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Being Gods

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?       (John 10:34)

When Satan met Eve in the Garden of Eden, he charged that by His prohibition against eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God denied Adam and Eve of something good. “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, emphasis mine).

Being gods remains mankind’s greatest desire. We all want to have complete, unfettered control of our lives with no one telling us what to do; and we want, as much as possible, to exert influence and control over others. The latter becomes more apparent daily as we witness the radical left’s efforts to alter the course of our nation. The strong desire to force upon our society their radical agenda manifests itself in unprecedented violence across our land. They want to be the gods that dictate what we all should do.

However, this is not a new phenomenon. History records the rise and fall of numerous demagogues. Bringing it closer to home, we might be tempted to deflect the guilt to them and deny that we harbor the same desire to make our own rules and impose them on others. We all like being gods to one extent or another.

In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders wanted to be gods, although they would never admit to that. They were the keepers of God’s law, and from their self-perceived superior position, they sought to impose their perception of God’s law on others. They enjoyed their position of control. They were being gods without knowing it. However, they met their match with Jesus. Him they could not control, so they sought to destroy Him.

It was the winter before His crucifixion around the time of Hanukkah (John 10:22). The Jewish religious leaders surrounded Jesus with the hope of finding something with which to accuse Him of a capital offense. “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). Jesus referred to His countless miracles, of which no doubt they were familiar, in His defense. Nevertheless, the clear evidence escaped these “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16, 24). Their incapacity to perceive the truth centered on the question of ownership. They were not Jesus’ sheep (John 10:26-27); they were their own “gods;” therefore they could not recognize His authority or submit to His direction.

Since the clear evidence eluded them, Jesus plainly told them what they wanted to hear, “I and [the][1] Father are one” (John 10:30). That was plain enough. Jesus made it clear that not only is He equal to God (the Father), He is the same as the Father. The message came through loud and clear. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (John 10:31). They got what they were after. He deserved to be stoned “for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:33).

Jesus then quoted from Psalm 82, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34). The psalm begins with this declaration: “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods” (Psalm 82:1). Considering the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, “the mighty” and “the gods” are the same.[2] To “the mighty” and “the gods” God challenges, “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (Psalm 82:2). Then He charges, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4). These mighty gods are none other than the leaders of the people – ordinary men in extraordinary positions of power and authority. Yet, according to the psalm, they are ignorant of God’s laws and supplant them with laws of their own devices, so that “all the foundations of the earth are out of course” (Psalm 82:5). To these demigods, God says, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes” (Psalm 8:6-7). God confers the appellation of “gods” on these rulers in that they are “children” of God. As such, they are God’s representatives on the earth, “princes” to carry out God’s will on earth. However, they are not more special than other men. They will die just like every other man.

The psalm ends with a cry for God to, “Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations” (Psalm 82:8). In the end, the One true God will reign over all the earth, and here He was standing before the Jewish leaders. God accused of blasphemy by the little gods.

Solomon rightly lamented, “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, emphasis mine). We still try to be our own gods – set our own rules and impose our will on others. Since the Garden of Eden, we continue being gods, even if only in our minds. The sooner we learn to let God be God, the sooner we can enjoy the peace and rest that only God can give. To all who are tired of being gods, Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour [at being gods] and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Notes:


[1]  The KJV inserts “my” in italics where the Greek text (Textus Receptus) used the definite article “the” before “Father.”  εγω και ο πατηρ εν εσμεν

[2]  Michael S. Heiser, in his book The Unseen Realm, suggests that the elohim (gods) in this psalm refers to the “congregation” of the bene elohim (sons of God) that make up the council of God.  These include both God’s angels and Satan’s angels as seen in Job 1. That idea is not implausible, however, based on Jesus’ reference to it, it can also apply to mankind.

