied. Indeed, before the Babylonian conquest, Jeremiah urged Judah to repent of its idolatry and avoid what God determined to bring upon them. So deep had they fallen into sin that God actually instructed Jeremiah to stop praying on their behalf.[2]

God finally had it with His people and He summoned “His servant,” Nebuchadnezzar,[3] to conquer them and take them away captive, which he did in 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel, the prophet, and his friends,[4] captive in this first of three rounds of deportations.

Early in their captivity there arose false prophets telling the captives that their captivity would not be long and that God soon liberate them. That was not God’s plan, and He instructed Jeremiah to send a letter “unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon” (Jeremiah 29:1). In short, the letter instructed the people to settle down and prepare for a long stay – build houses, plant gardens, have children and grandchildren. Their stay would not be permanent, but it would be long – 70 years[5] to be exact. God encouraged them to “seek the peace of the city … and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).

Surely these were not ideal conditions for God’s people. Psalm 137 records how they felt. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4).

Under these circumstances, God promised, “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:10-11, emphasis mine). God’s “good plan” for them was not immediate. Not until a generation away would God’s plan be realized. In the meantime, they had to endure the captivity, pray for their captors and get by in the best way they could. There was no easy way out.

The phrase, “to give you an expected end,” gives pause for thought. When we consider the rest of Israel’s history, we learn that their relationship with God did not improve that much. Yes, they finally gave up their overt idolatry, but they exchanged it for the idolatry of “religion” and “legalism.” After they returned to their homeland and after they rebuilt their Temple, God stopped talking to them for 400 years until Jesus came. So steeped were they in the practice of their religion and legalism, that they completely missed their promised Messiah. Their rejection of their Savior led to the dissolution of their nation and the dispersing of their people among the nations of the world.

Yet, when the prophets speak of the “expected end” – the Day of the Lord – Israel once again becomes a nation, and they finally recognize their Messiah whom they missed at His first coming. God says, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10). This, I believe, is their “expected end” to which God referred in Jeremiah 29:11.

Now, with all this in mind, how does this verse apply to us? In many respects, we as Christians, are living in a kind of Babylon. The world grows continually more wicked every day. As Jesus warned, we live “as in the days of Noah.”[6] He said that we “are not of the world,”[7] yet we are “in the world.”[8] Our citizenship is in heaven.[9] Therefore, we need to conduct our lives in a manner befitting our true Kingdom. We should be good citizens in our current state and pray for our leaders and the welfare of our nation. We may not change the world (indeed, the Bible tells us that we won’t), but we do have an influence on people around us. And, God does know the thoughts and plans He has for us – thoughts of “peace” – the peace that only comes from His Holy Spirit in us. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). We also have an “expected end” with Him in heaven for all eternity, whether we meet Him in death or in the air.[10]

So, next time you hear Jeremiah 29:11 quoted out of context, think on these things. If you do not know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

 

Notes:

[1]  Many modern translations read, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (ESV) or “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (NASB). The Hebrew word that they translate as “welfare” and “prosperity” is “shâlôm,” which the KJV accurately translates as “peace.” It is no wonder that Christians often misapply this verse.

[2]  Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14; 14:11

[3]  Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6

[4]  Daniel 1:3-6

[5]  Jeremiah 29:10

[6]  Matthew 24:37

[7]  John 17:14

[8]  John 17:15

[9]  Philippians 3:20

[10]  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Comments Off on An Expected End

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Religion, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

Limited Patience

For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. (Jeremiah 4:22)

Jeremiah prophesied at the time just before, during and after the Babylonian captivity of Judah. As I read the first chapters of Jeremiah, I recognized the United States in the litany of charges God leveled against the nation of Judah. I mourn as the words on the page ring true as applied to the nation that I love.

Judah abandoned God and turned to and worshiped demonic gods. They still went to the Temple and offered sacrifices, but it had become a meaningless routine. “To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me” (Jeremiah 6:20). They were going through the motions, but treating the LORD no different than any of the other gods they worshiped. By this point in their history, Judah had gradually fallen into idolatry in the course of 200 years or more. God had been patient with them sending prophet after prophet to warn them of the dangerous road they were on, but they did not listen. “Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it” (Jeremiah 6:19, emphasis mine).

God had it with Judah! On three separate occasions God told Jeremiah, “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (Jeremiah 7:16, emphasis mine). Imagine offending God so badly that He will not listen to the prayers of those who pray for you! This is how low Judah had sunk. “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble” (Jeremiah 11:14, emphasis mine). Judah had crossed the line. “Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them” (Jeremiah 11:11, emphasis mine). “Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good” (Jeremiah 14:11).

Judah’s list of sins was long and wicked. Not only did they worship idols fashioned after demonic gods, but they offered their babies as burnt sacrifices to these gods. They practiced sexual sins of all kinds. They took advantage of the poor and the widows. They listened to false prophets and rejected the prophets of God who spoke God’s truth like Jeremiah. This was no small thing and they breached the limit of God’s patience. Their rejection of God resulted in their demise at the hands of the Babylonians.

The warning God gave had both a short-term and a long-term application. The Babylonians carried out the short-term application and the Romans carried out the long-term application in A.D. 70 that lasted for almost 2000 years. However, God demonstrates His mercy in that He does not retain His anger forever. He also demonstrates His faithfulness in that He will not break His promise.