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Only Eight Saved

Noah, a Preacher of Righteousness

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

One of the many attributes of God is that He is longsuffering. The English word first appears in Exodus. “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation (Exodus 34:6-7). The word “longsuffering” translates two Hebrew words: ‘ârêk meaning long or patient and ‘aph meaning nose or nostril, hence the face. Together they picture the face of God as He patiently looks on His wayward children. The word appears three other times in the Old Testament: Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15; Jeremiah 15:15.

In the New Testament, “longsuffering” appears 13 times. It appears first in Romans 2:4, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” In the New Testament, “longsuffering” translates the Greek compound word, makrothumiamakrós meaning “long” and thymós meaning “passion, anger.” Together they render “long-passion,” i.e., waiting a long time before expressing anger.

God’s longsuffering can be misconstrued as indulgence, leniency, or indifference. On the extreme side, some interpret God’s apparent laxness in punishing evil to mean that God does not exist. However, that is not what the Bible teaches. “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 patiently waits a long time giving sinners sufficient opportunity to repent. He does this for individuals and for mankind in general.

Not long after God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, the couple disobeyed God’s only command, which brought death – separation between God, the Creator, and man, the creature – to all their posterity (Genesis 3). Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4). Cain was born first (Genesis 4:1), and Abel came sometime after (Genesis 4:2). As the narrative unfolds, we learn that Cain rebelled in his offering to God, while Abel sacrificed according to God’s prescription. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s, and this incited Cain to jealousy and anger. Eventually, Cain murdered his brother, and God banished him from the rest of the family. [1] Cain’s progeny followed their father’s rebellious attitude to the point that murder was a bragging right. “And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold” (Genesis 4:23-24).

God’s longsuffering produced in Adam and Eve a son in the place of godly Abel. “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (Genesis 4:25). Over the next 1500 years or so, the human population of earth exploded and became perverse. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). Even God’s longsuffering has its limits.

Seth’s line, however, remained pure to the end. “And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:7-8). God instructed Noah to build a massive barge, 450’ x 75’ x 45’,[2] large enough to carry all who would be saved. It took Noah less than 100 years to complete his task.[3] In that time, Noah did all that he could to warn the people of the coming Flood. Peter describes Noah as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) demonstrating God’s longsuffering in providing a warning to an ungodly world.

The Ark had sufficient space to save many besides Noah and his family. The “kinds”[4] of animals onboard probably took up less than half of the available space. At one time, I calculated that the Ark could have carried more than 2400 human passengers,[5] yet only eight were saved. I wonder whether God would have sent the Flood if 2400 had listened to Noah’s preaching and repented. It reminds me of Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:23-33). He pleaded for 50, then 45, then 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. God, “not willing that any should perish,” would spare the cities for ten righteous people. Alas, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters were the only ones saved, and even they were dragged out by the angels (Genesis 19:16).

The Old Testament is a history of God’s longsuffering. The book of Judges, in particular, ends with the sad refrain, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25, emphasis mine). Two thousand years from Abraham, Messiah came as promised and His own rejected Him (John 1:11). Jesus died on a Roman cross to pay our sin debt. They buried Him in a borrowed tomb, and He rose again on the third day. Forty days later, He ascended to His throne in heaven of which He said, “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 14:2-3).

It has been more than 2000 years – six millennia since the Creation. God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but the time of the Sabbath rest is drawing near. There is a limit to God’s longsuffering. The voices of the prophets sound from every corner of the world. God is not willing that any should perish. The old hymn says, “There’s room at the cross for you,” but just as only eight were saved in the Ark, and only four saved from Sodom and Gomorrah, only a few will be saved from the wrath that is coming. Jesus said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14, emphasis mine). Don’t miss the boat. Jesus will come very soon. Don’t get left behind. If you have not given your life to Him, read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 4:1-16

[2]  Genesis 6:15 – 300 cubits x 50 cubits x 30 cubits. The dimensions are calculated based on an 18” cubit.