Although Israel and Judah were unfaithful to God with their idolatry, He determined to keep His word, not for any merit of this unfaithful nation, but because of His own integrity. He made a promise to Abraham long before Israel became a nation and the only collateral, He gave was His name.[1]God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19, emphasis mine).

As an object lesson, God instructed Jeremiah to go to the house of the potter. There, Jeremiah saw the potter working at the wheel forming a clay vessel. In the process, the vessel developed a flaw at which time the potter crushed it and started over until he completed a vessel that suited his liking. “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:5-6).

We see the fulfillment of this prophecy today. For almost 2000 years the Jews wandered from country to country never having a homeland of their own. Linguists considered the Hebrew language a dead language. The Jews did not speak it, yet they maintained their identity as a people and carried on all of their traditions. They never assimilated into the cultures of the lands in which they lived. Then, on May 14, 1948 God brought them back into their Promised Land from all over the world, made them a nation once, and revived their dead language. No other people group in the history of the world had maintained their identity after such a dispersion. The Jewish people returning to their land and the rebirth of their nation is a miracle of God and a promise kept! Of this day the Prophet Isaiah said, “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).

There is more to come for Israel. However, what is true for Israel is not necessarily true for the United States of America. We can see many parallels. Regardless of what revisionist historians say, America was founded on biblical principles giving glory to God for His providence. Four hundred years have gone by since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. For most of our History, God was central to our government and our nation, but slowly the leaven of humanism crept in and started eating away at our foundations. About 50 years ago, the cracks in the foundation became more obvious, until now they seem to have crumbled altogether.

One big difference sets America apart from Israel. God never made an unconditional promise to any one of our founding fathers, not even to George Washington. God made an unconditional promise to Abraham; therefore, Israel survives as a nation. We have no such guarantee. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12); but we, as a nation, have rejected God and made the earth our god. Unless we, as a nation, repent and return to God, no hope remains for our survival. I see no prospect of a national repentance. God’s patience is limited, and I fear we have breached the limit.

Yet, even though the nation crumbles – that seems evident to me – God’s people will survive. While God still has His people here, it is incumbent on His people to carry on His work until Jesus comes to take us home. As God’s people, we need to remember that this world is not our home.[2] We are citizens of heaven[3] and we are ambassadors of the king[4] in this foreign land. Let us do the work of an ambassador until the Lord closes down our embassy and calls us home.

If you do not know God and are unsure of where you will spend eternity, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 12:2-3; 13:15-16; 15:18

[2]  John 15:19

[3]  Philippians 3:20

[4]  2 Corinthians 5:20

1 Comment

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

Something to Brag About

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: (Jeremiah 9:23)

Today’s culture encourages us to put ourselves first above everything and everyone else. It’s all about YOU! In my previous life before retirement, I found it difficult to build up myself on a résumé in order to land a job. Not that I did not have the qualifications for the positions I sought, but the idea of over-emphasizing my qualifications, using just the right words and phrases, seemed a bit dishonest to me. However, that practice was encouraged by all employment counselors and followed by all who sought work. I did it, but I did not like it because it went against biblical teaching that I should “not think [of myself] more highly than [I] ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Jesus said something similar when His disciples argued among themselves about which one would be greater in His kingdom. Jesus made a small child the example of greatness (Matthew 18:1-4). There is no one more unassuming or humble as a child.

The Bible gives other examples of this concept, for example, our opening verse above. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom.” The Hebrew word translated “wise” is châkâm, which can be translated “skillful, shrewd, crafty, cunning, subtle, learned, prudent,” It can also be translated as “wise” (ethically and religiously), the kind of wisdom that comes from God. The remaining definitions for “wise” seem well-suited for résumé building. However, God says not to “glory” (i.e., brag or boast) in such wisdom. What is wrong with tooting your own horn about your talents, skills, abilities, knowledge, savvy, etc.? Well, humanly speaking, while you may be better at one thing than the next guy, there is always someone that is better at it than you. Besides all that, no one can top God’s “wisdom.” The wise Solomon said, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7).

The verse goes on to say, “neither let the mighty man glory in his might.” The Hebrew word translated “mighty” is gibbôr. It means “strong, brave.” It can also mean “powerful, warrior, tyrant, a valiant man.” When God spoke these words to the Prophet Jeremiah, He was addressing the unfaithful nation of Judah, who trusted in their armies and their alliances, i.e., military might. However, the same idea can be applied to individuals who trust in their own strength, be that physical, financial, intellectual, etc. God says not to “glory” in those things for the same reasons given above. We may out-do one another, but we can never match God in might.

Then He says, “let not the rich man glory in his riches.” The wealth of this world is fleeting. If you have it, when you die, it will go to your heirs (if you have a will) or to the government (if you do not have a will). Solomon considered this when he wrote, “Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19, emphasis mine). Jesus also addressed the vanity of material wealth. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:19-20, emphasis mine).

Is there anything about which we can boast? Actually, yes, the Bible gives us something about which we can “glory” in the verse that follows. “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24, emphasis mine). If you want to brag, brag about your understanding and knowledge of God (provided you understand and know Him). God says He exercises “lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness.” If you understand and know God, you will exercise the same things. These are the things in which God delights and when you understand and know God, you will delight in the same things.

If you want to brag, brag on God!

If you do not know God and are unsure of where you will spend eternity, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Book Reviews, Religion, Theology