[3]  Noah’s sons were born when he was 500 years old (Genesis 5:32), and they entered the completed Ark when Noah was 600 years old (Genesis 7:11). We are not given Noah’s age at the time God gave him the task to build the Ark, but we can infer that it was after his sons were old enough to help.

[4]  The biblical “kinds” equates to taxonomical “families” in modern terms. The Ark did not carry every species of air-breathing land animals. It only carried the basic families from which all other variations would derive.

[5]  The Ark’s passenger capacity is based on 2/3 of the total available square footage (96,750 sq. ft.) of the Ark or 64,500 sq. ft.  Taking 25% of the remaining space for stores leaves 48,375 sq. ft. for passengers.  Allowing 80 sq. ft. per a family of four, or 20 sq. ft. per person (the average size of an 8×10 2-man prison cell), and dividing 48,375 by 80 yields about 605 living spaces.  At 4 people per space, that comes to 2420 total passengers.  More could have been accommodated if needed.

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End-Times 102

But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:37)

In last week’s article, “End-Times 101,” I attempted to present a “high level” perspective of end-times prophecy because, for many Christians, end-times prophecy mystifies and confuses them. Much of this confusion comes from conflating the events of the seven-year Tribulation culminating in Jesus’ physical return to earth and the Rapture of the Church, which takes place before the Tribulation. As I pointed out in “End-Times 101,” end-times prophecy can be divided into four basic parts: (1) the Rapture of the Church, (2) the seven-year Tribulation, (3) the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth, and (4) the New Heavens and New Earth for eternity. However, most of the confusion centers around the events leading to and including the seven-year Tribulation before Jesus returns to earth to reign.

The time of Tribulation is a complex subject drawing information from several Old Testament prophets, none of which were given a complete picture of this time in future history. Furthermore, none of them, with perhaps the exception of Daniel, was given a complete sequence of events. Modern prophecy scholars must rely on “the whole counsel” of God’s Word to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, so it is unwise to take one teacher’s perspective and call it “Gospel.” We need to remember that we all “see in a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We are flawed human beings and prone to error. No one has it ALL right; however, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, we can have a good idea of what will take place during the Tribulation and the events that will lead to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).

All end-times prophecy centers on Israel. The prophet Daniel was told. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24, emphasis mine). “Seventy weeks” literally means “seventy sevens (of years),” or 490 years. This time was to begin at the time that Cyrus the Great gave the command that the Jews could return from Babylonian captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (Daniel 9:25). Notice that the prophecy applies to Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). The specificity of this prophecy applies to all end-times prophecy. The purpose of God’s plan is to “make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity [i.e., make things right], and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy [i.e., conclude history as we know it], and to anoint the most Holy [i.e., establish Jesus’ reign on earth]. There is nothing here about “the Church.” To the Old Testament prophets, the Church was a “mystery” (Ephesians 5:32).

Daniel’s seventy weeks is divided into seven weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years) and one week (seven years). Opinions differ on the significance of first 49 years (seven weeks), and I do not want to add to the confusion. However, the seven weeks and 62 weeks add up to 69 weeks (one short of 70) or 483 years. At the end of this time, Daniel predicts the coming of Messiah (Daniel 9:26) at which time Messiah will be “cut off,” i.e., killed. Scholars have calculated and determined that from the time Cyrus decreed that the Jews were to return to their land (c. 445 BC[1]) unto the day Jesus made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. In that same week, Jesus was “cut off.”

Daniel’s prophecy then predicts a “prince” that will destroy the city and the temple and bring an end to the sacrifices. He will come with an army (“a flood”) and at the end of war bring “desolation” (Daniel 9:26). This prophecy has been fulfilled twice: the first time by Antiochus IV Epiphanes around 164 BC, and the second time by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD. It was this second destruction that left Jerusalem (and all of Palestine) desolate for almost 2000 years. However, the prophecy reveals a third “prince” that will come. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Daniel 9:27, emphasis mine). That “week” is the last of the 70 weeks of years determined for Israel. The difference between this “prince” and those that come before is that he “confirms” (not “makes”) a covenant (or “treaty”) with “many” for seven years (one week).

This seven-year period is the Tribulation, and it is not intended for the Church. Remember, it is a time determined for Daniel’s people and Daniel’s holy city (Daniel 9:24). The “prince,” aka, Antichrist, will be revealed when he enforces (“confirms”) a peace treaty with “many.” In context, this would be Israel and all her “many” enemies that would see her destroyed. For years, many tried to predict who Antichrist might be, but in reality, this is wasted effort for the church, since the church will not be on the scene when the Antichrist arrives. In speaking of the appearance of this “man of sin,” the Apostle Paul says, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [or “restrains”] will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7, emphasis mine). “He who now restrains” is the Holy Spirit who works in the lives of believers. When that Restrainer is “taken out of the way,” then “then shall that Wicked [one] be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and the Tribulation begins.

The Rapture of the Church comes “as a thief in the night,” but it will precede the Tribulation. We cannot predict with certainty the time of the Rapture, but the events during the Tribulation are predictable according to Scripture. Knowing the events that will take place during the Tribulation helps us to forecast the proximity of the Rapture.

Daniel characterized the end as a time when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4). By land, we can traverse the US from coast to coast in a matter of three or four days. By air, the journey takes a matter of hours. A little more than a century ago, the same trip took about a year and four months.[2] According to “industry tap,” knowledge currently doubles every 12 months, and they predict it will soon double every 12 hours.[3]

The prophet Ezekiel tells of a coming invasion of Israel by a confederacy of nations from the north (Ezekiel 38-39). The prophet identifies these nations as Magog (Russia), Meshech (Georgia) and Tubal (Turkey). God says to Gog, the leader of Magog (V. Putin), “I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army” (Ezekiel 38:4, emphasis mine). Along with this, the prophet also names Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, and Libya. With the exception of Ethiopia, these nations are majority Muslim, and their hatred for Israel is well known. Today we see the amassing of Russian and Iranian troops near Syria’s southern border with Israel. Russia (Magog) has aligned itself with Turkey, Syria, and Iran. While Russia is not openly hostile toward Israel, it does have interest in Israel’s newfound gas and oil reserves. Israel’s newfound treasure threatens Russia’s energy market with Europe as Israel builds a gas pipeline to deliver cheaper gas to Europe. This competition has the potential to incite Russia to attack Israel. When this takes place, Israel’s allies will be unable to help other than to protest the invasion. “Sheba, and Dedan [Saudi Arabia], and the merchants of Tarshish [Spain/Europe], with all the young lions thereof [some think this refers to Britain and the US], shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13). Israel’s allies will be helpless to do anything more than complain. Considering the Christian population of the US and, to a less extent, Britain and Europe, the Rapture will deal such a blow to these nations that their governments, military, and their economies will be in such shambles that they will be unable to help. Israel will be completely on her own except for God. “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face” (Ezekiel 38:18). This is yet a future event, but we can see the stage being set for the unfolding of this drama.

Of the Tribulation, Jesus said “ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). Critics might be quick to point out that “wars and rumors of wars” have existed since time began. However, scoffers too are a sign of the end-times. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4, emphasis mine). These scoffers forget that end-times prophecy centers on Israel and Jerusalem and not the world in general even though these events will affect the whole world. From 70 AD to 1948, Israel vanished from the earth as a nation. The Jews were scattered to the four corners of the globe (yes, I know a globe does not have corners!). Therefore, all those other wars are irrelevant to end-times prophecy. For these events to fulfill Bible prophecy, Israel must be a nation, Jerusalem must be the capital, and the Temple must be rebuilt. Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948. Despite being scattered all over the world, the Jewish people retained their “Jewishness.” Even the Hebrew language, once thought to be a dead language, is restored and in use as the official language of Israel. On May 14, 2018, 70 years after Israel’s rebirth, President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Temple is not built, but all the implements of the Temple are ready. The priests are in training to carry out the ministry of the temple. The plans and the materials for the Temple are ready for the building. The only thing that remains is for the order to be given to build. Scoffers may scoff, but the stage is being set.

Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 17, 21 record Jesus’ words about the end times – the time of Tribulation. Revelation 4-19 goes into great detail about the events that will take place during that terrible seven-year period. Those who belong to the Church, the Bride, of Christ, need not worry about going through that awful time. However, we must be alert and watch. Jesus said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28, emphasis mine). We see these things “beginning” to come to pass. We see the stage being set. The time is near. Look up! Lift up your heads! Your redemption is drawing near!

Notes:


[1]  The time is calculated based on a biblical year of 360 days.

[2]  http://www.answers.com/Q/How_long_did_it_take_to_cross_the_US_in_covered_wagon

[3]  http://www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soon-to-be-every-12-hours/3950

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End-Times 101

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)

I am constantly amazed at how many Evangelical Christians, much less the rest of the world, have no interest in current events as related to end-times prophecy. One reason may be related to Jesus’ prediction of attitudes at the end times. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood 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; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37-39). In context, Jesus was speaking to Jews, not Gentiles, and His prevision referred to His physical return to earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom. More on that later.

Many things took place prior to the flood which the Bible does not detail (Genesis 6:1-4). There are some who believe that some of that is taking place again, but that is a can of worms I choose not to open at this time. Jesus probably had those activities in mind, but the main point is that they carried on life as normal “until the flood came, and took them all away.” They were clueless just like the world today.

Even with all the signs God is clearly providing, the world (including many Christians) carries on with business as usual. Part of the problem is “the cares of this world” that “choke the word” of God so that “it becometh unfruitful” in the life of the individual (Mark 4:19). Perhaps another part of the problem is the glut of information out about end-times prophecy that confuses the casual student. Many opinions and contradictions may discourage the pursuit of this truth. Rather than getting excited about the Lord’s soon return, many take the attitude of “que será, será.”

However, the prospect of Jesus’ soon return (and I mean REALLY SOON), should be, for the believer, a source of excitement and anticipation. What greater hope can we have than to be in the presence of our Savior forever! Of course, for the non-believer, this information can be a source of dread, but there is a remedy. So I want to make this as simple as possible, by omitting “the weeds” where people often get lost.

First, Jesus promised He would return for His followers. Jesus said, “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 14:2-3, emphasis mine). This event is known as the Rapture of the Church. Jesus’ second coming is in two phases. First, Jesus comes to receive the Church (the body of believers) to be with Him forever. He does not come to earth at this time, and the rest of the world does not see Him. Only believers will be involved, but the “disappearances” will certainly create havoc around the world.

The Apostle Paul describes the Rapture in our leading verse. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [i.e., die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, emphasis mine). To the church in Thessalonica, he wrote: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [i.e., “go before”] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “caught up” is harpazō, which means “to seize, carry off by force” or “to snatch out or away.” That word is further translated into Latin as rapturo from which we get our word “rapture.”

Second, after the Church (also known as “the Bride”) is taken out of the world, there is a period of seven years that is known as “the Tribulation.” The prophet Daniel predicts this time (Daniel 9:27; 12:1-3). Jesus spoke of this time also, (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-28). Almost the entire book of Revelation offers explicit details of what will take place at this time (Revelation 4-19). The Tribulation will be an awful time for the inhabitants of the earth. So terrible will be those days that Jesus said, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Those believers belonging to the Bride of Christ need not be concerned about going through the Tribulation. Our present concern should be for those who are lost and will go through the Tribulation. We who are “saved” will have to give an accounting of neglected opportunities to witness for Christ.

Third, at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, Jesus will return with His saints, His Bride, to set up His kingdom on Earth (Revelation 19:11-14). Many Old Testament prophecies speak of Messiah’s reign on earth. This is the reason the Jews missed Jesus’ first coming. They expected a king to rule over all the earth. They were not expecting a suffering Savior to come meekly and humbly only to die on a Roman cross. His earthly kingdom will last for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Eden-like conditions during Jesus’ reign (Isaiah 11).

Finally, at the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released from his prison for a very short time. He incites a rebellion against the King, which is short-lived for Satan and those who were foolish enough to follow him. Those that rebel are sent to “the lake of fire” for eternity (Revelation 20:7-15). After that, history ends, and God creates a “new heaven and a new earth” where His children will live with Him forever. Who knows what that will be like, but it has to be multiple millions of times better than what we know here on earth. “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 21:4). “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).

That is it! Time is short. There are many detailed “signs” taking place right now indicating Jesus’ soon return is very close at hand. Jesus said, “So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33, emphasis mine). We are seeing “these things.” Do what you need to do to get ready. If you know Jesus, tell others. If you don’t know Jesus, get to know Him; read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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Securing Eternal Life

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)

Surely you have heard, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The adage applies to gimmicks intended to take advantage of the gullible. Those who believe they can obtain eternal life in heaven based on a system of merits think it is “too good to be true” that one can get to heaven by simply believing. Those who realize the gravity of their sinful lives think it is “too good to be true” that they can be absolved of their sin simply by asking and believing. However, it is true. Anyone who wants to can go to heaven. It will only cost you your life. Do not be alarmed. Let me explain, and make it as simply and clearly as possible.

First of all, no one can be good enough to go to heaven. That is the bad news.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (Romans 3:10)

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Romans 7:18) In other words, no matter how hard we try on our own, we can never be good enough!

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16) You see, even observing all the Law written in the Bible (as a matter of ritual) cannot secure for you a place in heaven.

Secondly, our sin keeps us out of heaven. Instead of eternal life, our sin earns eternal death (in hell) for us. That is more bad news.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die … (Ezekiel 18:20)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:14) “Death” in this sense is eternal separation from “Life” which only comes from being in the presence of God. Our “soul” is an eternal creation created for fellowship with God. For the soul to continue to exist outside of the presence of God is “death,” but without ceasing to exist. That is indeed bad news!

Thou [God] art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity … (Habakkuk 1:13). God is holy and cannot abide sin; therefore, He cannot allow sinners to reside with Him in heaven.

Thirdly, God provided a way to eternal life. Here is the Good News!

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)

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)

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name [than the name of Jesus] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:31)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) We cannot work our way to heaven and eternal life. It is a “gift” of God that cannot be earned; it can only be “received.”

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) God did not wait for us to get “better.” Jesus died for my sins, as the old hymn says, “Just as I am.”

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) All God requires is that you take Him at His word and believe the Gospel (i.e. the Good News that Jesus died and rose from the dead to pay “the wages of sin” on your behalf). However, if you truly “believe” you will also “confess,”i.e. tell others. One of the first and best ways to do this is to present yourself before a Bible-believing congregation and submit yourself to baptism (by immersion preferably). There is no “magic” in this, but it gives “testimony” to yourself and others, but more importantly to yourself, that your “belief” is genuine.

Lastly, once you have accepted God’s gift, it can never be lost. That is even better news!

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29) As one of Jesus’ “sheep,” we are doubly secure; we are secure in Jesus’ hands which is secured in God the Father’s hand. You cannot be more secure than that!

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36) “Hath” is present tense. Whoever believes in Jesus “has” eternal life presently and forever.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) NOTHING can separate us from the love of God when we have placed our trust in Jesus.

Sticking to Scripture as much as possible, I have made it as simple as I can. If this makes sense to you and the Spirit of God urges you to follow through, here is all you need to do:

  1. Talk to God. Use your own words. God is a person, and He knows and understands what is in your heart. No “magic” words are needed.
  2. Confess your sin to Him. We are all sinners. He knows your sins, but He wants you to recognize your sin and your need for Him to forgive you of your sins.
  3. Ask God to forgive you of your sins and invite Jesus to come into your heart and to be the Lord, i.e., the “boss” of your life. In doing this, you are in effect giving your life over to Him. That is not a bad thing. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

That’s it! If you are sincere (and God knows) in what you have just done, you have secured for yourself eternal life – you are “saved.” However, right now, you are just a “baby” Christian, and there are some things you need to do to grow in your new found faith.

  1. Talk to God daily. This is called “prayer,” but it is simply talking to God.
  2. Get a Bible are read it daily. I recommend that you begin with the Gospel of John – the fourth book of the New Testament. (You can find it in the index of the Bible) Also, read the Book of Proverbs; there is a lot of good practical teaching there.
  3. Find a good Bible-believing evangelical church. Most Baptist churches are very good as are many “Bible” churches. Either way, you want a church that believes that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.
  4. When you have found a good church, go forward at the pastor’s invitation (following the sermon) and let him know that you want to follow the Lord in “believer’s baptism.”
  5. Join a Bible study group or class where you learn more about what God has to say in His Word.
  6. Get to know the family of God – your brothers and sisters in Christ – by joining them in regular fellowship. This will help you to grow in your spirit and in your bond with fellow believers. The Bible encourages this: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Welcome to God’s forever family. Your place in eternal life is secure. I will see you in heaven!

If this still sounds too good to be true, read my page on “Heaven.” You may also be interested in other articles on the topic of salvation:

“Nothing Changes” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/04/15/nothing-changes/

“Not Here” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/04/01/not-here/

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

“Jesus’ Brethren” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/03/04/jesus-brethren/

“High Cost of Admission” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/02/11/high-cost-of-admission/

“End of the World” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/01/21/end-of-the-world/

“Tough Love” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/01/07/tough-love/

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

“The Millennial Kingdom” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/03/the-millennial-kingdom/

“Clueless” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/08/20/clueless/

“One-Verse Theology” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/08/06/one-verse-theology/

“Not Expecting to Die” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/30/not-expecting-to-die/

“The Eternality of God” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/06/04/the-eternality-of-god/

“Who Is Jesus?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/05/14/who-is-jesus/

“Good Guys Go to Hell” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/30/good-guys-go-to-hell/

“In the Twinkling of an Eye” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/23/in-the-twinkling-of-an-eye/

“Risen Indeed!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/16/risen-indeed-2/

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

“The Devils Believe!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/02/the-devils-believe/

“Are You Good Enough?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/03/26/are-you-good-enough/

“Not Passed On In The Genes” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/05/15/not-passed-on-in-the-genes/

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Filed under Christianity, Death, Evangelism, Gospel, Hell, Salvation

What Can I Give God?

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10)

I heard a story about two bills that were printed on the same day. One was a one-dollar bill, and the other was a twenty-dollar bill. They became good friends, but as things go with paper money, they were soon separated at the bank and went off in different directions. After many years apart, the two ended up in the same wallet. The one-dollar bill immediately recognized his long lost friend. “Andy! How have you been? What have you been up to?” The twenty-dollar bill responded enthusiastically, “Well, Georgie, let me tell you. I have just been having a grand old time. I have been on several cruises up and down both coasts of the good old USA. I’ve been to all kinds of concerts, and sports events. I have dined at the finest restaurants all over the country. I’ve been having a blast! How about you, Georgie? What have you been up to?” The one-dollar bill sheepishly answered, “Well, you know me, Andy … church, church, church.”

Giving to God is a struggle for many. I could spend a lot of ink offering many scenarios and excuses for why Christians have trouble giving to God, but the simple truth of it is lack of trust in God. Everyone has “X” amount of money coming in, and “X” amount going out and the two Xs have to balance. Unlike the government that makes its money by legalized theft, most people work for a paycheck which is limited by what the employer is willing to pay. That paycheck only goes so far, and it has to cover housing, food, transportation, medical expenses and so on. Unlike the government, real people get into real financial trouble when they spend more than they take in. Unlike the government, real people cannot print extra money when they run out of cash; that’s against the law.

After all of that, the Bible teaches that we should give to God. The Old Testament teaches the concept of tithing (giving 10%) of our income to God. The first example of this takes place early in the book of Genesis when Abram gives a tithe of all his spoils to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20). Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ.[1] Later the practice of tithing was codified in the Mosaic Law tithes were collected for three different occasions. They were the Levitical tithe (Numbers 18:21, 24), the tithe of the feasts (Deuteronomy 14:22-27) and the tithe for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).[2] In all, the Israelites were giving 30% not just 10%.

Why did God demand so much? The answer is that God wants His children to depend on Him for their provision. God proved Himself as Provider by giving them manna daily and water in the desert. In all their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, neither their clothes nor their shoes wore out (Deuteronomy 29:5). God took care of them even with all of their complaining. God showed that in spite of what they gave up in tithes, God abundantly provided for all of their needs.

Another purpose for the tithe was so that the people could participate in God’s work of provision. One of the tithes was for the maintenance of “the Church.” The Levites, the priestly tribe, were not allotted any land. They derived their sustenance from the tithes the people brought to the Tabernacle (later the Temple). It was also used for the maintenance of the facilities. The third tithe provided for the poor, and through it, the people participated with God in caring for those who could not care for themselves.

Doubtless, like in other aspects of their religion, the Jews were unfaithful in the giving of their tithes. God points this out through His prophet Malachi. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8). Of course, we cannot rob God! As our lead verse affirms, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. In another place God makes the claim, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8). Every created thing belongs to God, even our very souls. “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). If God owns it all, what then can I give Him?

God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and with that image came a free will to choose. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4), but sin is a choice every soul makes individually. Our soul, then, is the only thing over which we exercise a small measure of control, and therefore the only thing which we can give to God. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). The “sacrifice” is our offering or “gift” to God. A broken and contrite spirit and heart recognize God for who He is and submits to His ownership. It acknowledges our sinfulness before the Great and Holy God and our unworthiness of all His beneficence. By His grace, we receive what we do not deserve. By His mercy, we are spared what we do deserve. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Part of that “reasonable service” includes giving of tithes and offerings for the work of the Lord. I have heard Christians say that the New Testament does not mention tithing. This is true, but neither does it negate the practice. Jesus practiced Judaism perfectly and was therefore obligated to offer tithes. (He paid taxes also: Matthew 17:27; Mark 12:17.) Jesus expanded upon the law by going beyond the external practice to the very thoughts of man – “Ye have heard it said of old … but I say” (Matthew 5:21-46). By the same token, early Christians brought more than a tithe to the church; they sold all of their possessions and gave it to the church (Acts 2:44-45). Paul relates the attitude of the Macedonian church in their giving. He said, “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5, emphasis mine). There is the sacrifice!

Many Christians (80%) do not tithe for a variety of reasons, but most do not tithe because they fear they will not have enough to meet their financial obligations. This demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s provision. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It also demonstrates that they have not given themselves to the Lord completely; therefore they are relying on themselves for their provision. Other Christians do not tithe because they view their possessions as their own. They have not learned that God ultimately owns everything; we are merely stewards of the blessings He has placed in our possession.

Tithing is an act of faith. It is the sacrifice of ourselves to God through our lives and our possessions. Tithing is the only practice in which God challenges us to test Him. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10 emphasis mine). Before you take up that challenge, be sure that you give yourself to Him first.

What can I give God? I can give Him all of my life and give back all that He has given to me.

 Notes:


[1]  “Is Salem Jerusalem?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/08/16/is-salem-jerusalem/

[2]  “The Three Tithes of the Old Testament” – https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1958/09/the-three-tithes-of-the-old-testament

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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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